Morocco, a land of dramatic contrasts, vibrant colours, and rich cultural heritage, beckons travellers from all corners of the globe. From the bustling souks of Marrakech to the serene sands of the Sahara, each journey through this North African gem is unique. However, navigating the varied landscapes of Morocco can be a challenge. Understanding the ins and outs of transportation in this diverse country is key to a seamless and enjoyable travel experience. In this guide, we delve into the many ways of how to get around in Morocco.
How to get around in Morocco?
The best way to travel to Morocco is by catching a flight. Alternatively, you can catch a ferry from France, Spain or Gibraltar. Once in Morocco, getting around on public transport is generally easy, with a rail network linking the main towns of the north, the coast and Marrakesh, and plenty of buses and collective taxis. Renting a car can open up routes that are time-consuming or difficult on local transport.
The easiest ways to get around are:
- Public transportation
- Domestic flights
- Renting a car
Also make sure to check out the following popular routes:
Travel by public transportation
Public transport, primarily buses and trains, connects major cities and tourist destinations. For those seeking a more personalized experience, private taxis and car rentals offer flexibility and convenience. Traditional means, such as mules and camels, provide a glimpse into the country's rich heritage, particularly in rural and desert areas. No matter your choice, each journey offers a window into the heart and soul of Morocco.
Rough Guides tip: read all about getting to Morocco.
Getting around in Morocco by train
Despite a limited network of routes, is the best option of how to get around in Morocco, if you are travelling between the major cities. The trains are comfortable and fairly fast, but can sometimes be subject to delays.
There are two main lines: from Tangier in the north down to Marrakesh, and from Oujda in the northeast, also to Marrakesh, joining with the Tangier line at Sidi Kacem. Branch lines serve Nador, El Jadida, Safi, Oued Zem and Casablanca airport. A high-speed line (LGV) from Tangier to Casablanca is under construction, which should reduce the journey time between the two cities to just over two hours, with eventual extension to Marrakesh.
Timetables and tickets
Train schedules rarely change, but it’s wise to check times in advance at stations. Timetables are displayed at major train stations, and any station ticket office will print you off a mini-timetable of services between any two stations. You can also check schedules (horaires) and fares (tarifs) and buy tickets on the ONCF website. Tickets do not need to be booked in advance, except for sleeper services, and can be bought at the station. The price of a second-class ticket is slightly more than what you’d pay for buses. On certain “express” services, ticket prices are around thirty percent higher.
There are couchettes available on the Tangier–Marrakesh and Casablanca–Oujda night trains – worth the money for both the comfort and the security, as couchette passengers are in their own locked carriage with a guard. Most stations are located reasonably close to the modern city centres. Note that they do not have left-luggage facilities.
Getting around in Morocco by bus
How to get around in Morocco by bus? It's generally only marginally cheaper than taking a shared grand taxi, and around thirty percent slower, but also safer and more comfortable. On some older buses, legroom is limited, and long journeys can be uncomfortable for taller passengers. Many long-distance buses run at night when they are both quicker and cooler. Note that the rate of accidents involving night buses is quite high, especially on busy routes.
Travelling during the day, especially in high season, it pays to sit on the side away from the sun. Travelling from north to south, this means sitting on the right in the morning, on the left in the afternoon, vice versa if going the other way. Travelling from east to west, sit on the right, or on the left if going from west to east. In fact, Moroccan passengers often pull down the blinds and shut the windows, which can block out the scenery and make the journey rather claustrophobic. Note too, especially on rural services, that some passengers may be unused to road travel, resulting in travel sickness and vomiting.
CTM and private lines
Buses run by CTM (the national company) are faster and more reliable than private services, with numbered seats and fixed departure schedules, which can be checked online. CTM services usually have reading lights, though you may have to ask the driver to turn those on.
