Morocco travel guide
Morocco is just a step away from Europe, across the narrow straits of Gibraltar, but it is a world away in terms of culture and experience, brimming over with contrasts, colour and mystery. This is partly due to its geographical position, situated at the crossroads where East meets West, Africa shakes hands with Europe, and the Mediterranean merges with the Atlantic.
Sitting at the top northwest corner of Africa and sharing two oceans, the country's main appeal for visitors has always been its Mediterranean charm, the quality of its crafts, and its exotic nature. However, in more recent years travellers are discovering other hidden delights and adventures, particularly in the northern and central parts of Morocco, in the Rif and High Atlas Mountains, where it is even possible to enjoy a skiing holiday. Then, down south, some are drawn to explore the sands of the Western Sahara, on camelback, horseback or by 4X4.
Whether you visit Morocco for the sunshine or to trek through the mountains or the hot desert sands, it is a sure bet that you will also be enchanted by the timeless Medieval medinas of the cities, particularly in Fez and Marrakech, where the souks and squares plunge visitors into a fascinating foreign world. Snake charmers weave their magic; the stench of the tanners' yards pervades the air; and the call of the muezzins wafts from the ancient minarets. The abiding memory will be one of sweetened mint tea, brightly-coloured slippered feet and big smiles.
Although most of its suburban enclaves are modern, Morocco has more than its fair share of ancient monuments and magnificent buildings, reflecting a turbulent history shaped by its strategic location. Since the days of the Phoenicians, Morocco has attracted foreign interest from the Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and ancient Greeks until the coming of the Arabs in the 7th century, who brought Islam and the Alaouite Dynasty. European powers have had their day, too, trying to control this northernmost tip of Africa: France and Spain battled for control until nationalism triumphed and the Kingdom of Morocco gained independence in 1956 (except for the two small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north, which are still controlled by Spain). This rich past, coupled with a timeless present, makes Morocco a magical mystery tour of surprises and enchantments for millions of visitors every year.
The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 santimat. ATMs are available in the larger cities and towns, but can be unreliable; currency can be exchanged at banks or official bureaux de change, which are also widespread in major towns. Dirhams cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants.
Language : Arabic is the official language, but eight other languages are also spoken including Berber, French and Spanish. English is generally understood in the tourist areas, but French is the most widely spoken.
Electricity : Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round plugs are in use.
Entry Requirements :
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. No visa is required, for stays of up to three months.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. A visa is not required for stays of up to three months, for holders of British passports endorsed British Citizen, British National (Overseas), or British Subject (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom).
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. No visa is required, for stays of up to three months.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. No visa is required for stays of up to three months.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. A visa is required.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. No visa is required for stays of up to three months.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Morocco. No visa is required for stays of up to three months.
Passport/Visa Note :
All foreign passengers to Morocco must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. All visitors who wish to stay for a longer period than their visa exemption allows, must report to the nearest police station within 21 days of their arrival in Morocco. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health :
No vaccinations are required to enter Morocco. Those who may be at risk of animal bites or who will be coming into contact with bats should consider a rabies vaccination, and all travellers are advised to consider vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.
It is advisable to drink bottled water and avoid street food and raw or uncooked meat. Avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water. The beaches around Casablanca are polluted and considered unsafe for swimming. Medical facilities are decent in all major cities but can be extremely limited in rural areas. Health insurance is essential. All required medications should be taken along, in their original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
A tip of 10 to 15 percent is expected in the more expensive bars and restaurants, though some establishments do include a service charge. Most services are performed with the aim of getting a few dirham, but aggressive hustling shouldn't be rewarded. Nevertheless, visitors should note that tips are the only income for some porters and guides.
