The Kingdom of Morocco is located in North Africa bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. It is an ethnically diverse country with a large Muslim majority of mainly Arab and Berber descent.
Flying to Morocco is relatively easy with many major and budget airlines flying routes to Casablanca and Marrakech.
There are regular ferry services from the south of Spain and Gibraltar, it does pay to check when services are available in the off peak season as a services may be limited.
If you are using a ferry to travel from Tangier to Spain, note that there are 2 ferry ports
- Tangierville is located in the city and has limited services to Tarifa
- Tangier Med is located about 30km outside the city and has services to multiple locations in Spain and Gibraltar.
We sailed with FRS Ferries and would recommend purchasing your tickets on line prior to the sailing date, especially in the peak season as it can be very busy.
It is a short sail < 1 hour and it is possible to do day trips from Spain at Algeciras or Tarifa.
The Moroccan Dirham is a closed currency, meaning that you can only exchange it within the country. The official code is MAD but it is referred to as Dhs on price tags.
XE.com can be trusted to give up to date information on conversion rates. As always check with a reliable source before travelling.
The currency exchange in the airport is recommended as a reliable place to exchange your currency. It is not advisable to exchange currency at street stalls in the city.
XE recommends that Euro is the best currency to exchange. Some currencies will be difficult to exchange for example the Australian Dollar could not be exchanged for MAD when we travelled.
Some restaurants accepted credit cards but very few local businesses or public transport accept foreign debit or credit cards, it is best to have cash.
ATMs are easy to find in the larger cities.
All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport, but visitors from the following countries are exempted from having a visa for 90 days unless otherwise stated:
Schengen member states, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Hong Kong (30 days), Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Niger, Oman, Peru, Phillipines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore (30 days), South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, US, Venezuela
All other passport holders need to complete a Visa application form
ImmigrationWorld.com outline the step by step process required to obtain a tourist visa if required.
The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber however due to the French colonial era many people speak some French, English is becoming more widely spread especially in the larger tourist cities.
We would advise downloading the Google Translate App to your smart phone with Arabic and French prior to travel. The App allows you to download languages for offline use and is available on both Apple and Android phones.
Knowing a few basic phrases in French may also help e.g. how much? (Combien?) and No thank you (Non, Merci)
The train system is limited to the major towns but there are good quality buses to other destinations. Both the trains and the buses were modern, comfortable and air conditioned.
The ONCF train website has timetable and ticketing information. We were unable to buy tickets online or to use a bank or credit card to purchase tickets at the station in Marrakech. We purchased tickets the day before travel and had to do so with cash.
The CTM buses website has timetable information and appears that you can book your tickets on line however this is difficult without a Moroccan bank or credit card. We found it easier to purchase tickets at the station the day before we travelled. Buses to popular destinations such as Chefchaouen can be booked out. It is worth knowing exactly which bus trip you want to take and the price before you reach the station in Marrakech as you may be sold a tour rather than just the bus ticket, this happened to us on our trip to Ouarzazate.
Tours to the desert, mountains and other regions are best organised through your accomodation.
Petit taxis operate within the city limits of most of the tourist areas, ask your accomodation for the limit that they are able to charge e.g Marrakech 70 Dhs, Chefchaouen 20Dhs.
We did not drive whilst in Morocco but the road network is extensive and appears to be in good condition. Mowgli Adventures provide good information on road laws and what to expect if you choose to drive in Morocco.
Where to stay
There is accomodation available no matter what your budget is in Morocco.
AirBnB has numerous Riad’s and apartments available in the tourist cities like Marrakech, Fez and Chefchaouen.
In Fez we opted for some luxury and stayed in a very nice hotel, well located overlooking the medina and close to public transport,
Customs and Traditions
Whilst Morocco is a Muslim majority country it has a more relaxed dress code than some other countries however it is still best to dress modestly if you are visiting religious sites and in general very short skirts and crop tops will attract attention that women may not want.
For men it is acceptable to wear shorts and t-shirt style tops.
For women it is recommended that skirts or shorts are closer to knee length or longer. It is actually more comfortable in the heat and sun of Morocco to have sarongs, long flowing skirts or boho style pants.
