Sousse (سوسة Susa) is in Tunisia.
Sousse is one of the older cities in Tunisia, possessing an authentic medina, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Russians, Serbs, Croats, British, Germans and East European people. Located on the coast, it has good beaches and a clear turquoise sea.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Its climate is classified as hot semi-arid (BSh) but is close to hot-summer Mediterranean (Csa). Rainfall is mainly in colder months.
Sousse is on the main line from Tunis in the north down to Sfax and Monastir to the south. Since it sits at the railway network's center, it is well placed to reach most of the rest of the network, even as far south as Gabes on the coast and Tozeur on the edge of the Sahara . Example fares from Tunis to Sousse are 12/10/6 dinars in Grand/1st/2nd class. The main train station is directly north of the Medina (~5-10min walking). Tunisian railways are mainly for goods traffic with passenger traffic taking something of a back seat so don't expect to find yourself rattling along at 100 mph; 50 to 60 mph is more likely and the standard of the rolling stock (carriages) can be poor. That said rail services are generally reliable and above all are very cheap, even for the top class (Grand Classe Confort). They can be an excellent way to get about the country, just don't expect Pullman style travel. The national railway company, the S.N.C.F.T. has a workable website that includes and fares [dead link] although you may need some rudimentary French to navigate it. Wikipedia has an article on Tunisian railways w:Tunisian_Railways which includes a map showing network coverage.
Highway A1 connects Sousse with Tunis. A toll applies for using the highway. Additionally, Sousse is crossed by National Road 1 (RN1), connecting the city with the south of the country, and Libya. Roads are in very good condition. Additionally, a car ferry connects Sousse with Trapani in Italy once a week i the summer months.
Buses connect the city with most other parts of Tunisia. The far bus station (Gare Routière) is in some distance to the west of the Medina at the Souk El Ahad ("Camel Market") - the local bus station is next to the Medina in the town center. Prices are slightly lower than those of second class train tickets, but many buses do not have air conditioning.
Louages (shared-taxi) connect Sousse with other cities and towns in Tunisia. The louage station is to the south of the Medina (~30 minutes walking) on Rue El Masjed El Aksa. Louages run frequently to and from Tunis Moncef Bey louage station (around 10 DT, ~1½ hours) from this point. The louage station is well-signed compared to other louage stations and prices are posted by the ticket booths to various cities and towns in Tunisia.
Car ferries and express boats connect Sousse with Trapani (only in the summer months, once a week for cars and passengers) and Mazara del Vallo via Pantelleria 3 times a week, only for passengers. It takes up to 7-8 hours to Trapani and 5 hours to Mazara del Vallo. Private boats and yachts can use the marina at Port El Kantaoui (a resort about 12 km north of Sousse).
Taxis in Sousse have a bad reputation and the best advice is to agree a price before getting in and ensure that the price is not 'per person'. If you are unsure of what a reasonable price should be ask at your hotel reception. The taxis do have meters, but the drivers are often reluctant to use them; be firm and insist it is reset to the 0.310 dinar "standing charge" at the start of your journey. One favourite trick is to leave the previous fare on the meter so that it will be added to your fare before you even set off. Always check that the meter has been reset before setting off and that it is on the correct setting for the time of day. Between 21:00 and 05:00 rates are higher than daytime rates at 0.510 dinar/km. However, many drivers have altered their meters, and use "special rates" for tourists. A typical daytime fare between Sousse and Kantaoui, with a proper meter, is about 4.100 dinar, but, in most cases, with a "special rate" on the meter, the fare will be about 7 dinar. You can, however, agree the fare before getting in the taxi. Expect to pay about 5-6 dinar if you do. Taxis are yellow, and have a taxi license sticker on the windshield.
In August 2016, as a single voyager, no problems were encountered with taxis here; all taxis taken used their meters straightaway and did not attempt to play with the rates.
Shared taxis (Collection taxis, Louages) are large cars or minibuses/people carriers which start their journey when they are full. Well used by the locals, expect to pay 10% of the price of a taxi. Shared taxis can take you further than regular taxis, connecting the city with most bigger towns in Tunisia. Shared taxis for destinations in the same or a closely adjacent city (e.g. Hergla, Chott Mariem) are also yellow with a blue stripe on the middle of the taxi. Shared taxis between cities (far connections) are white with a red stripe. In Sousse, there are also white taxis with red, black, blue and yellow stripes serving destinations in the greater Sousse area (e.g. Akouda, Hammam-Sousse, Kantaoui, Chott Mariem). They leave from the "Station Louage" which is best reached by normal taxi (see above).
Light rail connects central Sousse by the medina (Station Sousse Bab Jdid) to Mahdia via Monastir. It stops along the way in various neighborhoods in southern Sousse and the Monastir MIR IATA airport (Station Aeroport Skanes Monastir). Tickets cost around 1 DT from Sousse to Monastir.
Tuk-Tuk's and Mini-trains can get you a fun ride to Port El Kantaoui, which is about 12 km away. They are open, shared transports and start their journey when they're full (or almost). Expect to pay 2 dinars per journey at the first and 2.5 at the latter. Tuk-tuks are bright purple.
