International transportation

In addition to frequent flights from major European and Maghrib cities, comfortable car ferries from Marseilles or Genoa have pleasant cabins and nice restaurants. There are several crossings a week in summer (June-September), and one a week in winter. Reservations from Marseilles or Genoa for the summer months (June-September) should be made many months in advance, particularly if bringing a car, since many Tunisians living abroad return for the summer holidays.   The journey takes about 24 hours.  Information can be requested from S.N.C.M. Marseilles (tel. +33 04 91 91 55 71/fax. +33 04 91 91 45 43) or C.T.N. in Paris (+33 01 47 42 17 55/fax. +33 01 49 24 24 77), or Genoa (tel. +39 01 02 69 81/fax: +39 01 02 69 82 55).

Housing and Utilities

– La Presse (daily newspaper) carries housing rental listings, and is especially useful on weekends. Look under both apartments for rent and villas (for floor of a house).  Housing ads can be placed in this newspaper and a few different local announcement websites, including www.tunisie-annonce.com orwww.tayara.tn. It is also common to post ads or interest in housing on specific Facebook pages or groups. It is possible to also use local real estate agents.

 

– To obtain a residence permit, it is necessary to have a house rental contract from the landlord, which needs to be registered.   In some cases, an ‘attestation d’hébergement’ is satisfactory.  The landlord is required by law to register a foreign renter with the local police.  As is customary in the U.S., a landlord will expect at least one month’s rent as a security deposit.

– Apartments and houses are available to rent in the Tunis area at a variety of price ranges. A small, modest, unfurnished two-room apartment with bath and kitchen might cost about 300TD. A relatively modern, unfurnished apartment or small house or floor of a villa near the sea with three bedrooms, living and dining room, could rent for 800-2000TD per month.

– Summer rentals (especially July-August) near the sea are difficult to find and at least double the regular price.

– Places closer to town or in town can be less expensive, but one should count on 500-600TD for a floor of a house.  Unfurnished  in most cases means no stove, refrigerator or heating, and little kitchen storage space.

– Utility costs are high in Tunisia.  Especially costly are heating oil and the electricity required to run electric space heaters. The electricity and water meters should be read and noted with the landlord when the lease is negotiated to avoid disagreements over later bills.

– Proximity to public transportation should be considered by those who will not have a car or who will share a car with other family members. (See Cars and Driving below for further information.)

Banking / Credit cards

– A convertible dinar bank account can be established in Tunisia, which entitles one to reconvert dinars into dollars, however it is difficult to open a convertible bank account with a residence permit and permanent employment in Tunisia. It is recommended that the account be established at the main office of the bank, rather than a branch bank.  It is necessary to have a residence permit to open an account.  However, the procedure may be quite complicated and many manage without opening a bank account.

– Transfer of funds from a U.S. bank to Tunisia can be very slow. Money can be telexed to a convertible dinar account (usually for a charge of about $40) and takes about a week to arrive.

– With a valid credit card one can draw dinars up to an amount established by one’s bank. ATMs are situated all over the country. Credit cards are not accepted everywhere but can be used for payment in certainhotels, restaurants and shops.

– Purchase of foreign currency in banks is restricted.  As payment of bills abroad from a Tunisian convertible account is slow, it is strongly recommended to maintain a dollar account in the U.S.  Having a friend or relative with power of attorney take care of financial matters directly from the U.S. will save much time and worry.

Cars and driving

– A single person living near public transportation and shopping areas can manage without a car by occasionally renting a car for resaerch or sight-seeing trips. For those who need a car, researchers in the past have tried buying cars on the local used car market, which is very risky, and buying ‘RS’ status cars from others and then converting the papers, which has been complicated to work out.  At present, the recommended ways of having a car is to bring one (from Europe) into the country, to lease one for and extended period or to purchase a new car in Tunisia.

– AIMS/CEMAT sponsored researchers who are U.S. citizens are theoretically(according to the AIMS agreement with the Tunisian government) entitled to apply for a special `RS’ (`régime spécial’) tax-free status for one personal car which they bring with them into Tunisia within three months.  This avoids paying more than 100% customs duty on the car.  When bringing the car into the country, the researcher must indicate his/her status as an AIMS/CEMAT researcher.

– To date, no non-Fulbrighter has ever succeeded in resolving car registration using this RS clause, whether bringing the car from abroad or buying one locally.  Consequently, one must not  count on getting ‘RS’ status.

– Application for the `RS’ status is extremely complicated and time-consuming and must be started immediately upon arrival. Meanwhile, the car can be driven for three months on temporary import status.  If RS status is not obtained, the car can still be kept for up to 15 months from first entry without paying duty on the car.  Before the first 3 month period expires, the owner must appear at the customs office in person with a research permit and/or ‘carte de séjour.’  A new 3 month ‘permit de circulation’ will be issued and can be reissued every subsequent 3 month period.  This option has proved to be the safest way to have a car in Tunisia, and has been tested successfully.  New license plates will be issued with the first extension (15TD) and road taxes must be paid (see below).  If the car owner travels outside the country without the car, however, the car must be impounded at customs each time (a stamp in the passport indicates this).

