If you want to travel from Spain to Morocco or vice versa, the ferry is a fun, convenient, and affordable way to go. There are multiple ports in both Morocco and Spain, but the ferry between Tangier and Tarifa is arguably the most classic route.
The approximately 1-hour journey across the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, runs several times per day and is an exciting way to cross an international and intercontinental border. You can travel on foot, with your car or motorbike, or with a bicycle.
It’s easy to take the ferry between Tangier and Tarifa (or vice versa), but there are a few practicalities you’ll want to know about. Read on for all the important information about schedules, prices, border formalities, and what to expect on board.
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Tangier – Tarifa Ferry Basics
Tarifa is a popular European tourist town on the southermost tip of the Iberian Peninsula loved for its beaches, wind sports, and pleasant year-round climate. Tangier (sometimes written Tanger) is a major port city in the northwest of Morocco in Muslim North Africa. Though divided by significant cultural lines today, both have rich intertwining histories of civilization stretching well over two thousand years into the past.
More practically, the two cities are separated by about 20 miles (32 km) of water across the Strait of Gibraltar, the shortest crossing between Europe and Africa and the arbitrary line where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea.
Two ferry operators run passenger ferries between Tarifa and Tangier: FRS and Intershipping. Both have several crossings per day. FRS is a bit more expensive but runs more crossings per day, and people seem to prefer it. The FRS website is also a bit easier to use, which is helpful if booking tickets online.
FRS uses three different boats with slightly different layouts. It shouldn’t matter too much which one you choose, though the Tarifa Jet is the only one with a full “sun deck” if you want to experience the ride from outside. The others have only a small outside deck that is mainly used for smoking, in my experience.
All the ferries transport pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles. There is short-term parking at both ports if you’d like to leave your car and travel on foot for a day trip.
The ferry journey between Tangier and Tarifa takes about 1 hour, and between the two ferry operators there is usually a departure every 1-2 hours from around 7am to 11pm. Schedules are subject to change and might vary seasonally, so for the most up-to-date timetables you should check the operators’ websites. Here they are:
In times of bad weather, particularly over the winter in January, ferry crossings may be canceled or delayed. Don’t worry, the delays don’t last long and you’ll get across eventually.
How to Buy Ferry Tickets
If you’re on a fixed schedule, definitely book your ferry ticket in advance to secure your spot and reduce stress. There are several ways to buy your ticket:
Online: This is probably the most convenient way to buy ferry tickets between Tangier and Tarifa. Both FRS and Intershipping offer online booking: book here for FRS and book here for Intershipping. You’ll get an electronic ticket that you can show on your phone when you board.
Ferry tickets can also be bought in person at the port, from certain shops and tourist services around town, and even at other towns along the coast in some cases.
Cost of Ferry Tickets
For the most up-to-date ferry ticket prices, check the FRS and Intershipping websites. At time of writing, one-way prices start around 35 EUR (Intershipping) / 40 EUR (FRS) for a single adult passenger on foot. A car can be added for about 150 EUR (Intershipping) / 170 EUR (FRS). Larger vehicles like motorhomes cost roughly 50 to 70 EUR more than a car. A motorbike costs less, around 40 EUR.
At time of this writing bicycles and pets go free on both Intershipping and FRS ferries, though you should indicate them when buying your ticket if the option is offered. Currently you’ll find bikes and pets under the “Other” section of the FRS booking flow.
FRS offers a “Premium class” for 14 EUR extra, but it’s not worth the money. In our observation it was a small separate seating area that was nearly empty and didn’t offer much value.
Pay attention, this part is important: there are TWO different ferry ports in Tangier and they are about 50 km and one hour’s drive apart.
Tangier Ville is the port you want if taking the ferry to Tarifa, and it’s the port you’ll end up at if going from Tarifa to Morocco. It’s a smaller port right in the heart of the touristy part of Tangier near the old medina and city center. If you stay at a hotel near the water in Tangier you can simply walk to or from the Tangier Ville port. Tangier Ville only connects to Tarifa, and is the only Moroccan port that does so. Here’s the location of Tangier Ville:
Tangier Med is the port you DON’T want if going to Tarifa. It’s a larger and busier port 50 km east of the city center with more and longer ferry connections to Europe. From Tangier Med you can travel by ferry to Algeciras or Gibraltar, or to Barcelona or even to France. But you can’t travel from Tangier Med to Tarifa. Note that it is possible to travel between Tangier Med and Tangier Ville by public transport if needed. Here is the location of Tangier Med:
Puerto de Tarifa: There is only one small port in Tarifa, so that part is easy. You’ll find it here:
This is an international border crossing after all, so you’ll need to go through the usual immigration formalities. Don’t worry, this will be straightforward as long as your documents are in order. Both Spain and Morocco offer visa-free entry for a number of nationalities, but you should check for the latest requirements based on your country of citizenship.
