Morocco traveller advice
Climate and seasons
Morocco is a land of contrasts. Lapped by the water of the Mediterranean in the north and by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, it is also crisscrossed by the Rif and Atlas Mountains, which means the country is affected by a host of climatic influences.
The coastal regions are lavished with sunshine. The sun's rays are constant throughout the year and you can soak up their goodness in any season. Agadir, for example, is on the shores of the Atlantic. As the country's premier seaside resort town, it offers fans of la dolce vita300 days of sun per year with mild temperatures and gentle breezes. Further to the north, Taghazout, Mogador and Magazan are also worth a visit.
Because these are a bit further inland, their climate is less Mediterranean and more continental. The topography is more pronounced with splendid panoramas. This is where you find wide, open spaces where adventurers embark on treks and hikes in all seasons.
To the south, the country opens up to the vastness of the Sahara. Spring and fall are the best times to venture here. The sun gleams and reflects off the dunes in a sand-filled landscape. The desert expanses exude a sense of unreality. Climb atop a camel tofind yourself in one of the most beautiful scenes nature has ever made.
What to pack for Morocco
Aside from cultural considerations and the different activities you have planned in Morocco, you also need to pack clothes to cover you for a changeable climate. No matter what time of year, bring layers and prepare for both hot and cold weather at some point.
Even on a short visit to Morocco, you could go from breaking out a sweat in the markets of Marrakech to being very cold at night in the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert.
Layers will serve you well in any season and cover you for all situations. Also, think lightweight, breathable and loose. Aside from wanting clothes that are comfortable in the heat and easy to wash and dry, overly tight clothing can attract unwanted attention.
There are a few simple items both men and women will want to pack for Morocco.
A sun hat will be a must. You are in Africa after all.
Equally, a warm winter beanie if you are planning to visit the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert. It gets very cold in the mornings and at night.
A hoodie or other warm, lightweight top will be necessary. We like a hoodie for the added warmth of the hood and the Smart Travel Hoodie because it has loads of Anti-Theft pockets for your valuables and it packs down small. Perfect for Morocco.
A lightweight travel scarf for both men and women. You will need one for keeping the sun at bay and the sand from your face in the Sahara. It is also handy for both men and women when visiting mosques and religious sites. Men wearing shorts will often be asked to cover up.
Pack a swimsuit. In addition to the many beach possibilities, many hotels and riads will have pools. We found the opportunity to cool off at the hotel pool at Ait Benhaddou very welcome after a full day sightseeing. You may also be able to have a dip at one of the hotel pools in the Sahara.
Unisex Travel Scarf
Unisex Sun Hat
Smart Travel Hoodie for Cold Nights
Warm Beanie Hat for Cold Nights.
Best shoes for Morocco
It goes without saying; bring shoes suitable for the activities you will be undertaking. The following will help you decide the best shoes for Morocco based on your itinerary.
Sandals are suitable for most casual occasions in warmer weather. Just make sure they are comfortable, especially for a long days sightseeing.
In cities and especially when exploring the Medina’s, we would highly recommend a comfortable closed-toe walking shoe. Not only will you be doing some miles, the road conditions, in the medinas especially are not always pleasant. There will be many uneven surfaces, and your feet will get very dirty.
Unless you are doing some serious hiking, sneakers will be suitable for the majority of activities in Morocco such as the Atlas Mountains or Sahara.
Flip-flops are always a handy addition especially if you are planning to visit a Hammam.
For men, there’s not too much special to consider when figuring out what to wear in Morocco. In a nutshell, my advice to you would be:
- Jeans and t-shirt are fine.
- Long shorts (sorry SoCal hipsters) and t-shirts are OK in hotter regions, but are sometimes shorts are viewed as underwear. Bring them, but follow local cues.
- Don’t dress like a bum / Aladdin / etc. It could either get you unwanted attention (of the “hey, hey, hashish?” variety) or you’ll just be laughed at.
For women, you will have to make sure you wear culturally appropriate clothing while traveling in Morocco. However, even though Morocco is predominantly Muslim, it’s more relaxed than some of its neighbors to the east, and most major tourist spots have gotten used to foreigners and their style. Still, be culturally respectful and:
- Cover your shoulders and leave the strappy tops at home.
- Cover your knees at least. In rural areas, full length is even better.
- You don’t need to cover your head, but bring a scarf for visiting mosques.
- I know short shorts and crop tops are in, but leave them at home.
Loose fitting pants and tunics are fantastic for travel to Morocco, especially if you’re there in a hotter month (more on that later).
Morocco’s already pretty relaxed (compared to some other Muslim nations) when it comes to female tourists bearing skin, so don’t abuse it.
