Trains are generally the best option because of their speed, frequency and comfort. However, the network is limited, linking only Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat. A branch line to Oujda starts at Sidi Kachem linking Meknes and Fez to the main line. A high speed rail line connecting Tangier to Casablanca via Rabat is under construction with first section to Kénitra opened in November 2018, reducing travel times between Tangier and Casablanca to just over two hours.
The rail network is operated by ONCF. Tickets can be purchased both online and at stations and they are very cheap compared to Europe. For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dirham second class, or 300 dirham first class. Casablanca to Marrakech – 90 dirham for second class. The only drawback with Moroccan trains are that they are very frequently delayed, so don’t count on the timetables if you are in a hurry.
People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco and you will find yourself perpetually talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advise you on some new place you should go or invite you to their home for couscous. Stations in smaller cities are often poorly marked, and your fellow passengers will be more than happy to let you know where you are and when you should get off. It’s expected to greet (Salam) new passengers entering your compartment, and if you bring fruit, cake, etc., it’s common to offer the other passengers something as well. If you spend a little extra for 1st class you increase your chances of meeting someone proficient in many languages.
There are three daily departures from Tangier, bound for either Oujda or Marrakech, although all of them can be used to reach either destination as there are corresponding trains in Sidi Kachem using the opposite branch of the train coming from Tangier. The night trains between Tangier and Marrakech offer couchettes for an extra 100 dirham. This is the only option if you would like to lie down sleeping as there are obstacles between the seats in regular compartments.
First class train cars are supposed to have working air conditioning, however, not all train cars with air conditioning have it in working mode, so it’s advisable to bring with you plenty of water (there are no vending machines on ONCF trains, unlike SNCF or TrenItalia trains, and the conductor with a vending cart is not often easy to find). For example, the travel time between Tangier and Fez is about 5 hours and with no AC and no water, the ride can become unbearable in the summer desert heat.
When you arrive at a station, to reaching the platform you’ll need to validate your ticket (checkpoint at the entrance).
Luxury buses are the next best bet, with almost universal coverage, if somewhat odd departure times in some places. CTM, Supratours and some smaller companies provide good comfort with reasonable prices. Supratours buses offer specific tickets to link with the rail system and are bookable on the train company website as Supratours is run by it. All bus companies charge for baggage separately, however CTM is the only one that does this officially and provides baggage receipts. On Supratours, whoever takes your bag will demand up to 20 dirham (pay no more than 5 dirham). Do not pay for luggage that you can take aboard with you and that fits in the overhead locker of between your feet. Touts will try to charge you for that, strongly refuse.
Nearly every city has a central bus station (Gare Routière) where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region (and in some cities certain companies run their own stations – mostly that applies to the operators CTM (Gare Voyage) and partly Supratours). You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-conditioning and a TV. Or you can also take the local buses which cost only 25-50% of the tourist buses and are much more fun. They are not very comfortable, but you can get in contact with the local people and learn a lot about the country. The buses often take longer routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to as a “normal” tourist. For heat-sensitive people this is not advisable though, as locals may tell you that 35 degrees is “cool” and no reason for opening a window. The route from Rissani, Erfoud, and Er Rachidia to Meknes and Fez, while long, runs through the Middle and High Atlas and is particularly scenic.
At the large bus stations (Gare Routière), always buy your ticket at the ticket window inside of the bus station. Otherwise you will mostly overpay. Several touts will approach you as you enter the bus station, and try to sell you a ticket. While a local will get a proper ticket with them (because they know the prices), tourists will most certainly be overcharged. Also, the ticket windows often (must) have prices and time tables displayed. You might get the ticket with the same guy that approached you in the beginning, but it will consequently be much cheaper.
Local intercity buses can be entered along the highway or main road, where you will pay the conductor. Always ask for the price before entering, and if too high, refuse. At least the conductors will understand, that you will not board if too high and give you a good price. Supratours and CTM buses will not stop anywhere for you to enter except for the main bus stations—the driver is not allowed to sell tickets.
Luxury buses operated by CTM are also inexpensive and offer an easier travelling experience than local buses. See CTM’s timetable and tariffs.)
Supratours, a major rival of CTM, complements the train network to Essaouira and all major Atlantic-coast towns south to Marrakech.
