Visitors will fly into Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport (IATA code CMN), located about 22 miles south of the Old Medina in the town of Bouskoura. It is the main point of entry for tourists flying to Morocco. It is the largest and busiest airport in Morocco, with over 8 million passengers entering the country via this airport each year (2014 number). It is the hub for Royal Air Maroc, the country`s flag carrier, as well as Royal Air Maroc Express and Air Arabia Maroc. Mohammed V International Airport is the fourth-largest airport in Africa by area.
There is a train that runs between Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport (labeled on maps as `Aeroport Med V`) and Casa-Voyageurs train station (the largest station in the country). The train ride takes 36 minutes and each train leaves at :32 on the hour every hour from 6:32 a.m. to 10:32 p.m. Tickets can be bought online at www.oncf-voyages.ma or in person at the airport train station. When deplaning in Terminal 2, follow signs for the train station (`Gare de Train` in French; signs will be posted in Arabic, French and English). Tickets should not exceed 50 dh per person. There`s also a taxi rank outside the arrivals hall, and taxis can take you directly into central Casablanca and your hotel. This will set you back about 250 to 300 dh. If you feel more comfortable using the meter, have the driver use it. You may get some pushback, so be firm.
Driving directions from Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport: When leaving the airport, turn left onto the P3038 road. After about 4.5 miles, turn right onto the A7 motorway. After 13 miles, take the N11 motorway to Boulevard Brahim Roudani (also called the N1 motorway). After the Rond-Point Mermoz, adjacent to the American and Spanish consulate, the road changes names to Rue d`Alger. Turn right onto Boulevard Moulay Hassan I, and after approximately one mile, you will pass the Place des Nations Unies.How do I get from the train station to my hotel?
There is a taxi rank in front of Casa-Voyageurs train station, where grands taxis and petits taxis wait during business hours. Petits taxis require the meter to be running, so make sure your driver does that before you depart. You agree on a price if taking a grand taxi. Pay in the neighborhood of 50 dh from the train station to your hotel, and tip 10 dh afterward. There is also a Casa Tramway stop in front of the station which takes passengers from the station to Place des Nations Unies, Derb Ghallef and Ain Diab. Tickets are available for purchase from vending machines at the tram stop.How do I get around Casablanca using public transport?
Until 2019, M`dina Bus (www.mdinabus.ma, website in Arabic and French) will have the rights to operate Casablanca`s city bus lines. Currently there are over 75 bus lines which run daily in both Casablanca and Mohammedia as well as the suburbs. The following lines will be of most use to tourists:
Line 6: Mekanssa to Place Marechal - Leaving from the plaza adjacent to Place des Nations Unies, the main thoroughfares this line traverses are Boulevard de Paris, Avenue Hassan II and Rue de Beni M'Guild.
Line 9: Lotissement Saklia to Houphouet Boigny - Leaving from Boulevard Houphouet Boigny, this line travels down Avenue des Forces Armees Royales, Boulevard d'Anfa and Avenue Moulay Rachid, eventually emptying out onto Boulevard de l'Ocean Atlantique near La Corniche and Ain Diab.
Line 10: Lahraouienne to Hopital Sofi - Leaving from Hopital Moulay Youssef one block from the Hassan II Mosque, the line travels down Boulevard de Bordeaux, Avenue des Forces Armees Royales, Tremie de Dakar and Avenue Ouled Ziane.
Line 11: Daouliz to Mosquee Salmia - Leaving from Boulevard Driss Slaoui and Boulevard de la Corniche, this route begins approximately 2,000 feet from the El Hank Lighthouse and close to Plage Lalla Meryem. This route travels down Boulevard de Bourgogne, Boulevard Mohamed El Meknessi, Rue de Goulmima, Boulevard de Bordeaux and Avenue des Forces Armees Royales.
Line 38: El Hank to Hay El Falah - Begins from Boulevard TanTan and Avenue Mehdi Ben Barka, traveling down Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni, Boulevard Abdelmoumen, Avenue Idriss I and Avenue 2 Mars.
