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Driving and Public Transportation

Morocco - Driving and Public Transportation


Driving

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. It is planned to reach Agadir in December of 2009 but currently only goes as far as Marrakech 210 km south of Casablanca.
- 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 which will be completed by 2010.

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.


Renting a car

Rental firms abound in the large cities. Most worldwide rental networks have their offices in Morocco. Also there are several local rental companies (5-7 have rep offices in Casablanca airport). They offer lower prices, but be sure to check the vehicles condition, spare tire, jack etc. Local companies may be less proficient in English--but if you are ready for higher risk, when you rent in an airport try to negotiate with them first; if failed you always have worldwide rivals to go next.

Multinational companies seem to easily share cars with each other (although prices and service level may vary), so if your company of choice doesn't have what you need they may ask from another company.

Check where you can drive - some rental companies won't allow travel on unmade roads.

All Alamo offices are shared with National Car Rental in Morocco.

During low season (November) expect at least 20% discount from the list price if you come without a reservation--at least for economic class (Peugeot 206, Renault Logan Dacia).

Deposit is taken as a paper slip of credit card; Alamo is unable to transfer your slip to the city of your destination if it's different from your starting point.

Some economy-class cars (like Peugeot 206) are as old as 4 years, with mileage up to 120,000 km.


Taxi

Travel by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two sorts:

- petite taxi used only within the area of the town
- the grande 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).

Grande 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. Grande 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.

Grande 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.

Grande 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 Grande 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.


Plane

Domestic flying is not a popular mean of transportation, however, Royal Air Maroc, the national flag carrier, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities.


Train

Trains are usually most preferred recommended transport because of speed and comfort; they are far less cramped and stressful alternative to local buses. Train network links Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat, a branch line near Meknes goes to Oujda.

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.

Train network is operated by ONCF.


Availability

The major cities, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. There are usually several trains every day to or from every major town. There is also a night train between Marrakech and Tangier.


Cost

The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dh (£15) second class, or 300dh (£20) first class.


Bus

Many Moroccans also take luxury buses between towns usually run by CTM, Supratours and smaller companies. These offer comfort and a reliability (the train service is not good in this), are inexpensive and provide much better coverage. When using CTM services, keep in mind they charge a small fee per bag (~7dh).

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. 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.

Supratours, major rival of CTM, complements train network to Essaouira and all major Atlantic-coast towns south to Marrakech.


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