Between Places: on the night train from Marrakech to Tanger

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The fatigue of travel is really showing in the area under my eyes

When I shared with Nisrine (our friend who hails from Casablanca) our Moroccan travel plans she asked how we were going to move from Marrakech to Tanger/Chefchaouen. I accidentally said, “By bus!” and she looked horrified.

I meant by the train, of course, but I was preoccupied with booking buses in Europe and my brain mixed things up.

She was SO relieved.

“Always the train, never the bus. Never!” she instructed.

But I just could not book the tickets online no matter which card I tried or which browser I used. After trawling some forums, I found out that ONCF (the railway operator) only accepts online bookings using Moroccan bank cards.

I preferred pre-booking everything in advance but oh well. Thankfully, the offline way is quite straightforward.

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The Marrakech Railway Station is a beautiful and new building

You can book your tickets at the train station even on the day of travel itself. It’s really easier to use than the website (which was in French) and accepted both cash and credit cards. There were also attendants around the ticketing machine who helped us when we got stuck.

The attendants also laughed when we asked if we had to board early to get seats. The attendants said the journeys we selected were not popular to the point of crowded so we had nothing to worry about.

(Ok the reason I asked was because some fear-mongering traveler on a forum said that if you had a second-class ticket you’re not guaranteed a seat, and you might have to stand your whole trip if the train was crowded. No way was I going to stand the whole night.)

  • 1x 2nd-class tickets for Marrakech to Tanger = 216 MAD (31 SGD or 20 EUR)

We bought some street food in the souk and McDonald’s at the station to-go to eat on the train. Remember to stock up on bottled water. The train was really clean and comfortably air-conditioned. The seats were wide and legroom was plenty.

However the toilets get dirtier as the night goes on, you’ll really need your wet wipes for this.

FullSizeRender 5We tried to sleep but didn’t feel safe to not have at least one of us watching the belongings, so we napped in shifts. Pack your eyeshades as well if you’re not booking a couchette in the sleeper car, lights never go out in the 2nd-class carriages.

There was a long stop halfway through our journey at around 2am, when all the lights went out, as did the air-conditioning. We believed that the driver switched off the train engine to take his morning meal (it was Ramadhan).

It was also around this point when my brain began to shut down as well. I started on this post but never got past the second paragraph.

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Watching The Darjeeling Limited on a train seemed appropriate, but I nodded off halfway into the film

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When we pulled into Tanger Ville around 7am in the morning, we were absolutely drained. All we wanted was to sit down somewhere with breakfast and wifi, but there was nothing open that “early” in the morning, not even McDonald’s! Sometimes we forget  that most McDonald’s outside Singapore do not operate 24/7 ):

We then caught a taxi to the bus station, which began the next leg of our journey to Chaouen – the Blue City.

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