Morocco Trip Report Part II: Driving
Replies: 12 - Last Post: May 26, 2011 3:48 AM Last Post By: rayan114
Jan 23, 2011 11:55 AM
Morocco Trip Report Part II: DrivingDriving Report
As I mentioned in my previous post (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2011232) I thought I'd write up a separate driving report for those who are thinking of renting a car while in Morocco.
As a female traveling alone, and someone who hadn't driven a stick shift in 5 or 6 years, I was very nervous about renting a car -- but decided to do it anyway after all the great advice I got on this board.
It was the right call -- although I had a few scares along the way, renting a car was a phenomenal way to see part of Morocco, and I loved the freedom it gave me. I highly recommend it.
And as it turns out, driving manual is like riding a bike....it does come back quite quickly!
A few pointers:
1) It's not cheap. I rented a car for 3 and a half days, picking up in Fez and dropping off in Marrakech, and it cost me 2291 MAD -- for a car that was, while functional and not too beat up, nowhere near the level you'd get in the States. I probably spent another 600MAD on gas as well. To me, it was worth the money though.
2) I'm only a sample size of 1 of course, but I found the customer service to be quite decent. (I rented through Budget). Although the office was a little late to open in the morning -- it was the day after Eid -- the man running the shop was exceedingly polite and professional, way better service than I've ever had in the States. He helped me inspect the car, gave me a free upgrade, and generally treated me quite well. The same thing on the receiving end.
3) Driving in Morocco is slow. It just is. Speed limits are low, and you have to slow way down every time you go through a town. Some roads are bad. Everything took much longer than I thought it was going to. As a result, I ended up spending more time in the car each day than I had planned, and at times, not getting as far as I'd hoped. If I were to do it again, I would have given myself at least one extra day to make the drive from Fez to Morocco, so I could have drove less and hung out more.
4) The driving itself wasn't that hard. I'm generally a pretty good driver, and while it was harrowing at times (more on one specific incident, below), and you do end up having to dodge a lot of cars/pedestrians/sheep/moterbikers along the way (making it a much more active form of driving than you may be used to), on the whole it was MUCH better than I was expecting.
If you're confident in your driving skills, you'll be fine.
5) The roads are generally mixed in quality. Most roads you drive on (unless you go the highway route) will be paved about one and a half of a car's width wide -- which means if a car is coming at you, one of you is going to have to slow down and go in the dirt. Usually that was me, probably because I'm less into playing "chicken" than the typical Moroccan driver. Nothing dangerous, just a bit annoying -- and if there are a lot of cars on a road, it will slow your progress considerably.
Some of the roads are quite decent, and you can make good time on those. And some are very poor indeed -- although I go through without a 4WD, it wasn't always easy.
6) As a female driving alone, I didn't have any real problems. I was a great source of amusement and/or shock to many people in the small little villages I was driving through -- I assume a young white girl driving by herself is a rare sight, based on the reactions I got in each town. And occasionally young men would try to grab at my car -- not sure what they thought they were accomplishing, but it was a bit annoying. But on the whole, no problems. (I also had no problems with the police, although I know others on this board have).
7) A few notes on specific roads:
- The road from Fez to Azrou is quite pretty and well-maintained, and stopping to see the barbary apes is a fun little thing to do on the way. Not a lot of traffic, at least when I was driving.
- Azrou to Midelt is long, flat, fairly fast -- pretty sights, and decent quality road.
- We did stop for lunch and to see the apes, but the trip from Fez to Midelt took much longer than I was expecting. We got out of Fez around 9:45am, took maybe an hour for lunch + apes, and made it to Midelt around 3:30. I was hoping to make it all the way to Imilchil that night, but with dwindling daylight decided to stop off in Midelt instead. That was definitely the right call -- it would have been another 4 hours to Imilchil, and I would have been driving in the middle of nowhere in the dark.
- The next morning I drove from Midelt down to Rich and then across towards Imilchil, which took about 3 and 3/4 of an hour. The roads were fairly rough -- nothing too dangerous, but it made for slow going. Totally doable though in a normal car. This was the most isolated place I drove through -- there was just nothing out there. No hotels, no restaurants, no gas, nowhere even to stop for a coke. Just tiny tiny little villages. Gorgeous sights though -- and although the isolation was a little nerve-wracking (glad I didn't break down!), it was also a pretty cool experience.
Rather than turning right to get to Imilchil, I turned left towards Agoudal and the Todra Gorge. This part of the drive was probably another 2 and a half hours -- again, gorgeous views, very little in the way of population. I took about 45 minutes to have a late lunch in a restaurant overlooking Todra Gorge, then kept driving towards Tineghir.
This part of the drive was tough -- not because of the roads per se, but because there was so much traffic and so many tour buses trying to get past each other on fairly narrow roads. Not fun. It was probably another 45 min from Todra to Tineghir, mostly because of that traffic.
From Tineghir I drove towards Boulemane de Dades and, eventually, El Kelaa M'Ghoun. The times are running together a little bit in my head, but I'd say it took me two hours to get from Todra Gorge to El Kelaa -- once you get to Tineghir, the roads from there are much smoother, and you can go MUCH faster.
On the whole, this was definitely a long, tough day of driving -- about 8 hours in the car. If I was able to do it over again, I would have broke this one up better.
