We rented a car for the majority of our trip to Morocco, taking us in an incomplete circle from Marrakesh to Casablanca.
Our major stops are to include: Marrakesh – Ait Benaddou – Merzouga – Fes – Chefchahouen – Casablanca.
When we told locals we were driving around the country, many were excited about the beautiful sites we would see. However, there were also many words of advice about driving defensively, avoiding the dark, and being weary of corrupt cops looking to make some extra cash.
We took this advice to heart, planning our driving routes in the early daytime hours, driving below the speed limit, and being very cautious and courteous around the police officers.
Apparently That’s Not Enough
We had our car rental for approximately 30 minutes. We had just left the craziness of Marrakesh, hit the highway, figured out a few Arabic road signs, and were starting to feel good.
Suddenly, as we turned a windy bend up a hill, a police officer walked into the road and waved us aside. With few words exchanged, we handed over our papers.
We sat for about 20 minutes waiting to be called up for our turn to talk to the officer. When Shane finally had his turn, he seemed to be there forever as we anxiously watched him and the officer struggle to communicate.
When he finally returned, he had a hefty 700 dirham (100CAD) ticket for “passing a car on a solid line”. As we hadn’t driven very long at this point, we knew this wasn’t true. We felt defeated, wondering how many more times on our drive we’d have to hand over such wads of cash.
After informing us of the ticket and collecting money, Shane went back to the officer to pay. When he returned, he surprised us with a smile on his face. Somehow, in the process of paying, Shane apologized to the officer, and explained we had only just rented the car minutes before. That seemed to be enough for the cop, who excitedly asked us where we were from and then proceeded to take back the ticket and wish us safe travels ahead.
Since this experience, we’ve been 22 for 22 for check stops without ever getting pulled over again.
In fact, once we pulled ourselves over into a checkpoint to ask for a nearby gas station when another driver informed us our tire was low on air. The police officer kindly found us an off-service cop who escorted us to the nearest gas station. Such a turn of events from our first day!
Practical Information: Driving in Morocco
We did quite a substantial amount of research prior to renting and driving a car in Morocco. Here are some of the pertinent details and some things we learned along the way:
– obey the speed limit; the police will ticket people going only a few km/h over the limit
– on average you will drive slower than estimated so give yourself extra time
– if you plan on detouring off of the main highways, consider renting a vehicle more suited for off road conditions
– the “A” roads tend to be toll roads and are in good condition with speed limits of 120; the “N” roads are normal highways with speed limits of 80 and tend to be in worse condition requiring frequent drops in speed; any other roads cannot be guaranteed to be paved or even exist
– when approaching a police checkpoint always slow down (20km/h) and stop prior to reaching the police; wait for them to give you direction on how to proceed
– fuel is widely available on highways, especially near towns; more remote regions may be lacking fuel stations
Overall driving is quite safe but it is imperative to practice defensive driving as you never know what might happen.