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Tips on travelling to Tunisia from Lesley Khedhiri

A British expat currently living in Tunisia, Lesley Khedhiri has travelled widely in Northern Africa.
Where are you originally from?

I was born in the UK, lived in Australia, and lots of other places in between.
Where do you live now?

I now live in Tunisia in the south in the region of Sidi Bouzid, near Sbeitla.
How well do you know Tunisia?

Having travelled at length across and up and down and having thousands of relatives all across the country I think I know it pretty well now!
Why should I go there?

It is a country of diverse history, culture, geography and intense beauty.  Such a small country with so much to see - you can be in the desert one day and bathing in the Mediterranean the next.
What time of year should I go?

Best time to go is in spring from mid-April to beginning of June, and then Autumn mid-September to the end of November.  However don't go in the hottest months of June/July/August unless you want to stay in your hotel room with the air con.
Anything special I should pack?

It's better to play conservative in Tunisia: even though we are a fairly liberal country women should cover a little more than they do at home. You will earn the respect of the locals and you won't come home complaining that all the men are perverts.
What is the first thing you do when arriving?

Well as I'm a local the first thing I usually do is ask my mother in law for a couscous but after all this time I don't even need to ask, it's ready and waiting for me!!
What's the best way to get around?

Unless you absolutely have to drive I advise taking taxis which are very cheap, or louages which carry nine people and will get you easily from city to city.  There are trains and normal buses which are also good services.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?

Definitely to the small village just outside the capital Tunis, Sidi Bou Said, the archetypical Tunisian architecture and colours (while and blue) overlooking the Mediterranean, which sparkles in the sun.  Take a coffee or tea on the high cliff and just breathe in the holiday air.  Even us Tunisians go there for a wander.  Or into the capital for a wander around the souq in the centre of the city, spend hours, get lost and bag some bargains. 
Anything I should avoid?

Not really, just use common sense and you will be fine.
What is the best thing to do with children?

Leave them at home with the grandparents??  Joking - heaps of things for them, the beach, playgrounds, adventure playgrounds and most Tunisians will fall all over them so they will feel pretty special.
Where would you recommend staying?

Oh my, now that's a matter of taste and what you want to do.  There are plenty of beach site resorts on our north and north western coast line and all are very good.
Where is your favourite thing to eat?

Couscous of course, but there is so much else: lamb on the barbeque (michwee), fish here is fantastic, sweet and delicate and the cakes and biscuits are a sweet lovers dream. Fruit juice is squeezed fresh and the best oranges grow in Tunisia so there is always fresh squeezed orange juice. Also in the summer try citronade (sweetened lemon juice) with a splash of grenadine (pomegranate syrup).
Have you ever felt unsafe in Tunisia?

Never - Tunisia is a safe country!
What should I bring home?

The carpets here are wonderful, especially the kilims which are soft and easy to pack. Our decorated silverware is beautiful and usually found in the souqs from the artisan who created the piece, perfume, amber which you can pick up very cheaply, caftans beautifully beaded, sandals... oh, I have a degree in shopping! But always remember to bargain, the souq is like a theatre there to entertain and amuse until each player has the price he wants to pay and sell!!