Horse-drawn carriages provide another option for a fun ride to Port El Kantaoui at no more than double the price of a taxi (if you bargain).
All of Sousse's main sights are located within the labyrinthine medina in the heart of the city. Walk around and get lost in the western residential areas, which have beautiful surprises. There are signboards with a "cultural walk" marked out that you could follow. Up on the western side, the medina goes unto higher ground and you can see the sea.
- 1 Grand Mosque of Sousse. A surprisingly tranquil place despite its location in the middle of the city. Built c. 850 AD, this mosque is simple and austere in the Aghlabite style, no decoration whatsoever aside from a string of angular Arabic and curved arches. Even the prayer room is covered in reed mats instead of the usual carpet. You must be properly dressed to enter, but green wraps can be rented for a token fee to cover up.
- 2 Sousse Ribat. Whilst not as impressive or extensive as the Ribat in Monastir this fortified holy site is a worthwhile visit and served as home to a branch of Islamic warriors very similar in nature and creed as the Hospitaller Knights that lived in Rhodes. Climbing to the top of the watch tower affords you fantastic views over the Medina. 5 dinar to enter; 1 more to take photos.
- Sousse Archaeological Museum. In the gently crumbling old Kasbah on the south-western edge of the Medina. Contains a large collection of mosaics second to the Bardo and other archaeologic artifacts from Roman times. 9 DT
- The Traditional Tunisian House (Musee Dar Essid). Extremely charming little museum located just within the old city walls. Approaching the Ribat from Hotel de Paris along the north wall, follow signs for Musee Dar Essid. It was the home of a long standing Tunisian family that has now become a museum with the passing of the last family member. The property centers on an open courtyard from which access to all the rooms can be gained, including bedrooms for the first and second wife and, in turn, to the children's rooms. All are delightfully fully furnished, with some curtains dating back 200 years, and with German clocks imported from the 1800s. The house is complete with a tower, which was used to watch the stars for the onset of Ramadan, from which views over Sousse can be gained - it is higher than the Ribat. There is also a small cafe area with great views. A must see! 4 DT, 1 for photo rights.
Walking around the fishing boats at the port is a pleasant way to spend time, and families with children may wish to take a trip on one of the 'pirate' ships which offer fishing and other nautical activities.
Don't expect to have language issues as merchants speak almost anything common (French, English, Spanish, German...) - you can mix all languages if you want.
- Medina including the souk located in the center of the city. The old section of the city containing the local bazaar, expect to haggle or bargain.
- Soula Centre just outside the souk has fixed prices, it is useful to establish values before bargaining in the souk (of course there is no fun).
Everything is pretty cheap, but merchants won't hesitate to quote outrageous prices, so haggling is necessary. Take it all light-heartedly though and have fun whilst haggling. Obviously, there is a large quantity of counterfeit designer goods available in the Medina.
Don't waste your and their time if you don't intend to buy anything and if you are only interested in taking a look, make it clear from the beginning. Say nicely and with a smile that you are not interested or that you don't have any money left. However don't feel obliged to buy if you can't agree a price.
Don't keep thinking about the price after you buy something. Think on the good deal that you have made and the price that you would've paid in your home country.
You can have a nice meal for around 10 dinars or less (depends on the place), but prices are generally low. For this you don't have to negotiate prices.
Restaurant du Peuple. Next to Hotel de Paris. Good couscous, comes with salad starter, and watermelon and tea at the end. COunt about 10 dinar per person.
Restaurant Libo; excellent fish restaurant by the port, opposite the 'pirate' ships. 15 dinars for a spiced and grilled fish fresh from the port, a reasonable 2.1 dinars for a beer.
Drinking tap water is generally not harmful - some people and almost all tourists prefer, though, to use the bottled water that you can find everywhere (very cheap, for around 0.200-0.400 dinars per 1/2 liter, 0.300-0650 dinars for 1.5 liter). Non-carbonated (non-sparkling) water is the most popular, and is called "mineral water". Carbonated water is available as well, but you must specifically ask for water with gas (eau avec gaz) or Garci (the most popular brand).
Expect to find a Coke for around 0.800 to 1.5 dinars (depends if in a supermarket or hotel).
The favorite beverage of the locals is tea, with many tea based specialties being available at the many cafes and restaurants around town. A favorite amongst locals is the au menthe (tea with mint leaves and sugar) and the aux ammandes (tea with crushed almonds and almond essence). Most locals will drink it while smoking from the chicha (the local name for a hookah). Expect to be offered tea while buying things of relatively high value (over 60-70 dinar) from shops in the souk.
Being a city in a Muslim country, alcohol may be rather hard to find and quite expensive, because of little demand. Some cafes and stores will sell wine and beer, since many locals also drink these beverages. Expect to pay 2-3 dinar for a 0.3 bottle of local beer (invariably Celtia brand), and 2-12 dinar for a bottle of local wine in a store (double in a bar). Hard alcohol is very hard to find and extremely expensive (more expensive than even in the Nordic Countries), since most locals avoid it. Your best bets are hotel bars (3-6 dinar for 50 ml of vodka or gin) and Magasin General supermarkets (state owned stores, the only ones authorized to sell hard liquor - one is located on 7 November avenue, near the Sousse Palace hotel). A bottle of gin or whiskey is about 80-120 dinar. No alcohol is sold on Fridays.