- The next day was easier -- I drove from El Kelaa to Ait Benhaddou (via Ouzzarate,) which took me about 5 1/2 hours, including stops for lunch and to buy some rose oil in El Kelaa. Roads were generally fast and flat -- except for the turnoff to Ait Benhaddou after Ouzzarate, which was a tough, rough, slow road.
- My final day of driving was harder than expected. I had been advised by several people (on this forum and also in Morocco) to continue on the side road from Ait Benhaddou to Anmiter, Telouet, then to rejoin the main N9 road just before the Tizi n'Tichka pass.
Although the route was, as advertised, very beautiful, I don't know that I would recommend it to others, at least not until it's paved. I found it very, very rough -- passable without a 4WD, but very slow (averaging 25-30 km/hr).
The combination of tight hairpin turns, steep hills, very loose gravel, and no guard rails almost did me in at one point, as I stalled trying to make it up an uphill hairpin on loose gravel. I made it, but it was very scary for a few moments as I slowly backed the car down the hill and around the hairpin, to try and get the car started again. (Scarier yet, a few moments after I got the car going, a big white van came barreling around the hill and almost creamed me. I feel fairly confident that if I had still been stalled, the car probably would have hit me.)
To get from Ait Benhaddou to the main N9 road was several stressful hours of white knuckle driving -- which to me, wasn't worth the views, as spectacular as they were. Although once the road gets paved over, I'm sure it will be a lot better.
Once you hit the N9 road, it's much better. Still plenty of hairpin turns and dizzying heights, but the road is better and guard rails are actually up in a few places!
- Note that if you're coming into Marrakech from Ouzzarete and looking for the airport, it's a bit tricky to find. My Michelen map didn't zoom in enough to help me figure out which roads to pick, and there weren't any signs pointing the way, at least not till you got deep into the city proper. You can read my previous post (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2011232) to see how I finally found the airport!
8) Finally, dropping the rental car off at the airport is an unusual experience. There aren't any special lots for the rental cars (as there are in the States), as I eventually discovered. You just drop the car off in a normal parking lot and give your parking ticket to the folks at the rental desk. It took several trips around the airport and advice from a few helpful cab drivers before I figured this one out!
On the whole, driving in Morocco was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it!
Edited by: melissa3644
Jan 23, 2011 3:09 PM
Jan 23, 2011 3:52 PM
Jan 23, 2011 5:07 PM
Jan 23, 2011 5:36 PM
Jan 24, 2011 2:57 AM
5Melissa, I hope other females who may be unsure about traveling in Morocco alone will find both of your trip reports. You have just the most amazing attitude, and it's little wonder you were well received wherever you went.
Jan 24, 2011 6:11 AM
6I agree. Her two trip reports are about the best I have seen, and should be read by other lone females who are worried about visiting Morocco. Obviously her attitude and self-confidence served her well.
Jan 25, 2011 1:30 PM
Jan 27, 2011 8:56 AM
Mar 31, 2011 2:19 PM
9Just a quick update to this useful info:
Both this thread and the LP guide book give the impression that renting a car is much more expensive than it needs to be (and almost put me off even considering it). I guess dropping the car off in a distant city is going to add to the cost, but the price is much, much lower if you use a local agency rather than the international companies such as Avis, the totally inappropriately named Budget, etc. In the new town in Marrakech there are literally dozens of car hire firms. In one small shop office complex about 50m from the hotel Touloussain (towards the Place 16 November), there must be 10-15 companies right next to each other - take your pick. I hired a car here for 250 DH per day (without having to even negotiate for that price). It was a small Kia, but fairly new (certainly less than 2 years old I'd think), perfectly functional and reliable.
So ask around and you don't have to pay anything like the prices above.
Also, driving is pretty easy - Moroccans don't seem to drive that fast, and generally seem to drive more safely than a lot of southern or eastern Europeans. It's even common to see new Mercedes and 4x4's cruising along at 80km/hr.
I may have gone at aless busy time, but didn't have any of the problems with the roads either - certainly the Ait Benhaddou - Telouet road is OK now (bit pot holey in places, but no problem with a normal small car - doesn't seem to have been paved recently though - it's paved, but in a bit of a state). It's only these kind of remote mountain roads that are narrow - most roads are normal width and don't seem to be busy - you can cruise at 100km/hr no probs.
Apr 1, 2011 1:19 PM
10#9 - I agree with you. We rented from a local agency and found it much less expensive and easier to rent from. They came to our hotel and filled out the paperwork. We paid the money, and off we went.
We were charged a 500 dirham drop off fee to return the car to Fes, but that is standard.
May 20, 2011 11:51 PM
We just hired a car from Car Rental Ltd Marrakech and got it for 270 Euros for ten days, unlimited milage. I thought that was quite good deal as we will be traveling a lot. The customer service has been really good as well, I asked if any of the cars has an AUX plug, and he has has been checking all of them for me and emailing me updates. We haven't arrived yet, but will let you know how it went!
May 26, 2011 3:48 AM
12Very good contact on the internet with Car Rental ltd. No problems with the administrative part, Competitive rental rate given the level of provision of a rental vehicle with payment by credit card. Rented vehicle: Dacia Logan (excellent interior and trunk capacity, good equipment, good engine performance with low cost).
Car Rental Ltd is an address that we can recommend to friends.
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