In our Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome series of posts, we take an in-depth look at everything to do with bringing your motorhome to and touring around this fascinating north African country. In this first blog we focus on what you need to do before you come and how to arrive smoothly in Morocco by Motorhome. There are a lot of reports about where to sail from, and whilst everyone’s experiences are, for sure, valid and personal, we wanted to share our practical tips based on our journey in February 2020. Our aim is to quell those raging doubts and fears and give you both the knowledge and confidence to make this epic journey to Morocco by motorhome.
Part 1. What to do before travelling to Morocco by Motorhome
Whilst you may be like us and enjoy winging it – there are some destinations that really need some fore-thought. Morocco is one of them and Norway another. For Morocco, plenty of preparation is required. In part because it’s a different continent and the requirements are different to a majority of Europe. And also because, for many of us Moroccan newbies, it has a feel of taking us out of our comfort zone. Travelling with huge anxiety is not a great mix and so we must do some homework to make sure that our experiences are positive and fulfilling and not fear-making.
We hope that this section might allay some apprehension as you begin to dream and think about taking your motorhome to Morocco.
1. Check out your Insurance and Breakdown cover – Green Card
Morocco is not often covered under standard UK motorhome insurance policies – European firms may be different. So your first step is to enquire about your particular company’s terms and conditions. If they do allow for you to travel to Morocco in your motorhome, then you may require a Green Card which gives you Fully Comprehensive cover during your stay in the country. Sometimes these are offered free and others charge.
Comfort Insurance charged us £20 as an admin charge and then £22.40 per week of our travel through Morocco.
If your company doesn’t cover Morocco even with a Green Card, then don’t give up. Speak to HIC Herts Insurance. They offer a bolt-on cover and Green Card, so if your van is under £40,000 in value, then talk to them.
It’s worth mentioning whilst talking about Green Cards and Insurance, that you can get Third Party cover at the Port which is around 90€ so this is an option.
You also need to have a conversation with your Insurance company, if you have Breakdown Cover included in your policy. Or of course, call your Breakdown agents if you have separate cover. Just check what your cover is for visiting Morocco. With Comfort we are covered for breakdowns although DAS, our recovery company is not present here in Morocco. So their instructions are to arrange and pay for any mechanical issues whilst in the country and then make a claim for a reimbursement when we are in EU or back in UK.
2. Check your Travel/Health Insurance
If you already have Travel Insurance, then check that Morocco is covered, because whether you are travelling in the Brexit transition or not, the EHIC card is not useable here. As we travel full-time, we needed to secure our cover whilst out of our home country, and most UK companies will not therefore instigate cover. So we sought the best deal from those that will cover you whilst you are already travelling. The quote ranged from £113.20 to £355.80 for two people without and pre-existing conditions. We chose True Traveller as they had the lowest quote for us for our one month road-trip. Make sure you choose the European Cover and not Worldwide, as Morocco is covered under the EU countries. The other insurer options are:
Talk to your telephone supplier as their coverage and packages don’t cover Morocco and you will be charged crazy prices for calls and data, as it comes under International Rates. You will need to buy a Moroccan SIM card for calls and data, so you will need them to unlock your phone (you can do this online with most companies). Whilst some campsites have wifi, it’s not always great, like anywhere and whilst you are out travelling, you will want to have connectivity.
Our advice is to make sure you have off-line versions of the apps you use most often. Before you leave Spain for Morocco, make sure you have downloaded all the Moroccan maps for your maps.me app, if you have it. Also we use Park4Night for wild camping and so bought the off-line version for £8.42 per year, and the Search for Sites app for campsites for £5.99 per year.
4. Documentation to take with you
Like with travel to most countries, you will need:
- Passports and copies in case you loose them
- V5 – in Morocco this is known as the Carte de Gris – the grey card
- Your MOT certificate as it is reported that sometimes Police wish to check this
- Hard copies of your Travel/Health Insurance and your Vehicle Insurance
- Your Green Card
5. Plans for maximising your LPG
Because Morocco doesn’t have any LPG as we have heard, you will need to judge the use of gas carefully, especially if you are coming for over a month or more. So think about options for conserving your gas. Obviously campsites will give you access to EHU, although from a cooking perspective and for wild camping, then may be you will need to look at other gas saving approaches. Some visitors have told us that they have been able to buy Red Moroccan gas bottles for 50MAD and swapped them in for 20MAD and this has got them through a 10 week road-trip.
