Delicious spices, mysterious alleys, beautiful beaches, and the endless expanses of the Sahara desert - where are you going? Of course, to Morocco. The exciting world of the Arabian Nights awaits you in the northwestern tip of Africa.
Morocco is the perfect choice for a road trip. Who stays in one place when there are thousands of other beautiful places to visit? Depending on your preference, you can arrange your tour in different ways and even include a night under the desert stars or in a luxury all-inclusive riad.
Casablanca and Marrakech Airports are often the most affordable airports to fly into from the US. The best deals on flights to Morocco are often booked through TAP Air Portugal. An alternative is to take the ferry from Spain to Tangier. There are no ferry connections between the Canary Islands and the Moroccan mainland.
Our pirate tip: The cities in northern Morocco are connected by a modern rail network. So it doesn't matter if you arrive in Tangier or Fez. From there it is also easy to go to Marrakech and the south!
All you need to enter Morocco is a passport that is valid for at least six months. US nationals need a visa for a stay of more than 90 days. The travel.state.gov website urgently advises against staying in the occupied Western Sahara areas because of disputes in the recent years and the fact that this region is not internationally recognized.
Current travel and safety information for Morocco is always updated daily on the travel.state.gov website.
Morocco's local time is five hours ahead of EST.
The local currency in Morocco is the dirham, with 11 Moroccan dirhams roughly equaling one dollar. Moroccan dirhams cannot be imported or exported, so you have to change money at the airport first. With a debit card, you can easily withdraw cash, especially in larger cities. But make sure beforehand at your bank that your debit/credit card is activated for Morocco. Money exchange offices are also widespread in the cities, but hardly to be found in the villages.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and politically extremely stable compared to the neighboring countries. Radical Islam plays no role in everyday life. Nevertheless, one should adapt to local customs in remote areas. The only problems are the areas around the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta on the Mediterranean Sea and trips to the interior of Western Sahara, where the Polisario rebels are still active.
In winter it gets cool and humid in northern Morocco, but not south of the Atlas. Even if the days are short and the nights are cold, the daytime sun shines undaunted. As early as March it is getting warmer and warmer and by June at the latest, it will be almost unbearable heat. Then again, this is the best time to stay in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. As you can see, the climate in Morocco varies depending on the area. In the north and northwest, you have a Mediterranean climate. The south and southeast have a continental climate thanks to the Sahara. Between the two climate zones, you will find the High Atlas mountain range. The best travel time for the entire country is therefore April, May, October, and November.
The spectrum of accommodation in Morocco ranges from simple, unheated hostels to hotels from Arabian Nights that cost a lot more. You should definitely book the so-called riads in the old town! These inns are built around a courtyard and are usually lavishly furnished.
However, resorting to modern European-style hotels in the cities is usually not worthwhile. They are comparatively expensive and by no means offer the flair of a riad.
Agadir shines as a tourist stronghold with large hotel complexes. Further south and inland, accommodation becomes simpler. In the desert areas, one finds shelter in tents. There are plenty of cheap hostels in Essaouira, Taghazout, and the larger cities.
You can find a cheap rental car here. Make sure that you choose an offer with fully comprehensive coverage (without excess) and the "full/full" tank policy so that there are no nasty surprises waiting for you at the end of your trip. If the pick-up station is different from the return station, there is usually an extra charge. Before booking, be sure to check the small print regarding the minimum rental age.
Renting a car is probably the best way to really get to know the country. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Always stick to the speed limit! Always have your driving license with you!
Have the car washed before delivery. The rental car companies charge a fee of around $20, even for light dirt.
Check the car very carefully for every single scratch, quirk, stone chip, or anything else. Photograph the car best.
Morocco has more worthwhile destinations to offer than one can list. Here is a small selection for rough orientation, from north to south:
Tanger: The northern port city is more European than the royal cities and a popular starting point for trips to Morocco. Tangier is accessed by ferry from Spain.
Chefchaouen: The blue and white-washed village in the Riff Mountains is a must-see and can be visited as a day trip from Tangier.
Fes, Meknes, and Rabat: The imperial cities, which also include Marrakech further south, are high on the list of every trip to Morocco and at least one must be seen. The cities are connected to the rail network of Morocco.
Casablanca: Morocco's largest city is also home to the country's largest port. The city with the sonorous name is one of the most modern in Morocco. This has advantages and disadvantages. As much as the lively city center with its colonial past is worth seeing, it is also strongly advised not to be out and about in the suburbs at night. Overall, Morocco is a very safe travel destination, with the exception of the suburbs of Casablanca.
