In 2006, the Moroccan government deregulated the country's airline industry and invoked an open-skies policy to increase the number of tourists coming to the country. Marrakech has been the greatest beneficiary of the policy, as evidenced by an explosion of international airline routes flying directly into the city from Europe. All domestic and international flights land at Marrakech-Menara Airport (tel. 0524/447910), 4km (2 1/2 miles) southwest of the city center. All flights arrive at Terminal 1, which opened in 2008 and is partially powered by solar energy. This modern arrivals hall houses rental-car services, a post office agency, luggage plastic wrapping service, two ATMs, and two currency exchange booths that are usually open from 8am to 7pm (but can sometimes be closed during these times and open during others for no apparent reason). Though you'll generally find a bank or bureau de change near your hotel or be able to exchange cash (they may not accept traveler's checks) at your hotel, it's best to pick up some Moroccan dirham at the airport just in case. There are also a number of cafes and souvenir shops, as well as a handy tabac that sells postcards and a selection of English-language newspapers and books.
Many hotels and maisons d'hôte are happy to arrange an airport pickup for you. A taxi from the airport to the medina or ville nouvelle takes about 15 minutes and should cost around 150dh. Expect to pay more if you have a lot of luggage, and keep in mind that petits taxis (and sometimes grands taxis) increase their fare by 50% after 8pm. 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. Around town, grands taxis operate on a set-fare basis that depends on the route, while petits taxis operate by a meter that charges by distance. However, for those taxis operating from the airport, this is rarely the case, so it's best to agree on a fare before you and your luggage are deposited inside the vehicle.
Taxi drivers are found in the parking lot directly outside the arrivals hall. Be prepared for a chorus of, "Hello, taxi?" as you approach them, and don't be surprised if arguments break out between drivers over who claimed you first, as there is no order to the system. Note: Whether you're traveling by private hotel car or taxi, be sure that the driver fully understands the name and location of your hotel. There are incidences of bogus private transfer operators posing as your hotel's representative and taking you to a completely different hotel in the hope that you won't realize the "mistake" so that he will earn commission from the hotel. Taxi drivers are also known to try this scam.
ALSA, the city's public bus company, operates a very convenient shuttle (bus no. L19) between the airport and the city, making numerous stops in Hivernage, Guéliz, and the medina, along with both the bus and train stations. Catch the bus from the airport in the taxi/bus rank just outside the arrivals building. One-way tickets are 20dh; round-trip tickets, valid for 2 weeks, are 30dh. Daily service begins at 6:15am from Jemaa el Fna and terminates at 12:30am at the ONMT (Office National Marocain de Tourisme) on place Abdelmoumen Ben Ali in Guéliz. Advise the driver of the name of your hotel, and he will usually drop you off as close as possible.
All trains arrive and depart from Marrakech's recently refurbished train station Le Gare de Marrakech (tel. 0524/447703 or 090/203040), southwest of place du 16 Novembre on avenue Hassan II, a short taxi ride (catch one on av. Hassan II for around 20dh) to Guéliz, Hivernage, or the medina. Inside the multistory station you'll find two bureaux de change (Mon-Fri 8am-6:30pm, Sat 8:30am-noon and 2:30-7pm) with ATMs, and agencies for the post office, Supratours, and the cellphone providers Méditel and Maroc Telecom. There are also a number of restaurants including the fast-food chains McDonald's and KFC, and the whole building is wired for Wi-Fi. Trains depart daily for Marrakech from most of the western half of Morocco (there are no trains in either the Atlas or Rif mountains or central Morocco). Some of the more popular routes (with current second-class and first-class adult one-way fares) are from Casablanca (3 1/2 hr.; 84dh-125dh), Fes (7 1/2 hr.; 180dh-276dh), Meknes (7 hr.; 162dh-247dh), Rabat (4 1/2 hr.; 112dh-170dh), and Tangier (9-10 hr.; 190dh-290dh). There is also an overnight service from Tangier that currently departs at 9:05pm and arrives in Marrakech at 8:05am, the return journey departing Marrakech at 9pm and arriving in Tangier at 7:25am. A first-class bunk bed costs 350dh adults and 280dh for children 11 and under, and consists of a compartment of two bunk beds (that is, four beds), with communal toilets at the end of each carriage. I recommend prebooking as early as possible for this popular service, and you'll need to show your passport at the time of booking. 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 called 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), at ticket booths in each station, or through authorized agents. Payment at the station is by cash only; some agents accept credit cards.
