Hotels in Morocco

 

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MorroccoMorocco ( al-Maghreb) [1] is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Mauritania to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.

  • · Rabat – The capital of Morocco; very relaxed and hassle-free, highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
  • · Casablanca – This modern city by the sea is a starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the second largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon
  • · Fez – Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
  • · Marrakech – Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souks and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed.
  • · Meknes – A modern, laid back city that offers a welcome break from the tourist crush of neighbouring Fez.
  • · Ouarzazate – Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn't destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
  • · Tangier –Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain. An enigmatic charm which has historically attracted numerous artists (Matisse), musicians (Hendrix), politicians (Churchill), writers (Burroughs) and others (Malcolm Forbes).
  • · Taroudannt – A southern market town.
  • · Tetouan – Nice beaches and is the gateway to the Rif Mountains.

Other destinations

  • · Agadir – Agadir is best-known for its beaches. The town is a nice example of modern Morocco, with less emphasis on history and culture. Take the local bus for a few cents and go 2 or 3 villages North, where there are additional beaches
  • · Amizmiz – With one of the largest Berber souks in the High Atlas Mountains every Tuesday, Amizmiz is a popular destination for travelers looking for a day trip that is easily accessible (about an hour) from Marrakech
  • · Chefchaouen – A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier, evoking the feeling of a Greek island
  • · Essaouira – An ancient sea-side town newly rediscovered by tourists. From mid-June to August the beaches are packed but any other time and you'll be the only person there. Good music and great people. Nearest Coast from Marrakech
  • · Merzouga and M'Hamid – From either of these two settlements at the edge of the Sahara, ride a camel or 4x4 into the desert for a night (or a week) among the dunes and under the stars
  • · Tinerhir – This town is the perfect point of access to the stunning Todra Gorge

By plane

There are flights from New York, Montreal, and various European cities to Casablanca as well as seasonal charter flights to Agadir.

Easyjet [2] — now fly at budget prices from London to Marrakech.

British Airways [3] — also offer promotional fares.

Ryanair [4] — has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government and flies to Morocco from Girona, Frankfurt-Hahn and London. Flying to Fez 3 times per week.

Royal Air Maroc [5] — the state airline, which drastically needs a price cut.

Atlas Blue [6] — a so-called budget airline owned by Royal Air Maroc, but is still fairly expensive.

Jet 4 You [7] — a new low-cost carrier with extremely cheap tickets from France and Belgium.

Aigle Azur[8] — a small North-African carrier with reasonable rates.

Thomson fly [9] — Fly from Manchester to Marrakech and are very reasonably priced.

Many visitors also fly to Gibraltar or Malaga (which are often considerably cheaper to get to) and take a ferry from Algeciras, Tarifa or Gibraltar to Tangier. This is not recommended in summer as literally millions of Moroccans living in Europe use this passage during the summer holidays.

By car

The only open border posts on land are the ones at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The frontier with Algeria has been closed for ten years. For the closest maritime connection you head for Algeciras or Tarifa in southern Spain. At Algeciras there are ferry services to Ceuta and Tangier that carry cars. Tarifa has a similar service to Tangier and this is the shortest and fastest route, just 35 minutes.

It's possible also to enter Mauritania by car from Dakhla. Most countries citizens need a visa to get in Mauritania which is available for 20 Euros at the border for EU passport holders.

By boat

Summary

There are several ferry connections to Morocco, mainly from Spain. Algeciras is the main port and serves Ceuta and Tangier. A ferry between Algeciras and Ceuta takes 40 minutes, and less than 2 hours to get to Tangier. You can also get to Tangier from the small port of Tarifa, on the southernmost tip of mainland Spain. This will need 35 minutes. Some companies run buses between Tarifa and Algeciras for free (25 minutes), so you will have no problems getting to the train station. Other Spanish ports that have connections to Morocco are Malaga and Almeria who connect to Melilla and its Moroccan neighbor town of Nador.

Ferries from France also go to Tangier, from the port of èSte near Montpellier and Port Vendres near Perpignan. But these ferries are rather expensive. The Italian towns of Genoa and Naples also have direct connections to Tangier. The British crown colony of Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service.

 Details

From Tarifa to Tangier the ferry costs about 25 Euros each way. From Algeciras it costs £28 single.

Get around

Trains are usually most preferred recommended transport because of speed and comfort; they are far less cramped and stressful alternative to local buses. Train network links Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat, a branch line to Oujda starts at Sidi Kachem linking Meknes and Fez to the main line.

Many Moroccans also take luxury buses between towns usually run by CTM, Supratours and smaller companies. These offer comfort and a reliability (the train service is not good in this), are inexpensive and provide much better coverage. When using CTM services, keep in mind they charge a small fee per bag (~7dh).

A shared taxi service (grande taxi) also operates between towns; fares are semi-fixed and shared equally between passengers. If there are empty seats you can pay for them in order to make the taxi leave rather than waiting for further passengers. Grande taxis are often the cheapest way of traveling between towns and cities in Morocco. 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 it probably won't show up other customers late. A (petit taxi) is not allowed to leave the city borders and is thus not an option for traveling between cities.

 By plane

Domestic flying is not a popular mean of transportation, however, Royal Air Maroc, the national flag carrier, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities.

