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Driving in Morocco

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Oct 24th, 2012, 06:35 PM
  #1
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Driving in Morocco

Any comments regarding driving in Morocco will be most appreciated.

We are arriving in Marrakesh on the 27th February, 2013 for a two weeks stay. Hotels are already booked for Fes and Marrakesh, but would like to visit Essaouira, Quarzazate, Meknes and maybe a trip to the desert and the Atlas Mountains.

I own a Garmin GPS. Has anybody used a similar GPS in Morocco? How accurate are the maps?

How about driving in Marrakesh and Fes?
jfcarli is offline  
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Oct 25th, 2012, 04:57 AM
  #2
 
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I normally use Olaf's (free) maps of Morocco on my Garmin Zumo 550, see http://www.island-olaf.de/travel/marokko/gps.html . You'll need Garmin Mapsource or Garmin Basecamp to download the map to your GPS.

Last trip my wife and daughter were driving a car (I was on my motorbike) and they used Garmin's Topo map of Morocco on a SD card in my wife's Garmin Nuvi.

Try to avoid driving in cities in the evening--the trafic is manic. Outside of the towns I always suggest people try the side roads rather than keeping to the main roads.

Comprehensive trip report: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...readID=2011246
TimCullis is offline  
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Oct 25th, 2012, 01:38 PM
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I recommend NOT driving in major cities (Marrakech, Fez) because the traffic is terrible, streets are circuitious and parking is challenging as well. Taxis are plentiful and cheap. And I disagree with the poster above - if you are going from Marrakesh to Essaouria for example and you take a "side" road you will miss all the argan collectives and goats in trees and probably will have no place to stop for bathrooms or coffee either - there just aren't facilities off the main road. Overall I recommend hiring a car and driver to take you on all the excursions and possibly even around town - it's really affordable (not much more than hiring the car) and you can relax and enjoy the trip a lot more and pack in all that you want to do in the short time you have to do it. And it will be much safer - they will know better than you how to navigate Atlas mountains in winter for example.
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Oct 25th, 2012, 06:28 PM
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Thanks a lot Tim and Moroccomaven!

Are Quarzazate, Meknes and Essaouira day trips, or do they deserve staying overnight? We would not go to the beach in Essaouira (we live by the sea, so beaches do not rank very high in our trips). It would be a trip just to know the city and its sorroundings.

Is there any particular route, or destination which would make a lot of difference if you drove the car yourself?

I will post separately on my possible itinerary in order to get opinions.
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Oct 26th, 2012, 08:13 AM
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I'm not an expert on Morocco, but I am just back from my first visit, and I would add my voice to moroccomaven's and advise strongly against driving in the cities. The traffic is chaotic, with mopeds, other small motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians darting about unpredictably. I honestly think I would have injured someone had I been driving. Outside the cities most roads I saw were two lane, clogged with slow moving trucks which required passing.

We used trains, buses (CTM or Sopratour, NOT the souk buses!) and taxis throughout. One tactic is to hire a grand taxi for yourself -- otherwise they'll stuff six passengers in one. On one four hour leg, this came to about $100.

Meknes can be visited on a day trip from Fes, along with the Roman city of Volubilis. Have your hotel call a taxi. It will cost roughly the same as the above trip.

Essaouira is about 2 1/2 hours by bus from Marrakech, a little long for a day trip. The city and its setting are beautiful and will reward an overnight. Have a lunch at the fish shacks down by the harbor and for dinner try Taros. The food is good and they have a bar, which is not often the case throughout the country.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 02:02 AM
  #6
 
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I don't think there's a right and a wrong, it all depends upon how the individual feels. Some people are concerned about traffic, navigation, reading maps and road signs, and so forth, so decide on a tour/driver. This also lifts the responsibility for actually planning the itinerary.

Others people prefer the freedom that going it alone involves. Personally I don't want to share my holiday with a complete stranger, no matter how nice he might be. You don't need to hire an expensive 4x4, a standard car is fine for all tarmac roads and many dirt roads, should you wish.

Here's a report from a young American woman who decided to drive Morocco solo: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...readID=2011246

Post your draft itinerary when it's ready and I'll see if there's any suggestions I can make.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 07:56 AM
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Thanks for all the inputs so far.

First of all, we are a couple in our 60s, in good health but a bit slow.

We will arrive in Marrakech on the 27th Feb. at 9:30am. We are booked for 3 days at the Golden Tulip Farah Marrakech.

I am thinking of leaving on the 2nd March, around 8:00am, to Ouarzazate. I understant that this is a 4 to 5 hours trip climbing up the Atlas mountains.

We are considering stopping for the night in Ouarzazate, after a visit to Aït Benhaddou.