Crime and personal safety
Keep your luggage and money secure. Morocco does not have a high crime rate, but it is obviously unwise to carry large sums of cash or valuables on your person – especially in Casablanca and Tangier, and to a lesser extent Fez and Marrakesh. Mugging as such is pretty rare – those who fall victim to theft usually have things taken by stealth, or are subject to some kind of scam (see Guides, hustlers, conmen and kids). Be especially vigilant at transport stations (new arrivals are favourite targets, and just before departure is a favourite time to strike) and in crowd situations where pickpockets may operate. Credit card fraud is also relatively common, so don’t let the plastic out of your sight while using it, and keep an eye out when withdrawing money from ATMs.
Hotels, generally, are secure and useful for depositing money before setting out to explore; larger ones will keep valuables at reception and some will have safes. Campsites are considerably less secure, and many campers advise using a money belt – to be worn even while sleeping. If you do decide on a money belt (and many people spend time quite happily without), leather or cotton materials are preferable to nylon, which can irritate in the heat.
In the larger towns, laundries will take in clothes and wash them overnight, but you’ll usually find it easier to ask at hotels – even in cheap hotels without an official laundry service, the cleaning lady will almost certainly be glad to make a few extra dirhams by taking in a bit of washing.
Passport, visa and length of stay
To avoid any problems when you arrive in Morocco, double-check to be sure you have a valid passport.
Whether you need a visa depends on your nationality.
For all nationalities, the maximum length of a tourism trip is 90 days.
Embassies and consulates
As you prepare for your trip, make note of the contact information for your embassy and consulates outside the capital. You can go there to reissue your travel documents if they are lost and to get an array of advice (health, safety, etc.). Each diplomatic mission usually has an emergency number to be used only if absolutely necessary. Most of the time there is a social services office to help you, even in an emergency.
Is it safe to Travel to Marrakech or Morocco? The security in Morocco is strong. Both the police and the touristic police operate, without counting the reinforcements of the national security alert system and intelligence services, following the growth in terrorist risk. The Kingdom of Morocco is one of, if not the most permissive and tolerant country of the Arab world. The State actively fights against extremism threats and advocated a peaceful Islam. In August 2016, Mohammed 6 made a strong speech in this direction during the 63rd anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People.
The supply is 220v 50Hz. Sockets have two round pins, as in Europe. You should be able to find adaptors in Morocco that will take North American plugs (but North American appliances may need a transformer, unless multi-voltage). Adaptors for British and Australasian plugs will need to be brought from home.
For minor health complaints, a visit to a pharmacy is likely to be sufficient. Moroccan pharmacists are well trained and dispense a wide range of drugs, including many available only on prescription in the West. If pharmacists feel you need a full diagnosis, they can recommend a doctor – sometimes working on the premises. Addresses of English- and French-speaking doctors can also be obtained from consulates and large hotels.
If you need hospital treatment, contact your consulate at once and follow its advice. If you are near a major city, reasonable treatment may be available locally. State hospitals are usually OK for minor injuries, but for anything serious, a private clinic is generally preferable. Depending on your condition, repatriation may be the best course of action.
The latest advice on health in Morocco can be found on the US government’s travel health website at w cdc.gov/travel.
No inoculations are required but you should always be up to date with polio and tetanus. Those intending to stay a long time in the country, especially if working with animals or in the healthcare field, are also advised to consider vaccinations against typhoid, TB, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria and rabies, though these are not worth your while if just going on holiday.
A very low level of malaria does exist in the form of occasional cases between May and October in the region to the north of Beni Mellal and Khenifra, between Chefchaouen and Larache, and in the province of Taza, but local strains are not life-threatening and malaria pills are not normally considered necessary unless you actually fall ill with it (in which case they are easy enough to get at any pharmacy). More importantly, avoid bites; use mosquito repellent on all exposed areas of skin, especially feet, and particularly around dusk. Repellents containing DEET are usually recommended for adults.
At some stage in your Moroccan travels, it is likely that you will get diarrhoea. As a first stage of treatment it’s best simply to adapt your diet. Plain boiled rice is your safest bet, while yoghurt is an effective stomach settler and prickly pears (widely available in summer) are good too, as are bananas, but other fruit is best avoided, along with greasy food, dairy products (except yoghurt), caffeine and alcohol. If you have diarrhoea, it’s important to replace the body fluids and salts lost through dehydration (this is especially the case with children); dissolving oral rehydration salts (sels de réhydratation orale in French) in water will help. These are available at any pharmacy, but if you can’t get any, a teaspoon of salt plus eight of sugar per litre of water makes a reasonable substitute. Water (at least two litres per adult daily) should be drunk constantly throughout the day, rather than all in one go.
