Vacations in North Africa in 2013 seem to be the sophisticated traveler's best-kept secret. Let's face it: The dollar is weaker today than at any time since the late 1970s. That means that our vacation budgets, if we travel outside the USA, will buy us less overseas than we'd like. A comfortable hotel near Mayfair in London these days could easily run $ 500 a night. And you would pay even more in Paris or Rome. Who can afford it? Is there anywhere left in the world that is accessible, luxurious, with interesting sites to visit, mouth-watering cuisine, opulent hotels, a balmy climate, but that won't put you in bankruptcy?
You bet there is! North Africa is the destination of choice for the well informed who want to live the good life at low cost. From Morocco to Tunisia to Algeria, you will find the best holidays of 2013 available anywhere on the planet. You can savor 5-star dining in Tunis, visit the charming souks of Marrakech and Fez, bask on exotic and uncongested beaches along the thousand-mile coast of the Southern Med while enjoying windsurfing and scuba-diving in warm, inviting waters, and all this in a year-round climate that rivals that of Santa Barbara, California. Best of all, it will cost you far less than a US-based holiday of lesser quality and comfort.
Once you are in North Africa, should you feel venturesome enough (and rich enough) to spend a day or two in Europe, you can easily do it for minimal plane fare. Tunis is closer to Rome by air than Los Angeles is to San Francisco. We forget how small the Mediterranean Basin is because we think of it in terms of ancient history – Roman galleys and sailing ships. In this modern world, you can zip all around the Med by air speedily and cheaply.
Why is North Africa such a bargain this year? Partly it has to do with exchange rates, but perhaps more has to do with the selective nature of the opportunities available to travelers who are both smart and venturesome.
Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria are the three destinations that provide the optimum mix of variety, comfort, and safety. Tragically, Libya's tourist industry was just beginning to take off before the revolution that toppled that nation's quixotic dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011 and it has yet to recover. Something like 150,000 tourists visited Libya's ancient Greek and Roman ruins and her breathtaking Sahara desert landscapes in 2006, before the trouble peaked, and the entire nation even then had only about 10,000 hotel beds.
In 2012, in the aftermath of the so-called "Arab Spring," Tunisia hosted over 7 million tourists, 50 times the volume in Libya. Tiny, safe Tunisia, a fraction the size of Libya, has over 210,000 hotel beds. And here's the best news of all: You can stay in a 5-star hotel in Tunisia for less than half the cost of equivalent accommodation in Europe, sometimes one-third the cost. Tourism is by far the largest hard currency earner in Tunisia, accounting for ten per cent of the entire economy of the country. Tunisian hoteliers know what they are doing. The number of annual visitors to Tunisia is approximately equal to the nation's entire population! Tunisia is, above all, a place that knows how to welcome honored guests.
Then why is it that almost no one in America hears about Tunisia as a vacation destination? Tunisia's millions of visitors mainly originate from France, Germany, Italy, and Great Britain. Fewer than one-half of one per cent of Tunisia's tourists come from the United States, and most of those arrive on cruise ships in Tunis's magnificent harbor, spending only a few hours in this little-known but fabulous country. You can enjoy Tunisia at little cost and have a vacation there that will rank among the finest you have ever experienced.
The same goes for vacations in Morocco (a favored destination for Americans since Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman made "Casablanca" in 1942, putting Morocco on the cultural map forever), and Algeria, which is lesser known but quickly developing vacation opportunities that rival her two neighbors.
Let's put to rest right away concerns you have about security. Let's say you are a single woman planning a trip to Algeria, Tunisia, or Morocco. This might be the reaction you get from your family and friends: –
"Aren't you scared? Look at all those demonstrations and upheavals we saw on CNN three years ago! Isn't North Africa a terrorist risk? I think you should think twice and cancel! Go visit Aunt Emily in beautiful downtown Detroit instead! "
In fact, you should not cancel! The odds are overwhelming that you will have a great holiday. Here are the facts: Tunisia is where the "Arab Spring" began, in an effort by Tunisians to achieve democracy and political freedom. Even at the height of the turmoil, and ever since then, not a single tourist has been harmed in connection with the political upheaval.
Tunisia remains far safer today than most American cities. Tunisia depends on happy visitors to survive economically, visitors who want to come back for more. And so you will be thrilled and delighted at the locals you encounter, from taxi drivers to waiters at your hotel, and the lengths they will go to welcome you. And you will also discover just how many Tunisians speak fluent English. Almost all Tunisians are tri-lingual, and many speak four languages.
So enjoy your stay in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco! You will likely enjoy perfect weather, warm sunshine, and cerulean blue skies. Whether in the heart of her cities or on your excursions into North Africa's deserts or beaches, you will everywhere be enveloped with a welcoming comfort. In 2013, it is clear that the most glamorous destinations for an American seeking a fabulous but inexpensive holiday lie in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.