By Car, Marrakesh
I have rented cars in Morocco on many occasions as I am a frequent traveller to Morocco. I have had many mixed experiences but have never been inspired to write a review until hiring through Oria Cars.
Oria Cars is a small locally run rental company based in Marrakech, which was recommended to me by a friend.
For those of you that have not travelled to Morocco you should be aware that French is widely spoken (as Morocco was occupied by the French) however English is not. The owner of Oria Cars is a gentleman named Younes, who speaks excellent English and was a wealth of information from his many years working in tourism.
My initial booking was through their website, I had queries about the rental and received a detailed email response very quickly. I arrived in Marrakech late at night, tired and exhausted. I was met at the airport with the car and rental papers, the whole process was so smooth and quick. Younes had been up front about all costs when I initially booked the car so there were no surprises, which has not been my experience in the past. The car was new, clean and in excellent condition and Oria cars was available at any time during my rental period for any concerns or queries.
The whole experience in dealing with Oria Cars was outstanding, Younes runs a highly professional business, and with his extensive experience and knowledge in tourism provides excellent customer service.
After all the cars Ive rented either via my various Moroccan acquaintances and connections using their connections or me keeping and using those connections to rent on my own Ive found a company through Moroccan friends I work with in London that have proved to be the best so far.
There are lots of companies in the rental car business - both local and international companies - and buying cars and annual insurance in Morocco is quite costly so for new cars the local companies tend to be cheaper to have more vying power against the big international companies. I have found that haggling with the international companies when youre price hunting or company comparing right there in person eg if at the airports - can have results but there will also be companies that offer older cars for cheaper deals as well.
But to find a guy such as Jawad who can be relied on to provide good quality cars and good service such as respecting your travel time so meeting you at the airport to deliver your car or collect it from you - and only be just a phone call for extensions or assistance is what even the locals like to know in their who knows who way of finding good companies to do service with. and all at a lower enticing price....is a big bonus.
Previous issues Ive had with rental cars in Morocco is being told they have a good car or new car for you and when you arrive to get it its old or the heater doesn't work....also they might pick you up at a designated place and then take you to their office to do the paperwork - all which takes more of your time.
One of the reasons for choosing Marrakech is that it is one of the cheaper locations for rental cars, along with Agadir. When I rented from Fes and Tangier it was a real ordeal and that was with Moroccan locals trying to haggle and establish prices - and the cars were still very expensive. The Fez car ended up being a 1981 model at more than Ive ever paid since in Marrakech or Meknes which was a rental from a friend of a friends company.
Jawad doesnt really speak english but he has a friend in the business that does and will take the phone call or answer your email if you don't speak French or Arabic. They are happy to meet you at the airport or wherever for pick up and will do all the arrangements there and then to leave you with the car so less time is wasted.
As with all rental car hire theres a special tax involved if you want to use your credit card for car hire - which is a really high tax - so its actually best to pay in cash - your credit card will still be swiped for the security deposit though. Check the policy for what excess is involved and whether you have to pay more to reduce it but in most cases if its not possible to reduce then using online companies such as www.insurance4carhire.com is a good company which do individual trip or annual policies to reduce excess to zero.
For breakdowns which Ive never had yet in all the years Ive been driving around Morocco they are only a call away and will look after you with whatever is needed.
They can also arrange car with driver and one way pickups or drop offs at fair rates. 4x4s are also available at some of the best rates Ive seen.
For our second trip outside Marrakech we rented a car through our hotel (Hotel Sherazade).
This time we made a journey to the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass and Telouet, about 150 km’s from the city. We were picked up from our hotel and the contract was made at the back of the car. They told us the rate (600 Dirham) was ‘all inclusive’, but after reading the contract (later, as we were in a hurry to leave) I saw the insurance was ‘avec franchise’.
We had a (bigger) Dacia Logan, more suitable for travelling into the mountains.
We were brought outside the medina (I could drop off the car at the same spot), so I hadn’t to drive in the 'crazy' medina. Once outside the city, driving is very pleasant. There was almost no traffic at all and we had no problems on our way to Telouet. The most important road and direction signs have wording also in French.
Returning to Marrakech we had to drive the last part of the journey in darkness. This means in Morocco villages without street lamps, bikers and donkey carts without lighting on the road. Be very careful or try to avoid driving in darkness.
You will find ‘thousands’ of rental agencies; especially in Gueliz along Avenue Mohammed V. The local ones are much cheaper than the well known international companies like Hertz and Avis. As said before we rented our car through our hotel from ‘West Car’.
For our second holiday in Morocco - a trip from Marrakech to/from Merzouga - we opted for a rental car from Hertz. Main reasons were: the expected quality and reputation of Hertz and the fact we - as a member of a Dutch touring organisation - could get a discount.
I’m sorry to say, but we are very disappointed by Hertz and I can not recommend them for a trip in Morocco:
- paperwork took ‘ages’ before we got our car at the city office, although we had made a reservation;
- they had (or at least told) never heard of the discount;
- we got an old car (Daihatsu Sirion) covered in scratches and dents; it had already more than 75.000 kilometres on the milometer;
- the second day we had (indeed) a serious breakdown, somewhere in the middle of nowhere; the car couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced. We lost a complete afternoon waiting for a ‘new’ car (which was much better).