Btw. local intercity buses are a completely valid choice for the hardier traveller, and often even have more leg room than the luxury buses although this may be just because the seat in front of you is disintegrating. They can be extraordinarily slow as they will stop for anyone, anywhere, and only luxury buses are air conditioned (and locals hate open windows). Although, one exception seems to be the Agadir-Essaouira route, where even local buses are very fast. Probably due to the amount of buses on this route and the desire to pick up as many passengers as possible along the way (not gone happen if overtaken by another company).
Travel by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two sorts:
- Petit taxi used only within the area of the town
- Grand taxi can be used for trips between towns, and for larger groups
Prices for petit taxi are reasonable, and it’s the law that taxis in town should have a meter—although they are not always on. Insist that the driver starts the meter. If not, ask for the fare before getting in (but it will be more expensive).
There often is a minimum fare for trips during the day and another during the night, both listed on a sticker along with other prices in the taxi. And because in some small cities, the metered fare is always lower than the minimum fare, trips are not metered there, and the price is fixed at the minimum fare. In such cities without metered taxis, those stickers are sometimes missing as well. Ask an uninvolved local whether there is such a minimum fare and how high it is (7 dirham is reasonable during the day, 10 at night).
Petit taxis are not allowed to leave the city borders and is thus not an option for travelling between cities.
The grand taxi is a shared, generally long-distance taxi, with a fixed rate for specific route; the driver stopping and picking up passengers like a bus. Grand taxis are usually found near main bus stops. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on distance travelled and whether you are returning—but price per taxi should not depend on the number of passengers in your group. When sharing grand taxi with others, drivers may cheat tourist-looking passengers charging higher—look how much locals around you pay; don’t worry to ask other passengers about the normal price, before boarding or even when you’re in.
Fares are semi-fixed and shared equally between passengers. However, there are six passenger seats per car not four (this is for the ubiquitous Mercedes, there are 8 or 9 seats in the bigger Peugeots in the southeast). Two people are expected to share the front seat, with four across the back. If you want to leave immediately or you want extra space you can pay for any additional empty seats. Grand taxis generally cost less than a luxury bus but more than the local bus. Late at night, expect to be charged a little more than at daytime, and also to pay for all the seats in the car as other customers probably won’t show up that late.
Grand taxis formerly were 10-year-old Mercedes, regular saloon cars that in Europe are used for up to 4 passengers plus driver. However, nowadays they are replaced more and more by Peugeot vans. For a grand taxi, it is normal to share a car between up to 6 passengers. The front seat is normally given to two women. Some travellers often pay for 2 seats that remain unoccupied to travel with more space inside, and hence comfort.
Beware, some taxi drivers will refuse to drive off until the taxi is full, potentially causing you delays. Alternatively, for a relatively reasonable sum (depending on the driver), you can hire a grand taxi in Marrakech for the entire day, allowing you to explore the sights of the surrounding region. Most grand taxis operate only on a single route and that for trips outside of their licensed route they need to get permission from police first.
Taxi owners vie with each other to add extras such as sunshades. A clean vehicle and smart driver is usually a good sign of a well maintained vehicle.
Grand taxis can also be hired privately for approximately the price of two petit taxis for shorter trips. This is useful if your party is of four or more. If you plan to take a grand taxi for a custom tour it is best to book one day ahead to give the driver time to get this permission.
Domestic flying is not a popular means of transportation, however, Royal Air Maroc, the national flag carrier, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities. Other airlines include Air Arabia Maroc and Jet4you.com.
The Casablanca tramway is 30 km long, with 49 stops, and Y-shaped. Tickets cost 6 dirham; buy your ticket before boarding. You have a choice between a rechargeable ticket valid for 10 journeys only, or a rechargeable card, valid for 4 years.
This is, after the Rabat-Salé tramway, the second tram system in Morocco, but also the largest system in number of stations and the length of the route.
In many ways the traffic culture is different from what you would experience in western countries. The main road network is in good condition but due to the lack of dedicated cycling lanes and pedestrian paths in all but the largest cities, they are shared by many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
Roads have a good surface, although some are very narrow, in most cases only one narrow lane in each direction. Many roads in the south marked as sealed actually have only a central strip, one lane wide, sealed with wide shoulders to be used every time you meet oncoming traffic and this is a sensible economic solution in these areas of sparse traffic and long straight roads – except when you can not see oncoming traffic because of windblown dust!