A popular excursion for many tourists in the south of Spain is to take a day trip to Tangier, Morocco. Bell and I booked our tour through a local travel agency while in Rota, Spain. Our tour included the ferry ride from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, guided bus tour of the Tangier area, lunch in a local restaurant, and guided walking tour of the city. There are some serious pros and cons to contemplate when thinking whether a day trip to Tangier, Morocco is worth it. Here is the rundown if you are considering this trip:
For some, this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Africa and tick it off the bucket list. The view of Morocco’s Atlas mountains from the ferry and approach into Tangier is dramatic, and a beautiful memory you will never forget.
Tangier is not the nicest Moroccan city and many who visit here never want to set foot in Morocco again. This was the case with friends we traveled there with and also others in our tour group. If you are planning a trip to Marrakesh in the future, you might want to skip the day trip to Tangier. It may put you off from ever returning.
You get to ride a camel in Africa. Yes they are smelly and a bit erratic, but this was one of the highlights of the day. It’s your opportunity to feel like Lawrence of Arabia, even if you’re with a large tour group and are simply led around in a small circle, with lots of people taking photos amid a circus like atmosphere. Stare off in the distance, not at your wife pointing the video camera at you.
You will not have the opportunity to patronize any small business not affiliated or getting a kickback with the tour company. During the guided walking tour of Tangier’s old quarter you are taken past several small bakeries along small alleys, and the guides quickly pointed out how bread is made the old fashioned way- in stone ovens. The bread looked and smelled amazing from the small glimpse we had. But when one member of the tour group asked if we could buy some bread he was told “chop chop, we must go!” There was, however, loads of time to spend on their friends: there was an hour a piece in the big carpet/ lousy trinket and spice warehouses, but no time to give a few bucks to a local small business where people actually wanted
to spend money. There was never an opportunity to have a coffee at a local cafe (you could have one at lunch which was decent, but again, big restaurant on the take with the tour company).
Pro: It is a great opportunity to buy all kinds of Moroccan spices, one of the most typical items associated with Morocco. The spice “doctor” will give you a long run down of the many options on hand. There are spices to help you sleep, diet, improve sinuses, stop snoring and even for treatment of herpes. Yeah sure. I forget if they were selling a cure for cancer too. However, many of the spices were cheap. We bought 3 orange blossom oils which are very relaxing at 3 for 10 euros- that’s much cheaper than the Body Shop. The cooking spice we picked up is also pretty good. Though there could have been more cooking spice options.
You will be hassled ALL day. Street peddlers will literally follow you all day after lunch (when the tour goes very downhill). They will get in your face and persistently badger you to buy some seriously dumb trinkets. It is hot and if you are already tired and dehydrated, it will begin to break you down mentally. You will not want to negotiate with the street peddlers, even if you are interested in their items. They initially ask huge markups and it’s an unnecessary war to bring them down to a fair price. They take Westerners for granted and truly ruin the Moroccan experience. And we came to discover that the guides were behind about 90% of our hassling. You might even miss your scheduled ferry out of Morocco and subsequent bus connection from Tarifa to Cadiz. The guides took us back late, after senselessly leaving us to the vulchers in a small side street for one last bombardment of street hasslers. A group of us missed our ferry and had to wait an additional 2 hours for the next one, this caused some to miss their “included” bus connection and be responsible for their transport out of pocket.
To sum up, it’s a tough call and depends what you want. If you want a relaxing day in Morocco, don’t do it. If you want a frenzied, interesting, TIA (This Is Africa) day, definitely put on your Nikes. Just be forewarned: Make sure to get a good nights sleep and have plenty of bottled water on you. After lunch the opportunities to purchase water were senselessly obsolete. Beverages are never offered at the ripoff carpet factory (unlike in Turkey where they have the common courtesy and good business sense to do so). Prices asked by street peddlers and the carpet factory are inflated by at least 400%. You can get items for 1/5 of the initial asking price, but be prepared to work for it and feign interest.
We have heard mixed reviews on exploring Tangier without a tour group. If you’ve done so please let us know!