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All of the Tunisian officials that checked us into the country in Bizerte were super nice and respectful to us, both during the process and afterwards when we met them on later at the marina. No drawers were opened at all they simply asked us some questions. Now the boat that was docked right next to us had a very different experience from the same officials and had been asked for a gift. They were very offended and were very vocal about their dissatisfaction and left at first light the next day into half of a gale. From what I gathered in talking to the officials (In Bizerte they live right next to the marina) , there are a lot of boats that sail to Tunisia to check in for one day to reset their Schengen clock and are not there to spend any money. Right or wrong this seems to grate on the nerves of some (remember these people don’t have much) Tunisians which feel that they are being used as a means to lower the rich mans tax bill at no benefit to their country. I knew about the possibility that I might be asked for a gift and so long as it was not out of line I was prepared to pay it. I think that we may have been treated differently than the neighbouring boat because when the officials asked us if we would be leaving soon we told them that no we wanted to see their country and asked for suggestions on where to go and what to see and ended up with a lot of good ideas. We found pretty much anything that we needed in Bizerte and met some amazing people.
Really sorry that you had such a bad experience with the Customs in Tunisia since you otherwise might have had a great time there. And yes I agree that it is wrong that officials would ever ask for a “gift” and especially to harass you in anyway to extract the gift from you. For myself I just saw this as a risk and a potential cost of going there so was prepared to not be offended, I mean in when I think about how much it cost for me to buy, prepare and sail my boat there, a few extra dollars to ruin the experience did not seem to make sense.
We felt that the country is a pretty amazing place, safe and there is a lot to see. We plan to go back if we get the chance.
All the best and I hope that you enjoy your future cruising,
SV Sueno, Maramu #220