Beware the Moroccan police — 8 tips for driving in Morocco
It’s never great starting a post about the down side of traveling. However, it’s real, and it happens more often than the majority of travel articles like to publicize.
That said, this is our cautionary tale about driving in Morocco, and being aware of the Moroccan police.
There have been other times where I’ve seen the grittier side of police behavior while traveling, though not directly. The same can’t be said for my experience in Morocco.
A country full of incredible beauty and scenery, a road trip’s a great way to see it all. That is, until you encounter the Moroccan police.
For first-time travelers to Morocco, it’s normal not to know how certain things work. However, after our own experience of driving in Morocco, I want to share what happened to us.
Here are 6 things to know before driving in Morocco, and knowing how to deal with the Moroccan police.
1. Hiring a car in Morocco
Unless you know a good car hire company in Morocco, or through word of mouth, stick to the well-known names.
There’s a certain level of trust involved going with a reputable, and globally recognized, company. Also, if anything goes wrong, you can contact a representative once you’re back home.
2. Take advice from locals
A French national we’d met knew the country well, and had done plenty of road trips in the past. On advising on the police if they stopped us, he made it very clear what we had to do:
‘Put MAD 200 (£16; €18; $21) in your passport and hand it to the police. If they’re dodgy, they’ll hand it back empty. If they’re straight and think you’re trying to bribe them, act innocent. Say you forgot to take the money from your passport.’
Looking back at that time, I think we both laughed if off, and in no way, took him seriously.
3. Know the real cost of the fine
We were first stopped by the police en route from Essaouira to Ait Benhaddou. It would be the first stop of 4 that day.
To add some context, we were 100% driving below the speed limit of 60mph. This, however, wouldn’t have made any difference.
The officer who stopped us, waved us to pull over holding something in his hand that looked like a megaphone. We later found out that it was a device to check for any speeding cars.
Polite in demeanor, he asked where we were from, and for our passport and car registration details. Following on from the Frenchman’s advice, we’d already put MAD 150 (£12; €13; $16) just in case.
Following orders — Moroccan police
The officer informed us that the usual fine was MAD 300 (£24; €27; $32). However, if we paid upfront, it would be half. Again, we’d later find out that MAD 150 is the standard fine.
After around 10 minutes, and signing some documents, we were free to go. We left with our pockets a little lighter, and with them keeping the receipt. It was our first encounter with the crooked Moroccan police.
A good way of avoiding the police in Morocco altogether is to take a guided tour. You get to see the best sights of the country, and with local experts who know it best.
“There’s only one way for me to say this: the majority of the Moroccan police that stop you want money.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
4. Illogical speed signs
I’ve nothing positive to write about the speed signs in Morocco!
Many that we passed were illogical and changed within a minute. On one particular road, we were following the recommended speed of 60mph.
Even with no houses in sight, we continued moving at a snail’s pace on the long dusty road.
Then, out of the blue, a taxi whizzed past us, leaving a trail of dust behind them. Clearly, this driver was doing more than 60mph.
None of this mattered however, as we were stopped again.
It was more frustrating the second time around as we could still see the dust clouds from the speeding taxi. As the next officer began to ask us the same questions, I finally lost it.
5. Speaking up may help
A u-turn from my usual calm nature, I couldn’t contain my frustrations any longer and confronted the officer.
I pointed out the clearly speeding taxi, to which he gruffly answered something incoherent, all the while scowling at me.
Surprisingly, he didn’t give us a fine, just us a warning, and shooed us on our way.
Let me be clear: I’m not encouraging you to speak back to the police if they stop you. I was in the moment and let out my frustrations.
It’s a man’s world — Moroccan police
During our travels in Morocco, we got the impression that traditional gender roles are the norm here.
However, I do feel strongly that speaking out, stopped us from getting another fine.
6. Stick to the highways when driving in Morocco
If possible, I highly suggest sticking to the highways when driving in Morocco.
The roads are excellent, never busy, and more importantly, without any police stops.
There are payment tolls, but it’s a small price to pay than having to deal with the stress of corrupt Moroccan police.
There’s one big downside when driving on the highways however, the illogical speeding signs.
Similar to the signs on the main roads, highway road signs can change at any moment.
“…if we had to do it again, we’d seriously consider hiring a driver. ”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
We remember driving at 100mph then having to quickly reduce to 80, 60 then 40 all within meters of each other.
It’s enough to make you feel like they’re trying to catch you out. That, or someone at the traffic department of Morocco is having a great laugh at the traveler’s expense.
7. There are some good apples
If the agenda wasn’t obvious, the majority of Moroccan police that stop you want money.
From all the times we were stopped driving around Morocco, we only met 2 straight police officers (a unit).
They gave us a receipt, didn’t try to make funny small talk, and went through the proper procedure.
8. Consider hiring a driver
Despite the many mishaps we’d with the Moroccan police, we still had an enjoyable time driving in Morocco.
If we’d to do it over again, we’d seriously consider hiring a driver. However, make sure you do your research properly if you consider this option.
It can also be a hit or miss experience depending on the company/driver you get.
I’m 90% sure, however, that you won’t have as many run-ins with corrupt police.
And so over to you. Have you ever driven in Morocco, or are thinking of doing a road trip?
Drop me a comment (or a rant) below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....