The Mole Diaries: Ceuta
Robyn McConville is studying Spanish and History at the University of Exeter, and is currently spending a year abroad working as a British Council Language Assistant in Ceuta, a Spanish colony east of Morocco on the north coast of Africa. Here's Robyn's insider guide to living and teaching in Ceuta: how to get there, where to live, what to pack, language advice, restaurants, shopping and nightlife...
1. How to get here?
Getting to Ceuta is never an easy process due to its location. There are 3 main options, each as difficult as the next. Firstly, my chosen method was to fly to Malaga which is fairly cheap if you book in advance. Then getting a bus from Malaga to Algeciras to then take the boat to Ceuta from Algeciras port. Secondly, if you are able, you can also fly to Gibraltar airport which is slightly more expensive in general but closer to Algeciras, then catch a bus from La Linea to Algeciras, again to take the boat from the port to Ceuta. The boat usually takes about 1 hour 30 minutes depending and costs around €33 one way without an empadronamiento. Alternatively, if you are able to fly to Tangier in Morocco, you will be able to get a taxi from Tangier to the border with Ceuta for around 300-500 Dirham (Around €30-50). The journey to Ceuta is relatively simple but involves a lot of changes and travelling so be prepared with a book, film or some form of entertainment for the long journeys.
I arrived in Ceuta with no accommodation and stayed in Hostal Central which was right in the middle of the city and close to everything. I would advise booking a hotel or hostel in advance as they filled up extremely quickly and the only rooms left in September were expensive rooms in the big hotels. Before arriving I used websites such as milanuncios to look up pisos that I wanted to see and was potentially interested in. I was lucky in that the first flat I saw, I decided to live in. If this isn’t the case, there are signs put up in the main streets advertising rooms and flat shares, whilst it is difficult to find flats due to the small nature of Ceuta, there are lots of options and talking to locals will often help you out. Depending on the zone you live in rent varies but to live in the centre with a sea-view and balcony costs around €300 a month, bills included. Be prepared that when signing for a flat, you will have to pay a months rent and a deposit of the same amount.
Whilst both of these things are boring and extremely awkward to get, they are worth it. You will need the NIE to work/open a bank account and the empadronamiento whilst not necessary, will get you a 50% discount on the boat or on flights within Spain. Both are definitely worth the effort it takes to get them. The NIE requires you to go to the Oficina de Extranjeros (N.B. Don’t believe people when they tell you that you need to go to the police station). Make an appointment here and ask them to give you a list of what documents you need to save yourself several trips up a very steep hill. For you empadronamiento you need to go to the town hall with documents such as your NIE, housing contract with an envicesa and given a few days and maybe a police check if you’re unlucky, you should get this too.
4. Things you should bring with you:
- Extension Lead, this sound silly but is a lifesaver and means you don’t have to bring a lot of adaptors.
- Squash/Diluting Juice, this isn’t a thing in Ceuta so if you enjoy this home comfort bring some with you.
- If you like any form of an English brand such as Cadbury’s etc. you might be able to find it here but it will probably be more expensive.
- Duvet, if you think you can’t live without a duvet, look into brining one with you or expect to pay around €30/40 for one.
- Some things to make your flat homely, whilst sun and beaches are great it’s nice to have a few things to remind you of home.
5. Language Advice
Whilst daunting and scary, hearing Spanish everyday becomes the norm in Ceuta as you will struggle to find any English speakers despite the children learning it in school. This is a bonus though as it encourages you to use Spanish as opposed to the locals using their English. The accent in Ceuta is the same as the Andalusian accent, in which they use the s aspirada and intervocalic D. Such as dropping the s in gracias, and hasta luego. Although this is annoying initially, you’ll find yourself slowly understanding it and starting to drop the s yourself. Whilst the English level in Ceuta isn’t overly high, there are a lot of people wanting private lessons. So if you want to make some extra money you can usually give private lessons in your free time and charge around €15 per hour.
6. Top Tips
1. Be prepared to just confidently step out at crossings. Spanish drivers won’t necessary stop at the crossings for you, so whilst scary just boldly step out and they will stop to let you cross.
2. Prepare yourself for a mountain of ‘compliments’. In Ceuta, British people are extremely rare, so if you’re a girl be ready for Spanish or Moroccan men to stare, constantly say hello, shout ‘hola guapa’ or wolf whistle at you. Whilst this sounds awful and I’ll admit when I spent my first night in Ceuta and had men shouting from their car at me, it was unsettling. It becomes more normal and the staring goes away after awhile. My advice would be to either politely say hello and keep walking or sometimes it is necessary to be rude and just keep walking.
3. Running/Jogging – This is popular and you’ll often see people jogging along the marina day and night so bring your trainers as it’s the perfect place to fit in some exercise.
4. Maritime Park – Big Tip! If you arrive in September, pay it a visit, it might not seem warm enough but the pools get drained when the weather gets colder and won’t be refilled until the weather warms up again. So pay it a visit when you first arrive!! It’s around €3/4 but definitely worth making a whole day of!
7. Restaurants and Bars
Although Ceuta is small, there are a lot of typical Spanish bars and tapas places. (Big suggestion of Bugao if you want incredible tasting tapas, although more expensive) You won’t struggle to find a bar or somewhere to have tapas but finding a place to have a normal meal that isn’t tapas is more of a struggle.
- Pizzeria D’armando – This is great Italian, there are two of them in Ceuta, one which is slightly more fancy and they both do great food which is also available to take out.
- La Vaca Paca – This is a burger kind-of restaurant which is quite modern and serves a variety of different burgers (Even vegetarian, which is rare in Spain.)
- If you want more Moroccan food, try Oasis which is slightly further out but nothing is too far away in Ceuta.
- Manhattan, again there are 2 of these in Ceuta is also a great place to go for breakfast or lunch or even just a coffee and a piece of cake and with it’s outdoor seating you can sit right beside the sea. In terms of bars, there are quite a few local Spanish bars where you can get a drink and a free tapa.
- If you are looking for somewhere less traditional there are two bars in Plaza Tokyo, Miro and Tokyo which are slightly more modern.
- If you want cocktails, Charlotte (of which there are also two!) does great cocktails for €4 from Monday to Thursday.
In terms of shopping, the selection isn’t overwhelming but there is Zara, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Sfera, Shana and Mango. There are enough shops to keep you satisfied and if not, a shopping weekend in Malaga is never a bad thing. In terms of food, you’ll find a large SuperSol, Lidl, Eroski and Coviran so you’ll have a varied selection. The majority of these large chain stores won’t close during siesta but other smaller shops will close from around 2-5pm.
The selection of nightlife in Ceuta isn’t huge, whilst there are many bars – it isn’t a place aimed at partying or students. There are a few nightclubs such as Nouveau and Vogue alongside a Karaoke bar and a few other places where it is possible to have a few drinks and listen to some music. Most of these are located in the poblado which is right beside McDonalds and Impacto perfect for when you head home. There is also a cinema in the poblado which whilst only showing Spanish films is great for a chilled night! Ceuta also takes part in Botellon in plaza Tokyo and along the marina, which if you don’t work as a language assistant could be great fun, otherwise you run the risk of bumping into students.
10. What next?
If you are planning on going to Ceuta for your year abroad or just have some questions please feel free to contact me: [email protected].