Egypt vs. Tunisia: Which is best to travel?

by author David Jones

Egypt and Tunisia both offer the beauty of the desert coupled with some of the best diving spots in the world. Each country is rich with history, though if you’re looking for Wonders of the World you know where to go. Tunisia is famed for the Holy City and capital of the Islamic religion. It also offers a number of enticing tourist attractions and a cheaper overall cost. With a similar climate and cuisine, it can be difficult to know which destination to choose. Take a look at this comprehensive guide to figure out which country is best for you.

Currency and Cost of Living

The average daily cost of a low-budget holiday in Egypt is $9.31, excluding accommodation and food. Hotels generally charge an average of $9.90 for a couple’s bedroom and food costs approximately $2.33 per day. Surprisingly hotels in Tunisia are slightly pricier than Egypt at an average of $10 per day. However, food and other expenses are typically lower and Tunisia is known to be the cheaper country. At the end of the day you can find bargains in either country, and both are more affordable than Europe.

In Egypt the local currency is the pound, the Egyptian pound that is! Euros, dollars and sterling notes are all accepted by many establishments in Egypt. However, most local businesses will charge extra for anything other than Egyptian pounds. In Tunisia, the currency is the Tunisian Dinar and it is currently almost five times more valuable than Egyptian pounds. Despite this, Tunisia is still better value for money and British pounds, Dollars and Euros are all happily accepted.

Outdoor Activities

Egypt and Tunisia both feature a striking combination of desert and coastline for the best of both worlds. As a result, each of these fabulous countries offers a range of activities related to the water and the sand. Travelers can experience the beauty of the desert from a camel’s back, or soaring above in a hot air balloon. Snorkeling and scuba diving are offered in both countries, but in Egypt, you can swim with dolphins. You can also dive in one of the world’s top diving spots, the Red Sea. On the other hand, in Tunisia you can deep dive to see the majestic shipwrecks. Each destination has a number of islands for travelers to explore, and soak up the beauty of their natural surroundings.

Egypt is more popular than Tunisia, due to the fame of the pyramids, the Nile and the Red Sea. The benefit of visiting Egypt is that you can cruise the Nile and take in the view of ancient Egyptians. The fascinating culture-rich country also offers private plane tours, which aren’t common in Tunisia. However, Tunisia features an authentic experience of camping in the Sahara Desert. Both countries offer quad bikes for hire which are super fun to ride over the soft desert sand. The dunes also attract a number of sand boarders, while beginners can simply sit on the boards and slide down.

Climate and Tourist Season

Although both countries are considered Mediterranean, the climates of Egypt and Tunisia are slightly different. In Egypt the weather is either extremely cold or incredibly hot. Be sure to pack for both conditions as the night time can get surprisingly cool even in mid-summer. Winter in Egypt is cool, humid and windy with some rain. It can even snow on Mount Sinai during an Egyptian winter, but in summer temperatures reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The best time to experience Egypt is between September and April, when temperatures average at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The Red Sea is known for its warm waters, and scuba diving is pleasant year-round in many of the Egyptian waters.

Tunisia is also very hot in the summer months, with temperatures reaching a high of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Although not quite as hot as Egypt, the summers are particularly dry. The best time to visit Tunisia is between April and June, or alternatively during September and October. These are the shoulder seasons for Tunisian tourism, so you won’t have to fight with the crowds. While the heat of Tunisian spring and autumn can go on for weeks, the temperature cools in the evenings. With such similar climates, it seems that you will have to base your decision on something other than the weather!

Beautiful Scenery

Egypt and Tunisia are both gorgeous destinations, and not only made up of a desert expanse. Egypt features the Nile river, the Red Sea, a 1800 mile coastline and the pyramids of course. It also has fourteen beautiful islands but 96 percent of Egypt is the dry, sandy desert. In contrast Tunisia’s coastline is 713 miles, with a far more diverse terrain. While approximately 25 percent of Tunisia is officially classified as desert, the rest of the country is still quite dry. There are several caves, mountains and volcanoes in Tunisia though, which are quite remarkable to explore.

The main river that runs through Tunisia is the Medjerda, and there are two inland lakes. The most beautiful aspect of both Egypt and Tunisia, is undoubtedly their gorgeous coral reefs. The Red Sea in particular is known for its turquoise waters and exquisite colored fish. The reefs themselves are gorgeous too, with exotic hues and organic shapes swaying in the waters. Egypt has more marine life on show for divers, with everything from sharks to octopus visible through the crystal waters. The top pick is definitely Egypt, for the pyramids and marine life.

Architecture and Art

The pyramids of Giza are one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and feature high on many a bucket list. The beautiful structures were built as tombs for ancient pharaohs, and date back to approximately 2600 BC! There is also the legendary Sphinx to be seen, a giant sculpture of a cat with a human head. Tourists are allowed to enter inside the pyramids, although apparently not much can be seen from within. Egypt is also home to a number of awe-inspiring ancient temples, their pillars towering high from the desert sands. The ruins of these incredible historical architecture are still mostly intact, testimony to the construction of the time.