Some of the larger private company buses, such as SATAS (which operates widely in the south) and Trans Ghazala (which runs in the north) are of a similar standard, but many other private companies are tiny outfits, with a single bus which leaves only when the driver considers it sufficiently full.
Most towns have a main bus station (gare routière), often on the edge of town. CTM buses usually leave from the company’s office, which may be quite a way from the main bus station, though in several places CTM and the private companies share a single terminal, and in some cases, the CTM bus will call at the main bus station when departing a city, though not when arriving.
Bus stations usually have a number of ticket windows, one for each of the companies operating out of it. There is occasionally a departures board, but it may be out of date and in Arabic only, so you should always check departure times at the appropriate window. Bus conductors or ticket sellers may be calling out destinations in the bus station in any case, or may greet you as you come in by asking where you want to go. On the more popular trips (and especially with CTM services, which often run just once a day in the south), it’s worth trying to buy tickets in advance, though this may not always be possible on smaller private-line services.
Getting around with domestic flights
Royal Air Maroc operates domestic flights from its Casablanca hub to major cities nationwide. You will usually have to change planes at Casablanca in order to travel between any other two points, unless both are stops on a single Casa-bound flight (Dakhla to Laayoune, for example).
In general, travelling around Morocco by plane is not really worthwhile, except for long-distance routes such as to Laayoune or Dakhla in the Western Sahara, when they can save you a lot of time. A flight from Casablanca to Laayoune, for example, would take an hour and three quarters, compared to nineteen hours by bus. Casa to Dakhla would take you two hours and twenty minutes by air compared to 28 hours by bus. If you are tight for time, flying is the best way to travel long distances in Morocco.
Rough Guides tip: check Kayak for the best deals on domestic flights.
Getting around Morocco by rental car
Car rental in Morocco starts at around £250/$320 per week or £40/$55 a day (there’s usually a three-day minimum) for a basic car with unlimited mileage and insurance cover. Having a car pays obvious dividends if you are pushed for time, especially in the south, where buses and taxis may be sparse, but chartering a grand taxi and agreeing on a daily rate will not cost that much more.
Many visitors rent a car in Casablanca, Marrakesh or Agadir, but it may work out cheaper to arrange car rental in advance through the travel company who arranges your flight. You can choose the follwoong international franchises:
You can best book online before arriving. Local firms have the advantage that the price is more likely to be negotiable, though you should check the condition of the vehicle carefully. Many hotels can arrange car rental at reasonable rates. If you can’t or don’t want to drive yourself, car rental companies may be able to arrange a driver for around £32/$42 a day.
Driving around Morocco
There are few real problems driving in Morocco, but accident rates are high, largely because motorists routinely ignore traffic regulations and drive aggressively and dangerously. Do not expect other drivers to indicate or observe lane discipline. Beware when coming up to blind curves or hills where vehicles coming in the other direction may be trying to overtake without a full view of the road ahead.
Daytime and certainly long-distance driving can be as good as anywhere. Good road surfaces, long straight roads, and little traffic between inhabited areas allow for high average speeds.
Rules of the road
The usual speed limit outside towns is 40km/h (25mph) in built-up areas, 100km/h (62mph) on ordinary roads, and 120km/h (75mph) on motorways. There are on-the-spot fines for speeding, and oncoming motorists flashing their headlights at you may well be warning you to slow down for a police check ahead (radar speed traps are common).
The minimum age for driving in Morocco is 21 years. EU, North American and Australasian driving licences are recognized and valid in Morocco, though an International Driving Licence, with its French translations (available from the AA or equivalent motoring organizations) is a worthwhile investment, especially if your domestic licence doesn’t have a photograph on it (Moroccan police will find that strange). You must carry your driving licence and passport at all times
Getting around via shared taxi in Morocco
Shared grands taxis are one of the best ways to travel in Morocco. They operate on a wide variety of routes, are much quicker than buses (usually quicker than trains, too), and fares vary from slightly more than the bus to around twice as much.
