Once you have arrived in Morocco, some of the first questions visitors will ask include, “ How do I get around in Morocco?”, “What is the best way to tour Morocco?”, “Is it easy getting around in Morocco without a car?” and “What are the pros and cons of the different methods of travel in the country?”
In this article, we will answer all these questions and more by examining the different ways of getting about in Morocco and their advantages and disadvantages.
Transportation in Morocco: Method One.
Undoubtedly the easiest way of touring Morocco is to book a tour with an agency where the travel agents will arrange all the moving from place to place and you don’t have to worry about it! The disadvantages are that it will be at least a little more expensive and you will lack a certain amount of freedom to go where you want at your own time and speed. Mint Tea Tours is experienced and expert in providing tours at reasonable rates and arranging tailor-made tours to suit your requirements as well as ensuring you have as much freedom as possible.
If you are travelling alone or in a small group and want your independence, then there are two main ways that you can get around; by using public transport or by driving yourself by taking your own vehicle, renting one or booking a vehicle and driver.
Let’s first have a look at public transport.
Getting Around in Morocco: Public Transport.
The public transport system in Morocco is relatively good, but you will need to prepare in advance and have the patience of a saint. There are four types of public transportation; buses and coaches, taxis, trains and internal flights.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Two. Buses and Coaches.
We would not particularly recommend using coaches or buses as a means of travelling around Morocco, but it is an option.
Buses are used to move about within a city and its suburbs and coaches are for travel from one city to another. They are often overcrowded, uncomfortable, not air-conditioned and, for the buses at least, difficult to obtain an up-to-date or accurate timetable. Coaches have a timetable, but coach stations are often rather hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter, dirty and full of touts. The big cities have a wide range of destinations and many bays, but often the information on the boards, offices and coaches is written only in Arabic. Buying tickets in advance can be difficult or impossible.
Most coaches in Morocco do not have toilets, but there will be rest stops en route on longer journeys. Coach journeys can get ridiculously hot in the long Moroccan summer, so try to sit on the side of the coach opposite the sun. Because of this the curtains will often be drawn so you will be unable to see the frequently spectacular views out of the windows.
Coach travel can be dangerous too, road accidents are a common occurrence in Morocco and there is a high death toll every year, even many of the coach drivers ignore the laws and drive like lunatics, and the road surfaces are variable, to say the least. The coaches do have luggage sections but be prepared to pay a small fee, 5 or 10 DHs to the baggage handler. Higher-end, more luxurious coaches are available but will obviously cost more. Ask Mint Tea Tours for details.
On the other hand, buses and coaches are usually the cheapest way of getting about other than walking which is not recommended.
- Pros: Very cheap, good way of meeting ordinary Moroccans, luxury coaches are available.
- Cons: Overcrowded, hot, uncomfortable, confusing, potentially dangerous.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Three. Taxis.
It’s a bit of a lottery. Taking a taxi can be a good way of travelling in Morocco or it can be an utter nightmare. There are two types of taxis used in the country, “petit taxis” for journeys within the city limits or “grand taxis” for journeys from one city to another. Taxi drivers rarely speak any English though their French is usually reasonable. It is the most common method for the locals for getting around in Morocco without a car but they are used to the system.
Petit taxis are usually small cars such as the Dacia Logan or Peugeot 207. They are often old and battered, inside and out. They take up to three passengers, one in the front and two in the back and will stop to pick up additional passengers to fill this allocation, so be prepared to share if you are travelling alone or as a twosome. They are not air-conditioned or particularly comfortable an option, but the journeys are usually quite short and very cheap, much cheaper than in Europe or the USA, though the price does increase a little during the evening.
Petit taxis are fitted with a metre, so make sure it is turned on to avoid being cheated. If the driver refuses to switch on the metre or claims that it is broken, get out and find another taxi. If it really doesn’t have a metre, still the case in some rural areas, ensure you agree on a price in advance. It is not customary to tip the driver in Morocco, though they will be very grateful if you do.
The boot/ trunk is tiny and often full of the driver’s stuff so luggage space is restricted to the square roof rack. The drivers will go as fast as possible, which is good, but they will break a lot of traffic laws, zigzag from lane to lane, stop very suddenly, accelerate very fast and curse at other drivers for doing the same. It can be quite a hair-raising experience, but is quite normal for Moroccans and though accidents do occur, they are rarer than you would think. Seatbelts are rarely worn, but they are usually present if you want to put one on. It is not uncommon for drivers to take a longer route than necessary.
