Traveling through Morocco in a Van
There are many ways one could travel to the enchanting land of Morocco. You could easily fly to one of the major airports in Rabat or Marrakesh. Perhaps you could take the ferry down from Spain and travel the country by bus. Maybe you have even considered renting a car while in the country to have your own mode of transportation.
But what about taking a campervan down to Morocco? Is driving a van through Morocco a safe and convenient way to explore the country?
First off… yes!
Traveling Morocco by van is a fantastic way to see the country as well as have the freedom to explore more remote places. Driving through Morocco certainly has its own set of perks and challenges. We would like to share our experience of road tripping through the country to prepare you for some situations you may find yourself in.
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Our English Campervan: Jennie
Jennie is a 1999 LDV Convoy that was purchased in England back in 2017. After some fantastic international travels through western Europe, it was time to look across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.
After departing the ferry, we were pulled aside by the Moroccan authorities to inspect the vehicle. They simply asked if we had any weapons, had a quick look inside, and sent us on our way. During this process, they also gave us a white slip with our entry information that we were requested to keep with us at all times. Do NOT lose this wallet-sized piece of paper!
As a European or U.S. Citizen, you will not need an International Driving Permit in Morocco. We were asked to provide our passport at certain traffic stops but were not asked for the IDP once. There are some basics that are good to know before driving on the Moroccan roads.
- The minimum driving age is 18 years old.
- Driving is on the right side of the road and passes traffic on the left.
- Road signs are almost the same as in Europe and speed is in kilometers/hr.
- Moroccan drivers to not give way to pedestrians.
- Unless a sign states otherwise, standard speed limits include:
- 120 km/hr. on highways
- 100 km/hr. on country roads
- 60 km/hr. in urban areas
- There are police roadblocks entering many towns and at many roundabouts.
- Honking is common in the country. Drivers will honk for all sorts of reasons and this does not necessarily mean they are upset like in a western country.
Driving on the Highway
Driving on the main highways in Morocco is uncomplicated. The highway system is like any other western county where slow vehicles use the lane furthest to the right. One major takeaway we found was the increased use of blinkers on the highway. When passing other vehicles, people will often use their blinkers well beforehand to warn the driver of an upcoming vehicle.
Driving on Country and Mountain Roads
You can expect the country roads in Morocco to be much less maintained and have many broken areas of pavement, gravel, or dirt. Even so, the conditions are more than fine for a 2WD vehicle.
When you are driving through the desert or winding around mountain roads, you will find that most drivers in smaller vehicles will be traveling much faster than the speed limit while the large trucks are much slower.
When it comes to large trucks, it is not uncommon to see these vehicles oversized and overweight. In fact, the amount of materials they fit on one truck is quite impressive and at times a bit scary to drive behind. This causes the trucks to drive extremely slow (especially when going uphill) and you will find yourself passing them at the first opportunity.
Driving through Urban Areas in Morocco
Driving through towns can be stressful and difficult for drivers used to western driving. Large cities like Marrakesh and Rabat are going to be extremely congested and the driving is tight and may seem chaotic.
It seems that every roundabout leading up to a city goes from 4 lanes to 2 lanes and somehow all of the vehicles just blend in together. Overall, remember to breathe and relax. It can get anxious driving in a new area and the best way to handle it is in a calm manner.
Often, you will find parking attendants wearing orange vests asking for a fee when you park near an urban area in Morocco. These people are legit and should be paid what they ask as they are there to keep an eye on your vehicle while you are away.
This is not to be mistaken for random people trying to scam you for a quick buck. During our 70 days in Morocco, we had three people try and get money for parking in an area that required no fee. If you are in the countryside or a rural area, do not trust that some man in regular clothing is to be paid for parking just because he approaches your window.
Stopping for Pedestrians
We found it quite funny the difference in driver etiquette in one week traveling from Spain to Morocco. In Spain, drivers will just about slam on their brakes to give pedestrians the right of way whereas, in Morocco, there is hardly ever a time that a driver will hold up traffic for a pedestrian. This is not to say that one form of driving is better than the other, just know that you may hold up the flow of traffic by stopping for pedestrians.
