I got to Tangier, Morocco from Alexandria, VA by way of Chicago and Madrid. There were not a lot of unusual experiences along the way, but it was a long trip, and I have to say that I hate Barajas International Airport in Spain. Clearing customs at Tangier was easy, and then I made it to the hotel. About the trip, I will discuss the airlines flown, airports I passed through, problems at Barajas International Airport, my arrival in Tangier, Morocco, and the places we will be visiting in Morocco. I will be meeting up my friend Chuck in Casablanca later in the trip.
On this trip I am flying American Airlines and Iberia Airlines. I have more to say on American and Iberia below.
On American Airlines, what can I say? They are OK. I got to Chicago on time, got to sit in the First Class lounge at Ronald Regan (DCA). The main reason I fly them is for frequent flyer miles. I also get frequent fly miles with Iberia that are awarded as American miles because they are both part of the group of the One World group. The other thing, on American I have Platinum Status in their Advantage frequent flyer program. This lets me board aircraft with people in first class. The simple fact is, I do not have to worry about putting my bag in the overhead, get good seat assignments without having to spend extra money, get to check two bags at no cost, and sometimes get free upgrades to first or business class.
On Iberia, the same privileges that I get on American transfer over to Iberia because of the frequent flyer program. For the most part, their aircraft are comfortable, and the staff is very pleasant.
Surprise at Chicago O’Hare International
I arrived on time in Chicago, and had about a 90-minute layover before leaving for Madrid. Chicago O’Hare is a very large airport, and it takes time to get around. On the good side it is relatively easy to get around. There were not delays, and on the bright side just before boarding, I got a call from the gate agent. I figured they wanted to see my passport, but no, to my happy surprise, I got a free upgrade to Business Plus. On this flight, Iberia did not offer first class. I got the upgrade because tourist class was full, and they upgraded me to Business Plus. Loyalty with an airline can pay off.
Barajas International Airport (MAD), Madrid, Spain
Arrival at MAD was on time and on schedule, but I still hate this airport. I was changing plans here to go on to Tangier, Morocco.
This is a very large airport, requires a lot of time to do anything, and it can be quite frustrating when trying to find your flight. Other issues that I had are:
- I had to show my passport three times to change planes,
- Spend a long time taking a subway back and forth between terminals, and
- Gate numbers are not listed on departure flight displays showing you where your flight will be departing.
A map of MAD is shown below. For international flights, all the immigration and customs official business in done in the Domestic Terminal (DT). Since I was changing flights, I had to go from the International Terminal (IT) by subway to DT, show my passport to get into DT, show my passport to be able to go back to IT for my connecting flight, and then show my passport again to get on to the subway back to IT. Anyway, it took two hours to do this. If you had to do a change of planes at MAD, I think that you should allow yourself three hours. I had four hours so I did not have any problems.
The picture above shows the International and Domestic Terminals. The dotted lines above represent the subway between terminals. The process to get to the subways is quite time-consuming, you have to wait for the train, and you traverse the route between the terminals.
Another very frustrating thing about MAD is that gate numbers are not used to tell you where to catch your flight. The IT displays in MAD show three departure areas: R, S, and U. When you go to find your flight, the displays showing the flight is listed in time sequence. This is not a problem if you know your time, but if you do not know your departure time, you could have a big problem. So I found my flight. It told me I was leaving from “R”. What the heck? There were 25 or 30 gates in “R”. Finally, I found an information counter, and they told me that I my flight was leaving from “R 1”. After walking 10 miles (it just seemed like it), I found R-1, and boarded by flight at a 60-minute wait.
Prices in the MAD shops are expensive. I purchased a newspaper. It was 3 Euros (about $4.50 US). Also, there is no WiFi in the terminal. There are places you can pay for WiFi, and one food area had WiFi that I say, but I did not want to pay mucho Euros for a drink or food.
Flight to Tangier from Madrid
The flight was uneventful, and we arrived on time. Luckily, I had a window seat, and the sky was clear. When flying over Spain, the terrain reminds me a lot of California. I was hoping to see Gibraltar, but it must have been on the left side, and I was sitting on the right.
Arrival in Tangier
There was one a small immigration form to be completed for entry into Morocco. Getting through immigration, and clearing customs was quick and easy. Normally, I do not exchange money in airport, but in Tangier, I got a good exchange rate, and did not have to take a big haircut, so I exchanged some money. The taxi to the hotel from the airport was 120 Dirhams. This is about $15 US which seemed quite reasonable.
There is a 6-hour time difference between Tangier and Alexandria, VA. I left home at 11:30 AM, and arrive at the hotel in Tangier about 2 PM. In all, this was about 22.5 hours. Again, it was a long trip to get to Tangier, Morocco.
Trip Around Morocco
This trip, I will be starting in Tangier, and going south to Marrakesh. All of the traveling will be by train. There will be 5 different train tides:
- Tangier to Fez
- Fez to Meknes,
- Meknes to Rabat,
- Rabat to Casablanca, and
- Casablanca to Marrakesh
In addition, Chuck and I will be taking a three-day / two night trip into the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert from Marrakesh. A map showing the different train rides and places to be visited are shown below.
There is more to come. I hope you will follow, and enjoy reading about our adventures in Morocco.