Morocco is a very beautiful country, with a wealth of heritage and cultural diversity. It is a monarchy with a democratically elected parliament, and is a very peaceful country where Western visitors are warmly welcomed. In many areas, a traditional way of life continues, and with an expert guide, it is possible to get a privileged ‘inside view’ of Moroccan culture, its music, its cuisine, and the wonderful hospitality of its people.
Whether you enjoy sightseeing in the Imperial Cities of Marrakech, Fes, Meknes, and Rabat – taking in the spectacular landscapes of desert and mountains on a road trip – or setting off on more adventurous treks, your Sahara Atlas Tours guide can help you make the most of your visit and get you to the warm heart of the country. Morocco also offers many fantastic creative opportunities for photographers and artists.
Dades Valley in February, almond blossom time
The High Seasons for visitors are March to May, and September to mid-November, when the weather is warm but not too hot. But there are other very pleasant times to travel here, when it is quieter and the landscape has special charm. In December, it is usually warm and sunny during the day, you just need to be prepared with warm layers of clothing for the colder nights – Morocco is a great place to spend the Christmas holiday! February is also a very beautiful month, when the almond blossoms are out and there is still snow on the high mountains. In the summer months of July and August, it is much cooler in the mountains than in the big cities, and there is often a refreshing breeze.
It is worth checking the dates of Muslim religious holidays and feast days in Morocco before planning your trip. Most Moroccans are Muslim and observe Ramadan (a month of fasting from dawn till dusk). In particular, book well in advance or avoid travelling around the religious holiday of Eid Al Hattr (or ‘La Fête des Moutons’, the Feast of the Sheep). This is a big family celebration when many businesses are closed and much transport is fully booked as people travel to spend the feastday with their relatives.
HOT TIP: Be prepared to book accommodation and transport for the Easter period well in advance, or you will have to take pot luck. Easter is the peak tourist season in Morocco, and many hotels get fully booked.
As at October 2015, those holding passports from the European Union, Switzerland and Canada do not require a visa to enter Morocco.
All visitors to Morocco: you should check with your local Moroccan embassy or consulate for up to date information about visas and entry procedures well before your departure from your home country.
Walking in the mountains
In the main cities like Marrakech, Fes and Casablanca, many people dress in Western style, just as you would find in London or Paris. But away from the cities, especially in the countryside, it is recommended that both men and women wear something long (trousers or skirt) and a top which covers you to the elbows.
If you are travelling in the mountains or the desert, be sure to bring a hat to protect you from the sun, and a warm fleece or pullover and long trousers for the evenings. For camel trekking, loose long trousers will be most comfortable. In winter, you will need plenty of warm layers, including hat, scarf and gloves – temperatures can be nice and warm in the daytime, but really drop at night.
HOT TIP: A windcheater is useful on walking treks.
Most auberges and hotels serve meals, including for non-residents. Moroccan food is very tasty and fresh, much is organic:
HOT TIP: For vegetarians, there are good options, just let the restaurant know in advance.
Most restaurants and cafés serve soft drinks such as Coke or Fanta.
HOT TIP: Your 4×4 driver can prepare a picnic lunch if you are going on an all-day outing.
The culture of tipping is very strong in Morocco. Many people do not earn a proper wage, and make a living mainly from the tips they receive. Tips, according to the quality of service, are expected for:
Also give a small tip to anyone who carries your bags, shows you the way if you are lost, or offers any other small service.
Meals and accommodation are much cheaper in Morocco than in Europe or North America, even with the addition of tips, so just budget for a bit extra. Guide books often offer an idea of the amount to tip, or check with your driver and guide. An appropriate tip for your tour/excursion driver is 100-200 Dirham a day, depending on your level of satisfaction.
HOT TIP: When you arrive in Morocco, make sure you get plenty of small change and 20 Dirham notes from a bank, to have handy for tipping.
