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Travel Security Advice for Tunisia

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tunisia_mapTunisia_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 

Tunisia is a presidential republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities are widely available in large urban and major resort areas.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Tunisia for additional information.



REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Tunisia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy at the Department of State travel registration page , so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S.  Embassy. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport is required.  For U.S. passport holders, a visa is not necessary for stays of up to four months; however, a residence permit is needed for longer stays.  The residence permit can be obtained from the central police station of the district of residence.  Americans born in the Middle East or with Arabic names have experienced delays in clearing immigration upon arrival.  American citizens of Tunisian origin are expected to enter and exit Tunisia on their Tunisian passports.  If a Tunisian-American succeeds in entering using a U.S. passport, he or she will still have to present a Tunisian passport to exit the country.

For further information concerning entry/exit requirements for Tunisia, travelers may contact the Embassy of Tunisia at 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005, Telephone: 202-862-1850.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Tunisia.

Tunisian/American children must always have both parents' permission to exit the country, even if one parent has sole custody.  Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Tunisia have been subject to terrorist attacks.  However, in January 2007, Tunisian security forces announced the disruption of a terrorist group which they believe intended to attack targets including the U.S. Embassy in Tunis.  On April 11, 2002, Al-Qaida terrorists used a truck bomb to attack a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba and a number of Western tourists were killed.  Tunisian nationals have been involved in international terrorism, and international terrorist organizations have on multiple occasions called for attacks in North Africa, including Tunisia.  There have also been reported threats to tourist facilities.  The December 2007 sentencing of 30 Tunisian individuals for terrorist related activities in December 2006/January 2007 may also encourage anti-Western sentiment or reactions toward the Government of Tunisia.

Tunisia has open borders with Libya and Algeria.  Please refer to the Country Specific Information and other international travel safety and security information for those countries.  Al-Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Austrian tourists in Tunisia in late February 2008.  The two Austrians had been driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle in the southern desert.  Reports of a ransom having been paid for their release could potentially lead to further instances of westerners being targeted.  AQIM is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, and the presence of AQIM in North Africa presents potential dangers to travelers.  During late 2002 and early 2003, a number of tourists, several of whom crossed into Algeria from Tunisia, were kidnapped in the Sahara desert areas of southeastern Algeria.  Over the course of the past year, AQIM has begun a more violent campaign targeting westerners throughout the region, including the assassination of an American working in Mauritania and the murder of a British tourist kidnapped in Mali. Travelers should remain particularly alert in areas near the Algerian border.  Please see the section below on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions for more information about traveling in the desert.

In mid-2008, there were also reports of disturbances in communities in the south of Tunisia near the Algerian border.  While these disturbances appear to be triggered by economic concerns, and not directed toward Western tourists, travelers in these areas are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.

Small demonstrations occur occasionally on university campuses and typically protest fee increases, salary levels for professors, and administrative policies.  Other politically motivated demonstrations are rarely allowed but do break out occasionally on or around university campuses.  These activities are not considered a threat to Tunisia’s stability and have not targeted American interests.  In early 2009, the conflict in Gaza prompted a strong reaction leading to many demonstrations in Tunis and throughout the country.  It is best to avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.

Government security forces, including the police and National Guard, are visibly present throughout Tunisia.  Travelers should heed directions given by uniformed security officials, and are encouraged to always carry a copy of their passport as proof of nationality and identity.  Security personnel, including plainclothes officials, may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.  It is against Tunisian law to photograph government offices and other security facilities.  Suspicious incidents or problems should be reported immediately to Tunisian authorities and the U.S. Embassy.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's,
Bureau of Consular Affairs' website.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:

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, especially for young women.  It is always wise to travel in groups of two or more people.  Women are advised against walking alone in isolated areas.  Travelers are advised to avoid buses and commuter rail when possible, and 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.  Americans resident in Tunisia are also advised to not leave items of value unattended in the yards of their homes, as there have been reports of theft of items such as tools and bicycles.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while in Tunisia, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance, telephone: 71-107-000.  The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Tunisia is 197.  Emergency services are widely available in the larger towns; however, they can be less reliable in rural areas.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

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 severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.   Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Money – Travelers' checks and credit cards are accepted at some establishments in Tunisia, mainly in urban or tourist areas. Cash machines (ATMs) are available in urban and tourist areas.  The Tunisian dinar is not a fully convertible currency. While the export or import of Tunisian banknotes and coins is prohibited, the export of foreign currency declared when entering Tunisia is allowed.  Tourists are expected to make foreign exchange transactions at authorized banks and to retain receipts.  A tourist may reconvert to foreign currency 30 percent of the amount previously exchanged into dinars, up to a maximum of $100.  Declaring foreign currency when entering Tunisia and obtaining receipts for dinars purchased thereafter will facilitate the conversion of dinars to U.S. dollars when leaving the country.  Please keep all receipts of monetary transactions for presentation when departing.

