Driving in Morocco
So you’ve decided to take a road trip in Morocco but you’ve heard driving on Moroccan roads is a nightmare. You’re on holiday so why take the chance and add stress to your journey? Driving around Morocco is the best way to travel. It allows you to get the most out of your holiday, discover off the beaten track destinations and have experiences no organised tour can provide. All the hype about driving in Morocco is tantamount to scaremongering. For the most part, it’s not so different to driving in the UK or France. It’s a shame to let this put you off. Here’s all you need to know about driving in Morocco, with some helpful advice about how to approach the few things you’re unfamiliar with.
We’ll cover the cities and motorways in this article and follow it up shortly with a post about driving in Morocco’s rural areas and mountain passes.
Driving in Morocco
The official rules of the road
The minimum age to drive is 18 and you should carry your driving licence with you.
European citizens don’t need an International Driving Permit for Morocco. Check before you travel in case this changes.
Moroccans drive on the right and give way to traffic from the left.
Morocco has no drink drive laws but they do have alcohol laws. Get caught drinking and driving and you can expect the police to throw you in jail. Don’t drink and drive is the message.
Road signs are almost identical to those in Europe.
Driver etiquette isn’t something we’re familiar with in Morocco. Moroccan drivers don’t give way to pedestrians and often park on crossings. You don’t have to follow suit.
Morocco road trip advice: How to enter Morocco in your own car
Driving in Moroccan Cities
Moroccan cities are densely populated and the roads are busy. Tangier, Rabat, Marrakech and Fes are all congested so in many respects, it’s not dissimilar to driving in any large city around the world. There are a few things you should know because you won’t experience some of these on European roads.
There’s a lot of honking! When you drive off the ferry and onto the Moroccan roads for the first time, the noise of the car horns might terrify less than confident drivers. Welcome to Morocco! Moroccan drivers use their car horns for all sorts of reasons.
Sometimes, Moroccan drivers will honk to tell you it’s safe to overtake. Or it’s not safe. Sometimes, you’ll get a honk if you stop for a red light. Or to tell you to start driving at a red light because it’s about to change to green. Sometimes you’ll receive a honk and a thumbs up as a friendly greeting. At other times, it’s to get you to follow them (see faux guides below). In reality, you won’t even know if it’s you they’re honking at or why. In the whole scheme of things, does it even matter? Not really. Worry not, concentrate on your own driving and expect the unexpected.
The road conditions in the cities are good, if a little dusty. Watch out for the occasional missing drain cover in the kerbside gutter.
Expect the unexpected
Not all Moroccan drivers follow the official rules of the road so expect the unexpected. Some will undertake, tailgate and not everyone will give way when you expect them to. Add to this you’re in an unfamiliar city with lots of honking around you and your anxiety levels may start to climb. Relax though. If you miss a turn, it doesn’t matter. Concentrate on you’re driving, your surroundings and proceed with caution. How good an experience you have driving in Morocco is as much down to your own attitude as it is to other road users.
There’s no consistency when it comes to the give way rules of a Moroccan roundabout. Sure the official rules are to give way to traffic already on it but it’s not always adhered to. At some, drivers already on the roundabout will all stop to allow you to enter. At others, drivers seem to adhere to the official rules. The locals appear to know what rules apply to which roundabouts. We’ve never been able to figure it out so just assume you need to give way. Regardless of whether you’re joining the roundabout or already driving on it, prepare to stop.
Parking in Moroccan Towns and Cities
Parking in most Moroccan cities is as good (or as bad) as trying to park in any major city across the world. Often you’ll find someone wearing a high vis jacket who will show you where to park. He’ll charge you a few Dirhams (maybe 10) on your return. These aren’t always official parking attendants but all the locals use and pay them. We have a rule of thumb: if you’re unsure, do as the locals do. We’ve used these parking attendants often and never had any problems. If anything, they offer a little security as they won’t receive their fee if there’s any problems.
For cities such as Marrakech and Fes, you’re better off parking at your hotel or campsite. Use a petite taxi or local buses to take you into the centre.
Animals sharing the road
Donkeys pulling carts are a common sight in Moroccan towns and cities. More often than not they will ride on the right edge of the road and you’ll need to take care overtaking of course. You may also see stray dogs taking a snooze at the kerbside. They’re not alarmed by traffic at all so again, take care. You won’t see too many goat herds in the cities yet it’s a common sight in the towns and rural areas.
Plan your road trip with our travel guide to Morocco for overlanders
Night time driving in Morocco
We have little experience of this because our number 1 road trip rule is we don’t drive at night. Moroccan roads seem to get even busier in the evening. Speed humps aren’t as visible as you’d like after dark, and a hazard so watch out for them at night. Street lighting is pretty good in most cities but don’t forget, donkeys and carts don’t have lights. If you must drive at night, take extra care.
Faux guides on Morocco’s roads
Faux guides are ever present in Morocco’s cities. Drivers aren’t exempt from their attempts to make a living either. As you walk around Morocco’s medinas, their approaches become the norm but you may not expect this in your vehicle. In our experience, Fes is the worst city for faux guides attempting to attract the attention of drivers.
They usually ride motorbikes and pull up alongside you at traffic lights or roundabouts. They’ll try to attract your attention by speaking to you, all smiles and appearing helpful. In reality, they’re trying to guide you to a shop or hotel where they will charge you a fee for their services. Even ignoring them won’t deter most. They’ll drive ahead of you as though guiding you, then pull back alongside for a chat. Even if your vehicle is still moving.
So how best to deal with this? Be polite but firm and say “Laa, Shukran”, Arabic for no, thank you. Only say it once then ignore them. Stay alert on the road and drive with confidence and purpose. If you lose your bearings, continue driving as if you know exactly where you’re going. Try not to let them suspect you’re lost. They’ll get bored when they realise you’ll not give in to them. There are easier targets around.
Driving between Moroccan Cities
Morocco has a reasonable motorway network. It’s a pay-per-use system with toll booths placed along the routes. Prices are low and they’re not congested so ideal if you’re looking for an efficient commute. They are much quicker than the scenic routes and as good as any motorway in Europe. This map shows the current motorways in Morocco:
Driving in Morocco isn’t so bad
Driving in Morocco is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. If you’re vigilant, relaxed and apply a little common sense you’ll find there’s nothing to stop your epic road trip around this incredible country.
Don’t forget to pack….
Morocco road map – every overland adventurer needs one on the roads of Morocco
In emergencies, a road side assistance kit will be a huge help if you don’t already carry a vehicle specific tool kit.
An in-car charger with a couple of USB ports is a worthy piece of kit for keeping your electronic charged as you drive.
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