since 2009

TRAVEL FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO

view-from-Nord-Pinus-hotel-Tangier
View from Nord Pinus hotel Tangier 2016

TRAVEL FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

After spending 15 years living in Morocco, since 2020 we split tour time between Morocco and Andalucia.  Several times a year we travel to Morocco and back from southern Spain. We’ve traveled this route before, during and after the pandemic, by car, train, ferry and plane. Whether you re piqued to see what Morocco looks like or want to spend a few days on the other side, you’re in for a treat. And a few surprises. To avoid the bad surprises, we’ve compiled a few things to know before you cross over. This is our view on how to best travel from Spain to Morocco which we’ll update regularly. {Disclaimer: all the photos below have been taken by our staff over the years}.

Update April 2024: Flights from Malaga to Marrakech with Ryanair ( the only direct flight) have had regular delays of sometimes 3- 4 hours, especially from Morocco to Spain. 

CAN YOU VISIT MOROCCO FROM SPAIN?

The answer is Yes, you can. And you should, if you have the opportunity. All you need is for your passport to be valid for a minimum of 3 months. In general, citizens of US and Western countries are dispensed from having to apply for a visa. If you are not sure, check here the countries whose citizens won’t need a visa to enter Morocco.

Cinema Rif in Tangiers 2023
Cinema Rif in Tangiers 2023

MOROCCO DISTANCE TO SPAIN

Spain at its closest is 9 miles or 14 km from Morocco across the sea, making it the closest land nearing between Europe and Africa . It also partly explains the ease with which Tarik and his Arab contingents were able to disembark in southern Spain in 711 AD, and initiate the Arabo- Muslim epoch of Andalucia that was to last eight centuries.

Giralda cathedral Seville 2016
Giralda cathedral Seville 2016

HOW TO TRAVEL  FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO ?  FERRY OR BOOK A FLIGHT ?

You can travel from Spain to Morocco by plane or ferry. If your travels have you exploring Andalucia and you are not too far from the coast, the ferry is the obvious choice. If you are sea sick or just want to save on driving, a 1 hour flight from Seville or Malaga will get you into Marrakech, Rabat or Tangier.

If your main goal in visiting Morocco is to travel to the Sahara desert, a flight into Marrakech or Agadir makes more sense as it shortens the distance to the desert. For reference, Tangier is 15 hours drive from the desert, while Marrakech or Agadir are about 8 hours drive from the Sahara.

Disembarking from a camel in the Sahara dunes 2023
Climbing down from a camel in the Sahara dunes 2023

FERRY FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO

There are several points from where you can take the ferry over to Morocco: Tarifa, Algeciras or Motril. You can ford in Tangier Ville or Tangier Med. From our 15 year experience, you are better off getting the fast ferry from Tarifa into Tanger Ville ( not Tanger Med). Why ? It’s usually the fastest and most expedient. The red tape that Morocco is famous for will somewhat delay you should you choose any other point of entry or departure.

The ferry from Tarifa to Tangier Ville is offered by both Intershipping and FRS. We haven’t noticed any substantial difference between the two, FRS being perhaps more frequent. Ferries of both companies make the passage every 2 hours. You should aim to arrive at the ferry terminal with your printed tickets at least 30 minutes before the departure ( 45 if you have them on your phone).

Bolonia beach Cadiz 2014

TANGER VILLE VERSUS TANGER MED

Please note that the ferry terminal in Tangier Ville is literally a 15 minutes walk from the Kasbah and the New Town. Tangier Med is a huge commercial port 1 hour drive from city center. The only reliable way to get from Tanger Med to Tangier’s downtown or train / bus station is via taxi.

CHANGE IN SCHEDULE DUE TO BAD WEATHER

Once in a while, the ferry leaving Tarifa to Tangier Ville will get cancelled because of choppy sea conditions. In that case, your tickets get used on the next ferry available. What happens if the conditions persist ? You can travel to Algeciras and use the same company and tickets to board a larger ferry that can safely cross over into Tangier Med. At any rate, if possible avoid booking one of the last ferries of the day. If you do, plan for the eventuality of having to spend the night in Tarifa.

Cadiz panoramic view 2014
Cadiz panoramic view 2014

HOW LONG TAKES THE FERRY FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO

From Tarifa into Tanger Ville, 1 hour. From Algeciras into Tanger Med about 2 hours. From Motril into Tangier Med you’re looking at 8 hours, which is hardly worth it. 

