Getting around Morocco is pretty straightforward – transport networks between towns are good, and even off the beaten track there’s often something going your way. Royal Air Maroc offers internal flights, the rail network is excellent in linking the major cities (with a high-speedTGV line between Tangier and Casablanca currently under construction), and large bus companies such as CTM are comfortable and efficient. Local networks are cheaper and more cheerful and do the job.
Car hire is relatively expensive but gives you the most freedom, although navigating the big cities can be stressful. Good sealed roads are generally the order of the day, with much investment being poured into areas like the Rif to improve their connectivity. Roads in remote mountain and desert areas are often just a piste (unsealed track or road).
When travelling on public transport, it’s considered both selfish and bad manners to eat while those around you go without. Always buy a little extra to offer to your neighbours.
Next comes the ritual. If you offer food, etiquette dictates that your fellow passengers should decline it. It should be offered a second time, a little more persuasively, but again it will be turned down. On a third, more insistent offer, your neighbours are free to accept the gift if they wish to.
If you are offered food, but you don’t want it, it’s good manners to accept a small piece anyway, and to pat your stomach contentedly to indicate that you are full. In return for participating in this ritual, you should be accorded great respect, offered protection and cared for like a friend.
- National carrier Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com) is the main domestic airline. All flights are via its hub at Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca.
- RAM serves Tangier, Nador, Oujda, Fez, Er-Rachidia, Marrakesh, Essaouira, Agadir, Laâyoune and Dakhla.
- Flying is relatively expensive but may be worth it if you are pushed for time. The 2¼-hour flight from Casablanca to Dakhla costs from Dh980, compared with Dh600 for a 1st-class seat on the 32-hour CTM bus journey.
- You can buy tickets online and at RAM offices and travel agencies.
- English is spoken at RAM’s call centre.
Mountain biking can be a great way of travelling in Morocco. There are plenty of opportunities for getting off the beaten track, with thousands of kilometres of remote pistes to be explored.
Hazards Surfaced roads are generally well-maintained once completed, but they tend to be narrow and in less-frequented areas may have jagged edges, which can be hairy given the kamikaze drivers. Beware of stone-throwing children in remote areas.
Hire You'll find bicycles for hire in places such as Essaouira and Taroudannt, but don’t expect to find the latest models of mountain bike.
Transport Bus companies will generally carry bicycles as luggage for an extra fee. Likewise on trains, although it’s generally only possible to transport bikes in the goods wagon.
The cheapest and most efficient way to travel around the country, buses are generally safe, although drivers sometimes leave a little to be desired.
Bus stations Some Moroccan bus stations are like madhouses, with touts running around calling any number of destinations of buses about to depart. Most cities and towns have a single central bus station (gare routière), but Supratours and CTM often maintain separate terminals, and often have offices outside the station. Occasionally, there are secondary stations for a limited number of local destinations.
Touts Touts will happily guide you to a ticket booth (and take a small commission from the company). Always double-check that their recommended service really is the most comfortable, direct and convenient option.
Luggage Bus stations in the main cities have left-luggage depots (consigne), sometimes open 24 hours. Padlock your bags. More often than not you’ll be charged for baggage handling – Dh5 is common.
Costs Bus travel is cheap considering the distances covered. CTM fares from Casablanca to Marrakesh, Fez and Tangier are Dh90, Dh100 and Dh145 respectively.
Reservations Where possible, and especially if services are infrequent or do not originate in the place you want to leave, book ahead for CTM and Supratours buses. Particularly busy routes are Marrakesh–Essaouira and Casablanca–Marrakesh, where you may need to reserve seats two days in advance in high season.
Daytime journeys Many buses have rather meagre curtains, so to avoid melting in the sun, pay attention to where you sit. Heading from north to south, sit on the right in the morning and the left in the afternoon; east to west, sit on the right, or on the left if travelling from west to east. You will often be assigned a seat when you purchase your ticket, but you can ask to choose a place.
