There are over 11 million tourist arrivals per year in Tunisia, and many of those visitors carry Euros, US Dollars, and British Pounds Sterling in their wallets when they arrive at the gate. Whether you’re coming for work or vacation, you’re going to want to spend some of that money, probably within a few minutes of landing! So, do you need go through the hassle of exchanging currency, or can you just use what you have?
In a few touristy areas of Tunisia, you can pay for things with US Dollars, English money, and Euros. However, if you go very far outside of the areas that accommodate a lot of tourists, you will need to exchange your foreign currency for Tunisian Dinars.
We visited dozens of places in person to get an accurate answer to this question! For a LOT of detail on where exactly you can and can’t use foreign currency, and for more important tips on using foreign and local currency in Tunisia, read on!
Using Foreign Currency atthe Airport
Our first stop was at the country’s biggest point of entry,Tunis-Carthage Airport. We asked around at several of the airport vendors tosee what kind of currencies they would accept. We stopped at restaurants,cafes, and telecom kiosks, and we got some surprisingly mixed results.
There are two big restaurant/cafes on the ground floor ofthe airport. The first one we went in to was Cappucino Resto & Café. Theysaid that they do accept Dollars and Euros—no problem. When I asked aboutEnglish money, they said that they accept paper Pounds, but they won’t takecoins. I thought this was pretty strange. But then we went to the other bigrestaurant on the ground level called L’Amicale, just to the left of theentrance, and they said the same thing! I don’t know how they came up with thispolicy, but it is good to be aware of if you’re planning on using Sterling.
Next, we went to the little kiosks where you can buy SIMcards and data for your phone. Ooreedoo and Orange both responded that theyonly accept Tunisian Dinars and debit/credit cards. All of the other, smallervendors we stopped at only accepted Tunisian Dinars. This includes theCakes and Bakes bakery and the little convenience store kiosk to the left ofthe entrance.
Using US Dollars, BritishPounds, and Euros at the Beach
Next, we took a trip down to Hammamet (a major beach town innorth-east Tunisia) and did some in-person research to find out whether you canuse foreign currency in and around the all-inclusive resorts. Five out of fivehotels we entered said it was no problem at all to pay with Dollars, Pounds andEuros. You can book your room, eat at the hotel restaurant, order drinks at thehotel bar, and buy things in the little store, all with foreign currency.
Next, we visited some stores, restaurants and cafes in thevery touristy part of Hammamet. This was in and around the Carthage Land themepark. All of the places we went into here also take Dollars, Pounds and Euros.A bigger store that sells beach clothes and accessories said it was no problem.A café and restaurant on the corniche overlooking the water said yes. Even alittle convenience store advertised the currencies that they accepted withseveral different types of paper notes under the glass top of their check-outcounter.
Using Dollars, Sterlingand Euros in Tunis
After driving back from Hammamet, we parked in downtownTunis and walked around the popular tourist destinations: Avenue HabibBourguiba (also known simply as “the Avenue”) and the ancient medina.
We started with the more expensive hotels along Avenue HabibiBourguiba, with the intention of covering the spectrum from low-budget tohigh-budget lodging. Our first stop was a popular hotel right on the Avenue calledHotel Africa. They advertise rooms starting at around 300 Dinars or $100 pernight. Like the nicer hotels in Hammamet, they responded, “Of course!” Here youcan use Dollars, Sterling and Pounds to book your room and purchase food anddrinks. Next, we went to a smaller hotel, located right at the entrance of themedina, next to Beb Bhar, called Hotel Royal Victoria. This is a historicbuilding and a really neat place, with rooms in the 225 Dinars or $80 range.They also said yes to foreign currency.
When we visited hotels with a smaller price tag, webegan to discover the borderline that distinguishes where hotels do and don’taccept foreign currencies. Walking north from Beb Bhar on Mongi Slim, we founda side-street with some budget hotels, just on the edge of the medina. A littleplace called Hotel Roma said they accept Dollars and Euros, but not BritishPounds. We went into the hotel right next to it, Hotel Qods, and at first, thefront desk clerk said it was “no problem” to pay with foreign currency. But, afterwe asked more questions, his final answer was that you need go and exchangeyour currency and pay with Dinars. These places advertised rooms in the 130 Dinarsor $46 range. It seems that once you drop down around the $50 per night rangein hotels, they are less likely to accommodate foreign currency.
