a tour in many languages
How would you think a tour in 4 languages would be ?
While the bus in driving the guide that speaks the 4 languages is human beeing.
when you buy the excursion in spain, make sure about the language.... And in case if there are many expect that you will get what the other nationality people will get.
There are a number of "guides" who will harass you endlessly throughout the touristy medina. The guides at the ferry docks are accredited or certified and will guarantee a flat fee for a decent introductory tour to this old town center.
Cave of Hercules/Grosse d'Hercule
So in this "cave" (I would call it a tiny hole in the ground at best...) you will find a hole shaped like the continent of Africa... just poorly done... and backwards...and as a man selling worthless trinkets in the cave told us, the bottom half was man-carved.
Then what the hell is so special about it?
Fun Alternatives: If for some reason you're near the cave, take a trip to Cap Spartel... it's not too far, it's free, and it's much more worth your time.
Speeding Tickets - Literal Highway Robbery!!!!
If you are driving in Morocco - The highway patrol have recently gotten radar speed detectors, and they are very keen on using them. An officer will merely walk out into the road in front of you in order to stop you.
My experience consisted of being pulled over before we were 20 minutes out of Tangier. The officer was very polite, but informed us that our infraction would cost us 400 deerhams. We were issued a ticket after payment, and as we drove away, I looked at it and noticed that the price of the ticket was printed in old letters at the top - 100 Deerham! The police tried to take us for and extra 150 deerham each!
PHOTO OF ACTUAL TICKET COMING SOON.
Unique Suggestions: First of all, be very polite and courteous. It helps to give the impression that you do not have much money, even if you do..... I spent a good deal of time rummaging in my purse. When the officer asked our professions, we told him that we were students. He finally relented and reduced out fee to 200 deerhams....However, this was still a 100 percent markup on the actual ticket price!!!!
Make sure that the officer knows that you are a tourist (Yes, in many cases this is obvious, but reinforcement does not hurt. Morocco is trying very hard to grow its tourism industry at present.)
Fun Alternatives: Well, one can take the bus or train, but really there is no other alternative if you go by car. We were pulled over a total of 6 times during our drive from Tangiers to Essouira and back, and only two of those times involved even a minor speeding issue; the other stops were just to get information about us. Remember - just be very polite and respectful. Fear and anger do nothing but encourange any phony or excessive ticketing that the patrol may be inclined to inflict upon you.
PHOTO OF ACTUAL TICKET COMING SOON.
if you are interested in reading some blog posting on my moroccan experience, they can be found at:
- Road Trip
I guess some would call this a Tourist Trap but I thought it was a fun part of the tour. We were driven to a spot out of the city to where THE CAMELS were. For a fee ( one Euro ) you could get on the camel, ride around for a few minutes and have your picture taken. This was a lot of fun and of course Hans got on one. I was too chicken. This gentleman smiled nicely for my camera but wanted to be paid so I gladly obliged.
- Family Travel
Allal, the "official tour guide"
When you get off the ferry and through customs in Tangiers, if you are foreign, you'll be pounced upon by Moroccan "official tour guides." We had the pleasure of meeting "Allal," a tall Moroccan with cop sunglasses and a Tom Selleck moustache.
He initially told us that for 15 euros each, he would take us to the bazaars in the kasbah, take us to a restaurant to eat, and get us back to the ferry in time to catch our bus in Algeciras. He BARELY fulfilled his promise.
He got us a cab (I've never been in a small cab with 6 other men before, and don't want to ever again!) and took us to the kasbah, the old city. There were some interesting shops in there, but we went straight to the restaurant.
We entered the dining area, and surprise surprise, the only other people in there were American. As naive as we were, this did make us suspicious... especially when a group of Arabs walked in to eat, saw the 2 tables of Americans, and walked right out!
We then were taken to a "bazaar" that looked more like an "Arab-Macy's" than what a bazaar should look like. I am positive that Allal got a cut of whatever we spent. I bought a "Berber blanket" from the guy, I spent 35€ and surely got ripped off. I could probably get it for about $15 back home. But I learned something, and those 35€ were my "tuition."
After that we went to an alleged "spice and herbs" shop where the owner played "professor" and went through his spiel. I felt bad for him, he wasn't very good. He tried to sell me 25 sticks of sandalwood, for 7€! No way, I can get that for $2 back home. He told me they didn't have them in America, he was full of it, I didn't buy any.
Unique Suggestions: Allal made us think we were in the biggest hurry (he convinced us that if we did not make this ferry, we would not make it back to our hotel in time), we scrambled quickly to buy tickets, ran like crazy to the ferry. It was "the running of the fools." Why? Because when we got there, we found out that the ferry was in no hurry, it actually didn't leave until 2 hours later! I am sure that after he convinced us we would miss the ferry if we didn't run as fast as we could, our old friend Allal must have perched himself on top of a platform and enjoyed a good laugh! I felt nauseous for about 30 minutes after that run, and boy was I angry at Allal.
Be firm with prices. If they are set initially, do NOT let your guide raise the prices. He will attempt to. Also, be VERY FIRM with your time schedule. No extra stops, because if he says they will take 5 minutes, that means they will take 20 minutes.
Fun Alternatives: If we did not have this guy, we either would have gotten lost in the kasbah, robbed outside the port, or would have walked in a circle for 2 hours looking at the nice ferries.
- School Holidays
- Study Abroad
- Road Trip
The Hercules Caves
From Cape Spartel I followed direction signs to the Hercules Caves (Grottes d'Hercule; 23 km west of Tangier). The caves were not interesting - just a simple and not very large hole in the earth with African-shape (not exactly!) hole overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was definetely a tourist trap.
