Driving in Marrakech & Morocco: A Guide to Morocco Roads

Morocco roads

Driving in Marrakech & Morocco

Hitting the Morocco roads offers an exhilarating way to embrace the country’s scenic landscapes and bustling city life. From the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains to the sandy stretches near the Sahara, driving here means having the freedom to explore at your own pace

Morocco Road Trip: 1 Week

Before heading to Morocco,I researched the most optimal route for a 1 week trip that allowed us to cover as much as possible by way of major cities – Marrakesh, Fez and Tangier as well as smaller towns and other experiences – Chefchaouen, Ait Benhaddou, Todra Gorge and Dades Valley and Sahara desert ofcourse!

Morocco roads

Our route was as follows:

Day 1: Pick up car at Marrakech Airport, drive to Ait Benhaddou, then Ouarzazate
Day 2: Afternoon drive to Dades Valley then drive to Todra Gorge
Day 3: Todra Gorge to Merzouga
Day 4: Merzouga to Fez
Day 5-6: Fez (no driving required in Fez itself)
Day 7: Drive to Chefchaouen
Day 8: Chefchouen to Tangier

Most car hires in Morocco offer flexibility to allow you to drop off the car in a different place from the pick up. This was perfect as we could drop it off at Tangier Airport when leaving. There is an additional fee for doing this is about $60 USD.

Car Rental Marrakech Airport

Marrakech Airport has several car rental companies operating. With most having a counters inside the Airport.

I made a booking for our car rental in advance about 2 months before our trip (although it can be done with much shorter notice) with Europcar on Booking.com after comparing models and availability.

One heads-up, though: the pick-up process isn’t as speedy as you might be used to back in the States or in Europe. It takes a bit longer, so definitely factor in some extra time, especially if you’re planning to hit the road soon after landing. Patience is key here! But once you’re set, having your own wheels is the perfect way to dive into the vibrant bustle of Morocco at your own pace.

Driving in Marrakech

Morocco Car Rental Costs

Car hire costs: US$170 for 8 days.
Insurance: This is normally a fixed amount on top, however we already had our own insurance, hence did not require it through the rental agency.
Other costs

  • One way fee: US$75 one way fee pick in Marrakech airport and drop in Tangier airport car rental
  • Petrol: US$140
Driving in Marrakech

Driving in Morocco roads in cities

In cities, Morocco roads are bustling with scooters, taxis, and pedestrians, requiring constant vigilance and patience from drivers. The urban landscape can be overwhelming with tightly packed lanes and frequent unmarked intersections.

Driving in Morocco

In Marrakesh and Fez, I would recommend finding a place close to your hotel, which is close to Medina. You don’t ideally want to be driving in Medina itself as this can be too chaotic or not possible at all, such as in Fez.

Driving in Morocco roads in the countryside

The Morocco roads are a lot easier to navigate and drive through with well marked roads for the most part. If you are sticking to main highways then the roads are largely in good condition. There are the smaller P roads which can sometimes be less well maintained – think narrower, more potholes and , or gravel. However these can be easily avoided as everywhere on our itinerary can be covered by the main roads and highways. We only encountered the P roads once on our drive from Fez to Chefchaouen.

Morocco Road Trip Map

Driving in Morocco roads on a UK license?

Morocco recognizes UK licenses and these can be used to drive around Morocco for 1 year from date of entry into the country.

However it is important to note that in Morocco people drive on the right side of the road, which is opposite to the UK where people drive on the left side. If you’re planning to drive in Morocco with a UK driver’s license, it’s important to adjust to this difference.

Driving in Morocco roads on a US license?

Morocco recognizes US license and these can be used to drive around Morocco for 1 year from date of entry into the country.

Is Driving on Morocco roads safe?

Driving in Morocco is safe for foreign drivers as long as we stay vigilant to local rules and practices. Below are notes on speed limits and rules. Here are also some common road practices to be aware of:

  1. Lack of Signaling: Many drivers in Morocco do not consistently use turn signals when changing lanes or turning. It’s crucial to stay alert and always assume other drivers might make sudden moves without signaling.
  2. Constant Honking: Honking is a frequent practice and is used as a form of communication among drivers. It can signify anything from a warning of approaching, to urging someone to move faster, or simply to greet someone. It’s much more prevalent than in many Western countries.
  3. Scooters and Motorbikes: Cities are teeming with scooters and motorbikes that often weave between cars and can appear suddenly from blind spots. You need to exercise extra vigilance to avoid them, especially in city centers and at intersections.
  4. Unmarked Speed Bumps and Potholes: Roads can have unmarked speed bumps and significant potholes, especially in rural areas.
  5. Animals on the Road: Particularly in rural areas, it’s common to encounter animals such as sheep, goats, and donkeys on the road.
  6. Police Checkpoints: There are frequent police checkpoints on roads between cities. Drivers should ensure they have all necessary documents, including a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance, readily available.

