You’ve booked your flight to Morocco, you may have already reserved your riads, and now you’re wondering: what are your options for getting around in Morocco?
There are 2 main choices for travel within Morocco: 1) Public transportation which in this article boils down to traveling with others or 2) Private transportation in Morocco, which means either booking a private driver and vehicle OR hiring your car and doing the driving yourself.
GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: TYPES OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN MOROCCO
Getting around in Morocco using public transportation is not necessarily for the faint of heart! It requires research and a whole of patience!
Based on typical passenger experiences, managing public transport in Morocco, especially when your time here is short, or if you have a specific time and place to be, such as catching a flight, can be challenging.
It’s also important to point out that climate control, either AC or heat, is not commonly used by Moroccans, and definitely not at levels which some foreign travelers are used to or would find most comfortable, especially Americans. Many Moroccans believe that changes in temperatures can make them sick, and this includes breezes and wind.
The main methods of getting around in Morocco using public transportation are:
- Internal flights
1. GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: TAKING TRAINS IN MOROCCO
While getting around in Morocco by taking trains may appear to be an inexpensive option, not all cities are served by the train routes, and delays leaving and/or arriving are still common. For example, there are no trains to take you to the Sahara Desert. Morocco does have a high-speed train called “Al Boraq” – this is more expensive than the other train options but right now, it only serves very specific routes.
First class tickets sell out quickly as there may only be only one (maximum two) 1st class car for the whole train for the entire route. 2nd class may also fill up quickly, especially on popular routes or when traveling during local holidays or high season for tourism. There is extremely limited storage space for larger pieces of luggage, almost exclusively overhead racks which only comfortably fit carry-on sized pieces.
Depending on the layout and route, you may not always be able to sit next to your fellow travelers, because of prior sales of tickets. Some train cars are rear-facing seats, so if you are prone to motion sickness, this could be a real concern.
Also, it’s fairly common for Moroccans to “choose” their own seat once in the train car, despite the seat number listed on their ticket, either because they don’t pay attention to the assigned seat on their ticket, or because they want to sit next to the window or in a front-facing seat.
Children under 5 years of age can travel for free on trains, which can result in some very close seating! Technically children are supposed to sit on the laps of the adult with whom they are traveling, but more often than not, they will sit in an open seat or squeezed next to the adult.
Comfort and cleanliness can be a concern, especially in the bathrooms; AC may not also always be working, or cool enough, in which case, passengers will close the blinds to keep out the sun and heat but which also blocks also any view.
In addition, it can be a hassle to travel between the medinas and the train stations using the small or “petit” taxis, especially if you are carrying large or multiple pieces of luggage, or traveling with others. And then once arrived in the medina, you still need to find your way to your hotel or riad, which isn’t always easy! You would also miss out on exploring places along the way.
2. GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: TAKING A BUS IN MOROCCO
We do not recommend taking busses as a means of getting around in Morocco, primarily for safety but also for some comfort, and depending on destinations served, a lack of convenient schedules.
It can also be difficult to buy tickets ahead of time, either too far in advance or as an international purchase. Busses in Morocco do not have an on-board restroom, so you are at the mercy of any pit stops along the route. You would also miss out on exploring places along the way.
3. GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: TAKING TAXIS IN MOROCCO
Taxis in Morocco are by default shared transportation, and in Morocco there are 2 types of taxis: Big or “grand” taxis, and small or “petit” taxis – we explain the differences below. Companies, like Lyft or Uber, do not operate in Morocco.
It is not common for taxi drivers to speak English, though some may speak some minimal French. In general, taxis in Morocco aren’t new vehicles, so expect a lot of wear and tear and a less than comfortable ride. There is little room for luggage, and especially for small taxis, luggage is most typically put on an open roof rack.
Because taxi drivers in Morocco are looking to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest amount of time, in order to drop off passengers and get new ones for more fares, road safety is rarely their top concern. Sudden stops, excessive speed, darting in and out of traffic – these are all normal things to expect when getting round in Morocco by taxi!
