Driving in Morocco: beware of Moroccan police

 

 

It’s never great starting a blog post about the down side of travelling, but it’s real, and it happens more often than the majority of travel articles like to publicise. That said, this is my cautionary tale about driving in Morocco, and being aware of the Moroccan police.

There have been other occasions where I’ve seen the grittier side of police behaviour while travelling, 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 —so long as you can dodge the Moroccan police.

Road trip Morocco — keeping on the right side of the police

Car hire

Unless you know of a particularly good car hire company in Morocco, or through word of mouth, I’d stick to the well-known names. There’s a certain level of trust involved going with a reputable company, and if anything goes wrong, you shouldn’t have a problem contacting a representative once home.

The advice

Before beginning our road trip around Morocco, we’d received some sound advice from another traveller in Marrakech. A French national, he knew the country well, and had done plenty road trips in the past. On advising on the police if they stopped us, he made it very clear what 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 and say you forgot to take the money from your passport.’

Looking back at the time, I think we both laughed, and in no way, took his advice seriously.

The first time

We were first stopped by the police en route from Essaouira to Ait Benhaddou. As we’d later find out, it was to be the first stop of 4 that day. The officer who stopped us waved us to pull over, holding something in his hand that looked like a megaphone. It turns out, it’s actually a device to check if any cars are speeding.

Polite in demeanour, he asked where we were from, and for passport and car registration details. Following on from the French traveller’s advice, we’d already put MAD 150 (£12; €13; $16) in case. The officer informed that the usual fine was MAD 300 (£24; €27; $32), but if we paid now, it would be half. Again, we’d later find out that MAD 150 is actually 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. Yes, they were our first encounter with the crooked Moroccan police.

 

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“There’s only one way for me to say this: the majority of the Moroccan police that stop you want money.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten

It gets worse

There’s only one way for me to say this: the majority of the Moroccan police that stop you want money. Of all the times during our road trip 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 did the proper procedure.

Illogical speed signs

I’ve nothing positive at all to write about the speed signs in Morocco! If anything, they’re illogical, and can change within a minute. On one particular road, we were abiding to the speed of 60mph. As you can imagine, we were moving at a snail’s pace on a long dusty road, even though there were no houses or towns in sight. Then, from behind, a taxi whizzed past us, dust in our faces, clearly doing more than 60.

None of this mattered however, as we were stopped again, in spite of still seeing the dusty smoke tailing behind the taxi. As the officer began to ask the same questions, I finally lost it.

I’m usually very calm, but I couldn’t contain myself anymore and began confronting him. I wouldn’t encourage others to follow in my footsteps however, so don’t repeat this! Women in Morocco don’t usually talk back to men, so this officer looked quite pissed that I was confronting him.

Still, I’d already started, so I had to finish. Upon asking him why they hadn’t stop the clearly speeding taxi, he gruffly answered something incoherent, all the while scowling at me. Though I don’t advocate anyone copying my approach, I do believe that speaking out stopped us from getting another fine.

Stick to the highways

If you can, I highly suggest sticking to the highways when driving in Morocco. There are some great routes, like Marrakech to Essaouira, and Fes, Rabat and Casablanca to Marrakech. The roads are excellent, never busy, and without any police stops! There are of course payment tolls, but it’s nothing in comparison to dealing with the stress of corrupt Moroccan police. 

Luxury experience in Vienna - Kunsthistorisches Museum

“…if we had to do it again, we’d seriously consider hiring a driver. ”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

However, as great as the highways are, they unfortunately also come with many illogical speeding signs. I remember going from 100mph to 80, to 60 then 20 all within minutes 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’s having a great laugh at the traveller’s expense!

Tips on avoiding the Moroccan police on a road trip

Despite the many mishaps we had with the police, we still had an enjoyable time driving in Morocco. However, if we had to do it again, we’d seriously consider hiring a driver. Though this too can be a hit or miss experience depending on the company/driver, I’m 90% sure you’d have no run-ins with the 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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