Morocco has few accessible facilities, but the country is not necessarily out of bounds for travellers with a physical disability and a sense of adventure. Some factors to be aware of:
- Narrow medina streets and rutted pavements can make mobility challenging.
- Not all hotels (almost none of the cheaper ones) have lifts, so booking ground-floor hotel rooms ahead of time is essential. Riads invariably have steep, narrow and twisting stairs.
- Only a handful of the very top-end hotels have accessibly designed rooms.
- Travelling by car is probably the best transport, though you’ll be able to get assistance in bus and train stations (a tip will be required).
- Many tour operators can tailor trips to suit your requirements.
- Vision- or hearing-impaired travellers are poorly catered for. Hearing loops, Braille signs and talking pedestrian crossings are nonexistent.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Organisations that disseminate information, advice and assistance on world travel for the mobility impaired include the following:
Access-able Travel Source (www.access-able.com) An information provider for travellers with mobility problems.
Apparleyzed (www.apparleyzed.com) For paraplegic and quadriplegic people and others with spinal-cord injuries, featuring travel information.
Disabled Travelers Guide (www.disabledtravelersguide.com) A general guide for travellers with disabilities.
Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) Promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in international programs, with a page of air-travel tips.
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org) Has news, tips and members’ articles and blogs.
Bargaining or haggling is part and parcel of the Moroccan experience, especially for tourist goods and services. If you want to avoid this, many tourist shops have fixed prices.
Dangers & Annoyances
Morocco is a pretty safe country that can be navigated with a bit of common sense, but there are a few things to be aware of:
- getting lost in winding medina streets
- getting hassled by unofficial guides (known as faux guides)
- the widespread use of marijuana (kif), which is grown in Morocco.
A minor irritation is the ever-changing street names in Moroccan cities. For years, there’s been a slow process of replacing old French, Spanish and Berber names with Arabic ones. The result so far is that, depending on whom you talk to, what map you use or which part of the street you are on, you’re likely to see up to three different names.
The general Arabic word for street is sharia, or derb in medinas (zankat for smaller ones). The French avenue, boulevard and rue are still common. In the north and far south you’ll still find the Spanish calle and avenida.
Street names won’t help much in the labyrinthine medinas, although in theory a compass might. If you feel you’re getting lost, stick to the main paths (which generally have a fair flow of people going either way) and you’ll soon reach a landmark or exit. Kids will sometimes offer to direct you for a few dirhams; corner shops are better places to ask for directions. Carry a business card from your hotel to show.
On the whole, theft is not a huge problem in Morocco. Travellers can minimise risk by being vigilant (but not paranoid) in the major cities and taking some basic precautions. When wandering around the streets, keep the valuables you carry to a minimum and keep what you must carry around with you well hidden.
Be vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs. External money pouches attract attention. Neck pouches or money belts worn under your clothes attract less attention. They are better places to keep your money, passport and other important documents, but keep a small amount of everyday cash easily accessible to avoid having to flash your stash.
If you prefer to keep things in your room (preferably locked inside your suitcase), nine times out of 10 you’ll have no trouble. Rooms in top-end hotels often have safes. Other hotels sometimes have a safe at reception, where you could stow valuables such as a camera.
Leaving anything in a car, even out of sight, is asking for trouble.
In the large cities, notably Casablanca, there are some desperate people, and physical attacks on foreigners occasionally occur.
Treat the medinas with particular caution at night. The medinas in Marrakesh, Casablanca and Tangier have a particular reputation for petty theft. A common tactic is for one person to distract you while another cleans out your pockets. Late-night knife crime isn't uncommon.
Touts, Guides & Hustlers
Morocco’s notorious hustlers and faux guides (unofficial guides) remain an unavoidable part of the Moroccan experience. Brigades touristiques (tourist police) have been set up in the principal tourist centres, and anyone suspected of trying to operate as an unofficial guide could face jail and/or a huge fine. This has greatly reduced, if not eliminated, the problem.
You’ll generally find faux guides hanging around the entrances to the big cities’ medinas, and outside bus, train and ferry stations. Having a siege mentality would be an overreaction. Indeed, when arriving in a place for the first time, you might benefit from the services of a guide, official or otherwise.
Although high unemployment rates drive the numbers of faux guides, not all are complete imposters. Many are very experienced and speak half a dozen languages.