– If a car is purchased in Tunisia, it cannot be driven until the `carte grise’ (owner’s card) is obtained. This process is not very difficult, but requires considerable paperwork  (a legalized ‘contrat de vente,’ a ‘certificat d’identification,’ the old ‘carte grise,’ a copy of one’s ‘carte de séjour,’ a completed application form from the ‘Service des Mines’ near the Lafayette Market, two fiscal stamps of 1TD, and an attestation of ‘non-imposition,’ i.e. exemption from income taxes).

– There is an annual road tax (`vignette’) of approximately 100-250TD.  The road tax is calculated according to horsepower and age of car.

 Obtaining necessary documents and doing the paperwork is the researcher’s responsibility.

– A European-made car (especially French or German) can be serviced much more easily than an American car, for which spare parts are not available.  If bringing one’s own car into the country, basic tools and spare parts, as well as extra tires, should be brought along. The spare tire should not be kept under the car unless locked.  New tires are extremely expensive by American standards and used tires are unreliable.

– It is possible to obtain an international driver’s license in Tunisia from the Automobile Club of Tunisia, 29 Avenue Bourguiba.  This will be necessary after four months’ residence in Tunisia, and one must have a `carte de séjour’ to obtain it.

Certified copies / Legalization / Official translations / Official documents

– It is common to have to present a certified copy  (`copie conforme’) of a document for residence permits, etc. They are issued at a municipality when providing the original document, its copy and 1.000TD.  Legalization of signatures can also be done at the municipality.  In general, official documents brought from abroad (such as academic diplomas, transcripts, etc.) should be notarized photocopies which have notary public stamps. Official translations can be done by a `traducteur agréé’ or `traducteur assermenté.’  The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can also help in such matters.

– Photocopies should be made of all important papers and documents – passport, driver’s license, etc. in case of loss. A certified/legalized copy of one’s marriage certificate, especially when the spouses’ names are different, is advisable to have since it can be requested by the Tunisian authorities in different situations.  Notarized photocopies of academic diplomas, etc., should be brought along as well.

Research assistants

One should count on paying from 300-750TD/month to an English speaking student assistant (depending whether undergraduate or grad student) who might, for example, help carry out surveys.  A student interpreter might expect between 15-20TD/hour for Arabic-English interpreting or translating.

Language classes

– Tunisian Arabic or French are necessary to manage in most everyday situations in Tunisia, as English is seldom spoken by Tunisians, however in recent years Tunisians are becoming more anglophone.  It is possible to find tutors, and CEMAT has in the past made its premises available for language lessons for CEMAT members.  Tutoring lessons cost about 20-40TD/hour.

– Arabic language classes in Modern Standard Arabic and Tunisian dialectical Arabic are given at the Bourguiba Institute for Modern Languages  (IBLV),  which has branches all over the country that teach MSA.  Colloquial Tunisian dialect is taught by the White Sisters in Monfleurry. Many researchers opt for private instruction to meet their research needs. CEMAT has a list of available language instructors of all levels.

– The Bourguiba Institute runs intensive Arabic summer courses and offer shared dormitory rooms for the entire course time and participate in organized excursions and activities for a small extra fee. Regular courses of different levels run all year and can be viewed on their website.

French courses for various purposes can be taken at the French Cultural Center, and there are other language courses given (Italian, Spanish, German, etc.) at various cultural centers during the year.

Employment for spouses

It can be quite difficult for spouses or adult dependents to find employment in Tunisia, even if they are fluent in French or Arabic. However, there is a growing need for certified teachers of English, including at Amideast (email: tunisia@amideast.org). Since 2011, more short-and long-term consulting opportunities as well as internships are available in Tunisia.

Basic services

Shoe repairs, beauty salons, barber shops, dry cleaning, etc. are readily available and in general very reasonably priced.  Repair of electrical equipment and sophisticated electronic equipment can be unsatisfactory, as spare parts are difficult to find.

Household

It is common to employ housekeepers in Tunisian households.  Maids, gardeners, etc. are available, and many speak only Arabic.  Some maids are also willing to cook. Full-time maids in the Tunis suburbs are generally paid around 300-450TD a month, whereas part-time help will expect about 15-30TD/day for about 4 hours of work.

Certain indispensable household gadgets should be brought from abroad, as their availability locally is not assured, although at present many imported and locally made appliances can be found.  Many everyday items cost more than in the U.S. Things which are much more expensive than in the U.S. include linens and towels, dishes, paper products, hard liquor and appliances.

