So, just having come back from a mini-cruise from Amsterdam last weekend, getting the holiday blues/itch (even though I’m working away in just over 3 weeks time! eeee!), but I thought i’d go through my last trips away in order. It is also my first experience of using the website Airbnb*, and I know people use sites like these all the time, but I thought it would be a good chance for me to give a first hand honest review of the service.
*This is not an advertisement or promotion for Airbnb
So, my first trip abroad of 2017 was a one weeks trip to Tunisia in January. This was more of a visit to see friends, as with working away during Summer, I have to visit in the off season now. I know what you’re thinking, especially if you are in the UK, that the FCO travel advice still advises against all but essential travel to Tunisia, and now the the electronics restrictions such as laptops/ipads effects people travelling to the UK from Tunisia is another set-back. What I’m saying is that it is not ideal for families etc. to be travelling there, but if you have friends/ family or partners who live over there it is still possible to fly there with DAILY flights from London Gatwick and Heathrow in the South, or an in-direct flight from Manchester via Paris CDG, then to Tunis. I have done the indirect flight before last year, but this time I opted to fly from LGW-TUN and pre-booked my train travel and hotel accommodation before travelling. Also, if you are worried about insurance; companies such as Insure and go and Battleface insurance all insure Tunisia. (It obviously depends on your age, health, length of stay etc. for price increase- mine was very reasonable and I have used both insurance companies to travel there in the last two years).
The London Gatwick flight flies with Tunisair, who I can highly recommend for an airline. 20kg of hold luggage is included in the price of the airfare as well as 6kg hand luggage, and at very reasonable prices. You also get free meals and drinks onboard. From Tunis airport my friend picked me up and drove us all the way to Port el Kantaoui near to Sousse. However, on the way back I booked a transfer via Holiday Taxis*
*Holiday taxis will not pick up from a private address so you need to state a hotel for them to pick you up from outside, due to security reasons*
So onto the accommodation, I decided to rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel as me and my friend kind of just wanted to do our own thing. So I tried searching on Airbnb, and came across a lovely apartment in the Port of Port el Kantaoui near to Sousse. It was an apartment block, with access to a pool; it had cooking facilities, fridge, beds, sofa, channels with English news/films and a lovely shower. There was also a balcony with a fantastic view of the Marina. Now we was unlucky this week with the weather as it was still chilly, but however when I went the same time of year in 2016 it reached 20 degrees + so you just have to be lucky.
So the deal with Airbnb is that private hosts who own the accommodation have to accept you as guests, then you go through with the payment.
*I will ALWAYS recommend that you pay with a credit card, incase anything goes wrong, and I suggest that you don’t pay upon arrival as many hosts will probably turn you down*
Our host Zied was fantastic, he accepted us straight away and sent me a message with the details of a phone number of how to get the key for the apartment upon arrival and told me to message him with any queries or problems before or during our stay. Also, upon my arrival home to Gatwick airport, I’d been sent a message to check that everything was ok with the accommodation. Overall, we had no problems whatsoever, I can highly recommend this host and accommodation, it would be perfect during the summer months as it is really centrally located.
During January this was priced at a mere £17 per night! Bargain! but I can imagine that in the Summer, the prices will significantly rise.
We had fantastic views looking out onto the harbour, and some mild and sunny days too.
I have done many posts before on Tunisia, which you can look at: One on ‘how to travel on a budget’ which you can find >>here<<
One on the nightlife which you can read >>here<<
One on the History and culture >>here<<
One on general sightseeing >>here<<
and finally…one on Where to stay and food specialities >>here<<
Safe to say I really like the country haha!
However on this trip I did go to a few other different places than on previous trips, and also some of the same places.
We visited the Sousse Archaeological museum which is not far from Sousse Medina, I have already wrote about it in this post here, but it was nice to visit again. They have a fantastic Roman collection of mosaics and sculptures found throughout all of Tunisia. The entry fee is very reasonable 10 TND (About £3.50) . The grounds outside look fantastic, with an excellent view overlooking Sousse.
We also had a stroll around the Medina in Sousse where you can buy anything and everything! This is where the locals do all their clothes and food shopping, prepare to do a bit of bartering though! There are also fixed price shops such as the Soula centre where you can buy souvenirs.
On another day we went to the nearby town of Monastir, which I have been to before but it is a short distance of about 40 minutes away by taxi or shared taxis. I have also written about Monastir before here. We went to have a look inside the Mausoleum to Habib Bourgiba, the ex-president of Tunisia who brought in many rights such as equality for women as well as many other things, and he is well remembered.
There is also the rabat or ‘castle’ which was used as a defence system.
Monastir also boasts a stunning little harbour with some lovely restaurants along the front, with speciality Tunisian foods.
Whilst I was out there, we visited a town called Korba, not far from Nabeul and closer to Tunis in the north- it took us about 2 hours to drive there. We did intend on stopping at an Archaeological stop but the road was unfortunately closed. So we were invited round to one of my friends university friends houses for lunch. It was lovely to try all the traditional foods.
On another day we visited the amphitheatre of El Djem, which I have been to before but it was lovely to see again. I wrote a post which included it here.
However, this time we also went to go and see the El Djem museum which is not far from the site itself; which contains some fascinating artefacts such as many mosaics, sculptures and even death masks! You will also find the remains of the workshop where they built the Amphitheatre dating c.238AD!
You can also get into the museum for free if you keep hold of your ticket from El Djem- only 10 TND!
Lastly, on the last day we visited Takrouna, not at all far from where we were staying, approximately 30 minutes by car. This site is built on a hill and is an original Berber settlement, and was used as protection from incoming invasions. There is also a nearby WW2 cemetery site, which contains a lot of New Zealand soldiers.
The name Takrouna is believed to have originated from a tribe which immigrated to Andalusia in the 8th century. Following the expulsion of the Moors in 1609, the descendants of these immigrants settled on the hill which the village now occupies. The inhabitants of Takrouna live essentially from agriculture and weaving Berber carpets.
Takrouna was the last major action by New Zealand in North Africa during World War II, before the surrender of Italy and Germany. Following the Battle of the Mareth Line, which lasted from March 16th to March 31st of 1943, the Axis forces were driven back into Tunisia. On 19th April of the same year, New Zealand prepared for an assault of the town, held by an Italian battalion and German platoon. On the dawn of April 20, Lance sergeantHaane Te Rauawa Manahi led a platoon on an attack up the slopes of Takrouna hill, and successfully overthrew the Italians. Manahi then left the hill to locate reinforcements, returning with a section of C Company and another platoon and successfully defending a counterattack. Manahi and his section descended from the hill and, despite reinforcements, New Zealand lost the hill after a successful second counterattack on 21 April. Manahi would return in the afternoon and retake the ledge with artillery support, before capturing the village on the summit of the hill and taking 300 prisoners. Over 500 New Zealanders lost their lives in the battle.
There are some fabulous views from the top of the hill, overlooking the old Berber houses. Why not try some of the traditional Khobz Tabouna bread, made on a wood fire circular oven.
Well that’s all for my short trip, all in all, I had a fantastic experience with Airbnb and would highly recommend their service for cheap accommodation. I would also like to highly recommend our host Zied for an excellent apartment and stay. it was easy enough to hand the key back into the apartment offices and it also felt very safe around the area too, with security being around the Port gates.
I also really hope that the tourism picks up in Tunisia soon and that the FCO travel advise is changed, as the country really needs the influx of tourism again! It would make it a lot easier for families to visit on package holidays, but for now it is still possible to go but not ideal for some people.
Stick around for my next post which is going to be on my trip to Morocco in February!
Thanks for reading!