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Wednesday, 4 May 2016 12:00 AM

A Self-Driving Holiday in Morocco – Car Hire and Driving Practicalities

Mike and Jane, both in their late 70s, did a self-driving trip in the south of Morocco. Having only ever hired cars in Europe before, share their first person(s) account of their experience here.

Their route took them over 9 nights from Agadir to Tafraoute, TaroudantAit BenhaddouOuarzarzate and Marrakech,

“The Hire Car"

We used the hire car company suggested by Naturally Morocco, which we picked up at Agadir Airport and was taken back from us when we reached our final destination in Marrakech Palmery, an excellent service. Both pick up and drop off were very simple, there was none of the normal quibbling about how much petrol we had, just a cursory once-over inspection and formalities were done.

It was great having hired car brought to the airport and being able to have it collected from our hotel, so much easier than our car hire in France last summer when we queued for ages to get it at the airport.   

We had some sort of Hyundai automatic that proved to be very comfortable and efficient, ideal for us on this journey – a standard comfortable car for tarmac roads rather than something suitable for off-piste (gravel roads), which we had no intention of exploring and managed to avoid in practice.

Despite what appeared to be clear instructions about how to get on the right road away from the airport, we immediately proceeded to take the wrong road and had our first of several detours.

Road Signs in Morocco

Road signage in Morocco is generally very poor. Away from towns there were fairly clear signs, but around towns they were often non-existent and it is inevitable that we got lost on occasions.

Whilst a few detours is part of the experience and often fun after the blame game with your navigator has finished, we found the lack of clear signage for our accommodations tricky a couple of times. Despite written directions from Naturally Morocco, signs appear to have been renamed or overgrown by bushes and some roads repaved, so we ended up asking for help.

In particular we had been warned by Naturally Morocco that it was difficult to navigate to our accommodation within the Marrakech Palmery and the written instructions stated to phone for help from Club Med after we had given up trying to self-navigate, which we ended up doing. We found the Palmery circuit road easily, but we had had a longish drive that day, our blood sugars were low, we had been round the houses several times and a local had sent us the wrong way. We should have just done as instructed earlier, and gone to Club Med and waited for help - testing times, but a very warm welcome at Dar Ayniwen soon made us very relaxed.

Fuel in Morocco

A quick note on getting petrol (Gasoil, Gazole ?), which proved to be no problem. There seemed to be plenty of filling stations around the lager towns, all fairly easy to find.

Fuel wasn’t cheap but did seem to be around 10% or so less than in the UK, and in most places an attendant was there to put in as much fuel as you asked for (we always stated how many Dirham we wanted, rather than litres, which proved easy in our basic French with sign language).

Our Breakdown

Naturally a breakdown is the greatest fear in self-driving, and we were lucky in where our mishap happened (not exactly a breakdown, but a running repair equivalent); however, we were equipped with various telephone numbers for the hire car company, Naturally Morocco’s Marrakech Representative and all of our accommodations. We had checked that we had roaming on our very basic UK mobile phone (our children almost despair at how technophobic we are, but we found we had mobile coverage virtually everywhere we went in Morocco and even managed to send a text message, something that we don’t manage in the UK), so we felt relatively well covered for any issues.

One morning we were due to set off from our accommodation, Palais Oumensour in Taroudant, when we realised we had a completely flat tyre. So we were lucky where it happened. The staff from the riad were very helpful and phoned a man who popped over on his bicycle, took off and took away the wheel (on his bicycle), had it repaired (it had a decent sized nail in it) and put it back on to the car.

In total it took 45 minutes from the time we first spotted the problem to the time we drove off and left Traoudant, and cost 50 Dirham, plus we gave him a 20 Dirham tip as he had been remarkably helpful and fast. Less than £4 seemed like a great deal to us.

Although this happened right outside our riad in the middle of a town, from our experiences in asking for help from strangers outside of towns we believe that we would have managed quite well if something had gone wrong elsewhere, although how we would have described over a phone where we were if in the middle of nowehere might have proved difficult - the down-side of self-drive (rather than having a driver).

Other Little Things

Light pollution was minimal so stars at night were amazing (and a bright horizontal new moon), something we can't really put into words.

In most places we stayed it was all very quiet, the only exception was a cock crowing in Taroudant.

We were concerned beforehand whether we would have to pay for car parks in small towns and would have the change - in fact the places we went to we could park anywhere free quite easily. 

On our drive out of Ouarzazate we ended up in Tamnougalt village which had an interesting Kasbah and two good restaurants. We ate at the one in the campsite by a pool, and the food was really good. 

Most of the owners of the places we stayed at were French and were interesting to chat with, having ended up on Morocco after previous life elsewhere. In most places there were few other holiday makers staying at the same time of us, so we had interesting chats with the owners.

All the places were very helpful in their tips and advice. In particular we were pleased to have time in the wednesday market day near Tafroaute.

Ait Benhaddou is a little commercial with several touts trying to get some business, but it is big and interesting and we think worth going to and exploring - we met a old lady who was born in part of an old Kasbah and lives in part of it to this day.

A word of caution. At one of our stops – a kasbah – some local children started asking for sweets and became a bit of a pest. We didn’t want to encourage this and didn’t give anything but, as we started to drive away, they held on to the car. We guess that this can happen in many less developed countries, and it only happened once to us, but it was rather tricky for a moment.

Nothing to do with driving, but we were amazed by apparent the lack of water – the lake by our hotel near Ouarzazate was only half full, rivers were all dry and locals said that they had had several years of little rain – but locals still watered the gardens and there didn’t seem to be a concerted effort to conserve water."