We invested in a Remoska which is a fabulous electric oven that cooks pretty much anything, in about an hour, just like a normal oven. It even works off the inverter whilst you are driving and is a great gas saving resource.
Others have reported buying small, low wattage, two-ring hot plates and electric kettles. However you choose to conserve gas, it is certainly worth thinking ahead for this.
6. Maps/Reference books
There’s a ton of blogs out there about Morocco from motorhomers and overlanders. Some you buy and some are free on the web. It’s definitely worth researching and having a read. We bought the book by Chris Scott called Morocco Overland, which offers lots of off-road tips if you are travelling with a 4×4, which also has great info on how to travel to Morocco by motorhome. Whist the latest edition is 2017 and some of his information is out of date, there’s a load of really helpful tips in there.
One of which is to buy paper maps of Morocco. Given that whilst travelling in Morocco you need to buy a data SIM to stay connected to internet that apps like Google Maps feed off, hard copies can be essential. So we bought two maps based on recommendations; the Reise Know-How 1:1 Mill and the Michelin Map.
7. Stuff to take with you – and NOT!
In terms of stock-piling before you go, unlike our trip to Norway, Morocco doesn’t have the same price issue. Although these are the items we did buy;
- the wine we like in boxes for easy storage
- some chicken for the freezer
- a few tins of staples that create the meals we enjoy.
- we heard that crisps and nibbly bits are expensive so have plenty of these
- Hand Sanitiser to keep carry around with you for their public toilets
- a shawl for me walking through towns or mosques.
- some long sleeved shirts and a head scarf to ensure my attire was appropriate for visiting towns and mosques
- two tyre repair canisters in case of a puncture. Although we would recommend you investing in TyrePal or a similar notification system that gauges the pressure of your tyres and advises you of potential punctures or deflating issues.
And a final point – DO NOT TAKE YOUR DRONE WITH YOU. Either leave it at home or leave it with someone you trust as they are illegal in Morocco and if you van is search and your DRONE found it will be confiscated.
Part 2 – Travelling to Morocco in your Motorhome
So armed with the results of all your research, you are now ready for the exciting bit – the travelling to Morocco. In this section we offer you a detailed and step-by-step account of the whole ferry and Custom’s procedure. I am driven to write this because of the plethora of reports out there and to share exactly what happens when you leave Spain and arrive in Tangier Med (as of 6 February 2020). So much of my EXCITYSCARED feelings were because of some of the horror stories we had heard about getting through Customs and what was to be expected. Now I have been through it, I felt it was really important to share how it was for us and give you top tips for navigating it smoothly.
1. Choosing which port to sail from
There are plenty of Spanish ports to sail to Morocco from along the south coast – you can even choose to go from Sète in southern France, Italy or Barcelona. As long as you are prepared for very long sailings of up to 60 hours. For the purposes of this blog, let’s stick with Spanish ports for ease;
- Barcelona to Tangier Med; offers two ferry companies and up to 5 sailings per week and is up to 32 hrs sailing time
- Almería to Nador or Melilla; offers 7 sailings a week to Nador & 8 weekly sailings to Melilla taking around 5-7 hrs
- Motril to Nador, Tangier Med or Melilla; for Nador there are 4 sailings per week, Melilla 6 sailings per week lasting aound 4-5 hrs and Tangier Med 7 times per week and is up to 8hrs
- Malaga to Melilla; offers 14 per week sailings of between 4-6.30 hrs. You can also go to Tangier Med although only once a week
- Tarifa to Tangier offers two companies who sail 11 times per day and 36 times per week. The sailing is just 1hr
- Algeciras to Cueta and Tangier Med, offering 8 sailings per day and is about a 90 minute crossing.
Nador and Melilla are smaller ports that encounter less traffic and so their Custom’s processes tend to be swifter, according to Morocco lover and author Chris Scott. And Tangier City has the reputation for being a nightmare as you have to drive through the city. And Cueta is a Spanish enclave so you have to drive a mile or so before hitting the Customs areas.
Algeciras to Tangier Med is the most popular crossing route and this was the one we chose. We stayed overnight just across from the port in a free car park, joined by four other vans. You may be approached by a man who says you can pay some money, although he is not an official car park attendant and whatever money you give lines only his pocket – you are not obliged to pay anything.
