A popular excursion for many tourists in the south of Spain is to take a day trip to Tangier, Morocco. Bell and I booked a tour through a local travel agency while staying with friends on the Spanish/US Naval base in Rota, Spain. The guided tour included the ferry ride from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier (which takes 1 hour and 15 minutes each way), guided bus tour of the Tangier area, lunch in a local restaurant, and guided walking tour of the city. Here are some pros and cons if you’re considering whether a day trip to Tangier, Morocco is worth it, specifically a big guided tour.
Possible Once in a Lifetime Opportunity to Visit Morocco = Pro!
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 Best Moroccan city to visit = Con!
Tangier is not the nicest Moroccan city and many that visit 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 know you’ll visit a more picturesque Moroccan town in the future, you might want to skip the day trip to Tangier. Towns like Marrakesh, Essaouira and Fes are all more worthwhile compared to Tangier.
You Can Ride a Camel in Africa = Pro?
You have the opportunity 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 husband pointing the camera at you.
If You Do a Tour, You May Not Have an Opportunity to Patronize Authentic Moroccan Businesses = Con!
You may not have the opportunity to patronize any small business not affiliated with the tour company. This was the case during our tour. During the guided walking tour of Tangier’s old quarter we were taken past several small bakeries along small alleys. The guide quickly pointed out how bread is made the old fashioned way, in stone ovens. The bread looked and smelled amazing. But when one member of our group asked if we could buy some bread he was told “chop chop, there’s no time, we must go!”
There was, however, plenty of time to patronize their friends. We had an hour a piece in the carpet and trinket shop and an hour with the spice doctor. 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 even have a coffee at a local cafe (you could have one at lunch which was decent, but Restaurant Hammadi is just a big tourist joint affiliated with the tour company).
Purchasing Moroccan Spices in Morroco = 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” gave a long presentation of everything on hand. There are spices to help you sleep, diet, improve sinuses, stop snoring and even for treatment of herpes. I think he was even selling a natural cure for cancer too (cue eye rolling).
Some of the spices are cheap and good quality. We bought three orange blossom oils which are very relaxing before bed. And at three for 10 euros, that’s much cheaper than the Body Shop. The cooking spice we bought is also pretty good. We wished there were more cooking spices for sale as the choices were small.
You Will Be Hassled to Make Purchases Much of the Day = Con!
You will be hassled much of the day. Street vendors will follow you around after lunch (when the tour goes very downhill). They will get in your face and persistently pester you to buy their trinkets. If it’s hot and if you’re already tired and dehydrated, you’ll lose interest in negotiating with the street vendors, even if you’re interested in their items. They initially ask huge markups and it’s an unnecessary war to bring them down to a fair price.
We discovered that the guides were behind 90% of our hassling. You might even miss your scheduled ferry out of Morocco and subsequent bus connection from Tarifa to Cadiz. The guides dropped us off at the ferry port late, after senselessly leaving us in a small side street for one last bombardment of extremely pushy street merchants. A group of us missed our ferry and had to wait an additional two hours for the next one. This caused some to miss their “included” bus connection and be responsible for a very late transfer out of pocket. You can read all about the day in our article Day Trip to Tangier: The Morocco Fiasco.
Day Trip to Tangier, Morocco, worth it?
It’s a tough call and depends what you want. If you want a relaxing day in Morocco, don’t do the day tour. You’ll probably be hassled less if you tour Tangier independently. So consider just buying the ferry ticket from Tarifa to Tangier and exploring the town at your own pace.
Tips on Visiting Tangier, Morocco
If you do the day tour make sure you have plenty of bottled water with you. After lunch the opportunities to purchase water were senselessly obsolete. Beverages were never offered at the carpet factory (unlike in countries like Turkey where they have the common courtesy to offer customers a drink). Prices asked by street vendors and the carpet factory are drastically inflated by at least least 400%. You can get items for 1/4 of the initial asking price, but the key is to feign interest.
Where to Stay in Tangier, Morocco?
If you visit Tangier, it might be a good idea to spend a night to get to know the city better. You’ll often find the best hotel prices on booking.com. Book something in advance with free cancellation if you’re spending the night.
Families and groups of friends may find the best value booking short term apartments. Make sure the property has consistently great reviews for the best experience. That’s important anywhere, but especially in places like Tangier.
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7 thoughts on “Day Trip to Tangier, Morocco, Worth it?”
Thank you for this post. I’ll be in Spain next February and would love to stop over into Morocco. My plan is to fly into Malaga for a couple of days, travel to Tangier for a day and a half, and then head to Seville. Hoping I can have a wonderful experience. Any other tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your comment, Kellee. Our apologies that your comment sat in moderation for awhile. We were traveling in Transylvania with limited internet access.
