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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Tunisia

Tunisia: Republic of Tunisia
Capital: Tunis
Population: 9,815,644
Currency: Tunisian dinar (TND)
Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Borders: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km

Tunisia is a presidential republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities are widely available in the tourist areas. The workweek is Monday to Friday, with government offices open on Saturday mornings. Most stores are closed on Sunday, except in resort areas, where many remain open.

Tunisia has open borders with Libya and Algeria (please refer to the Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings for those countries). During late 2002 and early 2003, a number of tourists were kidnapped in the Sahara desert areas of southeastern Algeria, several of whom crossed into Algeria from Tunisia.

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Tunisia have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, al-Qaida terrorists used a truck bomb to attack a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba on April 11, 2002, and many Western tourists were killed. There have also been unsubstantiated threats to tourist facilities. Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.

There have been several incidents of soccer-inspired violence in Tunisia in which unhappy fans became unruly and damaged property and vehicles in the vicinity of stadiums. The U.S. Embassy recommends that Americans avoid the games. It is helpful to be aware of when/where soccer games are scheduled, and unless attending the game, to avoid the area of the stadium one hour before kickoff and one hour after the conclusion of the game. It is prudent for those who live by a stadium to park their vehicles in garages or carports rather than leaving them on the street.

Islam is the state religion of Tunisia. The Tunisian government does not interfere with the public worship of the country's religious minorities. However, some activities such as proselytizing or engaging in other activities which the Tunisian authorities could view as encouraging conversion to another faith are prohibited under laws designed to prevent disturbances to the public order. In the past, Americans who have engaged in such activities have been asked to leave the country.

Tunisia has an increasing crime rate. Criminals have targeted tourists and business travelers for theft, pick-pocketing, and scams. Care should be taken with wallets and other valuables kept in handbags or backpacks that can be easily opened from behind in crowded streets or marketplaces. Criminals may violently grab at items worn around the neck (purses, necklaces, backpacks) and then run away, sometimes causing injury to their victims. Criminals have been known to rob pedestrians by snatching purses and handbags from their victims while on a motorcycle. Harassment of unaccompanied females occurs rarely in hotels, but it occurs more frequently elsewhere. Dressing in a conservative manner can diminish potential harassment, but it is wise to travel in groups of two or more people. Women are advised against walking alone in isolated areas. People are encouraged to avoid buses and commuter rail when possible. People are advised to never enter a taxi if another passenger is present.

Theft from vehicles is also common. Items high in value like luggage, cameras, laptop computers, or briefcases are often stolen from cars. Travelers are advised not to leave valuables in parked cars, and to keep doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight when driving.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Tunisian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Tunisia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Medical care in Tunisia is available, but it is limited; specialized care or treatment may not be available. Medical staff will most likely be unable to communicate in English. Immediate ambulance service may not be available, especially outside of urban areas. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health care services. Over-the-counter medications are available. However, travelers should bring with them a full supply of medications that are needed on a regular basis. The U.S. embassy has a list of doctors who can be contacted for emergency prescriptions.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Tunisia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair 
Urban Road Conditions: Fair 
Rural Road Conditions: Fair 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Driving in Tunisia can be dangerous. It is recommended that visitors avoid driving after dark outside of Tunis or the major resort areas. Driving practices are poor. Drivers fail to obey the rules of the road even with the presence of the police. Traffic signs and signals are often ignored, and sometimes vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road. Bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles are operated without sufficient lights or reflectors, making them difficult to see darting in and out of traffic. Pedestrians cause additional problems, by dodging traffic and not paying attention to vehicles. Defensive driving is a must when driving in Tunisia. Drivers may be stopped for inspection by police officers within cities and on highways at any time.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information concerning Tunisian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Tunisian national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the United States and Tunisia, the U.S. federal aviation administration (FAA) has not assessed Tunisia 's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the department of transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

June 21, 2004

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