Route map, London to Marrakech by train

Two sleeps to Tangier...

This page explains how to travel from London to Tangier, Marrakech, Fez, Rabat or Casablanca without flying, in comfort & safety on regular scheduled trains & ferry.  What a journey!  Take Eurostar to Paris, have lunch at the fabulous Train Bleu restaurant, then speed south to Barcelona at up to 320 km/h (200 mph) by double-deck TGV Duplex.  Stay overnight, then ride superb Spanish high-speed trains through wonderful Spanish scenery into Andalusia, before sailing across the Straits of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa.  Once in Morocco, the real Marrakech Express will speed you south towards the Atlas mountains.  No flights, no airports, no stress.

UK to Morocco by train...

small bullet point  London to Morocco train times, southbound

small bullet point  Morocco to London train times, northbound

small bullet point  What's the journey like?

small bullet point  How much does it cost?

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Video guide: Tangier to Madrid by ferry & train

small bullet point  Alternative routes & options

Other useful information...

small bullet point  Useful country information: currency, dial code...

small bullet point  Places to stay & things to see in Tangier

small bullet point  Car hire in Morocco - ideal for south of Marrakech

small bullet point  Hotel suggestions in Algeciras & Morocco

small bullet point  Travel insurance, Curve Card, VPN

Train travel in Morocco...

small bullet point  Train travel in Morocco:  Tangier to Fes, Rabat, Casablanca & Marrakech

Route map...

Train & ferry route map, London to Marrakech


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator in Morocco:

Office Nationale des Chemins de Fer Maroccains (ONCFM), www.oncf.maTrain travel in MoroccoAll-Europe train times

 

Ferries to Morocco:

www.trasmediterranea.es, www.balearia.com, www.frs.es (Spain-Tangier), www.gnv.it (South of France & Barcelona to Tangier)

Time zone:

GMT+1 all year (GMT+0 during Ramadan).

Dialling code:

+212

Currency:

£1 = 12 Dirhams, €1 = 10 Dirhams, approx.    Currency converter

Tourist information:

muchmorocco.visitmorocco.com      Recommended guidebooks

Hotels:

Hotel recommendations   Holidays & escorted tours to Morocco by train

Visas:

UK & EU citizens do not need a visa to visit Morocco for up to 90 days.

Page last updated:

8 January 2021.  Train times valid for 13 Dec 2020 to 11 Dec 2021, some still subject to confirmation.


large bullet pointLondon to Tangier & Marrakech

   
  The historic town of Ait ben Haddou in Morocco...
 

The mud-built town at Aït ben Haddou, south of Marrakech.  Many movie scenes were filmed here, including the North African scenes in Gladiator.  It's well worth hiring a car for a few days and exploring...

London ► Morocco

Can I stop off on the way?

Why not stop off in Granada?

Or in Gibraltar?

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 about to leave London St Pancras...

 

Standard Premier/Business Premier. Larger photo.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex See TGV Duplex video guide

The Paris to Barcelona TGV Duplex is an impressive 320 km/h (200 mph) double-deck high-speed train.  You board the train through a wide sliding external door into a small hall at one end of the lower deck, where an internal door opens into a lower deck seating area.  A wide, short & easy flight of stairs leads from the entrance door to a landing at one end of the upper deck.  You walk along the train from car to car at the upper level, and the café-bar is also at the upper level.  There are toilets both upstairs & downstairs.  If you have problems with stairs or very heavy luggage, the lower deck might be best.  But for the best views, definitely choose an upper deck seat.  For couples in 1st class, an upper deck club duo table-for-two is the nicest option.  More pictures & an account of what to see on the Paris to Barcelona journey.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 200 mph double-deck trains link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes....

 

2nd class seats on upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class seats on upper deck, a club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants.  The red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Crossing the Pyrenees...  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right of the train all the way from Perpignan to Girona.  More pictures & an account of what to see on the Paris to Barcelona journey.

3. Barcelona to Madrid by AVE...

These superb-quality AVE high speed trains are amongst the classiest trains in Europe.  They have three classes, Preferente (premium 1st class seating), Turista Plus (1st class seating but without any food) and Turista (2nd class).  AVE trains run at up to 186 mph over the Spanish high-speed lines.

An AVE-S103 high-speed train at Madrid Atocha

An S103 AVE train as used between Barcelona & Madrid Atocha, seen at Madrid Atocha station..  Taking as little as 2h30, it's faster than flying.  See virtual tour

Turista class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Preferente class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Turista (2nd class) on an AVE S103.

