Let’s hit the road in this North African country and see what we can cover on a 2-3 week Morocco road trip. While you might be turned off by the idea of driving around Morocco, the combination of relatively good roads, a quiet countryside and friendly people make this an option for those who don’t mind getting behind the wheel of a reliable rental car.
A Guide to Renting a Car in Morocco
First up…should you book a car for your Moroccan road trip online or find one when you arrive? The answer in my opinion is to book online. In fact, it’s probably essential to reserve a car in advance in high season in order to ensure you get a decent car at a decent price.
The minimum age at which you can rent a car is 19, however, in many cases, drivers are required to have held their license for at least two years prior to renting. Additionally, as is common throughout the world, many rental companies charge a Young Driver Fee for drivers under a certain age (typically under 23).
As for an International Driver’s Permit, it’s not required to either drive or rent in Morocco.
In terms of cost, you can expect to rent a mini category car for as little s $130 USD for 2 weeks. However, I’d recommend a bigger, sturdier vehicle for such a trip as this will come in handy when away from the cities. You’ll be able to move at a faster pace while on the open road and you’ll be able to climb up the mountain roads with greater ease. It’s also more comfortable considering you’ll spend a decent amount of time inside the vehicle!
A larger economy or intermediate size vehicle should cost around $220 – $320 from a reputable rental agency, again, for a similar 2 week period.
The most confusing part about renting a car anywhere in the world is the insurance. Renting in Morocco is no exception. To start, most rental companies include Theft Protection, Third-Party Liability and a Collision Damage Waiver with all of their rentals and to all customers.
A Collision Damage Waiver (or Loss Damage Waiver) is a contract between you and the rental company that waives any charges for damage to the car’s body over the deductible or excess. However, since the deductible/excess for all rental companies in Morocco is at least $1,000, you need to have this amount available on your credit card. The rental company will put a hold on your credit card for the deductible amount for the duration of your rental. If this amount exceeds your credit limit, you’ll need to purchase extra insurance from the rental car company.
If you look at Discover Car Hire’s website, you can actually sort the results by the required deposit helping you find a car that requires the lowest hold on your credit card. They also offer Full Coverage for $9 per day, which is about half of what it would cost at the rental counter, making this coverage a good option for those who want to eliminate the deductible and risk altogether.
Many travelers, especially Americans, have credit cards that provide coverage for rental cars in Morocco. To use this coverage, you must decline the rental company’s Collision Damage Waiver. Note that credit cards usually do not provide third-party liability coverage, so you must make sure the rental company still includes that in your rental contract.
Note that when renting in Morocco, you can not take the car outside of Morocco. Due to political reasons, the border with Algeria is closed to all traffic. It may be possible to take your car to Western Sahara, though. Morocco considers this to be part of its sovereign territory and therefore treats travel to it as domestic travel.
The Pick-Up and Drop-Off
There are many instances all over the world of rental companies attempting to charge customers for damage that the car already had. I had this happen to me after renting a car on the island of Ibiza. Even large, international rental companies can try this and it does happen in Morocco.
The best approach is to make note of every scratch or dent on the car on the damage report when picking up the car. Do not trust the rental company’s employees to mark everything properly. It is also a good idea to take pictures of the damage. This may help you avoid charges for damage you didn’t cause upon dropping the car off.
After my Ibiza incident, I’ve started taking a video of the entire outside of the vehicle as extra protection as well. This way, if they try to claim damage, I have a very clear video to prove what was already on the car.
Now that the rental details are out of the way, let’s move on to my recommended itinerary…
Morocco Road Trip Itinerary
With a ton of destinations and routes, you could easily spend a couple of months exploring this country. But of course, most of us have a couple of weeks when we travel somewhere. So, using that time frame, I’ve put together what would be my personal favorite Morocco road trip itinerary based on my extensive travels here.
Let’s get going…
Okay. This has never been my favorite city on the planet but it’s definitely an ideal spot to begin your trip, being home to the largest and most well-connected airport in the country. Arrive, stay at the centrally-located Kenzi Basma Hotel or the more budget friendly Hotel Maamoura, visit the impressive Hassan II Mosque, eat at Restaurant Al-Mounia and then pick up your rental car on the morning you’re ready to head out of town.
Get on the A1 Highway heading north, make a stop in Rabat if you have time and then turn east onto the A2 towards…
It’s a small imperial city and the relatively peaceful local market is worth exploring. The main Bab Mansour gate and the Bou Inania Madrasa should not be missed before spending the late afternoon at my favorite spot in the city, the super impressive Royal Stables, located about a 20 minute walk away from the market.
For a half day trip out of town, drive through the beautiful hills and around the village of Moudray Idriss until you reach the ancient and impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis. Hire a local guide from the ticket office and you’ll easily spend 2 hours here learning the history and admiring the landscapes.
For many tourists, this picturesque pastel blue town in northern Morocco needs to be on the itinerary. I personally don’t think it’s worth it as it adds about 7 hours of extra driving time, there’s not much to do there and it is often jam-packed with big tour groups. You’ll get a few nice photos for sure but because a Morocco road trip already involves a decent amount of driving, I’d rather spend my time somewhere with less crowds and spend less time on the road.
