Road trip for autotourists in Morocco
If you are looking for a road trip adventure that will take you to a land of contrasts, where you can experience ancient and modern, desert and mountain, tradition and innovation, then Morocco is the perfect destination for you. This fascinating country in North Africa offers a variety of attractions and activities that will appeal to any traveler. However, to fully enjoy the beauty and diversity of Morocco, you need to have a car. Driving in Morocco will allow you to explore its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and delicious cuisine at your own pace and according to your preferences. In this article, we will give you some tips and advice on how to prepare and enjoy the ultimate road trip in Morocco.
Why is it better to have a car when traveling in Morocco?
Morocco has a lot to offer to travelers, from its vibrant cities and historic monuments to its natural wonders and exotic markets. However, not all of these attractions are easily accessible by public transportation or organized tours. Having a car will allow you to visit places that are off the beaten track, such as remote villages, hidden oases, or scenic routes. You will also have more flexibility and freedom to choose your itinerary, stop whenever you want, and stay as long as you like. Moreover, having a car will save you time and money, as you won’t have to depend on schedules, fares, or availability of buses, trains, or taxis.
Importance of issuing an International Driving Permit before renting a car in Morocco
If you are planning to rent a car in Morocco, you will need to have a valid driver’s license from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a document that translates your driver’s license into multiple languages, including Arabic and French, which are the official languages of Morocco. It is mandatory for foreigners who want to drive legally in Morocco. Without an IDP, you may face fines, penalties, or even imprisonment if you get caught driving without one.
You can obtain an IDP from your home country before you travel to Morocco. The process and cost may vary depending on your country of origin, but usually it involves filling out an application form, providing a passport photo, a copy of your driver’s license, and a fee.
Best advices when renting a car in Morocco
Renting a car in Morocco is relatively easy and affordable, as long as you have the required documents and meet the eligibility criteria. You will need a valid driver’s license from your home country, an IDP, a passport, and a credit card. You must also be at least 21 years old (or 26 for some luxury cars) and have at least one year of driving experience.
When choosing a car, consider your itinerary, budget, and preferences. If you plan to visit remote areas or drive on rough roads, you may want to opt for an SUV or a 4x4. If you want to save on gas and parking fees, you may prefer a compact or an economy car. If you want to enjoy the views and the breeze, you may splurge on a convertible.
Before you accept the car, make sure to inspect it for any damage, check the fuel level, and test the brakes, lights, and air conditioning. Take photos of any scratches or dents and report them to the staff. Also, ask about the insurance coverage, the mileage limit, the toll fees, and the return policy.
Places that are must-visit for autotourists in Morocco
Morocco has many amazing places to visit by car that are not easily accessible by public transportation or too far from the main tourist attractions. Here are some of them:
Chefchaouen: This is one of the most picturesque towns in Morocco, famous for its blue-washed buildings that contrast with the green mountains surrounding it. You can drive to Chefchaouen from Tangier or Fes, and enjoy its charming atmosphere, its artisanal shops, and its nearby hiking trails.
The Atlas Mountains: This is one of the most scenic and diverse regions in Morocco, where you can drive along winding roads that offer breathtaking views of the snow-capped peaks, the lush valleys, the cascading waterfalls, and the ancient villages. You can also visit some of the attractions in the area, such as the Todra Gorge, the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, the Ouzoud Falls, and the Ourika Valley.
Essaouira: This is one of the most relaxed and charming coastal towns in Morocco, where you can drive from Marrakech or Agadir and enjoy its whitewashed medina, its fortified ramparts, its sandy beach, and its fresh seafood. Essaouira is also a popular destination for surfers, kite surfers, and windsurfers, thanks to its consistent wind and waves.
Volubilis: This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Morocco, where you can drive from Meknes or Fes and explore the ruins of an ancient Roman city that dates back to the 3rd century BC. You can admire the well-preserved mosaics, arches, columns, and temples that testify to the rich history and culture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sahara Desert: This is one of the most iconic experiences in Morocco, where you can drive to the edge of the desert and join a camel trek or a 4x4 tour to the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga. You can also spend the night in a desert camp under the stars and enjoy the Berber hospitality and music.
