Tunisia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 30 July 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Terrorism and Civil unrest/political tension (parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled to take place across Tunisia in October and November 2014. You should avoid all election-related events and political protests in the period surrounding these elections). We now advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to southern Tunisia due to the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. We also now advise Australians not to travel to the Mount Chaambi National Park due to ongoing clashes and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. We continue to advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Tunisia because of the unpredictable security situation, the risk of further violence and civil unrest and the threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack.

Tunisia overall

Southern Tunisia (areas south of and including the towns of Nefta, Douz, Medenine and Zarzis)

Mount Chaambi National Park

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Tunisia because of the unpredictable security situation, the risk of terrorist attack, civil unrest and the threat of kidnapping.
  • Parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled to take place across Tunisia from late October to late December 2014. The Tunisian authorities have warned that attacks may occur in the period surrounding the elections. You should avoid all election-related events and political protests particularly in the period surrounding the election as they may turn violent.
  • A nation-wide state of emergency, which had been in place since January 2011, was lifted on 5 March 2014. However, authorities may still restrict travel or enforce local curfews with little or no notice. It is important that you observe instructions given by local security authorities and your tour operators or hotels.
  • Over the past year a number of suspected terrorists have been arrested throughout Tunisia. The presence of extremist elements in Tunisia, as well as the deterioration in security in neighbouring Libya and Algeria, poses a threat to foreign travellers. You should maintain a high level of awareness regarding the security environment.
  • There has been a recent increase in terrorist activity in Tunisia. Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has made threats in the past against a range of public targets in Tunisia, including places frequented by tourists. See Terrorism section for further information.
  • On 30 October 2013 there was a thwarted suicide bomb attack on the beach near the Riadh Palms Hotel in the resort town of Sousse. On the same day two individuals were found with explosives at the Borguiba Mausoleum in Monastir.
  • We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to southern Tunisia, including borders with Algeria and Libya, due to the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. This covers all areas south of and including the towns of Nefta, Douz, Medenine and Zarzis.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel within 30 kilometres of the border with Algeria because of the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Military operations against suspected terrorists in this region have been ongoing since April 2013.
  • We advise Australians against all travel to the Mount Chaambi National Park due to ongoing violent clashes and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Military operations against militants have been underway in the area since April 2013. On 16 July 2014, a large number of members of the security forces were killed and injured in a militant attack, underscoring the ongoing risk of travel in the area.
  • Australians visiting Tunisia on business should see our Advice to Australian business travellers.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Tunisia. The Canadian Embassy located in Tunis, provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Malta can also assist Australians in Tunisia.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Tunisia for the most up-to-date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution while travelling in Tunisia because of the unsettled security situation, the risk of civil unrest and the threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack.

There has been a recent increase in terrorist activity in Tunisia. The Tunisian authorities have warned that attacks may occur in the period leading up to and following the elections in late 2014.Terrorist groups in the region, which are growing in capability and intent, have declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners.

Recent incidents include:

  • On 16 July 2014, a militant attack in Mount Chaambi National Park killed and injured a large number of members of the security forces.
  • On 13 June 2014, two suspected terrorists were killed in police operation in Jendouba in northern Tunisia.
  • On 27 May 2014, four police officers were killed in an attack on the residence of the Interior Minister in Kesserine in western Tunisia.
  • On 25 May 2014, three suspected terrorists were arrested with suicide belts near the border with Libya in southern Tunisia.
  • In May 2014, a number of suspected terrorists were arrested after entering Tunisia from Libya.
  • On 30 October 2013, there was a thwarted suicide bomb attack on the beach near the Riadh Palms Hotel in the coastal resort town of Sousse. On the same day two individuals were found with explosives at the Borguiba Mausoleum in Monastir.
  • On 23 October 2013, several police officers were killed and others wounded when an armed group attacked National Guard officers who were conducting a search operation in Sidi Bouzied (central Tunisia).

Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has made threats against a range of targets in Tunisia, including government, industrial and commercial buildings and tourist sites.

The presence of extremist elements in Tunisia, as well as the deterioration in security in neighbouring countries such as Libya and Algeria, poses a general threat to foreign travellers. You should maintain a high level of awareness regarding the security environment and monitor developments in the local media that may affect your safety and security.

In planning your activities, consider the places known to be terrorist targets. These include government facilities and commercial areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as, but not limited to, Western diplomatic missions, oil facilities, residential areas, hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, market places, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.

Mount Chaambi National Park: We now advise Australians against all travel to the Mount Chaambi National Park due to the ongoing clashes and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Military operations against militants have been underway in the area since April 2013, resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries.

Border with Algeria: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel within 30 kilometres of the border with Algeria north of Nefta because of the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Military operations against two groups of suspected terrorists have been ongoing since April 2013 in the Kef and Kasserine regions.

Southern Tunisia and border areas: We now advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to southern Tunisia, including the borders with Libya and Algeria, due to the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. This advice covers all areas south of and including the towns of Nefta, Douz, Medenine and Zarzis. You should seek professional security advice before attempting travel in these areas.

While Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya are open, there continues to be a heightened security presence. Some crossings may be temporarily closed at short notice, and access is strictly controlled by Tunisian security forces. Australian travellers should consult with local authorities before travelling to the border areas with Algeria and Libya as well as consulting the travel advisories for those countries.

Permission from Tunisian authorities is required to travel to certain desert areas in the south and you must be accompanied by a licensed guide.

