Two Gomarbella readers wrote in this morning. They asked about going by ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta, a little Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco. Both wanted some contact with different cultures.
Before I got my Spanish residence permit and before Spain was in the EU I used to go to Ceuta every three months. I had to leave Spain to get my passport stamped to show I had not overstayed the permitted 90 days. Ceuta was my closest exit point from Spain. I would walk out of Ceuta at the border post with Morroco and then come back in on the other side. The first words in Spanish I learned where “Me puede sellar mi pasaporte por favor?” Can you please stamp my passport? Things have moved on a lot over the last 40 years and although I still go back once a year to Ceuta for work, I always look with interest at the frontier gates from the comfort of my taxi.
There is a very interesting cultural mix in the little Spanish colony of Ceuta. I was really surprised not to find anything about it 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.
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. I think however you will find enough Moroccans in Ceuta not to bother going out of Ceuta.
I would advise you to book your ferry tickets from Algeciras to Ceuta in advance especially during the summer months. There is tremendous traffic in both directions. Both ferry terminals in Algeciras and Ceuta are large and security and passport checks are as good as any European airport. Although you are not technically leaving Spain, you will need your passport for identification purposes.
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. Service onboard is complete with a restaurant or cafeteria and toilets are cleaned between each trip.
In Ceuta do visit the market, the tiny beach and look for a Moroccan food restaurant for lunch. At the end of the day you will definitely feel you have been somewhere different.
You’ll 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 any bus station on the Costa del Sol. Algeciras bus station is a 20 minute walk from the ferry port or a very short taxi ride. If you are driving to Algeciras port there is ample outside parking in front of the port and a day’s parking in the covered parking garage in Algeciras port works out at around €18.
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. Have a great day out!