Sunday, May 16, 2021

How To Travel Through Morocco

AfricaMoroccoHow To Travel Through Morocco

With train


Trains are generally the best option due to their speed, frequency and comfort. However, the network is limited and only connects Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat. A branch line to Oujda starts in Sidi Kachem and connects Meknes and Fez with the main line.

People are incredibly sociable and friendly on trains in Morocco and you will constantly be talking to strangers about your trip. Each new person will recommend a new place to visit or invite you to their home for couscous. Stations in smaller towns are often poorly signposted and your fellow travellers will be happy to tell you where you are and when you should get off. You are expected to greet (salam) new passengers who enter your compartment, and if you bring fruit, cakes, etc., it is customary to offer something to the other passengers as well. If you spend a little more on 1st class, you increase your chances of meeting someone who speaks many languages.

From Tangiers, there are 3 trains daily to Ujda or Marrakech, and both of these trains have a corresponding train at Sidi Kashem which uses the opposite branch of the train that comes from Tangier, so both destinations can be reached. The night trains between Tangier and Marrakech offer couchettes for an extra charge of MAD100. This is the only option if you want to lie down to sleep, as there are obstacles between the seats in the regular compartments.

The only drawback with trains in Morocco is the fact that they are very frequently late, so if you’re in a hurry, be sure not to rely on timetables.

The train network is operated by ONCF. To check the cost on the ONCF website, don’t let the French scare you. Scroll down to Billets Normaux (under Prix & Reservation) and select your journey.

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All major destinations, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, and others are connected by very reliable (if of course not fast) railroads.There are usually several trains a day to or from each major city. There is also an overnight train between Marrakech and Tangier.

Trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single journey from Tangier to Marrakech costs around MAD200 (GBP16-EUR20) second class or MAD300 (GBP24-EUR30) first class. Casablanca to Marrakech – MAD90 for second class.

First class train carriages are supposed to have working air-conditioning, however not all train carriages with air-conditioning have it in operation, so it is advisable to take plenty of water with you (unlike SNCF or TrenItalia trains, there are no vending machines on ONCF trains and the conductor with a vending cart is often not easy to find). For instance, the journey between Tangier and Fez is approximately 5 hours, and the summer desert heat can be unbearable without air conditioning and water.

When you arrive at a station, you must validate your ticket to access the platform (checkpoint at the entrance).

A high-speed railway line connecting Tangier with Casablanca is currently (as of 2015) in the first phase of construction. The opening of the first section from Tangier to Kénitra is planned for 2018.

With bus


Luxury buses are the next best choice, with almost blanket coverage, if somewhat odd departure times in some places. CTM, Supratours and some smaller companies offer good comfort at reasonable prices. Supratours buses offer special tickets to connect with trains and can be booked through the railway company’s website, as Supratours is operated by them. All bus companies charge for luggage separately, but CTM is the only one that does so officially and issues luggage receipts. With Supratours, the person who takes your luggage charges up to 20 MAD (do not pay more than 5 MAD).

Almost every city has a central bus station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region (and in some cities certain companies run their own stations – mostly this applies to the operators CTM and sometimes Supratours). You can either choose the buses for tourists, which are equipped with air conditioning and a TV. Or you can take the local buses, which only cost 25%-50% and are much more fun. They are not very comfortable, but you can interact with the locals and learn a lot about the country. The buses often travel longer distances than the big buses, so you can see villages that you would never get to as a “normal” tourist. For heat-sensitive people, however, this is not advisable, as the locals may tell you that 35 degrees is “cool” and no reason to open a window. The route from Rissani, Erfoud and Er Rachidia to Meknes and Fes is long but passes through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains and is particularly scenic.

The luxury buses operated by CTM are also cheap and offer an easier travel experience than local buses. See CTM timetable and fares).

CTM’s main competitor, Supratours, has a complementary rail network from Essaouira and all the major cities on the Atlantic coast to Marrakech. (The Supratours website is no longer available, as of 29 January 2015; the Supratours timetable can also be found on ONCF).

Local buses are a perfectly valid choice for the tougher traveller and often have even more legroom than the luxury buses, although this may only be because the seat in front of you is falling apart. They can be exceptionally slow as they stop for everyone, everywhere, and only luxury buses are air-conditioned (and locals hate open windows). Only on local buses is the ticket sold directly by the driver.

With taxi


Travelling by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two types:

  • Petit Taxi, which is only used within the city area
  • The large taxi can be used for trips between cities and for larger groups

Petit taxi fares are reasonable and it is the law that taxis in the city should have a meter – although they are not always switched on. Insist that the driver turns on the meter. If not, ask for the fare before you get in (but it will be more expensive).

Large-capacity taxi

Driving between cities; fares are semi-fixed and distributed evenly among passengers. However, there are six passenger seats per car, not four (this is true of the ubiquitous Mercedes; in the larger Peugeots in the southeast there are 8 or 9 seats). Two people have to share the front seat, four in the back. If you want to leave immediately or need extra space, you can pay for extra empty seats. Grand taxis usually cost less than a luxury bus, but more than the local bus. Late at night, expect to pay a little more than during the day and also to pay for all the seats in the car, as no other customers are likely to be late. Petit taxis are not allowed to leave the city limits and are therefore not an option for inter-city travel.

The grand taxi is a shared taxi, usually a long-distance taxi, with a fixed fare for a specific route; the driver stops and picks up passengers like a bus. Grand cabs are often located near major bus stops. Negotiate the price if you want a ride to yourself. This will depend on the distance travelled and whether you are returning – but the price per taxi should not depend on the number of passengers in your group. If you are sharing a large-capacity taxi with others, drivers may cheat tourist-looking passengers and charge a higher price – be aware of how much the locals around you are paying; feel free to ask other passengers for the normal price before you get in or even when you are already inside.

