Tangier, Morocco – The Worst And Most Expensive Day Tour Ever

At least the camel's smile in Tangier

Rick Steve’s was wrong!!  In one of his guidebooks he recommends taking a day tour to Tangier with one of his best guides, Aziz.  He goes on to say how much Tangier has changed over the years and how its no longer the “Tijuana of Africa”.  Tangier may no longer be the “Tijuana of Africa” but you wouldn’t know it by using the horrible guides provided by Aziz Tours.  Here is the story on how a good idea turned into a the worst and most expensive day tour ever.

I contacted Aziz by e-mail and he was very responsive and gave a quote of 101 euros person (202 for the two of us).  This included the ferry tickets (66 euros round trip), a minibus tour of the outskirts of Tangier, visit to Cape Spartel, Cave of Hercules, a stop for a camel ride then finishes up with a walking tour of the old city.  During the tour he said he would give “lots of information about Tangier´s history, Moroccan culture and Berber traditions, etc”.  This sounded good and since Rick Steve’s recommended this guy I said ok.  Then things started to fall apart.

At the last minute, Aziz notified us he wasn’t available and said one of his trusted colleagues would take us around.  I should have cancelled immediately as this is a big red flag.

So what went wrong??

  • The “30 minute” ferry ride actually takes about 90 minutes.  They slow the ship down so they can process everyone’s visa onboard before the ferry gets to Morocco.
  • Aziz nor his colleague was there to pick us up at the ferry terminal.  We had to wait around for another 30 minutes even though the ferry was over an hour late.
  • The “trusted colleague” who picked us up wasn’t actually a tour guide.  He was Aziz’s driver.  He spoke extremely broken english which was virtually impossible to understand.  So much for getting “lots of information about Tangier´s history, Moroccan culture and Berber traditions, etc”.
  • When we got to the Cave of Hercules our guide/driver couldn’t take us in.  Instead we had to pay 5 Euros to some other guy to show us around.  He spent 2 minutes explaining the sight and 10 minutes showing us all the crappy souvenirs to buy.  The worst part is you could tell he hated his job.  No enthusiasm, no passion for his job, no smiling, just no personality.

Cave of Hercules

Souvenirs in Cave of Hercules

  • When we got to the camel ride I wasn’t expecting much and I was right.  It was a 5 minute ride around a dirt parking lot that cost another 10 euros.

Camel ride around a dirt parking lot

  • We wanted to eat lunch at one of the local restaurants that served what looked like a very good local fish dish.  Our guide/driver said you can’t eat that because you will get sick.  I said I want to get some good, cheap, local food for lunch and he said no problem.  He took us to what looked like a local restaurant except when we entered it was full of tourists.  I told him I wanted local and cheap and he said.  Yes.  Local food.  Cheap.  We found out at the end of the meal that it cost 50 euros.  The lunch wasn’t bad but 50 euros was ridiculous.
What we wanted to eat that cost only a couple Euros…

Local Moroccan dish

Instead.  We got a mediocre meal at this overpriced restaurant.

Overpriced tourist restaurant in Tangier

  • Now for the walking tour.  What a disappointment.  We actually got handed off to another guy who had even less personality (I didn’t think that was possible but it was).  He rushed us through the old town just pointing out the old buildings by saying their name.  No history.  No stories.  No explanation. He just said their names.

Our no history. No explanation. Super fast walking tour of Tangier

  • When Miki found this craftsman making leather handbags in a small corner shop she stopped.  Our guide said no and tried to keep us moving.  Miki wanted to buy a bag directly from the craftsman.  Our guide said that wasn’t possible.  We must buy it at a shop.  The lightbulb went off.  He was rushing us through the tour to get him to his friend’s shop so he could get commission off what we would buy.  At this point I called him out on it and told him we are not going to buy anything at the shop and your not going to get any commission so please take us somewhere else.  He got pissed.  He said there is nothing else to see in Tangier so he took us back to the ferry terminal.

Local craftsman making leather handbags

So what’s the best thing to do in Tangier, Morocco?

Sleeping in Tangier

We spent almost 300 euros on what was the the worst and most expensive day tour ever.  (Ok.  it wasn’t the most expensive day tour we’ve ever taken but it definitely was the biggest waste of money.) It’s too bad that a very pour tour guide ruined Tangier for us.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone to visit Tangier but if you do definitely don’t use Aziz Tours.  I’ll also think twice about trusting Rick Steve’s again :)
We did see one cool thing during our tour.  The cafe from the Bourne Ultimatum.  When we asked to stop to take a picture the guide said no place to park (surprised?).  So we had to make due with a drive by pic.

