One of the best ways to explore Morocco is certainly by driving yourself instead of using buses and taxis. Nothing beats a road trip with a good friend, fun music, and some snacks. I highly recommend driving in Morocco as the stress-level is much, much lower than when you have to rely on public transportation (I did both!). It’s not exactly a hassle-free country, so when you’re not up for constant haggling and broken or too cold AC’s, you’re much better off with a car. There are quite a few things you should know before you start your road trip in Morocco, though. Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Know the car rental process
Renting a car can always be tricky, but especially so in Morocco. Whether you book online before or while you’re there, you should know what you’re doing. First of all, don’t expect to get the car you paid for. You’ll get whatever they have available.
Second of all, they likely won’t speak English and the rental agreement won’t be in English, either. Always have a translation app handy. I recommend you get full insurance as you can’t trust anyone in Morocco, especially not the police. If there was an accident, I’m pretty sure all locals would stick together and blame you, whether it was your fault or not.
Also, make sure you take a video of the car before you leave with it and document every single scratch. We rented our car in Marrakech from V7 Cars and can definitely recommend it. Our hotel, Hotel & Ryads Barriere La Naoura, organized it for us and translated the contract. They brought the car to the hotel and picked it up, it was really an easy process. Their number is 06 61 49 98 88 and their email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We talked to Mr Benrazzouk Abdelhaq, he only speaks French, though, so ask your hotel for help.
We paid about $45 a day for a new Renault Clio including everything. While it seems much at first when you compare it with prices they show you online, you will be surprised how many extra fees they come up with once you get the car, so this wasn’t a crazy amount.
2. Drive very carefully and not at night
You have to pay attention every second as the roads are so curvy and narrow that accidents can happen easily. Even if you stay in your lane, you need to be prepared for other drivers not doing it and shooting around the corner on your side of the road. I just started honking before driving into curves to let people know I’m coming, something I learned while driving in Bali. Since there are no lights along the way, never drive during the night.
3. Don’t let corrupt police scam you
If the police stop you for speeding or crossing lines (which will likely happen to you as it’s so common), don’t pay them. They’re usually very friendly at first, make some small talk and then tell you that you have to pay 400 Dirhams because you did XYZ. Doesn’t matter if you did it or not. Tell them you don’t have any cash and they can send the invoice to the rental car company. They won’t because they’re just scamming you. I knew these tricks before so I told the police officer I don’t have 400 Dirhams and he asked if I had at least 100, haha. I told him I had 20, but that wasn’t enough for him and he let us go. Nice try, b******.
4. The roads could make you sick
If you’re one of those people who can’t read in the car or sit in the back, I recommend you take motion sickness medicine before you do the Atlas Mountain road trip. The zigzag roads will make you nauseous very quickly, especially if you’re not driving yourself. I drove the entire way as I couldn’t handle being the co-pilot on these roads, it made me want to through up after a few minutes. Even though I was driving and I usually don’t have problems then, I still felt horrible when we finally arrived.
5. Make sure you have an offline map
Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be an old-school paper map, just download the route on Google Maps before you leave, or use a navigation app that works offline, like maps.me. Even if you have a navigation system in your car, we quickly noticed that a lot of the towns are not in the system, and since there rarely is cell service between towns, you might get lost without having an offline map.
6. Don’t underestimate distances
There are two reasons a drive in Morocco will always take you quite some more time than Google Maps suggests. The good one is that you’re gonna want to stop to take photos ALL THE TIME. The views are amazing, a new mind-blowing scenery awaits you every few minutes. The not so good one is that driving in Morocco is very exhausting, especially if you do the route through the Atlas Mountains.
As described before, you need to pay a lot of attention to the road and can’t drive fast most of the time, it’s not like you’re going on a highway. The average speed limit is 60km/h and while you can (but shouldn’t, of course) drive faster sometimes, you will also have to go much slower many times which can really slow you down. Some roads have a lot of truck traffic as well and the narrow one-lane roads don’t always let you pass them easily.
7. Prepare the days on the road
Morocco is a big country, so if you plan on road tripping it, you’ll spend a lot of time in the car. I recommend you always have some necessities in the car before you start your day driving. First of all, have tissues/toilet paper at all times. Most of the road-side stops don’t have any. Since I lived in Egypt for some time, I got used to and actually prefer the good old butt shower, but most of the time you won’t find a high-pressure hose in Morocco. Instead, you have to deal with a bucket of water, which isn’t really easy to handle properly.
Next thing you always want to have more than enough of is water. You never know how long you won’t be able to find a cafe/supermarket on the road and it gets pretty hot, especially during the summer months. You need to stay hydrated to be able to focus on the road. We did our road trip during Ramadan and it was a real pain in the a** to find any open shop, especially in the morning.
Last but not least: Snacks and good music (also offline – no service, remember?). Because what’s a road trip without it?
8. You won’t be able to get work done
Admittedly, this point is not relevant for all of you, but for the entrepreneurs, workaholics and digital nomads among us: Don’t expect to get any work done on a driving day, even if you’re not driving yourself. You won’t have service most of the time and even if you could work offline, you’ll quickly give up as the roads are so curvy, all you do is try to hold your laptop so it won’t fall off your lap.
That’s all the tips I have on driving in Morocco, I hope they were helpful. Don’t let them scare you, you’ll have the most amazing time exploring the country by car, I promise. I would always recommend doing a road trip over bus rides or taxis since you have the freedom to go at your own pace and take as many photo stops as you like. The landscapes are so stunning, you probably won’t want to close your eyes even for a short nap! Plus it’s just so much more relaxing than having to deal with people trying to sell and over-charge you constantly.
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