 

Turista Plus (premium 2nd class)  seating.

Club class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Madrid Atocha station - the tropical garden in the old trainshed

Preferente class (1st class) seating (formerly Club) on the AVE train.  A meal with wine is included on Mondays-Fridays.

 

Madrid Atocha station.  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden.  AVE trains arrive in the adjacent modern extension.  See the Madrid Atocha station guide.

4. Madrid to Algeciras by Intercity train...

Madrid-Algeciras train at Madrid Atocha

An Intercity train (formerly branded Altaria), about to leave Madrid Atocha for Algeciras.

Cafe-bar on Madrid-Algeciras train   Turista Plus seats on Madrid-Algeciras train

Cafe-bar, with bar stools...

 

Turista Plus seats...

Turista seats on Madrid-Algeciras train   Algeciras station

Turista seats...

 

Algeciras station, across the road from the bus station.

Scenery seen from the train to Gibraltar

Andalusian scenery seen from the train to Algeciras.  The rail line to Algeciras is one of my favourite routes, especially the last part from Antequera southwards, a scenic treat.  Watch the video...

5. Tarifa to Tangier Town by FRS ferry with free bus from Algeciras...

Coast of Africa on the Straits of Gibraltar

The FRS fast ferry seen at her berth at Tangier Town.  The ferry terminal and town are out of shot to the left.

FRS Ferry free transfer bus at Algeciras ferry terminal   Tarifa port

The free FRS shuttle bus leaves from Algeciras' Estación Maritima 1 hour before each ferry departure.

 

It's just a 30 minute 22km drive to Tarifa.  You enter the small modern ferry terminal & board the SeaCat for Tangier...

Inside the FRS fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangier   Inside the FRS fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangier

On board the FRS fast ferry there's a refreshment counter selling food & drink, including a welcome cold beer.  There are small open-air observation decks at the rear.  Larger photo.

 

The FRS fast ferry at Tangier town ferry terminal.  FRS still use the old Tangier Town terminal, just 5 minutes walk from the Continental Hotel & old medina.  A more convenient & romantic place to arrive!  See the video!

Coast of Africa on the Straits of Gibraltar

Crossing the Straits of Gibraltar...  One of the world's iconic ferry journeys and an inter-continental one at that, between the Pillars of Hercules from the coast of Europe to the shores of Africa...

Ferry arrived in Tangier

Tangier...  Taken from the observation deck at the stern of the FRS ferry.  The flying saucer on the left is the ferry terminal building.  The arrow indicates the recommended Continental Hotel, 5 minutes walk away. 

...or Algeciras to Tangier Med Port by ferry, taxi or bus to Tangier...

A Euroferrys fast ferry from Algeciras to Tangier   Euroferrys conventional ferry approaching Tangier

Fast ferries from Algeciras to Tangier Med Port take 50-60 minutes, although you're mostly sealed in.  Here, a fast ferry sails out of Algeciras with Gibraltar in the background.

 

Conventional ferry at Tangier Med Port:  Conventional ships take 1½ hours, but their decks allow you to enjoy the crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar in the open air. This is a Balearia ferry.

Shuttle bus from the ferry arrives at Tangier Med Port terminal building   Inside Tangier Med Port 'Gare Maritime'

At Tangier Med Port, you walk off the ferry and onto a free shuttle bus which transfers you along the road and up the hill to the terminal building (Gare Maritime) for passport control.

 

Inside Tangier Med Port Gare Maritime are passport controls, X-ray machines, check-in desks & ATMs.  Taxis wait outside, plus an hourly bus to Tangier.

The 17:30 train from Tangier Med Port to Tangier Ville, at Tangier Med Port station   2nd class seating compartment on the train from  Tangier Med Port to Tangier Ville   The view from the train between Tangier Med Port & Tangier town.

The train from Tangier Med Port to Tangier Ville should be up and running...  Above left, the 17:30 from Tangier Med Port to Tangier Ville is just a locomotive and two comfortable air-conditioned carriages, connecting with the overnight couchette train to Marrakech, see the information here.  The station is easy to find, it's located directly below the ferry terminal building, integrated with it.  The trains aren't (yet) very frequent, but there are always taxis available as an alternative.  Photos courtesy of Andrew Leo.

Morocco ► London

  Scenery from the Madrid-Algeciras train...

