By Plane, Marrakesh
Marrakech Menara airport is the second busiest in the country, handling over 3 million passengers a year. It's a beautiful, modern airport. My two year old son looked up to the crosshatched ceiling of the arrivals hall and could say only "wow". It's pretty impressive. The airport is also really close to the city, making it very convenient. You can be at your hotel in 15 minutes of leaving the airport by taxi.
And therein lies your main problem: getting to and from the airport. The taxi drivers are notorious at the airport, charging newly arrived tourists astronomical prices and knowing they can get away with it. There is a bus, but the schedule can be confusing. If you can find it and have enough small change, it will drop you off at Djemaa el Fna in the centre of the Medina. Probably the easiest thing to do is arrange a transfer with your hotel. This can cost around 15 euros, but someone will be waiting for and they can take you straight to your hotel - hassle free.
If you aren't staying at a hotel or for some reason they can't arrange a transfer, I can recommend HolidayTaxis, which EasyJet also recommend. They will arrange for a local driver to come and pick you up - ours was really great.
The renovations to Marrakech airport were finally completed in 2008 and are rather stunning!
Each time Ive seen the shadows the stunning new designs create and the pretty details in the ceilings Ive had to take photos.
Now both departures and arrivals are in the one building - and everything is in here - 2 ATMs, money changers, a number of Car rental firms - both International and local budget companies, cafes and restaurants and of course a few tempting shops for last minute buys.
Having a last minute coffee and pattisserie in the cafes in the main entrance area is surprisingly not so expensive - but lower priced here than the cafes after you go through customs. Bottles of water which are normally 5 dirham for a 1 litre bottle poutside the airport become 20 dirham for 500 ml bottle in the shops after you have been throuh customs.
Arriving off the plane remember to fill in a landing/customs card - the customs police will put your details into their computer system including where you are staying and stamp your passport which becomes your 3 month visa. I usually try to be quick to get into a queue before the bulk of the passengers as the custom police can at times be very slow. Baggage usually has not taken more than 10 minutes or so at the most to appear after youve been through customs. There are toilets just as you enter the custom police/border control hall from the outside runway area but if you can get a place in the queue ahead of your fellow passengers it is then worth waiting for toilets that are just near the baggage arrival area.
Car parking is inexpensive and close to the airport entrance with both steps and ramps in place - the fees are about 5 dirham an hour up to 48 dirham for a full 24 hours!
And as usual with Morocco there are numerous police around.
There are quite a few cheap airlines flying to Marrakesh from Europe.
Here are the websites of some of the airlines that connects Marrakesh with europe:
To/from Marrakech by plane:
During our second visit the arrival and departure hall was enlarged.
The airport is just a couple of km’s from the medina.
- After disembarking from the plane everybody has to fill in a form in the arrival hall (or as we had the second time in the plane) with personal and travel information. You can imagine what happens if four planes are arriving more or less at the same time.
- Control of this form and passport; you get a stamp and a number in your passport. Be sure you get that stamp(visa) in your passport, otherwise you get problems when leaving the country !! The number seems to be important when checking in at your hotel.
- You have to pick up your luggage.
- After customs you enter a hall with ATM's and two ‘Bureau de Change’ for changing your money into Moroccan Dirham. Here are also the desks of the car rental companies.
If you are picked up by your accommodation, somebody from the hotel or a taxi driver will wait here with a sign.
- In front of the building, at the car park, are ‘petit taxis’ waiting for passengers. You can’t miss them. The ‘normal’ price for a ride to the city is about 80-100 Dirhams.
(There is also a bus connection with the Jemaa el Fna.)
- Of course you first have to check in for your flight at one of the desks.
- Everywhere in the departure hall you will find forms, which has to be filled in (more or less with the same information as at your arrival)
- Only in the departure hall are exchange offices for changing your Moroccan money. It is no problem to change all your left-over money, because in the shops and cafés in the departure lounge you can pay with (at least) euros and a credit card.
- Next step is a customs officer, followed by the inevitable security check
- At the passport control you have to hand over the form and get another stamp in your passport
- In the departure lounge you will find a couple of shops and two cafés, which also serve (warm) snacks.
Following advice we had read on VT and elsewhere we decided to pre-book a transfer from the airport as we knew it would be dark when we arrived and our riad hard to find. An email enquiry to the riad (Les Lauriers Blancs – see accommodation tip) established that they could arrange this for €12, which was at the lower end of the prices we’d seen quoted for taxi transfers. On arrival we saw many drivers holding up signs for various tour companies, hotels, individuals etc. At first we couldn’t spot our driver as he was sitting away to one side, and with his sign held upside down – clearly not anxious to be found! But after that small hiccup he was fine, helping to carry our bags to his taxi and escorting us to the door of the riad on arrival in the Medina. Like many such properties it was down a small alley, reachable only on foot, so be prepared to walk the last part of your journey. At the time we felt as if we would never find our own way back to it alone but in daylight and with a map we realised it wasn’t so complicated as it had seemed when following our driver on that first evening. If you’ve never been to Marrakesh, and especially if you’re arriving after dusk, do yourself a favour and plan ahead as we did – you’ll be glad that you did.
We flew to Marrakesh with easyJet from London Gatwick. The flight took 3.5 hours and everything went very smoothly. Leaving in the afternoon we arrived in Marrakesh soon after dark (there is no time difference between the UK and Morocco) so en route were able to see a wonderful sunset. Sit on the right of the plane if you want to enjoy this to the full, but on the left (as we did) if you want to catch a glimpse of fabled Casablanca from the air.
