This is an expanded explanation from my trip report, One Week In Morocco.
We researched ahead of time and found there are two main bus companies – CTM and Supratours . I had actually decided on CTM but since our hotel was kind enough to send a guide to accompany us to the office to buy tickets, and he took us to Supratours, I just went with the flow and got tickets from Supratours instead. Do try to buy your tickets ahead of time in case they sell out . Supratours has “Comfort Plus” buses with reclining seats and smaller passenger count, but we didn’t take one of those buses cause we wanted the 10:45am departure, not 9am. Supratours does have a more convenient drop-off location for Essaouira so you’re planning to walk to your hotel in Essaouira, you might want to look up the distance on Google Maps ahead of time.
You don’t have to go to the stations themselves to buy tickets – each bus company has a ticket-selling office closer to the central area, so ask your hotel or look online where the best place is to get tickets. Almost all the hotels/riads that cater to tourists will be very used to this request.
A couple tips:
- Your tickets have seat numbers and people will insist on sitting exactly where they are assigned, so don’t try to sit somewhere else until you see how full the bus is. In the photo above, the seat number is in the upper right hand corner labeled “Place”.
- Both CTM and Supratours will offer a 15 minute rest stop about halfway through the trip, you can buy snacks, water, and use the restrooms. There aren’t any restrooms on the bus.
- When you get to the bus station in Marrakesh to check in, look for a counter to pre-pay for your checked bags. At the Supratours station in Marrakesh, this was an open room to the LEFT of the main entrance to the station and had a long counter. So we didn’t have to go inside the main station cause we already had our tickets, we just had to go to the luggage office. You will show them your bus tickets and they will ask you how many bags you have. You have to pay per bag. They’ll give you a receipt and look carefully – this will actually be a sticker that you must put on your baggage before putting it under the bus. This tells the staff you paid for your bags correctly.
- You can put small bags or back-bags over your head on the bus if you don’t want to check them, but on the regular bus there isn’t a whole lot of leg room (just average bus legroom) so don’t try to carry all your bags with you, you’ll only annoy your seatmate. Take a small bag to keep at your seat and then check the rest for convenience.
- Everything was very punctual so be sure to allow enough time to take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station and to sort out your luggage. The bus stations tend to be further away from the central Marrakesh hotels, so make sure you’re aware of travel times. The bus won’t wait for you!
- The bus may not be at the station if you arrive early. Don’t worry, everyone will cluster around the correct loading bay (you can ask someone if you’re not sure) and when the bus does arrive, it should say its destination in the front window. When in doubt just ask the bus driver. Once the bus arrives and they open up the luggage compartment, give your checked bags to the staff to put underneath. When you board they will often have a person with a clipboard checking your tickets, instead of giving them to the bus driver.
The bus will stop about halfway through the 3 hour trip to allow you to stretch your legs for 15 minutes, use the washrooms, and buy a snack.
I used a private driver for the return to Marrakesh as I was going straight to a new hotel in the Atlas Mountains, but for a direct journey, the buses were comfortable, cheap, and very easy. I would definitely take this route again with either Supratours or CTM!