Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Casablanca's Mohammed V airport (tel. 022/539040) is the country's hub, accepting most international flight arrivals along with the majority of domestic flights. Located 25km (16 miles) southeast of the city center, international flights originating from North America, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands arrive at Terminal 3, a short, free shuttle ride from Terminals 1 and 2, where all domestic flights are operated from and where the main arrivals and departures building is located. Inside this building there are numerous ATMs and bureaux de change; it's worth exchanging some money into Moroccan dirham here, a necessity if you are using public transport to get into the city center. Most major airlines flying into Morocco have offices located here, as do the international car-rental firms. There's also a small pharmacy and post office located between the arrival and departure halls. If departing, there are a few duty-free shops after immigration, but they only accept major currencies and credit cards -- and not Moroccan dirham.
Organizing an airport pickup with your hotel is a good idea for arrival into Casablanca, and usually costs around 300dh ($38/£19). This saves having to negotiate the sometimes busy, and late, public trains or a grand taxi driver intent on taking you to a hotel from which he will receive a commission. Whether by private transfer or grand taxi, the drive into Casa's city center can take up to 45 minutes depending on the traffic. Grands taxis are located directly outside the arrivals building, and are supposed to charge a set fee of 250dh ($31/£16) for up to six passengers. In reality, this can increase for night-time arrivals and if the driver is aware that his passengers are not traveling together. Taxis from the airport (but not those operating around town) generally accept euros and sometimes U.S. dollars or British pounds, but you will receive change only in dirham.
The airport is served by the national rail network, with an hourly train service connecting it with Casa-Voyageurs station between 6:50am and 9:50pm, with one final service at 11:50pm. The ride takes around 35 minutes and costs 30dh ($3.75/£1.90) for a second-class seat. Casa-Voyageurs is a short petit taxi ride from Casa-Port train station and the city center.
By Train -- There are five train stations in Casablanca, of which two are of most use to travelers. Casa-Port station (tel. 022/223011) is the more conveniently located of the two, located at the entrance to the port and at the northern end of boulevard Houphouet Boigny, only a 10-minute walk or a 3dh (40¢/20p) taxi ride from place des Nations Unies. Unfortunately, only trains from Rabat, Kenitra, El Jadida, and Mohammedia arrive here. All long-distance trains, and those originating from Mohammed V airport, arrive at Casa-Voyageurs station (tel. 022/243818), located at the far eastern end of boulevard Mohammed V, 2km (1 1/4 miles) east of the city center. Petits taxis are usually waiting outside the station, and it shouldn't cost more than 10dh ($1.25/65p) to get into town. Note: Insist your petit taxi driver use his meter, as he is legally bound to.
The service from Rabat to Casa-Port runs throughout the day, taking 1 hour and costing 30dh ($3.75/£1.90). Trains depart daily for Casa-Voyageurs from most stations in Morocco. Some of the more popular routes include Fes (4 hr.; 103dh-155dh/$13-$19/£6.45-£9.70); Marrakech (3 1/2 hr.; 84dh-125dh/$11-$16/£5.25-£8); Meknes (3 1/4 hr.; 86dh-128dh/$11-$16/£5.40-£8); and Tangier (6 hr.; 118dh-175dh/$15-$22/£7.40-£11). From destinations such as Agadir, Essaouira, and Tetouan, you will be traveling all or part of your journey on the ONCF bus service called Supratours. Reservations are only accepted up to 1 month prior to departure and can be made either over the phone (tel. 090/203040 from within Morocco only) or from ticket booths at each station, as well as through authorized agents. Payment at the station is by cash only, but some agents will accept credit cards.
By Bus -- Buses to Casablanca arrive daily from literally all over Morocco, including Agadir (9 hr.; 130dh-160dh/$16-$20/£8.15-£10); Chefchaouen (6 hr.; 70dh-80dh/$8.75-$10/£4.40-£5); Er Rachidia (11 hr.; 170dh/$21/£11); Essaouira (7 hr.; 120dh/$15/£7.50); Fes (5 hr.; 80dh-90dh/$10-$11/£5-£5.65); Marrakech (4 hr.; 50dh-80dh/$6.25-$10/£3.15-£5); Meknes (5 hr.; 80dh-90dh/$10-$11/£5-£5.65); Ouarzazate (9 hr.; 130dh-140dh/$16-$18/£8.15-£8.75); Rabat (1 1/2 hr.; 20dh-25dh/$2.50-$3.15/£1.25-£1.55); Tangier (6 hr.; 110dh-130dh/$14-$16/£6.90-£8.15); and Taroudannt (10 hr.; 130dh-150dh/$16-$19/£8.15-£9.40). All of the above services bar Chefchaouen are best traveled on CTM (tel. 022/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma), which operates from their very conveniently located gare routière (bus station) in the city center, on rue Léon l'Africain (tel. 022/541010). CTM's international services to Spain and France also operate from here. It's a clean, efficiently run setup, with a small cafe and a luggage storage (consigne) open between 6am and 11:30pm, charging 5dh (65¢/30p) per bag. From here, it's a short walk to most of the city's accommodations and many of its restaurants.