Line 200: Quartier Hopitaux to Bouskoura - Begins from Boulevard Abdelmoumen and meanders south to Bouskoura, across the A3 motorway from the Bouskoura Forest.
Line M01: Port to Nahda (Mohammedia) - Travels down a number of important streets in Mohammedia, such as Rue Abdelmoumen, Boulevard Mohammed V and Boulevard de la Resistance.
Casablanca also operates a tramway line, Casa Tramway (www.casatramway.ma, website in Arabic and French), which runs a line from Sidi Moumen in the eastern suburbs of Casablanca to Plage Ain Diab. This line takes 77 minutes to run from west to east and vice versa, stopping at 40 stations along the way. Trams run at least every eight and a half minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight. Casa Tramway offers a weekly tram card and M`dina Bus offers a card called the M`dina Moov Card; both can be purchased from vending machines at bus stations, in person at a city tourism office, or online.How do I call/hail a taxi?
Casablanca`s ubiquitous red taxis are affectionately referred to as `petits taxis` (little taxis). Petits taxis are one of the two types of taxis regulated by the government, so they must follow certain rules, such as the activation of the meter at all times during taxi rides. (Insist on running the meter, as some drivers may try to `agree on a price` beforehand, hoping you will agree to a higher fare. Note that in Mercedes model `grands taxis`, it is actually expected to agree on a price beforehand, but not in petits taxis.) Petits taxis seat three and grands taxis seat six.
If you are taking a petit taxi, expect to pay approximately 15 to 25 dh for rides in and around the city center, 40 to 50 dh to Ain Diab and La Corniche, 50 to 75 dh to the Bouskoura Forest and Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, and 100 to 120 dh to Mohammedia. Prices between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. weekdays, and all day on weekends and holidays, rise by 50%. It is equally common to hail a taxi from the street as it is to reserve one in advance by calling a telephone number. Keep in mind that, unlike in the U.S., taxi drivers may take additional passengers who are traveling in the same direction you are. Petits taxis seat three, so if you are one traveler, two others will be picked up and taken to their own destinations in the direction you`re going. You would then split the fare between the other passengers.I will have a car in Casablanca. Where can I park?
Casablanca`s parking situation is good. The number of available spaces is high, and much of it is located right on the streets. Sometimes you will pay for two-hour parking at a meter, and sometimes you will pay an attendant or guard who also functions as protection from thieves and robbers. Note that payment is needed to park in nearly all situations in Casablanca, and if you fail to do so, your car`s wheels will be `booted` and only removed after you pay an extra fine!
Ask during the booking process if your accommodations include parking and inquire about any possible fees for parking at hotels.Is Casablanca a dangerous city? Are there any places I should avoid?
Morocco has a lower rate of crime than the United States in nearly every category except for robberies and thefts. The biggest concern travelers will encounter in Morocco (and Casablanca) is the possibility of something being stolen from you while you are on your trip. Don`t talk on your cell phone while walking on a busy street, leaving you distracted when someone comes up to you and snatches it from your hand. If you are riding a bicycle or motorbike, don`t ride with your bag out toward the sidewalk or toward the road, as thieves have been known to snatch bags from bikers as they are on their bikes. Try not to display much wealth outwardly and blend in with the crowd. Don`t wear watches or flashy rings, and make sure money and valuables are broken up into various pockets on your person.
If you want to walk around at night, La Corniche and Ain Diab are areas that come highly-recommended and are probably the safest parts of town at night. The Old Medina is best avoided at night, especially if you become lost in the winding alleys and can`t find your bearings. While Casablanca is the most liberal of the cities in Morocco, it still isn`t recommended for women to walk outside alone at night. Exercise restraint while partaking in alcoholic beverages at bars and nightclubs, as thieves and crooks target tourists who drink too much. Morocco is one of the few Muslim-majority countries that allows the sale and consumption of alcohol, which is supposed to be forbidden to followers of Islam.Can I pay/tip in U.S. dollars?