Just keep calm and you will be fine. Probably.
You can get a petit taxi at official taxi ranks or by waving one down in the street. Don’t expect people to queue politely, whoever gets in the taxi first gets the ride and Moroccans will be quite happy to jump ahead of you even if you have been waiting longer.
Petit taxis are easily identifiable due to their roof racks and because they are all the same colour in each city. There are usually a lot of them about so are not difficult to spot.
Here are the colours for each major city:
- Agadir – Orange
- Aklim – Green
- Al Rachida – Blue
- Azilal – Red
- Azrou – Green
- Berkane – Orange
- Casablanca – Red
- Chefchaouen – Blue
- El Jadida – White
- Fes – Red
- Ifrane – Green
- Marrakech – Beige
- Meknes – Blue
- Midelt – Yellow
- Mohammedia – Green
- Nador – Red
- Ouarzazate – White
- Oujda – Red
- Rabat – Blue
- Tangier – Blue
- Taroudannt – White
Grand taxis are larger cars, usually white Mercedes, sometimes silver or beige, that, like the petit taxis, are generally rather old and not in the best condition. You can only get a grand taxi at the designated grand taxi ranks, often near a train station, at the airports or close to the centre of the city. Grand taxis carry six passengers, two in the front passenger seat and fur in the back and will not usually leave their point of origin until the taxi is full which can make for a long wait and a rather uncomfortable journey.
They rarely have working air-conditioning. There should be a list of official rates on a board at the taxi station to avoid any cheating, but if this is not available, make sure you agree on a fare before you set off. You can pay for the empty seats if you wish for a more comfortable but more expensive journey.
By law, seatbelts must be used but the reality is that they rarely are. There is more luggage room in the boot than a petit taxi, but it is often not enough for six passengers. They rarely have roof racks.
Like with coaches, travelling around Morocco using grand taxis prevents you from being able to stop off and explore interesting places en route.
- Pros: Cheap, quite quick, plentiful and easy to spot.
- Cons: Hot and uncomfortable, limited luggage space, can’t visit places en route, drivers won’t speak English, some will cheat you, scary!
Transportation in Morocco: Method Four. Trains.
The trains in Morocco are more expensive than coaches or taxis, but still very cheap by European or American standards. The quality and punctuality have also improved greatly in recent years and some high-speed trains, the Al Boraq, are operating on the routes from Tangier to Casablanca, though these cost a bit extra. First class on Moroccan trains, especially the Al Boraq, is very nice indeed, comfortable and air-conditioned and well worth the additional expense.
Trains would be the ideal way of exploring Morocco without a car, but, unfortunately, the service only covers the west coast of the country from Tangier to Rabat, Casablanca and southward to Marrakech and from Tangier to Meknes, Fes and east to Ouijda. Also the trans are often late leaving and arriving, delays are common. There are plans afoot to increase the reach of the Moroccan train service and the extent of the high-speed options, but for now, the routes are rather limited and don’t reach most of the south, the east or the Sahara Desert.
Trains can fill up quickly, especially first class, so it is advisable to book well in advance where possible. There is limited luggage space for bigger suitcases, the baggage being stored mostly in overhead racks, though there are often larger floor-to-ceiling racks at the ends of the compartments. Some people will stand in the space between carriages near the doors with their larger luggage and this can block the doors and aisles. Toilets are available but are not very nice and can become extremely messy and you will need to bring your own toilet paper as this is not provided. Be sure to book a forward-facing seat if you are prone to motion sickness as many seats in some carriages face the rear of the train.
You may find a Moroccan sitting in your seat when you board, as some don’t take any notice of seat numbers, don’t understand it or just want a window seat or a first-class berth even if they are second-class travellers. Children under the age of five travel free, but don’t get a seat, they are supposed to sit on their parent’s lap, but will usually try to sit on empty seats or squeeze in between you and their parent. Moroccans will also often close the blinds over the windows which helps keep out the scorching sun but will also block the views for tourists.
Travelling to and from the train station can also be a nightmare, especially with a lot of luggage as Moroccan taxis have very limited luggage space.
Like coaches and taxis, train travel also prevents you from exploring all the interesting places en route.
- Pros: Fast, comparatively comfortable, reasonably cheap.
- Cons: Limited routes, common delays, can be crowded, dirty toilets, Moroccan children.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Five. Internal Flights.