Safety Information :
Violent crime is not a major problem in Morocco, but there have been some incidents of theft at knife point in major cities and on beaches. Sensible precautions such as avoiding badly lit streets at night should be adhered to. Guides offering their services should display an official badge from the local tourist authorities. Most visits to Morocco are trouble-free; however, terrorist attacks have occurred in the past and there is a general threat of kidnappings in northern Africa, so visitors are advised to be vigilant. Be sure to check with your travel agent or tour advisor about the current political situation in Morocco before finalising your travel plans - the area is potentially volatile, and political demonstrations (although they are mostly peaceful) are not the kind of memory you want to take with you from Morocco. The touts and merchants can get quite pushy and confrontational so don't be shy to be firm in your refusal of goods or services. There have been reports of female travellers struggling with lots of unwanted attention from Moroccan men, and it is considered a difficult country to travel in alone as a woman.
Local Customs :
Morocco is a Muslim country and it is preferable to keep the wearing of swimsuits, shorts and other revealing clothing to the beach or hotel poolside. Women travelling alone will generally be hassled less if dressed conservatively. Smoking is practiced widely, and it is customary to offer cigarettes in social situations. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Several foreigners were expelled in 2010 for alleged proselytising. The giving and receiving of things, and the eating of food, should only be done with the right hand, as the left is considered unclean. Homosexuality is a criminal offence, and sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.
Business in Morocco has been influenced by France and therefore tends to be conducted formally, with an emphasis on politeness. Dress is formal, and women in particular should dress conservatively. Most business is conducted in French, although some English is spoken. It is best to ascertain beforehand what language the meeting will be in, and arrange an interpreter as needed. Visitors are expected to be punctual, though meetings may not start on time. Moroccans are friendly and enjoy socialising; trust and friendship are an important part of business dealings so be prepared to engage in small talk. A handshake is common when arriving and departing. Women may encounter some sexism in business, although this is starting to change. Most businesses are closed on Fridays, and some are also closed on Thursdays.
The international access code for Morocco is +212. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills so it is best to check before making long international calls. Mobile GSM 900/1800 networks cover the north of the country with some 3G and 4G/LTE coverage. Internet cafes are widely available in tourist areas.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Morocco over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 400g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine; and perfume up to 5g.
Casablanca Mohammed V Airport
Location: The airport is situated 16 miles (25km) south of Casablanca.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between last Sunday in March and first Sunday in June)
Contacts: Tel: +212 (0)2 253 9040.
Transfer between terminals: The terminals are connected by a free shuttle.
Getting to the city: Trains leave the airport for Casa-Voyageurs station roughly every hour between about 7am and midnight; the trip takes approximately 45 minutes. Most hotels will arrange airport transfers, either complimentary or for a fee. Taxis and rental cars are also available.
Car rental: There are numerous car hire companies represented at the airport.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are freely available outside the airport terminal, operating 24 hours per day. Note that drivers are legally obligated to use their meters.
Facilities: The airport has shops, restaurants and bars, ATMs and currency exchange services, and a post office. There are tourist information desks, a VIP Lounge, business centre, and disabled facilities, although it is recommended that those with special needs contact their airline in advance.
Parking: Short and long-term parking is available at the airport for a fee.
Departure tax: None.
Menara International Airport
Location: The airport is situated four miles (6km) south-west of Marrakech.
Contacts: Tel: +212 (0)5 244 7910.
Transfer between terminals: The terminals are within walking distance of each other.
Getting to the city: Bus: There is a shuttle bus (No. 19) running from the airport every hour between roughly 6am and 12:25am, and to the airport between 6am and 11:40pm. It goes via Hivernage, Jemaa El Fna, Bab Doukkala, Gueliz, ONCF Station.
Taxi: 'Petit' taxis are available at Parking Lot 1, and the fare should be about MAD 80 to MAD 100, with a 50 percent increase at night. Larger taxis are available at increased rates.
Car rental: There are a few car rental companies with offices in Marrakech-Menara, including Sixt, National, Hertz, Avis, Europcar, ADA and a few other local companies. Driving in Marrakech is a bit of a thrill sport however, with aggressive drivers and little parking.
Airport Taxis: Taxis that will take passengers to the city centre are available just outside the terminal. A sign shows the advised payment which is usually down from US$17 and generally more expensive at night. Fares should determined before transport and the ride should be between 15 and 20 minutes.
Facilities: Money and communications: There are ATMs, banks and currency exchange facilities available.
