Destination – Marrakesh

This was my first trip to the northern part of Africa so it was something I was really looking forward to.  Getting here is simple enough.  I flew in on Emirates via Dubai so it was a fairly straightforward 8 hour flight into Casablanca.

For Casablanca being the largest airport, don’t expect much.  The airport didn’t look very large so navigating immigration was a breeze.  From there, I took the train to Marrakesh.  The signage isn’t the greatest in my view so just remember this:  walk in the OPPOSITE direction of the car rental kiosks.  To get to the station, you have to go downstairs via the escalator and you can get a train ticket  from the booth or kiosk.

Also note, at the time of this writing, Morocco’s time zone is now GMT +1 vs. GMT.   This change recently took place so your phones may not accurately show the current time.  It sure was confusing when I landed and the captain said the current time and then the clocks at the train station were showing another time.

A 2nd class ticket cost me 138 dirahm (which is about 15 USD).   When getting on the train, don’t dawdle since the train will NOT wait….if in doubt about the train, you better ask or figure it out before the train arrives at the platform or you’ll be left behind.

The train ride itself is about 3.5 hours and is surprisingly fairly punctual.  From there,  you’ll have to navigate your way to your riad/hostel/hotel.  Here’s my advice to get there.

Your best bet is to have someone from the hotel, riad, etc. meet you and pick you up.  Even if it costs a little extra, that’s your best bet.

Google maps is your best friend here.  It’ll tell you which bus(es) to take and more importantly, where the actual bus stop is to get on.  The bus stops aren’t clearly marked with a lot of signage so if you don’t know where to go, it’ll be impossible to find.  Buses are 4 dirham per trip regardless of distance travelled.  The main issue with the bus is that during peak times, they’re packed and if the bus is already full, they won’t stop for passengers.  However, my experience was that regardless of how full the bus was, people are getting off at the main sites (ie medina, mall, train station, etc) so there should be plenty of space to get on if you’re starting from one of those sites.

You’ll be bombarded by taxi drivers but just avoid the ones who come up to you and just find yourself a petit taxi and ask for the meter to be turned on.  I’m not saying you won’t be ripped off, but it’s better than just taking the first thing that comes your way.

Once at the medina, I would rely on Google maps again.  It has a surprisingly accurate layout of the square.  Don’t bother asking someone for directions because it’ll be way too confusing.

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As you try to find your way, you’ll be approached by people wanting to “help” as well.  If for whatever reason Google isn’t helping you out, I would ask one of the many police officers walking around at then entrances of the medina.  You’ll see them everywhere.  They may not know exactly but my brief encounters with them were always helpful.  Of course, you can always just pay someone to take you as well.  Depending on the time, your stress level, and energy, it may just be worth it to get to bed.

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A side trip is to the YSL house/museum.  It’s a nice little sanctuary in an otherwise hectic area.  However, go early or you’ll be waiting in line just to get in.  The area itself is actually fairly small so I’d recommend it only if you have time to kill before doing something else.  Otherwise it’s a pretty nice stroll as you combat the other tourists.

 

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