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Any Tips for Tunisia? Follow up

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Old November 26th, 2008, 11:05 PM posted to rec.travel.europe,rec.travel.africa
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Default Any Tips for Tunisia? Follow up

First a brief summary of what I planned, if you want a full travelogue -
please ask (and tell me which group I should post in).

So as to what I booked. As mentioned my original question I had noticed on
the internet booking sites that there were (a few) 3* hotels offering rooms
at around 40 Euro and lots of 4* at 120 plus. I considered this to be an
unreasonable increment for the little (of value to me) extra that a 4*
offers, so I assumed that the 3 star offers were "special" and that I should
take advantage of them whilst there were there.

I had already booked the first night in Tunis as soon as I booked the
flight. I was due to arrive at 20:30 and didn't want the difficulty of
trying to find somewhere that late in the evening. The only hotel that I
could find for this date was the Carlton at 35 Euro. I didn't know at the
time but the guide book describes this as "lacking in warmth in both rooms
and staff attitude". Comments on Tripadvisor are mixed. Oh well, it's only
one night and is just 1km from the railway station (less from the terminus
of the airport bus).

I took account of the comment that I should try to get to Matmarta, but
could not find any hotels either there or in Gabes. Thus I decided to find
a hotel in Sousse and try for a day (or perhaps 2 day) trip. Off season
there are lots of hotels offering good rates in Sousse, but you have to be
careful. Whilst being described as "in the centre" most are actually in
Port El Kantaoui 8 km outside. This is no good at all for day trips by
train, so I booked the only one that I could find in Sousse centre - The
Sousse Palace at a phenomenal rate of 30 Euro per day half board! Comments
on Trip Advisor were also mixed, but this time ranged from "awful" to
"fantastic", so I didn't know what to expect, but at that price it wouldn't
be too disastrous if I decided not to stay there.

Both the above (and the flight) were booked with expedia.

And finally back to Tunis for three days. The Carlton was unavailable for
the dates, or perhaps it was because of the limited notice (not that I was
sure that I wanted this hotel) so I booked the Golf Royal at 51 Euro using
HRS. I was reluctant to do this because the map showed it as being a bit
outside the centre, but it was near a tram line and as I was arriving back
in the day-time I thought it would be OK. The only comment on this hotel is
in French.

Plan made - how did it go?

We arrived late and at Tunis the immigration process is slow, so it was well
after 21:00 before I got through the airport. I had established how to get
into town by bus, but when I found the stop it didn't have any information
to confirm my findings (and no sign of a bus). As it was late I decided
that I must suffer the taxi rogue. I negotiated the fare and was told it
was 20 dinar (10 pounds) for (according to the guide) 5 km. I thought this
expensive (and said so) be he was unmoved. He did use the meter and this is
what it said the fare was, but I had forgotten to check that it was at zero
when we started. I later discovered that it is actually 9km and that after
21:00 the fare rises by 50%, so whilst expensive by comparison with other
forms of transport (including paying for every seat in a louage!) not quit
as bad as I originally thought.

The hotel matched the guide's description. It was clean and tidy enough,
but the room was tiny, the bed hard and the staff not particularly friendly.
Fair value at the price, but would prefer something a bit better. Breakfast
was a normal, for my experiences in North Africa, buffet (aka not very

Next day I got the morning train to Sousse and walked the 100 metres to the
Sousse Palace. I actually expected it to be further than this as the beach
is another 200 metres away, but this suits me, I haven't come here to go to
the beach.

It is wonderful: large, comfortable, clean and tidy room. Can recommend this
at the winter price (and possibly even at the summer price). The bad part's
to come. The evening food! It's uniformly cold and the meat is of very
poor quality (the 20% that isn't bone, that is!). It is a full help
yourself buffet with lots of choice, but I don't think this compensates.
Even at only 6 Euro per night (12 in summer) I would have preferred not to
have this (they don't offer a choice for pre-bookings). Breakfast is
normal, for my experiences in North Africa, but slightly better than the

The Sousse is used by tour companies (TUI, Thomas Cook etc) and on the
notice board are lots of tour offers including a 2 day one to the desert.
But there was no-one from the tour companies available in the winter and no
obvious indication that it or any other tour was actually available then.
Having spent more time reading my guide books, I decide that it was
necessary to go to the desert for more time than I have available and that
(despite my original expectation) I would have to schedule a return visit to
the country to do this, so I spent every day in an around Sousse.

Finally back to Tunis. It seems that the map on HRS is wrong and that the
hotel is even nearer the centre than the Carlton, being half way between
that and the railway station - this mistake almost cost them a booking! The
hotel is nicer, room larger, bed more comfortable, the breakfast is much the
same though!

After three days of trips from Tunis I catch the bus back to the airport.
Half a dinar! It does go to the place that I found, but at only every 20
minutes during the day it could have been a long wait at 21:20.

Comments on prices:

Much to my surprise the price that I had been charged for all the hotels was
the official rack rate (less a very small discount in two cases), so I
needn't have bothered with the internet to get those prices. I also checked
up on the prices of other hotels whilst in Tunis and found a 5 star at
almost 200 Euro per night (excluding breakfast) and a no star at 20 Euro.
So the 3 star is definitely the way to go. I really don't understand why
people pay so much more money for so little extra in a 4 star. There are no
seasons in Tunis, the price that I paid was valid for all year, but in
Sousse I got the winter price. The summer price is more than 4 times as
much (and the spring/autumn price twice as much). If you are into touring,
and not "beach", you definitely want to go from Nov 1st to March 31st it was
still warm (though apparently Jan and Feb are very rainy).

And then there was the booking aggros. On my return I was ****ed of to find
that I had a spurious booking charge on my credit card. It was exactly 10%
of the Carlton room rate, from an unknown US company. There was nothing on
my booking info to suggest that I would receive this charge and I even tried
the booking process again and saw no mention of a fee. I won't be using
expedia as first choice again!

But much more importantly, the Golf Royal appears to blatantly overcharge.
The official price in the room is 63 Dinars single, 92 double and 100 (and
something) triple. I was charged 91 and asked to pay on arrival. I noticed
this discrepancy during my stay. But I couldn't be sure that this wasn't my
mistake in booking the wrong sized room as the hotel had kept my booking
information (as had the Sousse) and didn't want to make a fuss on such a
basis. So rule 1 for Tunisia, take two copies of all your booking info.
But now that I have got home again I have tried to book this hotel again and
it offers (via hrs) a single room, a double room for single occupancy and a
triple for single occupancy all at rates 30% more than the official rate.
This has really annoyed my (on principle). But what can I do. The credit
card company aren't going to be interested as I was charged the rate that I
agreed. The hotel may have broken some local law by charging this rate but
the CC aren't going to care about this. I'll take it up with HRS and see
what happens.



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