Night-time journeys Operating on many intercity routes, night buses can be both quicker and cooler, although risks from other road users are considerably heightened.
Stops Bus trips longer than three hours incorporate a scheduled stop to stretch your legs and grab a snack. Buses are sometimes delayed at police checkpoints for about 10 minutes – longer than grands taxis, whose local drivers usually know the police.
With the most comprehensive nationwide network, CTM (www.ctm.ma) serves most destinations of interest to travellers. Established in 1919, it’s Morocco’s oldest bus company.
- On CTM buses, children aged four years and over pay full fares, which tend to be 15% to 30% more expensive than most other lines – comparable to 2nd-class fares on normal trains.
- Tickets can normally be purchased in advance; check departures with the online timetable.
- CTM coaches are modern and comfortable, with air-conditioning and heating (they sometimes overdo both).
- Some routes between major cities offer a premium service, with comfier seats, more legroom and free wi-fi. Fares are around 40% higher than the regular service.
- There is an official Dh5-per-pack baggage charge on CTM buses.
- Once you have bought your ticket, you get a baggage tag, which you hand over when you've reached your destination.
The ONCF train company runs Supratours (www.oncf.ma) to complement its rail network. For example, train passengers continuing south from Marrakesh link up at the station with coaches to destinations including Agadir and Ouarzazate. Supratours also runs the busy Marrakesh–Essaouira coach service.
- It’s possible, at train ticket offices, to buy a ticket covering a complete trip with both rail and bus components.
- On trains, travellers with tickets for connecting buses have priority.
- Supratours is similar to CTM in terms of both its fares and the comfort of its buses. Check departures with the online timetable.
In the south of the country, Satas and SAT are good second-tier choices, as is Trans Ghazala in the north.
At the bottom end of the price range, and on shorter routes, there are a fair number of two-bit operations with one or two well-worn buses. These services depart when sufficiently full, and frequently stop to recruit more passengers.
Car & Motorcycle
Morocco is a country made for touring, and offers freedom to explore the more unusual routes in your own time.
Daylight driving is generally no problem and not too stressful, though Moroccan drivers often need to be treated with caution and safe distances.
The roads connecting Morocco’s main centres are generally good, and there’s an expanding motorway network (which attract small tolls). The main routes:
- From Tangier down the Atlantic Coast to Safi (via Casablanca and Rabat)
- From Rabat inland to Oujda via Meknès and Fez
- From Casablanca south to Agadir via Marrakesh
- From Tangier to Oujda via Tetouan and Nador
Bring Your Own Vehicle
- Every vehicle should display the nationality plate of its country of registration, and you must always carry proof of ownership of a private vehicle. Moroccan law requires a Green Card (carte verte, or International Motor Insurance Card), as proof of insurance. A warning triangle (to be used in case of breakdown) is compulsory.
- Obtain insurance and a Green Card before leaving home. Otherwise local insurance (assurance frontiere), costing about Dh650 for 10 days, must be purchased at the ferry port or a nearby broker (bureau d’assurance).
- Ask for the optional constat amiable form, which both parties fill out in the event of a minor road accident. They can also be purchased at tabacs in cities.
- At the port, or on the ferry on longer crossings, you must also fill in the TVIP form (temporary vehicle importation declaration – declaration d’admission temporaire de moyens de transport), valid for six months. Present this form when you (and your vehicle) leave the country. You can also download the form from the website of Morocco Customs (www.douane.gov.ma), where it’s referred to as D16TER.
- There is no need for a carnet de passage en douane for temporarily importing your vehicle to Morocco.
- International driving permits are recommended for Morocco by most automobile bodies, but many foreign, including EU, licences are accepted provided they bear your photograph.
- You must carry your licence or permit as well as your passport when driving.
Fuel & Spare Parts
Availability The country is well served with petrol stations, although they're fewer and further between in Western Sahara. If you’re travelling off the beaten track, refuel at every opportunity. Keep a close eye on the gauge in the southern desert and fill up wherever you get a chance, as stations don’t always have supplies of fuel.