Grand Taxis are usually a Mercedes about 10 years old, normal limousines used in Europe for up to 4 passengers plus driver. In a Grand Taxi, it is normal for up to 6 passengers to share a car. The front seat is usually given to two women (as local women are not allowed to have contact with a man, they rarely take the rear seats). Travellers often pay for 2 seats to be left unoccupied in order to travel with more space inside and thus comfort.

For shorter trips, grand taxis can also be hired for about the price of two petit taxis. This is useful if your group consists of four or more people. Beware, some taxi drivers refuse to leave until the taxi is full, which can cause delays. Alternatively, for a relatively cheap amount (depending on the driver), you can hire a Grand Taxi in Marrakech for the whole day to explore the Ourika Valley.

Taxi owners compete with each other to add extras like sunshades. A clean vehicle and a smart driver are usually a good sign of a well-maintained vehicle.

Be aware that most large taxis only operate on a single route and that they must first obtain permission from the police to travel outside their licensed route. If you plan to take a large taxi for an individual tour, it is best to book a day in advance to give the driver time to obtain this permission.

With plane


Domestic flights are not a popular mode of transport, but Royal Air Maroc, the national airline, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities. Other airlines include Air Arabia Maroc and Jet4you.com.

With tram


The Casablanca tramway is 30 km long, has 49 stops and is Y-shaped. Tickets cost MAD6; buy your ticket before boarding. You can choose between a rechargeable ticket, which is only valid for 10 journeys, or a rechargeable card, which is valid for 4 years.

This is the second tramway system in Morocco after theRabat-Salé tramway, but it is also the largest system in terms of the number of stations and the length of the line.

With car


The main road network is in good condition. The roads have a good surface, although they are very narrow, in most cases only one narrow lane in each direction. Many roads in the south that are marked as tarred actually have only a central reservation, one lane wide, tarred with wide shoulders that you have to use every time you meet oncoming traffic. This is a reasonable economic solution in these areas with little traffic and long straight roads – except when you can’t see oncoming traffic because of windblown dust!

The main cities are connected by toll motorways, which are still being expanded.

  • The motorway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was completed in 1987.
  • In 1995, the line was extended from Rabat to Kenitra and today reaches the northern port (A1) of Tangier.
  • Another motorway (A2) leads in an easterly direction from Rabat to Fes, about 200 km further on. It is part of the planned Transmaghrébine motorway, which will lead to Tripoli.
  • South of Casablanca runs the A7. It is scheduled to reach Agadir in December 2009, but currently only goes as far as Marrakech, 210 km south of Casablanca.
  • Around Casablanca and along the coast runs the A5 motorway connecting Mohammedia and El Jadida.
  • The construction of the A2 between Fez and Oujda on the Algerian border started in 2007 and is now mostly completed, but the border is still closed.

Fuel is not so common in the countryside, so plan ahead and get a good map. The roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.

The road signs are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is like in much of Europe, but you have right of way. This means that traffic on a roundabout has the right of way over traffic entering the roundabout. Be very careful as many drivers only respect the signs if there is a policeman around. There are many police checkpoints on the main roads where you must slow down so they can see you. Speed limits are enforced, especially the 40 km/h in cities and at dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. As a general rule, vehicles larger than you have priority: Trucks, buses and even large taxis.

Safe driving in Morocco requires practice and patience, but can take you to some truly beautiful places.

The city center of Marrakech could be a terrifying area for driving. You will be honked at constantly, regardless of how well you drive. Marrakechis like to honk at anyone they think is holding them up. This may even mean that you are just in front of them at a red light. Also pay very close attention to your wing mirrors and your blind spot. Two-lane roads are often clear to the point where you can see four cars side by side at a red light. One of the biggest dangers on the roads in Marrakech are the mobilettes. These push bikes with motors zigzag around you and generally make a nuisance of themselves, but tend to keep to the right on longer stretches. Often a few honks are enough to get the driver to pay a little more attention to his surroundings. Be warned, however, that some drivers may not pay attention to your horn at all because they have become accustomed to the sound. Drive defensively and keep your speed low so that an accident causes as little damage as possible. Do not be intimidated by other drivers. Make sure you drive predictably and do not do anything rash.

Rent a car

There are many rental companies in the big cities. Almost all of the rental networks from around the world have an office in Morocco. There are also several local rental companies (5-7 have representations at Casablanca airport). They offer cheaper rates, but pay attention to the condition of the vehicle, spare tyres, jacks, etc. Local companies may speak less English, but if you are willing to take a higher risk, try to negotiate with them first when renting at the airport; if this fails, you still have the global competition.

Multinational companies seem to share cars easily (although prices and service levels may vary). So if the company of your choice doesn’t have what you need, they may ask for it from another company.

Check where you are allowed to drive – some rental companies do not allow driving on unpaved roads.

Alamo/National

All Alamo and National Car Rental offices are located in Morocco.

In low season (November), expect at least 20% off the list price if you come without a reservation – at least for economy class (Peugeot 206, Renault Logan Dacia).

The deposit is in the form of a paper receipt from a credit card; Alamo will not be able to transfer your receipt to the city of your destination if it is different from your starting point.

Some economy class vehicles (e.g. Peugeot 206) are already 4 years old and have a mileage of up to 120,000 km.

Hiring a vehicle with driver/ guide

Some tour companies arrange off-road vehicle and SUV rentals with drivers and guides, and offer tailor-made itineraries that include advance reservations at hotels and inns.

With the thumb


Hitchhiking is a common form of travel in Morocco. Especially in large farm trucks that supplement their income by taking paying passengers. The price is about half that of a large taxi. Expect to ride in the back with many locals.