I got hooked on to the idea of visiting Tunisia because of a Hungarian girl I met during my time in Budapest.
It was a tinder date in Budapest, and we got talking about each other’s travel interests. I was on a 1-year long backpacking trip and project 365 back then, and she took her 4 scheduled vacations every year diligently. Of course, we both loved travelling. But it was our styles that were different.
While I was backpacking on a shoe-string budget to the corners of Eastern Europe, her vacations were all package tours. She would always go to the same travel agency in Budapest, who would arrange the entire trip for her – airfare, lodging and food included. And I learned that all those vacations were to the same country.
I was bewildered at first. How could she keep visiting the same country? (She had been to Tunisia 20 times already when we met back in 2015!) She had her reasons. For one, it was cheap. And secondly, she loved the idea of an ‘all-in-hotel’ vacation. I abhorred it back then, but since then I have become respectful of the fact that different people had different travel interests.
Further Reading: There is no way I can judge her, since I once took a trip to Bali just to participate in Asia’s first Toughmudder race.
How Tunisia became a Destination for me
Fast forward to January 2018.
I was close to finishing a long K2K2K motorcycle trip through India, and I was raring to leave the country for a while, once I was done with the ride. I have those urges from time to time, where I want to go outside the country, even if it is for a little while. And when deciding where to go, I had a casual facebook chat with my old friend from Hungary.
Why not Tunisia? She asked.
She had a point. I’ve never been there, and she knew how much I loved to explore new countries. But I had a visa problem. I was living on a motorbike at this point, and I didn’t even know where the nearest Tunisian embassy is. I will have to figure out the embassy location, then go there to apply for a visa etc. Too much hassle, I told her.
But after our chat, I went on google to check the visa requirements for Indian citizens to Tunisia. Wikipedia told me that I needed a visa (This was back in January 2018, and has been corrected now). So, I googled up the Tunisian embassy details. It was in Delhi, alright. I could make a trip there, since I already had a plan to visit a haunted park in Paharganj.
And then, I checked the visa details page on the Tunisian embassy website. That’s when I saw a carefully worded red sentence on top of the visa page.
“Since October 2017, Indians do not require a visa to enter Tunisia”
What? Wait, seriously. WHAT????
I went back to Wikipedia and checked the visa policy of Tunisia. It said that Indians needed visa to enter Tunisia (it has been corrected now). I was confused, since Wikipedia has always been my main sneeze for visa information. But the embassy was giving me different information. Which one do I believe?
So, I emailed the embassy and asked them to confirm for me if Tunisia was indeed visa-free for Indians now. No reply for a week. Sent them another email. STILL NO REPLY.
I was almost ready to give up, when I thought of twitter. I tweeted Tunisiatourism, DiscoverTUN and the Indian embassy in Tunisia to confirm this. And shortly afterwards, I received a couple of replies informing me that it was indeed visa-on-arrival for Indians in Tunisia now!
I just needed the following documents for a 30-day visa on arrival:
- A return flight ticket.
- Proof of accommodation
- Sufficient funds, if asked about it.
And I was sold. I booked my flights to Tunis, and decided to see for myself how this turns out.
The Flight to Tunis.
It was when boarding the flight that I realised this may not be a very common way to travel to Tunisia. I boarded from Muscat – because I had a few days in Oman prior to Tunisia – on a Qatar Airways flight that would transit through Doha. At the check-in counter, the airline officials asked me for my Tunisia visa. It was visa-on-arrival, I told them. They weren’t convinced and had to make a couple of calls to confirm.
Finally, a supervisor spoke to me and asked me to confirm this. I had to login to the Tunisian embassy website and show him the details. He made a couple more phone calls.
And then, he let me through. I was on my way to Doha for a quick transit, and then towards Tunis!
Further Reading: If you have a transit in Qatar’s Doha airport, here is my list of 8 awesome FREE things to do at the Hamad International Airport.
The Immigration in Tunis
I landed in Tunisia’s Carthage international airport around noon, and noticed that the crowd was entirely Arab or white. Not a single Indian or South Asian tourist anywhere in the airport. I stood in line at the immigration, holding a copy of all my documents, onward flights, the multiple hostel/hotel bookings that I had (I was travelling around Tunisia for a month.). I had taken the pain of printing out all of these when I was in Oman.
When I came face to face with the immigration officer, I gave him my passport and started to pull out my documents. He asked me when I was leaving Tunisia, and I told him my flight date. While I was getting ready to give him my flight ticket and other documents, he stamped my passport with a neat Tunisian entry stamp, returned me the passport, and said to the next guy in queue: “NEXT”
That’s it?! All my worries turned out to be for nothing, as the Tunisia immigration turned out to be really friendly and easy.
Now, it was time to explore Tunisia. Stay tuned for the other posts from this remarkable country.
Further Reading: I love visiting countries which recently changed the visa requirements for Indians. Click here for my experience of trying out the Visa on Arrival for Indians in Ukraine.
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This post is part of my travel stories about Visas. Click here to check out my other visa and transit stories.
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