All non-CTM services -- including all those from Chefchaouen -- operate from the Ouled Ziane gare routière (tel. 022/444470), 4km (2 1/2 miles) southeast of and a 20dh ($2.50/£1.25) petit taxi ride from the city center. The modern building also houses a consigne, open around the clock and charging 5dh (65¢/30p) per bag.
By Grand Taxi -- Most long-distance grands taxis operate throughout the day from a rank in front of Ouled Ziane gare routière, except those plying the route from Rabat (1 hr.; 30dh/$3.75/£1.90), which usually deposit passengers on boulevard Hassan Seghir, near the CTM gare routière. Travelers may be better advised, however, catching the train to Rabat, which departs from Casa-Port station , as it's safer, more comfortable, and almost as quick.
By Car -- For first-time self-drivers, driving into Casablanca is not recommended. The complicated grid of streets (some one-way) within the city center is extremely difficult to negotiate for the nonlocal, and that's not taking into consideration the busy traffic that manages to congest many of the thoroughfares during the week. Added to this is the lack of parking, making it almost impossible to find a parking spot during working hours. For a visit of only a day or two, perhaps consider leaving your car in Rabat and catching the train into the city. If hiring a car from here, wait until your day of departure to collect your vehicle, and have the company deliver it to your hotel.
Casablanca's Syndicat d'Initiative, or tourist information bureau, is conveniently located at 98 bd. Mohammed V (tel. 022/221524). It's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, and has the usual friendly but largely ineffectual staff. The Casablanca Conseil Regional du Tourisme (www.visitcasablanca.ma) has a website (in French) with some handy practical information and phone numbers.
The Dar America Information Resource Center (IRC), 10 place Belair (tel. 022/221460; www.usembassy.ma/usmission/pas/irc/daramerica.htm), is the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Consulate, and has an extensive research and library center available to library members. The IRC staff provides researchers and professionals with in-depth information and documentation on a wide variety of political, economic, social, and cultural issues. Members (Moroccan and non-Moroccan) also have access to Internet, films, round-table discussions, and other programs. Membership is open to Moroccan-based business professionals, journalists, professors, and university students, and costs 60dh ($7.50/£3.75) per year. You'll need to present two passport-size photos and a photocopy of your passport. The IRC is open Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm.
Casablanca is a sprawling metropolis, with a city center that can be overwhelming upon arrival. For most travelers, however, once ensconced in the city center, getting your bearings becomes a little easier. The busiest street junction is that at place des Nations Unies. Most of the city's major streets branch out from here, including the east-west running avenue des Forces Armées Royales (av. des F.A.R.); boulevard Houphouet Boigny, which connects the port area, including Casa-Port train station, with the city center; the easterly boulevard Mohammed V; avenue Moulay Hassan I, which heads southwest; and avenue Hassan II, which runs directly south via the large public square called place Mohammed V. Directly north of place des Nations Unies is the city's old medina. Typically mazelike though relatively compact, it's hard to imagine nowadays that only 100 years ago this was all there was of Casablanca. The grand Hassan II Mosque is 1km (2/3 mile) to the northwest of here, and 3km (1 3/4 miles) farther west lies the beach suburb of Aïn Diab.
Casablanca is Morocco's largest city, and traffic congestion can be horrendous during most days and early evenings. The city center is relatively compact, however, and fairly easy for travelers to negotiate when accompanied by a good map. The city's small medina is pedestrian only, and is the usual labyrinth of small streets and lanes. The restaurants located along its northern port-facing wall, along with the Hassan II Mosque and the beaches of Aïn Diab, are really only reached from the city center by petit taxi.
By Foot -- As mentioned, the city center is best navigated with a map and your feet, and its complex grid of one-way streets can often result in this being the quickest way to get around. Just be careful when walking around certain areas come nightfall. The compact medina can be surprisingly challenging to negotiate, with very few tall landmarks to assist in navigation. Most travelers stick to wandering the busy souk area in the southeastern corner, invariably exiting the walls through one of the gates along avenue des F.A.R. The long beachfront promenade at Aïn Diab is a pleasure to stroll along, as witnessed every evening when locals converge here in numbers.
By Taxi -- Casa's petits taxis are the most convenient way to travel between the city center and any other part of the city. You'll find the small, red, government-regulated vehicles everywhere. At your hotel, you can usually ask the reception staff to organize one for you, or otherwise you can simply stand on the side of the street and hail one. Drivers are only allowed to carry up to three passengers at a time, but be aware that if there is a vacant seat, you may pick up an additional passenger. At all times, request the driver to put on the meter, which he is supposed to do no matter the time of day or night. Daytime trips within the city center should cost no more than 8dh ($1/50p), while a fare out to Aïn Diab will cost around 20dh ($2.50/£1.25). Remember that after 8pm, a 50% evening surcharge kicks in.