Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Seven kilometers (4 1/3 miles) northeast of the city is the small Rabat-Salé airport (tel. 037/808090). There's not much inside besides a lone currency exchange booth with erratic operating hours, a post office agency, and desks for the various international car-rental companies. The only public transport to/from the airport is by grand taxi, located directly outside the airport. The fare into Rabat -- 15 minutes' drive away -- costs 150dh ($19/£9.40), and payment is usually only accepted in dirham, though some drivers may also accept euros.
To reach Rabat direct from Casablanca's Mohammed V airport, the easiest option is to catch a train to Casa-Voyageurs station (35 min.; 30dh/$3.75/£1.90; departs every hour from 6am-midnight), and then change for Rabat Ville station.
By Train -- Rabat Ville station (tel. 037/736060) is very conveniently located in the centre ville on avenue Mohammed V, close to many hotels and about a 10-minute walk from the edge of the medina. Inside the station are a cafe, Budget car-rental booth, ATM, and currency exchange booth (usually open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm). There's also luggage storage, where locked/padlocked items can be left for 10dh ($1.25/65p) per item per day, that's open 7am to 10:30pm. Outside on avenue Moulay Youssef is a stand for Rabat's blue petits taxis. Rabat also has a second station, Rabat Agdal, servicing the suburbs to the south and west of the city, though it's of little use to travelers.
Trains depart daily for Rabat Ville from Casablanca's Casa-Port (1 hr.; 30dh/$3.75/£1.90) and Casa-Voyageurs stations, as well as Fes (3 hr.; 76dh-115dh/$9.50-$14/£4.75-£7.20); Marrakech (4 1/2 hr.; 112dh-170dh/$14-$21/£7-£11); Meknes (2 1/4 hr.; 59dh-86dh/$7.40-$11/£3.70-£5.40); and Tangier (5 hr.; 91dh-135dh/$11-$17/£5.70-£8.45). From destinations such as Agadir, Essaouira, and Tetouan, you will be traveling all or part of your journey on the ONCF bus service 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 Rabat arrive daily from Agadir (11 hr.; 180dh-190dh/$23-$24/£11-£12); Casablanca (1 1/2 hr.; 20dh-25dh/$2.50-$3.15/£1.25-£1.55); Er Rachidia (10 hr.; 125dh/$16/£7.80); Essaouira (8 1/2hr.; 150dh/$19/£9.40); Fes (4 1/2 hr.; 50dh-60dh/$6.25-$7.50/£3.15-£3.75); Marrakech (5 1/2 hr.; 80dh-105dh/$10-$13/£5-£6.55); Meknes (3 1/2 hr.; 50dh-60dh/$6.25-$7.50/£3.15-£3.75); Ouarzazate (14 hr.; 150dh/$19/£9.40); and Tangier (4 1/2 hr.; 80dh-110dh/$10-$14/£5-£6.90).
Besides CTM services , all long-distance bus companies arrive at the gare routière, or bus station (tel. 037/795816), inconveniently located 5km (3 miles) southwest of the city on the road to Casablanca. Open around the clock, it's a busy building consisting of ticket counters and a luggage storage service (5dh/65¢/30p per bag; daily 6am-11pm). CTM (tel. 022/438282 central reservations; www.ctm.ma) operates from their own just as inconveniently located station (tel. 037/281488) just south of the gare routière. Blue petits taxis are usually waiting outside either station, and it shouldn't cost more than 20dh ($2.50/£1.25) to get into town. Tip: If you're coming from Asilah or Tangier, it's quicker -- though not necessarily cheaper -- to disembark at Salé and catch a grand taxi (5dh-15dh/65¢-$1.90/30p-95p) into central Rabat.
By Grand Taxi -- Grands taxis from Casablanca (1 hr.; 30dh/$3.75/£1.90) arrive throughout the day to a rank just outside the gare routière and less frequently to a rank outside Rabat Ville train station. If you're traveling between the two cities, I recommend taking the train, which is safer, more comfortable, and just about as quick. Grands taxis plying the route from Fes (2 1/2 hr.; 55dh/$6.90/£3.45), Meknes (2 hr.; 45dh/$5.65/£2.80), and Salé (10 min.; 5dh/65¢/30p) arrive at a busy rank opposite the Hotel Bou Regreg, on the corner of boulevard Hassan II and rue Nador.
