The idea of a hotel quarantine in Tunisia is not new to me. I wrote a detailed account of my hotel quarantine experience in July 2020 back when Tunisia used a colour-code system to classify countries based on their epidemiological risks.
My wife and I recently traveled from the USA to Tunisia on May 14, 2021. At the time of our travel, the Tunisian government required all travellers arriving into Tunisia to: 1) present a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate with results no later than 72 hours prior to departure, 2) present a completed Health Declaration Form, and 3) book a government approved quarantine hotel for a mandatory 7 days quarantine upon arrival. A self-funded Covid-19 PCR test must be conducted on the 5th day, and you may leave the hotel on the 7th day if the test result is negative. Travellers who have received the Covid-19 vaccination dosage or those who have previously contracted Covid-19 and have now received one dosage of the vaccine may quarantine in a private residence instead of a government approved hotel.
While there are many government travel advisories and airline websites that outline the mandatory hotel requirement in Tunisia, there seems to be a lack of information on what the hotel quarantine in Tunisia is actually like. The following is my detailed account of my international travel and hotel quarantine experience in Hammamet Garden Hotel from May 15-22, 2021.
From USA to Tunisia
Atlanta to Washington: Using the United Airlines self-service check-in kiosk at the Atlanta airport was straightforward until a notification appeared on the screen prompting further assistance from an airline staff. A friendly staff requested to see a copy of our negative Covid-19 PCR test and our completed Health Declaration Form. While Tunisia requires our Covid-19 PCR test result to be no later than 72 hours, our transit through Germany requires a Covid-19 PCR test result to be no later than 48 hours. The airline staff checked that we have all the proper documents and then proceeded to assist us with our checked baggage and boarding passes.
Washington to Frankfurt: Our first flight arrived safely to Washington. The airline crew at the gate for our next flight requested all passengers to present their negative Covid-19 PCR test result that is no later than 48 hours as required to enter into Germany. Once the airline staff has confirmed our test certificates, our boarding passes were stamped to indicate we have met the travel requirements. This added procedure delayed our flight for about 10 minutes, but by the time I browsed through the in-flight movie selections and picked a movie to watch, we were up in the air flying toward Germany.
Frankfurt to Tunis: If you have never transited through the Frankfurt airport, then you need to know that it is BIG. Expect to walk a lot through this large airport. You’ll likely need to take a shuttle train to travel from one terminal to the next, and be prepared for a security check when entering into another terminal. My wife and I rushed through the terminal thinking we might be late for our next flight, but we were welcomed at our gate with a line of passengers waiting to present their documents for verification. This time, the airline staff required to see your negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate, a completed Health Declaration Form, and a quarantine hotel reservation. Once again, our flight was slightly delayed due to this added document verification procedure, but we’re finally headed off to Tunisia!
Arrival at Tunis-Carthage International Airport
Passengers arriving in the Tunis-Carthage International Airport will be required to queue in a line to submit your negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate and completed Health Declaration Form to airport officials. The single file line lacked any sort of proper formation, but it will eventually lead to official airport staff who will collect your documents. Note that your documents will not be returned to you after you have submitted them, so make sure to print extra copies beforehand if needed.
After submitting your documents, you will proceed to queue at the airport customs for the typical customs check. You will need to submit your completed Visitor’s Card to the customs officer. You should have received a Visitor’s Card on your flight to Tunisia. If you don’t have one, you may obtain one at the back of the customs area.
After clearing customs, proceed through a security scanner to the baggage claim area. It is very likely that your checked baggage is already on the baggage carousel by this time.
Once you have all of your luggage, you can proceed to leave the arrival terminal. An airport staff will determine whether you meet the requirement to quarantine in a private residence or quarantine in a government hotel. As of May 15, 2021, you may only quarantine in a private residence if you have received Covid-19 vaccination dosage or if you have previously contracted Covid-19 and have now received one dosage of the vaccine. If you are eligible to quarantine in a private residence, you can leave the arrival terminal. If you need to quarantine in a hotel, the airport staff will give you an “inspection card” with the words “signature and stamp” written in Arabic.
Take this inspection card and retrace your steps back toward the customs area located near the Orange telecom booth. Airport staff will be located there to collect your inspect card.