So, from Meknes, it’s a short one hour drive east to…
With its sprawling medina, endless lanes and abundance of gorgeous buildings to check out, Fes is well worth a couple of nights. Staying at a riad in the heart of the medina is the way to go so that you simply need to walk out the front door in order to find yourself among the colors, sounds, smells and action of this vibrant destination. While you’ll want to visit the Al-Attarine Madrasa, Bab Bou Jeloud gate, Funduq al-Najjariyyin (impressive wood carving museum) and the Chouara Tannery, leave sufficient time for aimless wandering as well.
The best gems of this city lie in the areas that don’t receive many visitors as most people pop in for a few hours, see a few sights and then take off. Don’t be afraid to speak with locals you come across or to duck into mosques, madrasas, markets and more that don’t have lines of tourists outside. This is what will lead to all kinds of invitations for local experiences that you wouldn’t be able to organize on your own.
Continuing this Morocco road trip, you’ll go south along the mountainous N13…
It’s a long day of driving up and over the High Atlas Mountains but you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to stop for a break. From the Swiss-like town of Ifrane to a spot in the forest that’s home to the Barbary Apes, from viewpoints over the absolutely gorgeous Ziz Valley to fossil workshops in the town of Erfoud (sounds touristy but is actually quite fascinating), the journey will pass quickly with so much to see along the way.
When you arrive in Merzouga in the late afternoon, settle into your guesthouse (I highly recommend Riad Madu) and watch the sun set over the dunes of the Sahara nearby. Then, enjoy a good night’s sleep before you begin a desert adventure the following day.
*Arrange to leave your car at the Riad the next day/night.
Now it’s time to head off into the Erg Chebbi dunes for your overnight Sahara Desert experience. Typically, you’ll leave town in the afternoon and you can travel by camel, jeep or foot (walking across the desert is my absolutely favorite option!) to reach your desert camp.
Most camps offer meals and activities to keep your evening busy before you head to sleep in your incredibly quiet surroundings. A Sahara desert experience is a must but definitely choose one of the reputable desert camps for your stay!
After a night out in the desert, you’ll return to Merzouga the next morning and you can either spend another night here (which gives you time to visit some local Gnawa villages) or you can head off towards the Dades Valley, about a 4 hour drive away.
Leaving Merzouga, you’ll take the N12 and N10 to reach…
I’ll say it. This is my favorite region of Morocco. I could easily spend a week in this valley, staying at the beautiful Chez Pierre guesthouse, hiking through the Monkey Fingers gorge, taking a 4WD trip across the high desert, through the Valley of the Roses, into the remote towns of Agoulzi and Bou Tharar, walking through local Berber villages, interacting with all kinds of people, eating homemade food and simply enjoying this genuine area that few travelers visit. Take your time, spend a few days here and you will undoubtedly fall in love with this region too!
Coming out of the valley, you’ll head west on the N10 and continue to the N9 which will send you directly to…
Eventually, though, you’ll need to get going and the next drive will take you up and over the mountains one last time en route to Marrakech. On the way, you can stop in Ourzazate (famous for its film studios and casbahs), you can wander through Ait ben Haddou (UNESCO village where many films were made, such as Babel, The Mummy and Gladiator) and you should also stop at every viewpoint you can along the twisty, stunning mountain route.
Then, once in Marrakech, check in to your accommodation (again, I’d go with a local riad in the medina), head to the main square in the old quarter, Jemaa el-Fnaa, and cap off your day with great food and a lively atmosphere that begins as soon as the sun sets.
During your stay in Marrakech, I can highly recommend visiting the Marjorelle Gardens, the House of Photography Museum and the Bahia Palace. Then spend the rest of your time wandering the massive markets and old city (as you can see, Morocco is great for this!) and letting the experiences unfold.
From Marrakech, if you have time, you could also drive to the coastal town of Essouira, either as a day trip or for a couple of nights. Essouira offers a beach, citadel, art galleries, traditional craft workshops, the lively Moulay Hassan Square, great food and more.
And then, from either Essouira or Marrakech, the drive back to Casablanca is a direct one, where you can drop off your car and spend one last night before your Morocco road trip comes to and!
Morocco Road Trip – Final Thoughts
To complete all of the above, you would need 3 weeks if you want to have sufficient time in each destination. If you don’t visit Chefchaouen and possibly Meknes, you could do the circuit in two weeks and that’s what I’d recommend if that’s the time frame you’re working with.
Either way, Morocco needs to be seen. During the small-group tours I organize in Morocco, it’s quite common for participants to find themselves completely surprised at the sheer diversity of landscapes, sights, people and experiences that we come across. Part of this is because Morocco is the kind of country that makes getting off the beaten path very doable, and that leads to activities and interactions that go beyond what you may see online.
Even in the cities of Marrakech and Fes, two of the most visited places in the country, all it takes is a wander down random lanes or a quick conversation with a market vendor or peeking into a beautiful quiet doorway…and before you know it, you’re away from the crowds, having the kind of local, authentic travel experience that Morocco offers visitors around every corner.
Enjoy your trip and if you have any questions at all, just let me know!
If you have more time, consider extending your Morocco road trip to the remote and otherworldly Western Sahara.
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