At its narrowest point, the Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain from Morocco by just 14.5 kilometers/ 9 miles. Here, the African and European continent are merely a short boat ride away. Tangier is a natural entry point into Morocco and a great gateway into the country from Europe.
We are quickly realizing that we seem to do a lot of border crossings by foot or boat on this trip. We did this in Kazakstan to Kyrgyzstan and also from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan so we will be adding this as a separate category for our blog.
There are two main ports on both the Spain and Morocco side for the crossing.
In Spain, there is the Tarifa crossing to Tangier Ville in Tangier, Morocco and Algeciras to Tangier Med, Morocco 45 km outside of Tangier City Center.
Tarifa to Tangier Ville
Tangier Ville in the center of Tangier has less ferry’s departing per day as described in more detail below, but is certainly the easier option because in Morocco it arrives and departs 10 minutes walking distance from the City Center of Tangier
Tarifa to Tangier Ville
The ferries from Tarifa cross to Tangier Ville. There are about 12 ferry crossings each day that take about an hour. The benefit of this option is that the Tangier Ville port is right in the city and only a short taxi ride from the center of Tangier and the train station.
Algeciras to Tangier Med
The ferries in Algericas cross to Tangier Med.
Five different companies operate on this route, including Baleària, Trasmediterranea, FRS, Intershipping and AML offering 32 sailings every day. These sailings vary in speed and price, with the fastest taking just 30 minutes to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Tangier Med is a cargo port and located about 40 km / 25 miles outside of the city. We were warned extensively by our AirBnb host to avoid this crossing at all cost. They spoke of long customs lines and expensive transfers to the city. We actually found it to be quite the opposite.
We opted for Algeciras to Tangier Med because we weren’t sure of when we’d arrive to the port. We liked that we would have more options for crossings. Our friends David and Helen flew in to meet us in Malaga from the U.K. and we were busing in from Granada that day. We met at the Malaga airport and drove to Algericas stopping along the way for lunch.
As we approached the Algeciras port we saw several ticket stands along the highway. We opted to buy our ticket at arrival. We took the Baleria ferry which was scheduled to leave within 10 minutes- a 32€ / $38 per ticket for the crossing.
We were amazed with all the amenities when we stepped on the boat. There is a movie theatre, a full restaurant, two bars, prayer room, as well as deck space and passenger seats. We parked ourselves at the bar on the 2nd floor which gave us panoramic window views of the ocean crossing and a full view of the Rock of Gibraltar when we passed it.
We went on deck as we passed the Rock of Gibraltar and had a mini photo shoot including recreating this Titanic moment.
The most impressive and efficient part is that they had a customs officer on board who checked our passports and cleared us for entry even before we docked to Africa. It was about a 45 minute ride to the African shore. We disembarked at the base of the boat by foot in front of a line of cargo trucks, motorcycles and cars who had rode underneath.
Upon exiting the boat we just had to show our stamp to the office before getting on the bus to the ferry station. At the ferry station we bypassed customs and exited quickly. The departures hall was pretty crowded but arrivals was empty.
To get to Tangier Ville / city center, there are three options. The train departs directly from Tangier Med station but only runs twice a day. There are also hourly buses that run directly outside of the station. We opted for a taxi and with minimal haggling were able to find one to drive us the 40 km or 45 minutes for 300 Dirham / $33.
It was a beautiful drive along the coast. We saw windmills and village life along the coast.