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Getting Around Morocco: Transportation Tips

SmarterTravel

Travelers have a wealth of options for crossing Morocco’s varied mountain and desert landscapes. A network of trains, buses and shared taxis will get you between cities at a reasonable cost, though rental cars are also available for those who prefer to venture out on their own. And Morocco is closer than you might think — flying there doesn’t take much longer than flying to Western Europe, making the trip from the East Coast a manageable one.

Read on to learn more about Morocco transportation.

Flying to and Around Morocco

Most international visitors fly into Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport or Menara Airport in Marrakesh. Morocco’s national carrier is Royal Air Maroc, which offers nonstop service between New York (JFK) and Casablanca as well as connecting service from various other U.S. cities including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Many North American fliers will find themselves connecting somewhere in Europe before continuing on to Morocco; carriers serving these routes include Iberia, Delta, British Airways, Air France and numerous others.

If you’re going from one side of the country to the other, you may find it convenient to fly between cities to save time and hassle. Royal Air Maroc is the primary carrier, serving secondary cities such as Zagora, Errachidia and Essaouira. Keep in mind that some of these planes are quite small, so be sure to check the baggage restrictions; they’ll likely be different than those on your international flight.

Resources:
www.ONDA.ma/en/I-am-passenger
RoyalAirMaroc.com

Morocco by Ferry

Many ferry companies operate between Morocco and various ports in Europe. The most common routes arrive in either Tangier or Ceuta from Algeciras or Tarifa in Spain, or from Britain’s Gibraltar. (Tangier has multiple ports, so be sure to check which one your ferry is using.) These trips only take 30 – 60 minutes and are served by companies such as FRS and Trasmediterranea.

You can also get to Morocco by ferry from France or Italy; these journeys last at least a day or two, depending on the route. DirectFerries.co.uk is a good site to find all the available options.

Resources:
DirectFerries.co.uk
FRS.es
Trasmediterranea.es/en

Morocco by Train

Morocco’s network of trains, operated by the Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF), serves major cities including Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Rabat and Meknes. Recently added high-speed service has reduced the travel time between Casablanca and Fez to three hours and 20 minutes, down from four and a half hours. The ONCF runs Supratours buses that provide onward links to cities that aren’t served by trains.

Trains are comfortable and run reasonably on time, but service disruptions and delays do happen — so allow a little wiggle room in your schedule. Most intercity routes are served by air-conditioned Train Rapide Climatise (TRC) trains, though you might occasionally find yourself on a less comfortable Train Navette Rapide (TNR) route if you’re traveling locally or late at night. TRC trains have two classes of service; first class has fewer seats per compartment than second class, and your ticket includes a reserved seat. In second class, you choose any seat that’s available.

ONCF recently added online booking to its website (you may need to use Google Chrome to translate the site, which is only available in French and Arabic). You can also purchase tickets at the train station. Advance purchase is recommended for overnight trains or first class, both of which can fill up quickly.

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time on trains, a rail pass from ONCF may save you money. It’s available for 7, 15 or 30 days of travel, with discounts for children and travelers under 26.

Resources:
www.ONCF.ma (French and Arabic only)

Renting a Car in Morocco

Driving around Morocco can be stressful, thanks to aggressive local drivers and high accident rates. If you’re staying in and around the major cities, we recommend using public transportation instead. But if you’re venturing farther afield, renting a car can be a useful option.

Numerous major international car rental agencies operate in Morocco, including Avis, Budget, Hertz and Sixt. These are the best options if you prefer to book in advance, though you may find lower rates from local agencies once you arrive. An International Driving Permit may be recommended by your agency; you can get one through AAA in the U.S. Most agencies have a minimum rental age of 21.

Moroccans drive on the right side of the road, and there are highways (sometimes with tolls) between many major cities. Police speed traps and checkpoints are common, so try to stick to the speed limit. We recommend traveling only during daylight hours, as it’s legal here to drive after dark without headlights if you’re going less than 20 kph (about 12 mph).

Resources:
Avis.com
Budget.com
Hertz.com
Sixt.com

Morocco by Bus

Buses are a cheaper and more comprehensive alternative to Morocco’s train network, serving smaller cities and towns that aren’t reached by rail. The major national operators are the aforementioned Supratours (run by the ONCF in conjunction with rail service) and CTM, with SATAS and Trans Ghazala operating regional services. There are some smaller companies as well, but they often don’t operate on a schedule and may not leave a station until they’re full.

Both CTM and Supratours are the most reliable, operating comfortable buses — many with air conditioning. You can purchase tickets on their websites (again, it helps to use Google Chrome or speak a little French) or at the bus station.

Resources:
CTM.ma/en
www.ONCF.ma (French and Arabic only)

Morocco by Grand and Petit Taxi

Grand taxis are shared taxis that carry up to six passengers — two in the front beside the driver and four in the back. You’ll find these aging Mercedes sedans at taxi stands and near bus and train stations.

Grand taxis serve longer routes between towns, and they don’t leave until they’re full. To allow yourself a little extra space — or to get the car going if it’s taking a while to sell out — you can pay for any extra spots in the car. There are no meters, so it’s worth asking your hotel front desk what your journey should cost per person before you head out; be prepared to negotiate if necessary. If you have a significant number of suitcases, expect to pay a surcharge.

Note that grand taxis rarely have seatbelts and may drive at a breakneck pace. It’s safest to travel during the daytime.

Petit taxis are a smaller option for in-town trips, as they are not licensed to leave the city limits. They can carry up to three passengers and are usually metered. These taxis are quite inexpensive, but rates go up by 50 percent after 8 p.m. You can flag them down from the street or find them near bus or train stations.

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