Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Essaouira's small international airport, 15km (9 miles) south of the town, welcomes a few flights from Paris and Casablanca each week. Grands taxis are usually waiting outside the terminal for each incoming flight, and will charge around 80dh ($10/£5) for up to six passengers (so long as they think you are traveling together) for the drive into town.
By Bus -- Buses to Essaouira arrive daily from Agadir (4 hr.; 40dh-60dh/$5-$7.50/£2.50-£3.75); Casablanca (7 hr.; 120dh/$15/£7.50); Marrakech (3 1/2 hr.; 35dh-60dh/$4.40-$7.50/£2.20-£3.75); Rabat (8 1/2 hr.; 150dh/$19/£9.40); and Safi (2 1/2 hr.; 50dh/$6.25/£3.13). CTM services (tel. 024/784764, or 022/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) and all other long-distance bus companies (except Supratours) arrive at the gare routière (tel. 024/784764), located 500m (1,640 ft.) northeast of Bab Doukala. Open around the clock, it's a fairly straightforward building with ticket counters for the various routes and companies and a 24-hour luggage storage service (5dh/65¢/30p per bag). If you've got a bit of luggage, or if it's after dark, take a petit taxi to your preferred medina entrance (around 8dh/$1/50p). Supratours (tel. 024/475317) runs daily services from Essaouira to Agadir (3 hr.; 60dh/$7.50/£3.75), departing at 4pm; Marrakech (2 1/2 hr.; 65dh/$8.15/£4.05), departing at 6:10am, noon, and 3:30 and 6:45pm; and Safi (2 hr.; 40dh/$5/£2.50), departing at 11am. They have a small office from where their buses depart, located just off avenue Lalla Aïcha, between Bab Marrakech and Bab Sbâa.
By Grand Taxi -- Grands taxis to Agadir (1 1/2 hr.; 40dh/$5/£2.50) and Marrakech (3 hr.; 100dh/$13/£6.25) operate throughout the day from outside the gare routière. When arriving into Essaouira, ask your driver to drop you off outside Bab Marrakech on the way to the gare routière.
By Car -- Arriving into Essaouira is as easy as driving along boulevard Mohammed V. There are car parks outside Bab Sbâa and Bab Marrakech, guarded around the clock and costing 25dh ($3.15/£1.55) per day, payable in advance; there's also some street parking (same cost) around place Orson Welles.
The Office National Marocain du Tourisme (ONMT; signposted SYNDICAT D'INITIATIVE) is within the medina at 10 rue de Claire, just inside from Bab Sbâa (tel. 024/783532). The recently renovated office gives out more helpful information than usual, including the latest cultural events taking place. It's open Monday to Friday 9am to noon and 3 to 6:30pm.
Essaouira is delightfully compact and very easy to navigate. Everything you'll need is within the medina or along the beachfront down to the Quartier des Dunes. The one entrance into town comes in from the southeast, along the beachfront boulevard Mohammed V. This road terminates at the port, from where the medina can be accessed via place Moulay Hassan, Bab el Menzeh, or Bab Sbâa. The other main medina entrances -- Bab Marrakech and Bab Doukala -- are accessed by turning off boulevard Mohammed V onto avenue Lalla Aïcha, which leads onto avenue Moulay Youssef.
The medina itself is dissected by avenue Zerktouni, rue Souk Jdid, avenue l'Istiqlal, and avenue Oqba ibn Nafiaa, one continuous street running northeast to southwest, joining Bab Doukala and Bab el Menzeh. The other major streets include avenue Mohamed el Qouri, accessed by Bab Marrakech, and the busy tourist street of rue Lattarine. At the far southwest corner of the medina is the large square, place Moulay Hassan. Between Bab el Menzeh and the beach is place Orson Welles, dedicated to the great filmmaker who shot his famous Othello here in the 1950s.
For travelers, Essaouira is a place to explore on foot. There are a few petits taxis usually hanging outside the medina (remember the medina is pedestrian only), but travelers will only need their services if they don't want to walk to the bus station.