Moving to Morocco?
Morocco: Cities and Transportation
Top Expat Destinations
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco with a population of 3.6 million. The town’s history stretches back to the 12th century when Spanish merchants began to settle there in the 18th century and renamed the existing city Casablanca. During the French colonial period, Casablanca became Morocco’s chief port.
Today Casablanca is the commercial and industrial heart of Morocco. Chief industries include textiles, electronics, food processing, and leather works. Jobs are available in this metropolis in the maritime sector and export industry, as well as in the production and distribution fields and the financial sector.
In December 2014, CNN even dubbed Casablanca as a finance hub of the future. The Casablanca Finance City Authority is intent on creating such a business center and has made efforts towards increasing the technology infrastructure and improving legal procedures in this city.
Rabat, the capital of Morocco, was founded in the 12th century; it was made the administrative capital of the country under the French. Upon independence in 1956, Rabat and nearby Salé were united as an urban prefecture with a total population of 1.9 million.
The city is a center of the textile industry and is known for the production of carpets, blankets, and leather handicrafts. As Rabat is the capital, many members of the diplomatic staff work there, as well as people employed with international organizations and NGOs.
Tangier lies 27 km from the southernmost tip of Spain, separated from the European continent by the Strait of Gibraltar. Tangier enjoys the status of being the country’s second-most important economic hub after Casablanca. As such, it attracts lots of expats, who work in trade and the shipping sector.
Fès (or Fez), which was founded in the 8th century, is the oldest of Morocco’s four imperial cities and has a population of 1.1 million. It enjoyed its height as a center of commerce and learning in the 14th century, and today it is known as a trade hub and for its production of traditional crafts.
Tourism is a major industry in Fès, and most of the crafts produced there are sold in the winding streets of the souk. The old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Marrakech (or Marrakesh) is the chief city of central Morocco. Founded in the mid-11th century, the city is a popular center for tourism and winter sports. Marrakesh attracts a lot of expats searching for a new life, but at the same time not wanting to move too far from home.
Planes and Ferries
Morocco can boast several international airports outside of its major cities, including the Mohammed V International Airport outside of Casablanca, as well as the Rabat-Salé Airport, Fes-Saïss Airport, and Marrakech Menara Airport. The cities of Agadir, Nador, and Tangier also have their own international airports. There are many flights daily to and from destinations worldwide.
Expats can also travel to Morocco from Spain by ferry. Several companies offer frequent daily ferry services from Algeciras, Tarifa, or Gibraltar to Tangier or Ceuta.
The train company ONCF offers services between most of Morocco’s major cities. The trains can be crowded, but they are generally reliable, and are the safest and most comfortable way of traveling throughout the country. It is advisable to purchase a first-class or second-class ticket, as you will then get a reserved seat and these train cars will usually be air-conditioned. From Fes to Marrakech you will pay 200 MAD (around 20 USD) for an eight-hour trip in second class. A train ticket does generally not cost more than circa 300 MAD throughout the country.
Buses are another form of transportation which can be used within and between major cities. Traveling by bus is a good way to get a taste of local culture, but they are often overcrowded. Tickets for inter-city buses can only be purchased at the station.
Bus services offered by the company CTM (Compagnie de Transports Marocains) often conveniently connect with the train service. Express buses, called Supratours, operate along the northern and southwestern coasts, where the trains do not run. A nine-hour trip between Fes and Marrakech costs around 160 MAD. However, it can also cost as much as 350 MAD if you opt for a Premium ticket.
Taxis and Cars
The so-called grand and petit taxis are another public transportation option. Grand taxis travel between cities and can hold a tightly packed group of six people. Petit taxis are used within cities, and can usually carry up to three passengers. Passengers in grand taxis should negotiate the fare at the beginning of the trip. Petit taxis usually have meters. A petit taxi will generally cost a maximum of 20 MAD within the city. For a grand taxi, it all depends on your negotiation skills because the fare is not fixed.
Another option, which will give you more mobility and flexibility, is to drive your own car in Morocco. This can be a dangerous venture, however, as the driving style is often quite chaotic. Modern freeways link the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fès, Marrakech, and Tangier, but in rural areas, road conditions are generally poor. During the rainy season, between the months of November and March, flash flooding can be costly, washing away vehicles and roads in these areas.
Foreign driver’s licenses are valid in Morocco for up to one year. After this period expats need to apply for a Moroccan driver’s license, which requires taking a driving test and passing a verbal exam.
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