Tunisia Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving in Tunisia
First check your Governments website for any restrictions on travel to areas of Tunisia- there may be restrictions on travelling to the far South of the country and the regions bordering Algeria. Tunisia drives on the right and you can drive on your own countries licence though an International Permit is recommended for drivers from outside Western Europe.
Road standards are good with all but the smallest roads being sealed. There may be occasional pot holes though, especially in the South of the country. The country has an excellent , 2 lane toll road running from Bizerte in the North, past Tunis and down to Sfax. It’s very cheap and well worth using. After Sfax, the main road South is single lane and as mentioned in more detail below, is a very busy road with a lot of trucks. If you’re heading from the North to Djerba come off the main road at Mareth- it’s then a great road with no traffic to El Marsa where you catch the ferry to Ajim. Be prepared for a wait of between 1 and 2 hours for the ferry though. Other main roads tend to be much quieter. The road from East to West of the country, via Matmata , Douz and across to Tozeur is a good road with hardly any traffic. As is the road North from Tozeur, via Gafsa, Kasserine, Le Kef and on towards the Northern Coast.
In 2012, there was still some regional disruption in the form of localised strikes and disputes causing roads to be closed at times. The region around Gafsa seemed particularly likely to suffer disruption. If a road is closed, other drivers will stop to discuss alternate routes and will flag you down and inform you that the way ahead is closed. Don’t ignore these warnings.
Driving standards are more akin to Southern Europe than North Africa though expect some reckless overtaking manoeuvres, and disregard for lanes etc. In general though, Tunisian drivers tend to be quite polite – tailgating and use of the horn are rare. Bad and dangerous driving styles are normally exhibited on single lane main roads with a lot of slow moving lorries, which cause drivers to overtake recklessly. The main road from Sfax to Gabes and Medenine is a terrible road for this with a lot of trucks heading to and from Libya. It’s a winding, single lane road and drivers are forced into dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by the slow moving lorries. Exercise extreme caution on this road and expect oncoming overtaking drivers to veer onto your side of the road.
The main danger when driving in Tunisia is from poorly marked speed bumps (sometimes totally unmarked). These are often denoted by stones piled at the roadside- difficult to see when travelling at speed and impossible after dark. When approaching a village or town, assume there WILL be speed bumps and proceed with caution. Another peculiarity of driving in Tunisia is that drivers seem to view roundabouts as a perfect place to stop, drop off passengers, chat to friends etc. Beware of the car in front suddenly stopping as you enter a roundabout.
There are likely to be numerous police road blocks though the police rarely stop foreigners. You should slow down when approaching and generally you’ll be waived through. In my experience the police are polite and helpful and are unlikely to try to extract an unofficial ‘fine’ from a foreigner.
Right of way rules seem uncertain, particularly at roundabouts. Right of way is supposed to be given to vehicles joining from the right, but my advice is to slow down and make eye contact with other drivers to make sure they’ve seen you and its safe to proceed.
Road signs are usually in Roman and Arabic lettering. The only place I encountered Arabic only signs was in the town of Gafsa.
Travel in the desert areas of southern Tunisia presents additional challenges. Many roads are not paved and can be covered by drifting sand. You should only drive off roads in an appropriate vehicle equipped with appropriate spares and supplies, including water and food. Ideally travel with a group in multiple vehicles .Many areas in the southern desert regions have no mobile phone service. The Tunisian National Guard encourages people travelling into the desert to register their travel beforehand.
Some road distances between major cities are as follows, as the viaMichelin site I usually recommend doesn’t seem to include Tunisia for some reason –
Tunis to Djerba- 480 KM
Tunis to Sousse – 140KM
Sousse to Sfax- 130KM
Sfax to Gabes - 140KM
Gabes to Djerba – 105KM
Gabes to Tataouine – 122KM
Sfax to Gafsa – 195KM
Tunis to Kairouan – 155KM
Tunis to Tabarka – 175KM
Tunis to Tozeur -430KM
Tunis to Gabes -375KM
Gabes to Tozeur -240KM
For information on driving to locations from the Star Wars films see my Roadtrip Tale on the subject.
Tunisia Car Rental -
Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, National, Avis, Budget, have branches here.Also usually features on Car rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire and Web discount sites such as LastMinute.com
This is a local car rental broker
This is a local travel agent who can arrange car hire including 4×4 self drive in the Sahara
Tunisia Self Drive Rules
None of the companies seem to allow vehicles to be taken outside Tunisia.One way rentals within Tunisia should be possible.