Friday, 30 January 2009

Algeciras Port to Ceuta

Two GoMarbella reader wrote in this morning to ask about going to Ceuta, a little Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco. Both wanted some contact with different cultures.

I used to go to Ceuta around 30 years ago when I had to leave Spain every three months and get my passport stamped to show I had not overstayed the three permitted months. It was the closest exit point to the Costa del Sol and I would walk into Morocco at the border post and then come back in the other side and ask for a stamp in my passport. I haven't been there for many years.

There is an interesting cultural mix in the little colony. I was really surprised not find anything about Ceuta in the first three guide books on Spain I looked at. This is probably because Morocco thinks Ceuta should be theirs and Spain won't give it up. The editors of the books probably don't want to upset anyone by saying Ceuta belongs to Spain.

Many sub Saharan African refugees periodically try to cross the border fence to gain entry in Europe. The Spanish government will not let any successful border jumpers cross the straits into Spain so they are stuck in Ceuta until they are unwillingly repatriated so you have this population along side long term Ceuta residents and the Moroccan traders who have bribed the corrupt Moroccan border guards to let them bring their goods into Spain.

If you have a couple more hours to spare you could go to Tetuan from Ceuta, a Moroccan village about 20kms into Morocco, sharing a taxi but I think you will find enough Moroccans in Ceuta not to bother going out of Ceuta.

Every time I look for ferry sailing times it is a struggle but google "ferrysavers.es/ceuta-ferries.htm" and try your luck. There are a least 1o sailings a day in both directions between Algeciras and Ceuta between the two ferry companies that operate this crossing.

I wouldn't bother to book the ferry tickets in advance, just turn up 30 minutes before the sailing time and get your ticket from the ticket office on shore. (By the way, have you spotted that the ferry in the picture is actually the ferry from Tarifa to Tanger?)

The 11km sea crossing itself is enjoyable and you get a great view of Gibraltar as you leave the Algeciras port and the straits of Gibraltar as you sail across. You can see everything on foot. Visit the market, the tiny beach and look for Moroccan food restaurant for lunch. At the end of the day you will definitely feel you have been somewhere different.

Although you are not technically leaving Spain, take your passport for identification purposes.

You will need to get to Algeciras, if you are going by bus from anywhere along the coast, so check out the bus schedules to Algeciras from where ever you are. The Algeciras bus station is right in front of the ferry port. If you are driving down, there is ample parking in front of the port.

Normal travel precautions apply, watch out for your belongings at all times. Keep your passport and money out of sight and reach at all times, especially if you are in a throng of shoppers or leaving the boat. Pick pockets frequent ports and prey on travellers when boarding or disembarking or congregating in queues.

I am sure you'll have a great day out!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Marbella to Lagos on the Algarve

Pick up your hire car in Marbella or from Malaga airport and you can be in Lagos on the Algarve comfortably less than five hours later. It's a journey we make at least once a year if not twice, just for the weekend.

You have three routes to choose from:

1) To Sevilla through Málaga it's a fast open road with great places to stop for a coffee and tostada and fresh olive oil fragances for 50 kms after Antequera.

2) To Sevilla through Ronda, very picturesque for the passengers but winding curves for the driver all the way to Ronda and you can get stuck behind buses or lorries. Lovely rolling farm landscapes between Ronda and Sevilla.

3) To Sevilla past Los Barrios. Take the toll road all the way down the coast and then turn inland just past Gibraltar. You'll pass Jerez de la Frontera airport on your left after travelling through magificent cork oak covered landscapes.

The Sevilla ring road is merciless. When you see the signs for Huelva to the west of Sevilla, take them, you don't get a second chance. Driving on the ringroad at rush hour is like the Indianapolis speedway. On this stretch, I drive and watch out for cars and my wife looks for the signs!

From Sevilla through Huelva on the border it's a superb road with lots of variation in the roadside services and ventas for food and drink and a break. Cross the imposing suspension bridge over the wide Guadiana river and you are in Portugal. No frontier controls and Lagos is just another hour away on a gently curving highway inland from the Atlantic coast of the Algarve.


The route is popular by bus also but you are looking at a two day trip there and one day to get back to the Costa del Sol. The problem is that you arrive by bus from towns on the Costa del Sol at the Estación de Autobuses Prado de San Sebastian during the day and then your bus to Lagos from Sevilla only leaves the next morning from the Estacion de Autobuses Plaza de Armas. This means an overnight stop in Sevilla on the way to the Algarve from the coast.

Update on the paragraph above, you can now do the trip in one day comfortably using the gomarbella
online bus ticket reservations reservation system.

You can do the journey in reverse in a day however, leaving the Algarve in he morning and picking up your second bus to the coast, later that same afternoon.

Pleae contact me with any questions using the comment form on the blog below or from the contact page on gomarbella.com . Have a great stay on the Algarve!

PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations through the gomarbella reservation system.