The following is an item I posted to the IgoUgo travel site (now defunct) seven years ago.
Flight to Tangier is the name of an old movie starring Jack Palance. All good advice is to fly to Tangier rather than take the ferry from Spain, and that advice will not be contradicted here. It is good advice. However, we were on a budget and happened to be winding up a week in southern Spain, so the boat seemed our logical choice.
Not so obvious was which ferry to take. We used some of our drive time in Spain to check out our options. This is what we found:
The huge ferry port at Algericas seems to be the port of choice. You don’t purchase tickets at the port, but get them in advance at regional outlets. Notably, along the freeway from Malaga there are one or more stations dedicated to selling these tickets. Before making a decision we drove to the Algericas port and found it daunting to the extreme. Arriving we confronted a massive automobile staging lot. From all appearances, once we entered the gate we would be in Morocco in a few hours.
Further along the coast we stopped at the Tarifa port. Much more hospitable. It’s a mom and pop operation compared to Algericas. We parked, went into the office, and asked some questions. Yes, we could purchase our tickets here just before departure. Yes, they take all major credit cards. The fare was about 50 Euros per person, round trip. Yes, we could park our rent car for free in an adjacent lot.
And that’s it. Boats depart every two hours. Arrive at the scheduled time. Lock your rent car (and give a silent prayer), take your Tangier luggage and your passports. Get your tickets and clear customs and security.
The boat ride spans 35 minutes and two different cultures. You will need to clear Morocco immigration on the way over. Find the immigration officer, who has an office on the boat, and get your passport stamped. Once in Tangier this guy is going to take his lunch break, and you may wait around 30 minutes while everybody else has departed.
Leaving and entering port are great times for photos. There is a historic stone fort next to the ferry port, so take some time and get a few photos. Tarifa is a fishing port, as well, and fishing boats make for great photos. You will see a number of signs prohibiting photography. The Morocco navy has activity in the port. My advice—don’t be too obvious when taking photos. There’s an hour time shift between Spain and Morocco, so take this into account when planning your schedules.
Now comes the fun part and the reason to take the Flight to Tangier. At the ferry port you will be greeted by a mob of would-be tourist guides and cab drivers. Arrival at the airport will spare you all this. We played it tough and waded through this mass. Our hotel was just a few blocks from the ferry landing, and we trundled our luggage over there.
That was possibly a mistake. While the map shows a few blocks to the Hotel Tanjah Flandria, it fails to show a two hundred foot change in elevation. We got our workout for the week. The map also fails to show that street signs are not always obvious. Here is where proactive tourism kicks in.
Don’t know any Arabic? Try your French. The French used to run this place. Spanish may work, as well and English almost as well. Friendly people on the street were happy to assure us yes, we were on Boulevard Mohamed V, and yes, our hotel was just two blocks up the street.
Welcome to Tangier.