What to Expect on Your First Visit to Fes, Morocco

Fes is the second-largest city in Morocco, a fantastic 8th-century mixture of Andalusian and African cultures, and an exceptional example of Moorish and Moroccan art, architecture, and urban design. Because it was originally two settlements, it has two medinas, and a fascinating Jewish quarter, the world’s largest urban pedestrian zone, and boasts the oldest continually functioning university in the world. While most visitors flock to Marrakech, Fes has incredible sights and authentic Moroccan culture, and is one of the most richly rewarding cities in Morocco.

The climate of Fes is a true Mediterranean climate, less extreme and arid than Marrakech, with summer highs in the low 90s, and winter lows in the high 30s. It gets 2-4 inches of rain per month in the rainy season, and has more cloud cover year-round than the southern part of the country.

Morocco uses the Moroccan dirham, and there are a variety of places to exchange currencies. Morocco is a cash economy, and you should expect to pay in cash for transport, meals, and shopping in the market, although you can generally use a card to pay for lodging. However, ATMs are widely available and easily found.

The most common language in Fes the Moroccan Arabic dialect of Darija, but fluent French is widely spoken as a second language. English is more common among young people and in more heavily visited areas, and most tourists do not find the language barrier to be too great a challenge.

Local Transport
Fes is served by the small Saïs Airport, which is a 15 minute cab ride from the city center, but most visitors arrive by train from Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, or Tangier.

While our clients generally have private transportation in Morocco, there are a variety of local transportation options to use while visiting Fes. The city has a bus service in the city (but outside of the medina), the service is often unreliable and over crowded. Taxis are very affordable and the most common form of transport.

Petit taxis are ubiquitous and very convenient for transport within the city. They are not allowed to leave the city, carry more than 3 passengers, and can only charge the rate on the meter.

Grand taxis offer ground transport between cities, and can carry 6-8 passengers. They often have an existing route, and leave when the seats are full, or can be booked privately.

Getting around on foot
Fes has the largest pedestrian-only zones in the world, and cars and taxis are excluded from the heart of the old city. Within the medina, it’s usually necessary to travel on foot, and you may need to ask a shopkeeper for directions, as maps can be confusing and inaccurate. If you are staying at a hotel, they will generally have a color-coded map with the location of your lodging clearly marked, and it will probably be necessary. Be prepared to frequently step aside to make room for passing donkey carts, carriages, and motorized vehicles of all kinds.

Be wary of locals who offer to guide you to your destination; they will want a tip afterward, and may argue with you about the value of the service. However, if you agree on a rate ahead of time, and don’t get misled into only visiting shops and cafes where your guide gets a percentage of your purchase, a local guide can be a great way to see the city. Rather than allow someone to randomly approach you, it’s good to ask for recommendations ahead of time.

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