Costs Leaded and less-common unleaded (sans plomb) petrol cost around Dh10 per litre and diesel (gasoil) is around Dh11. In the Western Sahara, tax-free petrol is about 30% cheaper. Fuel in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla is comparably priced to Morocco.
Parts Moroccan mechanics are generally good and decent-sized towns should have at least one garage. If you can fit replacement parts yourself, ask a Moroccan friend to help you buy the parts, as this may help to keep the price closer to local levels.
Costs Renting a car costs about Dh300 per day for a week or so with unlimited mileage. For longer rentals, lower daily rates are sometimes available. Pre-booking gives the cheapest deals. Most companies demand a (returnable) cash deposit (Dh3000 to Dh5000) or take an impression of your credit card.
Operators With international firms such as Hertz, Budget, Europcar, National and Avis, you can pre-book online. There are also numerous local agencies.
Potential pitfalls Make sure you understand what is included in the price and what your liabilities are. Always check the car’s condition before signing up, and make sure it comes with a spare tyre, tool kit and full documentation – including insurance cover. Keep the car’s documents and your licence with you, rather than in the car, as you'll need them if the car is stolen or damaged. Keep receipts for oil changes or mechanical repairs; these costs should be reimbursed.
Insurance and tax Insurance must, by law, be sold along with all rental agreements. Make sure that prices include collision damage, insurance and tax (20%). You should also take out Collision Damage Waiver insurance, typically about Dh35 to Dh60 a day (often with an excess of up to Dh5000). Super Collision Damage Waiver, which eliminates or minimises the excess, may be available for an extra Dh60 or so a day.
Piste Unless you hire a 4WD, your rental agreement will probably not allow off-road (piste) driving, making you liable for potential damages.
- Motorcycle touring is popular, but many bikes are unfamiliar in Morocco, particularly those with larger capacity engines, so repairs can be tricky.
- Carry a good tool kit and all necessary spares, including cables and levers, inner tubes, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, pump, fuses, chain, washable air filter and cable ties.
- Some insurance policies do not allow foreign motorcycle licences to be used in Morocco.
- See Horizons Unlimited (www.horizonsunlimited.com) for detailed advice on biking in the region.
- Parking zones are often watched by gardiens de voitures (car-park attendants). Payment of a few dirhams gives a trouble-free parking experience.
- In the big city centres, parking tickets are issued from kerbside machines (Dh2 to Dh3 per hour for a maximum stay of two hours). Parking is free on Sundays.
- Parking is not allowed at kerbsides painted in red-and-white stripes. Stopping is not allowed on green-and-white stripes.
- Fines for illegally parked cars can reach Dh1500.
- Police control points are common on main roads in and out of most sizeable towns.
- Foreigners are unlikely to be stopped, but it’s still a good idea to slow down and put on your best smile.
- Roadblocks are also common in sensitive areas like the Western Sahara, the Rif Mountains around the cannabis-producing region of Ketama, and the road to Figuig near the Algerian border.
- Police are more vigilant in these areas, but at most, you'll be asked to show your passport, driving licence and the vehicle’s papers, and asked the purpose of your visit and destination.
Road accidents are as common in Morocco as offers of mint tea from carpet sellers. Treat all vehicles as ready to veer out and cut you off at inopportune moments.
Cyclists and pedestrians often have poor traffic awareness. Roads are often busy with people (including groups of schoolchildren), bicycles, horse and carts, donkeys and so on.
Desert In the hammada (stony desert), tar roads sometimes disappear without warning, replaced by stretches of sand, gravel and potholes. If a strong chergui (dry, easterly desert wind) is blowing and carrying a lot of dust, you’ll have to wait until it eases off if you don’t want to do your car considerable damage.
Mountains High and Middle Atlas passes are often closed due to snow in winter. Seek local advice before travelling, or check the road signs along the routes.