Tips and tricks for driving in Morocco
Driving in Morocco is not very difficult, but there are some things you need to know and follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some tips and tricks:
Drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left.
Follow the speed limits, which are usually 60 km/h (37 mph) in urban areas, 80 km/h (50 mph) on national roads, and 100–120 km/h (62–75 mph) on expressways.
Avoid using your mobile phone while driving, unless you have a hands-free device. It is prohibited and can lead to fines.
Do not drink and drive. Morocco has strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.02%, which is very low. If you exceed this limit, you may face severe penalties or even imprisonment.
Be careful of wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk. Morocco has various animals that may cross the roads, such as camels, goats, donkeys, dogs, and monkeys. Drive slowly and cautiously to avoid accidents.
Respect the local culture and etiquette when driving in Morocco. Some things to remember are:
Use your horn sparingly and only when necessary. Honking excessively or aggressively is considered rude and may cause road rage.
Do not gesture or swear at other drivers or pedestrians. This is also considered rude and may provoke a confrontation.
Do not park illegally or block other cars. This is not only disrespectful but also illegal and may result in fines or towing.
What is important to know about culture and people before going to Morocco?
Morocco is a country with a rich and diverse culture that reflects its ancient heritage and modern trends. Before going to Morocco, it is important to know some aspects of its culture and people that will help you understand and appreciate it better. Here are some of them:
Religion: Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, with Islam being the official religion and influencing many aspects of life, such as dress code, diet, prayer times, and holidays. However, Morocco is also tolerant of other religions, and you can find Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, and Baha’i temples in some cities. As a visitor, you should respect the religious beliefs and practices of Moroccans, and avoid any offensive or insensitive behavior, such as drinking alcohol in public, eating during Ramadan, or entering mosques without permission.
Language: The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber (or Amazigh), which are spoken by most Moroccans as their mother tongue or second language. However, many Moroccans also speak French, which is widely used in business, education, and media. Some Moroccans also speak Spanish, especially in the northern regions, or English, especially among the younger generation. As a visitor, you should learn some basic phrases in Arabic or French to communicate with locals and show respect for their culture.
Dress Code: Morocco is a conservative country, and you should dress modestly and respectfully when visiting. This means avoiding revealing or tight-fitting clothes, such as shorts, skirts, tank tops, or low-cut shirts. You should also cover your shoulders, knees, and chest, especially when visiting religious or rural areas. Women may also want to carry a scarf to cover their hair when entering mosques or sacred sites. Men should also avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts in public. However, you can dress more casually and comfortably in tourist areas, such as beaches or resorts.
Etiquette: Morocco is a hospitable and friendly country, and you will encounter many gestures of kindness and generosity from locals. Some of the etiquette rules that you should follow are:
Greet people with a handshake and a smile, and use titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when addressing someone for the first time. You can also use the Arabic greeting “Salaam alaikum” (peace be upon you) and the response “Wa alaikum salaam” (and upon you peace).
Accept invitations to tea or meals from locals, as this is a sign of friendship and respect. However, be careful not to overstay your welcome or impose on your host’s hospitality. You can also bring a small gift, such as sweets, flowers, or souvenirs from your country.
Use your right hand for eating, shaking hands, or giving and receiving things, as the left hand is considered unclean in Islamic culture. You can also use bread as a utensil to scoop up food from communal dishes. However, avoid eating pork or drinking alcohol in public, as these are forbidden in Islam.
Respect the local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes before entering someone’s home or a mosque, avoiding public displays of affection, and refraining from criticizing the king or the government.
In conclusion, driving in Morocco is an amazing way to discover the country’s diverse landscapes, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. By renting a car, obtaining an IDP, following the road rules, respecting the etiquette, and exploring the hidden gems, you can have a wonderful journey through the land of contrasts. So, get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Morocco!