If, having considered these issues, you decide to travel to southern Tunisia, you should exercise extreme caution and consult with the local authorities for advice on particular routes and destinations. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Tunisia, due to the unsettled security situation and risk of further civil unrest. You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for new information about safety or security risks.

Elections in 2014: Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place across Tunisia on 26 October 2014. Presidential elections are scheduled for 23 November 2014, with a second round ballot set for 28 December 2014. You should avoid all election related events and protests in the period surrounding the election as they may turn violent.

Ongoing political tensions: Tunisia has experienced unprecedented political and social change since the events of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in January 2011. Protests and political unrest occurred across Tunisia, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive damage to property. While Tunisia’s first democratic elections were conducted peacefully on 23 October 2011, the potential for civil unrest remains. Protests may erupt into violence with little or no warning.

A nation-wide state of emergency, which had been in place since January 2011, was lifted on 5 March 2014. However, authorities may still restrict travel or enforce local curfews with little or no notice. It is important that you observe instructions given by local security authorities, tour operators or hotels.

Confrontations have occurred between security forces and extremist groups. On 6 August 2013 a suspected terrorist was killed during a raid by Tunisia ’s Anti-Terrorist Brigade. On 19 May 2013 a clash in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamon resulted in one death and several injuries. On 1 December 2013 security forces arrested ten extremists.

Protests and confrontations occur regularly in Tunisia. Australians should be aware of the potential for spontaneous and unpredictable events, such as political and industrial protests. Strikes may be called at short notice and could affect essential services. You should avoid all such protests and take particular care during the period surrounding Friday prayers.

On 14 September 2012, violent protests in front of the US Embassy in Tunis resulted in death and injury to protesters, and significant damage to the Embassy and nearby American school.

Australians should carry their passports at all times and comply with the instructions of the security authorities.

Crime

Incidents of petty crime in public places and tourist areas have reportedly increased. Such crime includes theft, scams, pick pocketing and bag snatching. In addition to remaining vigilant of your surroundings, you should also ensure your personal belongings are secure as theft of high value items from vehicles and hotel rooms does occur.

Harassment of women, including unwanted physical contact and comments, has been reported. Female travellers should adopt sensible precautions when travelling alone or at night.

Money and valuables

You should declare all foreign currency upon arrival in Tunisia and retain the declaration receipt for departure. Tourists are expected to make foreign exchange transactions at authorised banks or dealers and to retain receipts for dinars obtained. Prior to departure from Tunisia, a maximum of 3,000 Tunisian dinars may be converted back into foreign currency, but documentation proving the purchase should be kept for customs declarations. Tunisian law prohibits the import and export of Tunisian dinars.

Foreign exchange transactions must take place at authorised banks only.

Local travel

Driving in Tunisia can be hazardous due to poorly maintained vehicles, poor local driving practices and inadequate road lighting. For further advice, see our road travel page.

If you intend to travel into the Sahara, it is a requirement to inform the National Guard Post at Medenine, located 450 kilometres south of Tunis, prior to travel. Use of an experienced guide may reduce the risks associated with travel in the Sahara.

Airline safety

Information on aviation safety in Tunisia is available the website of the Aviation Safety Network. Our air travel page also has general information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Tunisia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs, including "soft" drugs, include mandatory imprisonment.

Penalties for some offences, such as murder and rape, include the death penalty.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Tunisia and are punishable by three years imprisonment.

Only married couples are permitted to cohabit in Tunisia.

It is illegal to attempt to convert Muslims to another religion in Tunisia.

Photography of, or near, government buildings, military establishments or other infrastructure is prohibited.

It is illegal to import and export Tunisian dinars.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Tunisia and you should take care not to offend. If you are visiting religious sites and remote areas of Tunisia you should avoid wearing short-sleeved garments or shorts. Open displays of affection between members of the opposite sex may cause offence. Women may be harassed, particularly if they are unaccompanied.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of people who are fasting.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Tunisian dual nationals may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Tunisia. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Tunisia before you travel.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in Tunisia are generally limited. Doctors and hospitals require up-front payment or a guarantee of payment from an insurance company prior to providing services, including for emergency care. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (at considerable cost) to a destination with appropriate facilities may be required.

A decompression chamber is available at the Naval Base in Bizert in north-east Tunisia.

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and West Nile fever) are prevalent in Tunisia. Malaria is not a risk. We recommend that you take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, rabies and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. While tap water is safe to drink in major cities, in rural areas we advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water. Avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Swimming in fresh water may expose you to parasitic diseases such as bilharzia. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the national emergency number, 197, noting that the service will be in Arabic or French.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

To contact the Australian Government for consular assistance in accordance with the Consular Services Charter, see contact details below:

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Tunisia. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Tunis, provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The address is:

Canadian Embassy, Tunis

Lot 24, Cite Des Pins, Berges Du Lac 2
TUNIS, Tunisia
Telephone: +216 70-010-200
Fax (General): +216 70-010-392
Email: tunis@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/tunisia-tunisie/.

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission located in Malta:

Australian High Commission, Malta

Ta’Xbiex Terrace
Ta’Xbiex, Malta
Telephone: + 356 2133 8201
Facsimile: + 356 2134 4059
Email: aushicom@onvol.net

See the High Commission’s website for information about opening hours.

If you are travelling to Tunisia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Tunisia is in an active seismic zone. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Dust and sand storms occur frequently in Tunisia.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.