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Travelling within Morocco

Driving in Morocco can be a bit more hazardous than in the neighboring European countries, but fortunately, in the last few years, the Moroccan road network has improved and there are now many decent highways and several very good toll motorways.

Motorways
There are several very good motorways in Morocco today and fares are very reasonable. The main motorways are: Ceuta-Tetouan, Tangier-Rabat-Casablanca, Casablanca-Marrakech, Rabat-Meknes-Fez and Marrakech-Agadir. In addition, there is a recently upgraded free highway between Tetouan and Tangier.

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Although the road network has improved a lot, there remain some precarious roads that are best avoided. So it is advisable to enquire about the state of a particular road beforehand. It is also very important to watch out for children, animals and other surprises that may appear from time to time in the middle of the road when you less expect it.

The national carrier, Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com), connects all the important Moroccan towns. However, there are no low-cost airlines operating between local destinations.

Morocco has an excellent rail network with one proviso: there are a few major towns that are not included in the network. Tetouan in the north and Agadir, Essaouira and Ouarzazate in the south are not served by any trains. But, for the rest of the country, trains are very frequent and comfortable. All destinations, hours and fares can be easily checked on the ONCF website (www.oncf.ma).

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The quiet pace of train travelling lends itself to interesting encounters. You are very likely to meet fellow foreign visitors and also will have the opportunity to see how Moroccans are passionate about languages, as certainly some of them will start a conversation with you when they notice that you are a foreigner.

High-speed train
The works for the new high-speed rail connection between Tangier and the political (Rabat) and economical (Casablanca) capitals of Morocco started in 2010. This will be the first high-speed rail working in Africa and its completion is scheduled for 2015. This line represents a very important push to the Tangier-Tetouan region, and shows how committed the king is with developing the Cap Nord region.

Taking a coach is the cheapest way to travel across Morocco, and unlike other systems of transport, there are coaches to every single city and town in the country. One thing that should be noticed though is that the standards of safety and comfort are very uneven from one company to another. That is why, whenever possible, it is advisable to travel with the largest company, the CTM (www.ctm.ma). Its coaches are safe, comfortable and air-conditioned. In addition, baggage is checked in so you won’t have any worries about having it lost or stolen.

In Morocco, taxis can be used to travel cheaply between towns and cities as well as within them.

Petits taxis
The within-town taxis are known as “petit taxis” (‘small taxis’ in French). These are similar to the ones in Europe or the UK but much cheaper.
A short ride costs about 10 DH (less than one euro).

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“Petit taxis” have taximeters; however, these are often not turned on by drivers. This is quite normal practice and there will be no problems as long as you ask the taxi driver to tell you exactly how much the ride is going to cost. If you ask naturally they will think you have already taken some taxis and won’t ask you an inflated price.

Grands taxis
The between-towns taxis are known as “grand taxis”. These taxis are an alternative to trains and coaches and almost as economical if you don’t care to feel a bit “crammed”. Fares are fixed (no taximeters here) and these taxis are particularly useful to get quickly to the myriad little villages and smallest towns that are scattered all over the place.

How many people in a taxi?
Do not be surprised when the driver won’t let more than 3 of you get into the taxi. Although there is room enough to accommodate 4 people, this is strictly forbidden.
Interestingly, the opposite goes for the “grand taxis”: 6 people (2 people in the copilot seat, 4 in the backseat) + the driver are allowed to travel (and do travel) in these vehicles (a total of 7 people per taxi!).
Fortunately you may buy more than one seat, which is also common practice to travel more comfortably. In addition, it is also possible to hire the whole taxi by buying the 6 seats, just say to the driver the magic word: I want it “corsa”.

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