Cafe from the Bourne Ultimatum

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5 Responses to “Tangier, Morocco – The Worst And Most Expensive Day Tour Ever”

  1. John Smith says:

    Too bad you had what you consider to be a bad experience but that doesn’t mean that Aziz himself is a bad guide, nor should you attempt to dissuade others from using his services based on what you think you deserved. I know the restaurant, and it is considered one of the better fish restaurants in Tangier, and it used to be cheap until it was featured in Vogue magazine some years ago. Anyway, I would trust Rick Steve’s advice to definitely use Aziz Tours (there are more than one Aziz guides in Tangier) over your opinions, which you are certainly entitled to. But in my opinion, you are wrong to continue this vendetta against a hard-working man who comes with glowing recommendations from many sources, not just Rick Steve’s book. It’s totally unfair and a cheap swipe at an honest and reliable guide. Perhaps you should just chalk up your losses and continue your world travels. There are many other sources that give good reviews of his services. I doubt you’ve smeared others in this manner, and it’s pitiful. And, could it be possible or conceivable that Aziz, himself, rather than a person he used to fill in, might have been occupied with another tour or group because your boat from Spain was considerably late? And yet, you gripe about it being late and add it in to this gripe-like posting and make it seem like he was responsible for the late boat.

  2. nathan says:

    I appreciate your comments but I can only comment on the experience I had. I’m sure you can find others who have had a great time in Tangier. I’m sure Aziz and the other tour guides he’s provided offered wonderful experiences for people. My experience was unfortunately very different.

