I just wanted to write this quick trip report / tip sheet in case anyone values from it. When doing research for my trip, I noticed that there wasn’t a ton of information on a tourist staying a weekend in Tunis, it all seemed to be cruise excursion people, resort people, or business people who needed information.
Arrival at airport: I got approached by several people offering me a taxi, but I went for the taxi lineup. Before I got there, someone offered me a ride for 25 dinars, but the hotel had told me it should only cost 5-10 so of course I rejected this. I offered the taxi in the lineup 10 dinar and he seemed pretty happy with that and told me the other guy was a crook. Then I looked at the meter and it was only 2,800 (so 2.8 dinar) so no wonder. I would say definitely stick to the official taxi line up, which I think is generally the best thing to do in most countries.
Language: I speak some French so mostly used that as it seemed widely spoken in the city. Most vendors/taxi drivers approached me in French but they would often speak to English if I didn’t respond. I feel like you could definitely get by in English as you can in most big cities, but can’t comment on this extensively.
Taxis: They seemed to be VERY cheap, I offered 5 dinar from the train station at Tunis Nord back to the Sheraton and he accepted immediately, probably because when we got to the hotel the meter only read 2,900! So probably use the meter where you can. I think the whole pretend-like-you’re-a-local and just get in the taxi would work here (instead of negotiating a price). Just make sure they turn on the meter or threaten to get out as you would expect.
Train: I got dropped off at the train station by a taxi, then took the train to Sidi Bou Said. However, they are doing construction on the track (November 2013) so I had to get off at Carthage Presidence and then there was a bus waiting to go to Sidi Bou Said. But otherwise I think the train is amazing, it’s definitely the best way to get from Tunis to Carthage/Sidi Bou Said/La Marsa etc. I felt safe. In regards to tickets – it cost me something like 600 (so about 60% of 1 dinar) to go to Sidi Bou Said in second class. Keep your ticket because they definitely seem to often check as you’re getting off.
Money: the coins are a bit weird, because 1 dinar is split up into 1000 units. So a 600 coin is more like 60 “cents”. So in the taxis it will say something like “4,300”. Also ATM’s are plentiful of course BUT when you take out money, KEEP YOUR RECEIPT FROM THE ATM if you will want to change back your money when you leave. It mentions this at the airport ATM and luckily I had kept mine because they definitely asked for it when I exchanged my money at the end of the trip.
Carthage: You can see full reviews of course elsewhere on this sight, but one thing I noticed is that the price of tickets has gone up (from 10 dinar for all the sites to I think 20 dinar for all the sites). I bought a ticket at the museum, thinking that since it was 10 dinar it would cover the rest of the park, it didn’t. Another weird thing is that they don’t seem to have maps of the entire complex. I guess most people have a taxi that drives them from site to site. I wanted to walk, so asked for directions and a map, and they couldn’t tell me very well. I finally went back to the Carthage Hannibal train station, kept walking down toward the water, and found a few more sites. But I would definitely either hire a taxi or get a good map from a travel guide or whatever if you’re going here.
Sidi Bou Said: The main area of Sidi Bou Said is the roundabout, so if you’re on the bus hop off here. If you want to go up further into the town, you have to go UP the hill. Then you’ll come across some stores and the main market off to the right of the main street. Lots of touts here but no one was too pushy. I kept walking and went off the main road and then I lost most of the other tourists, which was nice!
La Marsa: I also took the train/bus combination to La Marsa, without really knowing what was there. There was a large beach but not much development around the area I was in. I might have just missed the good parts of La Marsa, but I didn’t see anything of note so ended up walking back to Sidi Bou Said since I had liked it the day before.
Bardo Museum: I really enjoyed the Bardo Museum. On the ground floor I didn’t really think it was that impressive and was wondering what the big deal was, but then I went upstairs and realized why it gets such good reviews. Definitely if you like this sort of thing, it is worth going to.
Women alone: I was traveling alone, and I definitely got a lot of stares, but I don’t know if this was the alone-thing or the foreigner-thing. I certainly didn’t feel unsafe at all, though I consider myself well-traveled with a good radar for sketchy situations. I also didn’t go out at night so can’t comment on that. (Note: I'm only commenting on the women alone thing because I know that often comes up in discussions about Tunisia)
I know I didn’t cover anything, so I hope this generates discussion on a tourist spending a weekend in Tunis!