Entertainment

Movie theaters show films in Arabic and in French, and English language films are dubbed. There are concerts and plays (in Arabic – sometimes dialectical –  and French), as well as many art exhibits and lectures in the Tunis area.  Outdoor summer festivals, such as the one at the Roman theater in Carthage, are very popular.  The El Djem Roman amphitheater features concerts of classical music in summer, with a special train running from Tunis for the event.  There is a summer jazz festival in Tabarka.  During the month of Ramadhan, there are numerous special cultural programs (Festival of the Medina) in the evening after the meal to break the fast. The Ibn Khaldoun center in Tunis often shows American movies at a moderate price. There are biannual film festivals and theater festivals in Tunis.

Food shopping and preparation

– Cooking in Tunisia means starting from scratch — cleaning seafood, shelling peas, washing and chopping vegetables, etc.  Generally, one can live very well and in a very healthy fashion off  from what is available locally, but it should be remembered that almost only fresh produce is available, which requires a much longer preparation time than in the U.S.  Few frozen foods, few prepared dishes, few mixes, and limited canned food is found.  Fruits and vegetables are delicious and much cheaper than in the U.S. , but one only finds what is in season.   Beef, lamb, poultry, and fish are plentiful and good but relatively expensive.   Local cheeses and yoghurt are of a high quality. Excellent fresh pasta can be found.  The Central Market in Tunis and the many smaller local markets in most neighborhoods are very practical.

– Supermarkets abound, and neighborhoods have small grocery stores and fruit and vegetable stands. Those without a car should consider proximity to shopping when choosing a place to live.

Schooling

– The American Cooperative School of Tunis (ACST) provides schooling from pre-school through 12th grade, and offers the International Baccalaureat program.

– There are French Cultural Mission schools in Tunis and in La Marsa, with both primary school and high school classes conducted in French.  These are an extension of the French public school system.  Although French children receive first placement, children of other nationalities, even those not already French-speaking, can sometimes be accepted.  Fees are much lower than at the American school, but books and supplies must be bought.

– Local Tunisian schools, both public and private, use classical Arabic as a medium of instruction from the first grade.  French is introduced in the first or third grade and receives nearly as much importance as Arabic. Public schools are free of charge to local residents, although books and supplies must be furnished.

Health and medicine

Qualified medical specialists are available in Tunis, often trained in France, and  most are more comfortable speaking French than English.  It is helpful to bring along a good general medical book and a book with generic names for drugs,  for reference. One should check to be sure that insurance coverage is valid for abroad and take out insurance which covers medical evacuation.  Many medications are available at a much cheaper price than in the U.S., but it is necessary to know the equivalent name in French.  One should find out where best to go for emergency treatment, which will probably be a private clinic in the area.

Shipping

– It will be easiest to bring as little as possible and be ready to pay overweight so that it can fit in one’s luggage. Books can be sent cheaply from the U.S. in duffel bags provided by the post office, but they can easily take as long as four months to arrive.  Clearing customs for material shipped to Tunisia (e.g. by air freight) is a confusing, time consuming and frequently expensive process.  If things have been shipped, it is best to hire an expeditor, since many visits to different offices will be required.  Non-Fulbrighters should not expect help from the U.S. Embassy.

– In order to ship household effects out of the country, one may have to provide clearances from government agencies, in accordance with the formalities mentioned below (see Final departure). When leaving the country permanently, air freight is the best way to ship out household articles and books. One should contact the airline cargo office for information before shipping.  The process is relatively simple, and the goods are shipped to the airport nearest one’s U.S. destination.  They usually arrive within 48 hours.  There they must be picked up promptly or a storage cost must be paid.

– ***Please note that since 2011, no packages can be mailed to the U.S. via Tunisian postal service and can only be sent via air freight. From the post office, rates are high for sending packages.  Surface mail costs 6.500TD/kg and is not reliable, and airmail (‘spécial’) costs 13TD/kg.  If a receipt to enable tracking is needed, an ‘envoi personnalisé’ costs 35TD/kg and 15TD for each additional kg.  There is a reduced rate for mailing books, but the envelope should be left open and then sealed at the post office.

Final departure

– All outstanding bills need to be settled before departure and agreements made with the landlord as to how this should be done.  It is possible to get one’s telephone bill from Tunisie Telecom by going to the local office.

– Theoretically,  those holding a residence permit may be asked at departure to present a `quitus’ receipt  witnessing that income taxes have been paid, that there are no outstanding bills (phone, electricity, rent, etc.), in order to leave the country.  This will necessitate a great deal of time and paperwork.  Proof of exemption from local income taxes for AIMS/CEMAT sponsored researchers who are U.S. citizens, can be provided by CEMAT.

– Researchers who have obtained official research authorizations from the Ministry of Higher Education are reminded that they are obliged to submit a research report on their work c/o CEMAT to the Ministry of Higher Education within a month of departure.  They also have agreed to send the same ministry a copy of any publication which results from their research in Tunisia.  CEMAT’s reputation and continued smooth functioning depends on the good faith of its affiliated researchers.