Tunisia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 11 March 2014.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Civil unrest/Political tension (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.) 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

Areas bordering Algeria and Libya

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.
  • 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 general threat to foreign travellers. You should maintain a high level of awareness regarding the security environment.
  • There has been an increase in extremist activity in Tunisia during 2013 reflecting firmer intent and improved capability of these groups to conduct attacks.
  • 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.
  • Australians should be aware of the potential for spontaneous and unpredictable events, such as political and industrial protests. You should monitor local and international media, avoid protests and take particular care during the period surrounding Friday prayers.
  • Demonstrations may occur on 14 January to mark the third anniversary of the fall of the Ben Ali regime.
  • Protests and strikes followed the assassination, on 25 July 2013, of an opposition figure.
  • Confrontations between security forces and extremist groups continue to occur. On 19 May 2013, a clash in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamon resulted in one death and several injuries.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering Algeria, including Mount Chaambi National Park, because of the ongoing threat of kidnapping. Military operations against suspected terrorists in this region have been ongoing since April 2013.
  • We also advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering Libya due to a rise in the number of security related incidents.
  • You should avoid travel in remote areas. We recommend you use a reputable tour operator for any travel into desert areas of Tunisia, especially near the Algerian and Libyan borders. Travelling as part of a tour group may reduce the risk of kidnapping
  • 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. For further details, see Terrorism section below.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Tunisia. The Canadian Embassy in Tunis provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia (except the issue of passports). See the where to get help section below for the Canadian Embassy contact details. The Australian High Commission in Malta can also assist Australians.
  • 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 is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Tunisia following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013. Terrorist groups in the region have declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners.

There was an increase in extremist activity in Tunisia during 2013, reflecting firmer intent and improved capability of these groups to conduct attacks.

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 countries such as Libya, poses a general threat to foreign travellers. You should maintain a high level of awareness regarding the security environment.

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.

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. The only reported casualty was the suicide bomber. 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).

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.

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 civil unrest. You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for new information about safety or security risks.

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 shot and 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.

Australians should be aware of the potential for spontaneous and unpredictable events, such as political and industrial protests. You should avoid protests and take particular care during the period surrounding Friday prayers.

Increased public disturbances, protests and labour strikes followed the assassination of opposition figures in July and February 2013.

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.

Australians in Tunisia should register online and with the Canadian Embassy in Tunis (for contact details see below under Where to Get Help).

Border with Libya: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering Libya due to a rise in the number of security related incidents. The security situation in this region remains tense and border crossing points are occasionally closed without notice.

Border with Algeria: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to areas bordering Algeria, including Mount Chaambi National Park, because of the threat of kidnapping and ongoing military operations against suspected terrorists.

Since 30 April 2013, Tunisian authorities have been undertaking military operations against two groups of suspected terrorists in the Kef and Kasserine regions.

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.

If, having considered these issues, you decide to travel to these regions of 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.

Permission from Tunisian authorities is required to travel to certain desert areas bordering Algeria and you must be accompanied by a licensed guide. We recommend you use a reputable tour operator for any travel into desert areas of Tunisia.

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.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Foreign exchange transactions must take place at authorised banks only.

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.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

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

Please refer to our air travel page for 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.

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.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

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

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Tunisia. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the local Canadian Embassy provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia. You should register your presence with the Canadian Government. This service does not include the issue of Australian passports. The address is:

Canadian Embassy

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: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/tunisia-tunisie/

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

Australian High Commission, Malta

Ta’Xbiex Terrace
Ta’Xbiex, Malta
Telephone: + 356 21338201
Facsimile: + 356 21344059
Email: aushicom@onvol.net
Website: http://www.malta.embassy.gov.au

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

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.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



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.