There’s something so tempting about exotic places with different cultures. For some, being out of their element sounds terrifying, but for others it is exhilarating. For us, we’ve come to almost crave it. We want to feel the enlightenment and joy that comes with leaving our comfort zones. Which is why we had to take a day trip to Morocco from Spain when we had the chance.
The idea of stepping foot on the African continent made me excited and nervous all at the same time. And I’ve learned – over the last almost two years of nomad life – that one of the best ways to be the person I want to be is to do things that girl would do. That girl does things that scare her.
Note: Always be sure you are doing your own research when booking tours and confirm you are using a reputable company. We loved our experience with a company called Said Tours. HOWEVER, companies are always changing, and there are a lot of duplicates out there that don’t offer the same experience.
A reader reached out who thought they booked the same tour, but realized after a bad experience that it, unfortunately, wasn’t. We’ve removed links to the tour we used since that website seems to have been taken over by a different company. TripAdvisor review pages for local companies seems to be the best way to find a good tour! We hope you find a great option for your trip to Morocco!
We knew from following along with another nomad couple (thanks, @mrandmrsadventure!), that we could take a fast ferry trip to Tangier from Southern Spain. So, when we booked our trip to the Andalucía area of Spain, Morocco was instantly top of mind. I spent all of my free time researching ferry routes and looking for a great local guide.
We had all of the information we needed, but I was still pretty nervous – mainly because I’m a picky eater and control freak, so going to North Africa where I didn’t know what to expect at all was intimidating. Would we go for it or would we chicken out?
My Top Concerns About Visiting Morocco
It took me a long time to realize that bravery isn’t a lack of being afraid. Bravery is looking at your fear, taking a deep breath, and doing it anyway. Not because you get some weird joy out of discomfort (okay, maybe just a little). But really because you know the disappointment in yourself you will feel if you let that fear – which is often grounded in made-up beliefs – make you miss out on something really amazing.
For me, this is still a work in progress. I’ll do the scary thing, but first I usually go through all the reasons not to until I have no more excuses left. Pretty brave, right? Haha Meanwhile, Buddy is replying, “Yes, I think it is still fine to go” over and over to all my questions, knowing I’ll circle back in a day or two and decide to go for it. He really is a sweetheart for putting up with my nonsense. 🙂
Please enjoy a look into my mind for the next couple of paragraphs, and my top worries for this trip …
Is Morocco Safe?
Is anywhere really safe these days? Nope. But, I did look into if there was anything specific to worry about. At least in the Tangier area of Morocco we were headed, it didn’t have anything concerning pop up. The biggest thing that everyone noted wasn’t so much a safety concern as an annoyance: If you don’t have a guide, you will get hassled. So, we’d get a guide. That was a pretty easy fix, and I concluded that is appears that Tangier is safe!
(Note: A couple we housesat for actually took an extended RV trip all throughout Morocco and had a lovely time with no issues. And we’ve heard great things about other areas of Morocco, like Marrakesh and Fes. It’s definitely somewhere I’d love to see more of!)
Can we get sick in Tangier?
My first major worry was vaccines. Even non-travelers know going to Africa means getting all the shots. So, I assured myself, we wouldn’t even be able to go to Morocco since we wouldn’t have time to get the required immunizations. Then the search results came in: “No required vaccines.” Oh.
While Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended, we didn’t have to have them. But, of course, I didn’t want to chance catching those scary-sounding diseases. So, the research continued. If we avoided the water and any food that could be contaminated, we should be fine according to the trusty advice of non-professionals who managed to return from their trip to Morocco without any unwelcome bugs.
I also looked up what would happen if we did get either of these, just in case. Turns out, they are both curable. Okay, so I won’t get sick in Tangier, so no more excuses. We have to go.
We committed ourselves and told everyone we knew we were going to Africa!!! Just kidding, we only told a few fellow travelers because we didn’t want anyone back home trying to talk us out of it or worrying themselves sick because of the misconceptions they may have.
But wait, what’s the toilet situation in Morocco?
After booking our Tangier tour and committing ourselves, I had this realization that going to the bathroom in Morocco may be wildly different than I have experienced before. So, back to The Google I went.
Oh no. I was right. I read that most of Morocco has “squat toilets” with no toilet paper, but instead a bucket to use to rinse yourself. Talk about going out of my comfort zone.
I hate public toilets – even the nice ones just look like germ buckets to me. So, I’ve purposefully avoided traveling to places with sketchy toilet situations … until now. Realizing this was a really stupid reason to cancel our whole Morocco trip, I started planning ahead. I practiced squat-peeing often, Googled diagrams and instructions for how the hell this new peeing situation would work.
