Figuring out how to navigate Morocco alone was quite difficult at first. There aren’t that many guides out on the country yet—English guides, at least—and barely anything is online so far. While trying to plan my first trip to Morocco, I was completely stumped. My usual resources (Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor) yielded very little. Lonely Planet didn’t even have a guidebook out on it; the closest thing I found was a PDF pamphlet. As for me, my trip to Morocco wasn’t motivated by sights I wanted to see or adventures that I wanted to have—I just wanted an extreme change in environment and culture. I didn’t even know about Place Djemaa el Fna or the huge Souks.
I think my European counterparts actually fared better, planning- and knowledge- wise. For them, Morocco is actually a considered travel destination; I have never heard Americans talk about visiting, usually preferring to get their feet wet with Europe before anything else.
There are different things you look out for depending on where and how far you want to go.
Within a City…
Within the large cities, there is public transportation in the form of buses. I actually don’t recommend this simply because it’s usually brimming with people and puts you in greater risk of being pick-pocketed. If you need a second reason, petit taxis should only cost a few euros AT MOST, making Morocco one of the cheapest places ever to casually use taxis. Take advantage of this. When I was in Marrakech, most of the riads I saw were within walking distances of Place Djemaa el Fna—some were even within the souks. So if you want to really get to know the area and get the vibe, I do like walking within cities.
In regards to intercity traveling…
Sure, you may be landing in Marrakech and for 2 days or so, it’s a very fulfilling destination, with sights you’ve only seen in movies. However, most people choose to travel to other cities as well—and I highly, highly recommend this. Why? Because Morocco has so much more to offer than you think.
Anyways, after researching the sights you want to see and the experiences you want to have, the second question is usually: How the hell do I GET there?
- Intercity buses. Outside of hiring a Grand Taxi, which may cost hundreds, depending on your negotiating skills, how do you do that? Luckily for you, there are TONS of bus companies willing to drive you hours to other cities for very affordable prices. For example, my bus ride to M’hamid from Marrakech, which makes it an 11-hour journey, cost me only 16€ for a one-way ticket. You can also take a day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech (4 hours away) for just 14€ round-trip!Now, not all bus companies are equal. You can see locals mostly taking CTM, and for good reason. CTM is the safest and most official way to travel; in every city, CTM has kiosks and stations with every modern facility you need (although sometimes the bathroom may be behind a random building). The other bus companies, SupraTours, etc, may be cheaper but they are less stable and organized.
- Grand taxis. For cities that are situated closer to each other, like Ouarzazate and Agdz, there are Grand Taxis. Grand Taxis are large, shared taxis where you pay per seat and it may make more sense to take these sometimes as opposed to a bus. With a taxi, you operate on your schedule (as long as you have enough people to fill the car). Although it may be intimidating at first, it is amazingly economical. The 1-hour journey from Agdz to Ouarzazate costs 30 dirhams. Do you know how much that costs in euros? 3€.Watch out, though. If you order a taxi, they will assume that you want the whole taxi to yourself instead of sharing it with locals. This will cost you ENORMOUSLY. To find a grand taxi, go near a station or the city center.
- Renting a car. Like anywhere, Morocco allows tourists to rent their own cars for intercity travel. Many companies accept foreign drivers license instead of an international one. Renting a car is one of the best ways to travel Morocco—you get complete control of what you see… as long as you’re brave enough to face other drivers on the winding roads through the High Atlas Mountains. Moroccans speed through these things like no other—speaking from someone who took a grand taxi from Agdz to Ouarzazate, I can honestly say that my entire body was braced for impact the whole time.I will say, however, that renting a car in Morocco is not necessarily cheap! Especially if you pick up the cars from the airport—those can cost an arm and a leg. From what I’ve heard from locals and other travelers, it’s better to get to Morocco first, and then scope out non-international rental car companies while you’re in the city. These will give you better deals (depending on the season) and some accept negotiations.
- Booking a tour. And finally, you can book a tour, which includes the freedom of car rental, a price that is more affordable, and an all-inclusive experience! I am usually very picky about the tours I take—I find very few to be worth the money that I fork over and always end up wishing that I had gone it alone instead. It is completely different in Morocco, especially for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Sahara! First of all, there are no signs whatsoever when driving in the desert. Second of all, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to risk getting trapped in the sand outside of all civilization anywhere. For such adventurous, natural experiences like Morocco, sometimes it is better to have a guide.Although I didn’t technically take an all-inclusive tour from Marrakech in Morocco, my guide-turned-friend did accompany us on the bus and ensured that we got to M’hamid safely.There are many tour companies operating in Morocco. Many of them you can find while walking around on the street, although I was a little hesitant when I saw those. Some you can find online, although you usually have to email them for a quote first. No matter what company you choose, they are all very accommodating and the experiences you have will probably have no rival.
So there you have it! All the ways to travel Morocco! Of course, navigating all of this is half of the excitement, so I won’t give everything away. But if I’ve left anything out, please don’t hesitate to email me about it.