Medinas Entering cities and towns, park outside the medina or find out if the route to your accommodation is easily driveable – narrow medina streets weren’t designed for cars.
Night Driving at night is particularly hazardous: it’s legal (and very common) for vehicles travelling under 20km/h to drive without lights.
- Drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Give way to traffic entering a roundabout from the right when you’re already on one.
- The fine for missing a red stop sign is Dh700.
- The speed limit in built-up areas is 40km/h, and 100km/h outside the towns (120km/h on motorways). Police with radar guns are common, so watch your speed.
- It's the law to wear a seatbelt.
- Tolls apply on the motorways – for example, Rabat–Tangier is about Dh60 and Rabat–Casablanca is Dh20. You take a ticket upon entering the motorway and pay at the end.
- In the event of an accident, especially involving injuries, drivers are officially required to remain at the scene. Vehicles cannot be moved until the police have arrived – this may take hours.
- Pick up a constat amiable form in case you have an accident; they can be purchased at tabacs in cities.
- The bigger cities have public bus services.
- Tickets are typically Dh5.
- Buses can be ludicrously overcrowded and routes often hard to discern.
- Petits taxis are often an easier and faster option.
The Mercedes saloons you’ll see on Moroccan roads and gathered near bus stations are shared taxis (grands taxis in French or taxiat kebira in Arabic). On many routes the older cars are being replaced with newer people carriers.
The Ziz and Drâa Valleys, the Tizi n’Test and the Rif Mountains, all scenic areas not well-served by buses, are good to visit in a taxi.
Routes Grands taxis link towns to their neighbours, often in a relay system that may necessitate changing a few times on longer journeys. Taxis sometimes ply longer routes but these services are rarer and usually leave first thing in the morning.
Seats Grands taxis take six cramped passengers (two in the front, four in the back) and leave when full. It can often be advantageous to pay for two seats to get the taxi going earlier, and give yourself more space. This is particularly useful for lone women, as you should get the front seat to yourself.
Fares The fixed-rate fares are a little higher than bus fares, but still very reasonable. Make it clear you want to pay for une place (one spot) in a taxi collectif (shared taxi). Another expression that helps explain that you don’t want the taxi to yourself is ma’a an-nas (with other people). If you've got particularly heavy/bulky luggage, there might be a surcharge.
Private hire Hiring an entire taxi is sometimes a good option – especially if you’re travelling with a small group, or you want to travel along an unpopular route without waiting hours for other passengers. The fare should be six times the cost for one place. If you’ll be travelling through a scenic area, make sure plans for stopping en route are clear.
Hazards Grand-taxi drivers often have a boy-racer mentality. Overtaking on blind corners can be a badge of honour, and speed limits are only adhered to when there’s a police roadblock in sight. Night-time journeys are best avoided. Seatbelts are a rarity – and questioning this may be taken as a slur on your driver’s skills.
- Cities and bigger towns have local petits taxis and are a different colour in every city.
- Petits taxis are licensed to carry up to three passengers, but are not permitted to go beyond the city limits.
- Petits taxis are metered in cities, less commonly so in smaller towns. To ask in French for the meter to be switched on, say ‘tourne le conteur, si’l vous plaît’. Where taxis are not metered, agree on a price beforehand.
- If the driver refuses to use the meter and won’t give you a price, ask to stop and get out. Most petit-taxi drivers are perfectly honest, but those in Marrakesh and Casablanca are notoriously greedy with tourists.
- Multiple hire is common. The price should be the same whether you hail an empty taxi and pick up other passengers en route, or there are already others in a taxi you wave down, or you travel alone.
- From 8pm (often 9pm in summer) there is normally a 50% surcharge.
Pick-up Truck & 4WD
- In more remote areas, especially the Atlas Mountains, locals travel between villages in Berber camionettes (pick-up trucks), old vans or the back of trucks.
- When travelling between remote towns and villages, the best time to find a lift is early on market days (generally once or twice a week). Waits for departures can be considerable.
