safe for tourists?

radioactive

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I am planning to make my first trip to Tunisia in October to see my boyfriend. In light of the revolution, I wanted to make sure it is safe for tourists/foreigners. I have read some travel forums, and people from various countries have all posted they felt safe while visiting in tourist areas. The posts I have read were dated from January all the way through June. But I plan to stay in Tunis with my boyfriend's family (not too late to book a hotel though, haven't even bought the plane tickets yet). Since many of you live in Tunisia, I can't think of anyone better to ask!
My family did travel extensively when I was a child, we even lived in Saudi Arabia for 4 years, but the only international trip I have made as an adult was last year to stay with my brother in Australia. So, I am open to any and all advice/comments about keeping my person/belongings safe, as well as respecting local customs. I do realize I need to dress modestly (which really I do anyway), and that around his family I should not be too "lovey dovey."
As this will be my first time meeting his family, do you think it better for me to book a hotel? If I do decide on a hotel, should I stay in Tunis (I think the family is pretty centrally located if I remember correctly), or should I stay in a more touristy area, like Carthage or La Marsa? I don't really plan to wander all over the place alone, after all I am going so I can see him! But by then he may be working, so I suppose some of the time i may go shopping alone, or maybe try to get to know his mother and father while he and his brothers are at work, though I don't think their English is very good and I speak no Arabic or French. I am trying to learn some basic french before I go, and just last night discovered the thread with the Tunisian Arabic vocabulary, which I will definitely be practicing!
 

NetNiet

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If I was you I would book a hotel or let your boyfriend arrange a private house and will not stay with his family. But I like my privacy and I never like to stay in other peoples house, especially if I don't know the people where I'm staying. And especially not at the parents house from my new boyfriend! LOL
And allthough they are in the Norrth more open minded than here in the south, they will not let you stay together sleeping in one room.

Really a lot off people are thinking that in october there will b again big problems due to the elections. I personally think the problems will come after a few months when the people think it's not changing soon enough etc.
If you book a hotel and you want your boyfriend to stay with you, ask permission at the hotel if that's possible because you're not married and that is here against the law. More hotels where it was possible before, are following the law more strictly now because they can get in big problems otherwise.
 

radioactive

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Yes, we have already discussed the separate rooms thing. Actually, I am from the southern US and a very conservative family, my parents would not allow it either! I agree, I would rather have some privacy. It has been far too long since we have seen each other already! Hadn't given much thought to the hotel being a problem. He had actually told me "oh we can get a hotel very cheap," but he didn't say anything about the legal aspect. Thanks for pointing that out, will have to ask him about that tomorrow when we skype. I do feel a bit awkward about staying in their home since I have not met his parents or brothers, but they seem friendly enough. If they are around when he and I talk on Skype, one of them always comes over to wave hello at the computer. :) At this point, I wonder would they be insulted if I did not stay with their family?
I plan to be there the last few days of September and then leave Oct. 10th. So I will be gone before the election date, which as far as I know is still set for Oct. 23, correct? I figured it best not to be there right at elections, or very soon after. In many countries where regular elections are not held (or at least not fair ones), it seems things can be unstable after elections. And with so many political parties forming after the revolution, there is potential for a large portion of the population to be unhappy with the results. We will see, won't we?
 

Tunisianbelle

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I agree with NetNiet (I do that a lot!:D) that a hotel is best. Besides just the modesty and privacy issues, there are still some problems in Tunis from time to time. If it were me, I'd opt to stay in a hotel in La Marsa, Lac, or Carthage because they are more on the outskirts of Tunis, so you won't be in the middle of any problems if something were to break out, yet you'd still be safe getting to/from the airport.

Which state are you from? I grew up in CO.
 

alAzima

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I don't agree. I think if you're sure about him and feel safe with him, it's best to do what he says is best. If he thinks it's best to stay with his family in their home, do that. If he recommends a hotel, then do that. Let him take care of it from there. He'll get cheaper rates and he'll know which hotels will allow the two of you to stay together even though you are not married. A large number of hotels that you can book online from the US will over look the marriage thing. In Tunis, both El Hana and Africa Hotel on Avenue Habib Bourgabia will not blink if you stay there together. Smaller places (for instance Hotel Salambo on rue de Grece by the train station) will ask you for marriage papers. Africa Hotel is expensive and it's a business hotel, no pools or touristy things. It's centrally located, however with all of the things going on, many of them center around the avenue and it might not be the best place to stay. Expensive as well.

