PREPARING FOR YOUR STAY

Timing of stay

– If possible, it is better to avoid the summer months of July and August, when it is difficult to contact people or to use research facilities. Many research centers and libraries are closed in July and August; and the rest observe summer hours and are closed in the afternoon. Offices also follow shorter summer hours and usually close by 13.30.

– Working hours also change during the month of Ramadan. (See Working hours and holidays below.)

– The university year runs from about the beginning of October until the end of June. There are two weeks of vacation the last two weeks in December, and two weeks of vacation in spring, around the last two weeks in March.

Length of stay

– Researchers usually find that access to research libraries and materials is quite easy, but it takes time and patience to get research done. All preliminary research using secondary materials and available primary sources should be completed before leaving the U.S.

– Researchers estimate that work can takes much longer to accomplish in Tunisia. Opening hours are shorter and interrupted by long lunch breaks, stacks are generally closed, indexes and catalogues can be incomplete if they exist at all, and xeroxing is not always readily available. There are no indices of newspapers and magazines published in Tunisia.

International transportation

– There are daily flights between major European cities and Tunis, as well as frequent flights to Tunis from major North African and Middle Eastern cities. Connections through Paris, Frankfurt and Rome to the U.S. are especially frequent and do not involve changes of airport. On flights from Tunis to Europe, a 20 kg. baggage allowance is in effect, passengers on European carriers continuing on to the U.S. are generally allowed 23kg.

Entering Tunisia

– An American citizen does not need a visa before entering Tunisia and is allowed to spend up to four months without applying for a residence permit.  Non-American citizens should check with the Tunisian Consulate in in their respective countries about possible visa requirements.

– American citizens are advised to register with the U.S. Embassy in Tunis upon arrival.

– Identification should be carried at all times.

To bring a car into Tunisia

One may bring a car on tourist status for up to 3 months, but then must plan to take it out (to France, or Italy) before the 3 months expire, in order to obtain an additional 3 months’ tourist status. The consequences of not taking the car out before the expiration date involve great expense and paperwork.

Health

Tunisia has developed into a major medical tourism destination. Routine medical services are readily available and affordable. No special inoculations are necessary before entering the country, but tetanus and other boosters should be up-to-date. One’s own physician can advise. Even in the Tunis area, one should follow certain basic precautions, such as drinking bottled water. For researchers planning to stay in a rural area, CEMAT can request additional health information.

Useful official documents to bring

  •  birth certificate (notarized copy)
  •  international driver’s license
  •  official/notarized photocopy of highest academic degree diploma
  •  university transcript
  •  several copies of letters in French or Arabic on official letterhead, with an official stamp from:

– head of department

– research institute

– professors (especially those known in Tunisia)

  •  short statement of research project, in French or Arabic
  •  copies of one’s publications to give to people
  •  bibliographies on research conducted in one’s own discipline (will save time & can be contributed to CEMAT’s library)
DURING YOUR STAY

Money matters

– Money can be changed at the airport, in banks, and hotels; the rates are the same in banks and hotels.  It is strictly forbidden to import or export Tunisian dinars.  There is a fee to cash travelers checks and often the receipt of purchase is necessary.

– The banking system has strict controls, and it can be slow to have money transferred from abroad. A checking account should be kept in the U.S. so that checks for dollar payments can be made.  Opening a local bank account is not a viable option in most cases.

– A credit card (American Express or VISA) is useful in certain situations but credit cards are not nearly as readily accepted as in the U.S.  Credit cards can be used at some banks and ATMs to obtain cash in dinars.  Non-residents must pay in hard currency (can use credit cards) for international airline tickets bought in Tunisia. (see Information for Long-Term Researchers in Tunisia)

Accommodation

– Hotels in the Tunis area are plentiful. See the list of Hotels in Tunis in the downtown area, some of which give a discount if CEMAT does the booking. There are also numerous hotels outside Tunis in the touristic zone Gammarth as well as small boutique hotels in Sidi Bou Said, Carthage and La Marse near the sea that are generally more expensive and are a walk or taxi ride away from the train station and a forty-minute train trip to Tunis.

– Locating furnished apartments can be difficult and time-consuming. We advice researchs to read the real-estate section of the local newspaper La Presseor to post housing demands on CEMAT’s facebook page. Be prepared to pay more if the rental period is less than nine months one year. (see Information for Long-Term Researchers in Tunisia)

Eating

The general cuisine in Tunisia is based on a mediterranean diet. Tunisian specialties such as couscous, brik, salata mechouia (grilled vegetable salad) and seafood are recommended, and the seasonal fruits are superb. A meal in a nice restaurant including wine costs around 30-40TD, and there are many restaurants where one can eat a good, simple meal for as little as 5TD.

Working hours and holidays

Central government offices observe approximately the following hours:

Winter:

  • Monday – Thursday 8:30 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 17:45
  • Friday – Saturday 8:30 – 13:30

Ramadan:  (varies from year to year according to length of day)

  • Monday – Thursday 8:30 – 14.30
  • Friday – Saturday 8.30 – 13.30

July/August:

  • Monday – Saturday 7:30 – 13:30

Official holidays, when government offices are closed:

  • January 1:  New Year’s Day
  • January 14: 2011 Revolution
  • March 20:  Independence Day
  • March 21:  Youth Day
  • April 9:  Martyrs’ Day
  • May 1:  Labor Day
  • July 25:  Republic Day
  • August 13:  Women’s Day

In addition, there are the following religious holidays, whose dates vary according to the Islamic calendar:

  • Aid el Fitr (2 days), celebrated at the end of Ramadan
  • Aid el Kebir (2 days), celebrated 40 days after the end of Ramadan
  • Ras el Am el Hejri (Muslim New Year)
  • Mouled (Prophet’s Birthday)

Communications ->Phones

International phone calls can be dialed directly from cell phones.  Calls from Tunisia to the U.S. are much more expensive than calls from the U.S. to Tunisia. International phone cards (MCI, etc.) do not work in Tunisia, nor do 800 numbers in the U.S.  Prepaid phone cards phone credit are sold in most kiosks and respective network stores. The three most popular phone networks are Tunisiana, Tunisie Telecom and Orange, all for which sim cards are cheap and work on any unlocked cell phone.