Then I prepped my supplies – toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a “she-wee” I had brought from home for just-in-case emergencies on our trip. I was thinking more side-of-the-road pee breaks, but whatever. Ok, now we were ready!
Why We Chose to Book a Private Tour of Tangier by a Local
Fast forward, and we had arrived in Malaga, Spain. After, picking up our hired car, we drove straight to Tarifa – which, by the way, is SO MUCH more than just a port town. It had great beach views with yummy restaurants, lots of windsurfers to watch, and beautiful streets to wind through.
Once settled into our gorgeous room, we walked down to the ferry office (after going to two wrong offices in town), to sort out our tickets.
We had booked our Tangier tour with a company that had rave reviews on TripAdvisor. It was pricier than some other options, but reading about others’ experiences hooked us. We loved that they offered a private tour of Tangier by a local. They also let us personalize our experience, so I was able to ask to see some of the top sights but also the more local places tourists would miss.
Included in our tour price was also our ferry tickets, a local meal with the famous mint tea, a walking tour of the medina, insights into the rich history of Tangier med, and a car with a driver to take us to the coast and back. All we had to do was show up which took a lot of the stress of planning our Tangier day trip away.
The company owner arranged our ferry from Spain to Morocco for us, and we just had to pick up the tickets. However, we somehow missed the memo that we would be on the intershipping ferry, not the FRS ferry whose advertisements were plastered all over the city.
Once we got that figured out, we enjoyed a wonderful night in Tarifa and admired the looming continent of Africa just across the water. We’d be there soon …
Taking the Ferry from Spain to Morocco
Getting on the ferry from the Tarifa port to Tangier, Morocco, early the next morning was a breeze for the most part. The only confusing part was the Passport-control card we had to fill out. A few of the questions weren’t clear to us, but a helpful employee was kind enough to explain it.
While smooth, our anticipation made the one-hour ferry ride to Morocco feel like three. Once docked in Tangier, we quickly walked to the meeting point to find our guide. Here we were approached by at least three people offering their service in about two minutes, before seeing our guide with our name on a paper. We were thankful to wave at him and have him save us from anyone else hassling us.
He put his arm around my shoulder and Buddy followed close behind as we quickly walked away from the ferry.
The owner efficiently went over the plan for our Tangier tour for the day, including when we needed to be back to catch the ferry from Morocco to Spain. Before we knew it, we were standing in front of a car where he introduced us to our guide and driver.
Mohammed, our guide for the day, shook our hands with a big smile. I liked him already for his kind demeanor, and unmistakably great fashion sense. We already knew our day trip to Morocco from Spain was going to be great.
What Are the Best Places to See & Things to Do in Tangier Morocco?
No time was wasted as we headed out to our first destination on our Tangier tour. Mohammed shared lots of interesting facts about the famous people who have lived in this area of Morocco as we drove to our first destination. Tangier city especially was well-loved by famous artists and literary figures of all kinds, including Tennessee Williams, the Rolling Stones, and Jack Kerouac.
With wide eyes and open minds, we tried to take in everything we were seeing and soak up all of the knowledge he was giving us of this amazing place. Morocco was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I knew in just the first moments it would be an unforgettable experience, but it was so much better than I could have ever anticipated.
1. Strait of Gibraltar in Northern Morocco
Our first Tangier tour stop was to check out the amazing views where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet at Cape Spartel. Across the way was Spain and the famous Rock of Gibraltar, which we had plans to visit the next day.
Mohammed took our photo, and encouraged Buddy to give me “something big.” Which we realized after exchanging an awkward and confused hug that he meant a kiss. It was a beautiful day and we had the best guide to make sure we would enjoy this short day trip to Morocco. But there was so much more in store.
2. Tangier Camel Rides
I’m usually not into riding animals, because I’m just never sure how they are treated. But Mohammed insisted that a Tangier camel ride was a must-do thing, and that they were treated well. The animals did look pretty content and happy when we pulled up.
Apparently, according o our guide, we are so light compared to what they normally hold that they don’t even notice us up there. So, that made me feel a little better.
“Hold on tight,” Mohammed told us as we all-of-a-sudden tilted forward, then backward in the seat as the camels stood up. After borrowing my phone for a mini-photo shoot, Mohammed let his camel-owning friend take us on a short loop to admire the beach below and gorgeous ocean. Then we kissed our camels goodbye and were on our way to the next stop of our whirlwind Tangier tour.
3. Hercules Cave
Our next stop was a short visit to the very popular Cave of Hercules. This is where the Berber people cut stone wheels from the walls to make millstones – which gives it all the interesting circular shapes.
There is also a “Map of Africa” opening, that is believed to be made by the Phoenicians. And the monkeys of Gibraltar are rumored to have entered from here and made it over to the other side in St. Michael’s Cave. That’s why this is one of the most popular destinations near the Tangier port.