  3. Jennifer says:

    It’s a shame you had such an unpleasant experience, ours was quite the opposite! I am actually glad I didn’t see your review until now or we probably would have missed out on a great tour, as we were uncertain with the idea of going with a smaller tour group.
    We had Aziz himself and I am certain that that is what made a major difference. Aziz has been in business for 15 years and I could find very few negative reviews on him. I think that in itself speaks volumes for his track record.
    I contacted Aziz via e-mail on Monday June 4th, 2012 which was very short notice as we were hoping to book a tour with him on Wednesday June 6th, 2012. He e-mailed us back a few hours later saying yes he could accommodate us on the 6th and outlined our options. We opted for his grand tour catching the 9am ferry with him booking the tickets for us. Our quote was 98 Euros each for the day tour & return ferry from Tarifa.
    When we arrived in Tangier, we disembarked the boat and followed everyone else up the ramp and along the overpass corridor. Halfway along there was a check point. There we were turned around by the police as we had not gotten our entry stamp on board. This was a very unnerving experience to see all the tourists walking away and being stuck behind. We ran back to the boat. Fortunately another couple also missed their stamp so we were not alone. I saw a well dress man (dress pants, dress shirt and dress shoes) on the overhead bridge waving and I assumed it was Aziz so I signaled we needed a stamp. He called my cell; it was him and said don’t worry I will wait for you. About 20 minutes later the disgruntled customs agent came back, he looked VERY unimpressed. (the guards told the other couple we were very lucky, for some reason he came back otherwise we would have had to wait til 4pm for him to return) He stamped our passports and we were off. (In hindsight seeing both how respected and how much pull Aziz seemed to have, we can’t help but wonder if he had some influence on the return of the customs agent, although this is pure speculation.)
    Aziz greeted us and we met up with another couple from California. For the first hour or so of the tour we felt bad for detaining the other couple so we stayed pretty quiet and let them do all the talking and question asking to Aziz. Aziz provided us with a lot of information on Tangiers history, Moroccan culture and Berber traditions, he was actually extremely informative and we learned a lot. We both love history and after taking many tours in Portugal and Gilbraltar it was interesting to hear the history from the other side of the straight.
    Our camel ride was on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean (albeit yes in a dirt parking lot). It cost us 2 Euros each and lasted about a 5-10 minutes. We were able to take as many pictures as we wanted.
    Our next stop was Hercules Grotto which Aziz took us into personally. The entrance fee was .50 Euro each and although there were many souvenir spots along the cave to make purchases at no point was it suggested we do so. Our time inside the cave was spent explaining the cave both the natural and man made parts and more of the Berber traditions. There was a man inside the cave taking photos for 2 Euros in front of the Africa shaped opening and developed it for you right there with a good quality camera. We opted to do this as we only had a disposable camera, our phone camera and Aziz’s camera. (None quite captured the image the same as the professional camera) It had been suggested to us by friends who had not yet visited Morocco not to bring our camera over to Tangier. I would advise to bring a camera because at no point did I feel unsafe to have one. This actually brings to light another point. When Aziz realized we didn’t have a camera with us he offered us the use of his digital camera for the day and then he’d email them to us later. (I do have to follow up on getting them however which I will do after I finish this :) !)
    Next was lunch. Aziz gave us the choice of going somewhere more touristy or somewhere more authentic and local. We opted for authentic and local. The meal was amazing and cost a total of 25Euros for all five of us! That’s 5 Euros each! We each had a main course and a drink and then we all shared two appetizers and two baskets of bread, oh and three of us also had tea!
    During our walking tour we weren’t harassed at all. Not while passing through the shopping areas nor passing through areas where people were making items right there. And there wasn’t anywhere we went that Aziz dissuaded us from purchasing directly from anyone. The other couple on the tour bought two blankets and I ended up buying a scarf. I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything but seeing the workers in action hands on is so different then seeing it on a shelf somewhere. My fiance actually saw a pair of shoes in a downstairs area that Aziz had not planned on bringing us to. We asked Aziz if we could go there he said sure he would take us there if we wanted no problem. Aziz explained he hadn’t planned on taking us there because it was more a flea market type place but if we wanted to go he will take us. My fiance bought some shoes and again Aziz did not dissuade him, he actually helped with the negotiations when he heard the vendor try to switch the price.
    Also on the walking tour we visited the area where the Bourne Ultimatum chase seen took place. (Yes in our driving part of the tour we also passed the cafe from the Bourne Ultimatum although it never occurred to us to ask to stop as it was very early in the tour and we had just finished the fiasco at the port and had already held the other couple up so long at that point.)
    At one point during the walking tour we actually felt very fortunate to be with Aziz. This is because we passed a house that was under renovations and the contractor knew Aziz so we were invited in the see the house. What an amazing and unique opportunity!!!
    Other places Aziz took us on our walking tour was into a local bread making “house” that caters to the community where they gave us samples of sunflower seeds and roasted peanuts right from the oven (it was a tucked away location and something I doubt you’d experience on the larger tours). We also visited various hands on small tile shops and a cafe where the Rollingstones had chilled while in Tangier. The cafe had pictures on the wall of Mick Jagger enjoying extracurricular activities in that cafe.
    Aziz seemed to be a very well known and respected man in the community acknowledged by many many people as he passed through the community. Also walking with Aziz we weren’t hassled with people trying to sell us stuff everywhere. If we weren’t interested Aziz would say something to them and they would stop trying to sell to us.
    At the end of the tour Aziz “allowed” some vendors for a brief time to show us what our experience may have been like without a guided tour lol or maybe that is just what the people were like in that particular area. They were relentless trying to sell to us, worst then anywhere I have ever been and I have been to the Caribbean, Mexico (Tijuana, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun & Juarez), Egypt, Kenya, Australia etc…I would not have enjoyed the day at all if that was what we had to deal with all day!
    Aziz then took us back to the ferry where he personally walked us right to the boat. He was able to pass by customs etc and wait with us until we boarded. Talk about door to door service!
    There are many other parts of our day but I mostly tried to address the parts of the tour that were a disappointment to you and show how our experience differed greatly from yours.
    Again sorry to hear you didn’t have the same wonderful experience we did but for us thanks to Aziz it was truly a memorable day! It’s a shame you had such an unpleasant experience, ours was quite the opposite! I am actually glad I didn’t see your review until now or we probably would have missed out on a great tour, as we were uncertain with the idea of going with a smaller tour group.