The taxis are usually big Peugeot or Mercedes cars carrying six passengers. Most business is along specific routes, and the most popular routes have more or less continuous departures throughout the day. You just show up at the terminal and ask for a place to a specific destination.
The best time to arrive is early morning (6–8am), when a lot of people are travelling and taxis fill up quickly; lunchtime, on the other hand, is a bad time to turn up, as fewer people will be travelling, and the taxi will take longer to get full. As soon as six (or, if you’re willing to pay extra, four or five) people are assembled, the taxi sets off.
Make sure, when asking about grands taxis, that it is clear you only want a place (une place in French, plassa in Arabic, or hold up one finger) in a shared taxi (taxi collectif), as drivers often “presume” that a tourist will want to charter the whole taxi, which means paying for all six places. Women travelling alone may wish to pay for two places and get the front seat to themselves rather than be squashed up against male passengers.
Hailing shared taxis
Picking up a shared taxi on the road is more problematic, as they will only stop if they have a place free (if a passenger has already alighted). To hail a taxi on the open road, hold up one, two or more fingers to indicate how many places you need.
If you want to take a non-standard route, or an excursion, or just to have the taxi to yourself, it is possible to charter a whole grand taxi (une course in French, corsa in Arabic)
Shared taxi fares
Fares for set routes are fixed, and drivers do not usually try to overcharge tourists for a place (though occasionally they try to charge for baggage, which usually travels free of charge). If you think that you are being overcharged, ask the other passengers, or check the price with your hotel before leaving.
Are shared taxis in Morocco safe?
Some people consider shared taxis dangerous. It is certainly true that they are prone to practices such as speeding, and overtaking on blind curves or the brows of hills, and that they have more than their fair share of accidents. Drivers may work all day and into the night, and it seems many accidents involve them falling asleep at the wheel while driving at night, so you may wish to avoid using them for night-time journeys, especially on busy roads.
Motorbikes & scooters in Morocco
Morocco has all the major attractions sought by motorbike enthusiasts. If you are travelling around Morocco by motorbike, it is a sensible idea to go as part of a group. Many tour operators provide off-road and trail biking packages.
Taking your own bike is subject to the same bureaucracy as taking a car. One way of avoiding that is to rent a motorbike in Morocco. So far as road conditions are concerned, our comments on driving also apply to motorbikes.
Interested in a motorbike trip through Morocco? Ask our travel experts for more details!
What's the best way to get around in Morocco?
The fastest way to get around in Morocco largely depends on the distance and the specific locations you're traveling between. Here's a breakdown of the fastest transportation methods for different scenarios:
Between major cities: high-speed train
For travelling between major cities, especially along the Casablanca-Rabat-Tangier corridor, the high-speed train, known as Al Boraq, is the fastest option. This service drastically reduces travel time, for example, connecting Tangier and Casablanca in about 2 hours, which is significantly faster than driving or taking a bus.
For long distances across the country: domestic flights
When travelling long distances across Morocco, such as from Marrakech to Fez or from Casablanca to Agadir, domestic flights can be the quickest mode of transport. Morocco’s main airports are well-connected with frequent flights operated by various airlines, including the national carrier, Royal Air Maroc.
In and around cities: taxis
Within cities, the fastest way to navigate traffic and get to specific destinations is often by taxi. Petit taxis are convenient for short trips within city limits. They are typically metered in larger cities and can swiftly navigate through traffic.
For remote or rural areas: private vehicle or car rental
In more remote or rural areas that are not well-served by public transportation, hiring a private vehicle or renting a car can be the fastest and most flexible option. This allows for direct travel without the need for transfers or waiting for public transport schedules.
For tourist attractions: guided tours or private Drivers
For certain tourist destinations, especially those that are not easily accessible by public transport (like the Sahara Desert or remote mountain areas), booking a guided tour or hiring a private driver can be the most efficient way to travel. These services often provide direct transportation to and from attractions.