Workweek – Normal working days are Monday to Friday, with government offices open on Saturday mornings.  Many stores are closed on Sunday, except in resort areas where most remain open. 

Proselytizing – Islam is the state religion of Tunisia and the government does not interfere with the country's religious minorities’ public worship.  Many religious denominations hold regularly scheduled services.  However, it is illegal to proselytize or engage in other activities that the Tunisian authorities could view as encouraging conversion to another faith.  In the past, Americans who engaged in such activities were asked to leave the country.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care in Tunisia is adequate, with a number of new, private “polyclinics” available that function as simple hospitals and can provide a variety of procedures.  Specialized care or treatment may not be available.  Facilities that can handle complex trauma cases are virtually non-existent.  While most private clinics have a few physicians who are fluent in English, the medical establishment uses French and all of the ancillary staff in every clinic communicates in Arabic and/or French.  Public hospitals are overcrowded, under-equipped and understaffed.  In general, nursing care does not conform to U.S. standards.

Immediate ambulance service may not be available outside of urban areas.  Even in urban areas, emergency response times can be much longer than in the United States.  Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for healthcare services, although some hospitals may accept credit cards.  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 in Tunis maintains a list of doctors and medical practitioners (dentists, etc.) who can be contacted for assistance.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the
CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information .



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad. Important questions are whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

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.

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 in the presence of the police.  Traffic signs and signals are often ignored, and drivers sometimes drive vehicles on the wrong side of the road.  Faster drivers tend to drive on the left while slower drivers stay to the right.  Traffic lane markings are widely ignored.  Bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles are operated without sufficient lights or reflectors, making them difficult to see darting in and out of traffic.  Motorists should also be aware of animals on the roads, particularly in rural areas. 

Pedestrians present an additional challenge as they continuously dodge traffic (even on controlled-access highways) and do not pay attention to vehicles.  Pedestrians and cyclists should be aware that drivers rarely yield and will not always stop at either crosswalks or stoplights.  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, and drivers should comply. 

Drivers should also be aware that if they are involved in a motor accident which results in death or serious injury of another person, the police may take them into protective custody until they are absolved of responsibility.  This can mean spending a period varying from one day to two months in detention.  As with any arrest or detention, Americans taken into custody should immediately request that the police inform the Embassy of their whereabouts.

Travel in the desert areas of southern Tunisia presents additional challenges.  Many roads are unimproved, and even well-traveled routes are subject to blowing sands that can create hazards for vehicles.  Persons driving off the major paved roads are encouraged to ensure that their vehicles are appropriate for off-road driving conditions, and are equipped with appropriate spares and supplies – including water and food.  Groups should generally travel in multiple vehicles, so if a vehicle becomes disabled or immobilized, the group can return in the operable vehicle(s).  Desert regions are subject to extreme temperatures, from sub-freezing evenings in the winter to dangerously hot daytime temperatures in the summer. In addition, there are many areas in the southern desert regions with little or no cellular telephone service.  The Tunisian National Guard encourages persons traveling into the desert to register their travel beforehand.
 

For details on how and where to register, please visit the U.S. Embassy’s desert travel page.

Emergency services are widely available in the larger towns. They can be less reliable in rural areas. Emergency service numbers are:
Police (Police secours): 197
Fire Department: 198
Ambulance (SAMU): 190
Towing (SOS Remorquage 24/24): 71 801 211, 71 840 840

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the web site of Tunisia’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Tunisia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Tunisia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page .



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY LOCATION:

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State list of embassies and consulates .

 

Embassy Tunisia

Zone Nord Est des Berges du Lac/Nord de Tunis
2045 La Goulette, Tunisie
Telephone:  (216) 71-107-000
 Facsimile: (216) 71964-360

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Tunisia dated January 23, 2009, to update the section on Threats to Safety and Security.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information relating to travel to Tunisia HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........

Regards

The SW Team.......

 

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