Morocco help 13Sep15

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Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:03 AM
  #1
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Morocco help 13Sep15

Hello Everyone,
We just booked our flights to Paris and rtn from Amsterdam. We are planning on spending 12 days in Morocco. I have read all the trip reports and comments but still need a bit of help.
We would like to go to Fez, Marrakech and Chefchaouen as well as 1 or 2 nights in desert.
My question is....from Paris which would be better to fly into Casablanca or Marrakech? Also which would be better to fly back to Amsterdam? Thinking of Casablanca only because it seems easier to get there and there are more flights. Am I being stupid to even think of Casablanca?
Would 1 night in the desert be enough?
Thanks I appreciate your help.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:59 AM
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Consider Casablanca an airport and train station, a place to pass through rather than a destination. You don't give an itinerary so it's hard to address logistics.

Obviously Fes & Chefchaouen are in the north, Marrakech & desert in the south. If you plan to travel north to south, fly into Tangier if you can, then go to Chefchaouen and on to Fes. Train to the south.

If you want to go south to north, fly into Marrakech. Train north, leave the country from Tangier or Fes.

Casa is in the middle so think of it as a fall-back position, if you can't take flights in/out from N or S. The train connects Casa with the other 2 areas.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 02:25 PM
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Thank you MmePerdu I hadn't thought of Tangier, it seemed most of the people were going thru Casablanca so I thought that was the best route. I will check Tangier flights.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 03:32 PM
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Casablanca has historically been the point of arrival for transcontinental flights, the big airport. But with so many of the low-fare airlines now using small airports to get tourists closer to their destinations, there are more possibilities.

I've seen flights to/from Fes kind of come and go. But if you can use Tangier then you'll be headed in 1 direction, Tangier-Chefchaouen-Fes-Marrakech & desert. It would shorten transit times.

If flying into Tangier isn't a possibility, but Fes is, consider replacing Chefchaouen with Essaouira, not far from Marrakech on the coast. The experience would be similar, a nice smaller town. Then it could be Fes - train to Marrakech - desert & Essaouira out of Marrakech.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 04:16 PM
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From what I have read the train from Casablanca to Marrakech sounds like you see a lot of nice scenery. Would the train be worth it for that? Still working on Tangier but isn't looking too great.
Thanks for the help.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 05:02 PM
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The scenery from the train is pleasant, lots of prickly pear, I remember. Yes, nice, but not spectacular. Still, it's the entire experience that's nice, including the landscape, not 1 particular element. I like the trains there.
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Sep 4th, 2015, 11:50 AM
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Perdu's suggestions are excellent. Chaouen is not very interesting; Essaouira is more so. The scenery from the Casa-Marrakesh train is not fabulous. The train is simply a way to get there. Have fun !
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Sep 4th, 2015, 01:10 PM
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I have just done an overnight trip to Chefchouen from Fes, got back this evening! I went by public bus and wouldn't really recommend this way to travel. The timetable says 3.5 hr up, it took 4.5 hrs, and coming home took nearly five hours. I was going mental! If there are more than one of you then consider a private driver or day tour. It is certainly very pretty with heaps of photo ops, but it is a heck of a way for one night. Others staying in my hotel got a private driver to take them from Fes to Chouen to have a few hours then he drove them to Tangiers. I am sure you could do that in reverse. It cost them about $180US, the local bus was $8! The drive is not very pretty either. Just my thoughts from an up to date point of view.
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Sep 4th, 2015, 02:09 PM
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In springtime the drive from Fes to Chechaouen is beautiful, big grassy meadows full of red poppies. But it is much nicer anytime being driven in a grand taxi, with time for a stop at Volubilis.
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Sep 4th, 2015, 05:43 PM
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MmePerdu-I'm having trouble envisioning what a grand taxi is. How is it different from a normal taxi?
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Sep 4th, 2015, 06:08 PM
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In Morocco there are 2 kinds of official taxis. A grand taxi is the kind that's allowed to leave town and take you from city to city or through the countryside. Every one I've been in has been a Mercedes. They tend to be quite reasonably priced to go distances, a price is agreed upon for a journey, they can take you RT or 1 way, will stop along the way where agreed, quite versatile. If you don't want to take a bus, or trains don't go where you want to go, a grand taxi is the answer.

There are also shared grand taxis that one can hire by the seat, generally have fixed destinations, from 1 town to another, and have an area in a town, a taxi stand, where they congregate and wait for passengers. If you want to go where they go and don't want to wait for them to fill up, or want more space, you can buy extra seats. Much cheaper than hiring your own but less versatile and likely less comfortable.

Petit taxis stay in town and have meters.
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Sep 4th, 2015, 07:53 PM
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Got it-very helpful Mme. Perdu and thank you. So I could see making use of a grand taxi, if possible, from Casablanca to Chefchaouen (maybe that's too far?), from Chefchaouen to Fez, and from Marrakech to Essaouira. Would all 3 of those routes exist? How does one distinguish a grand taxi from a petit taxi and does one just flag a grand taxi down on the street or do you reserve in advance?
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Sep 4th, 2015, 08:17 PM
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I've used grand taxis going to Chefchaouen from Fes & back, as I mentioned with a nice stop at Volubilis, and also a couple of times from Marrakech to Essaouira. However, lately I've used the great bus service to Essaouira and it's much less expensive and very comfortable. There's a comfort/snack stop at about the half-way mark. I recommend doing that.

From Casa, I'd take a train to Fes and a grand taxi from there to Chefchaouen & back. I suppose you could, alternatively, train to Tangier & g. taxi to Chefchaouen, somewhat shorter from Tangier but since you want to go to Fes anyway, I think it's simpler RT by g. taxi from Fes.

