As the mom of two (soon to be three!) young children, I can tell you that Tunisia is a fantastic place to visit with kids. With sprawling Roman ruins, jungle-like desert oases, Star Wars film sites, and of course, warm, sandy beaches, Tunisia is the place to come to make memories your kids will talk about for the rest of their lives.
Of course, as a parent, there are a few practical questions that are always top-of-mind when traveling with children. Below are answers to some of the most common ones and a few additional tips for traveling in Tunisia with kids.
Have a question I didn’t answer? Feel free to contact us. (And stay tuned for an upcoming post on what to do with kids in Tunisia!)
1. Is it safe?
Travelers to Tunisia should always follow the travel advice issued by their home countries. (For a more extensive look at safety in Tunisia, check out our blog post, “Is Tunisia Safe in 2019?”) But speaking from experience, I can tell you that I feel just as safe in the major cities and tourist areas of Tunisia as I do in any other European or U.S. city — and sometimes safer! As in any other country, a little bit of common sense and cultural know-how (more on that below) goes a long way. And if you’re traveling with a guide, they’ll make sure to steer clear of areas that are less friendly to tourists.
2. What can they eat?
The most pressing question on many parents minds when traveling to an unfamiliar place with kids is “What am I going to feed them?” But fear not! Tunisia has a variety of options to please even the pickiest palate.
- Fast food: Our go-to fast food option for our kids is a chapati sandwich with eggs and cheese. It’s basically a giant egg McMuffin. Just be sure to specify that you’d like it without, or blesh, spicy sauces like harissa and slata mechwaya. (For other helpful Tunisian Arabic phrases, check out this blog post.)
- Sit-down restaurant: A great option at sit-down restaurants is a plate of escalope pané, or breaded chicken cutlet (or in kid-speak: a giant chicken finger) with fries. Pizza is also widely available. Look for a margherita pizza, which is usually topped with just tomato sauce and cheese.
- Fresh produce: Tunisia has an abundance of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables that are perfectly safe to eat; just give them a good rinse if you plan to eat the skin. Check the nearest grocery store or road-side fruit and vegetable stand (called a hanoot) for oranges in the winter, strawberries and apricots in the spring, peaches and plums in the summer, and bananas (imported) year round.
- Snacks: Welcome to the land of cheap (but delicious) French pastries. When my kids require a little extra encouragement (i.e., bribery) to make it through a morning of shopping at the souk, it’s pain chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant) to the rescue! Need something to munch on at the beach? Try some crunchy kaki (thin breadsticks), salty shoosh (popcorn), or sweet bambalouni (fried, sugar-coated dough ring). (Check out this post for more of our favorite Tunisian street food.)
- Beverages: Tap water in Tunisia is safe to drink, but some people find the taste unpleasant. Bottled water and soda are readily available at restaurants and cafes. Our kids also love the fresh jus d’orange (orange juice), citronade (lemonade) and jus de fraise (strawberry juice) available seasonally at many restaurants and cafes.
- PB&J: When all else fails, major grocery store chains like Carrefour and Monoprix carry peanut butter, jelly and pre-sliced white bread. You can do this!
3. What should they wear?
- Consider the weather: Before traveling to Tunisia with kids, be sure to read up on what the weather will be like at the time of your visit. The average high temperature in Tunisia in January is 16 degrees Celsius (60.8 F), while in July and August the average high is 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 F). The wettest month is December, with about eight days of rain on average.
- Protect them from the sun: With about 300 sunny days per year, sunscreen and hats are always a good idea. (By the way, sunscreen can be purchased at local pharmacies, but sunscreen specifically made for kids can be expensive. I recommend bringing it from home.)
- Kids can be kids: While adults should consider dressing modestly at all times of the year in order to be culturally appropriate and respectful (more on that here), it’s fine for kids to wear whatever they would normally wear. T-shirts, shorts and flip flops are perfectly appropriate for late spring through early fall.
- Consider location: Keep in mind that the climate of Tunisia varies from one location to the next: from the cooler, mountainous north, to the Sahel, or coastal region, in the east, to the desert in the south.
- Stay warm … in the desert: Overnights in the desert require a little extra planning, since daytime is hot and dry, but nights can be quite chilly. Long pants and shirts made from lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics are best for daytime, but be sure to bring sweatshirts and warm socks for the evening.
4. What else should I bring?
Public restrooms in Tunisia do not always have toilet paper or soap. I recommend carrying tissues, baby wipes and hand sanitizer wherever you go.
Basic medications for kids and adults, like pain relievers and antihistamines, are readily available at most pharmacies without a prescription and are inexpensive. However, you will have to ask the pharmacist for them, and they will be labeled in French. Personally, I recommend bringing any medication you think you might need with you.
5. What if I’m traveling with a baby or small child?
Baby products like diapers, wipes and baby food are available at grocery stores. Pharmacies often carry bottles, pacifiers and baby formula, but if you’re particular about the brand, bring it from home.
If you’re choosing between a child-carrier or stroller, I’d opt for the carrier. Tunisian streets and sidewalks are not particularly stroller-friendly.
Some rental car companies provide car seats and boosters, but not all, so be sure to ask. Your safest best is to just bring your own. (Even in Europe, we’ve asked in advance about car seats, only to have our driver arrive without them or to be charged an astronomical fee.)
What else do I need to know?
The most important thing to know about traveling in Tunisia with kids is this: Tunisians love kids. They see kids as gifts from Allah, to be protected and doted on. And they find foreign kids, particularly the blonde-haired, blue-eyed variety, especially adorable. They will probably pat them on the head and offer them treats, and they may try to kiss them on the cheek or ask them for kisses. It’s a completely normal part of Tunisian culture, but it might take some getting used to.
That being said, if accepting this kind of attention from strangers is uncomfortable for you or your kids, there are polite ways to refuse it. You can simply say, “Lay, aye-shick,” meaning no, thank you. Some parents teach their kids to respond to requests for kisses with handshakes. After all, who can refuse a handshake from a five year old?
Ready to book your Tunisian family adventure? We can help you create a custom itinerary for a fun, memorable experience.
For more tips on traveling with kids in Tunisia, check out: