Morocco Travel FAQ

A traditional Moroccan mosaic doorway in a desert palace

What is Morocco like as a country?

Book a tour today 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.

A warm welcome often comes with traditional music A warm welcome often comes with traditional music

 

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.

When is the best time of year to visit Morocco?

Dades Valley in February, almond blossom time

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.

Do I need a visa to visit Morocco?

As at October 2015, those holding passports from the European Union, Switzerland and Canada do not require a visa to enter Morocco.

  • They can remain in Morocco for up to 90 days from their date of entry.
  • Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry to 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.

What to wear?

Walking in the mountains

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.

What is the food and drink like in Morocco?

Eating out

Most auberges and hotels serve meals, including for non-residents. Moroccan food is very tasty and fresh, much is organic:

  • They use ‘warm’ spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon) rather than ‘hot’ spices’ such as chilli.
  • A typical restaurant meal will start with a salad – followed by a tagine, couscous or special main dish – and end with fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Cheese is not commonly available (except for processed cheese).
  • Bread is white rather than wholemeal.
  • You can get delicious pancakes for breakfast!

Moroccan salad

Moroccan salad

HOT TIP: For vegetarians, there are good options, just let the restaurant know in advance.

Drinks

Most restaurants and cafés serve soft drinks such as Coke or Fanta.

  • Some also serve delicious milk shakes made with fruit such as bananas or dates.
  • Mint tea is a very popular drink, and more refreshing in the heat than you might imagine.
  • Coffee is usually good quality
  • Few restaurants or cafés serve alcohol

HOT TIP: Your 4×4 driver can prepare a picnic lunch if you are going on an all-day outing.

How should I tip in Morocco?

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:

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  • hotel and restaurant staff
  • tour and excursion drivers
  • camel or mule drivers
  • musicians
  • hiking guides
  • hammam attendants who give you a scrub or massage.

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.

What to buy and how to buy it?

Antiques stalls can be found in many country souks (markets)

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:

  • rose products – toiletries, face creams, rose water and perfumes
  • argan oil products – there are very effective creams for the treatment of skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as face creams and perfumed argan oil –
  • argan soap has a slightly ‘nutty’ scent and makes a great present for men
  • local crafts such as woodcarvings
  • spices for cooking Moroccan food
  • bric-a-brac items and antiques – old keys, enamelled pewter boxes, candlesticks, nomad ‘tent pegs’ (ornamented wooden slats) etc
  • fossils from the Sahara desert

What do things cost in Morocco?

People shopping at a stall in the souk in Marrakech

© 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):

  • a day walking with a guide: 300-350 Dirham
  • a pair of leather babouches (Moroccan slip-on shoes): 75-100 Dirham
  • henna painting: around 30 Dirham per hand or foot
  • a visit to the barber: 10-20 Dirham
  • a plain tagine dish: 30-50 Dirham
  • medium-sized/large leather holdall: 450/600 Dirham
  • linen shirt/blouse with hand-embroidered seams and buttons: 150-200 Dirham
  • a woollen djellaba (full length tunic with hood) for winter: 220 Dirham
  • a light-weight djellaba: 150 Dirham
  • a light-weight kaftan: 80-100 Dirham
  • hammam (traditional): 10 Dirham (plus 30 Dirham tip for scrub and massage)
  • set of 6 decorated tea glasses: 60 Dirham
  • small ornate tea-pot: 150 Dirham
  • packet of good quality rose incense: 10-30 Dirham
  • bottle of rose oil: 20 Dirham
  • packet of dried rose-buds: 30 Dirham
  • meat: 60-70 Dirham per kilo
  • fruit and vegetables: around 4-10 Dirham per kilo
  • Moroccan pastries: 70 Dirham per kilo, considerably more in Marrakech

What is the currency of Morocco?

Moroccan dirham

© daveyll

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.

  • Banks usually open 8.30-12.00 and 13.30-15.00 or 14.30-16.00 Monday-Thursday, and 8.30-12.00 on Fridays. Check dates of public holidays, when banks will be closed
  • Cashpoints are available in most towns throughout Morocco
  • In some large tourist destinations, foreign currency can be changed at cashpoints
  • If changing travellers’ cheques, you must present your passport and the receipt from your original purchase of the cheques
  • Credit cards are only accepted in more expensive hotels, shops and restaurants in large cities, and in petrol stations, but rarely elsewhere
  • Pounds sterling and euros are often accepted by hotels and excursion operators – check their exchange rate.

Can we drink the water in Morocco?

Water gushing out of a tap.

© OMG! Zombies!

HOT TIP: Take plenty of water with you on hikes or when mountain-biking – especially when the weather is hot.

  • As with any change of country, drinking unfamiliar tap water may upset your stomach.
  • Avoid ice cubes made from tap water.
  • Bottled water is very cheap.
  • It is fine to use tap water for brushing teeth.

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.

How about vaccinations for Morocco and health while visiting?

Moroccan Pharmacy under arch with display of clothes and other goods

Moroccan Pharmacy
© 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:

  • Avoid drinking tapwater
  • Avoid ice cubes in drinks
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk and dairy products
  • Drink mineral water (cheap to buy) or other processed drinks.

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.

What kind of plug/voltage is there in Morocco?

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.

Can we use our mobile phones in Morocco?

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.

Moroccan internet cafe

Internet cafes can be found even in the most remote locations! © bobrayner

Can we get internet access in Morocco?

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).

What time zone is Morocco?

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.