Tunisian customs are similar to those in Europe and in the US. The Western-style handshake is standard practice in business environments. However, it may happen that a woman does not offer a handshake, in which case a man should not extend his hand. Similarly, while close friends and relatives often greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks, some women may not accept kisses from men. Overall, it is important to recognise that the level of conservatism can vary significantly across the country with regards to attitude and dress, with notable differences between Tunis and more rural areas.
While dress code varies across the country, it could be classified as slightly more conservative than Europe, and generally more liberal than most other Arab countries. In Tunis and most other urban areas, Western-style clothing is common, but in rural areas traditional clothing is still widespread. However, since the 2011 revolution, it is more common to see women wearing a headscarf, even in big cities.
Modern standard Arabic is the official language and is used in government and education. However, everyday discussions take place in the Tunisian dialect, which borrows from French, Spanish and Italian. French is also spoken by the vast majority of Tunisians, making the country unofficially bilingual. Today, English is also making inroads in the business community, but is still far from commonly spoken.
The local currency is the Tunisian dinar and the exchange rate is TD1:€0.46. One dinar consists of 1000 millimes. ATMs are available throughout the country, and major credit cards are accepted at large retail chains and restaurants. The dinar is non-convertible and its export is forbidden by law.
There are no preventive health measures required prior to a visit to Tunisia. There are many public hospitals that offer basic care, and visitors looking for top-quality services can find private clinics, which are famous for their competitive prices.
Western European, Canadian, Japanese and US citizens are permitted to stay in the country for up to three months without obtaining a visa. However, it is recommended to check visa requirements before departure. Generally, nationalities requiring a visa can obtain them through a Tunisian embassy, or purchase them at the airport upon arrival.
A typical working week will run from Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm. However, during Ramadan and the summer months, which are July and August, working hours are 7.30am-1.30pm. This special schedule is commonly called séance unique. During Ramadan, most shops and restaurants will be closed during the day, but will be open after sundown until the early morning.
Tunisia’s international country calling code is 216, with regional city codes of 71 for Tunis, 73 for Sousse and 74 for Sfax. The three mobile phone providers are Tunisie Telecom, Ooredoo (which was called Tunisiana until April 2014) and Orange Tunisie. The country’s 3G networks are reliable, and 4G networks should be launched in summer 2016. An ID or passport is required to purchase a SIM card, which can then be topped up electronically or with scratch cards at very reasonable rates. Mobile phones are preferred by most, as the installation process for a fixed line can be quite lengthy. Most of people have different SIM cards from each operator in order to pay the minimum tariff when they call. Public pay phones are available and are marked by blue signs.
All major hotels in Tunisia are equipped with internet access, and most business hotels provide a high-speed, fibre-optic connection. Also, many restaurants and cafes offer wireless internet service.
Tunisian sockets are continental European, two-pin plugs and are 220 volts.
Tipping is not mandatory but many Tunisians will leave loose change when paying a bill. A 10% tip is more than enough at tourist-serving restaurants.
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