Next week my husband and I will be starting a month of travel in Morocco. We are flying in to Casablanca and need recommendations for a safe place to stay near the tram station. Also any recommendations for a good car rental service.
It's a little unclear based on your post where exactly you want to be - do you mean the airport / airport's train station? If so, maybe the ONOMO hotel - it also has a shuttle to and from the airport. Or if you mean on the tramway, do you want a specific area or station?
Morocco has most of the same car rental agencies that you'll find in Europe (and generally around the world). I have to admit that Casablanca would not be high up on my list of places I'd like to drive. Have you considered doing part of your trip by public transportation? It's so easy to do in Morocco, and that way you could choose to pick up the car somewhere where the first bit of driving is calmer. That said, I haven't been to the Casa airport in a long time, only in the city center, so perhaps it's not too intense out there and I'm just not aware!
I have to admit that Casablanca would not be high up on my list of places I'd like to drive
Actually, I'm not sure that Casablanca would be particularly horrible to drive in. I haven't driven in Casablanca, though I've been there (and watched the movie yesterday, in case that helps). I have driven in Marrakech, and elsewhere in Morocco.
Driving in any big foreign city can be stressful. I found driving in Paris quite stressful. Driving in Marrakech wasn't great, but it seemed no worse than driving in Paris (easier than Mexico City).
All that said, I would suggest you calibrate your expectations about just being in Casablanca, never mind the driving. I see you are planning a lengthy trip in Morocco (lucky you). If your trip was short I'd suggest you not waste any time in Casablanca, but it looks like you have time to spare. Still, I would plan minimal time there. One big mosque and that's about it for sightseeing IME (a modern building, ornate, but not historic). My stay there was some years ago and I would not recommend my hotel (saw the biggest cockroach of my life in my room...). As for rental agencies...as stated above, you will find all the familiar companies you see in Europe and elsewhere.
Have fun and Assalamu Alaykom ("peace be upon you")
Thank you for your replies. I had meant to type train station not tram. Anyway, we are going to use the train into Casablanca, spend one night and then catch train to Rabat. It is sounding like pubic transportation is the way to go between some of the bigger cities. Since we have no definite itinerary just ideas of places to go we welcome any suggestions you might have...must sees, roads, etc. was a little concerned about what to eat but sounds like Mexico type of precautions. Are grand taxis a good options to consider?
That does change things - I do think it's worthwhile to see the mosque in Casablanca - it's the only one in Morocco that you can go inside if you are non-Muslim, and it's pretty impressive. Non-Muslims have to buy a ticket for a tour, and then you get a bag to carry your shoes in as you go through.
Personally, I like using the train best for getting around between cities - it's affordable, comfortable, and easy. You do obviously lose some ability to be mobile as opposed to having a car, and not all places are easily accessible by train (one example often on tourist lists is Chefchaouen, which is in fact very pretty, just also kind of an excellent example of what Instagram can do to a place). I haven't taken grand taxis, though some of my classmates last summer did. They said it was definitely a good experience, albeit a little complicated (in their case they were needing to combine a bus and a grand taxi).
Petit taxis are very handy for local transportation - just bear in mind that they can take more than one fare as long as it's no more than three people. The practical consideration is that if they pull over and already have a fare, they may or may not agree to take you (depends on if you are going the same direction). Sometimes tourists take it personally if they get denied or don't get why there's already someone in the cab, when it's actually just normal.
Rabat is not a huge tourist destination, but it is nice and has several good sites. If you need a place to stay, I can recommend Dar Maysanne, having stayed there one night. If you want to have a family stay experience, you can find plenty of folks on AirBnB (including my former host mom!).
As far as cities in general, Marrakech is easily my least favorite, but I really enjoy Fes, Asilah, Tangier (controversial opinion!), and though I haven't been recently, Volubilis was a top site for me as a young adult.
I'm in the camp that doesn't care much for Rabat or Tangier. I'd spend my time more happily in Marrakech, Fes, Meknes, Volubilis, Essouaria, Ait Benhaddou, and other smaller places south of the mountains, in the gorges, and out on the edge of the real desert. The train system is pretty good - inherited from the French colonial era. The train station in Marrakech is spectacular - new, all gleaming marble, obviously built to impress. Train from Marrakech to Fes takes all day, but it is a long way (perfectly comfortable, clean and safe, it feels slightly French because it is). They're building a high-speed rain line but AFAIK it's far from finished (when it is done, America can feel even more shame about it's horrible rail service, far worse than those in places from Poland to Morocco).
Yes, food/water/hygiene discipline absolutely should be strictly observed, same as in Mexico or any other developing country. Take it seriously if you want to stay healthy. And be sure all your vaccinations are up to date before you leave - this is Africa. Check with your doctor or travel medicine clinic long before you go.
Just FYI - The TGV al-Boraq is up and operational between Casablanca and Tangier since 2018, and the train stations along the way are gradually being updated as well!
I'm torn on the American rail service thing - it is pretty bad a lot of the time, but I also love Amtrak vacations - it's a great way to get to the middle of nowhere - slowly! But yes, we should definitely follow the example of countries around the world, including Morocco, who are working on public transportation infrastructure (or already have admirable systems in place).
Can you just keep going and get out of Casablanca? It reminded me of Newark, maybe not as nice, ki would never spend a night there.
Thank you for your suggestions. We have booked two nights at Dar Mayssane and then would like to head to Meknes/Volubilis for a couple of days by public transportation and then to Fez. Accommodation recommendations appreciated. Also has anyone taken the three day Sahara tour out of Marakesh? Or hired a tour guide from?
For recommendations - lots and lots of good riad options are out there. In Fes I've stayed at and enjoyed Dar Borj. In Marrakech, Riad Albatoul was one I liked a lot. If you head up to Tangier, La Tangerina is probably one of my top ever lodging experiences. To my knowledge La Tangerina does not use online booking aggregators so you would need to reach out to them directly.