Hostal Alborada (Lodging)
Address and Website: San Jose, N 40 11380, 11380 Tarifa; www.hotelalborada.com
Location: Hostal Alborada is located about 3 blocks outside of the old town wall. The old town and ferry terminal are still within easy walking distance, and parking’s a bit easier outside of the wall.
Overall: The hotel/hostel was pretty much what I had expected. It was a no frills place with a friendly staff. We were taking the boat into Tangier, Morocco the next day, and Tarifa is the perfect location to leave from for this (boats from here go directly into the city’s center)–the port is more than walkable from the hotel. That being said, Tarifa itself didn’t have much to offer. It had a cute, compact city center (no big sights of note) that was nice to walk around and seemed to have a number of good restaurants. People either come here to go to Tangier or to windsurf at the beach (windsurfers and stores for them are everywhere). There aren’t any real “big chain” options in Tarifa or anything extremely upscale from what I could find. This was definitely more than fine for a short stay. Just know there is no elevator–which I assumed anyway, and the bed isn’t going to be very soft. Overall, it was fine for what it was, our bathroom was clean, and the common areas looked like a great area to meet people if you’re traveling alone. We didn’t do the breakfast (ate in the ferry terminal in the morning instead), but they do offer the option. We found a parking space on the street in front of Hostal Alborada (remember, if the parking space has blue lines, it’s paid parking). There was enough parking in the general area that you will probably not have too much trouble finding a spot. Also, there was a grocery store about a block away, so we were able to get some snacks and bottled water easily.
Hotel Staff: The staff was very friendly and even held our bags for us the whole day that we were in Tangier after we checked out of our room. (We didn’t want to leave them in the car–in Spain, you really don’t want to leave your luggage in the car, it may not be there when you get back.)
Room: Our room was basic, but clean. It had two double beds pushed together. It was pretty small. but it had an ensuite bathroom (which is a requirement for me). The bathroom was nicer than I would have expected. (Our linens and towels were included; the towels were super scratchy, though.)
Take the Ferry to Morocco (Tangier) (Cultural Experience)
Address and Website: Calle del Alcalde Juan Núñez, 3, 11380 Tarifa; www.frs.es
Review of the Experience: The reason you go to Tangier (besides to windsurf) is to take the ferry to Morocco. It makes the perfect day trip. Unlike the ferry from Algeciras or Gibraltar, the ferry from Tarifa goes directly into downtown Tangier (ideal for a tourist). The ride takes about 35 mins (but is not always exactly “on-time” in its arrivals and departures). The 35 min ride takes you a world away. We loved it, but it is definitely a lot different than Europe and can take some out of their comfort zone. It is a world with a king, Islam, snake charmers, and camels. We loved walking through the markets and visiting the community bread oven. It was both an educational experience and a cultural one. The ferry ride itself was comfortable, and the water wasn’t rough (at least when we took it). It had comfortable, inside seats and a little snack/drink counter. When you board, get your passport stamped (there’s a window for it on the boat inside). Make sure that you do this. They look at your passport when you board the boat, but once on board, you have to go to that window to get your stamp. If you don’t, you’ll have issues with your return.
Further Thoughts: I STRONGLY recommend hiring a guide to meet you at the boat and take you around the city on a tour. I don’t recommend doing one of the large group tours (hire someone privately), they are just not the best way to immerse yourself into the culture and real Morocco. We did a full day with a private guide for a reasonable price (we were driven around the greater area, took a camel ride, and toured the markets and central part of town). He even took care of booking our ferry tickets for us–we just had to pick them up at the terminal before our departure. If you don’t hire a guide, just know ahead of time that the Medina is next to impossible to navigate (such a confusing street plan), and English doesn’t make the top 3 languaged spoken in Morocco. Also, having a guide keeps away people who otherwise might badger you (buy this, I need money, etc). See: Tangier & Tarifa for more information.