Family holiday review – holiday village in Tunisia

Despite the recent unrest in Tunisia, one family found it a fantastic and friendly place to enjoy and explore

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Vibrant family room

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Carthageland theme park

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Hammamet beach

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El Jem

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El Jem

Updated Dec 2014

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Kerry Haslam, 26, and her partner Matt, 34, took their daughter Olive, 5, to Hammamet, Tunisia

Update: Kerry and her family visited Tunisia in April 2011. While the unrest had calmed down since the Jasmine Revolution in January, there has been continuing political transition and tension and recent Presidential elections, which are continuing.

The Foreign Office is currently advising it’s safe to travel to Hammamet but to avoid certain areas in Tunisia including:

  • Chaambi Mountain National Park area, Tunisia-Algeria border crossing points at Ghardinaou, Nefta and El Kef, the militarized zone south of, but not including, the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba and within 5km of the Libya border area from north of Dhehiba up to but not including the Ras Jedir border crossing
  • Avoid all but essential travel to: areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Médenine, Zarzis (including the Tunisia-Libya border crossing point at Ras Jedir), within 30km of the border with Algeria south of, and including, the town of Jendouba, the governorate of Kasserine, including the town of Sbeitla

The Foreign Office warns: “There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.Trips into the interior of Tunisia should be made with a reputable tour guide.” However, it also adds that 408,655 British nationals visited Tunisia in 2013. Most British tourists stay in the coastal resorts and most visits are trouble free.

Always check the latest Tunisia travel advice on the Foreign office website.

Holiday review

“We love exploring, and before we had our daughter Olive, Matt and I would take regular ‘staycations’ around the UK and don our hiking boots for an adventure. However, now Olive is old enough to enjoy a holiday adventure, we decided to go abroad for a sunny, sightseeing break.

Undeterred by the unrest following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia in January 2011, we took a short two and half hour flight to Tunis Carthage and stayed in the rather grand looking First Choice Holiday Village Manar hotel. With everything you need under one roof – four restaurants, four pools (including it’s own water park), and an extensive iFiveLive Kids Club to keep little ones happy, it would be easy to park up for the entire week.

However, true to our word, we booked a range of excursions to explore the country they call ‘The Jewel of the Mediterranean’.

Just a short 30 minute trip away, we visited the picturesque Yasmine Hammamet, which boasts a gorgeous white sand beach and the quirky ‘Carthageland’ theme park. Renowned for its character, we wasn’t disappointed when we were greeted by huge statues of Aladdin-type men on elephants and came face-to-face with a real life Camel, which went down well with Olive!

The resort itself was quiet and relaxing. But things certainly livened up when we visited Hammamet’s ‘Friday market’ on the way home, which was around 15 minutes away from the hotel. Haggling our way through the Souks and joking with the friendly merchants, we bagged ourselves some great souvenirs, including armfuls of authentic Tunisian pottery, embroidered cushions and Olive left loaded with hand knitted camels. 

The next day we took a longer 1 hour 30 min trip to the historic Roman amphitheatre, El Jem. This magnificent coliseum is well worth the visit. We were in awe of the picturesque ruins, plus it was safe enough for Olive to run around and explore – just watch out for the steep stairways leading to the basement of the amphitheatre!

We then travelled up to Medina Sousse, which is surrounded by huge fishing boats, all moored around the marina. The small seaside town is a great place to try some authentic Tunisian food. Olive loved the Meze, especially the couscous, while mummy and daddy quite enjoyed sampling the famous Magon red wine and seafood…

By the end of our daily excursions, we headed back to our sprawling family room, which boasted a breath taking sea view, separate children’s room (with a Playstation installed) and funky interior.

Holiday highlight

“A holiday highlight was visiting Monastir – the place where the movie Monty Python was filmed. Surrounded by Tunisia’s signature white washed domes, we took a leisurely stroll around the area and even climbed to the top of the Monastir castle for beautiful views across the city. The Tunisian residents treated Olive like royalty and she was given a new Tunsian flag (it’s recently changed and they were very proud to show us) and a Hasma ‘Hand of Fatima’ pendant.

The food in the hotel was also impressive. With a huge selection of food to suit all the family, even those with picky eaters would find it easy to satisfy fussy taste-buds.

What to watch out for

  • You can’t get Tunisian currency in the UK. So your best bet would be to bring GBP money over with you and exchange it at your hotel. It’s also illegal to bring Tunisian Dinar out of the country, so make sure you spend it before you leave, or change it back (but remember to keep the receipt they give you when you change your money up to begin with).
  • Tunisian people speak French and Arabic; so if you speak French, use it, as the locals love it!
  • To us, Tunisia felt safe and friendly. Indeed the Tunisian people really love children. However, like anywhere you travel, it’s wise to keep belongings close and secured, and always travel with a guide. Also, check on the Foreign Office’s website for the latest update on travelling to Tunisia.
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