She placed the huge, oven-hot ceramic dish on the table in front of us, and…
I had only been in Algeciras, Spain for about 5 hours, and already it was quite clear to me that the only reason one comes to Algeciras, Spain is to stock up on groceries, and take the ferry to Morocco. There were hundreds of campers and RVs scattered around the parking lots of the supermarkets and hardware stores of this huge shopping complex. We spent our one day in Algeciras buying what we thought we might miss being away from Europe — wine, beer, sunscreen, and popcorn kernels.
Friday, December 29
The alarm went off at 6am this morning. It was pitch black outside and I did not want to move from my damn cozy van bed. I snoozed the alarm and rolled over onto Michael’s chest. “Hey Michael, what do you want to do today?” He smiled, “wanna go to Africa?”
We finally peeled ourselves out of bed and made the van ready for driving, or as we like to call it “car-erizing”. The drive to the ferry port was fast, not many cars on the road at this time, and we followed the signs that said TANGIER. We quickly found which queue to join, it was the one with 30 or so RVs and campervans. A quick check of our ferry boarding cards and we were on the boat.
We found a seat in the main deck and filled out our declaration forms. There was a huge queue of people along one side of the room. At the front of the line, two official looking men sat at a table and stamped passports and documents — customs. We would fill out our cards now, but wait until the line died down to go over there
When the boat set sail we went to the cafe and ordered a tea, a coffee, and two croissants. We sat at a table and scarfed them down. A man sat down across from us. He saw our passports on the table and, in broken English, with a thick German accent, told us how in 2008, he and his wife went around Canada, the USA, and Mexico for one year in a camping car. Cool! We chatted with him a while, about his time in Jasper and the Rocky Mountains, until Michael noticed the queue for customs disappear entirely, and the men begin packing up their computers! OH NO! We excused ourselves from the German man and ran to the table. The men rolled their eyes, the one unpacked his computer, and took our passports. We apologized for being late. The man looked at Michael’s passport. He saw Michael’s last name, “Quick?” he asked. Michael nodded. He closed the passport and handed it back to Michael. “Pretty slow if you ask me…” and smiled. Haha!
We went to the deck and soaked in our surroundings. Sailing away from the great Rock of Gibraltar, past the beautiful coast of Spain, and towards the rugged and totally unknown-to-us coastline of Morocco. The wind was crisp and the sun, still low in the sky, rose behind a few big, billowy clouds.
The German man came to meet us on the deck. He told us he comes to Morocco for three months, every year for fourteen years. In Canada, we would call this man a snowbird — someone who escapes winter in their own country and heads to warmer weather. He gave us some good advice about the border crossing, things to do in Morocco, places to see, and where to stay. He really set our mind at ease. If he can do this border crossing fourteen times, then we can do it once.
The ferry grew closer and closer to the shore, and when the announcement came on for us to go back to our cars, we said goodbye to the German man. We shuffled down the steep steps with the other campervan’ers, and waited in the van until we were told to go.
We drove through to customs and parked the van in some shade. We sat and waited. A man came to check the vehicle registration and our passports. We waited. I saw a drug sniffer dog go into a few cars. We waited. I saw them ask a man to take out almost the entire contents of his trunk, and then laughed as they all tried to help him fit it back in. We waited. Finally, they asked us to open the doors. We didn’t need to take anything out. The man looked briefly in the back, in the glove compartment, and asked if we had a gun or a drone. We have neither, so he waved us on. That was it! It was a long wait, about an hour or so, but so relaxed.
Morocco is going to be a huge adventure. I am happy to be here. I am happy be checking other country off my to do list. I am so excited to see what we have in store for the next few months.
Stay tuned for more tales of my Moroccan adventure! Let me know what you think in the comments. Been to Morocco before? I would love to hear from you, favourite places, suggestions what to see, where to eat, and any tips from fellow travellers!
Here are some tips for driving across the border from Spain to Morocco.
- We did the crossing from Algeciras to Tangier Med. The ferry tickets are more expensive, but I received good word from one of my favourite Instagrammers (@sloopemc) that the Tangier Med customs experience is far more relaxed than the one at Tangier proper. She was right. The experience was super laid back.
- We bought our tickets from Agencia de Viajes Normandi. The woman who helped us was very thorough. For €200 we got an open round trip ticket for two adults and one campervan less than 6m. She also gave us the customs forms to fill out for entry to Morocco, and for our exit in a few months, and she completed the customs forms for our vehicle. We went into this border crossing more prepared than I could have hoped!
- The shopping in Algeciras is great. You can sleeping your van in the big shopping complex out of the centre (this is where we slept overnight). There is a huge Lidl, and an even bigger Carrefour to stock up on wine, beer, and whatever else you might miss from Europe. You can get alcohol in Morocco, it’s just kind of expensive.
- Put your patient pants on. The wait is long, so prepare yourself for it.
- We were asked if we have guns or a drone, since we have neither, our van wasn’t checked almost at all. I saw people nearby with the drug sniffing dogs having a sniff around their car, I saw others who had to remove everything from their car.
- Right outside the border are people selling SIM cards and there are multiple places where you can have your money changed for Dirhams. After the SIM card people, you won’t be able to use Euros again