We haven’t been to Malaga and it’s been a few years since we’ve visited Seville. In Seville you should definitely visit the old Moorish fortress of Alcazar, stroll Plaza de Espana and just explore the beautiful old town’s narrow and windy lanes. A few years ago we stayed at Hotel Simon and found it to be excellent value for money. It’s centrally located and rooms are decorated with pretty Spanish tiles.
Seville is a wonderful city. You’ll have a fantastic time!
Thank your for your post. In my opinion this trip it worth. Maybe people arrive a little tired when make this day trip from Seville, Cadiz or Malaga. I suggest spend almos one night. Hotels are not expensive and you can make your trip relaxed.
Thank you for the advice. We had booked to spend a night in Tangier through a local travel agent in Rota. However, nobody else on the tour was staying the night, including our friends. And we were all extremely unhappy with how we were treated by the tour company that day. We did not feel comfortable being transported by ourselves to the hotel by the company that evening. Especially since they told us “Tomorrow we’ll pick you up and take you back to the Medina.” (so more attempts to rip us off at shopping). We were done with shopping and just wanted to check out a nearby artist village. Actually see and experience some of Morocco and maybe talk to some actual locals not affiliated with the tour company. Since this seemed problematic we unfortunately cut our time in Morocco short and just went back to Spain and enjoyed our time there. We’d love to return to Morocco someday under different circumstances. If you have thoughts on how travelers to Tangier can have a better time than we did, do share. Thanks again.
Of all Morocco’s fantastic cities Tangier is by far the worst. Having lived in Morocco for a year I became well aware of the downside to tourism and Tangier was by far the best example. My recommendation ever since has been to avoid the city completely and jump on a train or bus and go to Asilah or further afield.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Albert. Sounds like you had a similar experience in Tangier. We had planned to take a day trip to Asilah on a second planned day in Morocco, but the Moroccan tour company didn’t even offer that to us. Instead they just wanted to take us back to the shops, like we were some sort of ATM machine, with no desire to truly experience Morocco. So we decided to join our friends and returned to Spain early with them on the ferry that evening. As Asilah is just 31km south of Tangier, visitors who go to Morocco for the day from Spain can skip over Tangier and go there. More time is better but we know many travelers are short on time so we wrote this article to help answer a common travel question.
I too was hassled by street vendors to the point I carried a small cermaic drum in my lap on the flight all the way back to the US. I too wanted to stop at local shops but was literally herded into a rug shop where they locked the doors. But I got great deals on rug and leather goods. Lunch was not great and the Moroccan dancer and musicians were old and some toothless. At one point I stepped out onto a terrace to take a look at the locals in the street. I thought the tour guide was going to have a heart attack: I am a white blue-eyed blonde petite middle-aged American female. I look different that folks in that part of the world. I often felt all eyes were on me and not in a good way. One street kid wanted toi to touch my hair. I let him before the guide shooed him away. I also threw coins toward him as he scampered high atop stone walls hoping to stay out of sight of the guides, but still in sight of anyone who might toss him a coin. I would have so taken that little maybe 8-year-old boy home with me. I admired his ability to skirt the guides; he was tenacious! I was taken back by the level of poverty. It is sad because it could be a beautiful thriving city. Yes, there are better places to go…but I stepped foot on the fifth continent on my bucket list…my drummer son treasures the drum and I treasure the wares I bought in Africa. And I got some great pics of Old Tangier… one in particular of an old woman…street vender….hanging veggies up to display. I almost lost my group trying to take her pic because the street so was busy. As I ran to catch up with my group I heard men shouting loudly behind me..feet running. The guides rushed us into a rug shop where they closed the massive door…locked us in…for our own safety. That was scary too. What I learned from the guide is there were thieves coming toward us…but the Morrocan police were still behind us…at a distance….shooed the thieves away. My heart was pounding as they rushed us into a rug shop. So lesson learned: NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR TOUR GROUP FOR ANY REASON! I put my own life in danger to get the pic….would never do that again. But of the 400 I took of Malaga and Morocco….it is the one that I treasure the most…it hangs in my house to this day, along with the one of me on a camel. The trick to the camel is to watch how other people dismount…the long-legged stinky beast lumbers down…so just move with it…not against it. It was not this best travel experience but not the worst either. It was an op to at least step foot on the fifth continent on my bucket list and a small price to pay to do so: about 125. for a day trip from Malaga to Tangier.