Difference between revisions of "Tangier"
Revision as of 22:41, 12 January 2011
Tangier (طنجة) is an important port city in Morocco.
Tangier is a fascinating Moroccan city to visit. It has many of the things that travellers love--a sense of exotic mystery, interesting history, beautiful vistas, unspoiled beaches, and friendly people.
Tangier is an interesting mix of north Africa, Spain, and France. It is located in northern Morocco, and was under joint international control until 1956. Tangier is separated from Spain only by the 20 miles of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Frequent ferries make the short crossing from Europe each day, and many cruise ships sailing between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic often include Tangier as a port of call.
Tangier-Ibn Batouta Airport (TNG) is located 12 km (7.5 miles) from the city (travel time about 20 minutes). Taxi 100 Dh (10€) from Tangier, 150 Dh (15€) at night or from the airport to Tangier. At present Royal Air Maroc, British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Iberia, and Air Arabia Maroc fly here. All persons entering or leaving Morocco are required to complete an entry/exit card and non-residents are permitted to remain in Morocco for a total of 90 days.
Coming in by plane is the easiest and hassle free way of coming to Tangier: there are no touts at the airport and the prices of the taxis are more or less fixed. Beware of long queues at passport controls before flights bound for the Schengen area.
ONCF opened a new train station, Tanger Ville, in 2003, which is now the end of the line. While it's closer to the city center than Tanger Morora, the original end-of-the-line, it's still quite a long walk so take a petit taxi for 15dhs or so.
The country has an excellent railway system with 1,893km (1,176mi) of track and a fine intercity passenger service. Overnight train services running throughout Europe can connect with Morocco. Most of the time, non stop trains are fine but those which are not direct sometimes make unscheduled stops en route but do not panic as you will reach your destination eventually.
When travelling overnight by train, it is usually cheaper to buy a couchette ticket than a first class ticket.
Notice If you are taking the night train, and not using the sleeper cars, you will probably not get a good night sleep. This is due to the lights being on, movement of people in the train, and conductors checking you ticket numerous times. It is probably a good idea to travel with someone who'll present your tickets, put on eye covers and take a sleeping pill.
By car or motorcycle
When coming into Tangier by car, be careful of hustlers on motorbikes who will ride alongside you and attempt all manner of dodginess.
You can come by car by ferry from Algeciras and Tarifa in Spain or through the Spanish enclave of Ceuta (reached by ferry from Algeciras and ports in Spain). The ferry crossing varies from 1 hour to 3 hours. Shortest and cheapest will be from Tarifa to/from Tangier taking around 40 min. Tarifa is probably the most laid-back option as far as ports are concerned.
Coming by car or motorcycle can be a daunting process especially if you are new to Morocco. You have to complete a temporary import form for the customs ("Douane" in French). Sometimes this is done on the ferry (usually in the busy summer months) and at other times at arrival in Tangier. Like at the airport all persons entering Morocco also have to complete an entry/exit card. The Police and the Customs will both search your car - often not together so you need to be patient.
In recent years, things have improved considerably for tourists and you are not likely to be bothered too much but you will have to go through all the formalities of bringing your car into Morocco like everyone else. You can only bring your car in for 6 months in any one year. You are not allowed to leave it in Morocco unless you are prepared to pay the tax for the car which can be up to three times the actual cost of the car. This applies even if your car breaks, but if your car is written off, you will need to notify the customs authorities to avoid paying tax on a car as an import. There are strict regulations on bringing a car. For example, customs will not allow someone else to the leave the country with a car entered under someone else's name. Exceptions applied for relatives.
You must have "green card" insurance for your vehicle when driving/riding in Morocco. You can get this insurance from many companies in Europe, or in Morocco at the port in Tangiers. If you are stopped, you must show this insurance to the police. (Police have had a recent directive not to hassle tourists, so you may not be stopped at all, but still you'd better have the insurance in the unlikely event of an accident.) If you do not have insurance from your home country, then local insurance can be purchased at small insurance booths situated at the port. The insurance companies are reasonably reputable and will pay out if you have an accident. Note that this insurance policy has limitations and you are likely to have much more comprehensive cover from insurers from your own country. Most European insurers will cover Morocco and many include it under their standard level of European cover.
Contact details for Moroccan customs (Douane) are:
It's recommended to contact the above authority, if needed, in either Arabic or French.
Motorcyclists will benefit from the vast amount of information in the Morocco Knowledge base for BMW GS'ers in the UK. 