The official currency of Morocco is the dirham (abbreviated on this page and other ones as `dh`), which is broken down into 100 centimes. Morocco is a very tourist-centered economy, so hospitality workers are sometimes put in the position of accepting U.S. dollars. When paying for goods and services, dirhams are the only currency accepted. However, the final verdict on tipping in U.S. dollars is that people will accept them, but they are not legal tender, and your life will be a lot easier if you just tip in dirhams like locals would do. Dirhams are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 in banknotes and 1, 5, 10 dh and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes in coins.
The easiest way to receive Moroccan dirhams is to visit a bureau de change or ATM upon entering the country. Bureaux de change are available in the airport, at luxury hotels, and at many banks. Banque Commercial du Maroc and Credit du Maroc are two banks that will accept cash advances on Visa and MasterCard. You will get the best exchange rate from these bureaux de change and from ATMs. ATMs typically allow the withdrawal of 2,000 dh (approximately $200) per day from one`s bank account. If you do use your card from an ATM in Morocco, tell your banking institution that you will be traveling overseas before you leave, or else your bank may freeze your account. Banks are open across Morocco weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. During the month of Ramadan, and through the `summer period` of June 15-September 15, hours are reduced from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.I don't speak Arabic. Will many people speak English?
Moroccans start to learn English in the seventh grade. It has quickly become a popular language with the younger generation, which tends to watch television from the U.S. and the U.K. with English audio and subtitles in either Arabic or French. 14% of Moroccans can speak English on a conversational level, which is lower than most European nations, but still higher than other destinations in North Africa, such as Tunisia and Algeria.
You will have more luck if you speak French as a foreign language. Considered a `prestige language`, French is taught from a very early grade in Moroccan schools, and nearly all university majors are presented and taught in French over Arabic. Over half of Moroccans can speak French fluently, with about an eighth of the population speaking only French. You will find that signs in many public areas are labeled in Arabic and French, with English sometimes being offered and sometimes not. While it is not an official language of Morocco, it will be looked upon favorably by locals if you initiate conversation with them in French as it would in Arabic. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Parlez-vous anglais?`Are there any basic Moroccan customs or etiquette tips I should be aware of before arriving?
Let`s start with clothing choices, as this is one of the largest areas for `culture shock`. Moroccans tend to dress conservatively, which means short or long-sleeved shirts and pants for men and long dresses or pants and blouses for women. Blouses shouldn`t be too tight and should cover the shoulders and a certain amount of cleavage. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are only acceptable for men and women in the context of going to the beach or relaxing at the hotel; wearing them any other time would be something that locals find offensive.
Now that we touched briefly on the status of women and how they should (or, more importantly, should not) dress to avoid offense, let`s run down what female travelers can expect when visiting Casablanca. Women are allowed to drink in bars and nightclubs, which is worth mentioning because not too long ago, women (locals and visitors) were barred from doing so. Also expect attention from men, which will range from annoying and persistent to mildly alarming. Foreign women tend to be targets for harassment from Moroccan men because they have viewed Western media and many of them have reached an erroneous assumption involving Western women and their desire for sex. That assumption, erroneous of course, is that Western women are more sexually free and more apt to consent, especially when contrasted with local women. This assumption is rather widespread, and might give women pause, but it is important to stand your ground and to make it known that you will not put up with harassment that goes too far, i.e. body contact. Moroccan women would not stand for it if someone grabbed them while in a public place, and neither should you.
Moroccans tend to be very friendly, and personal questions are considered to be polite as it shows an interest in the other person. Women should be conscious of being `too friendly` with men, as it may very well be seen as a come-on. In mixed company, however, you should expect to be asked questions about America and your family. For women, this will mean questions about husbands and children. Morocco is still a fairly conservative country so people may not understand if they ask you about marriage and you are not married and have no interest in doing so right away. They will similarly fail to understand if they ask about children and you tell them that you don`t want them. Be polite when answering and don`t take too much offense. Taboo topics in conversation include the Royal Family (revered among many Moroccans) and Western Sahara (which is home to a land dispute). Also be careful when discussing Islam and be respectful of the subject.
