Tunisia: A Five-Star Schengen Bolthole
British sailors Mark Prior and Pamela Jeen recently discovered that Tunisia is not only a friendly and cheap country with an amazing cultural heritage, but it is also a great place to do the Schengen Shuffle.
Published 2 years ago
We Brits are having to learn a new skill, which you third country nationals in Europe have long been expert at – the Schengen Shuffle.
It is dance we did not need to know the steps to until this year when we were daft enough to quit the EU and lost our right to unfettered access to our 26 partners.
Which is why the countries surrounding the Med which are not part of the Schengen area have suddenly become an attractive prospect to stop the 90-in-180 day clock ticking.
Friendly and Easy Going People
And which is why I write from Tunisia, just a 100 miles or so from Sardinia and Sicily in the central Med, where we are enjoying a friendly atmosphere, easy going people, ridiculously cheap prices and fantastic cultural heritage. The site of Carthage, no less.
At the time of writing COVID regulations are that you if you have a two-jab certificate you are in. Otherwise quarantine is five days with a test for 170 TND (Tunisian Dollars) at the end.
The doctor who first visited winked at us and said it must have taken us two days to do 100 miles so that counted and we were isolated for only three days.
Clearing in is quaint and back to the old days of three officials to placate with paperwork. Help them with a list of unopened booze and your medicines. It was all done in a very pleasant atmosphere. No ‘gifts’, or what I call bribes, were asked for or given.
You can stay 90 days without a visa. I am not sure whether that would be extendable. The boat can stay for two years without attracting interest from the taxman, but do check that.
There are 3TND to a Euro.
Marinas can be expensive by the day, but drop dramatically if you stay a month or more. To take Bizerte, the most northerly entry port, a night for a 10-12m yacht is 90 TND all in, but a month is a mere 1,100 TND plus power and water.
We got ripped off a couple of times, my fault for not doing TND/Euro sums well, but generally everything is startlingly cheap and people very honest. Stock up with spices, herbs, pulses, pasta. I am indulging my sweet tooth with a 0.7 TND scoop of ice cream every day.
Oranges are 1 TND a kilo, tomatoes are almost free. Diesel is a jaw-dropping 2 TND a litre, but you may not fill up cans.
We are on a strict budget and would not normally eat out, but here you can waddle home stuffed full of fantastic street food and carrying a doggy bag for 15TND for two hungry yachties.
Booze is available at the back of a Carrefour or Monoprix. Beer and spirits are reasonably priced. The wine is only good for getting scale off heads pipework or cleaning stainless steel.
Oddly, a wash, dry and fold laundry service appears universally to cost quite a lot for a bag full. Haggle hard, as indeed it is worth doing almost everywhere except at a marina.
Not so good for Chandlery
I cannot comment on the standard of boat work here, but chandlery is tough to find and I am told, pricey.
The countryside and culture are something to behold. You are in one of the cradles of civilisation, even if today they do not seem to be very good at collecting refuse or doing something about the pussy population. If Tunisia was Arabaic for cats galore, I would believe it. One stole onto our boat and made off with most of a cooked chicken left in the galley.
All told I give Tunisia five stars as a Schengen bolthole, five for prices, five for history and no stars for the almost comically shocking state of the shower block at Gammarth Marina. Honestly there is a permanently parked scooter in front of the urinals!
Mark Prior and Pamela Jeen
About the Authors
British sailors Mark Prior and Pamela Jeen cruise in a Moody 376. Mark was single handed until two years ago when landlubber Pamela felt it would be a good plan to join him. They are now cruising east through the Mediterranean heading for the Greek Isles.
Related to the following Cruising Resources: Cruising Information, European Union, Mediterranean, Routing
Je suis Français et j’ai hiverné 2020/2021 à Monastir. Tarifs de la marina très correct. Coût de la vie à environ 30% du prix en Europe. Taxi très peu chers (mais le véhicule est toujours fatigué) Aucun problème de sécurité ni d’hygiène (sur la marina, mais en ville, nous sommes en Afrique …). De nombreux avions directs vers Orly à un tarif très compétitif. Marina très familiale. Centre ville à 300 mètres. (Alcool à 50 m). De nombreux restaurants corrects sur la marina. Pas de pots de vin. Pour son bateau, il faut déclarer toutes ses sorties/entrées auprès de la police et de la douane.
Ce commentaire général est aussi valable pour El Kantaouï. Yasmine Hammamet n’est qu’un garage à bateau (pas de commerces hormis restaurants) . Bizerte : très bien mais peu de navires (c’est surtout un port de passage), Gammarth très cher (proximité de TUNIS)
Nous avons séjourné 3 mois à Monastir de octobre 2020 à janvier 2021, les tarifs contrairement à ce qu’annonce les gens c est chers pour ce pays, les tarifs on doublés les
dernière année, ( NavyService à port St louis du Rhône est pas plus chers sortie du bateau inclu) . Si vous voulez faire des travaux sur le bateau il faut demander l autorisation écrite, permission à la police et au douane pour faire monter et travailler les entreprises sur vôtre bateau, de plus pas où tres peut d entreprise sérieuse et compétente ( une seule pour moi Adel port de pêche soudure, fabrication de pièces, rectification, ) , vous êtes obligé de demander autorisation de sortir du port avec vôtre bateau, obligé de rentrer le soir, Seule compensation marché municipal au poissons, légumes, viande très peu chers, ville tranquille. Agréable endroit pour passer l hiver sur son bateau.
So glad you had a wonderful experience here!