In our experience, not only are the Moroccan people extremely friendly, but their driving etiquette is very amicable. They will flag you down to tell you that your tire needs air or go out of their way to make sure that your vehicle will fit in traffic (since your vehicle is clearly from another country). Just remember that the driving respect goes both ways and try your best to be a courteous driver in this foreign land.
Police Checks and Road Blocks
Do not expect to drive a full day without hitting one police checkpoint. They can often be found entering or leaving certain towns and at many roundabouts. They will randomly choose vehicles to pull aside to check their paperwork but as a tourist, you can expect them to flag you through almost every time.
In fact, the times that we were pulled aside by the police at the checkpoints, they quickly sent us on our way once they walked up to the window and realized that we were tourists.
We almost always approached the Moroccan authorities with light-hearted humor and friendliness, which was usually returned with kindness and humor. It seems that the authorities make a point to make tourists feel as comfortable as possible.
The times that we did have to deal with the police was when we were speeding and found ourselves running into a speed trap. They will walk out into the middle of the road and flag you aside to issue you a ticket.
Speeding Tickets in Morocco
There a couple of good speed traps in Morocco. If you start to get the hang of driving in this country, you will likely find yourself with a speeding ticket. We landed ourselves a few tourist souvenirs as we had about four or five speeding tickets.
First, I recommend everyone to follow the local traffic laws of any country. If you still find yourself with a speeding ticket, you can expect to pay 150 Dirham (equivalent to $15 USD at the time of writing this article).
Side Note: Sometimes I like to try my luck at getting off easy in certain situations. While this will certainly get me in trouble in certain countries and has gotten me in trouble in the past, I successfully bribed a policeman to let me off for 100 Dh in the pocket rather than a traditional ticket of 150 Dh. I do NOT recommend this but wanted to share my personal experience.
Driving at Night in Morocco
If you plan on driving through the night in Morocco, we recommend that you always expect the unexpected and exercise extreme caution. We saw plenty of accidents and like many other places in the world, there are more dangerous drivers at night.
Note to UK Drivers: Please investigate purchasing new lights before traveling to Morocco. We drove through the country in a vehicle that was built for left-side driving with a steering wheel on the right. This also meant that the headlights on the van were meant for left-side driving and it did not take us long to figure out that we were slightly blinding oncoming traffic during the night. We decided to keep the night driving to a minimum but with oncoming traffic thinking we had our brights on, they would often flash their brights at us.
Sleeping out of a Van in Morocco
The Moroccan authorities are strict about where you can or cannot park to sleep overnight. This is for your safety and should be approached with respect and kindness as the authorities simply want all tourists to stay out of harm’s way.
Most of the places you will be staying overnight in a van will have 24/7 security and supervision. We have stayed in gas station parking lots (which were free) and with Moroccan families that had paid campervan parking available. We only camped out in the wild a handful of times when the setting was remote.
In our experience, if you want to stick to yourself for the night without wild camping, then head to a gas station that is open 24/7. If you are looking to experience some friendly Berber people and Moroccan lifestyle, then stay with a family as they will be cooking your meals and making your acquaintance.
While the roads are not so bad on vehicles, it will take a toll on your tires. Make sure that you always have a spare handy and check your tires every time you stop for gas. We found ourselves filling up our tires almost daily and even had to patch up one of our tires that had a nasty nail to take home as a souvenir.
Make sure that you check your vehicle out before your journey to Morocco so that you can do what you can to avoid a difficult or potentially dangerous situation. If you do not speak Arabic or French, then communication at an auto shop can prove to be quite difficult. You might also have a hard time finding auto shops that are available since Google maps and our way of searching for shops online has not caught up to the enchanting land of Morocco.
Our Vehicle Battery Excursion: We found ourselves in need of a brand-new battery and found only one shop that was listed on Google Maps on the way to Marrakesh. The men at the shop were so friendly and one of them gave me a ride on the back of their scooter to ride a few miles into town to grab some cash for the ATM. What a lovely experience with amazingly friendly people.
Be Safe with Traveling Morocco in a Campervan
Morocco is truly a fantastic country to travel by campervan. There is so much freedom to be had in a country that has so many hidden gems to see.
Keep in mind that the country is still very raw and much different than anything that can be experienced in the Western World. Go travel this beautiful country with an open mind and respect for the local laws and customs.