How not to do Tunisia - Richard Wiseman (Jan 2006)
Being a seasoned traveller, the whole package holiday experience is all still pretty new to me. Little was I to expect the non-existent charm and tackiness of the resort-from-hell town known as Port el Kantoui. The holiday was booked on the understanding that there would be little or no hassle. My experience of Tunisia is nothing but hassle. Now I am no stranger to having people come up to me in the street trying to to beg, sell, get you in to a restaurant etc, (having been chased half a mile down the road by a one legged beggar in Cambodia and also being refused exit from a brothel in Hanoi-Vietnam (we thought it was a Karaoke bar - honestly!) unless we paid them $200), but for a one week relaxing break, this is not the place to go. (By the way, we refused to pay them $200 and got out for
There is plenty of culture and plenty of things to see, (the Fat German Speedo Brigade not being one of them!) - the trouble is that you need the money and time. Trips to the desert and to various Star Wars things cost and take up 2-3 days of your holiday.
Port El Kantoui
Port El Kantoui, built specifically for tourists somewhere in the not so distant past. If a resort is your thing then it probably used to be a nice looking place. But now it's starting to decay and go rather rough around the edges. A walk through the Marina or the nearby Square will involve you being approached by endless amounts of people trying to get you in to their restaurants or on their day trips. People will literally stand right in front of you and block your way. Hotel entertainment was at best rubbish and at worst deplorable. I can't think of one thing I like about this place and it annoys me to think about it - so I'll move on.
The Medina is definately not for the faint hearted as we were to find out.
Our first excersion in there involved us getting lost in the winding streets of the Bazzar. One of our two most interesting sales pitches was a bloke who was trying to sell us a pendant. The fact that he was claiming the stone in the pendant was Amber and then proceeded to burn it, producing an incence smell made me think hmmmm?!?? Pointing out that Amber should melt and should infact smelt of pine did not deter him from his sales pitch. Cheaper than Tesco my arse! The Second one was a bloke who tried to sell us a olive wood Vase. Having offered us the chance to practice our barterring without having to buy anything, he took great offence when we refused to buy it.
Having to physically remove his hand from me and my my girlfriend's wrists so we can leave the shop is not one of my more pleasant memories. There are a few things to see but you run out of things to do pretty quickly. The Beach in Sous is pretty filthy too.
Get up early if you want to get the train from Sous. The Roman Ampetheatre was a very impressive and very cool. The roman villa and all the tapestries was also cool. Being out of tourist season, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. The writing and dates carved in to the walls of the ampetheatre was interesting, my favourite being the Guns 'n' Roses! The views from the ampetheatre are really impressive too. The town was a welcome break.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE BOOKING! Yes I know this is obvious and yes I was a plonker for not doing so. What I want out of a holiday is not going to be what your average fat German pensioner will want.
2. Sod Politeness. You give an inch, they take a mile, they also take your car, house and pets included in that mile.
3. If you do not want to do something, make it clear that you are not interested in anything anyone has to offer right from the start, (this includes trips on pirate boats, camel rides and quad biking). You will otherwise be spending half your time avoiding people who you have offended because you initially expressed polite interest in them.
4. Do not do the package day trips organised by the tour opperators if they can be avoided. You will spend ages on a coach and little time actually seeing things. They are also very expensive.
5. Trains can leave early.
6. Pay no more than 5 Dinas for a cab between El Kantoui and Sous.
7. The men are like vultures. Single women, this is not a place for you to go if you fancy a quiet drink.
8. Develop a constant Scowl, do not point at things and keep hands in pockets.
9. Wear inconspicuous clothes. Not like muggins here who wore a cowboy hat, flowery shirts and had all his tattoos on display!
10. Always check prices before agreeing to buy what the waiter has suggested (ie fresh fish).
11. DO NOT STAY IN PORT EL KANTOUI. Go elsewhere in Tunisia
For a parting shot, Tunisia left me with food poisoning.