Sometimes their main interest is the commission gained from certain hotels or on articles sold to you in the souqs.
Dealing with Guides
Agree on a price before setting off on a tour. Set some parameters on what you expect to see and the number of shops you’re taken to. If you don’t want a shopping expedition included in your tour, make this clear beforehand.
Unofficial guides charge around Dh50 to Dh100 per day. Rates should always be per guide, not per person.
A few dirham will suffice if you want to be guided to a specific location (like a medina exit).
Whatever you give, you’ll often get the ‘you can’t possibly be serious’ look. The best reply is the ‘I’ve just paid you well over the odds’ look.
Maintain your good humour and, after a couple of days in a place, the hassle tends to lessen considerably.
Official guides can be engaged through tourist offices and some hotels at the fixed price of around Dh250/300 per day (plus tip) for a local/national guide.
It’s well worth taking a guide when exploring Fez and Marrakesh medinas. The guide can help you find interesting sights and shops in the melee, stop you from getting lost and save you from being hassled by other would-be guides.
Driving & Transport
Drivers should note that motorised hustlers operate on the approach roads to Fez and Marrakesh. These motorcycle nuisances are keen to find you accommodation and so on, and can be just as persistent as their counterparts on foot.
Travellers disembarking from (and embarking on) the ferry in Tangier may receive some hassle from touts and hustlers.
Arriving by train in cities like Fez and Marrakesh, you may run into ‘students’ or similar, with the uncanny knowledge that your preferred hotel is closed or full, but they just happen to know this great little place…
Thanks but No Thanks
Faux guides abound in tourist hot-spots, hustling to 'help' you and earn some commission from souvenir shops. The following are useful tactics for dealing with unwanted attention:
- Politely decline all offers of help you don't want, and exchange a few good-humoured remarks (preferably in Arabic), but don’t shake hands or get involved in any lengthy conversation.
- Give the impression that you know exactly where you’re going, or explain that you employed a guide on your first day and now you’d like to explore on your own.
- Wear dark sunglasses and retreat to a cafe, restaurant or taxi if you’re beginning to lose your cool.
- In extreme situations, use the word ‘police’ (shurta or ibulees) and look like you mean it.
Morocco’s era as a hippie paradise, riding the Marrakesh Express and all that, has been consigned to history. Marijuana (known as kif) is widely grown in the Rif Mountains. It’s illegal to buy, sell or consume marijuana or hashish in Morocco. If you're going to smoke kif, don't do it in public and be extremely circumspect about who you buy it from.
If caught with marijuana, you may be looking at a fine and, in the worst case, a prison sentence. Although some locals smoke marijuana as a recreational pastime, as a tourist you’re more vulnerable.
Scams & Hassle
Many Moroccan stories of extortion and rip-offs are drug-related. Recent legislation and a hard government line may have forced dealers to give up their more aggressive tactics, but the hassle has not disappeared.
A traditional ploy is to get you stoned, force you to buy a piece of hash the size of a brick and then turn you over to the police (or at least threaten to). Once you’ve purchased hash, or even just smoked some, you’re unlikely to call the cops, and the hustlers know it.
New arrivals should ignore late-night offers of hashish. These dealers have a sixth sense for greenness and won’t miss an opportunity to squeeze ridiculous amounts of money out of frightened people.
Issaguen (Ketama) and the Rif Mountains are Morocco’s kif-growing heartland. Issaguen in particular can be a bag-load of trouble, and is best avoided unless you’re accompanied by a reliable guide.
You may occasionally be offered majoun, a traditional sticky fudge made of butter, dried fruits, seeds, spices – and cannabis resin. A small ball of majoun can send you reeling (see Paul Bowles’ Their Heads Are Green or Let It Come Down for descriptions).
Anyone with a slight tendency to paranoia when smoking weed should be aware that this is a common reaction among first-time majoun munchers.
Although the Spanish police have a relaxed attitude towards small amounts of cannabis for private use, Spanish customs will come down hard on people entering the country from Morocco in possession of the drug, and you could be done for trafficking. If you’re taking a car across, the chances that it will be searched are high. Never carry parcels or drive vehicles across borders for other people.
