Train travel in Morocco is cheap and easy, and a great way to see the splendour of the country. The train station in Marrakech is relatively small and very easy to navigate, and all taxi drivers know of its whereabouts. When you’re done with magical Marrakech, you can catch a train to Casablanca, Tangier, or any other towns served by Morocco’s railway – but most travellers seem to want to experience the journey north east to Fez. If you want to leave Morocco and head to coastal Essaouira, the Atlas Mountains, or Merzouga for the Sahara Desert, then you’re best bet is taking the bus or a private taxi.
It is not possible to make a reservation or purchase a train ticket online if you are outside of Morocco. Once you arrive in Morocco, however, go to Marrakech train station and purchase your train travel tickets to anywhere in the country. Another way to do it is to use a reputable agency like I did – Marrakech Tickets.co.uk – whereby upon receipt of your payment to the agency, they will buy the tickets for you in Morocco and then give you the tickets when you arrive at your Marrakech hotel. The trains to Fez are very frequent (considering this is essentially Africa!), and unlike in South East Asia it is usually not a problem to turn up at the station and book just a few hours in advance of your trip as long as you don’t mind not having a window seat. This would be the best choice for you if you don’t want to use an agency. One way fares for train travel between Marrakech and Fez are 311 Dirhams (£25) in first class and 203 Dirhams (£16) in second class.
The journey from Marrakech to Fez takes a little over 7 hours on the train, and it is important to realise that the train stops in other cities enroute (Casablanca, Rabat, and Meknes). I took the 08.55hrs train, which arrived just after 16.00 in Fez. The train was surprisingly on time, both in departure and arrival. There are around 10 services between Marrakech and Fez each day, most of which depart Marrakech station two hours apart in the middle of the day, although there is an additional night train to Tangier departing at 23.55hrs and passing through Meknes at around 06.00hrs the next morning. This train takes longer and because it is dark you cannot admire the scenery from the window seat – plus you have to change trains at Meknes for the final leg to Fez. People may consider this option if they want to save on a night’s accommodation while in Morocco. However, please note that there is no direct night train between Marrakech and Fez.
One thing that struck me was the design of the train carriages in Morocco. Although full air-conditioned, you will sit in small compartments opposite one another (sometimes just 8 people to a compartment) and the design reminded me of the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films! I realise I must have been riding on an older train to Fez, as some people have made this journey on normal open carriages with seats either side of the central aisle (like I am used to in Europe or Asia). When booking online, you can choose your seat, but if you are buying tickets on the day from the station then it is first come, first served. Still, even if you are sitting farthest away from the window, you can still cock your head round to see some of the beautiful northern Moroccan scenery on this route.
After the 7 hour journey it is nice to finally arrive in Fez, and I arrived just after 4pm. I negotiated a price for a taxi and headed straight for my hotel. I was only going to spend a few nights in Fez, before taking the train back down to Marrakech again. Thankfully – even though I was expecting the worst beforehand – I have very good memories of train travel in Morocco. Why can’t all African nations have rail networks like this?!