Just like everyone says, there's a huge number of men waiting when you get off the ferry wanting to take your bags and give you a tour of the city. I made the mistake of going with one, knowing exactly what he was, and I was glad I did because it sure beat sitting at the train station all day. However, he claimed I could pay whatever I wanted which I knew was a lie. He repeatedly took me to dark places, put his arms around me, and said "Are you happy with Mustafa?" We did the typical carpet shop thing, and he took me to an overpriced empty restaurant, but the food was excellent. In the end he asked for 200 dirhams, and when I gave it to him he told me 300. Then I went off on him and told him if he's that desperate for money to just take it all from me which got him upset. He said I embarrassed him in front of his cousin (the taxi driver), and he just took the 200. In the end he tried to make out with me at the train station which was disgusting, but luckily he just said a couple of rude words when I pushed him away. These guides can be useful for seeing the city, but be very careful, and it's definitely advisable to arrange something beforehand than to just go with whatever random person approaches you.
After we left the camel area, we were brought to and let out at the Kasbah, back in the city. As we wound our way through the narrow streets we were hounded by numerous vendors trying to sell us things. Some were quite rude and honestly I was a little intimidated by it all. I was relieved when I saw the bus waiting for us at the end of the street.
Well, I was not going to stay at night in Tangier. But, being highly flexible, when I noticed proud commercial Hotel somewhere off the beaten path in the medina I entered poor and simply room (a lobby?) with large writing on a wall: "no strangers allowed into the rooms" and I asked a guy about room for two. He was talking a lot in strange language (mix of Arabic, French and English) and showed us the best room with no bathroom at the best price ($7 or so). The room was very basic with... dirty bedding and window glass. Better don't ask me about the shared restroom/toilet... I saw something like this only in the former Soviet Union many years before...
Conclusion: skip the cheapest hotels or pensions in the Tangier's medina or take more time to look for a clean one and do not except to find any.
Stay in more expensive hotels (numerous but in high season reservation in advance recommended) or drive to Asilah like I did. I paid approx. $12 - $20 for simple room for two at clean local hotels, whereas touristy, at least 3-star, hotels cost over $50 in Morocco.
Keep your wits about you in the port area. As soon as we had left the ferry we were met by a number of locals offering to find us taxis, hotels etc, or to show us around their city. We politely but firmly said no and most of them seemed to leave it at that.
However, I saw another couple who had been on our boat being followed right across the port by one persistent guide. These guys can be difficult to shake off and it's best to insist you want to be left alone.
We stopped to change money just beyond the boat and a number of taxis pulled up while we were getting our Dirhams. I said no thanks but they still stayed there until we had walked off. Though this kind of hassle is not overly threatening, it's certainly feels a little unpleasant and was not the nicest way to to start off our holiday.
I noticed many bars and night clubs, not so many as in European Mediterranean resorts but many more than in any other destination in Morocco. In most of them, however, the majority of Moroccan women were prostitutes or... they at least looked as prostitutes. Maybe in few high class discos/bars things go different way.
I was told that Tangier is the place in Morocco with highest rates of HIV - positives. Paid sex (I mean prostitutes) is easy available in many nightclubs but it is NOT my recommendation - isn't it unsexy by the way? Maybe there are any better sex destinations closer to your place? Maybe your own bed...
Just in case... do not make a mistake and don't believe that normal use of contraceptives is unnecessary, simply because you're in a Muslim country.
At the beginning I was annoyed with all the people talking to us and I confused with hassling, later on I realise most of them want conversation, specially after telling them that I had lived there and I had been with the Zoco nun´s (the Calcuta sisters) and stayed in Casa Ria nuns. It is true I only stayed for one week, but it was my best friend who lived there for two years while helping the nuns. But the only way to avoid them asking you to be your guides is to tell them you know where you are going. I did not wanted to spend my day looking the shops they wanted to show me LOL and after so long time I still remembered the area
With the shop attendants that stop you to enter, nothing works LOL they always have an answer (it reminds me my mother!!), if you say “I have no money” they will say “just look”, it does nto matter what you say … they will find an answer ;-) so if you really do not want anything, just do not ask for prices or look as you will finish buying something !
Beware when crossing roads, even if it is a proper one, as they do not seem to stop, only will “try” to avoid hitting you. It has become to dangerous that even there are this kind of signs.
The worst of all is when the police is around, a car stopped because a big group of people were crossing and the police was shouting to the man because he stopped …. In a crossing! Incredible LOL
If you plan to get something at the duty free, check that they do not try to tease you with the prices, we wanted to buy some tobacco at the ferry and they tried to charge us more, even if it was written on board! You can take up to 200 cigarettes per person (more than 18 years old)
If you are looking for the typical Mediterranean resort, you better check other possibilities, in Morocco not all restaurants offer alcohol and being drunk is not well seen, for that kind of vacations you better choose another country.
