GSS Country Snapshot
A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations
Registered Trips in 2019
Following the 2017 opening of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ (CMES) field office in Tunis, more and more Harvard affiliates have been traveling to Tunisia each year. The office serves as a regional hub for language and cultural immersion experiences, research programming, archival work, and promoting scholarly exchange. Through our Harvard Global Tunisia branch, we’re able to provide international office administration and employment to support the University’s academic research, study abroad programming, and scholarly exchange.
“Since opening the office, over 90 Harvard undergraduate and graduate students and 20 faculty and staff members have traveled to Tunisia for independent research, language and cultural programs, sabbaticals, workshops, and admissions recruiting. We also host a range of events that are open to the public. The multi-talented GSS team helped us during every phase of the project.”
— Lauren Montague, Executive Director, Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
In Cambridge and in Tunis, CMES supports interdisciplinary research and teaching related to the Middle East, most notably the pursuit of firsthand knowledge about the region based on literacy in its languages and understanding of its diverse politics, cultures, and histories. The Prince Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University is dedicated to furthering the scholarly study of Islam and the Muslim world on an interdisciplinary, global basis.
The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. Situations on the ground can change rapidly. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.
Safety & Security
The Harvard GSS risk rating for Tunisia is elevated risk. Note that, per the student travel policy, College students have additional pre-departure requirements for elevated-risk locations. Some of the factors that influence this rating for Harvard affiliates include crime and periodic social unrest. For example, petty crime is a risk in urban areas, and social unrest leads to sporadic protest activity. Travelers have reported harassment in public places. Terrorism has been reported in the region, and the country is a potential target for terrorist activity. Homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia and punishable by imprisonment. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.
Weather-related incidents may create safety risks in Tunisia. Adverse weather conditions, including heavy rainfall in the winter, sandstorms, and dust storms, occur. The country is also prone to low seismic activity. Make sure you’re informed, prepared, and have a plan in case a natural disaster occurs. Download the International SOS Assistance App to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.
There are numerous international and domestic airports in Tunisia. Official yellow taxis are widely available in most urban areas, and trains connect most major cities. Buses are also available but often crowded. Roads in urban areas are well maintained, but driving conditions are inadequate and adherence to rules of the road vary. Travelers are advised not to self-drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. Using a licensed taxicab or hiring a prearranged car service are both preferable.
Tunisia has a reliable mobile phone and internet network, and access is widespread. Be mindful that identity theft and personal data breaches via phishing attacks are common. Know how to keep your data safe abroad.
Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for Tunisia. Health risks such as Covid-19 and West Nile virus may be present. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in Tunisia, which imposes strict pharmaceutical regulations. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization.
Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.
All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country. Outside of major cities and resorts in Tunisia, you’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water and to avoid ice. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.
If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in Tunisia, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to the appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance. Specialized care and trauma care facilities are limited, and treatment for such care may require evacuation.
Tunisia is a unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic. It has a diversified economy led by oil, phosphates, manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism, and is still in the process of easing state control. Most Tunisians identify as Muslim, and Islam is the official state religion.
Arabic is the official language with Tunisian Arabic as the specific dialect. French is also widely used in business, education, and the press, and English may be spoken in tourist areas. Make sure you’re aware of Muslim values and local cultural sensitivities, including modest attire, as well as rules regarding photography of government, military, or diplomatic installations.
ATMs are widely available, and most major credit cards are accepted in cities and tourist areas. Cash may be preferred in rural areas. Note that the Tunisian dinar is available only in Tunisia; it’s illegal to bring in or take Tunisian dinars outside the country.
When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Tunisia’s holidays and festivals. Businesses may be closed or have reduced hours, particularly during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Visas & Travel Documents
Before traveling to Tunisia, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your intended date of departure and that you have an onward/return ticket. Depending on your citizenship and reason for travel, you may need a visa and additional permits to enter. Requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.
Upon arrival, you’ll need to complete a registration form and provide the top half to immigration control; and save the bottom half to return to immigration control when you depart. When leaving Tunisia, be prepared to pay your departure tax in cash.