Government Travel Advice
For the latest travel information refer to the following websites:
- Australian Department of Foreign Affaris (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- Canadian Consular Services Bureau (www.voyage.gc.ca)
- Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.go.jp)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk/travel)
- US State Department (www.travel.state.gov)
- Electricity is reliable, but bring a torch for off-the-beaten-track destinations in the mountains.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Always dial the local four-digit area code even if you are dialling from the same town or code area.
|Gendarmerie (police outside cities)||177|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Border formalities are fairly quick and straightforward. Regardless of where you enter, your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry.
Importing or exporting dirham is forbidden, although checks are rare so don't worry about any loose change. Forbidden items include ‘any immoral items liable to cause a breach of the peace’, such as ‘books, printed matter, audio and video cassettes’.
- up to 200 cigarettes, or 25 cigars, or 250g of tobacco
- 1L of alcoholic drink
- 150ml of perfume
- presents or souvenirs worth up to Dh2000.
Visas are not generally required for stays of up to 90 days.
Travellers requiring a visa extension find it easiest to head to mainland Spain, or one of the Spanish enclaves in Morocco, and re-enter after a few days.
Although doing a visa run generally presents few problems other than travel costs, it leaves you at the mercy of individual immigration officers on re-entry. Travellers have occasionally come unstuck this way.
An alternative is to apply for a visa extension, issued by the Directorate General of National Security. In practice, these are unobtainable.
Residence (carte de sejour) is also available, but it is difficult to get and requires proof of employment.
Go to the nearest police headquarters (préfecture de police) to check what documents they require. If possible, take a Moroccan friend to help you deal with the bureaucracy.
International Health Certificate
An international certificate of vaccination (or yellow-fever certificate) is no longer required for entry into Morocco, even if coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic.
We recommend, however, that travellers carry a certificate if they have been in an infected country during the previous month to avoid any possible difficulties with immigration.
There is always the possibility that a traveller without an up-to-date certificate will be vaccinated and detained in isolation at the port of arrival for up to 10 days, or possibly repatriated.
Applying for a Visa
Nationals of Israel and many Sub-Saharan African countries (including South Africa) must apply in advance for a three-month visa (single/double entry about US$30/50). Applications are normally processed in 48 hours. You need three passport photos.
Morocco is a tolerant country, but following a few rules of etiquette will make your travels smoother and avoid embarrassment.
- Greetings Handshakes are followed by lightly touching your heart with your right hand. Men should wait for Moroccan women to offer handshakes.
- Attire Both sexes should dress to cover their shoulders. Outside the cities, where people are more conservative, above-the-knees shorts may be seen as inappropriate.
- Eating The left hand is considered unclean as it's used for toilet duties. Don't handle food with your left hand, particularly if eating from a communal dish such as a tajine.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and, in particular, medical problems is strongly recommended for all visitors to Morocco. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling, skiing and even trekking, so ensure your policy covers these if needed. Make sure you have adequate travel medical insurance and any relevant car insurance if you’re driving.
Buy travel insurance as early as possible. Buying just before you leave home may mean you’re not covered for delays to your flight caused by strike action that began, or was threatened, before you took out the insurance.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.
Wi-fi is widely available in midrange and top-end accommodation and in many of the better budget options. It is slowly becoming more widespread in destinations that host lots of foreigners.
Moroccan law prohibits the possession, offer, sale, purchase, distribution and transportation of cannabis (known locally as kif). The penalties for possessing even small amounts of drugs are severe, and include up to 10 years’ imprisonment, heavy fines and confiscation of your vehicle or vessel. Acquittals in drugs cases are rare.
If you get into trouble, your first call should be to your embassy or consulate; it’s not unknown for local police to be in on scams. The London-based Fair Trials International (www.fairtrials.net) provides legal assistance and advocacy to individuals facing criminal charges in a foreign country.
If you get arrested by the Moroccan police, you won’t have much of a legal leg to stand on. It’s unlikely that any interpreter on hand will be of sufficient standard to translate an accurate statement that will, nonetheless, play a vital part in subsequent judicial proceedings. According to some human-rights groups, physical abuse while in custody is not unknown.
Homosexual acts (including kissing) are illegal in Morocco, and carry a potential jail term of up to three years and/or a fine. Moroccan authorities have recently shown an increased tendency to prosecute.