Anyway back to my original point, take your lead from him and let him be the judge. I stayed with my then boyfriend and later fiance, but now husband in his own home. On my first trip we stayed in separate rooms, the second from engagement to marriage though we stayed together. His family lives in Jendouba which is not very open minded, but they are an open minded family --- The situation was slightly different though- for our first trip, he met me in Tunis, we stayed several nights in Africa Hotel then went on to his family home which is a 2.5 hour drive from Tunis. If you're b/f is already in Tunis you might not get that chance, but it's no far cry to say that he's taking you to Nabuel, Hammamet, Sousse for a few days to see the sites/beach and you can hotel/room together there. Vacation in a vacation.

Your boyfriend knows his parents and his family. If he says it's okay to stay in their home and if you are 100% sure about him and trust him (being that you've already spent a lot of face time with him in the US) I would do as he wishes.

If something happened or it didn't work out, it's not like you couldn't walk away and go book a hotel, you definitely could.

La Marsa is fro-fro rich snot land in many places and the hotel prices are often much higher than other areas.
 

Tunisianbelle

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The reason I said hotel is better is because there are still many things going on in Tunis and it was fairly recently that there was violence in neighborhoods in central Tunis. I think more than what his family think about her staying with them, her security should come first.

Not that Tunisia is unsafe - I just think it is better to error on the side of caution, especially right now in the run-up to the elections when people are really starting to protest for things and there is a distinctive competition coming out between the camps for the forerunners in the election.
 

alAzima

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I totally understand what you're saying. But the way that I am and my trips there, I'd prefer to be with family and not in a hotel alone, but that's me. There is definite validity in what you're saying. But just for me, I feel more secure with family and friends than I would in a hotel.
 

Tunisianbelle

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I am of two minds on that. In one sense, if things were to break out, being in a foreign country I would want to be surrounded by people I knew. On the other hand, as of yet tourists and hotels haven't been targeted and she could very well be safer there. I don't know. Raioactive, I guess this is going to be something that you will have to decide for yourself and go with what feels more comfortable for you.
 

radioactive

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Thanks for the suggestions. I am still pretty on the fence right now, my primary concern in this matter is definitely physical safety. I do trust him. I know he would not let any harm come to me. I will just have to keep staying on top of the news. I feel like I want to stay in their home so we can get to know each other better, but solely due to the political situation, it may be better to be in a hotel. I believe his family is only a block off Avenue Habib Bourguiba, though I do not know the cross street. I may wait until I get there to book a hotel, since he told me some hotels are $10 a night. While I did find some for $20-40 on Expedia and other travel sites, I am sure he can get a better deal than I would!
I was speaking with an Arab coworker a few weeks ago about my plans for visiting Tunisia, and she brought up many valid points for me to consider. Now, she is not Tunisian, she is from Saudi. She strongly advised me not to go at all, "don't you know there is a revolution there", you could get arrested because you do not look like them, etc etc. Yes I would stick out, I am blonde and blue eyed, but it's Tunisia, not Saudi! But she did bring up things like what do you do if they close the borders? How will the Embassy find you? (Yes, I already know to register my travel plans with them and provide a local number, as well as give the same information to my friends and family in the states). It was my conversation with her that made me seek out some sort of Tunisian expat forum, so I could get information from people actually there and find out how safe they feel. And I stumbled onto TLR!
I am definitely doing this on a tight budget, so La Marsa is probably out of the question, as is Hotel Africa. Can anyone recommend affordable hotels in Tunis or Carthage, preferably the ones that will not ask for marriage documents? I will ask him if he knows which hotels will look the other way. Good idea, Azima, about the side trips. His family does have a "country house" in Mahdia, may we can do a few days there alone.
Thank you all for the advice. oh and Tunisianbelle, I am from Texas, but I live in Las Vegas.
 

