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Travel to Morocco

We are considering a trip to Southern Spain and Morocco in the fall of 2019 (probably November). I have not visited Morocco since a business trip there in the mid-1980s when I visited Casablanca & Rabat. This trip I’d like to focus on Fez & Marrakech. We will likely be visiting Southern Spain just before we go to Morocco. Should we bypass the ferry from Spain, transiting Tangier, then train to Fez and Marrakech? Or should we opt to fly directly from Sevilla or Gibraltar to Fez, then continue to Marrakech by train? We expect to spend 4-5 nights in each city, and will return to Europe (Lisbon) by air from Marrakech. Can anyone give us recommendations on Moroccan train service, accommodations in Fez and/or Marrakech, safety concerns. Should we arrange for local guides? Would this best be done through our hotel(s) upon arrival? Has anyone safely used ATMs in Morocco to get cash? We are a low-key married Gay couple, so obviously want to share a room. Many thanks!

Posted by
5487 posts

You picked two of the best cities in Morocco to visit. Not sure about the ferry? Don't waste any time in Tangier.

We have been to Morocco and friends took the train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. They said it was nice.

Morocco is fairly safe, but there are always areas to avoid, just ask at your local hotel.

Posted by
16883 posts

You might as well just fly to Fes/Fez. Probably from Sevilla, and usually cheap, but flights may not operate every day; try www.skyscanner.com as a search engine. Trains are easy and reliable between the big cities, and cheap compared to Europe. See www.oncf.ma.

Yes, I used ATMs years ago and they can only have gotten better. (At that time, there tended to be one day of the week that they were down for maintenance.)

Definitely hotels and small riads will all have contacts with licensed local guides and a guide would give you a good orientation to each city. It's especially easy to get lost in Fes medina, but after the first day, you might allow yourself to do so, and then ask for directions later.

Public displays of affection by anybody are frowned upon but I think you'll have no trouble with hotel accommodations.

Posted by
3662 posts

The high speed line is a shorter stretch and probably not on the Fes Marrakech run. Looks like there are some single train journeys between these 2 far flung places, about 7 hours.

I think you could substitute Meknes for Marrakech to avoid the cross country train trek and still see 2 interesting cities. Personally feel the best thing about Marrakech is the CSN song.

There is a sleeper train overnight from Fes to Marrakesh.

Posted by
14917 posts

No-brainer. Fly to/from Morocco.

I just looked at rome2rio.com which shows 3 hours for flying (including lead time at the airport) and over 6.5 hours by train from Fes to Marrakech. Instead of 4-5N in each city, look for a 2-4N tour from one to the other, neither city warrants 4-5N. Or better yet, look for a tour for your entire time there. I was on a 13N tour last year in mid-October that included Casablanca (meh) and Rabat (a little more interesting) and everywhere else was amazing. The people were very friendly. I had no trouble using ATM's but it wasn't so easy to find them. I think I would have been better off changing cash $$ (the ATMs charged local fees of about $5 per transaction and the exchange rates were crummy). FYI tourists get free SIM cards (you need to show your passport) that you can then add top up with data just about anywhere - even little news/tobacco shops - that is cheap. Wifi was sketchy in some of the hotels (the tour used the best available) but data access was good to excellent nearly everywhere.

Posted by
287 posts

I'm in Rabat as I type and actually just came back from Fez on a weekend trip! On a general note, ATMs in Morocco are readily available and typically work great. I find that the Moroccan post office bank does not like my debit card, and you do usually have a 2000 dirham (about $200) limit withdrawal. You'll usually get 200 and 100 bills, but try to get change as soon as possible, because people HATE those larger bills.

I think if you are not planning to visit Tangier and the surrounding area, then flying from Sevilla is probably the most convenient option. If you would still prefer to take the ferry then the train, you would be on the high-speed Al Boraq TGV until probably Kenitra with a change to a slower train to either Fez or Marrakech. Either way, the train between Fez and Marrakech is very easy to take. I recommend paying the extra money for first class on the trains so that you will get assigned seating in less crowded conditions, and most likely AC (occasionally it's not working in 1st class but usually it is!).

Local taxis in Fez are red and in Marrakech they are beige. Theoretically every taxi should be willing to give you a metered ride (xddm l-kuntur 3afak / avec le compteur s'il vous plaît). In practice, especially in Marrakech, this will not be the case when you arrive at the train station. Usually the metered amount between the train station and the historical medina is 10-15 dirham ($1-2). If the driver won't use the meter, you're supposed to negotiate a price before you head out. In Marrakech I think I just ended up paying 30 dirham on the way to the medina. Sometimes it'll work out better if you walk away from the train station to get a cab that's just passing by. It's also normal for taxis to pick up more than one fare if it's logistically feasible, so if a taxi already has someone in it you can say where you're going and they'll tell you yes or no (and the same might happen to a taxi you're already inside).

In Fez, I stayed at Dar Borj and found it to be lovely. I saw the courtyard at Riad Laaroussa and it looks absolutely gorgeous as well. In Marrakech, I did a weekend stay at Riad Albatoul, which was also just wonderful. Your hotels are almost always able to arrange things for you with regards to tours. Marrakech can feel tiring because there is a much more antagonistic atmosphere to the relationship between tourists and people working in the tourism industry (it may bear mentioning that I'm usually traveling as a solo female so the attention is a lot.... "more."). I do recommend the restaurants Naranj and Un Déjeuner à Marrakech, both on the same street which also has many slightly more "upscale" souvenir shops.

Posted by
5621 posts

We visited Morocco in January this year, including Marrakech and Fes. One of us came directly from the USA, and one had been in southern France, so we both flew there - fast and affordable. Our fantastic Dar Kawa riad in Marrakech arranged for a guide of the Medina. We also had a group market and cooking class attended by many nationalities. Our great Dar Finn riad in Fes arranged for a tremendous guide to Volubilis and other sights in the region. We were the only guests in January, so their soaking pool wasn’t open, and our room took space heaters and 3 days to get the room and the shower water warm enough - cold days and nights in Fes that time of year. Marrakech was not as cool, but nights were still chilly.

We also flew roundtrip between Marrakech and Fes, then back to Marrakech for a few nights before doing a guided, driven tour of the mountains and desert for a week, so we didn’t have any train experiences. But we did get an unexpected tuk-tuk ride one afternoon in Marrakech.

An occasional ATM didn’t process our card for cash withdrawals, in Fez and also in Ouarzazate, but another ATM was always nearby that did. One of us did the transaction while the other kept watch, when there were people nearby. Cash is used much more in Morocco than in the increasingly credit-card-prevalent USA, Spain, etc. As Amy mentioned, daily limits meant more frequent cash withdrawals than we’d done elsewhere.

As for Tom mentioning the Marrakesh Express song, Graham Nash had been in 1st class on a train from Casablanca to Marrakech, with three blue-haired American women. Bored, he wandered back to the relative melee in a cheaper car, with people cooking on little stoves, and an animal or two onboard. The other Hollies weren’t interested in releasing the song, but Crosby and Stills welcomed it after Nash joined up.