We are giddy with excitement here at Follow Our Motorhome, we’ve made it to Morocco and it feels so meant to be. We’ve talked about doing a trip here for the last few years and so finally we are REALLY here. Although there’s lots of information already out there already from bloggers that have been previously (which we’ve digested and found very useful), the process for entry does and has changed, so we thought we’d share our journey so far.
When back in the UK we debated whether to take the channel tunnel and do the long drive through France or keep fingers crossed for calm seas and take the ferry straight to Santander. Although we love France, at this time of year, unless we are skiing we really want to escape the cold and head for sunny blue skies. As the price was fairly competitive we decided to do therefore to head straight to northern Spain. As our sailing was early on a Saturday morning from Portsmouth it meant traveling down the night before. Having only moved Boris to his new storage location the week before we had pre-arranged with the sight owner to collect him at 9am on the Friday morning. We didn’t bank on it being the first hard frost of winter though and the water at the remote countryside farm was frozen solid. It left us with a dilemma as we had planned to park up at Port Solent overnight, an eating and drinking area in Portsmouth around 10 minutes from the ferry. Therefore after loading our kit on board we had to drive back home for water. Now we live on a tiny road with a dog leg bend so this meant parking up a couple of streets away and and ferrying water containers to and from Boris in our car. It was 1pm before we left Southport and we now had the joy of Friday afternoon traffic.
Lesson One Don’t load up and then expect to drive over 400 kms to get to your destination in one day.
After a 6+ hour journey we had a a couple of well earned glass of wine and fell into bed.
The Brittany ferries economie service is as described, a smaller ferry (so yes you do feel it roll more), with a bar area, a self service restaurant and a small shop. Having experienced the food on board previously we came organised this time with our travel kettle (don’t forget a 2 pin adapter), and a variety of food to see us through. On the two previous occasions we’ve taken this ferry, we’ve been lucky to have calm sailings, this time though our luck ran out, the seas were choppy (for me rough) and although Paul slept straight through and would probably say he was rocked to sleep like he was in a babies cradle, I’d describe it as having been on a 1000 rpm spin cycle! Armed with sea bands and ginger biscuits though I survived.
Having docked at just after 2pm, we put some KM’s behind us and made our way to the town of Palencia. It’s an attractive town which boasts an immense Gothic cathedral, some pretty squares and a colonnaded main pedestrian street flanked by shops and several other churches. Whilst on the ferry we’d met up with fellow Brits Pete and Jane who were making their way down to Estapona to enjoy some winter sun. As it happened to be Pete’s birthday they invited us to join them for dinner. Unfortunately on this occasion we didn’t choose our restaurant well and so our first meal is Spain was somewhat underwhelming and over priced. The company and wine were both good though.
Waking up to a chilly 3 degrees the following morning we weren’t going to hang around in the north so our next stop was the medieval town of Caceres. As we didn’t hurry to leave and stopped en route for a quick bite to eat, it was around 3pm before we arrived and the small free aire was already busy with motorhomes. Whilst we were sat deliberating what to do a French couple offered to squeeze closer to their neighbours to make space. Although we were all packed in a little too close, we were very grateful for their kindness.
The town itself is well worth a visit, the narrow cobbled streets twist and climb amoung ancient stone walls lined with palaces, mansions, arches and churches, while the skyline is decorated with turrets, spires and gargoyles. The monstrous square flanked by restaurants was deserted at this time of year, we did brave the chill and sit outside to enjoy a glass of wine and take in the magnificence of the place.
With our sights set firmly on getting to the Spanish coast to give ourselves a few days to get sorted for Morocco our final push saw us arrive in Gibraltar the following day. Previously when here we have parked at the football stadium, however this parking is no longer open to Motorhomes, so instead we headed for the marina. Having done the sights of Gib previously on this occasion we just wanted to stock up on a few Christmas treats and gin for Morocco.
Despite chomping at the bit to get over the water, the fact that our green card didn’t become active for a few days made us kick back and relax for a few days, giving us the opportunity to clean Boris inside and out, go out running (for me) and walking (for Paul), do laundry (yes already, we’ve had to wear a lot of layers) and do some more reading up for Morocco.
Morocco here we come
Having read and talked to lots of people about Morocco we knew we could buy our tickets from Carlos at Viajes Normandie at Los Barrios (GPS N36.17916 W5.44111) and decided to do this the day before travelling.
Here’s how it works:
- The cost is €200 for an open return ticket from Algeciras to Tangier Med which means we can return to Spain anytime before our 90 day visa ends on the 6th March. You have to take all passports and your V5 Document. Note they only take cash, there are ATM’s in Carrefour.
- There is a large parking area in front of their office where you can park overnight free of charge.
- There are 3 large supermarkets near the ticket office for stocking up on essentials (booze for us) for your Moroccan trip.
- The office issue you with a till type receipt ONLY. You are no longer issued here with any immigration forms or other related paperwork. Although they do give you a bottle of plonk and a packet of biscuits.
- The ticket is ferry company specific now, as the 10am sailing was with Balearia ferries we could not then hop on the next sailing if we missed it.
- You need to arrive at the port an hour before your sailing (although we were around 2 hours before and it wasn’t an issue).
- When you get on board the ferry you will need to take your passports with you. Collect and fill out an immigration card from the information desk on board and take this along with your passport to the police desk (you will spot the big queue) where your passport will be stamped with your entry details and a number, you will need this number when you fill in registration cards at campsites etc. Ferries to Morocco are notorious for being late, however our wait was less than 20 minutes once boarded.
- When you disembark you will follow the signs through passport control to the customs area where someone will take the passport and the V5 for the registered keeper of the vehicle. You will be asked to wait and these will be returned to you along with your vehicle import card (see pic). This card must be kept safe until you exit the country, it proves that your vehicle has been temporarily imported into Morocco, on exit you must produce this to export your vehicle back out of the country without duty. We were very lucky, our ferry was fairly empty and so the whole paperwork process at customs took around 15 minutes. Once we had our paperwork back we were waved on, no vehicle checks or questions asked. This wasn’t the case for everyone though, our Dutch neighbour from the previous night was taken through the vehicle X ray area.
- When exiting the port there was one more check of passports to ensure everything is in order and that’s it.
- Just after the exit barrier are both ATM’s and Bureau De Change desks.
The whole process from start to finish was seamless, we do always say we are generally lucky people, and perhaps lady luck was on our side again today.
Sssshhhhh though don’t tell everyone as they will all want to come!
Our Sleepy Spots
Palencia Free aire (just use the fuel station opposite). Very roomy with clean showers, toilets and laundry. Emptying and filling area and also a place to clean your motorhome. This area used to have free electric hook up, but this wasn’t functioning this time. GPS 42.010443 -4.545504.
Caceres Free aire with service, space for around 10 motorhomes. Walkable to the medieval centre. GPS 39.480409 -6.367068.
La Linea (Gibralter) Aire next to Marina walkable to the border with Gib. €12.50 per night inc services. On site restaurant and self service laundry.
Our first stop in Morocco is the coastal town of Asilah. Lots of Moroccan adventures coming soon we hope.
Andi & Paul