To Drive or not to Drive in Morocco?
Is it Challenging?
When you look into the option of driving yourself in Morocco, you find a lot of warnings against it. It is true that some people drive like maniacs, roads aren’t that well marked in places, and animals and other hazards are often in the road. But, it wasn’t our first rodeo driving in a third world country, so we weren’t that off-put. And, given what we wanted to do, driving ourselves was by far the most efficient option. So, we decided to rent a car for the Marrakech-to-Sahara-to-Fes portion of our trip. In retrospect, it was totally manageable. Don’t get scared off by all of the warnings.
Just picking up the car ended up being the biggest hassle. That, however, was a self-inflicted wound. We went to the Marrakech airport to get the car. They couldn’t find our reservation, so Chris pulled up the confirmation. At that point, the guy pointed out that our reservation was for a car at the Casablanca airport, not Marrakech. Ugh… So, we sat around the airport for a couple of hours while they tried to find another car for us. The better part of me thought “everyone makes mistakes, and a small delay isn’t the end of the world.” Unfortunately, the other part of me gave Chris a small lecture about the importance of attention to detail. He puts up with me, which is nice.
We didn’t have data service turned on for our phones, so we had to cobble together a navigation plan. It generally works if you download the detailed map of your trip in advance, when you have Wifi. GPS works without data, so you at least can know where you are. It made it pretty easy when we got outside of the cities. Within the cities, more than a few wrong turns were taken. But, it wasn’t too bad. We recently switched our cell service to T-Mobile, primarily because it offers free data in 100+ countries. Unfortunately, one of those countries is not Morocco. But, we’ve used it since on another trip abroad and it’s life changing!
The only real issue we had with the drive was when we got pulled over for going 6 KM over the speed limit while passing in a legal passing zone. Luckily, Chris had been warned by his Moroccan barber in New York that traffic cops in Morocco like to do that. Normally I wouldn’t play chicken with a cop in a foreign country, but this background information combined with the fact that I speak French emboldened me. So, when the officer told us that we owed him $50, I responded “That cannot be true.” He insisted it was, explaining that the fines go in ranges and everything from 6 KM over the limit to 60 is $50. We had a little bit of a stand off, both repeating our positions. But, he didn’t start writing a ticket. So, that confirmed to me that this was just a private shake-down. There seemed to be some weird shake-down code of ethics whereby he wouldn’t actually say I had to hand over the money before he’d let us go. So, I said we’d slow down and asked if we were done. He aqcuiesced, but told us that if we sped again, the fine would be doubled. Ok, dude. I’m pretty sure there is no system by which you are disseminating news of this warning to other cops further down the road. So, we’ll take our chances. And we had no problems after that.