Planning a Trip
By Train -- Meknes has two train stations (gare). Gare Meknes is inconveniently located on the eastern edge of the city, although it's closer to the CTM bus station. The one at which most travelers will disembark is the small Gare el Amir Abdelkader (tel. 035/522763), 2 blocks and a very short walk east of avenue Mohammed V in the ville nouvelle. Inside the station are a couple of cash machines, a cafe, and a small news agent. Both petits and grands taxis are usually waiting right outside the station. A petit taxi ride into the medina shouldn't cost more than 10dh to 15dh ($1.25-$1.90/65p-95p). Note: Insist the driver use his meter, as he is legally bound to.
Grands taxis can be chartered for the drive to Volubilis and/or Moulay Idriss Zerhoun.
Trains depart daily for Meknes from most of the western half of Morocco (there are no trains in either the Atlas or Rif mountains or central Morocco and the oases). Some of the more popular routes are from Casablanca (3 1/4 hr.; 86dh-128dh/$11-$16/£5.40-£8); Fes (45 min.; 18dh-26dh/$2.25-$3.25/£1.15-£1.65); Marrakech (7 hr.; 162dh-247dh/$20-$31/£10-£15); Rabat (2 1/4 hr.; 59dh-86dh/$7.40-$11/£3.70-£5.40); and Tangier (4-5 1/2 hr.; 80dh-121dh/$10-$15/£5-£7.55). 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), at ticket booths at each station, or through authorized agents. Payment at the station is by cash only, but some agents will accept credit cards.
By Bus -- Buses to Meknes arrive daily from almost everywhere in Morocco, including Agadir (11 hr.; 200dh-230dh/$25-$29/£13-£14); Casablanca (5 hr.; 80dh-90dh/$10-$11/£5-£5.65); Chefchaouen (5 1/2 hr; 60dh-80dh/$7.50-$10/£3.75-£5); Erfoud (10 hr.; 100dh-110dh/$13-$14/£6.25-£6.90); Fes (1 hr.; 20dh/$2.50/£1.25); Marrakech (9 hr.; 140dh-160dh/$18-$20/£8.75-£10); Rabat (3 1/2 hr.; 50dh-60dh/$6.25-$7.50/£3.15-£3.75); and Tangier (6 hr.; 80dh-90dh/$10-$11/£5-£5.65). Besides CTM services, which operate from their office in the ville nouvelle , all long-distance bus companies arrive at the gare routière just outside the medina gate of Bab el Khemis, which is a 10-minute walk west of place el Hedim. Open around the clock, it has the usual selection of restaurants, cafes, and ticket counters, and offers a handy luggage storage service (5dh/65¢/30p per bag) open 6am to midnight.
If you don't want to walk up to place el Hedim or are heading for the ville nouvelle, there are usually plenty of light-blue petits taxis waiting outside the station to transport you. It shouldn't cost more than 10dh to 15dh ($1.25-$1.90/65p-95p) to reach your destination.
For onward travel from Meknes, all companies except CTM depart from the bus station, where they each have their own ticket booths (you must pay in cash). For an early-morning departure or during high season to Chefchaouen, Marrakech, and Tangier, it's advisable to purchase your ticket the day before. CTM (tel. 022/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) operates from their own station at the junction of avenue des F.A.R. and avenue Yacoub el Mansour (tel. 035/522585) in the ville nouvelle. CTM's international services to Spain and France also operate from here. Inside the station, open 24 hours, is a luggage-storage counter (5dh/65¢/30p per bag), open 6am to midnight, and a small cafe. It's a 10-minute walk (about 500m/ 1/3 mile) along avenue des F.A.R. to the southern end of avenue Mohammed V, or petits taxis can be hailed from the street. There are also usually grands taxis across the street at the CMH petrol station.