Marrakesh’s airport is smart, modern and easy to navigate. When we returned home the staff there were very accommodating and provided me with a wheelchair so that I wouldn’t have to walk to the gate. It’s a sign of the times though that they asked to see documentation from the clinic to vouch for the authenticity of my injury and plaster cast – I guess all sorts of things could be hidden in one and smuggled on to the plane.
In the departure lounge you’ll find two duty free shops and a number of smart souvenir shops too, so you can easily pick up in last-minute gifts though at considerably higher prices than you would have paid for them in the souks. I saw some especially pretty tea-lights but didn’t actually buy anything. The duty frees don’t accept dirhams by the way, so don’t offer a chance to use up those last coins, but the two coffee bars do and also I believe the souvenir shops.
We used Ryanair twice to fly from Airport Weeze (The Netherlands/Germany) to Marrakech and had very cheap fares. It is almost unbelievable but we paid only € 10,- (including tax, fees and charges) for our one way tickets around end November, making reservations a couples of weeks in advance.
We are absolutely satisfied with Ryanair, knowing it is a budget company making money from drinks to a lottery on board. But their planes are modern, no problem with seats, flights were on time and staff is rather friendly.
‘Of course’ you have to pay extra’s, although you can avoid some of them. Some of the more or less 'strange' fees (November 2009):
Online check-in per one way flight: € 5,- (at the airport € 40,-)
Payment Handling Fee - Per passenger/ Per One Way Flight: € 5,-
Checked Baggage 1st Bag - Per bag/ Per One Way Flight: € 15,-
Nowadays an increasing number of budget airlines ids flying between Europe and Marrakech. I’m sure you will find affordable tickets. Just check one or more websites for their fares:
There are direct (charter) flights to Marrakech from Europe (anyway from Amsterdam and London). Usuallly I fly with Royal Air Maroc. Arriving by international flight in Casablanca you have connecting RAM flights all over Morocco which makes it easy to start your trip at one place and leave the country from another city.
From the air you have stunning views at the (sometimes snowcapped) Atlas mountains. Close to the airport of Marrakech you see the olive gardens and bassins around Menara (picture 4) and a glimpse at the hotels with swimmingpools at the edge af the town (picture 5).
The airport is six km southwest of Marrakech. If you didn't arrange a transfer in advance (some hotels and riads do offer), you can take a petit taxi or the bus.
I travelled as part of a package deal through Panorama Holidays from London Gatwick direct to Marrakesh.
At present, and as far as I know, the only direct flights to Marrakesh from the UK are via Gatwick or Heathrow.
For any fellow Northeners, Manchester offers direct flights to Agadir only at present.
Well my flight was by GBA, and the staff / service was great. So although I have to travel to London, I would use this service again.
My 2nd visit to Marrakesh was in September 06, booked with Easy Jet, for a bargain 37GBP Gatwick to Marrakesh, 73 GBP M'Kesh to G'wick inc. taxes etc.
*****I'm still hoping for a cheap direct flight from a Northern UK airport one day soon!!!
The airport in Marrakesh is only about 10 - 15 minutes away from the city - you can see the Koutoubia mosque quite clearly illuminated at night from here!
Lately getting to Marrakech has become very affrodable... at least if you are flying there from Europe. We booked about 4 months earlier with Easyjet, and even if it was Christmas time we managed to find flights from Milan Malpensa for 125 euros, inclusive of all taxes.
We have no complaints: the flight was on time, the airplane modern and quite comfortable (we did not feel we were packed like sardines), the onboard sandwich that we bought was sort of edible (like any other airline food).
Some time ago Ryanair opened this destination from Girona. We took BCN-RAK on 7th Jan at 17.45-19.05 (There is 1 hour of difference in destination as happens in Islas Canarias)
To come back 13th Jan at 17.50-21.10
The price per person was around 150€. Paying 18 eur of apt check in fee, 18 eur more for cc payment and the last 18 € as priority board (this 18 € prices are for 3 people; 6x3)
Marrakech has two different types of taxis, the big old fashioned Mercedes type ( Grand Taxis) and little khaki coloured Fiats ( Petit taxis). In theory the petit taxis cost less as they are only allowed to carry three passengers ( the grand taxis squeeze in up to 6). Petit taxis all have meters, but the drivers are reluctant to put them on, so if they refuse to put the meters on agree a price before moving. The price you agree will probably be about 3 times the cost that the meter would show, but even with this mark up a trip from Jemma El Fna to Guliez still only costs about £1.20. Tipping is not really expected as they are happy with the fact that you have just paid triple the price.
Most drivers speak a little French and possibly a tiny smattering of English, in fact some of them are teachers supplementing their income. Don't be alarmed if another person joins you in a taxi, just sit back and accept it as one of Marrakech's strange customs.
We flew from Karlsruhe/Germany directly to Marrakesh with hapagfly.
It was a totally enjoyable flight of about 3 hours, lovely food, friendly staff and excellent vision!
The airport in Marrakesh is a very small one by the name of Menara, passport control was decent, customs as well and best of all: the airport is only some 10 minutes drive from the city!
Air travel for me was not a problem. We had to stop at Cassablanca airport to change planes, but my poor friend who is darker of colour were held back by the authorities accusing her of being a Marrokan that stole a passport. We had quite a problem
Royal Air Maroc direct flights from NYC to Casablanca with connecting flights to Marrakech.
It's cheaper to hire/negotiate with a taxi driver than to sign up for an escorted tour. One day, 3 of us negotiated an all day trip to Essouria on the coast (2 1/2 hours away) for the equivalent of $20USD each. Enroute we witnessed 'tree climbing' goats (children place them in trees & flag down tourists to take their pictures for money).