If symptoms persist for several days – especially if you get painful cramps, or if blood or mucus appear in your stools – you could have something more serious (see Water and health hazards) and should seek medical advice.
You can bring in, without charge: one litre of spirits, or two litres of wine; 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 400g of tobacco; 150ml of perfume or 250ml of eau de toilette; jewellery; a camera and a laptop for personal use; gifts worth up to 2000dh (£150/$240). Prohibited goods include arms and ammunition (except for hunting), controlled drugs, and “books, printed matter, audio and video cassettes and any immoral items liable to cause a breach of the peace”.
Items such as electronic equipment and video cameras may occasionally be entered on your passport. If you lose them during your visit, they will be assumed “sold” when you come to leave and (unless you have police documentation of theft) you will have to pay one hundred percent duty. All goods entered on your passport should be “cleared” when leaving to prevent problems on future trips. Vehicles need a Green Card.
The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham MAD, which is divided into 100 cents. The dirham is a closed currency, meaning it can only be traded in Morocco, so you can’t order and collect it in your home country to take to Morocco with you. It’s easy to purchase your cash in Morocco from a local bureau de change (plenty at the airports), bank or withdraw it using an ATM. Many hotels also offer this service. Exchanging money in the street is illegal however, so please avoid these unofficial schemes.
It’s a good idea to keep your receipt when buying dirhams as you’ll need it to convert any remaining dirham to your local currency before you leave. Please be aware – you won’t be able to change Scottish or Northern Ireland bank notes and it‘s also very difficult to exchange travellers’ cheques.
Cash is the preferred method of payment across most of Morocco as very few traders have card facilities, though larger stores, hotels and other amenities are more likely to take payments on a card, usually Visa and Mastercard (AMEX is rarely accepted). There is often a small charge to cover this service. Always try and have some small change on you – ATMs usually dispense 100 and 200 dirham notes which can be quite hard to break and aren’t much good if you just wish to pay for something small such as a coffee or a taxi ride.
As with travel to any other country, please inform your bank/credit card company of your travel plans. This should avoid unexpected blocks being placed on your card. Also check whether they impose a fee for withdrawing cash or making purchases abroad so you don’t have a raft of surprise charges waiting for you when you come back! Keep a list of your card numbers and contact phone numbers for your bank separate to your wallet or purse, so if you do lose your cards you’ll know how to get in touch with your card issuer.
Banks and exchange
English pounds and US and Canadian dollars can all be changed at banks, large hotels and some travel agents and tourist shops, but by far the most widely accepted foreign currency is the euro, which many people will accept in lieu of dirhams, at time of writing for the (bad) rate of €1 to 10dh. Gibraltarian banknotes are accepted for exchange at a very slightly lower rate than English ones, but Scottish and Northern Irish notes are not negotiable in Morocco, and nor are Australian and New Zealand dollars, South African rand, Algerian dinars or Mauritanian ouguiya, though you should be able to change CFAs. Moroccan bank clerks may balk at changing banknotes with numbers scrawled on them by their counterparts abroad, so change any such notes for clean ones before leaving home.
BMCE tends to be the best bank for money changing. Usually at banks, you fill in forms at one desk, then join a second queue for the cashier, and you’ll usually need to show your passport as proof of identity. Standard banking hours for most of the year are Monday to Friday 8.15am to 3.45pm. During Ramadan, banks typically open 9.30am to 2pm. BMCE and Attijariwafa Bank sometimes have a separate bureau de change open longer hours and at weekends, and there are now private foreign exchange bureaux in most major cities and tourist destinations, which open longer hours, often on Sundays too, change money with no fuss or bureaucracy, and don’t usually charge commission. Many post offices will also change cash, and large hotels may change money out of banking hours, though their rates may not be good.
There is a small currency black market but you are recommended not to use it: changing money on the street is illegal and subject to all the usual scams, and the rate is not particularly preferential.
Credit and debit cards
Credit and debit cards on the Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus and Plus networks can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs at many banks, but not the ones outside post offices. Otherwise, banks may advance cash against Visa or Mastercard. By using ATMs, you get trade exchange rates, which are better than those charged by banks for changing cash, but your card issuer may add a transaction fee, sometimes hefty. There is a daily limit on ATM cash withdrawals, usually 3000dh.
You can pay directly with plastic (usually with Mastercard, Visa or American Express, though the latter cannot be used in ATMs) in upmarket hotels, restaurants and tourist shops.
Key information on Ramadan, F’tour, Eid
If you are wondering what to do during the month of Ramadan, be aware that in most cities everything is open: museums, restaurants… Some shops of the Souk are closing from 11am to 4pm though. The museums close earlier, at 4pm. It is advised to drink discreetly and not smoke in front of Muslims, by respect, as they are fasting. The period of Ramadan 2019 will last 1 month from 06 May 2019 to 4 June 2019.
