Getting Around in Morocco
People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco and you will find yourself perpetually talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advise you on some new place you should go or invite you to their home for couscous. Stations in smaller cities are often poorly marked, and your fellow passengers will be more than happy to let you know where you are and when you should get off. It’s expected to greet (Salam) new passengers entering your compartment, and if you bring fruit, cake etc its common to offer the other passengers something as well. If you spend a little extra for 1st class you increase your chances of meeting someone proficient in many languages.
There are three daily departures from Tangier, bound for either Oujda or Marrakech, although all of them can be used to reach either destination as there are corresponding trains in Sidi Kachem using the opposite branch of the train coming from Tangier. The night trains between Tangier and Marrakech offer couchettes for an extra dhr 100 (June 2008). This is the only option if you would like to lay down sleeping as there are obstacles between the seats in regular compartments.
The only drawback with Moroccon trains are that they are very frequently delayed, so don’t count on the timetables if you are in a hurry.
Train network is operated by ONCF
Nearly every city has a central bus-station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-condition and TV. Or you can take the local buses which cost only 25%-50% and are much more fun. These ones aren’t really comfortable, but you can get in contact to the local people and learn a lot about the country. The buses often take longer routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to as a “normal” tourist. For heat-sensitive people this is not advisable though, as locals may tell you that 35 degrees is “cool” and no reason for opening a window. The route from Rissani, Erfoud, and Er Rachidia to Meknes and Fez, while long, runs through the Middle and High Atlas and is particularly scenic.
Travel by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two sorts:
* petite taxi used only within the area of the town
* the grand taxi can be used for trips between towns, and for larger groups
Prices for petite taxi are reasonable and it’s the law that taxis in town should have a meter – although are not always on. Insist that the driver starts the meter. If not, ask the fare before getting in (but it will be more expensive).
grand taxi is a shared, generally long-distance taxi, with a fixed rate for specific route; the driver stopping and picking up passengers like a bus. grand taxis usually can be found near main bus stops. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on distance traveled and whether you are returning–but price per taxi should not depend on the number of passengers in your group. When sharing grand taxi with others, drivers may cheat tourist-looking passengers charging higher–look how much locals around you pay; don’t worry to ask other passengers about the normal price, before boarding or even when you’re in.
grand taxis are usually a ~10-years-old Mercedes regular sedans that in Europe are used for up to 4 passengers plus driver. For grand taxi, it is normal to share a car between up to 6 passengers. Front seat is normally given to two women (as local women are not allowed to be in contact with a man, they rarely take rear seats). Travellers often pay for 2 seats that remain unoccupied to travel with more space inside, and hence comfort.
grand taxis can also be hired for approximately the price of two petite taxis for shorter trips. This is useful if your party is of four or more. Beware, some taxi drivers will refuse to drive off until the taxi is full, potentially causing you delays. Alternatively, for a relatively reasonable sum (depending on the driver), you can hire a grand taxi in Marrakech for the entire day, allowing you to explore the Ourika valley.
Taxi owners vie with each other to add extras such as sunshades. A clean vehicle and smart driver is usually a good sign of a well maintained vehicle.
The main road network is in good condition. Roads have good surface, although very narrow, in most cases only one lane in each direction.
The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended.
* The expressway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was finished in 1987.
* It was extended from Rabat to Kénitra in 1995 and today reaches the northern port of Tangier (A1).
* Another expressway (A2) goes eastwards from Rabat to Fez some 200 km down the road. It comprises part of the planned transmaghrébine expressway that will continue all the way to Tripoli.
* South from Casablanca runs the A7 expressway to Marrakech and to Agadir.
* Around Casablanca and down the coast is the A5 expressway which connects Mohammedia and El Jadida.
* Construction started in 2006 for the A2 between Fez and Oujda on the Algerian border.
Fuel is not so common in the countryside so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
Roadsigns are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe but you give way to the right. Be very careful as many drivers respect signs only if a policeman is nearby. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering it. There are numerous Police checks on the main roads where you must slow down to allow them to see you. The speed limit is enforced especially the 40kph in towns and on dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. General rule is that vehicles larger than yours should be given a priority: trucks, buses and even grand taxis.
Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.
The centre of Marrakech can be a scary place to drive. You will be constantly beeped at, regardless of how well you drive. Marrakchis like to beep their horns at anyone they feel to be holding them up. This may mean even if you’re just in front of them at a red light. Also, pay very close attention to your wingmirrors and your blind spots. The two lane roads often become free-for-alls, up to the point at which you may see four cars wing to wing at a red light. One of the major hazards on the roads in Marrakech are the mobilettes. These pushbikes with an engine will zig-zag around you and generally make themselves a nuisance, however, on longer stretches of road, they tend to keep to the right. Often, a few beeps of the horn will cause a mobilette rider to pay a little more attention to his surroundings. However, be warned that some drivers pay absolutely no attention to your horn, as they have become so used to the sound. Drive defensively, and keep your speed down, so any accident causes minimum damage. Do not be intimidated by other drivers. Make sure that you drive predictably, and don’t do anything rash.