The good part was that the flight from Paris to Tunis was on time. The bad part was that my bags didn’t arrive on the plane I was on.
Upon arriving at the Tunis airport (TUN), anyone’s first thought is that the place smells of cigarette smoke. And as you approach the immigration (passport control) line, the smell gets stronger until you realize that people standing in line are smoking, along with the staff and security personnel at the airport. Heck, even the immigration officer smoked at passport control!
When I decided to visit Tunisia, my family and friends asked me one question – who goes to Tunisia? And after looking at the long immigration line, I’d say the world comes here. Or at least the French do! April marks the beginning of tourist season in Tunisia and it’s a favorite destination amongst Europeans if they are looking for great beaches and cheap places to eat & spend their Euros.
Going through customs and exiting was painless. Many guidebooks mention that the taxi drivers will try to snatch your bags for their taxis, but that’s not true at all. Things have changed a lot in Tunisia and now there’s a taxi stand where you wait in line for your turn to get in. Prices to the city center cost TND 15 – make sure to negotiate before getting in the taxi. Most taxis have meters which are not applicable for trips from airport to the city center. Prices to Carthage and Sidi Bou Said are TND 25 and TND 30 respectively.
So coming back to the bad part – my bag didn’t arrive with me and was told that it arrives on the next flight, 3 hours later. So instead of going to the city center and coming back, I decided to stay there, collect my bag and then head to the city.
It was 6pm when I sat in the taxi for a 15 minute drive to La Kasbah – the medina of Tunis. I booked a private room through Airbnb that costs $50 a night, right in the heart of the Medina. The hosts were amazing and served breakfast every morning. The taxi dropped me to Place du Gouvernment (seat of government) from where it was a 7 min walk through the small bylanes of the Medina.
Being the end of day, I settled in and headed out to the main street for some authentic Tunisian cuisine – Keftagi Sandwich – round bread (sort of a puffed pita bread) filled with spicy chutney, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and fries.
| IMPORTANT NOTE on Currency Exchange in Tunisia
Considering the fact that it is illegal to export the currency out of Tunisia, you’d want to exchange it before leaving. My flight out of Tunis airport was early in the morning and there was only one exchange counter open and hence a long line. They were out of Euros, and there was no sign mentioning that tot he frustration of the people standing in line for hours.
When you arrive at Tunis airport and exchange currency, you will be given a receipt of the exchange. It is very very important you save this receipt carefully because when you go to exchange back to EUR or USD while leaving the country, you will be required to show this receipt. The cashier will not exchange TND to any other currency if you don’t have this receipt. I was unable to find mine and after waiting for an hour and a half in line, I was too frustrated to search my entire bag for that receipt. Taking a risk of being stopped at the baggage check, I went for the gate. And not surprising to me, no one checked my bag for any “currency export”. And now I’m stuck with 160 TND (approx $100) that no other bank or country will exchange!
Note: All values in USD, unless otherwise mentioned, are approximate and based on the exchange rate at the time of publishing. Each cost is for one adult. The exchange rate at the time of publishing is assumed to be USD 1 = TND 1.6.
|Airbnb Accommodation||$109||For 2-nights, one person, incl fees & taxes|
|Taxi from airport to Kasbah||$9.37||TND 15 One way|
|Dinner||$1.87||TND 3 for Keftagi Sandwich|
|Total Costs||$120.24||Per person|
|Overall Costs||$214.11||Per person|
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