Be careful to shake hands and accept items with the right hand only, as the left hand is associated with the upkeep of personal hygiene and is considered to be unclean. Kisses on both cheeks (bises in French) are acceptable between the sexes, as in between men and men and women and women, but male/female mixed company tend to shake hands or hug instead of kissing. Moroccans will offer food and drink until made explicitly clear that they should not, so if you are full, decline by patting the stomach and saying `moi non plus`. It is important to arrive at someone`s house on time, but if plans are made to go to lunch at a restaurant or a cafe or patisserie, Moroccans do tend to be `fashionably late`. That could mean a half-hour or more. They feel it adds to their character, which is very carefree.What time do Moroccans usually eat? Do I need to make reservations to fancy restaurants in advance?
Moroccans start the day with breakfast, usually eaten between 7 and 10 a.m. It can be quite basic, with Moroccan breads and French baguettes or croissants, served with coffee, tea and juice. Fresh fruit, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs are less common selections. The largest meal of the day is lunch, and you will find that many businesses close between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. Lunch consists of multiple courses, including `meze` appetizers and salads and a dish of either tahine or couscous. It is popularly enjoyed with mint tea and plentiful sides of bread, which is used to sop up juices and sauces from the main dish. Pastries may be served for dessert. Dinner is served after evening prayers, with restaurants opening up after prayers at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Restaurants tend to be at their most packed between 9 and 10 p.m., similar to dinner times found in countries all over the Mediterranean.
Some noteworthy restaurants in Casablanca, such as Le Relais de Paris and Rick`s Cafe, are very popular and welcome reservations. Have your hotel call up a restaurant and reserve a table for you for dinner service. Other restaurants, such as La Sqala, are popular and do not take reservations. Arrive early to get a good table or you will have to wait as long as two hours!
Note: Smoking is permitted in restaurants and bars in Morocco.What is nightlife like in Casablanca?
Casablanca`s nightlife options are limited to the city center, in an area around Rue Allal Ben Abdellah, and along Plage Ain Diab and up Boulevard de l`Ocean Atlantique to La Corniche. Even though the nightlife options aren`t as plentiful as they are in European cities, Casablanca still has the second-highest number of bars and nightclubs in the country; only Marrakech has a larger nightclub scene.
Women should go to bars and nightclubs in a group, preferably with some men. Unmarried women will find themselves the object of unwanted male attention.
If you want an ultra-lounge option, visit Mystic Garden on Boulevard de la Corniche 33. Le Village, at Boulevard de La Corniche 11, is Casablanca`s LGBT-friendly bar. Of course there`s the piano bar at Rick`s Cafe, for the tourists who wish to have a cocktail amid a sizable collection of Casablanca film memorabilia.Where are the best areas for shopping?
The Derb Ghallef souk is one of the largest secondhand and vintage markets in all of Casablanca. You will find small shops in the Old Medina and along Boulevard Felix Houphouet Boigny; unlike in other cities, the souk tradition isn`t particularly widespread in Casablanca. If you want authentic Moroccan souvenirs, head to the Exposition Nationale d`Artisanat located at the corner of Avenue Hassan II and Rue Maarakat Ohoud. For high-end shopping, the Morocco Mall is the largest shopping center in the country and the second-largest in all of Africa. It is anchored by the Moroccan hypermarket Marjane; Yan&One, the world`s first `beauty SmartStore`; French book/CD/DVD retailer fnac, H&M, Zara Women`s, and an IMAX theater. It is located to the west of Plage Ain Diab, near Parc Sindibad.Where can I rent a bicycle in Casablanca?
Casablanca is not particularly well-known for its cycling, and as a result it is not particularly well-known for its bicycle rental shops. Your best bet would be to reserve one through the national company MarocBike (www.marocbike.com, website in French and English).