On the 3rd of March, we would drive to Merzouga, hopefully being able to ride the camels before sunset (don`t know if this is doable).

On the 4th and 5th of March we would travel from Merzouga to Fez, with maybe a few stops in between for sightseeing (recommendations more than welcome!!!).

We are booked at the Riad Norma in Fez from the 5th till the 10th of March (five days altogether, with day trips to Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss).

On the 10th we start our trip back to Marrakech with an overnight in Rabat.

11th from Rabat to Essaouira (non stop).

12th and 13th back to Marrakech

14th at 9:50am flight out of Marrakech

Summarizing:

27th to 02nd March = 3 days in Marrakech
02-3rd = 1 day travelling from Marrakech to Ouazazate, with visit to Aït Benhaddou (sleep in Ouazazate)
3rd - 4th = 1 day travelling from Ouazazate to Merzouga with sunset camel (sleep in Merzouga)
4 and 5th = 2 days driving from Merzouga to Fes (Don`t know yet where to sleep)
5 to 10th = 5 days in Fez with day trips
10 - 11th = 1 day travelling from Fes to Rabat (Don`t know yet where to sleep in Rabat)
11 - 12th = 1 day travellinf from Rabat to Essaouira (Don` know yet where to sleep in Essaouira)
12 - 14th = 2 days back to Marrakech, returning car and leaving Morocco


Any inputs more than welcome. Thanks in advance.
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Oct 29th, 2012, 09:35 AM
  #8
 
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Just a heads up on driving in Morocco, especially Marrakesh. We've been 3 times and hired a car each time and each time we've been stopped by a "radar" trap for speeding either returning to or leaving Marrakesh. Very strange as we were in a line of traffic every time and not speeding at all.

Every time it's been clear that the Officer was after money for himself, as after telling us (each time) that the fine was 400 dirhams, they've settled-because we said that we had little cash-for 100 dirhams every time.

One of them even said "This is for me"! I guess you picked out in a hire car.
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Oct 29th, 2012, 11:56 AM
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Getting conned once is understandable, twice means you are a slow learner, three times....???

Distances in Morocco are greater than some people realise and travel can be slow. Unfortunately many visitors are racing against the clock on a crazy schedule and don't stick to the speed limits. Out of built-up areas the limit is 100kph (62mph). As you approach a town the limit drops to 80kph, then 60kph. Sometimes it drops again to 40kph (25mph). These speed limits are sensibly chosen, unlike some of the arbitrary limits in the UK.

If you were speeding you should insist on paying the whole fine with a receipt (this way the government gets the money). If you really weren't speeding you should stand your ground and refuse to pay. The last thing you should do is to bribe police officers with the equivalent of a day's pay! Giving the police 100dh just encourages them to pick on other tourists.

The English words "police corruption" are close enough to the French "corruption policière" for the officer to get the message. As a tourist in Morocco you are a sacred cow in the eyes of the Moroccan authorities, so there's no need to be scared. But at the same time don't lose your cool.
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Oct 30th, 2012, 02:10 AM
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We weren't speeding on any of the occasions and were well aware of the speed limits. As I said, we were in a line of traffic each time and were selected. It wasn't the same officer and that leads us to believe that corruption is rife in the police there. We protested innocence at the time but OK Tim, what would you have done on the second occasion? Refused to pay and with what consequence? Taken off to the local nick and locked up for non payment in a language I don't understand? I don't think you are seen as a sacred cow, more of a cash cow and you hit the nail on the head when you say it's a day's pay!

The air must be thin up there on your horse.
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Oct 30th, 2012, 11:52 AM
  #11
 
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Yes, if I was certain that I hadn't done anything wrong I would refuse to pay, and I can guarantee he would have backed down. Morocco is a relatively easy country compared to Mauritania and Senegal.

From my Senegal journey, "A few miles further on we come across a national police roadblock. The guy waves us to the side of the road. I stop in the road and he waves me over to the hard standing, so I do as he asks. He then announces that I have incurred an infraction by not signalling as I moved over. It’s the start of the most blatent extortion attempt and I’m seriously annoyed. He takes our driving licences and we discuss calling the British Embassy–I have the numbers in my mobile for the British Embassy Dakar, the British Honorary Consul for Mauritania and the British Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. I get my phone out and say the magic words ‘Embassy Britanique’ and he goes beserk, but at least it shows we are not about to be cowed.

He storms off into the hut with our licences. After a minute Steve follows him, the guy asks for €30 per bike. Steve grabs the papers and exits stage left. The guy runs out and is now livid and raving at us but we ignore him. Ear plugs in, helmets on, gloves on, ignition and start. What’s he going to do—shoot us for not paying a bung? As we pull out he says, “You can go.” Well thanks sh*tface, we were going anyway."
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