Tunis, Tunisia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/29/13
Personal Experiences from Tunis, Tunisia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Third expat experience.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
D.C. Usually connecting through Paris or Frankfurt, about 12 hours total.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government, U.S. Embassy employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is generally large and quite nice. Houses are spacious, and floors are almost always tile or marble. Lots to clean! Many houses have swimming pools (though not in the embassy housing), large terraces and beautiful gardens (again...lots of maintenance for this).
Housing locations are usually anywhere in the Banlieu Nord, which is north of downtown and the airport. La Marsa, Carthage, Gammarth are all lovely areas.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Not bad if you are smart. Eat seasonally and buy your produce and meat at the markets rather than at Carrefour. Don't bother with the import stores unless you need something specific.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing that I couldn't get through Amazon while I was there.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Shawarma is the favorite fast food in Tunis, and is cheap at about US$1.50 each. Delicious, too!
Lots of new restaurants opened while we were there, including a couple of sushi spots. One even delivers! You can get pizza delivered too, but the better places only do pick up. Some good restaurants at hotels, and a few swankier places elsewhere, but it will cost you more.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I have known several people who had severe ant problems in their homes, and cockroaches are common, though not a problem (I would find maybe one a month in a bathroom or in the kitchen). Mosquitos are a problem during certain times of year.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is everywhere, and affordable if you know what you should pay going into it, otherwise you may get taken advantage of.
A live in nanny/housekeeper can be had for 200-500 TND a month depending on experience, live out slightly more. Be aware that Tunisian domestic helpers consider a full time work day to begin at 8 am and end at 2 pm.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. A few different local gyms out in town or at hotels.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Many people have had their cards eaten in ATM machines, though I never had a problem. It depends, though I can't say what it depends on exactly. It seems rather unpredictable. No issues using a CC in Carrefour, but I wouldn't use one in smaller places.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Some French or Arabic is advisable. There are some English speakers, but you can't count on it.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Every difficulty. Tunis is not handicap accessible. There are few proper sidewalks, and where there are people have almost surely parked their cars on them. There may be ramps at some buildings, but I can't say that I remember any.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains and buses should be avoided. Taxis are generally safe and are best if you can find one reliable driver that you call.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Smaller car is better for city driving/maneouvering and parking, larger SUV might be better if you plan to go out to the desert.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. About US$200 a year, very affordable! Reliability of service varies.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
All of the providers are decent and affordable.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work, somewhat conservative in public, especially for women.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Currently a lot of political and security issues to keep an eye on.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is good, though not quite up to western standards. For example while I was hospitalized once overnight and was having my blood drawn repeatedly, not once did the nurse wear gloves or clean my IV site before injecting into it.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Climate is great! Mild and sometimes rainy through the winter, gorgeous spring and fall, summer is HOT! Not a typical rainy season climate as you find in other African countries, but there is a decent amount of rain in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Preschool is available, is cheap, but varies. The popular expat preschools fill up early and have wait lists several years long. You will be told that you cannot get a spot, but if you keep trying, calling at random times, sometimes a spot will have opened and you can jump the line. This is how things work there, don't feel bad about it as someone else would have done it to you, unfortunately.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
A few gymastic type classes for younger kids, and perhaps some sports programs for kids at the American school, but otherwise no.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Relatively large, especially in the northern suburbs. Lots of French expats.
2. Morale among expats:
Good. Most people who are there seem to be by choice and are pleased with the life.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of dinners and parties among expats, dinners out at local restaurants.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families and couples, probably good for singles as well though I can't personally comment on that.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Africans (those not from northern Africa) are treated poorly and looked down on, often called monkeys and women are harassed in the streets. Women are treated as less important than men, which is not a major issue, mostly just an annoying if you are waiting in line for something and men keep stepping in front of you if you are unwilling to say something.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of beaches to go to, ruins to see. Carthage is full of incredible history! Many more sights to see if you travel outside of the capital, including the set where Star Wars was filmed.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Beautiful traditional rugs and pottery. There is an annual artisan fair at Le Kram convention center that you should save your money for!
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money if you shop carefully on the economy and do not travel much.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I wouldn't go back now with the current political and security situation, but I do not regret having lived there.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes and driving manners!
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, rain coat, and patience (inshallah!).