First when I parked a car on a meadow signed as a parking lot, I was immediately attacked by three local parking guards who ordered and took approx. $5. It was my the most expensive parking lot in Morocco (usually I paid $1-2). On a pathway to the caves a few "guides" attacked me again. I ignored them. But in the cave, despite my loud and firm refusal, an older guy started to follow us and talk to us stories about the caves in English with his strange accent. At the end of maybe 10-min. "cave tour" he put "local" cap on my head (look at my picture) and ordered approx. $15 for "the cave tour" but finally agreed to take 1/3 of it.
Unique Suggestions: Enjoy beautiful views over the cliffed coast and the Atlantic Ocean above the cave.
Do bargain both at the parking lot and at the caves. I was in a hurry at the parking lot as I excepted to spend maybe an hour in large caves, silly me :-). On a pathway from the parking lot to the caves I met a couple from Danmark who told me that it took a few minutes to see the caves.
Fun Alternatives: Just skip it. Alternatively drive from the Cape Spartel straight to ancient Roman site of Cotta, only one kilometer southwards.
- Road Trip
Medina kids, beggars, hassle
Kids in Tangier are not terribly willing to appear on photos, but if you just give them a little time the bravest won't mind you and your camera. And they usually want money for pictures you took them or rarely money for nothing. Add not that common adult beggars and the hassle you have from street sellers following you arround.
Unique Suggestions: My advice is to refuse firmly to any kid, beggar or hassling seller.
Fun Alternatives: The adults will stop disturb you but the kids usually will follow you. If you give them any gifts (cigarettes, pens, labels etc.) or money expect... more kids around you. The alternative is:
- to skip the medina (and Tangier)
- to look as locals look: get a brown tan - it takes weeks in my case, dye your hair black, buy traditional jellabia and put it on; good luck :-).
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Dirty town beach and the ocean
The town beach has a great setting in Tangier. It stretches over a kilometer along curve with the white houses of Tangier on a high cliff before it ends in the barren mountains of which there is nothing further north than sea and the European continent.
The sad fact about the beach is that it is dirty and looks like never cleaned. The water in the Atlantic Ocean is not better. The western end of the beach is the most crowded and therefore also the dirtiest.
Unique Suggestions: Just in case... do not try to clean the beach, it's Sisyphean labour. Some locals (minority, I do believe) use to throw trash on a beach again and again.
Fun Alternatives: There are several Atlantic beaches west of Tangier, which - referring to tourists opinions I was talking to - offer a good alternative to the town beach. The only real, clean and nice beach with all facilities I found in Agadir... over 1,000 km south of Tangier.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Take it easy, keep smiling, go South!
I didn't like both Tetouan and Tangier, the first two cities I visited in Morocco. At the beginning of my Moroccan adventures I seriously started to think that it was a big mistake to save money, prepare (visas!) long time to spend 30 days just in... Morocco. There had been so many better destinations, I thought. Soon, I discovered that my thoughts were too early and found them a kind of a tourist trap.
Unique Suggestions: Never, ever judge the whole country (Morocco) you are going to visit just after short visit to first 1-2-3 places (Tetouan, Tangier)... wait... Especially when you enter emerging country in local (not that much touristy) way that is by car or on foot and thus you experience even stronger culture shock. Keep in mind that border areas (incl. many seaports and some airports) are among the worst "attractions" in a new country. Do not come back. I didn't and thanks to it I was lucky to visit beautiful Tunisia, amazing Turkey, fascinating Morocco etc.
Fun Alternatives: Take it easy, keep smiling and go South :-) During my 30-day trip, I found southern Morocco the best and the most amazing.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Not exactly camels on the beach...but, enjoyable!!
I loved the camels!! Yes!! It was a blatant tourist trap...but the camels were fun...the handlers were friendly...and the local was okay!! It wasn't the beach...where i had always dreamed of riding camels...but it was the best we could do on this day!!!
- Budget Travel
"Just have a Look".....................
Carpet shops, I feel are the biggest tourist trap we experienced in Morocco.
They get you in there, sit you down with a drink, we repeatedly told the we didnt want to buy a carpet, which fell of very deaf ears. Then we had to say which carpets we thought were nice which were put on a separate pile.
Then we were expected to say which ones out of the nice pile we wanted to buy!
All this was done in a seperate room, which in itself was quite intimidating.
The carpet seller finally gave in and was most ungracious about the whole thing!
Unique Suggestions: Only show any interest in anything if you want to really buy it...................Even if you show no interest, and even tell them you you dont want it can still have a hard time!
Don't trust your tour guide's shopping tips
Our tour guide was a hard working very nice person but if you expect some honest shopping tip from him you're in trouble. He will take you to his friends' stores and always tell that prices are cheap. The tour guide told us that the robe he was wearing costed 120 euros so my friend bought one at 50 and thought he made a great deal. We later saw it at 18 in Spain.
Tours in your own language
When you buy the tour you will certainly ask to have it in your own language. Of course, they'll tell you. But as soon as you board the bus and check that you're surrounded by tourists from many different countries in the world you'll realize that something is wrong. Yes, the guide will translate each phrase into at least 4 languages which results boring after a while. The guide can't get into any details as the bus is running and he has to repeat everything 4 times before the highlight is gone. So, you'll have to be patient and don't expect a very illustrative explanation.
Nearly forgot this one!
Oh yes, when you come out of the Restaurant you will be passed a photo or two of yourself, walking around the souk. 'How nice', you will think, and merrily start on your way. Then the guy with the photos will ask you for 2 Euros for each one.
Unique Suggestions: Hand the photos back iof you don't want them,