NetNiet

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I don't agree. I think if you're sure about him and feel safe with him, it's best to do what he says is best. If he thinks it's best to stay with his family in their home, do that. If he recommends a hotel, then do that.
Hi AlAzima, yes she knows and trust her boyfriend, but she doesn't know his family yet. It isn't allways easy to stay at a family house when you don't know them. I think it's better to stay in a hotel and spend time with the family so you can decide the next time what you like to do.
Radioactive do you know if in his family all the women stay together in one room, are you comfortable with that to sleep this way or do you know you get a private room?
 
C

crazypink

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Even when you do know (and love family) its still nice to have your own space and be able to walk out of the shower without having to dress first, be able to sleep with little on and go the loo in the middle of the nite!! I like my own space and privacy with hubby.
 

NetNiet

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I was speaking with an Arab coworker a few weeks ago about my plans for visiting Tunisia, and she brought up many valid points for me to consider. Now, she is not Tunisian, she is from Saudi. She strongly advised me not to go at all, "don't you know there is a revolution there", you could get arrested because you do not look like them, etc etc. Yes I would stick out, I am blonde and blue eyed, but it's Tunisia, not Saudi!
You don't get arrested because you don't look Tunisian, otherwise I would have been in prison already with my blond (OK painted ;)) hair and blue eyes.

But she did bring up things like what do you do if they close the borders? How will the Embassy find you? (Yes, I already know to register my travel plans with them and provide a local number, as well as give the same information to my friends and family in the states). It was my conversation with her that made me seek out some sort of Tunisian expat forum, so I could get information from people actually there and find out how safe they feel. And I stumbled onto TLR!
I helping the Dutch Embassy since there was here a Revolution for the area Sfax till the South. So I can only tell how we work but I'm pretty sure lots off Embassy work the same, because there was and still is close contact and when we can help another country we do so aswell. Especially in area's like here in the South where there are no Embassy.
The borders have never been closed and IF that is happening (I don't think that will be the case in any situation) before that there is an evacuation by the touroperaters and Embassy.
So indeed it's good that you're going to register yourself, provide them all the information like date arrival, departure, place where you're staying, your telephonenumber but also from your boyfriend, flight schedules, touroprator name etc.
If you arrive at the airport, there are allways representatives from the touroperator waiting. If you booked tru a touroperator, let them know where you stay and give them aswell your telephonenumber. Even if you didn't book tru a touroperator, you can ask a representative to take your number in case something is happening.
In case there is something happening, contact directly your touroperator and the Embassy. I advise you to do directly, because sometimes things can go very fast like the last time and people who stayed in hotels didn't realise what was going on, some were even angry that they had to go home, because they didn't notice anything because they stayed in the hotel. Some even didn't leave, but they forgot that their regular flight didn't go anymore, because that was changed in an earlier evacuation flight. Some off them had to go travel to other countries first and had to pay everything!
And my experience is that it can be very expensive, flights which were normally about 100 euro where these days about 400 euro!!!! only one way!

In case something is happening and there is a curfew, please stick to that. Some Tunisian will say that that isn't for foreigners, but offcourse it is! It's for your own safety when there is a curfew!
If you have to travel to or from the airport when there is a curfew, take care that you're before the curfew at the airport and don't forget that it will be a busy time with taxi's and that they have to be at home aswell before the curfew.
When problems are getting fast the first few days the times from the flights will not be chaged to the curfew, but after a few days they will.

And offcourse you and your boyfriend will do anything to keep save, but remember that you can't control everything. I have been personally in some very scaring situations. And believe me that I was very carefull and my husband and his family protected me very well, but you can't control other people when something is happening like this.
It's also offcourse depending in which place you are and here was one off the places with problems, but Tunis offcourse aswell. Avenue Habib Bourgabia was 1 month ago and from what I've heard still is very well protected with militair and tanks etc. and when there is something going to happen (again what I don't think it will be with the elections) but than I guess it will be there again and than you're not at a very safe place.
 

radioactive

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Oh I know I won't get arrested just for walking down the street with blond hair, that was my friend's take on what might happen if I were nearby during a protest or something like that. Again, she is from Saudi, and has never been to Tunisia, so it's not like she really knows Tunisia.
As far as sleeping arrangements, his mother is the only female in the household. I think they have a 3 bedroom apartment. It sounds like he will room with his brother, leaving me a private room. Of course, I will ask and be sure. ;)
I didn't realize that if you are evacuated you may have to pay more money to be flown out of the country. I was already looking into travel insurance, which should cover that. However, I noticed on one company's website they do not cover evacuation from a country that has a travel warning issued for it. Tunisia does currently have a travel alert from the US Embassy, and that does not expire until Oct. 8. So I need to find a company that will cover that regardless of whether the country has a travel alert. Anybody know of one?
 

