is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Tunisia.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Tunisia country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Tunisia at Level
2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Do
not travel to within 30 km of southeastern Tunisia along the border with Libya;
mountainous areas in the country’s west, Kasserine, including the Chaambi
Mountain National Park area; Jendouba south of Ain Drahem and west of RN15, El
Kef, and next to the Algerian border; or Sidi Bou Zid and Gafsa in central
Tunisia due to terrorism. Do not travel to the desert south of Remada due to
the military zone. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Tunis as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. Reliable crime statistics are difficult to obtain, but
violent crime involving the use of firearms (e.g. assault, homicide, armed
robbery) is rare. Violent and nonviolent crime (e.g. personal robberies,
residential break-ins, financial scams, vehicle thefts, petty drug offenses)
occurs in Tunis and other large/tourist cities. Homicides and sexual assaults occur
throughout Tunisia, more often in rural areas and impoverished neighborhoods.
Violence is often associated with
soccer matches, to include vandalism and physical assaults of police, security
forces and rival fans.
Most reported criminal incidents against foreigners are crimes of
opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, purse/phone snatching, petty theft). The
selection of foreigners as targets tends to focus on those who appear
unfamiliar with their surroundings or who dress expensively, wear Western-style
clothing, or draw attention to themselves by not speaking the local language. There
have been cases of young men on motor scooters targeting Western-looking
females and attempting to snatch valuables during both day and night.
Snatch-and-run tactics include speeding by an unsuspecting pedestrian on a
scooter and grabbing a dangling purse. Use extra caution in high traffic tourist areas (e.g. Tunis
Medina, central market area, and the medinas of other large cities). Review
OSAC’s report, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
More serious crimes, such as armed robbery, do occur, but much less
often; these typically involve a knife or machete rather than a gun. If an assailant displaying a
lethal weapon or threatening violence confronts you, attempt to de-escalate the
situation by immediately turning over your valuables. Incidents of assault, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-in have occurred
against both Tunisians and foreigners. The area of West Le Kram in Tunis is
particularly well-known for theft.
In 2018 and 2019, residential
burglaries occurred in areas of Tunis popular with expatriates. Most
residential burglaries occur during the day, when people are at work, and
happen in both expatriate and Tunisian neighborhoods. Burglaries also occur at
night, when there are obvious signs that no one is home; burglaries while
occupants are home do occur. Most home burglars are young males (ages 17-25)
looking for small, expensive items they can convert to cash easily. Although
burglaries may seem like a random occurrence, they involve a selection process.
Burglars are likely to choose an unoccupied home with the easiest access, the
greatest amount of cover, and the best escape routes. If you give a key to
domestic staff, consider using secondary locks. Discourage children from
answering the door/gate, and do not open the door/gate until you have
identified the visitor. Instruct domestic staff and dependents to do the same,
and to report any unusual activity. Inspect your home periodically to identify
vulnerabilities or inoperative security features. The U.S. Government provides
well-secured residences for its employees. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
Tunisia is largely a cash-based
economy. Credit cards are gaining acceptance at establishments in larger
tourist cities, and there are ATMs in many places in the capital. There have
been muggings at ATMs. Protect your PIN. Try to use an ATM attached to a bank
branch. Even though the Embassy has not seen a high level of credit card fraud
among U.S. citizens, authorities report numerous financial scams. Review
OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
Be aware of distraction techniques
(e.g. a staged fight or an intentional bump). Be wary of unsolicited offers of
assistance, and refuse offers that sound too good to be true. Foreigners living
in Tunisia have reported that Tunisian men have rung their doorbells claiming
to be neighbors who have locked themselves out of their houses and need cab
fare to get a spare key.
Travel in groups, especially in
remote areas during nighttime hours. Women face no specific dress restrictions,
but conservative clothing helps avoid attracting undue attention or harassment.
If someone approaches you claiming
to be a police officer, ask for identification and be vigilant.
Tunisian men have been known to
target U.S. women online in communications that often turn romantic and result
in an invitation to travel to Tunisia. Single women 40 years and older are
typical targets. The Tunisian man is usually in his 20s. Once in Tunisia, a
common scenario involves the man and his family pressuring the U.S. national
into marriage. His goal is to then have the target submit a petition for his
immigrant visa. Maintain caution if traveling to Tunisia to meet someone you
have met online.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road safety poses one of the
greatest risks to foreign travelers. According to the Tunisian National Road Safety
Observatory, there were more than 6,700 recorded traffic accidents,
approximately 1,421 traffic-related deaths, and well over 10,000 injuries in
2017. These figures illustrate the need for awareness of the neighborhoods,
local traffic patterns, and road culture before self-driving. Drivers will
likely encounter road conditions, driving patterns, traffic laws, and signs
different from those with which they are familiar. Local drivers often fail to
obey traffic signs/signals, drive on the wrong side of the road, and go against
the flow of traffic. Locals use the road shoulders or turning lanes to pass, or
ignore traffic lane markings. Do not assume that pedestrians are aware of
oncoming traffic or that other vehicles will give them the right of way, even
at a designated pedestrian crossing. Bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles operate
without sufficient lights/reflectors, making them difficult to see as they dart
in/out of traffic.