The Ftour, breaking of the fast during Ramadan, at sunset, is a great moment. The Muslims are pleased to be able to eat and drink. The Ftour becomes popular. Many restaurants in Marrakech have now Ftour offers, with appetizing buffets, and which are a moment of conviviality.
2 months after the end of Ramadan, the Muslims celebrate the Aid, which could correspond to the Christmas for Catholics. More commonly known as the feast of the sheep, the Aid lasts 1 day.During this time, many museums are closed and a lot of shops also. The restaurants and shops for tourists remain open. It is advisable to make an excursion in this day.
Language and common vocabulary
While travelling in Morocco, you will be enchanted by Arabic. The language sings and its warm intonations encourage conversation. The Amazigh language, which uses the Tifinagh alphabet, is the shared heritage of all Moroccans.
To rub elbows with the locals and make the most of your trip, here are some Arabic concepts you should learn. Once you leave your hotel, a few words are all it takes to make contact. With "as-salaam alaykum" you have said hello to a new friend, who will reply with "waalaykum as-salaam". Ask "labass" to find out how he's doing, then say goodbye with a hearty "beslama".
When your day takes you to the souk, the art of negotiation kicks in. For successful dealings, make note of these essential phrases: "kayen" means "do you have" something; "ma'arft" means you are not sure; "iyah" and "lla" mean "yes" and "no". Finally, say "rally bizef" for "too expensive" and the bargaining has begun!
Later, as you order tea on the patio, tell your server "Atini Attay" for "I'd like a mint tea" and when he brings it to you, thank him: "Shukran".
Because Moroccans have a natural gift for languages, your stay is destined to be a pleasant one!
Labass – How are you?
As-salaam Alaykum – literally means peace be with you, but is used as a ‘hello’. The correct response is Wa Alaykum As-salaam
Beslama – Good bye
Iyah – Yes
Lla – No
Ma’arft – I don’t know/I’m not sure
Kayen – Do you have?
Afek – Please
Shukran – Thank you
La deed – Delicious
Rally bizef – Too expensive (a good one to remember when bartering!)
Attay – Mint Tea
Atini – I would like.
Simple street cafe's 5 Dh
Chic modern cafe / lounge bar 10-20 Dh
Simple restaurant (street food) 10 Dh
Smarter restaurant 80-150 Dh
Hotel porter 20-50 Dh
Guardian for car parking 3 Dh
Driver on shorter transfer (-1 hours) 50-150 Dh
Driver on longer transfer (1+ hours) 100-300 Dh
Your guide after a half or full day tour 100-300 Dh
Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country (though a more socially liberated one than many others), so please be aware that some behaviour that is acceptable at home is not permitted here. Dress is usually more restrained. Miniskirts and short shorts should be avoided in public areas. Some places are more relaxed than others however, especially in coastal resorts with a strong tourist presence, but if in doubt take note of how locals are dressed and use it as a guide.
Fridays are seen as a holy day so expect shops and market stalls to close around midday. And during the month of Ramadan (the dates of which change every year) you should refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public as a mark of respect. The consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Islam but it can still be purchased in larger stores, especially in touristy areas, and in hotels and restaurants.
Morocco is a visual feast and it can be hard to know where to point your camera first! Landscapes are no problem as they rarely have an issue with their picture being taken. When photographing people though, it’s important to be respectful – imagine how you’d feel if strangers started to take your picture without a by-your-leave! Always ask permission first, and it helps if you get to know your subject a bit better. Moroccans are very friendly and you should have no trouble getting to know them.
Local clock and holiday schedule
In Morocco, every holiday is cause for a celebration in which you will be thrilled to take part. The atmosphere is quite different and very rewarding at these times.
The dates of religious holidays depend on the lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan will give you a chance to experience something out of the ordinary: it's all about sharing and nightlife!
Morocco is on GMT+1. It's very easy to adjust to the different schedule and you will not waste a minute of your exceptional trip!
Transport in morocco
With its colors, friendly people, customs and traditions, and characteristic architecture, Morocco is a place that compels you to explore every last inch.
The national airline, Royal Air Morocco (RAM) operates many domestic flights. There are 18 airports to help you discover Morocco, from north to south! Visit www.royalairmaroc.com to learn more.
The rail network run by Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF) covers the entire country and the Supratours bus company takes over if your destination does not have a railroad station. Starting in 2018, a high-speed train will serve the Casablanca-Tangiers route.
Cars drive on the right and most vehicles have manual transmissions. Road signs are in French and Arabic. There are national highways that run north-south to serve all of Morocco.