Tunis, Tunisia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/15/22
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?
First long term posting with family. Have had short postings in Sub Saharan Africa, Pakistan and Algeria.
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?
London. 2hr 50 direct flight or about 5 with a change. Very easy and not expensive (there is also an overland/ferry option which takes a couple of days).
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Big apartment with a terrace and pool access. Others live in houses in slightly more suburban areas, but we wanted to be more in the centre of the neighborhood. Most expats live in La Marsa, Carthage or Gammarth, which are all beach areas. La Marsa is a buzzing neighbourhood with lots of cafes and shops. Some people in Gammarth complain about noise from clubs in the summer. Houses do not always have decent gardens, but will usually have a bit of outside space. Couples and singles are more likely to have an apartment in a block. Commute time is about 20 minutes to embassies by road.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fruit and vegetables are brilliant and seasonal and very cheap. There are good local markets and needless to say fish is excellent and fresh. Butchers shops are widespread and you can get pork products in some supermarkets and delis. Local wine is just ok (sometimes good)- diplomats can get duty free imports of french wine but otherwise expensive. Local beer is ok but limited selection. Limited specialist vegetarian or vegan products but tofu is available. Imported SE Asian foods available in specialist shops. There is good cheese available (French style) and dairy in general is good value. Fresh milk is hard to find but there are a few places you can order, otherwise UHT. Some organic and health foods also available. There have been recent flour and sugar shortages but this seems to be resolved.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Breakfast cereals (you can get cornflakes and granola/museli easily but not things like weetabix). South Asian cooking ingredients. Vanilla essence. Most things are available though.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Founa is a delivery service that works well for groceries, and there are various 'box' schemes for vegetables. Lots of specialist delis. Also lots of apps where you can get quick delivery by bike.
Pizza can be great. Restaurants in general are a bit dull with either french-style fish and veg or Tunisian foods, but some good Italians are around. Sushi delivery is popular and not bad. I haven't found a great noodle or curry place yet. A couple if vegetarian/vegan places have just opened. Good patisserie and boulangerie as well.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not really. Occasional cockroach or mosquito but nothing serious.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch. Local post does not work well. DHL is available.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A cleaner/housekeeper is about TND 40 for a half day. Babysitters 10-15 TND an hour (higher end if English-speaking). It is possible to get nannies and drivers etc., on similar rates.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are some gym chains, which are not that cheap. A PT will be about 40 tnd for an hour. Lots of pools although not that many big lap pools; the US embassy has one and a gym. Aqua-jogging is popular, there are thriving running and triathlon clubs, and lots of football and tennis clubs. Yoga studios. Horse riding is very reasonable. Lots of people get paddle boards or kayaks. Tunisians love hiking and camping and there are numerous societies and clubs. There is also a bouldering centre that have roped climbing routes just outside Tunis.
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?
Yes, cards accepted in lots of shops, some places need cash though. ATMs are generally safe; they can run a bit low on cash sometimes but there is usually another one very close.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Not sure. There is a church and cathedral and definitely a French mass. Not sure about services in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Tunisian is an Arabic dialect and the everyday language. If you speak Arabic you will get by in Tunisian but it is quite different. Most people speak French, young people are increasingly moving to English for preference. Classes in both French and Arabic are cheap and easily available.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be very tough, the pavements are terrible and buildings are not accessible. Most people are helpful though.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are very cheap, and there is an uber-like service which is especially good if you can't give directions. Buses are packed, trams only operate downtown. There is a local train to downtown, which we've never had a problem with but some people warn against due to petty theft.
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?
Something with a bit of clearance and that you don't mind getting scratched. Ideally french or German brands; Japanese and American cars may struggle for parts. Car-related crime is very low, we have often forgotten to lock ours. Driving however is awful and will take a while to get used to (although thankfully not too fast). Drive defensively and go with the flow. Main roads and trunk roads are in good condition, even rurally; toll highways excellent.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is but is a pain to get installed and people complain about the speed. We have a 4G box which is fine for work and streaming most of the time. Gamers may want to make enquiries. Various options depending on where you live.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local pay as you go is cheap. Mobiles brought in from outside must be registered within 30 days. Most phone brands available here, but prices a bit higher. Repairs good value.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No pets personally but vets seem fine. No quarantine but paperwork has to be in order. Rabies is present. Lots of street dogs which can be aggressive, there is also some theft of pedigree dogs.
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?
Local work permits are hard to get and you would need fluent French. Partners either telecommute or work for other embassies. Teaching is also a possibility. Local salary scales depend on the job.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Probably lots but you would need French or Tunisian. There is a thriving NGO sector which works on a wide variety of issues. Also things like 'friends of the park'. Best bet is to ask around.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Smart casual. Tunisians dress up (glitzy) for formal events. In popular expat areas you can be relaxed about dress, in rural areas women and men may want to dress more conservatively.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not many. There have been some assaults and robberies but these are not frequent and petty crime is very low.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Healthcare is pretty good with lots of French-trained doctors and people travel here for healthcare. Navigating it can be a bit challenging as you book direct: recommendations are key. Very complex conditions or cutting edge treatments would need to be outside Healthcare. Quite poor support for learning differences for children, very old-fashioned and not many practitioners.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Egg and tuna are ubiquitous when eating out. Some free from products available including non dairy milks.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Great weather most of the year. Very hot in July and August and can get some rain in Jan/Feb. Never gets that cold.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Mediocre. There are British, American, French and Canadian schools and Tunisian private schools. The quality is not that great; our kids go to the British School, which is lovely and friendly with good teachers but poorly-resourced. The American school has better facilities but slower academics.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
None formally, although most can offer some flexibility and accommodations if needed. Specialist services like SALT and OT are not really available in English, might have more luck in French.
3. 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?
Yes. We haven't used it but loads of daycare, including Montessori. Some can be quite French-style and formal, so check approaches.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, lots: football, tennis, gym, dance, riding, swimming etc. Handball is very popular. Non sports activities are a bit more tricky to find, especially if kids don't speak French, eg things like science club
Not many 'attractions' but there is a big soft play, water parks and trampoline parks. Cinemas only really show kids films in French.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
English speaking is pretty small. Lots more French. Morale is good: it's sunny and good value!
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
BBQs, going to beach bars or restaurants, going away for the weekend. Lots of sports clubs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Not bad. There is a bit of a dating/bar scene. Better for families and couples.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
To some extent. People socialise with family a lot though and that takes priority.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's workable, but not "good".
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Tunisia is a Muslim country although levels of religious commitment vary. Other religions are allowed by law and have freedom. Amazigh people tend to be poorer and somewhat marginalized.
Gender inequality is probably the best in the region, and women are equal in law but there are still significant issues, eapecially with gender based violence and harmful social norms. Tunisia has an active feminist movement and an annual feminist festival.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Beaches and fantastic Roman ruins, the best in the world. Traveling to the Sahara and camping under the stars. Great produce. Tunisia is a small country and you can see a lot of it.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
As above, don't miss Dougga, Djerba and Tozeur. The north coast around Bizerte is really lovely and the coolest place in the summer.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes! Great pottery and rugs and baskets. You can get good furniture, there are lots of good local designers or get it made to order. 2x a year there is a giant artisan fair which is wildly popular and a strong recommend.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beachside life, relaxed pace.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That we would have to drive so much.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Coat, rushed pace, driving rules.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and swimwear.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Podcast: Revolution 1
Book: The Ardent Swarm
Film: A summer in La Goulette, The Man Who Sold His Skin.