Bookmark and Share

1. Visas & Passports

2. Getting there
Tunis | Jerba
Tozeur | Tabarka

3. Getting around

4. Distance finder

5. Eating & sleeping

6. Costs

7. Health

8. Safety

9. Sex and Relations

10. Climate

11. Communications

12. Shopping

13. Playing golf

14. Travel costs

15. Which holiday?

Open LookLex Encyclopaedia

Open the online Arabic language course


Shopping street in Sousse, Tunisia

Rugs and carpets are easily available.

Leather shop in Tunisia

Leather products are even easier to find, and of better quality.

Natural sponges

Be careful when buying sponges, prices vary immensely.

Traditional garment of Tunisia

Traditional garment of Tunisia works well as domestic clothes.

Cuddly toy camels

Finding something for the kids is hard in Tunisia, but cuddly camels is a natural option.

Perfumes of Tunisia

Perfume shops are all over, some selling copy perfume others natural perfume.

Ceramics of Tunisia

Ceramics are always popular. The Tunisian ceramics are quite similar to Moroccan, painted with thick brush in many colours.

Spices of Tunisia

Spices are sold in free quantities, and can be very affordable.

Stone roses of Tunisia

Stone roses fascinates me. Unfortunately, the coloured ones are artificially coloured.

I have been to Tunisia many times, and all I ever shopped was a stone rose. I have shopped quite a bit in Morocco, and most certainly in Egypt, but Tunisian products have never appealed to me. They generally appear too crudely made. But that's me. You may think quite differently. At least, all those shops in all tourist destination must sell to someone!
Although Tunisian pottery can resemble the Moroccan, it is the product of centuries of local developments. The main centre is Nabeul, while Guellala on Jerba and Sejnane are two other important centres. Most of what you find is made in Nabeul, and represents a continuation of Andalucian pottery. Sejnane has a very different style, brown ceramics with simple drawings.
Tunisia's main carpet and rug centres are Kairouan, Tunis, Tozeur and Jerba. Styles are either reminescent of Persian carpets or they belong to the tradition of Berber carpets, called allouchas (top photo). What appeals to you is solely up to you, and these are the rules for buying carpets in Tunisia: First, never buy as an investment, buy things you truly like and will use. Second, never buy before you have gotten into the rhythm of haggling in this part of the world, and also have a clear sense of what is a fair price for the kind of carpet you're buying.
Practically everything that could be made from leather is for sale in Tunisia's suuqs. Belts, jackets and bags are most popular, with puffes as the main type of leather furniture. Quality is far from bad, but the design may be hard to swallow for Westerners with a taste in direction of simplicity. These are three things to look out for when buying leather products: First, bend the leather inwards and touch it — if it is of good quality it will be smooth to touch. Second, if you are in doubt whether it is leather or not, test it with open fire from a matchstick or lighter. If it burns, then you have no leather. Third, test the stitches. Even if the leather may be of fine quality, many producers save nickles on bad thread or do not put much work into securing the ends of the thread.
Clothes and shoes should have been a great product to pick up in Tunisia. But it is actually more expensive than it deserves to be in a country where textile production is one of the main industries. But traditional dresses is not a bad choice, provided you get it in real cotton and at the correct price. Sandals can be of fine leather quality, but as mentioned above, be suspicious to the stitches.
Tunisia can be a fun place to expand your collection of perfumes and oils. Some places sell copy perfume, others sell local perfume made from especially orange blossom and geranium. It is important to make sure you actually get the correct item. Put the perfume on the counter before you pay, and do not let the dealer put it in a bag or something: Many have discovered too late that the dealers has switched products. Fortunately, this is rare in Tunisia, contrary to Egypt where apparently all perfume dealers place their pride in being able to swindle Westerners.
Tunisian jewellery is interesting, provided that you enjoy the styles. Gold products of Tunisia tend to either be very elaborate or extremely simple. The latter products are interestingly meant for women who wants to wear her dowry in case of divorce, and then only the gold value is of importance. The carat level is higher with Tunisian gold, usually 22 or 21 carat compared with Western 14. In this respect, you are finally in the position of not being ripped off, like what is the case with Western gold dealers. Western gold dealers have discovered that they can lower the carat levels and still charge about the same price. Tunisians are smarter, and thinks that anything below 21 carat is cheap trash (24 carat is 100%). The problem is that with the acquired taste of Westerners, Tunisian gold may seem too goldy in colour. If you find something you like, note that all gold and silver products should be properly stamped. Do not buy unstamped products unless you can determine the quality by your own.
There is one product I always been keen to buy — but I have no use for it: White metal bird cages. These are very attractive, usually round and shaped like a ball in top.

Often when I talk with newly arrived travellers to Tunisia, they start to talk about their skills in bargaining. Many seem to think that a day or two in the suuq is all they need to get to know the formula of haggling. Some have concluded that the initial asking price is twice the real price, others believe that the asking price is 50% up, 30% up whatever.
And they are all right. And wrong. Each salesman, each city, each product type and each tourist have their own formula. If you look naive, the initial asking price goes up. If you seem to know what you're looking for it goes down. But even these rules don't apply all of the time.
So what have I found out? Be carefeul to look around several shops. Never be too keen on the product you're interested in. Never be too friendly, and never be grumpy. Never buy from shops you're dragged into; in case you have found something you really like, you better leave and come back later.
So what is the best strategy for me? Say that you will leave for checking the prices in other shops, but ask for a last price before you leave. And then you really do as you say!

By Tore Kjeilen