 By train

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 its 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 Tangierand Marrakech offer couchettes for an extra dhr 100 (June 2008). This is the only option if you would like to lay down sleeping as there are obstacles between the seats in regular compartments.

The only drawback with Moroccon trains are that they are very frequently delayed, so don't count on the timetables if you are in a hurry.

Train network is operated by ONCF [10].

 Availability

The major cities, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. There are usually several trains every day to or from every major town. There is also a night train between Marrakech and Tangier.

 Cost

The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dh (£15) second class, or 300dh (£20) first class.

By bus

Nearly every city has a central bus-station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-condition and TV. Or you can take the local buses which cost only 25%-50% and are much more fun. These ones aren't really comfortable, but you can get in contact to 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.

Luxury buses operated by CTM [11] are also inexpensive and offer an easier travelling experience than local buses.

Supratours [12], major rival of CTM, complements train network to Essaouira and all major Atlantic-coast towns south to Marrakech.

By taxi

Travel by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two sorts:

  • · petite taxi used only within the area of the town
  • · the grande taxi can be used for trips between towns, and for larger groups
  • Prices for petite taxi are reasonable and it's the law that taxis in town should have a meter - although are not always on. Insist that the driver starts the meter. If not, ask the fare before getting in (but it will be more expensive).
  • Grande 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. Grande taxis usually can be found near main bus stops. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on distance traveled 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.

    Grande Taxis are usually a ~10-years-old Mercedes regular sedans that in Europe are used for up to 4 passengers plus driver. For grand taxi, it is normal to share a car between up to 6 passengers. Front seat is normally given to two women (as local women are not allowed to be in contact with a man, they rarely take rear seats). Travellers often pay for 2 seats that remain unoccupied to travel with more space inside, and hence comfort.

    Grande Taxis can also be hired for approximately the price of two petite taxis for shorter trips. This is useful if your party is of four or more. 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 Grande Taxi in Marrakech for the entire day, allowing you to explore the Ourika valley.

    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.

     By car

    The main road network is in good condition. Roads have good surface, although very narrow, in most cases only one lane in each direction.

    The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended.

    • · The expressway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was finished in 1987.
    • · It was extended from Rabat to Kénitra in 1995 and today reaches the northern port of Tangier (A1).
    • · Another expressway (A2) goes eastwards from Rabat to Fez some 200 km down the road. It comprises part of the planned transmaghrébine expressway that will continue all the way to Tripoli.
    • · South from Casablanca runs the A7. It is planned to reach Agadir in December of 2009 but currently only goes as far as Marrakech 210 km south of Casablanca.
    • · Around Casablanca and down the coast is the A5 expressway which connects Mohammedia and El Jadida.
    • · Construction started in 2006 for the A2 between Fez and Oujda on the Algerian border which will be completed by 2010.
  • Fuel is not so common in the countryside so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
  • Roadsigns are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe but you give way to the right. Be very careful as many drivers respect signs only if a policeman is nearby. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering it. There are numerous Police checks on the main roads where you must slow down to allow them to see you. The speed limit is enforced especially the 40kph in towns and on dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. General rule is that vehicles larger than yours should be given a priority: trucks, buses and even grand taxis.

    Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.

    The centre of Marrakech can be a scary place to drive. You will be constantly beeped at, regardless of how well you drive. Marrakchis like to beep their horns at anyone they feel to be holding them up. This may mean even if you're just in front of them at a red light. Also, pay very close attention to your wingmirrors and your blind spots. The two lane roads often become free-for-alls, up to the point at which you may see four cars wing to wing at a red light. One of the major hazards on the roads in Marrakech are the mobilettes. These pushbikes with an engine will zig-zag around you and generally make themselves a nuisance, however, on longer stretches of road, they tend to keep to the right. Often, a few beeps of the horn will cause a mobilette rider to pay a little more attention to his surroundings. However, be warned that some drivers pay absolutely no attention to your horn, as they have become so used to the sound. Drive defensively, and keep your speed down, so any accident causes minimum damage. Do not be intimidated by other drivers. Make sure that you drive predictably, and don't do anything rash.

     Renting a car

    Rental firms abound in the large cities. Most worldwide rental networks have their offices in Morocco. Also there are several local rental companies (5-7 have rep offices in Casablanca airport). They offer lower prices, but be sure to check the vehicles condition, spare tire, jack etc. Local companies may be less proficient in English--but if you are ready for higher risk, when you rent in an airport try to negotiate with them first; if failed you always have worldwide rivals to go next.

    Multinational companies seem to easily share cars with each other (although prices and service level may vary), so if your company of choice doesn't have what you need they may ask from another company.

    Check where you can drive - some rental companies won't allow travel on unmade roads.

     

     Alamo/National

    All Alamo and National Car Rental offices are colocated in Morocco.

    During low season (November) expect at least 20% discount from the list price if you come without a reservation--at least for economic class (Peugeot 206, Renault Logan Dacia).

    Deposit is taken as a paper slip of credit card; Alamo is unable to transfer your slip to the city of your destination if it's different from your starting point.

    Some economy-class cars (like Peugeot 206) are as old as 4 years, with mileage up to 120,000 km.

     Renting a vehicle with driver/guide

    Some tour operators will arrange for you to hire a 4x4 or SUV with a driver/guide, and offer customised itineraries, including advanced booking in hotels, ryads, etc.

     

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