Planning a Trip
By Plane -- All domestic and international flights land at Tangier's Ibn Battouta airport (tel. 039/934717 or 039/393720), 15km (9 1/3 miles) southeast of the city on the road to Asilah. At press time, a new terminal was being constructed. Presently the small arrivals and departures hall houses two currency exchange booths open daily, but irregularly, from 8am to 8pm. They'll usually change your unused Moroccan dirham notes back to euros or British pounds if you're departing from here. There are also two ATMs, desks for most of the international car-rental companies, and a small cafe.
There are no buses or public shuttle services to or from the airport. Cream-color grands taxis are located directly outside of the terminal building. The fare into the city, including Tanger Ville train station, is currently fixed at 160dh ($20/£10) up to 8pm and 200dh ($25/£13) after. Taxis from the airport (but not those operating around town) generally accept euros and sometimes U.S. dollars or British pounds, but you will receive change only in dirham. The drive from the airport to the city takes around 15 minutes. Many hotels and maisons d'hôte are happy to arrange an airport pickup for you, usually with one of their preferred taxi drivers, for around 150dh ($19/£9.40). This is especially recommended if you are staying in the medina as not all taxi drivers will know the location -- and best drop-off point -- of your accommodation.
By Train -- Tangier has two gare ferroviaire, or train stations: Morora and Ville. Tanger Morora (the second-to-last stop) is 4km (2 1/2 miles) from the city center on the Tetouan road and is really only useful for locals. The final stop on the line is Tanger Ville (tel. 039/952555), at the far east end of boulevard Mohammed V, 3km (1 3/4 miles) from the port and 2km (1 1/4 miles) from the city center. Inside the modern station are an ATM, Budget car-rental desk, cafe, and small bookshop.
Petits taxis can be found directly outside the station and cost around 15dh ($1.90/95p) depending on your destination in the city; make sure the driver uses the meter. Trains depart daily for Tangier from Asilah (45 min.; 15dh-23dh/$1.90-$2.90/95p-£1.45); Casablanca (Voyageurs only; 6 hr.; 118dh-175dh/$15-$22/£7.40-£11); Fes (5-6 hr.; 97dh-145dh/$12-$18/£6.05-£9.05); Marrakech (9-10 hr.; 190dh-290dh/$24-$36/£12-£18); Meknes (4-5 1/2 hr.; 80dh-121dh/$10-$15/£5-£7.55); and Rabat (5 hr.; 91dh-135dh/$11-$17/£5.70-£8.45).
From destinations such as Agadir and Essaouira, you'll first travel to Marrakech on the ONCF bus service called Supratours. Reservations are only accepted up to 1 month prior to departure and can be made either over the phone (tel. 090/203040 from within Morocco only), from ticket booths at each station, or through authorized agents. Payment at the station is by cash only, but some agents will accept credit cards.
There is also a popular overnight sleeper service from Marrakech that currently departs at 9pm and arrives in Tangier at 7:25am, the return journey departing Tangier at 9:05pm and arriving in Marrakech at 8:05am. If you want to sleep in a couchette, there is an additional 100dh ($13/£6.25) supplement to the above fare.
By Bus -- Buses to Tangier arrive daily from most destinations west of the Atlas, including Agadir (16 hr.; 250dh-280dh/$31-$35/£16-£18); Asilah (45 min.; 20dh/$2.50/£1.25); Casablanca (6 hr.; 110dh-130dh/$14-$16/£6.90-£8.15); Chefchaouen (4 hr.; 30dh-40dh/$3.75-$5/£1.90-£2.50); Fes (6 hr.; 70dh-80dh/$8.75-$10/£4.40-£5); Marrakech (11 hr.; 150dh-170dh/$19-$21/£9.40-£11); Meknes (6 hr.; 80dh-90dh/$10-$11/£5-£5.65); Rabat (4 1/2 hr.; 80dh-110dh/$10-$14/£5-£6.90); and Tetouan (1 hr.; 20dh/$2.50/£1.25).