In practice, although not openly admitted or shown, sex between men is not uncommon, even if few people actively self-identify as gay. Platonic affection is freely shown among Moroccans, more so between men than women. For travellers, discretion is the key in most places. Avoid public displays of affection.
Be extremely circumspect about using using social media apps to make contact with local gay men. There have been several instances of robbery and assault in recent years.
Some towns are more gay-friendly than others, with Marrakesh winning the prize, followed by Tangier. However, there are are no dedicated gay destinations; nightlife in the bigger cities has become increasingly discreet in recent years.
The pressures of poverty mean many young men will consider having sex for money or gifts. Exploitative relationships form an unpleasant but real dimension of the Moroccan gay scene.
Lesbians shouldn’t encounter any problems, though it’s commonly believed by Moroccans that there are no lesbians in their country.
Few decent maps of Morocco are available in the country itself, so get one before leaving home.
Michelin’s No 742 map of Morocco is arguably the best. It has the following features:
- The 1:4,000,000 scale map of the whole country includes the disputed Western Sahara.
- Features a 1:1,000,000 enlargement of Morocco.
- Features 1:600,000 enlargements of Marrakesh and the High Atlas, Middle Atlas and Fez areas.
- Shows sites of weekly markets, kasbahs and marabouts (holy mausoleums of local saints).
- Notes particularly scenic roads.
- Available in major Moroccan cities.
The GeoCenter World Map Morocco is preferred by many and has similar, often clearer, detail. Features:
- Shows Morocco at a handy 1:800,000 scale (and the Western Sahara at 1:2,500,000).
- Occasionally available in Morocco.
Additionally, several maps include Morocco as part of northwestern Africa. An overlanding classic, Michelin’s No 741 map covers all of west Africa and most of the Sahara. It has a scale of 1:4,000,000.
Soviet survey maps of Morocco, with scales ranging from 1:100,000 to 1:1,000,000, are available online and at good map shops worldwide. They often have to be ordered and can take up to six weeks to arrive.
ATMS are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in most midrange hotels and above, and at top-end restaurants.
ATMs (guichets automatiques) are the easiest way to access your money in Morocco.
A common sight even in the smallest towns, virtually all accept Visa, MasterCard, Electron, Cirrus, Maestro and InterBank cards. Most banks charge you for withdrawing money from foreign cash machines; check before travelling.
BMCE (Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur), Banque Populaire, BMCI (Banque Marocaine pour le Commerce et l’Industrie), Société Générale and Attijariwafa Bank all offer reliable service.
The amount of money you can withdraw from an ATM generally depends on the conditions attached to your card; machines will dispense no more than Dh2000 at a time.
The easy convertibility of the dirham leaves little room for a black market, but you’ll find people in the streets asking if you want to exchange money, especially in Tangier, Casablanca and on the borders of (and just inside) the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Avoid these characters; there’s no monetary benefit to be had from such transactions and scams are common.
You’ll need to carry some cash with you. Many riads accept payment in euros, but often at less preferential rates than you can get at the bank.
Keep a handful of small denomination notes in your wallet, or just in a pocket (but never a back pocket), for day-to-day transactions. Put the rest in a money belt or another safe place.
If you’re travelling in out-of-the-way places, make sure you have enough cash to last until you get to a decent-sized town.
Keep a small stash of euros in case of emergency.
The endless supply of small coins may be annoying, but they’re handy for taxis, tips and guides.
Major credit cards are widely accepted in the main tourist centres. They often attract a surcharge of up to 5% from Moroccan businesses.
The main credit cards are MasterCard and Visa; if you plan to rely on plastic cards, the best bet is to take one of each. Many large bank branches will give you cash advances on Visa and MasterCard. Take your passport with you.
The Moroccan currency is the dirham (Dh), which is divided into 100 centimes. You might also occasionally hear older people give prices in rials – an old unofficial usage, whereby one dirham equals 20 rials.
You will find notes in denominations of Dh20, Dh50, Dh100 and Dh200. Coins come in denominations of Dh1, Dh2, Dh5 and Dh10, as well as, less frequently, 10, 20 and 50 centimes. Break big notes whenever possible. Moroccans guard their small change jealously (taxi drivers never seem to have any), and so should you. The Dh20 note is the most useful note in your wallet.