Andalusia:  The sun is low in the sky as the afternoon train from Madrid to Algeciras snakes across the Andalusian plateau on its way south to the Straits of Gibraltar...

  The ferry from Algeciras to Morocco leaves Gibraltar astern

The Slow Boat to Africa...  Next day, aboard the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier with the Rock of Gibraltar on the port beam...

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...

How to make this journey with an Interrail pass...

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large bullet pointWatch the videoTangier to Madrid by ferry & train...

See for yourself how straightforward, comfortable and scenic a Morocco to Europe journey can be by train & ferry.  The video shows a journey on the FRS fast ferry from Tangier to Tarifa and the train ride from Algeciras to Madrid.

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large bullet pointOther routes & options...

(1)  London to Morocco by GNV or Grimaldi Lines ferry Barcelona to Tangier...

This is an attractive alternative to the route via Algeciras.  Indeed, with a day exploring Barcelona then a cruise to Tangier, it's a holiday in itself.  However, it's not daily and not necessarily cheap, given the cost of the cruise ferry.  Grandi Navi Veloci operate superb regular cruise ferries from Barcelona to Tangier up to 3 times a week, with Grimaldi Lines also running a cruise ferry once a week.

London ► Morocco via ferry from Barcelona

Morocco ► London via ferry to Barcelona

On board a Grimaldi Lines ferry from Barcelona to Tangier Med Port...

A 4-berth standard cabin on Grimaldi Lines ferry from Barcelona to Tangier, Morocco   A la carte restaurant on Grimaldi Lines ferry from Barcelona to Tangier

Chaos in cabin 725.  The author's family in a 4-berth cabin on Grimaldi Lines ferry to Tangier...

 

The a la carte restaurant on Grimaldi Lines' Ikarus palace from Barcelona to Tangier...

The Ikarus palace ferry from Barcelona to Tangier   Swimming pools on the ferry Ikarus Palace   Sunset from Gimaldi Lines' ferry Ikarus Palace to Tangier

In the Straits of Gibraltar...

 

Swimming pools...

 

Sunset at sea...

(2)  France to Morocco by GNV ferry...

If you prefer a longer sea voyage, there are regular passenger ships from Sète in the South of France to Tangier, originally run by Comanav (Compagnie Maroccaine de Navigation), now taken over by the Italian ferry operator Grandi Navi Veloci.  See www.gnv.it for sailing dates, fares & online booking.  It's easy to get from London to Sète by train - You can check train times & buy tickets online at Raileurope.com.  Allow several hours minimum to connect in Sète, if necessary staying overnight.

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large bullet pointOn arrival in Tangier...

The Continental Hotel, the most atmospheric place to stay: Check prices & book

In Tangier, easily the most interesting, historic & atmospheric place to stay is the venerable Continental Hotel.  Whatever your budget, and it's one of my favourite places.  If you arrive by FRS fast ferry from Tarifa, you'll easily spot it on your right high up on the edge of the Medina as you walk into town - as I did, the first time I stayed there in 1984.  Opened by a British family in 1888 and used by many famous people including (allegedly) Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria's son Alfred, it's a travellers' favourite, with classic Moroccan décor and an atmosphere straight out of Agatha Christie - indeed, it's been used as a film location at various times. 

In spite of all this history, it's cheap, a single room with shower & toilet costs around 595 dirhams (£49) per night including a light breakfast, a double room with shower & toilet around 735 dirhams (£61) including breakfast.  Ask for a room on the first floor with a balcony overlooking the port and new town.  Rooms are fairly basic, only a handful have A/C, but they have clean en suite showers & toilets, the hotel is handy for the FRS ferry, superbly located inside the old medina walls a stone's throw from the old town centre, Petit Socco & Grand Socco.  The hotel now has free WiFi and 24 hour reception.  It has a good and cheap restaurant for lunch and dinner, too, although alcohol isn't served.  Rooms can now be booked online at Booking.com.  Or just turn up, they usually have rooms available.  The address is 36, Dar Baroud (Medina), Tangier

Tip:  There's a flight of steps straight up to the hotel, but you can see how high the hotel is in the photo below.  If you have heavy luggage you might prefer to zig-zag further into town then turn right up the sloping road to the hotel.

Continental Hotel, Tangier

The Continental Hotel, Tangier...

Reception, Continental Hotel Tangier   View of port from balcony, Continental Hotel Tangier

Reception...

 

View of the port from my balcony...

