Tunisia Trip

Despite the frightening March 2015 incident that took place in Tunisia’s capital a week before, we went ahead with our all inclusive holiday to Sousse (just under 2 hrs from the capital, in one of the quieter tourist areas). On  reflection we thought it was probably one of the safest times to visit as security was at a high and it was still during the quieter time of the year for tourists.

Movenpick Resort & Marine Spa Hotel 5* 

After scouring endless deals and Trip Adviser reviews, this was the only hotel that I felt comfortable booking into. Unfortunately there were a lot of very off-putting reviews for many of the commonly advertised Tunisia package deal hotels but this one looked promising (albeit a bit pricier).

                                                                                                  

The hotel definately lived up to all the pictures and online reviews, thankfully.

The hotel is probably more like a very good 4* by wider standards.

I’d certainly recommend the Monvenpick to anyone looking for somewhere to just relax and rest, as it’s designed more for relaxation than hyperactivity, you won’t find any crazy water-slides or jester-like reps in your face here.

The rooms were exactly as pictured online, very neat, clean, light and airy.

The beds are soft with two types of pillow

With twin rooms, the beds are usually pictured right next to each other (in a double) but you can slide them apart very easily to suit.

  Tip: if you can afford to, book a sea/beach/pool front room, or ask for one facing that direction when you check-in otherwise you could end up with a street view (which isn’t very nice as you will be in full view of the passing public when on your balcony). Also request a room on the 5th floor or higher to get a decent view.

Another gold point with this hotel was having an electronic safe in your room (for me, I expect this as standard). Most of the other hotels I researched did not have this feature, so you would have to use a safe in the reception area. I sorry but I don’t want all and sundry watching me when I’m counting out my money or looking through my valuables – thank you v. much.

Someone on Trip Adviser complained that there was no socket next to a mirror in the room – if you look inside the wardrobe against the side wall, there is a socket hidden here, so you can look in the sliding door mirror with your straighteners etc.

I would also highly recommend this travel adaptor (available on Amazon) which comes with quite a long lead. They have them for pretty much everywhere in the world and are proving to be very good value for money.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Adapter-TUNISIA-Extension-Earthed-Certified/dp/B005F2WI1M/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_8

Just like the Premiere Inn, your room lights only work when you slot your keycard into the wall device in your room.

Please do not disturb and room change signs are electronic.

Negatives and Suggestions: Rooms

  • Drinks in the room fridge are not part of the all inclusive deal!!
  • They ought to leave a couple of blankets with the extra pillows.
  • The tea and coffee supplies should be placed on the large drawer chest so that the mirrored area can be used for hair and make-up
  • Note: the toilet basins are fitted quite high up compared to UK loos (which I quite like), but smaller children might need a hand.
  • We waited over an hour to check-in, not sure why when the hotel didn’t seem that busy with new guests, and then another hour (after several calls down to reception) for our luggage to be brought up. We did get a room upgrade at no extra cost though so – give and take!!

There is a stand in lobby bar area where you can pick up a daily sheet of UK news headlines, food schedule for the day and listings of entertainment for the evening.

Chocolate hour

Breakfast was my favourite meal of the day, the spread is brilliant.

But if you miss the breakfast buffet (6am-10.30am ) you can get this (a few pastries/croissants/bread/cake) in the lobby to keep you going until lunch time – just sit at a dressed table and wait to be served.

A two minute walk from the hotel to the left – bought a quite a few second hand books from this street seller for 4 Tunisian dinar each (£1.38)

Walk a bit further down (a minute or so) and you’ll discover this big supermarket (that nobody tells you about) They sell everything, household products, food, toiletries, clothes, toys, handbags, souvenirs – you name it.

The supermarket forms the start of a fairly long row of tourist focused shops, including a money exchange shop. We didn’t try this out, instead we changed all our money in the hotel – but it might be worth checking out whether they offer a more competitive rate.