The dirham is a restricted currency, meaning that it cannot be taken out of the country and is not available abroad. The dirham is fairly stable, with no major fluctuations in exchange rates. Euros, US dollars and British pounds are the most easily exchanged currencies.
In the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, the currency is the euro. The Moroccan banks on the enclaves’ borders exchange cash only. Banks in Ceuta and Melilla deal in dirham, but at rates inferior to those in Morocco.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Any amount of foreign currency may be brought into the country. It is illegal to import and export dirham. Banks and exchange bureaus change most currencies, but Australian, Canadian and New Zealand dollars are often not accepted. You'll occasionally be asked for ID when changing money.
Moroccan banking services are reasonably quick and efficient. Rates vary little from bank to bank, although it doesn’t hurt to look around.
Hang on to all exchange receipts. They show you changed money legally, and you’ll need them to convert leftover dirham at most Moroccan banks and bureaux de change.
Tipping is an integral part of Moroccan life; almost any service can warrant a tip. Baksheesh, frequently taken to mean a bribe, generally means money paid for a service rendered, and can include tipping. Don’t be railroaded, but the judicious distribution of a few dirham for a service willingly rendered can make your life a lot easier.
- Baggage handlers Dh5
- Cafe Dh2
- Car-park attendants Dh3 to Dh5; Dh10 for overnight parking
- Porters Dh10 to Dh20
- Public-toilet attendants Dh1 to Dh2
- Restaurant 10%
Although it's a Muslim country, for business purposes, Morocco follows the Monday to Friday working week. Friday is the main prayer day, however, so many businesses take an extended lunch break on Friday afternoon or not open at all. During Ramadan the rhythm of the country changes, and office hours shift to around 10am to 3pm or 4pm.
Banks 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday
Bars 4pm until late
Government offices 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday
Post offices 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm (cafes generally open earlier and close later)
Shops 9am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday (often closed longer at noon for prayer)
Morocco is a photographer’s dream, but never point your camera at anything that’s vaguely military or could be construed as ‘strategic’. This includes airports, bridges, government buildings and members of the police or armed forces.
Hide your camera when going through checkpoints in and near the Western Sahara.
It is common courtesy to ask permission before taking photographs of people. Urban Moroccans are generally easygoing about it. Women, older people and rural folk often don’t want to be photographed. Respect their right to privacy and don’t take photos.
Offices of Poste Maroc (www.poste.ma) are distinguished by a yellow ‘PTT’ sign or the ‘La Poste’ logo. Tabacs, the small tobacco and newspaper kiosks scattered about city centres, often sell stamps, and have shorter queues. The postal system is fairly reliable, if not terribly fast.
It takes at least a week for letters to reach European destinations, and two weeks to get to Australia and North America. Sending post from a city normally gives mail a head start. Worldwide postcards cost around Dh25 to send.
Banks, post offices and most shops shut on the main public holidays, but public transport still runs.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Independence Manifesto 11 January – commemorates the publication in Fez of the Moroccan nationalist manifesto for independence
Labour Day 1 May
Feast of the Throne 30 July – commemorates King Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne
Allegiance of Oued Eddahab 14 August – celebrates the ‘return to the fatherland’ of the Oued Eddahab region in the far south, a territory once claimed by Mauritania
Anniversary of the King’s and People’s Revolution 20 August – commemorates the exile of Mohammed V by the French in 1953
Young People’s Day 21 August – celebrates the king’s birthday
Anniversary of the Green March 6 November – commemorates the Green March ‘reclaiming’ the Western Sahara on November 1975
Independence Day 18 November – commemorates independence from France
Major Islamic Holidays
The rhythms of Islamic practice are tied to the lunar calendar, which is slightly shorter than its Gregorian equivalent, so the Muslim calendar begins around 11 days earlier each year.
The following principal religious holidays are celebrated countrywide, with interruptions and changes of time to many local bus services and increased pressure on transport in general. Apart from on the first day of Ramadan, offices and businesses close.
Moulid An Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Children are often given presents.
Eid Al Fitr (Feast of the Breaking of the Fast), also known as Eid As Sagheer (the Small Feast), is the end of Ramadan. The four-day celebration begins with a meal of harira (lentil soup), dates and honey cakes, and the country grinds to a halt during this family-focused period.