WHILE ONBOARD THE FERRY

Even the most basic ferry offers food, drinks and duty free services on board. Food choices are limited, but you can still get pizza, kebabs, sandwiches and the likes. Beer and wine are available on board. Smoking area is accommodated outside on the deck.

passport with Morocco stamp and entry number jpg
Passport with Moroccan entry stamps and unique entry number

Very Important ! Please note that before disembarking in Morocco, you have to fill in an entry form that you should drop with the Moroccan Police desk on the ferry itself. How do you find the desk ?  Eye for a long queue of people next to the restaurant and public seating area. You’ll need to collect the empty form first and then fill it in and queue up. You will thus get a stamp in your passport with the date and entry number. Please note that you will not be allowed on Moroccan territory without this passport stamp.

WHERE SPEND THE NIGHT BEFORE THE FERRY TRIP TO TANGIER ?

When you decide to travel from Spain to Morocco by ferry you can choose to spend the night in Tarifa itself, especially if you don’t have your own vehicle. If you have a vehicle, we’d recommend spending the night before in Arcos de la Frontera or Zahara de los Atunes, the mesmerizing White Villages that make Andalucia unique.

Zuheros white village of Andalucia
White village of Andalucia, 2022

TRAVEL  FROM SPAIN TO MOROCCO ON A DAY TRIP

Is it worth it ? Hmmm, mostly if you want to brag about having stepped on African soil. It’s true, Tangier has not much to see with the town depicted in a 1990’s movie, but it acts more like a shop window to the country and hardly one of the best places to visit in Morocco. It still boasts its own century old Kasbah ( historical center) where riads and boutique hotels have sprouted over the last decades. Its cafes bustle with a male clientele seemingly glued to their chairs, chit chatting around the ubiquitous mint tea glasses. Tagines and couscous are just as succulent and delicious as anywhere else in Morocco. Yet, it’s a world away from the intricate medinas of Marrakech or Fes, let alone the vast openings and Biblical villages of Morocco’s South.

CAN YOU VISIT THE BLUE VILLAGE ?

Chefchaouen street and door 2017
Chefchaouen street and door, 2017

Yes, but you’ll be short on time. Not that you’d need more than 3-4 hours to tour Chefchaouen. Keep in mind you’d need about 3 hours each way from Tangier to Chefchaouen. But with first ferry in and last ferry out, it’s doable.

BRING YOUR OWN VEHICLE ?

By our own experience, it’s best to leave your car in Spain. Outside the residential part of any big town, whether Tarifa, Cadiz or Algeciras, you will find free street parking. Private parking is costly in Spain. You can bring your car into Morocco on the ferry, but besides the red tape and waiting in line for hours ( on Morocco’s side) just ferrying it over and back will cost you around 500 euros ( 550 USD ). 

It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to hire a rent a car in Tangier Ville or Tangier Med, but you should do it BEFORE you arrive, over the internet. The only possible exception with this is having your own 4×4 and taking it all the way to the Sahara dunes or else covering a long distance while in Morocco, to include off road driving. 

dar el bacha palace marrakech 2023 jpg
Dar el Bacha palace Marrakech 2023

TRAVEL FROM MOROCCO TO SPAIN

We recommend Tanger Ville to Tarifa ferry, for the same reasons described above. What changes when you travel the other way ? Not that much. If you don’t have someone to drive you around in Morocco, you might want to consider the train/ fast train to liaise from Fes, Casablanca, Rabat or Marrakech to Tangier. The fast train will get you nowadays from Casablanca to Tangier in a little over 2 hours and from Rabat to Tangier in around 90 minutes.

You won’t need to fill in any forms onboard the ferry. Since Tarifa is a small town with a cute, yet minute historical center, you might want to plan where you’ll spend the night. In terms of distance, Cadiz is 1 hour drive away while Seville and Malaga are both slightly over 2 hours drive away.

Regular buses run from Algeciras, a 30 minute drive from Tarifa. Another alternative is Blabla car, which a popular local car sharing. We recommend booking the car trajectory at least 24 hours in advance. We’ve used it dozens of times and it runs smooth although exceptionally rides were cancelled by the driver last minute.

arcos de la frontera 2017 main square
Arcos de la Frontera main square 2017

SPAIN – MOROCCO TOUR: HOW TO SET IT UP

If you can afford it, budget and time- wise, it’s worth exploring both sides of the Mediterranean on a private Spain- Morocco tour. In that case, your dedicated English speaking driver should be waiting for you at the ferry terminal with a modern 4×4 and your name on a board.

In Morocco we recommend having a full comprehensive private tour from start to finish, and ideally include at least 1 night in the Sahara dunes. Morocco tour companies are plenty – we recommend booking with a local one and DYOR.

Withal, a 7 day Morocco itinerary makes sense, to complement your Andalucia tour.
In Andalucia you won’t necessarily need a driver 24/ 7 but here and there it makes a difference, especially when it comes to finding the places where you can mingle with the locals, whether it’s a tapa, a fiesta or a flamenco show.

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