NetNiet

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Hi Radioactive, if there is an evacuation and you follow what they say in first place touroperator and / or airplain company, than you will be covered and don't have to pay anything.
If the Embassy helps you to evacuate because you missed the regular evacuation, you will have to pay yourself.
The excample which I did write above was that case, tourists didn't get back with the regular evacuation because they prefer to stay and than you have to pay for yourself if you go later.

Indeed insurance will not cover if you book a holiday / flight during travel warning.
I'm not sure how the USA system works, in Holland we have different numbers, from low to high. The travel alert for the specific tourist places is now gone by Holland.
So maybe there is also in the USA system a difference and than you can ask your travel insurance what it will be in your case.

Be also aware that during travel alert booking a holiday, your medical insurance will also not pay for it.
There are special insurances for countries when there is war or Revolution, but if you read the little letters, they all say that they will cover normal medical situations and not related to war or revolution etc. The problem is, how you're going to proof that. With the Revolution here you couldn't turn to an instantion to get a written proof from that.
 

mezoo

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if i were going,,,,,,,for the first time i'd wait until after octobers election. maybe spring. only a thought
 

Tunisianbelle

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Tunisianbelle, I am from Texas, but I live in Las Vegas.
I was born in El Paso. I also lived in AZ for a while, but lived in CO most of my life (until moving here in 2001).

Just one more thing about evacuations for US citizens -- during the Revolution, the US Embassy offered citizens a mercy flight out of Tunisia. However, it was up to the citizen to pay for the cost of the flight (you didn't need to pay up front, but the flight was nearly tripple the normal price), the citizen had to have all travel documents up to date (if they weren't you couldn't travel), the flight only went to Morocco, once in Morocco the citizen was responsible for all costs (lodging, food, transportation, on ward travel, etc), and they gave you only 24 hours to decide if you wanted to go or not (and you had to let them know ASAP so they could reserve you a spot). It was't classified as an actual evacuation, and no evacuations were done for US citizens during the Revolution. Even at the height of the Revolution, the personnel at the Embassy were still here and working and keeping in contact with citizens that were in country.
 

radioactive

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El Paso huh? I grew up in Waco. :)

Since they did not do an official evacuation, did the major commercial airlines keep their normal flight schedules, or did air travel mostly stop?
 

NetNiet

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In the first period there were flights to book but for much higher prices than normal. Later on (I think in about1,5 weeks) there were a lot off flights cancelled and due to the situation that is normal, would have been to expensive to fly with a few persons because all the countries did had travel alert, so not many people were coming here.

And they changed also flights with you bought for excample departure from Djerba or Enfidha or Monastir, that you hear 1 or 2 days before you have to depearture from Tunis and believe me you didn't like to travel that time to another airport!
 

Tunisianbelle

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I think most of the airlines during the Revolution cancelled flights for the first two weeks. Then, as NetNiet said, they changed the destination airport on some flights.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that the national airline, TunisAir, was working all its normal flights out of the airports the flights were scheduled out of (Tunis, Monastir, Enfidha, Djerba, Tozeur, Tabarka, Sfax). They even had flights that worked during curfew hours. For about the first 2-4 weeks though the flights were running on delays though.
 

