Driving in Morocco: beware of Moroccan police
It’s never great starting a blog 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 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 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. Just be sure you try to avoid the Moroccan police.
Road trip Morocco — is it safe to drive 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 home.
Advice from locals
Before beginning our road trip around Morocco, we’d received some sound advice from a local in Marrakech. A French national, he 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 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 him too seriously.
Police in Morocco – the first time we were stopped
We were first stopped by the Moroccan police en route from Essaouira to Ait Benhaddou. As we’d later find out, it was 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 a device to check if any cars are speeding.
Polite in demeanor, he asked where we were from, and for passport and car registration details. Following on from the Frenchman’s advice, we’d already put MAD150 (£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 MAD150 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.
A good way of avoiding the police in Morocco is by taking a guided tour. You get to see the best sights of the country, and with local experts who know it best. Also, these tours are ideal whether you travel solo, with your family or as a couple.
“There’s only one way for me to say this: the majority of the Moroccan police that stop you want money.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Moroccan police corruption gets worse
There’s only 1 way I can say this: the majority of Moroccan police that stop you want money. Of all the times 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.
Driving in Morocco – illogical speed signs
I’ve nothing positive to write about the speed signs in Morocco! 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 whizzes past us, leaving a trail of dust in our faces. Clearly, this person was doing more than 60mph.
None of this mattered however, as we were stopped again, in spite of still being able to see the dust of the taxi. As the next officer began to ask the same questions, I finally lost it.
I’m usually very calm, but at this point I couldn’t contain myself anymore and confronted him. I wouldn’t encourage others to follow in my footsteps however, so don’t repeat this! I don’t think many Moroccan women usually talk back to men, as this officer looked mightily annoyed.
Still, I’d already started, so I had to finish. I pointed out the clearly speeding taxi, to which 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 when driving in Morocco
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 payment tolls, but it’s a small price to pay to dealing with the stress of corrupt Moroccan police.
“…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 driving at 100mph then 80, to 60 then 40 all within metres 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 traveler’s expense!
Tips on avoiding Moroccan police on a road trip
Despite the many mishaps we had with the 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. It can also be a hit or miss experience depending on the company/driver. However, I’m 90% sure we’d have no run-ins with any corrupt police in Morocco.
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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