I've always made arrangements for a grand taxi at my accommodation. They'll book someone they know and I prefer that. A grand taxi is big, a petit taxi is small, hence the names. You can flag down a petit taxi on the street for a ride within the town limits but I'd have your hotel book for you for out-of-town. It will invariably be, as I mentioned, a Mercedes. Regarding "routes", a g. taxi will take you anywhere you'll pay to be taken, no particular routes, except for the shared ones. They have routes and are cheap if they're going where you want to go and you don't mind a car-full of strangers.
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Sep 5th, 2015, 09:38 AM
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We are going next March for 17 days starting in Casablanca and going to Rabat,Chef,Volubolis.Meknes,Fez,Mousouka,Dades,Ess asouira, and ending with a week in Marrakech from where we will fly out. Seemed like easy to get flights from Madrid and only $200 per person on Iberia. Ryan even cheaper but who wants to deal with all the rules,regs, and extra charges?
We have hired a private driver(semi guide) with 4 wheel drive and will hire other guides on site.
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Sep 5th, 2015, 08:40 PM
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I really appreciate all the input, I think I finally have this planned. Here it is...
Paris to Fes
trip to Chefchaouen 1nt
stopping at Volubolis on way(forgive my spelling)
Fes 3 nts
side trips to
Mouley Idress
Menkes
Train from Fes to Marrakech
2 nts Kesh
drive over Atlas Mountains to Skoura
Dades Gorge on way to Erg Chebbi
camel ride 1nt in tent
back to kesh
possible side trip to Essaouria
Fly out of Kesh to Amsterdam

Do you think this is do-able? Is it too much with no down time? We want to be able to enjoy where we are visiting. Once again your comments, suggestions and input are invaluable.
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Sep 5th, 2015, 08:58 PM
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It's too busy for me, but pacing is something we learn as individuals as we travel. It might not be too much for you, or it might be. You'll find out and if it is, you'll adjust next trip, or even better, as you go this time.

One thing I've learned over the years is to not be afraid to adjust during a trip. If you find it's too much, slow down, eliminate something. It isn't a sin, even if it costs you something. Better to relax and enjoy yourself more. Morocco is an easy place to make adjustments as you go.
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Sep 6th, 2015, 12:44 AM
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That's why I like to travel solo & independently, MmePerdu.

Now & again I like to join a small group for a short special interest tour & I do occasionally wish I had someone to share the experience, but on balance, I'm better off being able to be flexible.
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Sep 6th, 2015, 05:14 AM
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I agree with mmeperdu, on it being a bit much , but the advice is excellent , being open and flexible to change.

safe travels
wlke
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Sep 6th, 2015, 09:23 PM
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Any suggestions as to what I could leave out? I know MmePerdu said to consider replacing Chefchaouen with Essaouira but I am taken with what I have seen of Chefchaouen so I would still like to leave it on the list. We don't want to be rushing all over the place and not getting a chance to sit back and enjoy Morocco.
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Sep 6th, 2015, 11:10 PM
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Sallam 'lekum and Good day all,

If I may just add my two bob's worth, Mirasia.
As Mme Perdu suggested, I would really look at getting a flight arriving to or departing from Tangier. I see you have considered this option but you haven't mentioned if there were flights available? Using Tangier would then allow you to visit Chefchaouen without back-tracking. I love Chefchaouen (the blue, oh the blue!) and also greatly enjoy visiting Essaouira (we have a few very good friends who live there, and I surf), so I understand your conundrum.

If you look at the following itinerary (reversed from your current one), you may even be able to visit both Chefchaouen and Essaouira without feeling too rushed:
Day 1: Arrive Paris - Marrakech. Stay Marrakech;
Day 2: Explore Marrakech
Day 3: Day trip to Essaouira, explore Marrakech upon return;
Day 4: Travel to Skoura palmeraie or further onward to Dadès Gorge;
Day 5: Travel to Todra Gorge and onward to Erg Chebbi for overnight camel trek. You can bypass Todra Gorge to offer you more time in and around the desert dunes;
Day 6: Travel to Fès (long day, but do-able...we always end up doing this day's drive rather than stopping half way in Midelt). Stay Fès;
Day 7: Explore the medinas of Fès el Bali and Fès el Jdid;
Day 8: Day trip to Meknès &/or Moulay Idriss Zerhoun &/or Volubilis. Stay Fès;
Day 9: Travel to Chefchaouen;
Day 10: Explore Chefchaouen;
Day 11: Travel to Tangier. Explore Tangier medina (Tomb of Ibn Battuta, the "world's first backpacker", Lorin Foundation, American Legation, kasbah. Final souvenir shopping at the wonderful Ensemble Artisanal). Stay overnight in Tangier. Yes, I know that the popular belief is that Tangier is a place to bypass. I don't agree, plus this will offer you an unhurried journey to Tangier airport on day 12 (see my note below, however).
Day 12: Fly Tangier to Amsterdam (there are usually direct flights every day except Sunday, when you can still fly via a connecting hub).

With regards to days 11 & 12, should you find a flight that departs Tangier in the afternoon, then you could travel directly to the airport from Chefchaouen, thus adding a 'free' night to the above itinerary. The other option is to take the overnight train from Tangier to Marrakech on the evening of day 11, to arrive in Marrakech on day 12 and fly from there.

The big 'if' is that some/all of the above itinerary will require private transport to offer quality exploration time.

My apologies to you and my fellow learned forum posters for only 'butting in' now.

Darren Humphrys
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