- On remote pistes that would destroy normal taxis, 4WD taxis operate.
Morocco’s excellent train network is one of Africa’s best, linking most of the main centres. Trains are reasonably priced, and preferable to buses where available. Trains are comfortable, fast and generally run to their timetables. The ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer; www.oncf.ma) runs the network.
- There are two main lines: Tangier down to Marrakesh via Rabat and Casablanca; and Oujda or Nador in the northeast down to Marrakesh, passing Fez and Meknès before joining the line from Tangier at Sidi Kacem.
- A high-speed (TGV) line to link Tangier, Rabat and Casablanca is under construction and due to open in July 2018. When finished, the travel time between Tangier and Casablanca will be reduced from five hours to just over two hours, with trains travelling at 320km/h. For more information see www.tgvmaroc.ma.
- Also operated by ONCF, Supratours buses link many destinations to the train network.
- Trains are particularly convenient around Casablanca and Rabat, with services leaving every 30 minutes between the two cities.
- The overnight Tangier–Marrakesh and Oujda–Casablanca trains have sleeping cars.
Classes & Costs
There are two types of train, and the main difference between the two is comfort, rather than speed:
- Rapide (Train Rapide Climatisé, TCR) – standard for intercity services.
- Ordinaire (Train Navette Rapide, TNR) – less comfortable, without air-conditioning, apart from the double-decker TNR Rabat–Casablanca shuttle. Mostly late-night and local services.
- Prices given here are for rapide trains (ordinaire trains are around 30% cheaper).
- First- and 2nd-class fares are available, with six seats in 1st-class compartments and eight in 2nd class.
- First-class tickets include a reserved seat, while in 2nd class you just sit in an empty seat.
- Second class is more than adequate on short journeys. For longer trips, the extra for 1st class is worth paying.
- Shuttle services operate regularly between Kenitra, Rabat, Casablanca and Mohammed V International Airport, and they supplement the rapide services on this line.
Sample 2nd-class fares:
- Casablanca to Marrakesh (Dh95, three hours)
- Rabat to Fez (Dh85, 2 ½ hours)
- Tangier to Marrakesh (Dh216, 9½ hours)
- All journeys in sleeping cars cost Dh370 in a four-bed couchette, and Dh480/690 for a single/double compartment.
- Children aged under four travel free.
- Children between four and 12 years get a discount (normally 50%, less in a few cases including sleeping cars).
- At weekends travellers get a 25% discount on return trips, on major-line trains.
Stations & Timetables
- Stations aren’t usually well signposted and announcements (in both French and Arabic) are frequently inaudible, so keep an eye out for your stop.
- Most stations are located in the ville nouvelle. In cities such as Tangier, Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, the main stations are sleek affairs with free wi-fi and decent restaurants.
- Stations usually have left-luggage depots, which only accept luggage that can be locked.
- Check on the ONCF website (www.oncf.ma) for times and prices.
- Buy tickets at the station, as a supplement is charged for buying tickets on the train. Automatic ticket machines are becoming more widespread at stations.
- Buy your ticket the day before you want to travel if possible, particularly if you want to travel 1st class. Second-class seats cannot be reserved. First-class tickets can be bought up to a month before travel – advisable if travelling during major holidays, and for sleeper services.
- Inspectors check tickets on the trains.
Rail Pass This is available for seven/15/30 days (Dh600/1170/2100 to travel in 2nd class, Dh900/1600/3150 for 1st class). Pass prices drop for travellers aged under 26, and again for those under 12 years.
Carte Chahab (six months, Dh265) If you’re under 26, this offers 25% to 50% discounts.
Carte Hikma (six months, Dh105) For those aged over 60, this offers 25% to 50% discounts.
Carte Ousraty (one year, Dh50 per person) For families, this offers 10% to 25% on group tickets.
Casablanca and Rabat both have new and modern tram networks, which are an excellent and cheap way to explore those cities. A third tram network is reportedly planned for Marrakesh.