If you’re on your first trip to Tunisia you’re probably wondering what in the world is a louage? How do I even pronounce it? And how am I supposed to use one to get around Tunisia?
A louage – pronounced LOO AHJ – is a minibus share taxi and popular means of transportation throughout Tunisia. The word in French literally means “rental” as in voiture de louage or rental car. These vans do not run at specific times but rather depart when full from louage stations located in just about any city worth visiting.
A louage is the one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get around Tunisia. They are much faster than the buses and do not make intermediate stops which saves significant amounts of time. Generally a ticket for a 2-3 hour trip will cost around $5.
There are several kinds of louages, but the most common for visitors are the intercity ones. These are white with a red stripe which signifies their long distance status. Other louages of different colors can be seen around Tunis but these are generally for shorter local routes. The main louage station in Tunis is located here.
To board a louage, you will need to buy a ticket from one of the ticket windows at the local station. Once purchased, drivers near the ticket windows will be shouting city names. Wait for your city name to be called or just start showing your ticket to drivers and then you will be linked up with one who will keep your ticket stub. The driver will show you to his van and then wait for it to fill. Along major routes and during regular hours, this process won’t take more than a few minutes. Only at smaller locations without a formal ticket office are you able to pay the driver directly.
If you’re traveling with a large suitcase, you might have to buy an extra seat in the van, but my backpack along with other smaller passenger luggage was easily able to fit in the trunk.
I initially thought the louage experience was going to be a major hassle, but I quickly learned that it is an easy, cheap, and fun way of getting around Tunisia. It reminded me a lot of marshrutkas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. If only it was this easy to get around in America!