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Tunisia

Tunisia is a compact, tourist adapted country, about 250 x120nm, with about 10 million population. There's a coastline of more than 600nm to explore, with never more than 50nm between destinations, and adequate provision for visiting yachts. There's lots to see. Picturesque old walled cities and their medinas alternate with sandy beaches along the coast, and there are fascinating ancient cultural sites inland. The "Arab Spring" started here. Revolutionary activities have subsided, but it's worth checking the travel cautions on the Foreign office web site. Away from tourist locations alcohol is not commonly available.

Weather, When to go

The weather in the northern half of the country is wetter than you'd expect for North Africa, affected by the Atlas mountains. Fertile shore plains north of  Monastir and Mahdia, slowly give way to desert south of La Chebba, with dry winters. Djerba is a winter sun holiday destination.

Yacht Support

Fuel is less than half European prices. There are adequate ports and several wintering locations. With no consumption tax (VAT) costs are noticeably low, very suitable for budget sailors. 

Formalities

You must arrive at a port of entry. The harbour master will direct you to immigration and to customs. Visas are available at point of entry, and allow UK residents 90 days. The passport must have 6 months left to run. Customs includes an inspection of the boat to list all items of value on a manifest form; this will be requested at each port you visit. It is often retained by the police during your stay and is re-checked when you leave the country.

newOn departure from Tunisia for another country, each person must affix an exit stamp next to the entry stamp on their passports. Stamps cost 30 Dinar, and are widely available.

Officials are courteous and diligent, but some may expect "baksheesh" - a present of cigarettes or other gift. When you leave each port, clear out with the police. You will be discouraged from anchoring between ports, and from visiting the fishing ports, but this is possible and cheap. If you want to take a day sail, let the police know.

Ports - from North to South

Tabarka. Tabarka is a port of entry 10nm from the Algerian border. It's a very pretty seaside resort, lively in the summer with music festivals and good restaurants. The harbour has limited facilities. Bulla Regia, about 30 miles inland, south of Tabarka, is a “must visit” with remarkable underground Roman villas.

Bizerte is a fishing port with an ambitious marina skeleton. It's also a port of entry with a taste for baksheesh, set on a canal leading to an inland lake. The busy old city and medina is well worth a stop, and nearby beaches make this a holiday resort - popular with Tunisians. There's a summer music festival and very good SCUBA diving.

Tunis (must visit) lies 10miles inland of the shore, beyond two large lagoons. For a great introduction to the Mahgreb culture of north Africa, visit the souks around the Great Mosque in the Medina, the old walled city. The remnants of ancient Carthage lie along the coast between two ports. The main port, La Goullette, does not allow visitors. Sidi Bou Said is a fashionable villa complex near the presidential palace which has a marina. Sidi Bou Said Marina is grubby, has inadequate facilities, and the public have access. The marina is often full, so must be booked ahead, and is expensive. Baksheesh demands are also high - up to £80 equivalent for booking in (it's a port of entry). There's a large supermarket a short taxi ride away, an airport nearby, and trains to Tunis. So, although the marina is convenient for visiting Tunis, you may be better off going to Yasmine Hammamet and booking a Tunis hotel for a couple of nights.

Tunisia ChartKelibia is a busy, rather messy fishing port. You'll probably raft up on the visitor's pontoon. A port of entry and useful stop on the way south. Climb to the fort above for good views.

Yasmine Hammamet is a big 5 star resort, geared to foreign tourists (one of many developments along this long sandy coastline), so a bit noisy. It is a port of entry, with a large well managed marina and no backsheesh demands. Port Jasmine has shore hards and a 150 ton yacht lift.  Pontoons are gated and locked, with noticeable security guards. An English couple here run Marine Services, who operate throughout Tunisia. Hammamet, about 5 miles away, has some good bars and restaurants. A recommended wintering spot, ashore or afloat, and a better base from which to explore Tunis. Catch a "Louage" - a local shared minibus/taxi.

El Kantoui is another large holiday complex, designed to look like an Andalucian village. El Kantaoui Marina is a port of entry and a full service marina with security guards and a shore hard, suitable for wintering ashore or afloat, with a small live-aboard community. Local restaurants cater for tourist tastes. For a more authentic Tunisian experience, visit Sousse, 10nm south, a lively and crowded old town, popular with tourists, with excellent beaches nearby. There's a commercial harbour and port of entry, but it's a bit exposed, not very comfortable for visiting vessels. Kerouan. the first Arab capital in north Africa, houses the Great Mosque and is the holy city of Tunisia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s about 40 miles inland of Sousse, well worth a visit in the cool seasons, but the desert location is too hot to handle in the summer!

Monastir is another lively, tourist dominated town, with Medina and markets catering more for visitors than locals.  Monastir Marina is a popular winter live-aboard location. It has limited berths, and yachts may be moved around to fit more in, whether you’re there or not. Ablutions are limited, and pontoon access latched but not locked. However, prices are high, because the place always fills. Book in May for next winter . . .

Mahdia has a modern fishing port, a port of entry. Its attractive older quarters are on a peninsula, and are less affected by tourism than towns further north. Lampedusa (Italy) lies about 60nm due east.

Gulf of GabesSouth of La Chebba (As Sabbah) the waters become shallow as you enter the Gulf of Gabes. Also, tidal ranges become significant, reaching 1.8m in Gabes itself. Inland is desert, with occasional oases. The winter climate here is dry and sunny, so this is a winter sun resort area. Some locations:

  • Sfax has a superb and original Medina. Unlike most others in Tunisia, it is virtually untouched by tourism, so well worth the journey.  There’s a commercial port with some berths for visitors.
  • Kerkenna Islands. 10nm off Sfax, these are flat desert islands with date palms instead of coconuts. Best described as “laid back and quiet”, they’re surrounded by sandy shallows. Ferries connect from Sfax, mostly bringing families.
  • Djerba. A winter sun resort island, surrounded by shallows and connected by a causeway to the mainland, international airport with internal and charter flights. Houmt Souk, a port of entry, has visitor's berths.
  • Gabes. A modern town, with a big commercial phosphate port to the north, and a smaller fishing port in town. Inland, consider a visit to Douz Oasis.

Summary

(To be written)

Last checked Oct 2014

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Cruise Region: 
Country's Boating Regulations and Data: 

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