Essaouira: This former Portuguese colonial city faces the Atlantic and is a laid-back place for a few days by the sea. From Essaouira, you can take the bus along the coast to Taghazout and Agadir and you can be in Marrakech in a few hours.
Marrakech: It is without a doubt the queen of all Moroccan cities and an absolute must on any itinerary. The medina is huge, the markets are a feast for the eyes and the nightly events on the central Djemaa el-Fna square are a big cinema. In addition to the numerous sights, Marrakech is also an excellent starting point for onward travel to the coast, the High Atlas, or the desert areas of the southeast. All types of city trips to Marrakech can be found in our dedicated article.
Ourika Valley: The water-rich valley at the foot of the Atlas is a popular day trip destination from Marrakech and the easiest way to travel to the High Atlas.
Taghazout: The small village outside Agadir is famous for its waves and is visited by surfers from all over the world. There are plenty of cheap hostels here. Taghazout can be reached by intercity bus from Essaouira and half an hour by public transport from Agadir.
Agadir: Agadir is the stronghold of seaside tourism in Morocco and is ideal for a stay by the sea. In addition, Agadir is more Western than other cities and is home to a variety of modern hotels. The wide sandy beach is spectacular.
Ouarzazate and the Strait of the Kashbas: Kashbas are old fortified castles, mostly built of clay, and clustered south of the Atlas. On the road of the Kashbas behind Ouarzazate, they determine the landscape in such a way that the route was named after them. It's best to hire a taxi for sightseeing, as you won't see much from the bus. Ouarzazate also has a drive out to the fortified city of Aït-Ben-Haddou.
Merzouga and Zagora: From both inland towns you can take a trip to the sand dunes of the foothills of the Sahara – an absolute highlight of every trip to Morocco. Definitely spend a night in a tent under the desert sky. Plan a whole day for arrival and departure.
Our pirate tip: The fastest way to the desert is via a tour operator. Excursions into the desert are available from all over Morocco. Joining such a tour is easier and often cheaper than setting out on your own. Then you can settle down and go your own way...
Tafraoute: Located in the middle of the Anti-Atlas, this small town is mostly visited for the surrounding landscape. From Tafraoute trips z. B. in the Ammeln and the Ait Mansour valley. Tafraoute has a good tourist infrastructure, you can hire mountain guides, and rent bicycles or quads on-site.
Our pirate tip: North of Tafraoute lies the spectacular Tizourgane granary castle. This is managed as a hostel and can be visited. It is worth renting a car for a day just to see the castle.
If you fancy a beach getaway, you should head south. The Atlantic coast between Essaouira and Agadir is spectacular, the Bay of Agadir is lined with long, wide sandy beaches. The area around Agadir is also a good place to end a road trip because there are numerous bus connections to Marrakech and it is easy to catch your flight home from there. Agadir itself is served by numerous airlines, so you can also fly directly from Agadir to other destinations in Europe and Africa.
Once you get the hang of it, Morocco is easy to travel around using public transport.
Train: From Fez, Rabat, and Casablanca you can get to Marrakech by train. The Moroccan rail network is good, the trains are comfortable and cheap but run relatively infrequently. It's best to inquire beforehand and don't run to the train station on the spur of the moment!
Intercity Bus: All major Moroccan cities are served by intercity buses. Buses are reliable and leave as frequently as they do on time. On many routes, it is advisable to purchase tickets in advance. Care should be taken on secondary routes, as there is often only one connection per day.
Rental cars: Rental cars are relatively cheap. However, one should follow the traffic rules and in particular observe the maximum speeds. The Moroccan police are often present along the country roads and a ticket is quickly negotiated.
Taxis: Grand Taxis operate between the smaller towns and villages. These are passenger cars that are filled to the last seat and beyond and head to their respective destination at low cost. The Grand Taxis depart from designated collection points. They will be happy to give you information about prices and departure times. However, as a general rule, Grand Taxis do not operate after sunset. Of course, you can also rent taxis for yourself, but then it will be more expensive because you have to pay for the empty seats, so to speak.
Domestic flights: If you have big plans and z. For example, if you want to travel down to Dakhla, you are well advised to inquire about domestic flights. Royal Air Maroc connects the country's largest cities. If you travel from Dakhla to Agadir by bus, you are on the road for a good 24 hours. You can reach your destination in an hour by plane.
So it's all just a question of know-how and planning. And what you don't know beforehand, you can easily find out on the way: The Moroccans are extremely helpful!
