For the second leg of our journey we left Gabes and the family behind to join the capital Tunis in order to catch a plane the next day at Tunis Carthage airport. We had originally planned to take a louage, a form of public transport popular in Tunisia but at the last minute my husband booked us some tickets on the 4 o’clock train. We really should have taken a louage…
As I explained briefly in Part 1 the current situation in Libya makes it impossible to fly from Libyan airports so in order to reach the UK we had to fly from Tunis Airport.
Details of the journey
Length: 450 km
Travel Time: should have been 6 hours was 8 hours
Travel Tips: young children do not pay to take the train but that means they ‘re not entitled to a seat and when it gets packed you have to take them on your lap. With the heat and for that long it’s just too much so buy them a ticket.
With a plane to catch around noon on the 5th it was necessary to leave Gabes a day early and spend the night in Tunis. We left our own car behind and therefore needed public transport and we first opted for a louage but for some reason my husband thought it would be better to take the train.
I had taken the night train to Tunis the year before and I remember all too clearly the journey: 6 hours in a crowded train without any AC, bad smells, no leg room whatsoever but plenty cockroaches… enough said. I wasn’t really keen to try that again but my husband booked some 1st class tickets and assured me they had AC and it would be fine.
It turned out to be not quite as bad as the previous trip but can’t say it was good either. We did get more room and no roaches the AC was working ok but as usual the train was beyond packed and our leg room soon had to be given up for other people’s luggage and children. A lady with 3 children ended up taking my son’s seat and promptly dropped her heavy melons on my feet. However the lady and her girls were nice and we chatted a bit with broken Arabic and French, shared our sandwiches and swapped some stories.
In the end the train arrived almost 2 hours late and we were all dead tired. At the station we struggled to find a taxi. This is not the first time we have trouble getting a taxi in Tunis. Those guys are very picky and choose their customers as they please and if they do take you they will rip you off especially at midnight without another taxi in sight. We hadn’t booked a hotel so we just drove to the Carlton on Avenue Bourguiba where we had stayed before (excellent service and prices, ideal location in city centre and very friendly staff) but they had no room left. However they offered to drive us to another hotel not far free of charge.
Let’s just say that next time I will book us a room at the Carlton. That other hotel was more expensive and the service terrible (I’m a little fussy it’s true but when you come into the room and the floor is dirty it doesn’t give the right impression): rooms barely clean, broken furniture, no WiFi and breakfast was a small selection of bland tasteless food. Not even drinking water! we had to pay 2 dinars for a small bottle of mineral water. A hotel I won’t be coming back to but at least we managed to catch some sleep and a long bath in the morning which is good.
We then booked a taxi to take us and our many suitcases to the airport. Once again dealing with taxis was not easy the driver initially refused to take us because of excess luggage then he wouldn’t accept the actual fees but insisted on charging us a flat “airport package” fee. After a lot of going back and forth it was getting late so we agreed to his fare. Still he grumbled and mumbled all the way about how greedy WE were?!?!
Train tickets x2: 50 dinars
Hotel room with breakfasts: 150 dinars (totally overpriced)
Taxis: 10 dinars (for a 5 minute drive) then another 10 dinars to the airport (actual meter fee was 4 dinars).
We are heading to the UK now flying to London Heathrow. We will spend our time in England between London and Birmingham in order to organise the last leg of our journey which should take us to our new expat destination.
Continue with the other posts in the On the Move Again Series:
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