2. Buying your ferry tokens
There are plenty of Ticket Kiosks around the city, although the one that is pretty well famous these days is ‘Carlos’ from Agencie de Viajes on the Zone Commercial, just a mile out of Algeciras city. The coordinates for the Agency are (36.17932 -5.44126). Whilst it is said that ‘Carlos’ no longer works there, there is a toothless old man with a kind smile who greets you with a hand-shake and a Spanish kiss, looking like he owns the place. So whether it is him or not, for the purposes of this, the Agency is known as ‘Carlos’.
You must travel to ‘Carlos’ and buy the tickets face to face, there is no online facility. You can park your van in the parking area opposite and you are able to stay here for the night for free too. You have a Carrefour and Lidl within walking distance and you are about 15 minutes driving time to the port.
Make sure you take cash with you as no credit card payments are accepted. If you don’t have a chance to get any before hand, there is a Santander in the main street opposite the Agency, although you will be charged 7€ transaction fee. You will be offered two ferry firms – FRS offers just three sailings per day for 180€ or Transmediterranea that offers six crossings for 200€. The latter has the better record and we chose this because of the timings, which start at 0800. You then get a pack with your tickets, Immigration Entry Card and a free gift of wine and biscuits. And that’s it – all done in under 10 minutes.
Top Tips for your tickets
1. Take the early sailing. Given the reputation for ferry delays and Customs Checks in Tangier Med, we chose the early morning sailing. Our thinking was, get on the first ferry and there will be no impact for backlog from previous ferry delays. Also when arriving in Morocco, there’s only one boat load of vehicles to deal with, so the process should be more efficient. You also guarantee landing in Morocco in the light, which if this is your first time and you have any apprehension, is sensible.
2. You don’t book a specific sailing. You receive a printed token and take it with you to the Check-in, at least one hour before your desired ferry departure. We are guessing that if the boat’s capacity has been reached you will be put on the next departing ferry.
3. Take enough cash to exchange into Dirhams. Whilst the Agency doesn’t have a lot of cash to exchange, you will be able to get a small amount of Dirhams. The rate was 10.20 MAD to the Euro, which was slightly less than at the port, which offered us 10.36 MAD to the Euro. Although I thought it was useful to have cash just in case. You can only get this cash as part of your ferry ticket transaction.
4. Don’t worry about not speaking Spanish. The admin team speak French and English, although old man ‘Carlos’, if it is him – the god of Morocco tickets – does not. Hand signals worked pretty well. He doesn’t work behind the desk though so don’t worry – his admin team area great.
5. Complete your Immigration Entry Card before boarding the ferry. This will save you time and stress when queuing up to get your passport stamped. Completion notes are in the next section.
6. Keep all your documents and tickets together. I know it might sound a patronising tip, although in the stress that inevitably comes with ferry embarkation, arriving in a new country and not knowing what is expected, having everything in one envelope keeps your sanity in check. And I talk from experience and Myles will back me up for sure.
3. Completing your Immigration Card
Whilst I may risk insulting your intelligence, I do want to go through the completion of the Immigration Form that you will receive from ‘Carlos’. I know it sounds ridiculous, although I spent a bit of time working out and researching all the categories I had to fill in. And because I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong and causing unnecessary delays, making sure the details were right felt important. So to save you that stress, here are sections and their interpretation.
- C.I.N This is a National Identity Card number and only needs completing if you have been to Morocco before and had your Passport stamped. You will find this number on the stamp, written in ink. If this is your first time to Morocco, then leave this blank.
- Composteur No. This is some sort of validation number and we left this blank and it caused no issues.
- Nom. Your Surname goes here.
- Prenom. Your first name.
- Nom de Jeune Fille. This is your maiden name ladies.
- Date et Lieu de Naissance. Date and place of Birth as in your Passport.
- Nationalite. Nationality goes here.
- Pays de Residence Habituelle. Put your country of normal residence here, ie where you live most of the time.
- Profession. Your job or retired.
- Passeport No. Passport number here.
- Date de Delivrance. This is your Passport Issue Date.
- Provenance. Where you are travelling from – so the Spanish or French port you are sailing from to Morocco.
- Destination. The Moroccan port you are sailing in to.
- Adresse au Maroc. Give the address of the first campsite you will be staying at or something like Hotel Fez.
