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Friday, 11 April 2014 12:00 AM

Getting to Morocco for your Holiday

Morocco is just over 2,000 km from the UK as the crow flies and, when it first opened up to tourists, it was an overland journey for adventurous tourists who travelled through France and Spain and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangiers.

In the past couple of decades Morocco has been opened up to mass tourism by the introduction of budget airlines with routes into the heart of Morocco. However, the overland route that was once virtually the only choice available is still an option today and offers a very different experience.

Flying to Morocco for your Holiday

Depending on your airports, Morocco is around a 3.5 hours flight from the UK. In addition to regular services provided by Royal Air Maroc and British Airways a number of budget airlines operate from several UK airports to a number of cities across Morocco; however, other than routes from one of the London airports to Marrakech, budget airline routes vary on a regular basis.

At certain times there are also direct flights into Agadir, Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and Tangier from the UK, and flights also depart for Morocco from Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh (although not at the time of this article) and occasionally other airports.

Indirect flights (via European hubs) are also available linking up many UK and Moroccan airports; however, our experience has shown that indirect flight are relatively expensive, time consuming and, if problems arise, cause significant difficulties – hence have significant risk attached, so are to be avoided if at all possible.

Flights prices peak in school holidays – they can reach £400 for one-way at peak times if booked at short notice – but can be less than £100 for a return flight away from those peak periods if booked well in advance.

Going overland to Morocco for your Holiday

Until relatively recently the only route to Morocco was overland – by car or train and ferry. From Dover to Tangier the route (via Paris – Madrid – Algeciras) is almost 1,500 miles long, hence is a journey that requires at least a couple of days (the train route also takes at least a couple of days) and is for those travellers with time on their hands or for those who want to avoid air travel. 

In addition to the extra travel time, with the advent of budget airlines the overland route is normally more expensive than flying and it also ends up in the very north of Morocco, hence significant further travel is necessary to get into the heart of Morocco.

The train route typically starts in St Pancras, taking the Eurostar to Gare du Nord in Paris, before taking the overnight sleeper from Paris Gare d'Austerlitz to Madrid – that train has a cafe bar and a smart restaurant and is an experience in itself. Arriving at Madrid Chamartin you need to take a suburban train to the main domestic station Madrid Atocha before taking the Altaria train to Algeciras (option of staying overnight in Madrid or in Algeciras or Tarifa) before catching the ferry to Tangier.

The Algeciras ferry goes to the Tangier Med port (convenient if heading south in Morocco), which is 50 km outside the city of Tangier (no direct ferry runs from Algeciras into Tangier); Tarifa (20 kms beyond Algeciras, linked by taxi or free shuttle bus) operates the fastest route (45 mins by catamaran) and arrives in Tangier (old) port (convenient for the town and Tangier Ville railway station, 10 minutes' drive away from the port).

Summary

Budget airlines now dominate the passage from the UK to Morocco, with fast journey times, normally at low cost and with various routes available into the heart of Morocco.

However, the overland route (via Paris and Madrid) is still possible with good regular ferry options across the Strait of Gibraltar – it is a cross-continent adventure that requires time and planning and may cost a significant amount, but can offer a vastly different holiday experience.