If you decide to take taxis for getting around in Morocco, DO NOT forget to pack a sense of adventure and a lot of patience!
TAKING A BIG “GRAND TAXI IN MOROCCO
Grand taxis may serve long and fairly specific routes within a city – such as cross-city runs OR are used for inter-city travel. Grand taxis in Morocco can carry up to 6 passengers, 2 upfront next to the driver and 4 in the back seat(s). Grand taxis in Morocco only have official and posted rates when leaving the airports, so if you’re crossing a large city or traveling between cities, it’s not easy to know what the going rate is for that route. If you don’t want to share a grand taxi with other travelers, you will need to “buy” the seats of any possible travelers.
Despite the law in Morocco which says seatbelts must be worn by all passengers when out of city limits, meaning the highway and more rural roads such as the national or regional roads in Morocco, seatbelts are rarely used and sometimes may be disabled. Windows are also left closed or partially opened, and it’s super rare to have any AC running, which is quite uncomfortable when temps climb.
If you’ve made the choice to getting around in Morocco by grand taxi, you would also miss out on exploring places along the way.
TAKING A SMALL “PETIT” TAXIT IN MOROCCO
Just like big or “grand” taxis, small “petit” taxis in Morocco are also shared transportation. Small taxis in Morocco serve within the city limits. They are “economy-sized” and can carry up to 3 passengers, in addition to the driver. Despite the law in Morocco which says seatbelts must be worn in the front seats of a vehicle within city limits, seatbelts are rarely used and sometimes may be disabled. Windows are also left closed or partially opened, and its super rare to have any AC running, which is quite uncomfortable when temps climb.
4. GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: INTERNAL FLIGHTS
When travelers realize how big Morocco is and how long it can take getting around in Morocco, they sometimes think to take internal flights to save time.
However, there are only 2 airlines which currently operate flights within Morocco: Royal Air Maroc (RAM) and Air Arabia. This means that there is not always a great choice of times for flights, or that flights do not operate every day. Sometimes internal flights are canceled due to a low number of bookings, so you might have to scramble to make other transportation plans! You also need to consider the time and expense and hassle of getting to the airport for your departing flight, as well as the same considerations for leaving the airport and making your way to your hotel or riad.
GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: TYPES OF PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION IN MOROCCO
While the world is still actively fighting the novel coronavirus, getting around in Morocco by choosing private transportation is a much safer option.
5. HIRING A RENTAL CAR IN MOROCCO
Rental cars are available in Morocco and are almost exclusively manual transmission. Road safety in Morocco is a concern, which is why we believe in navigating through Morocco by using private transport with an experienced professionally-licensed Moroccan driver is the best choice in getting around in Morocco.
Here are some general observations if you decide on getting around in Morocco by rental car:
- Morocco will likely have different road and traffic signs than your home country, and no doubt have different traffic and driving laws which you are probably not aware of.
- Lanes in Morocco are narrow, and drivers tend to not respect lane markings, often straddling the lane division or veering into other lanes.
- Roundabouts are common, but there are different types of roundabouts in Morocco: at some you must yield to traffic, and at others, you may have the priority.
- Off of the highways, and especially in more rural or mountainous areas, roads may not fully allow space for oncoming traffic to pass, without having to pause and use the shoulder.
- Police checkpoints are common, sometimes you actually have to stop before the police will wave you through, sometimes you must just slow down – will you know the difference?
- Animals crossing the road can be quite common, as well as carts on the side of the road which makes passing them either difficult or technically impossible, depending on road markings.
- It is a certainty that people WILL suddenly cross the road, in both urban and rural areas, whether or not there are pedestrian crossings or if you have a green light at a traffic stop!
- Within cities, traffic can be quite congested, and drivers may be more assertive (and by assertive, we mean aggressive!) than in other countries, lacking a certain courtesy protocol while behind the wheel.
- And even when other drivers aren’t being assertive, then often times they seem to drive without a care in the world, driving at inconsistent and often lower than the speed limit, not using signal lights, suddenly turning right from a middle lane.
