Morocco Travel: Getting Started

BEFORE YOU GO

 To answer the first question that pops in every Filipino traveler’s mind: No, Filipinos don’t need a visa when traveling to Morocco. Now, breathe.

Traveling this far, I recommend getting a travel insurance. I got mine from Malayan for 1,100.00 (around 22 euros) for 2 weeks.

SEARCHING FOR FLIGHTS

Coming from Asia, you will find flights arriving on Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) in Casablanca. Coming from Europe, there are other options.

From Manila, searching for flights to CMN, you will find Emirates and Etihad. The fares will be expensive for a regular traveler. This is why I searched for flights from Singapore, Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur. I found CMN flights from Kuala Lumpur to be the cheapest when I booked, although searching for connecting flights from Europe to Morocco can sometimes be a lot cheaper. I didn’t take this route as it was my first long haul flight and I wasn’t sure about baggage transfer in European airports. However, if you wish to consider this, I have found that Singapore/Kuala Lumpur-France-Marrakesh is cheaper (Singapore/Kuala Lumpur to Charles de Gaulle via Air France; Charles de Gaulle-Marrakesh via Easy Jet).

Another option is Cebu Pacific or PAL to Dubai, then Dubai to Morocco (several flights are available). Remember though that you must inquire about baggage transfer beforehand if you’re not planning on getting a transit visa in Dubai. Dubai International Airport (DXB) offers baggage transfer service and most partner airlines do transfers anyway. BUT IT IS INTEGRAL to find out before booking a flight. I had no time to do this and decided to purchase an Emirates flight from Kuala Lumpur to Casablanca via Dubai. It cost around 34,490.00 (about 650 euros). Remember that banks set an online spending limit. You might need to call your bank a day in advance before making a purchase or call the Emirates booking office in Manila and pay through BDO deposit.

When booking a flight, note that Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is huge (KLIA is NOT KLIA 2—which is where you will land if you book Air Asia). To get to KLIA from KLIA2, you will need to go to the train station located at the basement of the main building. Waiting for the train takes longer than the ride itself, which takes less than five minutes. The fare is RM40 (about 45.00 or less than 1 euro)

DXB is colossal as well, which means that it can take you an hour to get to your boarding gate. You need to ride a train to get to some gates in both KLIA and DXB. If your flight to Kuala Lumpur gets delayed and arrive two hours before boarding, you might miss your flight.

ARRIVING IN MOHAMMED V INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (CMN)

Buy a SIM card at the airport. There was a long cue in one of the shops that sell the more affordable SIM cards. I didn’t have time to wait as I wanted to catch the next train to Marrakesh. It took me nearly an hour and half at baggage claim (a fellow told me delays at baggage claim were normal here for bigger planes as the conveyor belts were short–don’t ask me about it, I don’t get it either–but just take note in case you need to consider this in working out a schedule). I bought a SIM card with 7 Gig data and 4 hours worth of calls. I figured it will come in handy for downloading Google Maps anyway. It cost 300 dirhams (approx 1,500.00 or 30 euros).

You might want to head straight to Marrakesh upon arrival since Casablanca is not exactly the reason why people head to Morocco. This task is easy as there is a train station at the basement of the building. This is a regular train, not an express one. Welcome to Morocco, where time stood still in a beautiful, beautiful way.

To get to Marrakesh, buy a ticket for Casa Voyageurs and from Casa Voyageurs to Marrakesh. It gets confusing here because an updated trail map is not available online, at the station, or the train itself. You see, when I had to go to the airport from Marrakesh, the ticketing office sold me tickets to L’Oasis Station and from there, I took the train to Aeroport Med V. But don’t worry, the ticketing officer speaks English and will advise you which trains to take. You may refer to their website and hopefully, by this time they have updated it.

There are two kinds of tickets, first and second class. I booked first class `cause it was my first time and I wanted to be fancy. Sadly, I wasn’t fancy enough to know the difference between first and second class cars and I ended up in second class all the way to Marrakesh. The only time I realized I was in second class was when I had to go back to the airport and was directed by the conductor to the first class car.

The trains are clean. The conductors are highly professional, wearing uniforms with matching hats. There are uniformed trolley men as well who sell snacks like biscuits, coffee, soda, water, caviar and champagne (just kidding about the caviar and champagne). Since I accidentally rode both classes from not being fancy enough, I can say that if you’re on a budget, train traveling first or second class doesn’t matter much in Morocco. Both have comfortable seats. Of course, first class has extras: compartments (6 people per compartment) and softer cushions. Remember though that I traveled during winter. I’m not sure if the train has A/C, which I imagine is important during summer, but they sure didn’t turn up the heat when I was in it.

Ticket prices:

Airport to Casa Voyageurs (about 45 minutes):

2nd Class: approx ₱230
1st Class: approx ₱350

Casa Voyageurs to Marrakesh (about 3 hours):

2nd Class: approx ₱550
1st Class: approx ₱900

The route is scenic. You will not get bored, I promise. But if you do, the seats are comfortable enough and you can sleep, like I did. I dozed off mid-way to Marrakesh coming from a twenty-hour trip. Don’t worry if you fall asleep since your destination is the last station for this route.

Welcome to Marrakesh, where all the madness usually begins.

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