Morocco Roads speed limits and rules

  1. Urban Areas: In cities and towns, the speed limit is generally 60 km/h (about 37 mph). Streets can be narrow and busy, especially in historic areas like the Medina in Fes or Marrakech, so maintaining this speed helps manage the frequent pedestrian crossings and bustling local traffic.
  2. Rural Roads: Once you hit the rural roads, the speed limit typically increases to 80 km/h (about 50 mph). Local farmers or livestock might unexpectedly cross these less maintained roads, so even though the limit is higher, always exercise caution.
  3. Highways: For major highways connecting cities, the speed limit is usually 120 km/h (about 75 mph). Highways in Morocco are generally in good condition and provide a faster and more efficient way to travel long distances between major cities. However, keep in mind that police frequently use speed cameras and checkpoints to enforce these limits.
  4. Special Zones: Near schools, residential areas, and certain congested districts, you’ll often encounter reduced speed zones marked at 30 km/h (about 19 mph). Most places usually mark these areas with signs.

Morocco Driving Tips based on our own experience:

1. Download offline maps if driving in mountains and or to the desert. Most of the time we were fine with phone signal, however signal does drop is some areas and roads closer to the Atlas mountains and Merzouga.

2. Use Waze over Google maps: A big advantage of this is we found it more up to date on road closures and conditions in Morocco and secondly, these have most police stops indicated on the road. 

3. Make sure you are aware of Policy stops signs (see photo below): We did not realize that it is mandatory to actually come to a halt whenever we see this police stop sign on the road (which was actually quite frequent) and wait for the Police officer to usher you to pass. We did not know about the meaning of these police signs and so did not come to a full halt at our first stop and continued on, only to be stopped and questioned by a police officer further down the road. We then also had to pay a fine because we had not realized we were driving through a residential zone!

The fine was about US$20. Fines can be tricky as the policy will quote a fine as X amount, then tell you they will make you an offer for a smaller amount. This was the case in our situations well after we told them we had limited cash on us in the car. 

Morocco police stop sign

4. Be prepared for adverse weather! We happened to have a sandstorm hit on the  day we were driving to Merzouga to start our desert camping tour – see photo below. Speedy winds and heavy sand made driving extremely challenging, especially as we got closer to the desert. During this time cars slow down and drive with their hazard lights on. We followed this protocol and made sure our windows were fully up and were fine other than having to push back our tour start by an hour. Nonetheless this was a challenging experience and one I will never forget!

Driving in morocco sandstorm

Advantages of driving in Morocco

We had a lot more flexibility to pace our travel as we pleased and we got to cover a lot more smaller towns and places which can sometimes feel much more authentic than bigger cities. Although many tours offer transport between the major cities and sites, not all will have such stops along the journey. For us, driving allowed us to cover a stop in Ait Benhaddou, Todra Gorge and Dades Valley, before we got to the desert in Merzouga.

Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou

Distance: 180 km (112 miles)
Driving Time: Approximately 3 to 4 hours
This route takes you over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka pass, which reaches altitudes of over 2,260 meters (7,415 feet). The road is winding and scenic, offering stunning views but requires cautious driving, especially during poor weather.

Morocco roads

Aït Benhaddou to Ouarzazate

Distance: 35 km (22 miles)
Driving Time: About 40 minutes
The road connecting Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate is well-paved and relatively straight, making for an easy drive. This short trip crosses relatively flat terrain, featuring arid landscapes typical of the region.

Ouarzazate to Dades Valley

Distance: 120 km (75 miles)
Driving Time: Approximately 2 hours
Heading northeast from Ouarzazate, the road to Dades Valley runs alongside the Dades River, providing lush views contrasting with the stark hills. The roads are generally in good condition, though curvy as it navigates through small villages and rugged landscapes.

Morocco roads

Dades Valley to Todra Gorge

Distance: 50 km (31 miles)
Driving Time: About 1 hour
This short drive is quite spectacular, taking you through narrow roads surrounded by towering rock walls. The road is mostly paved but can be narrow at points, requiring careful navigation.

Todra Gorge to Merzouga

Distance: 200 km (124 miles)
Driving Time: Around 3 to 4 hours
The road to Merzouga stretches across more arid, desert landscapes and becomes increasingly sandy and unpaved as you approach the Sahara Desert’s edge. Driving conditions can vary with weather, and it’s advisable to travel with supplies and possibly in a convoy if not experienced in desert driving.

Merzouga to Fez

Distance: 470 km (292 miles)
Driving Time: Approximately 7 to 8 hours
This is a long haul across diverse terrains, including arid desert and mountainous areas. The route includes both well-paved highways and rural roads, with some stretches that are less maintained. This journey requires preparation for long stretches without services. Check out our detailed post on things to do in Fez here.

Fez to Chefchaouen

Distance: 200 km (124 miles)
Driving Time: About 3.5 to 4 hours
The route from Fez to Chefchaouen goes through the Rif Mountains, which are less rugged than the Atlas but still require careful driving on twisty mountain roads. The scenery is lush and markedly different from the arid south.

Chefchaeoun

Chefchaouen to Tangier

Distance: 110 km (68 miles)
Driving Time: Approximately 2 to 2.5 hours
This drive takes you north through the Rif Mountains to the coastal city of Tangier. The road is generally in good condition and offers scenic views of the green, rolling hills of the Rif and eventually, glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea as you approach Tangier.