By far the quickest way to get from city to city, at least in theory, though book-in times and delays can reduce the advantage, as can the time, cost and inconvenience of getting to and from the airport which may be a considerable distance away from the city. internal flights in Morocco are becoming increasingly more common and Ryanair is likely to be operating on some routes come the spring of 2024. This may help reduce the prices which can be considerable even compared to European and American rates.
At the time of going to press, only RAM (Royal Air Maroc) and Air Arabia offer internal flights in Morocco and they are cripplingly expensive. It’s possibly worth it if you have the money as Morocco is a very long country and flying from, say Tangier to Dakhla could save days of travel time and bother. At least there is plenty of room in the belly of the plane for all your luggage, though the more the weight, the more you will have to pay.
There are not always many flights available and they can be fully booked in busy times or cancelled due to a lack of bookings at the last minute leaving travellers having to find an alternative means of reaching their destinations.
- Pros: Very fast, safe and comfortable journeys, plenty of baggage room in the hold.
- Cons: Expensive, infrequent, cancellations possible, travel to and from the airport.
Getting Around in Morocco: Private Transport.
The alternative to public transport is private vehicles. You could take your own vehicle, rent a car or motorbike or book a private vehicle with a driver.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Six. Taking your own vehicle.
Realistically, taking your own vehicle is only possible via a ferry from Spain, Gibraltar, France or Italy. Cars, mobile homes, motorbikes and bicycles can all be brought over on a ferry and from Spain at least the crossing can be fast and relatively cheap.
You will need:
- A valid driver’s licence;
- Full insurance coverage, commonly known as a green card;
- A grey letter for your car which is the authorisation permit for it to enter Morocco;
- A declaration of ownership for the vehicle if the car is not owned by you stating that you have the owner’s permission to drive the vehicle, duly legalised with the owner’s consent;
- The rental contract if the car is rented declaring that you have permission to bring the rental vehicle into Morocco;
- The vehicle data sheet.
The old AT (Admission Temporaire) certificate is no longer required.
There are no taxes to pay for taking a vehicle into Morocco.
- Pros: Freedom to go where you want when you want. Luggage room aplenty.
- Cons. Can only enter from Europe via ferry, paperwork.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Seven. Car Rental.
You can book online with all the big-name companies such as Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europcar all have branches across Morocco.
Or there are car hire outlets for these franchises at the airports of Casablanca, Marrakech, Fes and Agadir, so you can book a car when you get off the plane, just ensure you have all the paperwork you need. Alternatively, your hotel, travel agent or tour operator will happily arrange it for you.
There are also a lot of Moroccan firms offering car hire services, but be sure to check the condition of the vehicle before you drive away in it. Make sure that there is a spare tyre and that it is in good condition and check there is a toolkit and all the necessary documentation. Of course, you should also have full insurance to avoid unfortunate instances of having to pay for a scratch that may have been there all along. Basic insurance doesn’t cover off-roading.
On average it will cost you about 500DH a day. ($50 / £40 ) or about 3,000DH for a week ( $310 or £250), but it may have gone up as the latest figures I had were from before Covid and Ukraine. Usually, you have to rent the vehicle for a minimum of three days. This is just for a standard car and basic insurance cover. anything more luxurious will cost more.
- Pros: Freedom to travel where and when you wish, don’t have to take a vehicle into Morocco, lots of luggage space.
- Cons: Small print can be tricky, can be expensive, lack of familiarity with the vehicle, some are poor quality.
Transportation in Morocco: Method Eight. Hiring a Car with a Driver.
Many companies online, including Mint Tea Tours, offer private transportation, including speciality vehicles for disabled individuals. Drivers are available that can speak excellent English or other languages as required by the traveller. This can be a relaxed and trouble-free method of going where you want when you want but can be very expensive, but much cheaper than equivalent services in the USA or Europe. It may be hard to know which companies are legitimate or trustworthy. The good ones can plan out an itinerary based on the information you provide and will be flexible during your visit.
A legally registered company will have to have vehicles less than five years old, in good working order, insurance that covers tourist passengers and a medical kit, fire extinguisher and other necessary safety products.
At Mint Tea Tours we pride ourselves on meeting all of the legal requirements and your own needs. We are a small but experienced company that can offer a more personal touch with hand-picked drivers who are the best at what they do.
- Pros: Freedom to travel when and where you like, an experienced driver and guide, relaxing.
- Cons: Relatively expensive, difficult to know who is legit and trustworthy.