Buses to Marrakech arrive daily from almost everywhere in Morocco south of the Rif mountains, including Agadir (5 hr.; 95dh-110dh), Casablanca (4 hr.; 70dh-90dh), Erfoud (10 hr.; 185dh-210dh), Essaouira (3 1/2 hr.; 60dh-80dh), Fes (9 hr.; 150dh-170dh), Meknes (8 hr.; 140dh-160dh), Ouarzazate (5 hr.; 80dh-95dh), Rabat (5 1/2 hr.; 85dh-105dh), Taroudannt (6 1/2 hr.; 85dh-100dh), Tangier (11 hr.; 165dh-185dh), and Zagora (10 hr.; 100dh-120dh). Besides CTM and Supratours , all long-distance bus companies arrive at the gare routière, or bus station (tel. 0524/433933), just outside the medina's walls at Bab Doukkala. It's a busy, bustling, and not-too-pretty building with up to 30 24-hour ticket booths covering a large number of destinations and companies. It's open around the clock and offers a convenient luggage storage service (10dh per bag).
From the gare routière you can venture straight into the medina or walk south for about 15 minutes to reach avenue Mohammed V, from where you can head to the center of Guéliz or through the medina's Bab Nkob to Jemaa el Fna. Alternatively, there are usually plenty of petits taxis around the gare routière that will take you this short distance for around 10dh. CTM's own recently built station (tel. 0524/448328 or 0524/447420) is on rue Aboubaker Seddik, just south of the train station and about a 10-minute walk from Guéliz's place du 16 Novembre or a 20dh taxi ride to the medina. There's a cafe-restaurant inside, and across the road you'll find a few snak restaurants and a newsagent. While all CTM services depart from this station, confusingly many CTM services continue to drop passengers off at the Bab Doukkala bus station. My advice is to head to the new CTM station for all departing services, and inquire with the driver if you are coming into Marrakech. All Supratours (tel. 0524/435525) services operate from the old entrance to the train station, 100m (330 ft.) west along avenue Hassan II from the new building.
For onward travel from Marrakech, all companies, except Supratours and CTM, depart from the bus station, where they each have their own ticket booths (you must pay in cash). For an early morning departure, it's advisable to purchase your ticket the day prior to both ensure your seat and allow you time to ignore the touts and purchase your ticket in peace. CTM (tel. 0522/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) and Supratours (tel. 0522/298163 central reservations; www.supratours.ma) buses to and from Marrakech are regularly full, so again it's best to prebook your seat no matter where you're departing from -- sometimes this is best done by booking at their office or agency rather than by phone. You can also purchase tickets (cash only) for any CTM bus from their office at 12 bd. Zerktouni, Guéliz (tel. 0524/448328), open 24 hours a day.
By Grand Taxi
Most long-distance grands taxis to and from Marrakech arrive just north of the gare routière at Bab Doukkala. Those plying the route to High Atlas destinations around Jebel Toubkal, such as Asni, Ijoukak, and the Ourika Valley, depart from a terminal 3km (1 3/4 miles) outside the medina's Bab er Rob, which is best reached by petit taxi. Grands taxis to Marrakech depart throughout the day from Agadir (3 1/2 hr.; 150dh), Casablanca (4 hr. on Autoroute, 150dh; 5 hr. on old highway, 130dh), Essaouira (3 hr.; 125dh), Fes (8 hr.; 200dh), Ouarzazate (4 hr.; 100dh), Setti Fatma (2 hr.; 50dh), and Taroudannt (4 1/2 hr.; 100dh).
Driving into Marrakech from other parts of the country can range from surprisingly easy to downright suicidal, depending on the time of day, your navigational skills, adjustment to the aggressive driving nature, and experience with the French rule, where priority is given to those entering, rather than those already on, a roundabout. The amount of traffic on the roads, which includes trucks, buses, cars, horse-driven carts, and any number of mopeds, attests to this being the largest city in southern Morocco. The main arrival destinations of Jemaa el Fna, Guéliz, and the airport are generally well signposted no matter which direction you are coming from. Once you're on avenue Mohammed V, which is the main thoroughfare between Jemaa el Fna and Guéliz, it's reasonably easy to find most Guéliz and Hivernage hotels. However, be aware that many of the smaller side streets are one-way -- if you are starting to get frustrated, a good option is to park in the general vicinity and locate your hotel on foot. If your destination is the pedestrian-only Jemaa el Fna, your best bet is to head down avenue Mohammed V as far as the Koutoubia Mosque and pull into a nearby 24-hour parking lot (25dh per 24 hr.) -- you will see their blue-and-white signs -- and continue on foot.
There never seems to be enough parking in Marrakech, so if your hotel offers this premium service, use it. No matter where you find parking, remember to locate the parking attendant, or gardien, if he hasn't already introduced himself, and advise how many hours or days your vehicle will be parked. He may ask for a fee, or tip, upfront if you are staying for more than a day, as sometimes arguments break out between a day-shift and night-shift gardien as to who has earned the money. Budget on 10dh per shift, and you'll keep everybody happy. If you're lucky, you might even find your car has been washed before you depart. Note: Red-and-white-stripe curbing means no parking.
Unless you're driving out of Marrakech directly from the airport, car-rental pickup is best organized from your hotel. You don't need a car while in Marrakech, and navigating your way from the airport into the city is an unnecessary strain. Conversely, if you are driving into Marrakech 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 Marrakech and is therefore relatively easy to manage.