While nowhere near as interesting as the Medina we would soon see, it was a cool place to wander around and take in more of the amazing Morocco ocean views.
(Note: Shortly after this stop, Mohammed explained that many women just cover their heads to hide from the sun or maintain traditions – not because they have to. Having covered my head up until this point because I thought it was the respectful thing to do in a Muslim country, I decided I’d go without the scarf for the remainder of our trip since it seemed to be okay).
4. City Wanderings During Our Private Tour of Tangier
This next part of our visit to Tangier made us realize just how important it was to have a personal local guide. We would have never found our way out of Tangier, Morocco, if it were up to us to navigate all the tiny, twisting streets between the homes.
We would have likely been too intimidated to just wander on our own, and what a pity it would have been to miss this – our favorite part of our short trip.
We wandered through the colorfully painted streets during our tour of Tangier, with their bright doors and friendly inhabitants. As we walked, Mohammed shared so much about Morocco’s beautiful culture. The local people are all very connected and look out for each other. There is little crime and everyone seemed to know each other – or at least they knew Mohammed.
He greeted each person we passed with a hug or kiss on the cheek. He patted kids on the head or goofed off with them. Everyone smiled at each other, and at us – because we were included by association to our popular new friend.
We also passed through a portion of the U.S. – the American Legation building and its property is the first American public property outside the United States.
5. A Special Look into Every-Day Life in Morocco
Mohammed explained that since they don’t have running water in these areas, each street has a spicket and a long hose. The families take turns filling up a large bucket of water to use, then pass the hose next door.
They also have community bakers spread out over every couple of streets who they bring their dough to each day and he bakes it in a wood-powered oven for everyone to pick up later. Not to mention, the fresh markets everyone shops at each day to collect what their family would need to eat (more on that later).
The overwhelming sense of community and love we could feel radiating from the people of this city toward one another was unlike anything we had ever experienced. We didn’t even know it was possible for life to go so smoothly and peacefully, especially somewhere that doesn’t have all the convenience we are used to.
Morocco is beautiful, but I quickly realized it is probably just the result of the beautiful souls wanting their surroundings to reflect how they feel about this wonderful place they call home. I realize our guide wouldn’t have shown us the bad parts of the city, if they do exist, but I felt what we saw was extremely genuine.
And, I’m so thankful to have experienced it during our Tangier tour. I believe this is something you don’t see on the big tour group tours, but only with a private tour or small group tour like we took.
6. Great Typical Moroccan Lunch in Tangier with City Views
Before leaving for Morocco, I was becoming really nervous about the food. What if we were one of those unlucky people who get really sick? What if they don’t have a vegetarian option for me?
But, by the time lunch came around, I was ecstatic to get to dive further into this culture. And, since we had brought up my food preference while booking our Tangier tour, before even arriving, it was all arranged perfectly. Such a relief since I had struggled to explain my preference when there was a language barrier in the past.
The bathroom was even fantastic in the local restaurant we went to! It was beautifully tiled and had a Western-style toilet that seemed to shine as I smiled at it in relief. No squat toilets for me on this trip! (I may have avoided all liquids up until this point to avoid it haha).
But the views were the biggest perk to this amazing lunch spot. What a stunning place the Moroccan City of Tangier is!
The meal started with a yummy veggie soup, then Buddy had a delicious chicken tagine dish and I had vegetable couscous, which was enormous. I barely made a dent in it after eating more than I normally would.
Afterward, we were treated to a crunchy, honey-drenched version of baklava and the famous mint tea everyone raves about. Then we climbed to the top of the building to check out the 360-degree views of the old city.
As we stood there all alone, the Muslim call to prayer began and echoed all around us. It was such a powerful and special thing to experience, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. It was the first time we were alone the entire day, but we still felt so connected to all the people in the large city below us.
7. A Quick Cheap Haircut in Morocco
After lunch, while walking through more of the beautiful city, we saw a barber and Buddy decided (with some encouragement from our guide) to shell out the €2 to get his unruly beard touched up. This was the first time he ever had someone other than me do this, and the guy even used a straight razor, another first. So brave!
I tried not to laugh as I could tell he was a little nervous about the entire thing, but he came up unscathed and looking more handsome and pleased with himself than ever.
8. Walking Through the Walled Medina in Tangier
Next, we walked the short distance to the famous souk (or medina or bazaar). This area has many names, but everyone knows it as the marketplace that is the center of life in the city.
Everything is brought in fresh each day and the entire city shops here – including the restaurants and hotels. They have every food imaginable (and some you may not want to imagine).
Of course, there were also people selling souvenirs for the benefit of tourists. While our nomadic life doesn’t allow for shopping, it was really fun to see all of the offerings – candies and dried fruits and tons of olives (Morocco is the second largest producer in the world, behind Spain).