By Car -- Rabat's roads are some of the least congested of the country's cities, although it's best to avoid arriving into the city after dark, as many road signs are not well lit. Entering the city during the day is pretty straightforward, with the centre ville well signposted from most access roads (from here you can then orientate yourself for entry by foot into the medina or kasbah). Within the centre ville, however, parking can sometimes be difficult to find from Monday to Saturday. Most parking is controlled by meters, costing 2dh (25¢/15p) for 48 minutes and up to 10dh ($1.25/65p) for every 4 hours. Guarded parking is offered in a car park on the medina side of the junction between avenue Hassan II and avenue Mohammed V, and in a small side street between the Jardins Triangle de Vue and the Royal Hotel.
The Office National Marocain du Tourisme (ONMT) office is on the corner of rue Oued el Makhazine and rue Zellaka, in the suburb of Agdal (tel. 037/673918; fax 037/674015). To be honest, it's not worth the effort to get here, as all you can expect are a couple of free brochures (big on pictures and low on information) and friendly but overwhelmingly useless staff. It's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm.
The office for Le Conseil Régional du Tourisme de Rabat, 23 av. de la Victoire (tel. 037/776400), isn't open to the general public, but they have a handy website (www.visitrabat.com).
The French-language Rabat de A à Z is a 180-page, spiral-bound glossy handbook and city map. It's full of contact details for all manner of establishments -- including most of the city's better hotels, restaurants, and shops -- and sells for 55dh ($6.90/£3.45) from a few bookshops on or near avenue Mohammed V, including Librarie Populaire on 4 rue Ghazza (next door to the Hotel Splendid).
Although a little out of the way, the Rabat branch of the British Council, 36 rue Tanger, Ministères (off the southern end of av. Mohammed V; tel. 037/760836; www.britishcouncil.org.ma), has a large library of English-language books and current newspapers, and also offers limited assistance and information to travelers and a monthly program of exhibitions, lectures, and social functions. It's open Monday from 2 to 6pm, Tuesday to Friday 9:30am to 12:15pm and 2:30 to 6pm, and Saturday 9:30am to 1:45pm.
Rabat's centre ville and pedestrian-only medina are both within the 12th-century Almohad-built walls, bound to the north and west by the Oued Bou Regreg. Within the centre ville, and running parallel to the southern wall, is avenue Mohammed V, which connects Rabat Ville train station with the medina; many hotels and restaurants are also found close by. Also within the walls are the suburbs of Hassan and Ministères, where many embassies and government departments are located.
Avenue Hassan II neatly separates the medina from the centre ville and provides access to the medina extension of avenue Mohammed V, as well as rue Oukassa, which becomes rue des Consuls. Connecting avenue Mohammed V and rue Oukassa/rue des Consuls is rue Souika, which becomes Souk as Sabbat. At the northern end of the medina, separated by the busy avenue al Marsa, is the Kasbah des Oudaïas, a compact and likeable mini-medina overlooking the mouth of the Oued Bou Regreg.
Rabat's ville nouvelle sprawls southward of the Almohad walls and includes the university suburb of Agdal, along with the upmarket suburb of Souissi, where a few embassies have recently relocated.
For most travelers, Rabat is easily navigated on foot. Most of Rabat's sights and points of interest are within walking distance from each other, though on warmer days you may wish to catch a petit taxi between those that are located farther apart, such as from the Kasbah des Oudaïas to the Chellah. Unless you are loaded down with luggage, accommodations in the centre ville can be reached by foot. The accommodations that I've recommended within the kasbah and medina are best reached by first taking a petit taxi to the appropriate entrance and then walking a short distance to your hotel.
By Foot -- Walking around the centre ville is easy enough, though at times the street grid between avenue Mohammed V and the river can be a little confusing. Heading west from avenue Hassan II, the lay of the land progressively rises, which is something to consider if you plan on walking all the way to Le Tour Hassan or the Chellah. Both the kasbah and medina are easily navigable under your own steam.
By Taxi -- Rabat's blue petits taxis can be found everywhere other than the pedestrian-only medina. The main ranks are at the junction of avenues Mohammed V and Hassan II, and outside Rabat Ville station on avenue Moulay Youssef. 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. Most trips within the centre ville 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 Rabat's environs and aren't supposed to travel across to Salé or beyond to the city's airport; for both of these destinations, take a grand taxi.