If you are visiting religious sites a head scarf may be required and it is recommended to have one with you, they also make a good cover from the sun during the hotter hours.
Ramadan is the Islamic holy month of fasting, it changes each year in line with the cycle of the moon. It is best to check if Ramadan is going to occur during your trip as it may mean some restrictions. Whilst tourists are not expected to fast you may find that some restaurants are closed during the day especially in smaller towns. Although this will be unlikely in the larger tourist cities e.g. Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca.
It is however best to be respectful and not eat, smoke or drink in the street during the day, once the evening arrives though the food will be plentiful and delicious.
You may find it difficult to purchase alcohol during Ramadan.
Food and Drink
The water in Morocco is generally clean but can upset the digestive tracts of some people due to it’s high mineral levels. It is best to drink bottled water where possible but is fine for brushing your teeth etc.
A word of caution in some rural areas (e.g. Achkour Gorge and waterfalls) the water supply may not be as clean and it is not advisable not to drink water or tea in these areas. (We got a good dose of Clostridium Difficile, diarrhoea drinking mint tea here)
Food is generally of good quality and quite cheap if you avoid tourist areas like the nightly market in Marrakech. Always check the price for the meal before you sit down or you may find yourself paying 300 Dhs for a 60 Dhs meal. You can read about how we did this in our blog.
You may have read that purchasing alcohol is easy in Morocco, we certainly had before our trip this is not quite true. If you know where to go or are staying in a Western style hotel it may be easier. If you are staying in a Riad or local home it is best to check if alcohol may be consumed on the premises.
We purchased alcohol in the following cities, the blog will give you information on where you can go to buy a nice cold wine or beer:
If you like to drink wine, it is worth noting that the Moroccan Gris is very quaffable and after a long day site seeing in the heat is very refreshing. It is a French style Rose wine, quite dry.
Tips for dealing with unofficial guides, touts
Morocco is notorious for it’s tourist scams and unofficial guides and touts in the souks. We thought we were prepared and had done a lot of reading before we arrived and yet we still got caught out, this was especially true in the Marrakech and Fez medinas.
The tips we were given by those living and working in Morocco seemed best
- Do not make eye contact with unofficial guides, touts trying to sell you something
- ALWAYS check the price before agreeing to a tour, meal or taxi ride
- In most cities the petit taxis have an upper limit they can charge e.g. 70 Dhs in Marrakech and can only operate in the city limits
- Offical tour guides are registered with the government and will have identification visible
- Do not be afraid to seek help from the police if continually pestered
- Keep walking they will not follow you far
- Do be firm but polite when declining services
Nomadic Matt has good advice for Staying Sane and Safe in Morocco.
As always it is best to check your governments travel advice website before travelling, most countries currently (2017) indicate that you should exercise a high degree of caution in Morocco.
Avoid large crowds and political demonstrations.
Do not take photos of Royal Palaces- the Guards will stop you anyway.
Do not have large amounts of cash visible.
Most Moroccans are friendly and helpful, even if this comes at a price. We did not experience any violence or feel unsafe walking during the day or at night in any of the places we visited.
The Western Sahara region is a disputed territory and you should check up to date advice BEFORE travelling.
Check your travel insurance before you travel.
Use your travel common sense and ask at about areas you plan to visit at your accomodation. Local knowledge is always best.
Hashish is illegal in Morocco and whilst many travellers have visited over the years for this reason it is best not to try and buy it on the street.
Don’t be afraid to be “lost” in the medinas, it is a wonderful part of the experience and there is always someone to ask for directions, just make sure you negotiate the price first.
Negotiating the Price (haggling)
The souk stall holders, taxi drivers and pretty much everyone else will expect that you will want to negotiate the price of goods and services. Our best tips are
- know what you want before you go into the negotiation
- know how much you are willing to pay (top dollar), it is a good idea to do a google search before you head off to buy tour tickets for example
- be willing to walk away and do so
- be aware that you are most likely very well off compared to the person you are haggling with and apply some ethics. Is that extra 10 Dhs really going to hurt you?
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