- There is a good highway system, but it is not extensive throughout Morocco, and with tolls and fuel, this can add up.
6. GETTING AROUND IN MOROCCO: BOOKING PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION IN MOROCCO
If you want a hassle-free way of getting around in Morocco, book private transportation with a driver who speaks your native language!
Of course, not all Moroccan private transport companies are created the same or operate with the same principles! Hopefully the only main research for booking private transportation for getting around in Morocco is to find a trustworthy and legally-registered Moroccan private transportation company. You’ll be able to tell them which main destinations you’d like to hit, and they can plan a custom itinerary for you and suggest interesting places to discover along the way. After that, your trip should be easy, and your only decisions will be what new Moroccan dish to have for lunch!
First, you do want to make sure that the company is legally registered in Morocco. This ensures that they must follow certain tourism regulations, such as:
- using only certain authorized makes of vehicles, which must be less than 5 years old
- maintaining vehicles in great working condition
- carrying valid insurance with higher liability limits for tourism
- keeping on board certain safety products, such as a fire extinguisher and a emergency first aid kit with unexpired products
Not all private transportation companies in Morocco cater to English-speaking travelers, so if this is an important criteria for you, make sure to inquire if you will have an English-speaking driver, and what level he may speak, such as basic or conversational. Getting around in Morocco with an English-speaking private driver will make things that much easier and more enjoyable for you! Because it’s private transportation, your driver will be able to point out and explain things as you explore Morocco and stop along the way, for you to stretch your legs, for great scenic photo opportunities or interesting things to discover, as well as bathroom and meal breaks.
Choosing private transportation as a means of getting around in Morocco means you get to travel according to YOUR schedule; you don’t have to rely on a rigid train or bus timetable, or struggle with taking taxis.
And by booking private transportation with your own driver, you get to rest and relax, without having to deal with any Morocco traffic! The vehicles, especially the smaller vans, are usually comfortable and a smooth ride, with plenty of room to stretch your legs, not to mention store your luggage, and you don’t have to worry about traveling with strangers.
Sure, getting around in Morocco by booking a private driver and vehicle is more expensive than most other methods of getting around in Morocco, but the benefits and memories of the experience are priceless! You should consider that part of the pricing is:
- They are experienced.
- They know the roads to take and which places to stop (and to avoid!)
- A great English-speaking driver acts as part host, part ambassador and part translator.
- If you found a private transportation company in Morocco by doing a search on Google, then you most likely landed on their webpage, which takes time and money to create and maintain.
- We’ve already learned that vehicles used by private transportation companies must be a certain model and must be replaced after 5 years.
- Getting around in Morocco by hiring a private car with driver means “hidden” expenses which you don’t see. You will likely travel great distances in Morocco, sometimes up to 8 hours a day! There is wear and tear, mileage, fuel, tolls, parking, car washes and likely a per diem for the driver to cover his accommodations and meals while he is away from home and helping you to discover Morocco.
- Similar services in your home country are most likely exponentially much more expensive than getting around in Morocco by private transportation with a quality vehicle and private driver. How much does a door-to-door airport shuttle cost in your home town?
To call out the elephant in the room, yes, we are affiliated with a Moroccan private transportation agency who wishes to provide services, BUT we genuinely and strongly believe in the value and experience of private transport as a means of getting around in Morocco.
Following is an excerpt from one of their recent guest’s unsolicited feedback. She and a small group of travel companions had considered traveling exclusively by public transport but after their first experience, they decided definitively on private transport for getting around in Morocco.
“We ended up going to Fez on the train. The first of the day didn’t come. The second, ours was late 80 min therefore crammed by the time of our entry. We stood by the open door which was refreshing but not my vision for the group experience on their first train ride. That train ride made us change the Meknes to Tangier plans and were we blessed with a wonderful driver and a once in a lifetime experience with him.”
In any case, Morocco is a wonderful country, with great food and lots of history and culture, stunning architecture and beautiful handicrafts, which merits to be explored, regardless of the way you ultimately choose for getting around in Morocco!