While Tunisia does not offer any Wonders of the World, it still has some pretty impressive architecture. The Amphitheater of El Djem is a World Heritage site, the largest Roman remains in North Africa. Located in the town of El Djem, the gladiatorial arena was built to hold 35000 spectators. The film “Gladiator” was filmed at the location, adding to its tourist appeal. Tunisia also offers the unique opportunity to experience the century old Berber culture, including their famous pottery. Matmata is another popular attraction in Tunisia, as it was the set of the first Star Wars film.

Cuisine and Famous Restaurants

Both Egypt and Tunisia offer a range of simple, healthy cuisine typical of a Mediterranean diet. Emphasis is on plant-based whole foods, making both countries ideal for vegetarians and vegans alike. Legumes are a staple in many of the traditional dishes, but there are also plenty of meaty options. Meat eaters beware that if you aren’t comfortable with eating rabbits, that they might be on the menu in Egypt! Mediterranean influences include the delicious mezze platters, hummus, shawarmas and baba ganoush. Kebabs and Dolmades are also readily available.

Falafel, cous cous and salads are also widely available in each country and this makes for a healthy and nutritious trip! Tunisia and Egypt are both famous for their dates, which are harvested from mid-September to December. Not to be missed is the delicious “Date Candy” which is said to be a 3600 year old recipe. The sweet desert is made by stuffing dates with chopped nuts which are then “fried” in honey to seal them. Date balls and pitted dates are also popular in both Tunisia and Egypt, but the best way to taste these sweets of nature is fresh.

Culture and History

Egypt is home to the ancient art of belly dancing, and many restaurants offer a live show for diners. There are also classes and tours available for both beginner and advanced belly dancers. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities offers tourists the chance to immerse themselves deeply in the culture and history of Egypt. Based in Cairo, the museum showcases hieroglyphics, the gold mask of Tutankhamen and a number of statues and mummies. Tourists will also want to make a stop at the Valley of the Kings, to see the tomb of Tutankhamen and Nefertiti.

Spiritualists and members of the Islam religion will want to visit Tunisia to see the holy city of Kairouan. The sacred city is the Islamic Cultural Capital and a World Heritage Site. The National Bardo Museum is rich in history; however, it is rated second to the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. With the largest collection of mosaics in the world, the Museum offers a unique glimpse into millennia of Tunisian history. The museum was founded in 1888 and is housed in an old Tunisian palace.

Public Transport

In Tunisia there are a number of public transport options, but not all of them are reliable and safe. Camionnettes are pick-up trucks used in place of louage taxis and buses, and the only means of getting to rural areas. The Louages are shared minibus taxis that present a safer mode of transportation for inner city travelling. These are used by locals and leave when they are full, as opposed to running on a scheduled timetable. Louages cost roughly the same amount as buses, but are a faster and more convenient transport option. There are also a few trains, which tend to run late, though the network is extensive. As fuel is relatively cheap in the area, there is also the option of hiring a car or motorbike too.

There is a metro system in Cairo, with 61 stops that can take you all over the city, but not in the rest of Egypt. Taxis are common all over Egypt, and are an inexpensive mode of transportation. There is also a train system, best used for long distances only, as it is slow and unreliable time-wise. Egypt offers the option of Tuk Tuks, a three-wheeled taxi typical of Thailand, which can be cheaper than taxis. If you want to travel like a local, you can hop onto the backs of a pick-up truck, but these are not very safe. Then there are the microbuses, similar to the Louages of Tunisia, with no set schedule. In Egypt there are some areas where tourists are not permitted to use the microbuses.

Crime and Safety

Given that both Egypt and Tunisia are located in Africa, it’s surprising that the countries are actually fairly safe. Statistically, Egypt is rated 75.23 percent safe to walk alone during the day, and Tunisia follows closely behind at 73.10 percent. Even at night the risk is only moderate, with Egypt coming in at 51.63 percent safe and Tunisia at 48.58 percent. These numbers reflect the low chance of a mugging or violent crime.

However, Egypt has been the victim of a number of terrorist attacks, including four in 2018 and three in 2019. These attacks typically target mosques and churches, due to the religious warfare of the region. While it is unlikely that foreigners will be marked, there is a risk of an attack happening in a public place and causing serious harm. Tunisia is also plagued by terrorism, and is currently in the midst of a declared state of emergency.

Despite the risks tourism is picking up in the regions, with authorities giving the go-ahead for tourists to visit. It is generally advised to steer clear of Tunisian borders and to stay vigilant at religious sites or events. The chances of being caught in a terrorist attack are statistically unlikely. The positive spin-off is that the state of the economy has opened a window of opportunity for budget travelers. Many are heading to Tunisia and Egypt to experience the gorgeous coral reefs and see the pyramids for themselves.