Day trip to Tangier, Morocco from Spain

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Ferry port Tangier, Morocco
View upon arriving, ferry port, Tangier, Morocco
OCTOBER, 2008 - During my trip to Spain, one of the things that I wanted to do was a day trip to Morocco. I had initially really wanted to make a few days of it and head south on the Marrakesh Express to Rabat and Marrakesh, but I didn't have the time so I stuck with the day trip. I had also heard good things about Tarifa, Spain, so after my stay in Granada I went to Tarifa where I was able to get a fast ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar into Tangier. The other option is to go to Algeciras, Spain, and take the ferry from there, but apparently there's not much to see there which is what made me pick Tarifa. Turns out Tarifa was the perfect choice.

Prior to my trip I found a lot of confusing and contradictory information about the trip to Tangier, but I will say that it is a piece of cake. From Tarifa it was about 60 Euros for a round trip ticket. You simply walk into the terminal which is walking distance from just about anywhere in town, then you buy your ticket and you're on the next boat to Africa! There is only one terminal, and one boat which leaves hourly if I remember correctly. Keep in mind that there is a one or two hour time difference between the two countries (depending on time of year), and also try to get an early start so you don't find yourself in Tangier after dark. Make sure you have your passport, and prepare for some serious culture shock. On the boat you can get your entry stamp in your passport which allows you to walk right off the boat and into the city. Some people seemed to say not to do it on the boat, but I did and I was able to get right off and go on my way -- in fact it looked like people who hadn't gotten their passport stamped on the boat were turned around and had to go back and get one, which seemed like nothing but a waste of their time.

There are official guides right at the port who are supposedly licensed to give tours, so if a guided tour is your thing, I would recommend going with one of them, otherwise prepare to be bombarded by locals who want to sell you things and give you "official" tours. With a prepared head and some self confidence I walked right by the official guides and headed right into the medina. But that didn't last long, as I soon saw how skilled these people are at making you second guess yourself and your preparedness. In retrospect I should have stuck with my instincts, but being a newbie in the city and trying to find my way around while having these touts tell me I wouldn't be safe and would only find my way with their help, my confidence was lowered and I "accidentally" ended up with someone showing me around. Of course, after 10 minutes he tried to charge me an arm and a leg and threatened me. I promptly gave him the equivalent of about 2 euros -- about 80% less than he wanted -- and quickly lost him.

Market stalls in Medina, Tangier, Morocco
Market stalls in Medina, Tangier, Morocco
If I were to enter in Tangier again, which I would undoubtedly do, I probably would do the same thing I did this time, with the exception of letting myself get suckered by the touts. Other than that one incident I had no problem with feeling unsafe, in fact after I lost him I soon befriended a few day trippers who were visiting from Mexico and had taken the same ferry over that I did, and we ended up having a great afternoon. I then spent the last hour alone again after splitting ways, and had no problems. The locals are very adept at finding people straight off the ferry who have yet to find their bearings, so just keep a cool head and act confident. If you can get through the first hour and past the initial touts, you should really be able to enjoy your trip. Even if you don't know where you are, pretend that you do and whatever you do, don't tell anyone it's your first trip to Tangier!

In an afternoon there isn't a whole lot to do other than wander around, laugh a little, and maybe try your hand at bargaining. Just remember that these people making their living doing what they do, and don't feel pressured. Also, even though you will probably feel lost, trust your intuition because you most likely won't get lost. You may temporarily lose your bearings, but most roads and alleys near the medina lead back to a main area, or at least to somewhere you can catch your bearings.

Some highlights for me where getting lost in the medina, having lunch in the Petit Socco with my new friends, the Grand Socco, the Kasbah, and heading further away from the medina where I was able to catch a look at the "real" Tangier that most day trippers don't see. Where the schools and local shops and businesses are, and where they don't cater to tourists. Prior to going I had almost decided not to even go because of the mixed information I was getting, but at the last minute I had some people in Tarifa tell me it was a must do since I was so close, and I am glad that I did.


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