Driving in Morocco is much easier than many think and is a great way to see this stunning country. Here are 15 helpful tips as well as some money-saving advice for renting a car in Morocco.
With Morocco’s 35 million people largely crammed into its northern cities, the stunning scenery of the much less populated south make for a great road trip destination. And across the mountains and deserts of the south, driving in Morocco is much easier than many think.
Wide-open roads in good condition connect stunning valleys and intriguing towns. An easy-to-navigate infrastructure with regular petrol stations means you are rarely lost and there is little risk of running out of fuel. With traffic volumes low, the challenges of having to pass donkeys, oxen and mopeds on the road are minimised.
All in all driving in Morocco is a fun and a genuinely stress-free adventure. In fact, we love it so much we have visited three times. Twice renting a 2WD car and the third renting a 4×4 to head up into the more remote passes of the High Atlas Mountains on our 10-day road trip.
So here are our 15 road trip tips as well as some money-saving advice for renting a car in Morocco.
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1 – GO SLOW AS THERE IS A LOT ON THE ROAD
Morocco is a fast-developing country and many still live a traditional way of life. As you drive around the country you will find all sorts of things sharing the road with you. Slow moving trucks, small motorbikes, mopeds, bicycles, oxen and donkeys pulling carts and plenty of pedestrians. It means there are lots of things all going at different speeds. Just take your time, go slower than you would at home. Don’t rush to overtake until you are sure the way is clear.
2 – DON’T SPEED OR CROSS THE CENTRAL LINES
Another reason not to go fast is the police. They are after your money and not always legally. There are regular police checks, especially on the more touristy roads. The police will stop you if you are speeding or if you cross the unbroken line in the middle of the road. In either case, they will happily take a bribe of your choosing ($7 in our case) in order not to give you an official ticket.
Speed limits in Morocco are 50km/h in towns and cities, 80km/h on open roads and 100km/h on motorways. If someone flashes their headlights at you it usually means there is a police checkpoint just around the next corner.
3 – KEEP YOUR DISTANCE & DON’T RELY ON INDICATORS
Moroccans have a very relaxed approach to road rules. In particular, they’re not too fused about indicating. The preference is to drift towards their turns rather than formally announcing their intentions with a helpful signal.
So when driving in Morocco leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. They do something you’re not expecting. If you’re turning onto a busy road, take it easy – Moroccan drivers won’t necessarily be looking out for your indicator either.
4 – DON’T WORRY ABOUT ALL THE HONKING
Moroccan roads are noisy, almost everyone is honking, it’s just something you’ll get used to over time. Honking could mean a variety of things including rising impatience levels, letting you know they are there, warning you of danger, saying thank you or simply encouraging you on your way. Although it may seem intimidating at first, you’ll soon be honking like a Moroccan. Whenever the noise level rises just go a little slower and be a little more cautious.
5 – AVOID THE LARGE NORTHERN CITIES AND OLD MEDINAS
This is the most important tip of all. The main challenges of driving in Morocco all occur in urban areas where the roads get narrow. Old medinas and heavier traffic in the larger cities can be a bit stressful – one of the main reasons we put together a comprehensive walking tour of the Fez medina. It is here where a lack of indicating, more honking and a variety of speeds on the roads make driving in Morocco difficult.
Ideally, rent your car on the edge of town or at an airport where the access roads are good and only after you have visited the city. We flew into Marrakesh took a taxi into town and explored the city on foot for 4 days. Only after we had finished did we take a taxi back out to the airport and hire a car to explore the south. It was much more relaxing than navigating the city in a rental car.
6 – ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME FOR YOUR JOURNEY
Morocco can be crazy and frantic in the old medina’s and delightfully slow in the more rural areas. The roads in Morocco are no different and journey times can be slower than you might think.
Firstly you could get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle on a narrow road. Additionally, Morocco is going through something of an infrastructure boom. There is a lot of construction work as they improve and expand the road network to cater for the increased number of vehicles on the roads.
Finally, the paved surface can sometimes be damaged, significantly slow down your journey. So don’t cram too much into each day. The scenery in the south is stunning so take your time, sit back and simply enjoy the show.
7 – 2WD IS FINE UNLESS YOU TAKE THE MINOR ROADS IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
When renting a car in Morocco you don’t generally need a 4×4 rental. Almost all roads in Morocco can be navigated in a small 2WD. With the rate of construction that is going on this is only going to increase.
The only exception is the remote Atlas Mountains. Although the major passes, Tizi-n’Tichka or Tiz-n’Test (which are paved and in good condition), can easily be traversed in a 2WD, the more remote roads into the mountains cannot.
These more remote passes vary from gravel tracks to disintegrating paved roads to narrow rocky ledges. Depending on weather and road conditions sometimes a 2WD will make it and sometimes you will need a 4×4 rental. For all the information about a slightly more adventurous road trip through the Atlas Mountains, read our 10-day road trip itinerary.
8 – DOWNLOAD GOOGLE MAPS AND MAPS.ME OFFLINE BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
There are not that many roads in the south so navigation is relatively easy. Google has extensive coverage of the country but reception in the valleys will be patchy. So make sure you download Google Maps for the area you intend to explore before setting off.
We also highly recommend Maps.Me. This app also allows you to download maps for the area, but has better offline functionality and more accurate estimates for journey times.