Refrain from using mobile phones
while driving. Keep vehicle windows closed and doors locked, and conceal any
There are generally uniformed
police officers at major intersections in major cities. Police officers may
stop drivers for inspection; drivers should comply. Police pay particular
attention to rental cars (all rental cars have blue license plates), which they
Police may take drivers involved
in a motor accident that results in death or serious injury into protective
custody until they determine responsibility. This can mean spending days to
months in detention. Drivers involved in traffic accidents not involving injury
to an individual must file an accident form; the form, usually issued by the
insurance company, is in the glove compartment of rental cars. On the form,
both drivers must document driver and vehicle information, and how the accident
occurred (each driver may write a statement); both drivers must sign the form,
but should not admit guilt. Drivers involved in accidents may go to the traffic
police station if they need help or if there is a disagreement. Return the form
to the insurance company within 48 hours. Drivers involved in traffic accidents
involving injury to individuals must notify police, and all drivers involved
must not leave the scene before the police finish the investigation. A driver
who decides to leave the scene due to safety concerns must report to the
closest police station.
Avoid driving after dark outside
the greater Tunis area or major resort areas. Many roads lack proper
maintenance and lighting, may have unmarked community installed speed bumps, and
lack sound infrastructure. Even well-traveled routes are subject to blowing
sands that can create hazards. Review OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Travel in desert areas presents
additional challenges. Persons driving off the major paved roads should ensure
their vehicles are appropriate for off-road driving conditions and have
appropriate spares/supplies (e.g. water, food). Groups should travel in caravans
of multiple vehicles. Desert regions are subject to extreme temperatures, from
sub-freezing evenings in the winter to dangerously hot days in the summer. In
addition, many areas in the southern desert regions have little or no cellular
The Tunisian National Guard
requires those traveling into the desert areas south of Tataouine to register
travel plans beforehand and obtain a “desert pass” for access.
Public Transportation Conditions
Avoid taking public buses or
minibuses (known as louage). Bus
drivers often drive at excessive speeds, have poor safety records, and do not
maintain vehicles properly. Buses are usually overcrowded, and women have experienced
The U.S. Embassy allows its U.S.
staff on official business to take taxis within the greater Tunis area. Patrons
can hail official taxis (yellow cabs) legally from the street or at designated
spots in prominent places. The white and red roof sign will have a four-digit
serial number you should note. All fares are metered and have a minimum charge.
Do not use a taxi that will not use the meter or claims “the meter is not working,”
as these drivers will overcharge unsuspecting passengers. Depending on what time
and place you catch the taxi, additional charges may apply. Do not enter a taxi
that is already carrying passengers, and do not allow your driver to pick up
additional passengers. Taxi fares are relatively inexpensive.
The streetcar system, known as “Metro,”
consists of five lines between downtown Tunis and nearby suburbs. Petty crime (e.g.
pickpocketing, purse/phone/jewelry snatching, sexual harassment of women) is
common aboard Metro. The U.S. Embassy does not authorize its U.S. staff to use the
Metro for official business. Review OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Trains depart from Tunis to many cities
(e.g. Sousse, Sfax, Gabes, El Jem), and offer a safer alternative to driving.
However, there have been several major train accidents over the past several
years; the most recent occurred in November 2017, when a train derailed in
Bizerte, injuring 20 passengers. In March 2017, two trains collided in Megrine,
injuring 28 people. Drivers and pedestrians must pay additional attention at
railroad crossings because most crossing signals are either absent or not
U.S. Department of State has assessed Tunis as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. A state of emergency put in place after a 2015 terrorist
attack in Tunis continues; the government reinstates it monthly, with an
unknown expiration date.
government expanded its counterterrorism efforts in 2016, particularly after
several high-profile terrorist attacks; major terrorist incidents in 2018 and
- June 2019:
Two suicide bombers detonated devices targeting police forces, killing and
injuring several officers. A third individual
detonated a suicide vest killing only himself to avoid arrest.
2018: Twelve terrorists stole $110K from Kasserine bank and killed a civilian.
- October 2018:
A female suicide bomber detonated a device near a police patrol in downtown
Tunis, injuring several police officers and civilians.
- July 2018: Nine
police officers died in a gun and grenade assault in Jendouba, close to the
The security situation in parts of
the country, especially in certain areas along borders with Libya and Algeria,
has deteriorated since the 2011 revolution. Police and military operations to combat
terrorism are disrupting terrorist cells, especially near the Algerian and
Libyan border areas, included but not limited to Kasserine, El Kef, Jendouba,
Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, and Ben Guerdane. Most border operations occur in the
closed military area of Mount Chaambi.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Tunis as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or
affecting official U.S. government interests.