If you have problems with your motorcycle in Morocco, Peter at Bikers Home  in Ouarzazate can help you get it back in working condition or by trailer to a ferry back to Europe.
Tangier has two long distance bus stations. The first, at the CTM offices near the port, is the arrival point of most CTM buses. Some other CTM buses, and those from other companies, arrive at the station on Place Jamia el-Arabia.
The port is located beside the Medina, and a few hundred metres from the ville nouvelle. Although the government has been partially successful in reducing the number of touts, money changers, taxi drivers and faux guides hassling people arriving by boat, expect to be mobbed. Look like you know where you're going, politely refuse any offers of help or ignore the "the fake guides" completely, or if you really feel like you need to escape jump in a taxi to escape the throng; just make sure that the taxi driver is no worse than the mob you are trying to escape. The taxi rank is inside the port area - you are likely to be mobbed by requests from many drivers. There is no queuing system - just take the taxi which you have agreed a fare with and are comfortable with. The blue coloured petit taxis are substantially cheaper and used more by locals and are preferable to the cream coloured grande taxis who are mostly unmetered. The grande taxis generally also will still try and charge you more even if you have agreed price, be insistent and get all your change back.
There are many fast hydrofoils daily on FRS Ferry Serice  from Tarifa in Spain for about 37 Euros one way or 67 Euros round-trip (as of November 2010). Several times a day there are also fast Balearia ferries  from Algeciras, Spain to the new Tangier-Med Port (25 miles from downtown Tangier) for 29.50 Euros one-way or 62.50 Euros round-trip (as of November 2010). Passengers should be aware that the boats often run slower than the advertized time (because they depart later than scheduled time or simply take longer to get across). So give yourself an ample time cushion (1 hour minimum) if you plan to catch another transportation after you get off the ferry. For example, one speed catamaran between Tangier and Tarifa advertizes one hour travel time between Tanger and Algeciras on their brochure (35-minute boat travel between Tangier and Tarifa, then 15-minute bus travel from Tarifa to Algeciras), but in reality, this trip will take over 2 hours. Example: the boat frequently leave later (by 15-30 minutes) than the scheduled time, then once at Tarifa, the bus does not depart until everyone on the boat clears customs (which takes 30-45 minute), then the bus will take 20-25 minutes to travel from Tarifa to Algericas.
Walking is perhaps the best way to see the relatively compact Tangier. Petit taxis are common, but if it is unmetered make sure you agree on a price first. Tangier is very easy to navigate around; the two main roads are Boulevard Mohamed V which runs from near the Medina through the ville nouvelle and Boulevard Mohamed VI (formerly Ave des FAR) which runs along from the beachfront from the port to Malabata. The Medina area is a complex array of alleyways some of which can only be accessed on foot. Mohamed V has a whole range of clothes shops, pharmacies and cafes as well as Hotel Flandria, Hotel Rembrandt. Hotel Minzah lies just off this road. Mohamed VI runs along the beach front where you will find numerous hotels (Rif, Ramada, Sherezade, Solazure, Tariq, Movenpick), bars, discos, restaurants and cafes. Most hostels are situated on the roads heading uphill near the port area.
Most locals in Tangier will be unfamiliar with what we call the "ville nouvelle". To help with agreeing fares and generally with navigating using taxis - the central main thoroughfare is simply known as the "Boulevard", the beach area as "Playa", the port as "Marsa", the medina as "souk barra", the hilly area to the west of Tangier with the Golf Course and Race Track as "California", the residential area heading towards the main road to Tetouan as "Idrissia", the thieves market as "Casa Barata".
Take a simple walk along the beach (Ave Mohamed VI) to enjoy what the city is famed for.
Most brasswork is made in other towns but is available here. Leather goods are also available. Stay away from the tourist traps and you may find the price quite agreeable. There is a infamous market in Tangier called "casa barata" (the house of cheap things) - there are bargains to be had here but be wary of forgeries and stolen goods (these are sold along vegetables, electronics, clothing, shoes, spices, carpets, ironmongery and everything else one can think of!). There are other markets notably the souk in the medina (mainly vegetables, clothes and tourist items) and in Ben Mekada (vegetables). The latter does not cater for tourists at all and is known as one of the "rough spots" of Tangier and back in the 1980's there were bread riots here.
Colorful leather slippers with pointed toes are great gifts to take home and cost about 600D a pair, more if they have soles suitable for walking outside. Mens and womens clothing can be had for reasonable prices too, in the madina.