Enter into the customs area and proceed to the rightmost lane to walk toward the bus transfer area. Here an airport staff will check your passport and verify your quarantine hotel reservation before directing you to the bus for your hotel transfer.
Several buses are lined up waiting to depart to various areas where the quarantine hotels are located. My wife and I loaded our luggage into the bus headed to the Hammamet tourist zone. You may need to wait for some time for your bus to fill out before departure. A police escort will lead the way once the bus is ready to depart.
Hotel Check-In at Hammamet Garden Hotel
It took about 45 minutes to travel from the Tunis-Carthage International Airport to our destination at Hammamet Garden Hotel. We unloaded our luggage from the bus and proceeded to check-in at the hotel reception.
The receptionist verified our hotel reservation and gave us a standard registration form to fill out some basic information that is required at all hotels throughout Tunisia. A hotel staff carrying a bottle of disinfectant liquid came by and sprayed all of our luggage for disinfection.
Since we arrived to the hotel at 3pm, the receptionist kindly asked whether we were hungry and wanted food delivered to our room. This was a pleasant surprise as we were exhausted and hungry from our long international travel, so we happily accepted the offer for a meal delivery.
Hotel Quarantine in Hammamet Garden Hotel
The overall quarantine experience was very similar to my hotel quarantine last year, but there was one significant difference that made this experience much more enjoyable. Yes, it’s true that my wife was joining me this time. But besides that, the hotel allowed us to freely walk around outside our room as long as we do not leave the hotel premise. Swimming and the use of some facilities are off-limit, but just being able to walk around the outdoor garden or to be able to read a book on a lounge chair outside made the quarantine a much better experience. On top of all these, we also had a balcony in our room with a spectacular view.
What about the meals? A small table was placed outside of each hotel room. Meals are delivered and placed onto this small table 3 times each day: breakfast at 8:30am, lunch at 12:30pm and dinner at 8:30pm.
Breakfasts in Tunisia are typically very basic with coffee, yogurt, bread, cake, egg, jam and honey. Lunch and dinner menus are different everyday but always comprise of a combination of meat, vegetable, salad and bread. The lunch/dinner meal variations make a great way for newcomers in Tunisia to sample a variety of Tunisian cuisine each day from couscous to ojja to merguez to tagine to selata mishwiya (grilled salad), etc.
Room cleaning service was not available throughout the entire hotel quarantine. Requests can be made any time to replenish your towels, hair shampoo, hair conditioner and soap. A 1.5-litre water bottle, a roll of toilet paper and a garbage bag is also delivered in front of your door each day. Garbage will need to be tied up in the garbage bag provided and placed outside of your room to be disposed by the hotel staff.
Covid-19 PCR Testing at Hammamet Garden Hotel
We were told that a nurse will come knock on our door for our Covid-19 PCR testing on our 5th day of quarantine and. What we were not told was that the nurse would come knocking at 5:45am in the morning. This was different than my previous quarantine experience where the receptionist called my hotel room to inform me of a scheduled appointment with the nurse at the hotel lobby. Nonetheless, the Covid-19 PCR test process was very brief. The nurse requested us to bring a chair to the door where we sat down while she administered the nose swab standing outside the door. We were informed our test results would be available at the hotel reception by 1pm the same day.
We retrieved the Covid-19 PCR test results at the hotel reception in the afternoon. Both of our results came back negative! We were permitted to check-out of the hotel early since we both tested negative, but we opted to stay for our entire 7 days reservation at the hotel since we had already made arrangements for transportation. Note that quarantine hotels may provide transportation from the airport to the hotel, but you are responsible for arranging your own transportation once you check-out. The hotel reception would certainly be able to help to arrange a taxi service for you if needed.
From Staycation to a Holiday Vacation
What to do after your hotel quarantine in Tunisia? Going on a private Tunisia tour is one of the best ways to truly experience Tunisia and its amazing cultural and historical attractions. Your Tunisia tour can be fully personalized with your travel preference in mind and the tour will begin with a pick-up directly from your quarantine hotel. Get ready to go back in time in ancient Dougga or walk in the picturesque Sidi Bou Said or satisfy your inner galactic spirit by visiting the Star Wars film locations throughout Tunisia. Contact one of our Tunisia Travel Experts and you can start planning your Tunisia tour within 24 hours.