I guess that many travellers arrive in Marrakech for their journey to Essaouira. Our High Atlas hike was arranged by KE Adventure in the UK and was based around Marrakech. We fancied a few "chill" days after our hard work and they offered a 4 day extension trip to Essaouira for approximately £200 a person. Given that Morocco shouldn't be an expensive country, my personal challenge was to do it for cheaper. My beloved's additional challenge was to do the trip without hassle.
Checking on a travel booking website, the hotel the tour company used was £46 a night for a room so I booked a similarly priced Riad more to my liking, which meant I had approximately £260 to cover the two way journey from Marrakech to Essaouira. The distance between the two cities is approximately 110 miles or 170 km so it is a fair way to travel.
Unfortunately there are no trains between the two cities although the train company runs a rather handy "Western Style" coach/bus between the two places, which takes about 4 hours with a stop in the middle. This costs approximately £6 ($10) a person each way, and so is a very reasonable way to go. Or, it would be "reasonable" if you had a partner willing to take the coach. One little issue is that ideally you should book your tickets in advance and as the web site wasn't being very user friendly, that would have meant visiting the train station the afternoon before to get the tickets. OK, even I am a bit too old to spend my time messing around organising things.
So, it had to be a taxi and I searched in vain for a reasonably priced taxi firm on the internet to be booked from the UK. Unfortunately the prices that were coming up on the internet were in excess of £90 each way meaning that I hardly beat the tour operators price overall. Tip to some enterprising soul: collate a network of local, cheap and good taxi firms across the world add a 10% premium to the prices, set up a website and you will be clover.
Instead, I contacted the Riad we had booked in Essaouira and arranged two taxi trips with them. Price 65 Euros each way (or approximately £110 in total). Bingo, that meant I had saved £150 on the tour company price and booked something with similar door to door luxury; the result was that both my beloved and my wallet were happy bunnies.
Our trip went very smoothly and I looked out of the window in anticipation as the guide books I had read advised that you could ask the guide to stop for photo opportunities enroute between the two cities. First, the sprawl of Marrakech seemed to go on for miles, with a lot of half finished new apartments, and space being converted to luxury golf hotels miles from the city centre.
After that, we spotted a lot of very arid and poor farmland and then plantations of argon trees, before reaching another town with another load of those unfinished housing apartments. Perhaps we had been spoiled by the High Atlas but my finger didn't twitch once over the camera on/off switch.
After a stop at a roadside cafe for a glass of refreshing Tango Orange, we drove on and just at the point where the taxi couldn't stop we suddenly spotted something worth taking a photo of; a herd of goats atop an Argon tree eating shoots and buds! On our way back, we hoped to see more of these nimble goats, but it wasn't to be.
If you book a hotel in the Medina area of either Marrakech or Essaouira then be prepared for a final twist to your journey; your taxi driver will arrange for a porter and trailer to deliver your baggage to your hotel door. Believe you me in that heat and busy conditions it is well worth paying 10-20 Dirham (£1.50 maximum) for your porter to both carry your heavy luggage and to take you through the maze of streets to the front door of your Riad.