What about eating and drinking along Avenue HabibBourguiba? One of the bigger pastry and gelato places accepts severalforeign currencies. A restaurant touristique just off the Avenue calledLes Pub also said yes. But the smaller sandwich shops were mixed. One said thatthey only take Euros and Dinars. The final verdict here is that you can godowntown and buy food with foreign currency, but you may have to visit morethan one place to find someone who will accept it.
If you’re shopping for souvenirs in the medina, youwill also want to ask beforehand what kinds of money they take. There’s a bigshop right in front of Beb Bhar that sells traditional Tunisian clothing, andthey accept Dollars, Euros and Pounds. But when you go to smaller shops furtherinto the medina, they are less likely to accept them. One shop with lots oftraditional metalwork souvenirs said that he could possibly take Euros, butonce he checked his cash register, he said that he didn’t have enough change. Tobe safe, you may will want to change to Tunisian Dinars if you have plans totake away a lot of souvenirs from the medina.
Using Foreign Currency inSidi Bou Said
Our final destination was the sea-side, hilltop village ofSidi Bou Said, just outside of Tunis and right next to ancient Carthage.Walking up the hill, you’ll pass several souvenir shops with pushy salesmenthat try to drag you inside. These vendors make their living off of tourists,and they do accept Dollars, Euros and English money. At the top of the hill, ahostel called Dar Said accepts all currencies, as does a fancy restaurantcalled Dar Zarrouk. But a little café and sandwich place right next to thesenicer places only accepts Dinars. A smaller restaurant called Tam Tam at thebottom of the hill accepts Euros and Dollars, but not pounds.
Change Your Currency: It’sWorth It!
While Tunisia accommodates tourists in some areas byaccepting foreign currencies, you severely limit where you can go and what youcan experience by not using Tunisian Dinars. Tunisia is an amazing place withso much to see and do. Exchanging a day’s worth of cash into Tunisian Dinarswill help you feel empowered to go out and really experience the country. Wehighly recommend taking this step!
The Tunisian Dinar
The currency of Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar. The officialabbreviation for the Dinar is TND, but they also designate an amount of moneyusing a lower-case “dt” after the number. For example: 20 dt. In March 2020 atthe time we’re writing this, 1 US Dollar changes to 2.83 Dinars. 1 BritishPound gets you 3.62 Dinars. And 1 Euro gets you 3.16 Dinars. Tunisia is aninexpensive country. Especially outside of the touristy areas, you can easilyget transportation around town, drink coffee, and eat at restaurants for under50 dt per person per day.
The coinage in Tunisia is a little confusing coming fromWestern currencies. They divide the dinar into 1000 milims. So the price of anespresso may be written as 1,500 dt. The coins come in 500 milim, 200 milim,100 milim, 50 milim, and even 20 milim. They also have coins for 1 dt, 2 dt,and 5 dt.
Where to Exchange Money
If you’ve made the decision to change your home currency forTunisian Dinars, it is pretty easy to find a place to make an exchange. Thereare several banks to choose from at the airport. The front desk at most of thebigger hotels can also exchange money for you. A big, electronic sign withexchange rates will indicate that the hotel can make the exchange. If you’renot near your hotel or an airport, you can also find a bank just about anywherein the city. Look for signs or search on Google Maps for one of the following:ATB, Banque Zitouna, BNA Bank, Attijari Bank, BH Bank, STB Bank, Biat, or AlBaraka. There are many more; this list is just a starting point.
How to Exchange Money
The most important tip we can offer when it comes toexchanging your cash for Tunisian Dinars is to get a receipt!!! When youchange your money for Tunisian Dinars, you will get a receipt that looks likethe one pictured below. From what we were told at several banks, you can onlyexchange your leftover Tunisian Dinars back into your home currency if youpresent your receipt! Also, just to be safe, it’s probably a good idea to usethe same bank when exchanging to Dinars and then back to your home currency.
Be Safe When Handling Cash
Finally, it’s good to remember to be safe when handling yourcash in Tunisia. As is the case anywhere, Tunisia has its fair share of pickpockets.You will want to use your street smarts and common sense when handling money inpublic. It is safer to exchange cash in a hotel or bank where you have acounter to set your stuff on, and without a lot of people crowding around. Inbusy areas like the bank kiosks in the airport, you will want to keep your cashand the wallet you pulled it from in your sight at all times.
So, there you have it: the ins and outs of using (or notusing) Dollars, Euros and British Pounds in Tunisia! We hope you find thesetips useful. Please check out our other money-related posts and resources tomake the most use of your hard-earned cash on your next visit to Tunisia!