Antiques stalls can be found in many country souks (markets)
Many tourists are nervous about shopping in Morocco, where it is unusual to display fixed prices and the tradition is to haggle. But shopping here, including haggling, can be a fun experience! Here at Sahara Atlas Tours, we don’t want you to feel under any pressure. If you like, we can offer you advice about good places to buy souvenirs, but we aren’t going to drag you into an ‘uncle’s carpet shop’! As well as popular items such as carpets, pottery and leather goods, there are other very nice and smaller souvenirs you can buy:
© Hector Garcia
HOT TIP: In Marrakech, check out the Ensemble Artisanal on Boulevard Mohammed V, next to the Hotel de Ville and opposite the Cyberparc. Many of the shops here offer fixed prices which give you an idea of the ‘going rate’ – though if you are a confident haggler, you may get the same items a bit cheaper in the souk (the main market off the Place Djema El Fnaa).
Shopping in Morocco is a very different cultural experience than in North America or Europe, because fixed prices are rarely used.
Haggling is the norm for items in shops and markets (‘souks’). For personal services, such as having your hands painted with henna, or getting a scrub and massage in the hammam, the price is often left to your own discretion.
Both can be difficult if you do not know what the ‘right’ price should be, and in big cities like Marrakech, some people can be unscrupulous about demanding extortionate prices from tourists. But also remember that haggling prices down too hard can be a problem: saving 50 Dirham is very little for a tourist buyer, but can make a big difference for a Moroccan seller. Read a good guide book for more detailed advice about shopping and haggling.
Here is a very rough guide to some items and services, based simply on our own experience at 2014 prices (check exchange rates here):
The currency in Morocco is the Dirham. £1 = approx. 13 Dirham (March 2012). €1 = usually between 10 and 11 Dirham
HOT TIP: Notify your own bank of the country and dates of your trip before you go, or your cards may not work abroad.
© OMG! Zombies!
HOT TIP: Take plenty of water with you on hikes or when mountain-biking – especially when the weather is hot.
HOT TIP: If you do get a bad case of diarrhoea that doesn’t clear up with Immodium or similar, you can get appropriate antibiotics from a pharmacy without prescription.
© luc legay
No vaccinations are required by the Moroccan authorities for travellers from Europe. However, it is advisable to ensure that your protection for tetanus, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis B are up-to-date.
Some guides also advise getting vaccinated for typhoid and hepatitis A (15-21 days before departure). If you have not had a typhoid injection, some guides recommend buying Intétrix tablets from any Moroccan pharmacy for longer trips to the south of the country.
Make sure you have adequate travel insurance for health cover.
One serious health risk is that of bilharzia, a disease found in stagnant or slow-moving water such as in oases. Do not swim or paddle in such places, or in rivers downstream from them.
To avoid stomach upsets:
If you do get an upset stomach that does not clear up, visit a pharmacy, where you can get advice and appropriate antibiotics without prescription.
The electricity supply in Morocco is the same as in Continental Europe:220 volts AC, 50Hz.
HOT TIP: If you want to use British, US or Australian appliances, take adaptors for two-pin European plugs.
Mobile phone coverage in Morocco is very extensive, as most people rely on mobiles for communication. Almost all locations with 1500 inhabitants or more have network coverage.
It is very useful to have a mobile on your trip, but using a non-Moroccan SIM card on roaming is very expensive.
HOT TIP: Take an unlocked mobile phone. Visit the Maroc Telecom shop at the airport (staff usually speak English and French), or ask your driver-guide, to buy a Moroccan SIM card which you can top up with Pay-As-You-Go cards – Carte Jawal, for example. These are easily available in shops and kiosks everywhere in a range of denominations, and this is very much cheaper than roaming services.
Internet cafes can be found even in the most remote locations! © bobrayner
Internet cafés are everywhere, including some really remote villages! 1 hour’s access in an internet café should cost around 6 Dirham, and Skype is usually installed on the computers.
HOT TIP: For faster connection, access the internet at less busy times of day (early morning, lunchtime, late evening).
Morocco is usually on London, UK time – GMT in winter or British Daylight Saving Time in summer – but the date of the changeover in Morocco varies each year, and in the countryside many people do not adjust their clocks. Check carefully before you go or when you arrive.
HOT TIP: If you are arranging to meet someone like a guide, ask them what time they have now, and check how this relates to the time you are working on.