Tunisian cities experience
periodic spontaneous demonstrations. Avoid all areas of demonstrations or
protests. If a large concentration of people amasses, leave the area
Since the signing of a 2018 budget
law, many peaceful protests occurred throughout the country. Areas most affected
by violent activities were the Ariana area of Tunis, Ben Arous, Jendouba, Beja,
Seliana, Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, Gabes, and Kebili. On one evening,
opportunistic individuals engaged in civil unrest and delinquent activity to
include vandalism, arson, looting, and violence against police and government
facilities. This prompted the government to send the army into several cities
to provide security at key critical infrastructure facilities. One civilian
death, determined to be asphyxiation by tear gas, occurred in Tebourba, 25
miles from Tunis. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
Tunisia is in an active earthquake
zone. Most buildings do not meet U.S. construction criteria for such an area.
During the winter, extended
downpours have overwhelmed Tunis’s storm drains and resulted in street
flooding. The city can shut down because of washed-out roads when diverted
traffic overburdens alternate routes.
Personal Identity Concerns
Same-sex sexual relations are
illegal in Tunisia. Penalties include sentences of up to three years in prison. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
Modern Standard Arabic is the
official, national language; however, the local dialect is the most commonly
used language in daily activities. French is widely spoken. Few Tunisians
understand English, and usually only at high-end establishments.
government has been generally progressive and forward-leaning on the rights of
the disabled, there remains a significant gap between theory and practice.
Budgetary constraints have so far precluded the uniform retrofitting of public
buildings to make them accessible to disabled citizens. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
is the state religion of Tunisia. 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, U.S. citizens who engaged
in such activities had to leave the country. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
Use/possession of illegal drugs,
and drug trafficking are serious offenses. Individuals arrested for
drug-related crimes, including possession of a small amount of marijuana, can
expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
A general threat of kidnapping
exists, not only directed at Westerners, but also against Tunisian nationals. For
more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
International express delivery
services can provide service to Tunisian addresses through the Tunisian rapid-poste system. Tunisian Customs
routinely opens express mail for inspection. The U.S. Embassy knows of no cases
of theft/loss of material related to express mail delivery addressed to U.S.
Possession of pornography is
illegal and can lead to imprisonment. Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
emergency line in Tunisia is 197. Tunisia’s police and military forces have increased their
effectiveness in recent years. Tunisian police are capable and professional
with varying levels of capacity, including some highly skilled specialized
units with the ability to respond to crisis and critical incidents. Many senior
police officials have received advanced training in Western Europe or the U.S. To
maintain an image and protect Tunisia’s tourism industry, the police are
generally responsive to visitors in need of assistance. The police presence is
particularly high in tourist areas and other areas foreigners frequent.
Police conduct random traffic
stops, and often set up after-hours checkpoints at roundabouts or on main
thoroughfares. Drivers and passengers must show their identity card or
resident’s permit and vehicle registration. Always have a copy of your passport
and the immigration card you completed upon entry. You will need the small,
perforated card for immigration upon departure.
Insulting or arguing with police
is illegal; police have imprisoned people for doing so.
Foreign visitors detained briefly
by the police should remain cooperative and patient. This behavior will assist
in expediting a quick resolution to an arbitrary police stop. U.S. citizens
taken into custody should immediately request that the police inform the U.S.
Embassy of their whereabouts.
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
immediately to the nearest police officer/station. Hotel desk clerks, store
owners, shopkeepers, and taxi drivers can direct you to a police officer or
summon one for you. U.S. citizens should also report criminal incidents to the
U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section. For local first responders, refer
to the Embassy/Consulate’s Emergency Assistance page.
The National Police provide
security in major urban areas, and the paramilitary National Guard is
responsible for other areas, including the nation’s highways. Police and
National Guard officers are generally responsive to the needs of visitors but
speak limited English.
There are no private security
firms known to have trained personnel who can provide executive protection
services to visiting businesspersons. The MOI does not allow its police
officers to act in this capacity while off-duty. The U.S. Embassy is unaware of
any private security or law firms licensed to conduct private investigations in
Medical care is adequate, with a
number of new private polyclinics
available that function as simple hospitals by providing a variety of
procedures. Specialized care or treatment may not be available in all
locations. Medical facilities that can manage complex trauma cases are
virtually non-existent. While most private clinics have some physicians who are
fluent in English, the medical establishment primarily uses the French language.
Public hospitals are overcrowded, underequipped, and understaffed. Nursing care
in clinics is underdeveloped and, in some cases, nonexistent. For
medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical
Well-equipped ambulances may not
be available outside of urban areas. Even in urban areas, emergency response times
are much longer than in the U.S. Many over-the-counter medications are
available. Bring a full supply of needed medications and a copy of your
prescription. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling
Doctors and hospitals will expect
immediate cash payment for health care services, although some hospitals may
accept credit cards. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing
international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State
Department’s webpage on insurance
offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Tunisia.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Tunis Country Council
currently meets several times a year. Contact OSAC’s Middle
East & North Africa team for more information or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
1053 Les Berges du Lac, Tunis
Hours of Operation: 0900 – 1600 Monday to
Embassy Operator: +216-71-107-000
Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444
you travel, consider the following resources: