Travel to Tangier in Morocco by Train and Ferry
London to Tangier by land and sea
- Route 1: Fly/train to Paris, train to Sète, ferry to Tangier
- Route 2: Fly/train to Paris, train to Madrid and onto Algeciras, ferry to Tangier
Do you love trains and boats, or hate flying? Have you got time on your hands, or are you simply up for an adventure? Then this could be just the thing for you!
Travel to Morocco by land and sea in just 48 hours for the same price as a flight, and enjoy beautiful scenery, civilised comfort and lots of sea air!
London to Tangier by land and sea - Route One
- Day One
Flight (Bristol to Paris CDG from £30 per person) or Eurostar (London St Pancras to Paris Gare de Nord from £88 per person) to Paris, and then take the Metro (1.50 Euro) or bus (15 Euro) across Paris to the Gare de Lyon.
We took the bus thinking it would be nice to see some of Paris on the way from CDG airport to the train station, but were very disappointed. It took over an hour in heavy traffic, and was really not worth the extra cost.
The train departs from Gare de Lyon at 1320 hrs, is air-conditioned, with double deck, comfortable seats, clean toilets and buffet car. You arrive into Montpellier at 1645 hrs, giving you 1 hour to travel the 20 kilometres to Sète. There should be a train from Montpellier to Sète (15 minute journey) to get you there in time for the 1800 hrs check in (approx. cost £5.00 per person). Failing that a taxi will cost approx. 30 - 80 Euro depending on the mood of the driver - VERY expensive!!
French trains are extremely efficient, so be sure to check that the train on the platform is the one you want, even if it is just 3 minutes before your train is due to depart!! The buffet car was so busy that there was a queue for the full 3.5 hour journey, and we were very pleased we had brought snacks and drinks with us from the station in Paris.
The boat departs from Sète at 1900 hrs, and takes 36 hours to cross to Tangier. We travelled in Premier Class, and had a two birth cabin with private bathroom with shower, sink and toilet, and were very comfortable. All meals are included in the price whether you travel in standard or Premier class, and the food was very good. The drinks at the bar are quite pricey - 2.25 Euro for coffee, 2.00 Euro for coke and 3.00 Euro for lager. The boat is Moroccan, but we advise against changing money into Moroccan Dirhams on the ferry as they charge an extortionate commission! The ship has a plunge pool (empty in May) on the sun deck, duty free shops, cinema (closed in May!!), two disco bars and two lounges - one non-smoking. Not much to do but relax and read, so that's what we did!
- Day Two
Taking 36 hours to cross from Sète to Tangier, your second day will be on board the ship, relaxing and enjoying the sea air.
All announcements are made in Arabic and French on the boat, so we missed the announcement that the Dining room was open for the first sitting, so had to go on to the second sitting for the rest of our voyage. This meant our evening meal was not until after 9pm, so if you prefer an earlier dinner you need to be queuing for the restaurant before the ship sets sail!
At some stage during the voyage you will be required to get your passport stamped by the immigration officials. Check with the reception desk for the times for this, and try to get there early to save joining the end of a very long queue! Be sure you are in the correct queue, as there will be one for foot passengers, and another for those with a car.
- Day Three
The ship docks at about 0800 hrs, and as your passports have already been stamped by immigration on the boat, the entry into Morocco is very painless. Just a security x-ray machine for your suitcases, and the possibility of a quick re-check of your passport, and you're away! You should be through `arrivals' by 0900 hrs, where you will be met by our representative for your transfer to your hotel, or with your hire car, depending on the itinerary you choose to continue with from here - see Ideas For Itineraries for some suggestions.
NB: Do not try to take a picture of the ship or the port once you are off the boat, as you WILL be told off by several of the security and port staff, several times during the 10 minutes it should take you to get through the terminal building!
Arriving into Tangier, it is well worth being up on deck to see the approach to Morocco. As Tangier looms up ahead, you will also see Spain and Gibraltar, a mere stones throw away (well - 35 mins on the fastest ferry from Tarifa anyway!). You will be asked to vacate your cabin before the ship has docked, but we left it until the last minute to be up on deck for as long as possible. When we did leave our cabin, we still had to queue for a good 30 mins to get off the ship, so there really is no rush!
London to Tangier by land and sea - Route Two
- Day One
Flight (Bristol to Paris CDG from £30 per person) or Eurostar (London St Pancreas to Paris Gare de Nord from £88 per person) to Paris, and then take the Metro (1.50 Euro) across Paris to the Gare d'Austerlitz.
Travel from Paris to Madrid on the train hotel, departing the Gare d'Austerlitz at 1945 hrs and arriving next morning at Madrid Chamartin station at 0913 hrs. The trainhotel is a special articulated sleeper train with 4-berth tourist class sleepers, 1- & 2-berth 1st class sleepers, and 1- & 2-berth Gran Class sleepers with private shower & toilet, meals included. The trainhotel has an elegant restaurant car and a vibrant cafe-bar.
- Day Two
Spend the day enjoying Madrid. There are left luggage lockers at both Madrid Chamartin where you arrive and Madrid Atocha from where you depart. You can take the metro from Chamartin into the city centre. In the late afternoon, make your way by metro to Madrid's Atocha station, or simply walk there from the city centre, it's about 20 minutes walk.
- Day Two, evening
Travel from Madrid to Algeciras (the Spanish town across the bay from Gibraltar) on the afternoon 'Altaria' air-conditioned 125mph train. You leave Madrid Atocha station at 15:05 and arrive in Algeciras at 20:33. It's quite a scenic ride, though parts may be after dark. Altaria trains have 1st class (Preferente) and 2nd class (Turista) and a cafe-bar with full length wooden bar and barstools. The Preferente fare includes a complimentary aperitif of sherry or cava then an airline-style hot meal with choice of wines followed by coffee and chocolate. Preferente passengers may also use the Sala Club (1st class lounge) with complimentary coffee, juices and free beer, in Madrid Atocha station. Spend the night in Algeciras.
- Day Three, morning
Sail from Algeciras to Tangier by ferry, either a leisurely ship taking 2.5 hours or a 'seacat' fast ferry taking 1.5 hours. Ships of several ferry companies sail every couple of hours from Algeciras to Tangier through the day, and there's usually a ship which sails at either 08:00 arriving Tangier at 09:30, or at 09:00 arriving Tangier 10:30. Standing on deck of a ship watching Africa approach can be more rewarding than being seated inside a fast ferry, even though it takes an extra hour. In Algeciras, the ferry terminal is a 10-minute walk from the station straight ahead of you. In Tangier, it's a few minutes walk from the ferry terminal to the town centre.
An alternative if you'd prefer to spend the night in Madrid instead of in Algeciras: On day 2, stay the night in a hotel in Madrid, then on the morning of day 3 take the 08:40 Altaria train from Madrid Atocha station to Algeciras, arriving at 14:05. An afternoon ferry from Algeciras will get you to Tangier in the evening on day 3. Although a half day slower overall, this option gives you a full day and evening in Madrid, and the morning Altaria train to Algeciras will show you the wonderful mountain scenery in southern Spain in daylight.
See Ideas For Itineraries to decide where to go from here!
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