- Motif Principal du Voyage. What is the reason for your visit to Morocco? So holiday will do fine.
If you make a mistake on the forms that Carlos gives you, you can get blank ones on board the ferry.
4. Boarding the ferry
We recommend getting to the ferry at least 90 minutes before the ferry is due to depart. This way you can be sure to get your chosen sailing. Follow the signs for Puerto through Algeciras and then at the port, the signposts for Tangier Med. You will then take these steps for boarding your ferry.
- Check-in 1. Hand over your token from ‘Carlos’ and your Passports. You will be guided to park up in a line.
- Check-in 2. One hour before the ferry sails, you are guided to another kiosk where once again you hand over your token and Passports. In return you receive a Boarding Pass per passenger. You then proceed to another parking lane.
- Check-in 3. Five minutes later as you head for the embarkation parking, where a ferry officinado will check your Boarding Passes.
- Final Check-in. Another officinado will approach the van and take one of your Boarding Passes and leave you with a copy. And that’s it. You wait for the lorries to embark and then it’s your turn. Chances are that you will go up to the top deck, which means if you have a big bottom like Scoobie, it might be a very tight clearance. Although there was no scrapping for us thankfully.
- Park where indicated and turn off your gas.
The whole process was very simple and we only left 45 minutes late, which given the reports from others, was nothing at all. Now the final bit you need to do before grabbing a coffee, is to queue up to get your Passports stamped and hand in your Immigration Form. Each boat will probably have a different location, although it is likely to be by the cafe area. You will now be in possession of a mighty fine stamp in the back of your Passport.
Do bear in mind that the ferries are functional. It is only a 90 minute crossing so they are ‘no frills’. There are not enough seats for all the passengers – our boat was only 2/3 full! And be warned that the cafe is very basic. So either bring your own water, coffee or breakfast, or wait until you are the other side. The toilets though are clean and have paper.
In terms of the question over whether dogs are allowed on board – we found nothing definitive. There is a No Dogs sign although we saw two passengers both with dogs on deck. So make of it what you will. I would attempt taking your dog with you until someone says you can’t.
Check out our gallery by clicking below.
5. Disembarking the ferry and getting through Customs
Now this is the bit that I think, in all reality, I was dreading the most. That moment in time where the horror stories of chaos, money-greedy touts and stress would ensue. So I was prepared and mindful of what could happen next. Although I was also keen to see how the process worked in practice given all that I had read. So here is the most up-to-date information about how the disembarkation from Tangier Med looks like (based on February 2020 arrival.)
- Getting off the ferry. This did take a while as it does often with all ferries, so nothing major to report here. Even our low-slung rear made it off the boat without incident. So far so good.
- Passport Check. We were guided by an official to have our Passports checked, which he gave a rudimentary check for the stamp on the back page and he waved us off. Still doing well.
- A long drive to Customs. You then, most disconcertedly follow the EXIT signs for what seems like ages. It feels like you are heading out of the port and it left me wondering if we missed something. We finally saw the signs for the D16. We headed for the lane marked ‘Our vehicle is not registered in Morocco‘ and waited.
- D16 – Vehicle Import and Export form. This is the vital piece of paper you need to show that you and your vehicle will be leaving the country. I had read that this could be completed on-line although this is no longer the case. The Customs’ Police do it all for you. So sit tight until you are asked to drive to a holding area. Within 15 minutes our V5 (Carte de Gris) and Myles’ Passport were collected and taken to the Kiosk. We had a little panic at this point, as Myles is not the Registered Owner on the V5, that’s me. So we wondered whether the discrepancy would cause a delay. Thankfully it didn’t and we were on our way. The D16 is a small Credit Card sized card that you must keep safely as you will be asked for it on your return journey. It’s good to see that things have progressed with these official procedures.
- Another Border Control Check. Once D16 and Passport are firmly back in your grasp, it is wagons roll. Well as far as 100m where there is another Border Control Check. That takes seconds and you are on your way.
- Money and Insurance. The final step in the process is to drive a further 100m where there are some cabins on your left-hand side. Here you buy your 3rd Party Insurance if you don’t already have your Green Card and exchange your money. There are lots of cabins to choose from although they are not all occupied. So I chose the one that had a name I recognised. They are all kosher and there are no touts milling around putting on the pressure. The attendants speak English too, so if your French is minimal, then you don’t need to worry. They give you a receipt for your money and that’s that! You are good to go. I strongly recommend that you do the money exchange, because if you head off south on the A4 motorway, it is a Toll Road and you will need cash to pay.