The Moroccan train is an ideal means of transport for the transfer between the most important cities. The trains are considered the best in Africa, is safe, and guarantee you a relaxed journey with great views. In this way, you can see the diversity of the landscape from the comfort of the train. The high-speed LGV train (the Moroccan version of the French TGV) now runs between Tangier and Casablanca. The railway network is clear and basically consists of only two long-distance routes. These connect the cities of Tangier to the north, Marrakech to the south, and Oujda to the east. The central hub is the Sidi Kacem train station, where the two routes separate.
Of course, the trains stop at all the important places, so that you can travel between Tangier, Fès, Meknès, Oujda, Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech stations several times a day. You can easily get the tickets directly at the train station. You can easily check the timetables on the official website of Moroccan Railways www.oncf.ma.
Fares in Morocco are incredibly cheap compared to tickets in Western Europe. A single journey in 2nd class in a seated car from Tangier to Marrakech costs just 205 MAD (= around $18), in a 1st class sleeping car 350 MAD (= around $30). A one-way trip in 1st class in a seated car from Tangier to Fès costs you 155 MAD (= around $13)
Overview of the most important train connections in Morocco:
(also applies in reverse)
Tangier - Oujda (1x daily with change in Fes + 1x overnight with change in the morning in Fes): Journey time: Approximately 9-10 hours. With stops in Sidi Kacem, Fes & Meknès
Tanger - Rabat (8x daily direct + 2x with change in Sidi Kacem). Travel time Approximately 5 hours with stops in Sidi Kacem
Tangier - Marrakech (3x daily with change in Sidi Kacem or Casablanca, 1x overnight direct) Travel time : Approximately 8-10 hours with stops in Sidi Kacem, Rabat & Casablanca
Fès - Meknès (approx. 20x daily direct) Travel time: Approx. 1 hour
Fès - Casablanca (18x daily direct) Travel time: Approximately 4.5 hours with stops in Meknes, Sidi Kacem & Rabat
Fès - Marrakech (7x daily direct, 1x overnight direct) Travel time: Approximately 8 hours with stops in Meknès, Sidi Kacem, Rabat & Casablanca
Meknès - Rabat (approx. 20x daily direct) Travel time: approx. 2.5 hours with a stop in Sidi Kacem
Meknès - Marrakech (7x daily direct, 1x overnight direct) Travel time: Approximately 7 hours with stops in Sidi Kacem, Rabat & Casablanca
Rabat - Casablanca (50x daily directly every half hour) Travel time: Approx. 1 hour 15 minutes
Rabat - Marrakech (9x daily direct) Travel time: Approximately 4.5 hours with a stop in Casablanca
Casablanca - Marrakech (9x daily direct) Travel time: Approx. 3.5 hours
Oujda - Marrakech (2x daily with a change in Fes, 1x overnight with a change in the morning in Casablanca) Travel time: Approximately 14 hours with stops in Fes, Meknes, Sidi Kacem, Rabat & Casablanca
The absolute minimum for a tour of Morocco is seven days. But then you should concentrate on a certain part of the country and either travel to the royal cities, the oases, or the Anti-Atlas. Morocco is simply too big for you to be able to see all the regions mentioned within a week. With at least two weeks you can be on the safe side that everything can be done. Three weeks is ideal to travel the whole country. Then you can plan a few days for swimming.
Also, remember to build in buffer days: If you travel to Morocco on your own, things don’t always work out the way you imagine. I.e. there are no more buses and you can't get any further. You should therefore ensure a bit of flexibility.
Our pirate tip: Concentrate on a certain part of Morocco, the north with the royal cities or the south with the desert areas. Less is more because Morocco is big and the transfers are time-consuming. It therefore also makes sense to fly back from an airport other than the airport you are approaching: fly into Fes and fly back from Marrakech – and you save yourself a day's journey.
Good to know: If you are planning a tour of Morocco, you should first realize how big and how diverse the country is. The High Atlas runs through the middle of the country with several mountains over 13,000 feet high.
Although numerous companies offer tours through Morocco, these offers have two major disadvantages: On the one hand, they are considerably more expensive than an individual stay in the country. On the other hand, you spend far too much time on the bus. You can get around, but there is not enough freedom to really experience Morocco. Of course, a tour through an operator is the most convenient way to travel to Morocco. After all, you don't have to organize anything. But if you bring enough adventurous spirit with you, you can confidently plan your Morocco tour on your own.
We have come up with a small tour for you, which will take you to the famous royal cities and the beautiful coast.
On this journey, you will experience the different parts of the kingdom and at the same time have the opportunity to get to know the rich tradition of the country and its scenic treasures. You drive through Morocco on your own with a rental car, which allows you to experience the kingdom intensively.