Luggage: Lost luggage queries are handled by individual airlines. Conference and business: There isn't much in the way of conference and business facilities in the airport, but nearby hotels have good options. Other facilities: There are handicapped facilities, as well as shops and restaurants in the airport.
Wi-fi: There is no wi-fi available at the airport, although several hotels nearby do have free wi-fi.
Information: There is an information desk in the airport, however it is often left unattended.
Shopping: There is duty-free shopping at the airport with the usual selection of alcohol, tobacco and perfume. There are also a few craft and souvenir stores, and a Lacoste shop in Terminal 1.
Food and Drink: The airport has a few cafés, and a Moroccan pastry shop in Terminal 2.
Parking: Daily and hourly parking is available at Marrakech-Menara International Airport, for a fee.
Departure tax: None
Agadir - Al Massira Airport
Location: 15 miles (25km) from Agadir city centre
Contacts: Tel: +212 (0)288 39112
Transfer between terminals: There is one terminal for all domestic and international passengers.
Getting to the city: Most passengers catch taxis to and from the airport, for a fixed price of about MAD 200. There is however a cheap local bus that leaves from the main road, a short walk outside the airport terminal. It travels to Inezgane, a suburb of Agadir, and the main transport hub in the area. Buses leave from the airport throughout the day until 8:30pm. At Inezgane, either catch bus 20, 24 or 28, or find a shared taxi to the centre of Agadir.
Car rental: Easycar and Europcar have rental desks at the airport.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available directly outside the Arrivals hall. There is a fixed charge to the city centre of Agadir 200 dirham. Journey time is approximately 20 minutes.
Facilities: There is a post office, currency exchange, ATMs, cafeterias, shops, VIP Lounge, wi-fi internet access, disabled access and facilities, and a tourist Help Desk.
Parking: Ample parking is available outside the airport.
Departure tax: None.
Location: The airport is located about five miles (8km) northeast of Rabat.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from the last Sunday in March until the start of Ramadan)
Getting to the city: Buses are scheduled to service the airport but are not always available. Some hotels will provide airport shuttles on request and taxis and rental cars are available.
Car rental: Several car rental companies are represented at the airport.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the terminal throughout the day. Taxis are identified by their sign and their taxi number.
Facilities: Airport facilities include an ATM, relaxation areas, cafes and restaurants, shops (including duty-free) and currency exchange facilities.
Parking: Parking is available at the airport.
Morocco's climate is moderate and subtropical, cooled by breezes off the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The weather is unpredictable and can be changeable, swinging from extreme heat to unexpected cold. The climate is also highly variable according to region and terrain and travellers are advised to check the conditions for the exact destinations they will be visiting. The climate of the northern Moroccan coast and central areas is Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and mild wet winters. In the interior the temperatures are more extreme: winters can be fairly cold and the summers very hot. Marrakech has an average winter temperature of 70ºF (21ºC) and an average summer temperature of 100°F (38°C). In the Atlas Mountains temperatures can drop below zero in any season and mountain peaks are snow-capped throughout most of the year. The winter, between December and February, is wet and rainy in the north of the country; while in the south, at the edge of the Moroccan Sahara, it is dry and bitterly cold. Summer is the driest season.
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Morocco is generally in the spring and early summer, between April and early June, or in autumn, between September and November, when the weather is warm and dry.
Moroccan Tourism Website: www.visitmorocco.com
American Embassy, Rabat: +212 0537 637 200.
British Embassy, Rabat: +212 537 63 3333.
Canadian Embassy, Rabat (also responsible for Australia): +212 537 54 49 49.
South African Embassy, Rabat: +212 537 70 0874.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Casablanca: +212 522 27 27 21.
New Zealand Embassy, Madrid, Spain (also responsible for Morocco): +34 915 230 226.
Moroccan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 462
Foreign Embassies in Morocco
Moroccan Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7724 0624.
Moroccan Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 7391.
Moroccan Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6290 0755.
Moroccan Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 343 0230.
Moroccan Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 9449.
19 (Police); 15 (Ambulance).
Morocco Emergency Numbers
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