There are many choices of different cuisine available. Many of the luxury hotels offer a good selection of both Moroccan and Continental Fare, though at prices much higher than what you will find elsewhere. There are also many restaurants along the Ave Mohamed VI (the beachfront) where one can enjoy a nice meal with a glass of wine on the beachfront.
In the evening, go to the plaza next to CTM bus station. There are several cafes and restaurants facing the plaza. The price and services are good because of the keen competition. Just wandering around in the medina will bring you across numerous Moroccan restaurants offering similar dishes, quality, and prices (main dish around 7 dollars), so you can basically just choose one at random and probably be satisfied.
There is also some fresh off-the-boat seafood restaurants for locals in the port behind the warehouses. At the port entrance, walk towards the water and keep to the right. It's on the docks towards the farthest point out behind some buildings...all outdoor seating for the most part. Order a tray of shrimp, a (big) salad and the calamari and fish tray. No menus or prices but it's quite inexpensive and authentic.
Some of the popular restaurants and places to eat in Tangier are as follows:
There are many places in Tangier to drink - people have their own favourite haunts. Much depends on the current owner who tends to give the place a certain ambiance. Favorite bars/discos with foreign (and local) clientele include Casa Pepe, Sable D'or, Morocco Palace, Marco Polo (popular with truck drivers) and hotel bars such as Ramada and El Minzah.
You could opt for a coffee instead - there are no shortage of cafes; some of which are the best in the country. Some have amazing views (cafe Hafa), some good coffee, some are popular (cafe Tropicana, cafe Celine Dion), some with music (cafe in the Dawliz complex), some have good cakes (cafe Oslo), some are places to relax after a hard day shopping (cafe Madam Porte, cafe Vienna), and some are just plain sleazy - the choice is yours.
Fresh fruit juices are sold by street vendors during the summer months. The cafes also serve fresh juices and often have what is called a panache - a mix of fruit juices often with milk, apple and almond - try it - its delicious.
You may quickly bore of tagines and street food is a great option for snacking throughout the day. Fresh orange juice costs about 5D; sandwiches of egg, peppers, and sauce are about 10D. Yogurt mixtures can be particularly creative, such as avocado and almonds, or fruit mixtures. Tiny stalls in the souk sell cooked vegetables like eggplant, with rice, and other tasty treats and a meal there can cost 10D or so. In the early evening you may find squares of chickpea cakes sprinkled with salt and paprika.
In the morning a "locals" cafe will give you a cafe au lait for 5D. (Cafes where tourists congregate will charge you 10D.) Usually there is a bread vendor at the cafe (by the port or the madina) who will serve you bread with cheese and honey for another 5D. It's perfectly okay to buy your bread/breakfast elsewhere and eat it outside at the cafe. If the bread guy is next to the cafe the waiter will often collect.
Vegetarians will find plenty to eat in Tangier and Morocco in general, but vegetarian tagines can become boring after a couple of days and often contain lamb stock. Street food is a lot more creative and fun. If you've brought a camping stove, shop at the souk and make your own. Or you can opt for Pizza, Chinese or Indian all of which are available in Tangier.
There are an enormous number of small hotels and hostels in or near the medina. (50 - 300 Dh)
Generally, Tangier is a very safe city compared with many places in Europe. The only trouble you may encounter is the persistent touts whom you should ignore, or the con-men ready to fleece you, and you will encounter these almost exclusively in the medina. There are policemen everywhere and you will probably feel safer than at home.
Dressing like a local - as opposed to white shorts, shoes, and a backpack - will help you blend in and get good reception from merchants, who will often quote you actual prices instead of inflated tourist prices. There are lots of expats in this city that speaks Spanish first, then English and then French. A polite no thank you and then simply ignoring touts does get rid of them.
If you are lost in the medina, you can easily find your way out by going uphill (souk/English church/Nouvelle Village) or down (port). Kids and young men may ask you for money to lead you out (a couple of dirams), or to the Cafe Central, but if you are asked if you are lost and do not want help, say "Yes, but happily," and usually that gets a laugh and solitude.
Tangier is a safe place for solo women travelers.
You can buy train, bus and ferry tickets at the stations and ports listed above, although you may find it easier to purchase ferry tickets from travel agents rather than face the gauntlet of touts at the port. If you plan on leaving by ferry, it is important to note that the ferries to Algeciras often do not follow a set schedule, and departure times can change even within a day of having purchased tickets. One alternative is to take a fast ferry to Tarifa, because these are more likely to run on time and at least one of the companies provides a free bus to the port at Algeciras. You can also flag grand taxis at the major bus stations and ferry port.