Itinerary: Fes - Marrakech - Essaouira - Casablanca - FesRoute: Fès – Marrakesch - Essaouira - Casablanca - Fès
Pick up your rental car and drive to your first accommodation in Fez.
After freshening up, it's time to explore the city. Fez is the third largest city in Morocco and the oldest of the country's four imperial cities. Discover the lively souks of the medina and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city.
The most famous building is the Dyer and Tannery of Fès located in the old town, of El Bali. Another highlight is the Royal Palace of Fès, which is not accessible to visitors. A visit to the Roman ruins in Volubilis is also worthwhile.
Experience Fès and let yourself be captivated by the city. Be sure to try the typical Moroccan food in one of the many small restaurants.
On the way to Marrakech, you should definitely make a stop at the royal city of Meknes. Certainly a small detour, but the visit is definitely worth it! You can go to Marrakech in two different ways. The longer route takes you through the Atlas Mountains. You first come through the cozy ski village of Ifrane. We continue to the Berber village of Azrou, which lies on the western edge of the Middle Atlas. You finally reach Marrakech via the city of Beni Mellal.
The alternative route takes you via the capital Rabat. Use the time and visit the mausoleum of Mohammed V. and the Hassan Tower before finally heading to Marrakech.
Marrakech is also called the "Pearl of the South" and is one of the 4 imperial cities. The main attraction of the city is the Djemaa el Fna, the world-famous medieval market and executioner's square. Today it is a lively place of oriental storytellers, snake charmers, and jugglers. In the new town is the Jardin Majorelle, which impresses with its variety of plants and peculiar architecture.
The famous souks are also worth seeing. Here you can buy typical souvenirs such as spices, colorful clothes, leather goods, and lamps. Here you can put your skills to the test when trading.
In the morning you head towards Essaouira. After about 3 hours of driving, you will reach the cozy fishing village on the Atlantic coast. The drive there alone is a highlight.
The port city of Essaouira, with its souks and UNESCO-protected old town, presents itself mysteriously like something out of a fairy tale from 1001 nights. Let the charm of the city work its magic on you and explore the area.
Today you make your way to Casablanca. The journey takes about 5 hours. Once there, you check into your accommodation for 2 nights and can relax a bit first. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. It is located south of the capital Rabat directly on the Atlantic coast. The cityscape of Casablanca is characterized on the one hand by the new and modern mosque and on the other hand by modern high-rise buildings.
One of Casablanca's must-see attractions is the Hassan II Mosque. It is the fifth-largest mosque in the world and can accommodate 25,000 people. Dress code: Modest, in muted colors. Women should cover their hair and wear clothing that covers the knees and arms
After visiting the mosque, you can end the evening in Casablanca comfortably in one of the numerous cafés with a glass of tea before the journey continues the next day.
Your last leg takes you from Casablanca back to Fès. You should allow 3-4 hours for the journey. Use the last day to review your impressions and buy the last few memorabilia. Don't forget to trade!
Of course, you can change this trip as you wish. Our route is intended to serve as inspiration only.
Morocco is considered a safe and easy-to-travel to a vacation destination. As an American tourist, however, you are considered rich in an African country, so beware of thieves, especially in large crowds. But before you travel, you are welcome to check the travel.state.gov website, which always has the latest travel information ready for you.
Please be aware that you are traveling in an Islamic country. It is therefore advisable to wear modest clothing in public and to avoid short and strapless clothing. Last but not least, note that if you are out and about during Ramadan, there may be restrictions on everyday life outside of the tourist centers (closed restaurants, different opening times).
No special vaccinations are required for a holiday in Morocco, but standard vaccination protection is recommended. Common mosquito repellents and wearing light clothing that covers your arms and legs are recommended to prevent mosquitoes. You are in a different culture, so please make sure that there are other hygiene regulations. Don't drink water from the normal water tap and pay a little attention to the preparation when eating food at the market.
The consumption of alcohol is heavily regulated in Morocco. Even light alcoholic beverages may only be sold in licensed bars. However, most hostels and restaurants sell alcohol without being licensed to do so. In contrast, marijuana and hashish are openly traded in many areas. It's officially forbidden, but nobody cares.
Important to know: The King of Morocco is both the head of state and the religious leader of Morocco. This is also the reason for Morocco's stability and insensitivity to radical Islam. At the same time, any criticism of the king and his family is considered an absolute taboo.
Women from the West are treated with exquisite courtesy, especially within the Berber communities. Traveling alone is far less problematic than one might assume. Only the big cities and especially the suburbs are unsafe terrain.