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How to Get a Moroccan Drivers License

How to get a Moroccan Driving License.  An seasoned expat just passed the test.  She is the first foreigner we know who lives in Morocco and who has passed the test.  She lists in detail what to do below. 

You might think that because you are a long-time driver and have a license from a country with a well-established traffic safety program,  getting a license here in Morocco would be a relatively quick process: a few days to do the paperwork, read through the manual and take the test. Alas that is not the case, for several reasons.

The first reason is that the Moroccan written test is styled after the French test. This means they include many questions that are designed simply to trick you.  Additionally, questions cover things not found in the manual or any other readily available source of information. Therefore practicing for the test is essential. You can take an online practice test without any preparation, and see how you do [at mtpnet.gov.ma]  I failed it, [and then discovered the questions were not as challenging as the practice tests and the real test].

The second reason is language. The test is offered in French, Derija and Classical Arabic. However, you might find dozens of vocabulary words you have never encountered before. Three that were new to me in French were rearview mirror, to merge, and passing lane.  Learning all the vocabulary may take a fair amount of time. You can think of it as another opportunity to work on your language skills.

The third reason is paperwork and government bureaucracy.  Enough said.

So what do you do?

1] Find an auto école and enroll.  I chose one because it had a professional air and I needed staff with a high level of French [since my French isn’t so strong].  It can be helpful to choose a school that is easy to get to as you will be visiting it often.

The cost of a driving school in Rabat may range from 1000 dirhams to 2000 dirhams. In addition to the cost of the school, there are about 1000 dirhams of additional costs [stamps, manual, eye exam, administrative fees].

2] Do your paperwork. At my first auto école appointment,  I was given a list that outlined what I needed to do before I began class.  This turned out to be wise advice because once I started at the auto école, I was busy enough. 

You have to buy a formulaire blanc du permis de conduire at a tabac or bookstore. This dossier gets filled up with stamps, photos, test results etc. You also have to buy stamps, get photos made and have a copy of your carte de séjour notarized. You will need a 450 dirham droit de timbre stamp, though my auto école got it for me.

3] Buy a copy of the Code Rousseau de la Route. This a manual for the Permis B, the standard driving permit. You can purchase it at a tabac or bookstore for 100 dirhams and it is available in French or Arabic. It is not an official government publication, but it does cover the Moroccan driving code in-depth [though not completely]. There is another booklet that outlines the actual infractions which is official and free, but isn’t particularly helpful for the test.

4] Have an eye exam.  This has to be done at the official eye exam place. In Rabat this is at the Centre Diagnostique on Hassan II just inside the medina wall at Bab El Bouiba.   The Centre is only open for eye exams from 8:30 to noon, thus getting there early is wise. There were no signs, so finding my way required the aid of several kind people.  The day I went there were about 85 people getting their eyes checked.

First I had to pay for the exam [150 dhms]. Fortunately, an official gave out numbers to people in the order that they arrived to pay at the caisse. Then I had to wait for the exam. They not only gave me a number for this line but there was also a policeman making sure no one cut in the line  [no mean feat, I assure you]. 

I arrived  just before the caisse opened at 8:30 and it was 11:45 before I had my exam. I  had to return later that day to pick up my dossier.  [Another man arrived at 7 AM and waited for the caisse and then the exam place to open. It took him about 3 hours from start to finish as well.]

5] Start studying.  The auto école I went to had about ten individual computer stations, and one large screen for group work. There is an extensive online course, however because I was an experienced driver, the directrice had me go straight to taking the practice tests.  I believe both the online course and the practice tests should be standard at any auto école.  I had read through the Code Rousseau once  but I would recommend studying it thoroughly before you start taking the practice tests.

There are 36 practice tests of 40 questions each, in the same format as the actual test.  Currently, to pass you only need to get 30 of the 40 questions right. But I’ve heard they will soon be changing this to 35 out of 40.

 As I said, some questions are designed to be tricky.  Every question has a photo [you may recognize many of the locations, except perhaps the pictures of snow-covered roads]. A voice reads the question that is printed below the photo, you respond within a certain time frame which changes given the complexity of the question. You can move on to the next question as soon as you want. 

When you are finished with a practice test, you see your test results and review your wrong answers. At my auto école I sometimes did this with an instructor who explained why I had been mistaken. Other times I listened to the computer correction [a voice explains the answers].

I went every day for two weeks, usually staying up to two hours [more than that and my brain became fried.] That was time enough to take 3 or 4 practice tests.  I was able to come and go as suited me, which was very helpful. I also studied and reviewed outside of class [both the French vocabulary I was learning and the intricacies of the code, especially the things that were not covered in the Code Rousseau.]  It felt like a full-time job. You could do this at a much slower pace if you wanted to. 

Occasionally, I was sent to the group work section. I didn't like this at first because I found it hard to read the pictures on the larger screen, and I couldn't go through the questions at my own pace. I also had to listen to everyone's corrections. {Such as the time we were given the question: "Your cell phone rings while you are driving. What do you do?", and a young woman chose "Answer the cell phone"}  However, I eventually learned that this was the same set-up for the actual test and I suddenly welcomed the chance to practice in a group.