- after drop off of the car, people from the Hertz office refused to return the (blank) sales slip of my credit card.
Hertz: never again for me !!
Driving to Marrakech from other cities, you will find the roads very good. If you are travelling from Casablanca you will travel via the P7. To Fez you will travel by the P24. Driving outside the towns the speed limit is 100kms. In the towns the speed limit is 40kms. Seat belts are compulsory for the driver and passenger in the front and there is a zero tolerance on drink driving.
You might be taking your life in your hands driving in the city area as accident rates are fairly high – you will see very little, if any, courtesies. A lot of he streets in the old part of the city and around the medina are very narrow and are more for pedestrians or carts. At night time there is no law for having lights on up to 20kms per hour which creates another hazard.
All the main hire car companies are represented in Marrakech, including Europcar, Hertz, and Sixt-car, and there are numerous small companies which vary hugely in reliability.
Main car hire companies can be found at the airport and in Guéliz's Place Abdel Moumen ben Ali, which links Avenue Mohammed V with Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni. Hire fees are subject to 20% government tax; visitors should make sure this has been added to the agreed price.
Rental cars are available for persons at least 21 years old and should be in possession of a full national driving licence. Most European driving licenses are recognised in Morocco, however, an International Driving Permit is recommended. The agency has the right to check driving records for violations before approving the rental. Third-party insurance is automatically included when renting a car. Roadside police officers are well-trained to spot drunk driving and will not hesitate to pull cars over. AXA Insurance Company offers nationwide emergency breakdown cover for foreign motorists.
The smallest car available is generally a Fiat Uno, more rarely a Renault 4. A large number of agencies now have Fiat Palios in their fleets. The Peugeot 205 is felt to be a more reliable small car, with slightly higher clearance and better road holding. A good deal would give you an Uno for 500dh a day, unlimited mileage, although certain Marrakech agencies can be considerably cheaper. Four-wheel-drive vehicles available in Morocco include the Suzuki Gemini (2 persons) and the Vitara (4 persons), at around 800dh per day; long-base Mitsubishi Pajeros (6 persons) are hired at 900dh to 1,000dh per day.
Of the four main cities of Morocco (others are Rabat, Casablanca and Fez), the city centre (and above all the medina) of Marrakesh is the worst to drive in with your own car, especially inside the medina walls after dark. Motorbikes are hanging like flies around your car, driving to all sides at high speed. There are a lot less of these dangerous motorbikes in the north of Morocco.
If you need a car to rent, it's very recommended to think about having a local driver,or a friend who know the Marrakechi driving code !
Course, what they don't tell you about Marrakech is the roads.
I intended to hire a 4 wheel drive thingy and drive about the country to see the sights. Now having been told it's cheaper to hire when I got there, I didn't pre-book. Smart move number one.
We went through customs straight into the waiting taxi to be whisked off to our hotel........ whisk being a very apt word.
We drove out of the airport and entered a world that could only have been created by an infernal marriage of the talents of Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch. Things on wheels ..... EVERYWHERE!!!! For sur real!!!
Let me tell you about the rules of the road in Marrakech. They drive on the right ... unless its full .... in which case they drive in the middle ..... unless it's full ....... in which case they drive on the left ..... unless it's full ....and it's always full ...... in which case they just drive as if you're at a fair ground, safely ensconced in a dodgem car. But of course you aren't. This is the sate of affairs permanently, apart from the hours of 2.30 to 2.35 am, during which brief window of opportunity the sane venture forth ,,,,,,, nervously.
You think I jest. Ah, misguided friend of mine, I have never been more serious. Chaos, absolute chaos, or so I thought for the first 3 days and then I realised it was not chaos, merely anarchy. Imagine a road, albeit a wide road (this IS the main route around Marrakech after all) of just 2 lanes .. one going, one coming, allegedly. Each lane is occupied with nose to tail vehicles, 3, sometimes 4, abreast, some of whom are wanting to turn right regardless of lane and some of whom are wanting to turn left ... and some of whom are just wanting to turn. Thread this with cyclists on bikes and mopeds who are travelling at right angles to the flow. Thousands of them. Everyone travels at 30 miles an hour. Never faster, never, ever slower.
I never did hire a car.
RENT A 4X4
If you are planning to visit Ouarzazate and Zagora, rent a 4x4 car. Though the road from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate - Zagora - M'hamid is fully paved, you'll need this kind of car for getting a bit deeper and enjoy the landscapes more.
The cheapest option is take a bus to Ouarzazate or Zagora and there rent the car. You won't really need it till Ouarzazate, and besides, the agencies are more expensive in Marrakesh.
CROSSING THE ATLAS
To go from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate you have to cross the Atlas mountains. It's a narrow paved road with many mountain passes. It takes more than 4 hours for 200 kms, and it gets worse when there are many trucks.
It's a bit shocking to find snow just 2 hours away from Marrakesh...
Afriquia Petrol Stations apparently are one of the best throughout Morocco and if you need it, have good mechanic. They have modern clean facilities and usually a café.