Communications -> Internet

Although CEMAT as an institution has Internet access, it is not possible for researchers to have individual Internet access at CEMAT. An account can easily be opened with providers such as Topnet or Orange, and currently costs about 100TD for six months.

International Mail

Mail can be very slow and irregular. Expect at least two weeks for an airmail letter to arrive to or from the U.S. with at least a week to or from Europe. Letters sent from the U.S. are sometimes misrouted to other countries and can take up to a month to arrive. Rapid Post service from the post office costs 20TD/kilo. FedEx or equivalent sent from the U.S. usually take about 5 days to arrive but can take 10 days or more. FedEx should be addressed to: CEMAT,  Impasse Menabrea, 19 bis rue d’Angleterre, Tunis, and will be delivered to the door (except Saturdays). The central post office at rue Charles de Gaulle stays open at lunch time. Stamps can be bought at tobacco kiosks or any post office. A letter to the U.S. costs 0.600TD.

Packages / Mailing books to the U.S.

*Please note, since 2011 it is no longer possible to mail anything larger than letter-size to the U.S.

Packages, if sent to or from the U.S. by surface mail, can take six months and may not arrive at all.  Packages can be mailed from the “Centre de Tri” just beyond the airport; it stays open at lunch time but closes earlier in the day than regular post offices.

It is expensive to mail books out of the country from the post office. Unfortunately, neither CEMAT nor the Embassy is equipped to mail books for researchers back to the U.S. The best and safest solution is probably to use air freight, which is also expensive, or to pay excess baggage. (See Information for Long-Term Researchers in Tunisia)

Transportation

– Public transportation (commuter train, bus, tram and taxi) is fairly efficient but quite crowded at peak times. Bus and tram fares within Tunis are less than 1 TD. Taxis are fairly inexpensive and easy to find most of the day. A taxi from downtown Tunis to Carthage costs about 13TD.

For everyday commuting within downtown Tunis, the tram system (‘metro’) is clean, fast, and fairly frequent. The TGM electric train, which runs from Tunis to La Marsa through the northern suburbs including Carthage and Sidi Bou Said, takes about forty minutes. It is inexpensive (0.600TD from the northern suburbs to Tunis in second class, 0.900TD in first class) but gets very crowded during rush hours. There is a private green bus system serving La Marsa, El Menzah and El Manar where a seat is guaranteed; one way from La Marsa is 0.950TD.

– Trains for longer distances (Sousse, Sfax, etc.) are air-conditioned and comfortable and seat reservations can be made on express trains. There are also air-conditioned buses to central parts of the country, as well as communal taxis (`louages’), where you pay for your seat share of the fare.

– Rental cars are readily available but they are expensive. A daily rental of a small car for about 100 km. will come to at least 60 TD with all costs included.  Monthly rental is about 800-900TD. A current U.S. driver’s license with passport is acceptable for driving in Tunisia.

Electricity and electrical equipment

Most electrical current is 220V / 50 Hz, although there are still a few places with 110V / 50 Hz. American made 60 Hz appliances, especially with movable parts, will not function well in Tunisia. Plugs can be changed upon arrival if plug adaptors are not available. Current fluctuations necessitate voltage regulators for appliances, computers, and sensitive equipment.  Appliances and other electrical equipment, if found on the local market, are generally more expensive than in the U.S.

Computers

– Personal computers are more and more frequent in Tunisia, and using them presents no special problems. The power supply in Tunis and surrounding areas is constant and blackouts infrequent, making a battery backup unnecessary. However, a surge (spike) protector and a stock of power supply fuses for the computer and printer are recommended. The power supply frequency is 50 Hz in Tunisia (versus 60 Hz in the U.S.) so equipment must be compatible.

Many laptops convert incoming voltage to DC and consequently do not pose problems, although a transformer may be necessary.

– The common paper size used in Tunisia is A4. Some grant applications require standard American size paper, so a small supply should be brought from the U.S. if required during one’s stay.

Xeroxing

Most libraries and research centers are equipped with xeroxing facilities, but they are not always in working condition. There are many public photocopying places which charge from 0.050TD to 0.100TD per page, and it is possible to find places which charge as little as 0.030TD for larger quantities. Microfilming of National Library manuscripts can be done there for 0.500TD per folio.

Bookstores

There are several bookstores on Avenue de France near the entrance to the souks, La Claire Fontaine on rue d’Alger, and Al Kitab on Bourguiba Avenue – all near CEMAT. Used books can be found on rue d’Angleterre and by the bouquinistes behind the Cathedral on Bourguiba Avenue. Old books are sold in some antique shops (rue des Glaciers). Books in English are scarce, except for set reading for teaching English literature.

Researcher responsibilities

– Copies of one’s research publications should be sent not only to CEMAT’s library, but also to any institutions and individuals with whom work has been done.

– Any researcher who has received research authorization from the Ministry of Higher Education is committed to sending a report (within a month) and resulting publications.

– It is also considerate to send thank you notes to people who were helpful. In the post-revolutionary period especially, most people are extremely overtaxed and thanking them for their time, effort and information should be a priority to all researchers. These gestures help CEMAT keep up its good relations with people upon whose good will and hospitality it depends.