Things to see in Tangier...

Tangier sometimes gets a bad press from travellers who are hassled by a few touts at the port, who then hurry through without seeing it and tell everyone else to do the same.  This is very short-sighted, as Tangier is the intriguing and atmospheric city where Europe meets Africa.  Indeed, fans of the film Casablanca will find it a much more plausible setting for Rick, Elsa, Captain Renault and Major Strasser than the big and unremarkable city to the south.  Tangier was an international zone from 1923 until its incorporation with Morocco in 1956, and it really was awash with spies from both sides in world war 2.  It retains an air of mystery and intrigue even today, although I've always felt very safe there.  It's a wonderful and fascinating place to spend a day or two, so make sure you include it in your itinerary.

Make sure you see the medina (old town), kasbah (fort), the Petit Socco (small square, be sure to have a coffee or mint tea here) and Grand Socco (large square), the lovely English Church, and Tangier American Legation museum (the first bit of overseas territory ever acquired by the United States).  For more information on Tangier, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangier.

The English church, Tangier   Inside the English church, Tangier

The English church, Tangier...

 

Inside the English church...

Where to go next?

Modern air-conditioned trains are waiting to whisk you south to the rest of Morocco.  Rabat is the country's capital and well worth a stop; Casablanca is certainly a name to conjure with (you have to say you've been there!) but in reality it's just a large city.  Marrakech is the obvious destination, and a worthy (if touristy) one.  Why not hire a car for a few days and explore the country south of Marrakech?  Meknès & Fez are amazing places, as good or better than Marrakech with fewer tourists, so don't miss them!

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large bullet pointGuidebooks

Recommended guidebooks...Amazon logo

Make sure you take a good guidebook.  Easily the best guidebooks for the independent traveller are Lonely Planets and Rough Guides.  Both provide an excellent level of practical information and historical background.  You won't regret buying one of these!

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk

Lonely Planet Morocco - click to buy online   Rough Guide to Morocco - click to buy online

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large bullet pointEuropean Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.

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large bullet pointHotels in Morocco

Recommended hotels in Algeciras, Tangier, Marrakech, Fez & elsewhere in Morocco...

In Algeciras:  For Algeciras hotels, click here.  I recommend the Hotel Reina Cristina, which is easily the best hotel in Algeciras as well as the most historic, set in its own grounds just 10 minutes walk from either rail station or ferry passenger terminal.  For such a grande dame of a hotel, it's remarkably inexpensive.

In Tangier, the classic and wonderfully atmospheric Continental Hotel is the top choice, and inexpensive.  Ideally located for both port and old medina, and with its own restaurant too.  It can now be booked online at Booking.com.

In Marrakech, the Hotel Islane is a good mid-range choice at around €35-€45 (£26-£31) per room per night, with an excellent central location just round the corner from the Jemaa el Fnaa, the main market square.  It also has a good rooftop

restaurant.  The most famous hotel in Marrakech is of course the top-notch La Mamounia Hotel, if you can (a) afford it and (b) get a room!

You can arrange hotels before booking opens for train tickets if you use a site with free cancellation such as www.booking.com.

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Hotel Reina Cristina, Algeciras:  Book here...

The classic Hotel Reina Cristina is easily the best place to stay in Algeciras, set in its own grounds just 10 minutes walk from both rail station and ferry terminal.

Hotel Reina Cristina, Algeciras   Main hall of the Hotel Reina Cristina, Algeciras.

Backpacker hostels...

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.

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large bullet pointCar hire in Morocco

Car hire in Morocco

It's well worth hiring a car south of Marrakech!

Hiring a car isn't the first thing you'd think of in Morocco, but the roads are relatively empty and driving is surprisingly easy.  If you've a few days to spare when you get to Marrakech I highly recommend hiring a car and driving south over the High Atlas Mountains via the absolutely incredible Tizi n Tichka Pass, perhaps the most amazing road I've ever driven.  Stay the night at the Kasbah at Tifletout (now a hotel) and visit the Gorge du Dadès, Todra Gorge, and the remarkable mud-built town of Aït ben Haddou.  Driving really isn't difficult, indeed the roads are far less crowded than in the UK or Europe, making it a very pleasant way to get around the countryside.  Instead of searching multiple websites to sort out your car, try this search engine which compares different hire companies' prices.

Compare 50 different car hire companies:  www.carrentals.co.uk

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel without travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should also cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback is always welcome.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

 Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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