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Getting There

Arriving

By Plane -- Despite more flight arrivals from the U.K. and Europe, thanks to the government's 2006 open-skies policy, Fes's airport appears able to handle the increase without the sort of expansion that is taking place in Marrakech. All domestic and international flights land at Fes-Saïss airport (tel. 0535/624800), 15km (9 1/3 miles) south of the city. In the small arrivals and departures hall are rental-car services, an ATM, and two currency exchange booths open 8am to 8pm, although these hours seem flexible. Though you'll generally find a bank or bureau de change near your accommodations, it's best to pick up some Moroccan dirham at the airport just in case. On the mezzanine level is a cafeteria, while on the ground floor is a small shop/téléboutique selling postcards. On the return leg of your trip, there's a duty-free shop after immigration; note that only major currencies and credit cards are accepted -- dirham are not.

Many hotels and maisons d'hôte are happy to arrange an airport pickup for you, usually with one of their preferred taxi drivers for around 220dh. This is especially recommended if you are staying in the medina, as not all taxi drivers will know the location -- and best drop-off point -- of your accommodations. The drive from the airport to the ville nouvelle takes 15 to 20 minutes, 5 to 10 minutes more to the medina. Taxis are located directly outside of the airport, and the fare to anywhere in Fes is currently fixed at 200dh up to 8pm and 230dh after. Taxis from the airport (but not those operating around town) generally accept euros and sometimes U.S. dollars or British pounds, but you'll receive change only in dirham.

A local bus (no. 16) operates a fairly reliable service between the airport and train station. It runs every half-hour from 6am to 11pm, costs 5dh, and takes about 30 minutes. The bus stop is directly outside the airport.

By Train -- All trains arrive and depart from the city's sole station (tel. 0535/930333), located in the ville nouvelle at place du Roi Faycal, about a 10-minute walk or very short taxi drive from avenue Hassan II. A new station adjacent to the current building has been slowly rising from the ground for some time, but was still far from finished at press time. Inside the original station are an ATM and a couple of ticket counters. There is luggage storage accessible from the building's exterior, where locked bags can be left for 10dh per item per day; it's open daily from 6am to 8pm. There are usually red petits taxis waiting outside the station; a fare to avenue Hassan II or boulevard Mohammed V should cost no more than 10dh, and to the medina, which is too far away to walk, should cost around 20dh. Note: Insist that any taxi driver use his meter.

Trains depart daily for Fes from most of the western half of Morocco (there are no trains in either the Atlas or Rif mountains or central Morocco and the oases). Some of the more popular routes are from Casablanca (4 hr.; 103dh-155dh), Marrakech (7 1/2 hr.; 180dh-276dh), Meknes (45 min.; 18dh-26dh), Rabat (3 hr.; 76dh-115dh), and Tangier (5-6 hr.; 97dh-145dh). Complete timetables can be found on the ONCF website, www.oncf.ma. From destinations such as Agadir, Essaouira, and Tetouan, you'll be traveling all or part of your journey on the ONCF bus service Supratours. Reservations are only accepted up to 1 month prior to departure and can be made either over the phone (tel. 0890/203040 from within Morocco only), at ticket booths at each station, or through authorized agents. Payment at the station is by cash only, but some agents will accept credit cards.

By Bus -- Buses to Fes arrive daily from almost everywhere in Morocco, including Agadir (13 hr.; 245dh-260dh), Casablanca (5 hr.; 80dh-100dh), Chefchaouen (5 hr.; 75dh-90dh), Erfoud (9 1/2 hr.; 135dh), Marrakech (9 hr.; 150dh-170dh), Meknes (1 1/2 hr.; 40dh), Ouarzazate (14 hr.; 200dh-260dh ), Rabat (4 1/2 hr.; 70dh-80dh), and Tangier (6 hr.; 110dh-120dh).

Besides CTM services, which operate from their office in the ville nouvelle , all long-distance bus companies arrive at the gare routière (tel. 0535/732992), just outside the medina's walls, diagonally north of Bab Mahrouk. Open around the clock, it's a busy building consisting of ground-floor restaurants, cafes, and ticket counters, and offers a handy luggage storage service (5dh) open 6am to midnight.

Bab Mahrouk and nearby Bab Boujloud are an easy walk across the double-lane road, as is Bab Aïn Zleten in the other direction -- so long as you're not weighed down or battling the heat of the day. For other medina entrances (Bab Jdid, place Bab Rcif, Bab Guissa, and access Oued Zhoun) and the ville nouvelle, there are always plenty of petits taxis directly outside the gare routière. It shouldn't cost more than 25dh to reach your destination. For onward travel from Fes, all companies except CTM depart from the bus station, where they each have their own ticket booths (you must pay in cash). For an early morning departure or during high season to Chefchaouen, Marrakech, and Tangier, it's advisable to purchase your ticket the day before. CTM (tel. 0522/541010 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) operates from its own station on the corner of rue Tetouan and rue Kandar (tel. 0535/732992) in the ville nouvelle. CTM's international services to Spain and France also operate from here. It's a 15-minute walk along rue Kandar and boulevard Mohammed V to place Mohammed V, or a short taxi ride.