 Across the road there are a few other shops within a 5 minute walk, including a small shopping mall and eateries.

Be warned, crossing the roads is a challenge. No pedestrian crossings, so you have to chance it  – kind drivers will sometimes slow down for you!!

Avoid going out during the morning or evening rush hour.

Other points:

  • Tips: We tipped whoever waited on us most nights (2 -5 dinar a time, depending on how attentive they were), and tipped the room maid once when I met her. It’s a poor country and tips make a huge difference to the low level staff.  Also tipped the porter on arrival and when leaving, plus the guy who checked us in since he upgraded our room.
  • The food selections are wide ranging with something for every taste, lovely deserts and plenty of fresh fruit
  • As you’d expect, ladies if you’re out and about being an innocent tourist you are very likely to be approached by local men, telling you how beautiful you are. They can be very persistent and start walking with you as if you had agreed to spend the day together – be warned.
  • Tunisia is a muslim country
  • Get a bag of those sugar coated nuts from the supermarket – they are dee-lish!!!

Remember to buy your exit stamps from the hotel before you check-out. The stamp costs 30 Tunisian dinar and must be stuck in your passport in order to get through the airport security for departures.  Thomas Cook didn’t bother to mention this when I was booking the holiday. Lots of people were being turned away from entering the departure area on the way home and sent back into the main airport to purchase a stamp, they were visibly distressed and anxious – completely unaware that they needed to make this purchase.  It pays to do your research before booking – even travel agents fail to provide essential information at times!!!!

Additionally, I had to point out to two members of Thomas Cook staff that it was unlawful to carry Tunisian dinar into Tunisia from abroad, or carry it out of Tunisia. They didn’t have a clue!!! And one of them was sitting behind the money exchange counter!!!

You can be arrested for taking dinar into or out of Tunisia  (by Tunisian authorities), and they are at liberty to carry out random stop and search procedures – for goodness sake how can travel agents not have a grip on this.  Bring your sterling and change it into dinar once you are in Tunisia – most of hotels offer a money exchange service.

Taxi drivers accept sterling pounds (if you haven’t pre-paid for transfers). Make sure you check that you have booked transfers – we saw several people thrown off our transfer bus (some with young children) because their names were not on the list.

We made sure we spent the last of our Tunisian dinar before we went through to departures.

The shopping area where you check-in still take dinar.

Note – once you pass through security and enter the duty free departure shopping area, all prices are in Euro (but I think they might accept pounds – they did for a bottle of water anyway).

When we arrived at the airport to come home we could not believe how many people were also coming home, this is the first time I’ve ever had to que up outside to get into an airport, it was like a crowd waiting to get into a concert or football match. I think the staff where a bit overwhelmed with the amount of people coming in.

When we did check-in, the women behind the desk didn’t bother to weigh our hand luggage!!!

Stanstead airport: where do I start. This was my first time flying from here and I was shocked at how small it was, but this isn’t a problem – I’ve flown from smaller airports abroad. The most shocking thing was the non existence of chairs for people to sit on while waiting to check-in for flights. I wish I had filmed the scene but felt it a bit of an invasion to do so. People were sleeping flat out on the floor everywhere you looked, it was far from dignified, and it looked like some sort of massive student/festival camp.  People were struggling to get comfortable. We were waiting a good few hours for our flight – stood up.

For a 2015 ‘London’ airport, this is way below par, given the people traffic.

To describe the pre check-in shopping area (next to arrivals) as ‘small’ is an understatement, it’s tiny. The only non fast food shop was a small WHSmith with not many books and the shop assistant was stood browsing at magazines while she told customers to pay for their goods using the machines!!!!

After check-in (which they didn’t call out for!!) the duty free shopping area had some lovely big shops, including Boots Chemist (where we planned to stock up on toiletries), but wait for it – you guessed it, they were all shut. Can you imagine!!!!!

So if you’re catching an early morning flight from Stanstead, don’t expect to buy toothpaste or suncream before you board. What a joke.

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