Watch out for anyone who approaches you and offers to show you around. You'll only end up getting ripped-off, as we did.
After escaping the port area without too much hassle we were feeling more confident about seeing Tangier. Outside the port we stopped to look at our map to try and find our way to the centre of town. Bad decision!
One of the locals approached us and asked where were we going and did we need any help. I really should have said no but I asked could he tell us the way to the medina. He then said to follow him and he'd show us the way and rather stupidly we followed him. He did seem very nice at the time:(
We soon lost track of where we were as he led us further and further into the backstreets of the medina. Somewhere at the back of my mind I was worried we'd end up being mugged or something similar but by now I had no idea where we were so we had little option but to continue with him.
I had read up on Tangier beforehand so I asked him what sights were nearby. We were very close to the Kasbah museum, so we decided to go in and see it and escape from our guide for a bit. But when we were finished he was of course waiting for us at the gate. By now I realized he was planning to try and stay with us for the day and as we had negotiated nothing with him I tried to end it then. We were leaving for Fes an hour later anyway, though our guide was by now recommending all the different things he could show us in the Medina.
Moroccan authorities expect annual tourism arrivals from abroad to reach 10 million by 2010. Given the large constructions started and planned, creating the basis for a substantial growth in arrivals, the Moroccan government expects the sector will create 72,000 new jobs by 2010.
The year 2010 is also when Moroccan authorities expect most of the giant projects started within the tourism sector to be finished. This in particular includes the construction of the new port facilities outside Tangier - the main ferry connection with Europe - and the construction of several new destinations and hotel complexes. A government strategy, known as "Vision 20102", includes investments of millions of US dollars to increase capacity to receive 10 million tourists annually.
The Moroccan tourism industry contributes with a significant portion of the country's foreign exchange earnings. Tourism-related industries, such as handicraft, provide employment to over half the Moroccan working force. The country has become an attractive tourist destination especially for Europeans.
What that means to you is that come the summer months, there is a large influx of tourists crowding the narrow streets of Tangiers Medina and Kasbah. Many come and go via cruise ships but many others stay for days at a time and book the first rate hotels in advance.
Plenty has been written about the hassle and while it is true that Tanger has more than its share of it, there are ways to control it. Remember that you are the one in control: stumbling from that 12 hour ride on the night train, the hassle will most likely get you more than if you are well rested, so it might not be a good idea to say visit the Kasbah at that moment. Chill out in a cafe is a much better option.
Also, 4 out of 5 people approaching you, will be hustlers. Ignore and don't speak to them even if goes against your ideas of courtesy. This is probably what sucks tehmost about the hassle, the fact that you can't let your guards down and be yourself.
As in many countries in Africa be careful with what you eat or drink to avoid stomach problems, I try to buy always bottled water and avoid raw food like salads, I also try only go to places that I had been recommended by friends.
As it turns out I did not experience the hoards of small and dirty children, reaching out their hands for coins or candy, or anything that you can spare running all around you, taunting and begging you. I was told by our tour guide that it certainly still happens but that the children never used to beg until kind-hearted tourists started giving them money because they looked cute. Eventually, the kids realized it was easy money and turned it into a full time occupation.
What I did experience were the numerous, aggressive guys trying to sell us trinkets as we were in the streets strung out on our walking tours. These guys are incredibly bold. They are likely to prod, poke, and grab at your bags (ladies protect your purses!) unless you firmly tell them no and walk quickly away from them. Even then you’ll have these gangs of trinket merchants trailing behind you as if you were a Pied Piper.
The picture shows just a few of the many men who whistled, chortled, shouted, walked alongside me, or in some other way attempted to get me to part with my money for questionable merchandise.
From previous tip......
No way mate, I said, just take us back to the port area please and we'll be off. So we went back in to the labyrinth like medina, which actually looked really interesting and well worth exploring. We saw a Berber market and some interesting shops and quiet streets. I kept checking with our guide that he was taking us back to the port but we actually ended up outside a local shop selling herbs/spices etc.
He said we should go in and have a look but I was having none of this so on we went. Back near the port we finally got rid of him. But not before he had demanded 50 Euro for showing us around. That's 50 Euro for about an hour's work, despite us not even wanting a guide. I offered 5 Euro hoping to get rid of him. He got very angry at this point and started saying he had a family to support that and he should be paid for showing us around in the rain.
We were still in an area that I didn't recognise so I didn't want to cause too much of a scene in case any of his mates jumped in but there was no way I was paying that much. Eventually we gave him 10 Euro and walked off. He actually looked quite pleased as we were leaving so I guess we were quite badly ripped off.