By Grand Taxi -- Most long-distance grands taxis operate throughout the day from the gare routière, including those for Casablanca (130dh), Marrakech (200dh), Meknes (50dh), and Rabat (110dh). Those plying the route to Ifrane (35dh) operate from a parking lot opposite the CTM station in the ville nouvelle.

By Car -- Driving into Fes can be a bit daunting due to the various entries into the city, depending on where you're coming from. Arriving from Meknes or the airport, the main thoroughfare in the ville nouvelle, avenue Hassan II, is reasonably easy to locate by following the signs to centre ville. To head toward the medina from here is then relatively straightforward; simply head for the McDonald's and then continue straight. For Bab Jdid and place Bab Rcif, continue straight until signposted to turn left. If your destination is Ahmed Mekouar Square, then make sure you turn left at the traffic lights at the bottom of the alley between the ville nouvelle and the medina, onto avenue Allal el Fassi. From here you continue straight to Ahmed Mekouar Square. For Bab Boujloud, the gare routière, Bab Aïn Zleten, Bab Guissa, and Access Oued Zhoun, turn left off avenue Allal el Fassi onto avenue de l'Unesco to drive through the medina to the other side, through Bab Chems, where a right turn puts you on the main road alongside the western wall, from where you can access all of the above. The road from Chefchaouen/Ouezzane arrives at the northern edge of the medina, from where you can choose to follow the western or eastern side of the medina walls.

Parking on avenue Hassan II is relatively easy. For boulevard Mohammed V, which is one-way only, heading south from avenue Hassan II to place Mohammed V, there's a secure parking lot opposite the Central Marché and Jardin Lalla Amina. In the medina, there's a small parking lot on an open patch of land between Bab Mahrouk and Bab Boujloud. Secure parking is found at Ahmed Mekouar Square (formerly place d'Istiqlal), Access Oued Zhoun, and Aïn Zleten; figure on paying 20dh per day for secure parking. Note: Red-and-white-stripe curbing means no parking.

Unless you're driving out of Fes directly from the airport, car rental is best organized from your hotel. You don't need a car while in Fes, and navigating your way from the airport into the city is an unnecessary strain. Conversely, if you are driving into Fes from elsewhere and flying straight out, then dropping off your rental car at the airport is a good idea, as it is well signposted from most highways entering Fes.

Visitor Information

There's a Syndicat d'Initiative, or tourist information bureau, on place Mohammed V (tel. 0535/623460; fax 0535/654370), open Monday to Friday 8:30am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30pm. It has friendly staff but is largely ineffectual.

The Arabic Language Institute (ALIF) and the American Language Center are located on the eastern edge of the ville nouvelle at 2 rue Ahmed Hiba (tel. 0535/624850; fax 0535/931608; www.alif-fes.com). They organize social and cultural events -- usually for students only -- and can be a good source of local information regarding homestays and English-language teaching positions.

The best map/book of the medina is Hammad Berrada's Fez from Bab to Bab, Walks in the Medina (160dh; in English and French). The glossy spiral book is easy to carry and includes good directions, interesting information, and hand-drawn maps to accompany 11 gate-to-gate walks. Included with the book is the most detailed map of the medina available. Most of the smaller derbs (lanes) are marked, and the color combination makes it easy to read. Another handy medina map is found in the Fes-Boulemane Regional Tourism Council's The Fes Medina Tourist Circuits (100dh; in English and French). Thin and easy to carry, the book takes readers along six themed circuits with interesting info on the main sights along the way. These books are usually for sale at Librairie Nouvelle (tel. 0535/685493), 46 av. Hassan II, next door to the Hotel de la Paix in the ville nouvelle. It's open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6:30pm (Fri closed noon-2:30pm). Some maisons d'hôte also sell them; ask at the reception desk.

City Layout

Fes's medina and ville nouvelle are clearly defined, thanks to the Sebou Valley that separates the two. The medina consists of Fes el Bali, the original city where you'll spend most of your time, and Fes el Jdid, a 13th-century addition containing the former Jewish quarter and the Royal Palace.

Fes el Bali contains more than 9,500 alleys and lanes -- almost all of them navigable only by foot -- and for the traveler is the most geographically daunting of anywhere in Morocco. Bab Boujloud receives the most pedestrian traffic due to its easy access to the busy thoroughfares of Tala'a Kbira (great slope) and Tala'a Sghira (little slope). These two lanes are relatively easy to navigate and give access to the medina's heart around the medersas Attarine and Seffarine and the Kairouine Mosque. Some of the sights are concentrated around this very busy quarter of narrow and twisting lanes; however, accommodations, restaurants, and shops are scattered fairly liberally throughout the medina. The two squares accessible by car -- Ahmed Mekouar (often referred to as place Batha) and place Bab Rcif -- are handy geographical landmarks.