So our verdict of the Customs’ process? Easy as anything and nothing to worry about at all. From getting off the boat to hitting the road having got our D16 and our money was a mere 65 minutes. So my ‘catch the early ferry’ strategy seemed to work really well and I highly recommend it, to keep you and your family sane.
Check out our gallery below.
Part 3 – Leaving Morocco
We thought it would be worth a quick mention as we’re talking about the process of arriving into Morocco, to share our experiences having just left. All in the spirit of preparation, knowledge and confidence, it feels important to take you through the steps for leaving the country.
1. Staying somewhere safe overnight
Depending on the ferry you have decided to catch for your return will partly dictate where you stay. Somewhere close to the port would be sensible if you are on the ‘red-eye’ 0830 with Transmediterranea. Although there don’t seem to be many options. There is a public parking area which is guarded by staff that some people have reported staying at (35.884201 -5.50203) although it depends how comfortable you are with staying so close to the port. We decided to stay at a wonderful wild spot that was just 45 minutes drive and chose the 1100 ferry. Given the advice we received numerous times about not driving in Morocco at night, taking the ‘red-eye’ was not an option. So this was the perfect place to be. We left at 0800 and were having breakfast in the queue at the docks by 0920 having gone through Customs. More on this in a moment.
Our overnight was lovely, overlooking Erraouz Reservoir. It’s on one of Morocco’s Provincial roads, which means that it varies in quality from a bit bumpy to good quality tarmac. It was one of the lesser quality roads we had driven on, although none the less very doable, just slowly. Here are the coords. (35.713367 -5.52351). It is a peaceful spot with herds of goats and sheep passing through from the village directly above you and there were four of us staying there, without any issues from the locals.
2. Arriving at the port
The port is as easy to arrive into as it is to leave. Whether you come in on the back roads or the motorway, just follow the signs for Automobile Access. You will pass all the cabins where you may have picked up your money on the way out and be guided to park up. This is so that you can validate your Ferry Token that you received from Carlos’ Agency. If you have asked for an open ticket, then you can choose the time you wish to depart. Get there earlier enough and it should be no problem at all.
Take your Passports and your ticket, and in return you will receive a triplicate ferry ticket for the next available ferry.
3. Going through Customs
After the ease of arriving through Customs four weeks earlier, we wondered whether the process would be as simple on our return. After validating your token and receiving your ticket, you have four stages to go through;
- As you leave the Ticket Validation car park, an Official will examine your ticket and wave you on.
- You then arrive at the first of the Customs’ Checks. They will check your Passports and give you a stamp to say that you have exited the country.
- You then move forward 100yards to the next Kiosk where they ask for your D16 – the small business sized card you received on arrival. They stamp this saying that you are officially exporting your vehicle.
- Then you drive a mile up to the X-ray machine. Two vehicles at a time drive on the examination platform and you are asked to exit the vehicle. They are searching for drugs and arms! Whilst we were there a converted, rally Renault who came through the day before had been impounded for carrying 52kg of Hashish. That’ll not be a pleasant extension to their holiday I’m sure. After a couple of minutes you are allowed back on your vehicle and you exit the platform. Then you take another short journey to find the departure gate for your chosen ferry carrier and park up and wait. That’s it.
All of that took us just 30 minutes from arrival to parking up. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to go through that procedure for your chosen ferry.
3. Getting on the Ferry
Just a word of caution. If they send you up on the top deck of the ferry, if you have a large overhang, as we do then you are likely to scrape at the back. They will however give you ramps that will lift your rear end enough to clear it.
Once parked up chill out and wait for your passage to be completed, reflecting on your memories of your African Adventure. Just bear in mind that the boat only accepts Euros and not Moroccan Dirhams.
So there we have it, in a rather large nutshell. Our entry into and exit from Morocco. Armed with plans, preparation and some conflicting information, I am pleased to report that it all went incredibly smoothly. I’m sure on another day it could have been different, although I am convinced that taking that first crossing made a huge difference to our whole experience. So I hope this detail helps you, if you are thinking about travelling to Morocco by motorhome or are about to do it imminently. As always, if you have any questions just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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