9 – AVOID WINTER IF YOU INTEND TO DRIVE OVER THE MOUNTAIN PASSES
Snow comes to the Atlas mountains every winter. Although the major roads are open all year, the high passes can be blocked for short periods after heavy downfalls. If you intend to take one of the high passes such as Tizi-n’Tichka or Tiz-n’Test then be aware that from December to March they may be closed while snow is cleared. It’s a long drive around if you can’t go over.
But, if you time your road trip for the non-snowy seasons, a road trip through the Atlas Mountains (read our guide to the High Atlas) can be very rewarding. We had some great experiences, stunning hiking and copious amounts of Berber mint tea during our few days exploring the Aït Bouguemez valley.
10 – DON’T DRIVE AT NIGHT AND CERTAINLY DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE
While driving in Morocco during the day can be straightforward, it gets much harder at night. Potholes and speedbumps can be difficult to see and donkeys and oxen won’t have reflectors. In some more remote areas, streets are rarely lit. So driving at night should be avoided.
Furthermore never drink and drive. Driving in Morocco under influence is illegal and you may be fined or thrown into jail. So completely avoid all alcohol before any journey.
This is good to keep in mind if you are in staying somewhere that might require a drive to get to dinner – something particularly relevant if you want to see Aït Ben Haddou at sunrise while collecting the other great things to do Ouarzazate.
11 – COMPARE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CAR RENTAL IN MOROCCO
There are many national and international companies offering car rental in Morocco. Fortunately, there is a good way to compare them. Rentalcars.com provides a summary of the cost of different types of cars from different companies.
Even though it is more expensive we have always chosen a well-known international company and never had any issue renting a car in Morocco.
12 – GET THE CAR CLEANED BEFORE YOU DROP IT OFF
Morocco is a dusty sandy country. It will be impossible to keep your car clean as you drive along its roads. In this dusty country, you might find that most car hire companies charge you an excessive fee to clean the vehicle.
Fortunately many large petrol stations will clean your car (inside and out) for only a few dollars. So save yourself some cash, and an argument with your car rental place, and have your car cleaned before dropping it off.
13 – YOU CAN GET TO SOME GREAT PLACES IF YOU DRIVE IN MOROCCO
If you plan on just visiting Marrakech, the medieval media of Fez or the seaside resort of Essaouria, there is no need to rent a car in Morocco. It is easier to get around using a mix of walking and taxis.
Additionally, plenty of buses, coaches and trains connect one city to another.
But if you want to explore the less populated regions then renting a car in Morocco is the best way to see the country. Not being bound by irregular local buses or organised tours, you’re free to experience this amazing place on your own timetable. Many of the best places to visit in Morocco that you’ll want to see are slightly off the beaten track. Therefore, having your own wheels means you can design your own schedule and explore more.
Here are some great adventures you can have with your own car:
The high Atlas Mountains
Ait Ben Haddou and the Ounila Valley
Ouarzazate and the stunning kasbahs
Valley of the Roses
The remote Ouirgane Valley
The beautiful valley of Ait Bouguemez
14 – IT’S VERY EASY TO DRIVE IN MOROCCO
Despite some of the unconventional road practices mentioned above, driving in southern Morocco is easy. The roads are good and navigation is a breeze. Car hire is relatively cheap, and fuel is easy to come by. With all this – plus some spectacular scenery and interesting culture – it’s classic road trip country.
15 – KEEP ALL YOUR DOCUMENTATION ON YOU
When picking up your rental car in Morocco make sure you bring your passport & valid driver’s license. You will also need a credit card as the car hire company will hold the ‘excess’ on your credit card in case it needs to charge you for damages. Check your credit card is accepted by your rental car company and has enough limit to cover the excess.
Keep all your documentation with you when you are driving. There are regular police checkpoints, especially on more touristy roads.
Finally, there is a minimum age of 18 for driving in Morocco but many car hire companies will require you to be at least 21 – 23.
EXTRAS & INSURANCE WHEN RENTING A CAR IN MOROCCO
In our opinion, there is no need to hire a GPS as an extra when renting a car in Morocco. Many cars now come with GPS and if they don’t, Google or Maps.Me is just as easy. Often, these solutions are more up-to-date as well.
If you book through rentalcars.com, the upfront rental cost comes with basic insurance covering theft, third-party damage and liability. However, this option includes a large excess (about $1,000). There are 3 ways to deal with this:
1 – Take the risk and stick with the basic insurance. In this case, if you have an accident the car hire company will charge you the first $1,000 of any damage.
2 – Purchase a refundable excess guarantee package from either rentalcars.com or insurance4carhire. In this case the car hire company will charge you for the first $1,000 of any damage but you can claim it back from AutoEurope or insurance4carhire.
3 – Purchase an annual refundable excess guarantee package from insurance4carhire. This makes sense if you are likely to hire a car 3 or more times a year as it will be cheaper than continually buying a one-off package.
Purchasing a refundable excess guarantee package is much cheaper than the amount you will pay for insurance at the car rental company desk when you pick up the car. But it does involve the extra hassle of claiming the excess guarantee back from your insurer.
MORE READING FOR MOROCCO
Although only a short flight from Europe, Morocco is a different world. Explore medieval medinas, bustling souks, and stunning scenery with more of our Morocco guides.
How to experience the magic of Jemaa el Fna
Our self-guided walking tour of the Fez Medina
Best things to do in Marrakech
A guide to visiting Essaouira
Exploring the high Atlas Mountains
Things to do in Ouarzazate
Visiting the Valley of the Roses
MOROCCO TRAVEL TIPS
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