Sousse is one of few places in Tunisia with somewhat animated nightlife (mostly during high season though). There are 2 kinds of places: normal bars, clubs, discos (upscale) and dodgy cabarets (low scale). The last ones are local oriented (music and crowd), and though might represent some interest as a phenomenon, are often frequented by hustlers, which, mixed with a cheap beer, tend to end up in arguments and mass fights (quickly resolved however). Many bars and discos are located in hotels, though most famous ones are standalone venues.
- Living/Banana/Saloon disco. Free entrance, 5 dinars beer, party time 0:00 - 04:00 everyday. Conveniently located in Sousse hotel zone near Samara hotel and Movenpick, these venues although themed differently (ambiance and music), share the same positioning ("VIP") and owner ("Bora-Bora" open air disco). More chilled touristic crowd; dress smart.
- Be One/B1 club disco. Free entrance, 5 dinars beer, party time 0:00 - 04:00 everyday. Located in Port Kantaoui near Houria Palace hotel and Vincci Resort. A sophisticated venue with nice relaxed and partying more Tunisian crowd, European and Arabic dance music, lots of couches, 2 bars, dancefloor and a high platform for cheeky girls to dance in the middle. In low seasons tends to get crowded by 02:00. Dress smart.
- Edge bar. 4 dinars beer, party time 23:00 - 02:00 everyday. Located in Cesar Palace hotel between Sousse and Port Kantaoui, Avenue 14 Janvier, near Les Oliviers. One of the many hotel bars (with separate entrance), this one though is somewhat classy with nice and relevant (4 stars hotel) more Tunisian crowd, mixed European and Arabic music. A good place for pre-party on your way to B1. Dress normal.
Don't compare the category directly to european hotels. Expect to take a star (or even two) from these hotels. 4/5 star hotels are recommended.
- Hôtel Gabes, 12 Rue de Paris (In the Medina). Very spartan rooms but good location and trustworthy staff. 8 dinars for a single room, 16 dinars for double..
- Hotel Sarras. 20 dinars for a double room. No wifi, no breakfast, but a courtyard and roof. The housekeeper is a dear and keeps the place spotless. In summer, room has a fan. Located in the medina, near the short distance louage and bus station.
- 1 Hotel de Paris. Spotlessly clean if rather austere hotel near the main entrance to the medina. Singles from 30 dinars.
- 2 Abou Nawas Boujaafar Hotel, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, ☎ . Great food and services. Thalasso center with an interior (30 °C, salt water) pool, another outside and private beach. 3 restaurants. Deco from the 1980s but not expensive. 5 minutes away from the medina and near all transportations.
A terrorist attack at the end of June 2015 killed 38 mostly British tourists. The UK government still recommends against all but essential travel to Tunisia as a whole, though it has no stronger warning against travel to Sousse as of August 2016.
There's no danger from street crime from walking alone at any time. Most streets are very busy till late night. Respect the locals and you will be respected. Crime is nearly non-existent, even if some of the neighborhoods of the city may look shabby or feel dangerous.
Expect some hassle in the souk (medina) and this is most normal. Merchants always try to show their goods/shops and see what you like. You have to get into the spirit to enjoy, always be nice and have a smile on your face. Even if sometimes annoying, this is absolutely not dangerous.
Women may want to avoid the red light area in the north west of the medina, reached through two overlapping walls which screen that street from the rest of the medina. Single women walking alone may be stared at, but, again, this is not dangerous, but rather a curiosity of some local men.
Most people who come up and speak English to you in the streets will be hoping to sell you something, no risk but end the conversation quickly to avoid them getting indignant when you don't buy, a simple 'non, merci' should suffice.
- Monastir. Metro rides cost 1 dinar. Beaches and the largest Ribat in the Maghreb.
- Roman Amphitheatre in El Jem (or El Djem), approx 70 km due south of Sousse which is better preserved than that at Rome. It was the location for some of the filming in Gladiator. A UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Port El Kantaoui purpose built tourist resort featuring a marina. Said to be both fake and 'touristy', nonetheless caters well for tourists' needs with a good range of restaurants and bars. It has a zoo, but the one at Figuiera is better, and a water park.
- Kairouan To the west of Sousse, an important centre of Islamic pilgrimage and history. A UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Friguia Zoo near the town of Enfidha Well cared for animals. Although not in an authentic setting, see lions and elephants in Africa!
- Sahara Explorer Two-day, one-night "safaris" to the south of the country can usually be arranged via Tour Companies, local Travel Agents or hotel receptions. Three-day, two-night "safaris" are usually arranged via local Travel Agents or hotel receptions. Essentially they are tourist adventures to the edge of the desert which may include, variously, visits to El Djem and its Roman amphitheatre, Berber Arab cave dwellings, the Chott el Jerid - a massive salt lake - and a sunset camel ride in the Sahara amongst other attractions. The three day, two night "safaris" are generally the less frantic of the two and allow more time to look around at leisure.