NetNiet

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Hi Tunisianbelle my experience with Tunisair is different than yours, a lot off them were cancelled or changed to other airports. I'm speaking about specially flights from Tunis to Amsterdam and Brussels, Djerba to Brussels and sometimes France and Germany.
 

lucy jane

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Yes, we have already discussed the separate rooms thing. Actually, I am from the southern US and a very conservative family, my parents would not allow it either! I agree, I would rather have some privacy. It has been far too long since we have seen each other already! Hadn't given much thought to the hotel being a problem. He had actually told me "oh we can get a hotel very cheap," but he didn't say anything about the legal aspect. Thanks for pointing that out, will have to ask him about that tomorrow when we skype. I do feel a bit awkward about staying in their home since I have not met his parents or brothers, but they seem friendly enough. If they are around when he and I talk on Skype, one of them always comes over to wave hello at the computer. :) At this point, I wonder would they be insulted if I did not stay with their family?
I plan to be there the last few days of September and then leave Oct. 10th. So I will be gone before the election date, which as far as I know is still set for Oct. 23, correct? I figured it best not to be there right at elections, or very soon after. In many countries where regular elections are not held (or at least not fair ones), it seems things can be unstable after elections. And with so many political parties forming after the revolution, there is potential for a large portion of the population to be unhappy with the results. We will see, won't we?
Omg i have just read this election thing , what happens after this .. i am flying to tunisia on my own in november this year to stay with my boyfriend and his family for the first time !! xx
 

Tunisianbelle

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I guess I cannot say with absolute certainty for ALL flights. I do know that my husband and a few friends all did their normal flights from whatever airport they were scheduled from. I remember being very scared when hubby worked flights that were during curfew hours or at an airport away from where we live (especially when those two factors were combined!).

I also know that right at the beginning, TunisAir Handling went on strike and a lot of flights (not just TunisAir) were cancelled because there was no one to clean the planes, load/unload the luggage, or load/unload the food. During that time there were some great crews (pilots and stewards) who did all the work themselves to ensure that flights took off and people got to the destinations they wanted/needed to get to, although it did mean long delays (doing their normal work plus the work of at least 3 others at the same time!). Maybe that is what some of the initial flight changes were due to as why certain flights didn't take off?
 

Tunisianbelle

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Omg i have just read this election thing , what happens after this .. i am flying to tunisia on my own in november this year to stay with my boyfriend and his family for the first time !! xx
No one knows for sure what will happen after the election - it's a wait and see. Not everyone is going to be happy with the results, but we are hoping that everyone can accept the outcome as being what the people want and voted on and that total mayhem doesn't break out.
 

lucy jane

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Thanks for the suggestions. I am still pretty on the fence right now, my primary concern in this matter is definitely physical safety. I do trust him. I know he would not let any harm come to me. I will just have to keep staying on top of the news. I feel like I want to stay in their home so we can get to know each other better, but solely due to the political situation, it may be better to be in a hotel. I believe his family is only a block off Avenue Habib Bourguiba, though I do not know the cross street. I may wait until I get there to book a hotel, since he told me some hotels are $10 a night. While I did find some for $20-40 on Expedia and other travel sites, I am sure he can get a better deal than I would!
I was speaking with an Arab coworker a few weeks ago about my plans for visiting Tunisia, and she brought up many valid points for me to consider. Now, she is not Tunisian, she is from Saudi. She strongly advised me not to go at all, "don't you know there is a revolution there", you could get arrested because you do not look like them, etc etc. Yes I would stick out, I am blonde and blue eyed, but it's Tunisia, not Saudi! But she did bring up things like what do you do if they close the borders? How will the Embassy find you? (Yes, I already know to register my travel plans with them and provide a local number, as well as give the same information to my friends and family in the states). It was my conversation with her that made me seek out some sort of Tunisian expat forum, so I could get information from people actually there and find out how safe they feel. And I stumbled onto TLR!
I am definitely doing this on a tight budget, so La Marsa is probably out of the question, as is Hotel Africa. Can anyone recommend affordable hotels in Tunis or Carthage, preferably the ones that will not ask for marriage documents? I will ask him if he knows which hotels will look the other way. Good idea, Azima, about the side trips. His family does have a "country house" in Mahdia, may we can do a few days there alone.
Thank you all for the advice. oh and Tunisianbelle, I am from Texas, but I live in Las Vegas.
im going in november as i said the 19th for a week to monistir im blonde with blue eyes will i get arrested ?? i am so worrried now i am flying on my own and staying with my boyfriend i will be safe from getting arrested wont i what happens after these elections, and what is ment by registering your travel plans and the borders shuting im only young and dont know about all this traveling i have never traveled alond i sont under stand the travel registering or the boarder closing .... please could some one answer this for me !! xx
 
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