General tips on answering test questions [also known as “why do you want to mess with my head?”]

a)      Often the other vehicles or people in the photo are not right at the intersection but the question applies as if they are.

b)      Watch out for vehicles in the picture that are disobeying the rule, leading you to sin. Except for  the vehicles indicate what you should be doing.

c)       Watch out for signs that don’t apply to a car. Except for the ones that do apply to a car even though you think they don’t. [for example, a Permis B allows you to drive a camionette which can be used to transport merchandise, so if the question says you are driving a camionette, the signs for trucks delivering merchandise apply to you.]

d)      Pay attention to all signalization, not just signs but road markings as well. Watch for signs hidden behind cars.

e)      Watch out for questions where there is more than one right answer.

f)       Watch out for obvious questions where the answer is what you would naturally assume. But also watch out for obvious questions where the answer is not what you would naturally assume [see tank vs. car below].

g)      Watch out for pictures that are tricky. A photo may appear to be taken in the country but have a little bit of the city in the rear view mirror. I’ve been told they are not afraid to use Photoshop.

h)      Watch out for questions that are very literal. And watch out for the ones that aren’t.

i)        Watch out for the precise wording of a question. The same situation may be asked in a slightly different way, resulting in a different answer.

j)        In French at least, watch out for the subtleties of the verb pouvoir [to be able]. It is used to mean can, possible, could, and should.

5] Have patience.  The first week, even though I was studying outside class, I was getting a lot of questions wrong.  When questions were illogical or even nonsensical I found it hard to maintain a good attitude for study.[Example: you are shown a picture of a tank and a car, and asked which is better to be in if you have a violent accident. Answer: the car because the tank has explosives.] This maybe my particular scruple. However it was also comforting the second week to hear new Moroccan students expressing the exact same frustrations. 

There is the additional frustration of becoming even more aware of how many infractions are committed in the course of normal driving here. But at the same time, I learned that some things I have always thought were against the law are actually allowed [driving with parking lights in a city at night, being able to transport something that extends 9 meters off the back of your vehicle, no limitation on how high your load can be on the roof of your car or truck.]  And then there are the points which are the exact opposite as the US code. [In a T intersection here, priority is always to the right unless marked otherwise, even if the vertical road has no road markings and the top has a dotted line road marking suggesting it is a more major road.]

4] Practice driving.  After two weeks of practice tests, l was pulled out of class and asked if I could take the exam the following week.  When I said yes, I was sent to practice driving.  We went to where the driving part of the exam is given and walked through the course. Currently, they test you on three driving maneuvers:  marche arrière which is backing up for 30 meters [though I’m not sure why, given the only time you can legally back up is doing a three-point turn or parking], créneau otherwise known as parallel parking, and turning into a parking space [or garage]. Then we practiced these maneuvers in a parking lot. I discovered it is difficult to execute the maneuvers when the monitor is using his steering wheel and brake, or he is outside the car telling me what to do and I'm not entirely clear on what he is saying in French.

5] Take the written test.  The auto école submitted my dossier and I was assigned to a certain test time according to language [I learned the actual time about 15 hours before the exam--thus you need to block out the whole day for the exam.] In Rabat, the exam is given at the Service de Mine/ Transport building on Rue Temsna, near Bab Temsna [though this location will be changing sometime in the fall].

There were 11 people in each test group for the written test. They were quite strict about the test and there were surveillance cameras to discourage cheating.  For the real test, the voice repeats each question twice, as well as giving you time to respond, so you don't feel rushed. The photos were also easier to see. In Rabat, I believe they will soon be changing the test from a group setting to individual computer stations.

There were a few questions on the test that were completely new to me, and some tricky questions. I didn’t recognize many of the photos, but the situations were familiar from the practice tests.

When the test was finished, the examiner validated each test [putting up the results on the screen for all to see].  All 11 of us passed. You must pass this part of the test before taking the driving test. For both parts, if you fail your first attempt, you can retake it within two weeks. If you fail a second time, you have to wait a certain period before starting again from the beginning, with a new dossier etc.

6] Take the driving test.  This was given the same day at a different location and took 3 1/2 hours because there were so many applicants [at least two  dozen], and everyone had to do the course before taking the very brief 'real' driving part [which entailed driving down a parking lot road for 200 meters or so]. It was reassuring to see that the anxiety I had before both tests was shared by virtually every other applicant, no matter what their age, nationality, or previous driving experience.

 I was thankful I brought a hat, water and food.  A folding chair and a sun umbrella would have been good, a splash pool would have been even nicer.  [I also thought that an enterprising person might get the idea of subsidizing their costs by bringing a cooler of cold drinks and reselling them to the other students. Lemonade anyone?]

When the driving test began, there were only the two cars going through the course. Eventually more arrived and at one point there were a dozen cars from other auto écoles which made the small course a bit more challenging.  All the applicants passed except for one driver who managed to jump the curb while backing up. You are given no receipt or paper once you finish the driving test; they retain all the paperwork.

I suspect that the test conditions may vary widely depending on where you live. However the plan is to bring test centers all over Morocco to a common standard.

7] Return to the motor vehicle place a few days later with your carte de séjour and 150 dirhams to pick up your provisional license.

8] Return 2 weeks to a few months later to pick up your actual license. This is a ‘novice license’ which is good for 2 years. Apparently, a novice driver is not allowed to go above 90kph. If you remain in good standing you then get the standard license, which is good for ten years. 

Bonne route!