CTM (tel. 022/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) buses operate from their office at the entrance to the port (tel. 039/324916). All other bus companies use the gare routière on place Jamai el Arabia (tel. 039/946928 or 039/363290), 2km (1 1/4 miles) southwest of the city center. Open around the clock, it's a busy building with cafe-restaurants and ticket counters, and offers a handy luggage-storage service (5dh/65¢/30p per bag, open 6am to midnight). A petit taxi into the city center won't cost more than 10dh ($1.25/65p).
Tip: The CTM service direct to Chefchaouen currently departs Tangier daily at noon. If you miss this one, there are other departures to Tetouan from where you can catch a grand taxi. Or, there are other departures to Chefchaouen from Tangier's gare routière.
By Grand Taxi -- Most long-distance grands taxis operate throughout the day from the bus station, including those for Asilah (15dh/$1.90/95p) and Tetouan (30dh/$3.75/£1.90).
By Car -- Driving into Tangier can be traumatic, as the roads are always busy and the inner-city center is a frustrating maze of one-way streets. All roads into Tangier from either the Atlantic coast (Asilah, Rabat, Casablanca) or Tetouan/Chefchaouen meet at the busy place Jamai el Arabia; look for the large Syrian mosque Masjid Suri. From here it is best to take avenue Beethoven (the west side of the bus station) to the junction with boulevard Mohammed V. Here you can turn west (left) into the city center or continue straight to the beachside avenue Mohammed VI (formerly av. des F.A.R.), from where you can then access the port and the hotels on rue el Antaki.
There are guarded parking lots around the south end of boulevard Mohammed V, which are handy for long-term parking (25dh/$3.15/£1.55 for 24 hr.). Otherwise, most street parking will be attended by a gardien who expects a tip of around 20dh ($2.50/£1.25) per 24 hours. For the medina, there is a guarded parking lot on the corner of rue d'Amerique du Sud and rue d'Angleterre. Note: Red-and-white-stripe curbing means no parking.
Unless you are driving out of Tangier directly from the airport or port, car-rental pickup is best organized from your hotel. Conversely, if you are driving into Tangier from elsewhere and flying or sailing straight out, then dropping off your rental car at the airport or port, respectively, is a good idea, as both are easy to locate.
By Ferry -- Arriving by ferry or hydrofoil into Tangier is relatively straight forward once you know what to do. Immigration formalities, including your passport being stamped, always occur on board the ship. Announcements are made sometime during the journey as to where and when this is taking place. These announcements aren't always in English, but don't worry: simply look for the line-up of passport-clutching passengers that usually begins to occur shortly after the boat leaves the harbor. The immigration officials pack up long before the ship reaches Tangier, so get all of this done earlier rather than later.
Most arrivals berth at the main ferry terminal building where a customs and passport check occurs (this can still take a while if the boat is full and two have berthed at the same time). Some ferries may alternatively berth at one of the three outer terminals, especially during the hectic August holiday season, in which case you will be directed to a smaller customs building alongside the port wall. In the entrance car park is a cafe-restaurant, ticket offices for the various ferry companies, and a string of bureaux de change, most with an attached ATM. They are open daily but operate irregular hours depending on the season; usually at least one will be open between 8am and 10pm. Exchange rates are fixed in Morocco, so you'll find little variance between the bureaux, and very rarely will you be approached by a moneychanger.
In this car park you'll also find petits and grands taxis. The petit taxi drivers are notorious for refusing to charge by their meter, which they are legally bound to, and instead charge up to a ridiculous 50dh ($6.25/£3.15) for the short journey into the city center. Grands taxis don't operate with a meter, and are also well known for overcharging unsuspecting port arrivals. Currently the strongly negotiated rate for either taxi -- petits take only three passengers, grands taxis up to a squashed six -- is 30dh ($3.75/£1.90) into the city center and perhaps 10dh ($1.25/65p) more to be taken straight to Tanger Ville train station or the bus station. Frustratingly, when taking a taxi in the opposite direction, the rate can fall to as little as 10dh ($1.25/65p) on the meter.
Note: Av. Mohammed VI begins just outside the port gates, which are 400m (1/4 mile) from the ferry terminal building. The medina and the hotels on rue el Antaki are therefore only a 10-minute walk away from the entrance.