You should arrive early (about 90 minutes is recommended) especially if traveling with a vehicle, as there can be a line at immigration and customs. Details will vary depending on your nationality and your vehicle, but here’s a general overview of what to expect.
Before boarding you will go through immigration and customs to “check out” of the country you are leaving (either Spain or Morocco). There will be separate lines for pedestrians and vehicles (we were told to take the vehicle line with our bicycles). Officers will stamp your passport and might search your vehicle or bags.
After disembarking (or, from Tarifa to Tangier, before leaving the ferry) you will go through immigration and customs to enter the next country. Again they will stamp your passport and search your vehicle or bags. We found the Spanish side fairly quick and relaxed.
About vehicles: If driving a vehicle you’ll be directed through the process of loading and unloading by the ferry staff. I am not an expert on the immigration requirements for crossing the border with vehicles, since we traveled by bicycle. I’ve heard insurance is mandatory in Morocco, and there may be other formalities to be aware of. Do your research!
What to Expect Onboard
Once onboard the ferry you can grab a seat and some food, relax, and enjoy the view. Amenities include free wifi, charging ports, bathrooms, a cafe serving snacks and simple meals (a bit expensive, payment via card or Euros only), and duty free shopping. Depending on the boat there may be an outdoor area where you can enjoy the wind in your hair or perhaps a smoke break.
On our FRS ferry (the Cueta Jet) there were many seating arrangements including both rows and tables. Seats were numbered but we had no assignment and were free to move around.
Day Trip from Tarifa to Tangier (or vice versa)
Taking the ferry for a day trip to Tarifa or Tangier is fun, affordable, and popular. If you catch a morning ferry you’ll have all day to explore before heading back in the evening (book your return ticket in advance). There is short-term parking at both ports if you want to drive there and leave your vehicle while you take the ferry as a pedestrian. Both ports are within walking distance to the main downtown area and you can easily spend a day exploring the best parts of Tarifa or Tangier on foot.
Guided Tours of Tangier
If you’d like to experience the ferry between Tarifa and Tangier but don’t want to deal with the logistics on your own, you might enjoy a guided excursion. Usually run as 6 or 9 hour trips, these guided group activities include the round-trip ferry ride, sightseeing highlights, a stop for lunch, and time for shopping.
These group trips are actually an economical way to see Tangier. The cheapest options start around 60 EUR which is less than a round-trip ferry ticket. If you feel uncertain about navigating the complexities of a foreign culture, having a guide will make your visit stress-free.
Top guided day trips from Tarifa to Tangier with GetYourGuide:
Though a guided trip can be easier, know that it’s totally possible (and very rewarding) to explore Tangier on your own. A guided excursion leaves you no freedom to explore or get off the beaten path, and will likely include some “forced shopping” with vendors who will try to overcharge you (haggle hard). Morocco is actually a wonderful country with a hospitable culture, but the more touristy experiences can unfortunately give the opposite impression. If you need an easy and quick excursion, a guide will be helpful. If you want a deeper experience, go on your own.
Other Spain – Morocco Ferry Routes
As you can see, the Tarifa – Tangier ferry route is a classic that many travelers enjoy. It’s best for those who want to explore the more walkable, intimate, and charming areas of Tarifa and old town Tangier, as well as those looking for the shortest ferry crossing between Morocco and Spain. There are, however, a few other ways to take the ferry between the two countries. I’ll list them here briefly for completeness.
Tangier Med – Algeciras: Algeciras is a larger Spanish city about 23 km northeast of Tarifa. It’s better connected to Spain’s bus and rail network, so if your intention is to immediately catch public transport to elsewhere in Spain this is a more convenient port. Tarifa is smaller and more pleasant though, and you can get to Algeciras from Tarifa by public transit.
Cueta – Algeciras: Cueta is, strangely, a little slice of Spanish territory surrounded by Morocco. A short ferry ride connects it with mainland Spain at Algeciras.
Tangier Med – Gibraltar: Located across the bay from Algeciras, Gibraltar is actually a British territory surrounded by Spain. The Gibraltar ferry port is right next to an international airport, so this could be a good option for those who want to fly before or after their ferry trip.
Tangier Med – Barcelona: A longer ferry ride that takes over a day to connect Morocco with the beautiful and second-most populous city in Spain.
Al Hoceima – Motril: The ferry crossing between these two cities takes several hours and lies west of the Strait of Gibraltar in the Alboran Sea.
Melilla – Almería: Melilla is an autonomous Spanish city on the northern coast of Morocco with a short-ish (4 – 5 hours) ferry connection to Almería, the capital of Spain’s Andalusia province. This is the most eastward ferry crossing between Morocco and Spain.
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