By Grand Taxi -- Most long-distance grands taxis operate throughout the day from a vacant lot adjoining the gare routière, including those for Fes (45 min.; 20dh/$1.75/90p); Ifrane (1 hr.; 25dh/3.15/£1.55); Ouezzane (for Chefchaouen; 3 hr.; 60dh/$7.50/£3.75); and Rabat (2 hr.; 45dh/$5.65/£2.80). Those plying the route to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (35 min.; 15dh/$1.90/95p) are located opposite the Institute Français on avenue des Nations Unies (the road to Tangier/Chefchaouen), from where you can also charter a grand taxi for the round-trip to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis. This can also be arranged with grands taxis outside the CTM bus station, the train station, and at the junction of avenue des F.A.R. and avenue Allal ben Abdallah. Round-trips from Meknes to Volubilis are currently 300dh ($38/£19) per taxi, and an extra 100dh ($13/£6.25) for a stop in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun. A grand taxi can take four passengers comfortably, six at a squeeze. Note: Remember to pay at the end of the journey, not the beginning, and make sure that all costs and itinerary are agreed upon upfront.
By Car -- Driving into Meknes is pretty straightforward. Entering the city from the Fes-Meknes toll road -- take the Meknes-est (east) exit -- will bring you to the large intersection between the ville nouvelle and the medina. Coming from Chefchaouen or the coast will bring you to the intersection with avenue Hassan II on the edge of the ville nouvelle. In the medina there is secure parking on place Lalla Aouda, entered through the arches just east of Bab Mansour. Street parking in the ville nouvelle is watched over by local gardiens, who appreciate 10dh ($1.25/65p) for each day and night that you are parked. Note: Red-and-white-stripe curbing means no parking.
There's a Délégation Régionale du Tourisme, or tourist office, opposite the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) on place d'Listiqlal in the ville nouvelle (tel. 035/524426; fax 035/516046), open Monday to Thursday 8:30am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30pm, and Friday 8 to 11:30am and 3 to 6:30pm. However, the only information on hand is a list of accommodations posted up on their notice board. ONMT, the national tourism body, has opened a small booth on the southeast corner of place el Hedim. It's open from Monday to Friday 8:30am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30pm, and Saturday 9am to noon and 3 to 6pm.
Meknes's medina and ville nouvelle are clearly defined, thanks to the riverbed of the normally dry Oued Bou Fekrane. The medina is only one section of Moulay Ismail's huge walled city, but it is here and the adjacent neighborhood known as Dar el Kebira -- the remnants of the sultan's palace residential quarter -- that travelers will spend their time. Place el Hedim is the focal point of the medina and most exploration here will bring you back to the square or along rue Sekkakin, running northward from the northwest corner of the square. Dar el Kebira can be entered from either its northern face, place Lalla Aouda, or from Hay al Amal, the narrow road running along its southern end. Although its winding lanes and alleys can be confusing, you should eventually emerge somewhere near these two thoroughfares.
The French-designed ville nouvelle is easy to navigate thanks to the two double-lane streets of avenue Hassan II and avenue des F.A.R., which run parallel to each other from west to east. Most hotels, restaurants, and banks are located between these two streets.
By Caleche -- A fun way to tour the medina is by horse-drawn carriage, or caléche. Seating up to five passengers, they are usually parked at the entrance to place el Hedim or beside place Lalla Aouda on the street leading to the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. You can hire a caléche for around 80dh ($10/£5) per hour.
By Foot -- It's easiest to get around the medina and most of the central ville nouvelle by foot. From place el Hedim you can easily reach the main sights, accommodations, and restaurants by foot. A petit taxi would only need to be considered if you are heading out to the CTM bus station. The walk between place el Hedim and the ville nouvelle will take about 30 minutes.
By Taxi -- Petits taxis are the most convenient way to travel between the medina and ville nouvelle. You'll find the small, pale-blue, government-regulated vehicles everywhere. At your hotel, you can usually ask the reception staff to organize one for you, or 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. Most trips between the ville nouvelle and medina should cost no more than 10dh ($1.25/65p) during the day and a bit more after 8pm, when a 50% evening surcharge kicks in. Petits taxis operate solely within the city environs; for transport to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis, you will need to charter a grand taxi .