Just outside the port entrance -- around the corner from the CTM office and about 20m (65 ft.) up rue du Portugal toward the medina steps -- is a consignee (luggage storage). One bag costs 10dh ($1.25/65p) for 24 hours.
Although not as bad as years past, faux guides and hustlers still lurk around the port entrance. Quite simply, a guide is not needed in Tangier. The small medina is a joy to discover on your own, and the city's hotels are easily accessible. The train and bus stations are easily reached by petit taxi, and don't believe the age-old scam of "the trains/buses don't run on a Sunday."
Note: Try to avoid traveling from Spain to Tangier during the first week of August and in the opposite direction during the last week of August. The port can be exceptionally frantic -- and ferries full -- during these periods with the holiday rush of Moroccan workers traveling to/from Europe.
Current one-way fares from Tangier to Spain are between 390dh and 407dh ($49-$51/£24-£25), plus 20dh ($2.50/£1.25) departure tax; both can be paid in either dirham or euros. If you have a vehicle, expect to pay an additional 700dh ($88/£44).
The ONMT Délégation Régionale du Tourisme, 29 bd. Pasteur (tel. 039/948050; fax 039/948661), is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30pm. It carries the usual friendly yet ineffectual staff and stacks of uninformative glossy brochures.
There's an American Language Center, 1 rue Emsallah (tel. 039/933616; fax 039/935566; www.aca.org.ma), which is mainly for Moroccans studying English, but can provide information to visitors regarding cultural events in the city.
If your French is up to scratch, you can call the Insitut Francais, 41 rue Hassan ibn Ouazzane (tel. 039/942589; www.ambafrance-ma.org). They have a monthly calendar of cultural events such as movies, plays, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions.
Tangier's streets can be initially confusing, especially if this is your first Moroccan city. The city's medina and ville nouvelle aren't as clearly defined as others in the country. However, most major landmarks can be easily located thanks to the natural beach-facing axis of the city.
The small medina is tucked away in the north corner, directly above the port and looking out over the Straits of Gibraltar, while the ville nouvelle surrounds it to the south and east. The major junction between the two is a large square officially called place du 9 Avril 1947, better known by its old Spanish name of the Grand Socco. From here the medina can be accessed by rue Semmarine and rue Siaghine, and the kasbah, in the medina's northwest corner, via rue d'Italie.
Running parallel to the long beach-side thoroughfare avenue Mohammed VI (formerly aves. d'Espagne and des F.A.R.) is boulevard Mohammed V, which becomes boulevard Pasteur at its north end. At the top of boulevard Pasteur is place de France, from which the Grand Socco is reached via rue de la Liberté (officially renamed rue el Houria).
Generally, Tangier is a pleasant place to explore. In keeping with the general clean-up of the city in recent years, most of the notorious hustlers and faux guides have softened to a level of merely irritating. The city is always busy with Spanish day-trippers and holidaying Moroccan families, which adds a vibrant atmosphere, especially within the medina and along the beachfront.
By Foot -- Most travelers will be happy to get around Tangier by foot, although be aware that the incline between avenue Mohammed VI and boulevard Mohammed V or the Grand Socco is quite steep in parts. To walk from the east end of the beach promenade up to the Grand Socco can take up to 30 minutes whether via boulevard Mohammed V or the easier route along the flat avenue Mohammed VI and up the medina-hugging rue Salah Eddine al Ayoubi. The beach promenade is well lit and safe to walk along at nighttime. In August the city can get quite humid during the day until the afternoon sea breeze makes its way on shore.
By Taxi -- Aqua-blue petits taxis are everywhere in the city and are handy if you don't feel like walking between the medina and the beach restaurants; simply stand on the side of the street to hail one. Drivers are only allowed to carry up to three passengers at a time, but be aware that if there is a vacant seat, you may pick up an additional passenger. At all times, request the driver to put on the meter, which he is supposed to do no matter the time of day or night. Most trips should cost no more than 10dh ($1.25/65p) during the day and a bit more after 8pm, when a 50% evening surcharge kicks in. Petits taxis operate solely within the city environs; for transport to the airport you can charter a grands taxi through your hotel or at the gare routière. These beige-color Mercedes sedans take a maximum of six passengers and cost around 160dh ($20/£10) for the one-way trip.