    We had Aziz himself and I am certain that that is what made a major difference. Aziz has been in business for 15 years and I could find very few negative reviews on him. I think that in itself speaks volumes for his track record.
    I contacted Aziz via e-mail on Monday June 4th, 2012 which was very short notice as we were hoping to book a tour with him on Wednesday June 6th, 2012. He e-mailed us back a few hours later saying yes he could accommodate us on the 6th and outlined our options. We opted for his grand tour catching the 9am ferry with him booking the tickets for us. Our quote was 98 Euros each for the day tour & return ferry from Tarifa.
    When we arrived in Tangier, we disembarked the boat and followed everyone else up the ramp and along the overpass corridor. Halfway along there was a check point. There we were turned around by the police as we had not gotten our entry stamp on board. This was a very unnerving experience to see all the tourists walking away and being stuck behind. We ran back to the boat. Fortunately another couple also missed their stamp so we were not alone. I saw a well dress man (dress pants, dress shirt and dress shoes) on the overhead bridge waving and I assumed it was Aziz so I signaled we needed a stamp. He called my cell; it was him and said don’t worry I will wait for you. About 20 minutes later the disgruntled customs agent came back, he looked VERY unimpressed. (the guards told the other couple we were very lucky, for some reason he came back otherwise we would have had to wait til 4pm for him to return) He stamped our passports and we were off. (In hindsight seeing both how respected and how much pull Aziz seemed to have, we can’t help but wonder if he had some influence on the return of the customs agent, although this is pure speculation.)
    Aziz greeted us and we met up with another couple from California. For the first hour or so of the tour we felt bad for detaining the other couple so we stayed pretty quiet and let them do all the talking and question asking to Aziz. Aziz provided us with a lot of information on Tangiers history, Moroccan culture and Berber traditions, he was actually extremely informative and we learned a lot. We both love history and after taking many tours in Portugal and Gilbraltar it was interesting to hear the history from the other side of the straight.
    Our camel ride was on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean (albeit yes in a dirt parking lot). It cost us 2 Euros each and lasted about a 5-10 minutes. We were able to take as many pictures as we wanted.
    Our next stop was Hercules Grotto which Aziz took us into personally. The entrance fee was .50 Euro each and although there were many souvenir spots along the cave to make purchases at no point was it suggested we do so. Our time inside the cave was spent explaining the cave both the natural and man made parts and more of the Berber traditions. There was a man inside the cave taking photos for 2 Euros in front of the Africa shaped opening and developed it for you right there with a good quality camera. We opted to do this as we only had a disposable camera, our phone camera and Aziz’s camera. (None quite captured the image the same as the professional camera) It had been suggested to us by friends who had not yet visited Morocco not to bring our camera over to Tangier. I would advise to bring a camera because at no point did I feel unsafe to have one. This actually brings to light another point. When Aziz realized we didn’t have a camera with us he offered us the use of his digital camera for the day and then he’d email them to us later. (I do have to follow up on getting them however which I will do after I finish this :) !)
    Next was lunch. Aziz gave us the choice of going somewhere more touristy or somewhere more authentic and local. We opted for authentic and local. The meal was amazing and cost a total of 25Euros for all five of us! That’s 5 Euros each! We each had a main course and a drink and then we all shared two appetizers and two baskets of bread, oh and three of us also had tea!
    During our walking tour we weren’t harassed at all. Not while passing through the shopping areas nor passing through areas where people were making items right there. And there wasn’t anywhere we went that Aziz dissuaded us from purchasing directly from anyone. The other couple on the tour bought two blankets and I ended up buying a scarf. I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything but seeing the workers in action hands on is so different then seeing it on a shelf somewhere. My fiance actually saw a pair of shoes in a downstairs area that Aziz had not planned on bringing us to. We asked Aziz if we could go there he said sure he would take us there if we wanted no problem. Aziz explained he hadn’t planned on taking us there because it was more a flea market type place but if we wanted to go he will take us. My fiance bought some shoes and again Aziz did not dissuade him, he actually helped with the negotiations when he heard the vendor try to switch the price.
    Also on the walking tour we visited the area where the Bourne Ultimatum chase seen took place. (Yes in our driving part of the tour we also passed the cafe from the Bourne Ultimatum although it never occurred to us to ask to stop as it was very early in the tour and we had just finished the fiasco at the port and had already held the other couple up so long at that point.)
    At one point during the walking tour we actually felt very fortunate to be with Aziz. This is because we passed a house that was under renovations and the contractor knew Aziz so we were invited in the see the house. What an amazing and unique opportunity!!!
    Other places Aziz took us on our walking tour was into a local bread making “house” that caters to the community where they gave us samples of sunflower seeds and roasted peanuts right from the oven (it was a tucked away location and something I doubt you’d experience on the larger tours). We also visited various hands on small tile shops and a cafe where the Rollingstones had chilled while in Tangier. The cafe had pictures on the wall of Mick Jagger enjoying extracurricular activities in that cafe.
    Aziz seemed to be a very well known and respected man in the community acknowledged by many many people as he passed through the community. Also walking with Aziz we weren’t hassled with people trying to sell us stuff everywhere. If we weren’t interested Aziz would say something to them and they would stop trying to sell to us.
    At the end of the tour Aziz “allowed” some vendors for a brief time to show us what our experience may have been like without a guided tour lol or maybe that is just what the people were like in that particular area. They were relentless trying to sell to us, worst then anywhere I have ever been and I have been to the Caribbean, Mexico (Tijuana, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun & Juarez), Egypt, Kenya, Australia etc…I would not have enjoyed the day at all if that was what we had to deal with all day!
    Aziz then took us back to the ferry where he personally walked us right to the boat. He was able to pass by customs etc and wait with us until we boarded. Talk about door to door service!
    There are many other parts of our day but I mostly tried to address the parts of the tour that were a disappointment to you and show how our experience differed greatly from yours.
    Again sorry to hear you didn’t have the same wonderful experience we did but for us thanks to Aziz it was truly a memorable day!

  4. nathan says:

    Just goes to show you how much a good guide can make a difference. I’m glad you had a good time.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Ooops I see I copied my review twice sorry for the extra read!

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