Plus, all the spices you could imagine and argan oil and rugs and clothing and even these really interesting long pipes (while illegal, marijuana use is common there and they smoke it with these).
While walking through, Mohammed handed us things to try. Since he knew the owners, this was okay – but, I’d make sure to ask first if you ever go by yourself. However, my somewhat germaphobia and fear of stomach illness meant sticking to my guns on this. I’d overcome enough fears for the day, thank you very much.
But Buddy folded after the second offer. He likes to live on the edge when we travel, and he is pretty non-confrontational on things. I shook my head and gave him a, “if you get sick, you’re on your own” stare when he tried the first thing – a date, that he despised (serves him right). Of course, he was perfectly fine and not affected at all.
I had thought I’d see a snake charmer in the medina, mainly from the movies, but was excited not to since I’m not a big fan of snakes. So, seeing a loose cobra near my ankles would not have been my favorite thing!
9. The Local Tangier Market Experience
If we hadn’t been pulled out of our element enough, the next part of our trip really put what life looks like in a place like Morocco in perspective. Mohammed smiled and warned that the next part of our Tangier tour may be a lot to take in. We were entering the meat market.
We’ll spare you the photos, since they are a bit gruesome (one is of Mohammed’s butcher friend holding a goat’s head up behind us, while we unknowingly smile for a photo – that guy was a real jokester.)
While not something I really wanted to see as someone who chooses to eat mostly non-animal products, it was enlightening. I chose to be vegetarian a few years back because learning how meat and dairy was processed grossed me out. Here it is all fresh and they do not waste ANYTHING! Just trust me on this. I really appreciated their determination to use as much as possible.
Shortly after this, we finished walking through the bazaar and headed back to the ferry where the tour owner met us and took our payment. He wanted to wait until he was sure our Tangier tour went as planned and we were happy before we paid. If he only knew just how much.
Final Thoughts on our Day Trip to Morocco from Spain
Often travel exposes the stronger, more flexible version of ourselves. Sometimes it is a necessity, sometimes it is a choice. But each time, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
On our ride back from Morocco, I knew I had changed. And my husband got to see that change in me, which is pretty cool. We both knew I had taken a big leap toward the type of person I want to be – who embraces differences instead of being afraid of them, and who reaches for her dreams instead of just wishing for them.
The best places seem to have that kind of effect. And Morocco is definitely one of the best places.
FAQ for a Day Trip to Morocco from Spain
What are the Ferry Port & Route Options to Get to Morocco from Spain?
Ferries from Spain to Morocco leave from the Spanish ports of Algeciras, Almería, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Málaga, Motril, and Tarifa. This website has more information on ferries.
Many people think the Tarifa to Tangier ferry is the best and most cost-effective option since it is the shortest journey. The Gibraltar to Tangier ferry also takes about the same amount of time – only one hour! Be sure to research the different ferry companies and tour guides, if choosing an all-inclusive version, to get the best rate and experience.
Taking a ferry to Morocco from Spain is an incredible way to get a taste of this gorgeous African country, but it certainly isn’t the best fit for everyone. There is also an international airport in Tangier, for those who prefer to fly.
How Long is the Ferry Ride from Spain to Morocco?
The shortest ferry ride from Spain to Morocco is only one hour, if going to Tangier from Tarifa or Gibraltar. However, there are longer options such as the 32-hour trip from Barcelona to the Tangier Med port.
What is the Best Time of Year for a Day Trip to Morocco?
The summer months (May through August) get very hot in Morocco. The best months to visit tend to be spring (March-April) or autumn (September-November).
What are the Top Things to Do in Tangier Morocco?
The iconic medina of Tangier, Caves of Hercules, Grand Socco, Tangier American Legation Museum, Grand Mosque, Kasbah Museum, Tangier Beach, and the Dar el Makhzen (a palace turned into a small museum) are all popular places to visit in Tangier.
However, one of the best things to do is just wander around admiring each beautiful building and the Moroccan arts. You can also take in some of the best views of the Mediterranean Coast at Cap Spartel.
What are the Top Things to Do in Tarifa, Spain, Before or After a Morocco Day Trip?
We really loved our short visit to Tarifa and thought it was a beautiful area. We enjoyed watching the kite surfers from the beach and ocean-side restaurants. This blog post has more ideas! Tarifa really is a great place on its own, not just a port city.
What Should I Wear on My Day Trip to Morocco?
It is important to be respectful of the local culture when visiting Morocco, so not wearing anything very revealing is ideal. Lightweight and loose fabrics are popular to be covered and protected by the sun but not getting too warm. Good closed-toe walking shoes will also be key.