The French-designed ville nouvelle is easy to navigate, thanks to the double-lane avenue Hassan II, which runs through its center, and its offshoot boulevard Mohammed V. Most hotels, restaurants, and banks are centered around these two streets.

Getting Around

The distance between Fes's medina and ville nouvelle is usually too great to walk, and with the easy access to cheap buses and petits taxis, there's no real reason to bother. If you like to walk, there's plenty available within the medina. Once you're in the medina, however, you'll be faced with the choice of navigating its thoroughfares on your own or with a guide. If you're only visiting for a day or two, then I strongly suggest hiring a guide for at least half a day, followed by some personal exploration. Those who wish to explore the medina on their own should consider purchasing either or both of the books mentioned in "Visitor Information," above, which are loaded with easy-to-read information on the sights and attractions within the medina.

By Bus -- The city has a very reliable local bus service but can at times be hopelessly overcrowded. Try to avoid the early morning and late-afternoon rush hours, along with the midday rush on Friday.

Bus no. 9 operates a handy round circuit beginning in the ville nouvelle at place Allal al Fassi (formerly place Atlas) -- across from the CTM bus station -- via avenue Abdellah Chefchaouni and place de la Résistance (McDonald's) to Ahmed Mekouar Square, returning via avenue Hassan II and avenue des F.A.R. Bus no. 10 runs from the train station via the gare routière, Bab Guissa, and Access Oued Zhoun to Bab Fettouh. Bus no. 12 operates between Bab Boujloud and Bab Fettouh via Bab Guissa and Access Oued Zhoun. Bus no. 19 runs between the train station and place Bab Rcif. Bus no. 47 connects the train station with Bab Boujloud.

Note: These route numbers are posted on the side of the bus. There are numbers on the back of the bus, but these are insignificant to its route.

By Foot -- Whether in the ville nouvelle or medina, it's often easiest to simply walk around Fes. Exploring the ville nouvelle, it takes about 10 minutes to walk from one end of avenue Hassan II to the other, and about the same to negotiate the busy section of boulevard Mohammed V from the corner of avenue Hassan II to place Mohammed V. Within the medina you obviously have little choice but to walk. Even at a good pace it can still take at least 15 minutes to walk from Bab Boujloud along Tala'a Kbira to the Attarine Medersa and up to another 10 minutes to negotiate the heavy pedestrian traffic before arriving at place Bab Rcif. It's worth remembering that Fes el Bali straddles the now-submerged Wadi (river) Fes, and that the majority of the medina lies on the river's once-steep banks. This equates to very few areas of flat terrain, with most of the major thoroughfares requiring the negotiation of steep inclines and declines. Even for the relatively fit traveler, a day's exploration here can prove tiring.

Tip: The months of July and August can be oppressively hot in Fes, and this heat is amplified within the confines of the medina. Be aware of your body heat, stop for a mint tea here and there, and drink plenty of bottled water, which can be bought everywhere.

By Train -- A fun way to travel between the ville nouvelle and medina -- with a bit of sightseeing thrown in -- is on board Le Petit Train Touristique de Fes (tel. 0535/960031, 0535/932530, or 0678/190561). Popular with both kids and grown-ups, this miniature train hauls six carriages on a 45-minute round circuit that includes stops in the ville nouvelle at places Florence and Sofia, boulevard des Saâdians, and the Royal Mirage Hotel, as well as the medina babs Semmarine, Chems, Boujloud, Mahrouk, and Sagma. Although it's promoted as operating daily from 10am to 1pm and 3 to 8pm, this isn't always the case, especially during the colder months. The cost for one circuit is 20dh adults, 15dh for children up to 10.

By Taxi -- Petits taxis are the most convenient way to travel between the medina and ville nouvelle. You'll find the small, red, government-regulated vehicles everywhere. You can usually ask your hotel reception staff to organize one for you, or otherwise you can simply stand on the side of the street and hail one. Drivers are only allowed to carry up to three passengers at a time, but be aware that if there is a vacant seat, you may pick up an additional passenger. At all times, request the driver to put on the meter, which he is supposed to do no matter the time of day or night. Most trips between the ville nouvelle and medina should cost no more than 20dh during the day and a bit more after 8pm, when a 50% evening surcharge kicks in. Petits taxis operate solely within the city environs; for transport to the airport you can charter a grand taxi through your hotel or at the gare routière. These Mercedes sedans take a maximum of six passengers and cost around 200dh for the one-way trip.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.