Eid Al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) sees sheep traded for the ritual sacrifices that take place throughout the Muslim world during this three-day celebration. Also known as the Eid Al Kabeer (Grand Feast), it commemorates Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The sheep sacrifice is often a very public event – be prepared for the possibility of seeing blood running in the gutters and sheep heads being flamed over fires in the street.
Because the precise date of an Islamic holiday is based on the sighting of the moon, the following dates are only approximate.
|Moulid An Nabi||29 Oct||20 Oct||7 Oct||26 Sep|
|Ramadan begins||24 Apr||13 Apr||2 Apr||23 Mar|
|Eid Al Fitr||24 May||12 May||2 May||21 Apr|
|Eid Al Adha||31 Jul||19 Jul||9 Jul||28 Jun|
|New Year begins (year)||20 Aug (1442)||10 Aug (1443)||30 Jul (1444)||19 Jul (1445)|
Travelling in Morocco During Ramadan
Ramadan Mubarak! (Happy Ramadan!) Ramadan is a lunar month dedicated to sawm (fasting) – from sun-up to sundown, the faithful abstain from food, drink, tobacco and sex to concentrate on spiritual renewal – and zakat (charity).
Many businesses operate with limited hours and staff, so try to book accommodation, transport and tours in advance. Call offices to ensure someone will be there. Most restaurants close by day; pack lunches or reserve at tourist restaurants. Stores often close in the afternoon; bargaining is better before thirst is felt in the midday heat. When Ramadan falls in the summer, be prepared for long, hot days.
Sunset streets fill with Ramadan finery, light displays, music, tantalising aromas and offers of sweets. After an iftar (fast-breaking meal) of dates, soup or savoury snacks, people gobble sweets until the late-night feast. More visits and sweets follow, then sleep, and an early rise for the suhoor (meal before the sunrise).
Tourists are exempt from fasting; it’s hard enough at home under controlled conditions. However, you should avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public, and grant people privacy at prayer times to be respectful.
When a new friend offers you sweets or invites you to a feast, you honour by accepting; refusal is crushing. You’re not obliged to return the favour or eat the sweets; reciprocate the zakat (charity) by giving to a local charity perhaps.
- Smoking It's a national pastime in Morocco, and nonsmoking restaurants and hotels are rare. Most popular eateries and cafes have outdoor seating, so the problem is reduced. Only the very top-end hotels and some riads have a nonsmoking policy.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is a 20% sales tax levied on most goods and services. Some purchases may be eligible for tax refunds when presented with a receipt; this service is available at Casablanca and Marrakesh airports only.
Within Morocco, always dial the local four-digit area code even if you are dialling from the same town or code area. Calling from a hotel normally doubles the cost of your call. Moroccan landline numbers start with 05, mobile numbers with 06.
If your mobile phone is unlocked, buying a prepaid mobile SIM card will likely be cheaper than using your phone on roaming.
Morocco has three GSM mobile-phone networks: Méditel (www.meditelecom.ma), Maroc Telecom (www.iam.ma) and Inwi (www.inwi.ma). Coverage is generally excellent, apart from in the mountains and deserts. 4G is available in most cities and many towns.
Offers change frequently, but Dh100 gets you around 200 minutes of calls plus up to 10GB of data. Not all packages offer international SMS services. Domestic calls cost from Dh1 per minute, international calls from Dh2.50 per minute. Calls are cheaper between 8am and 8pm. You need to show a passport or other form of identification when buying a SIM card. Téléboutiques, newsstands and grocery stores sell scratch cards for topping up your credit. Look out for special deals offering double recharge credit.
|Morocco country code||212|
|International access code from Morocco||00|
|Spain country code (including Melilla and Ceuta)||34|
Morocco is on GMT/UTC. The time does not change during the summer. If you’re travelling to/from Spain (including Ceuta and Melilla), note that Spanish clocks run on GMT+1 (+2 in summer), so double-check your times if catching a ferry.
Not taking daylight saving into account, when it’s noon in Morocco, the time elsewhere is as follows:
|Paris & Rome||1pm|
|Perth & Hong Kong||7pm|
Flush toilets are a luxury in a country struggling with water shortages. Outside midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants, toilets are mostly of the squat variety. Squat toilets feature a tap, hose or container of water for sluicing – the idea being to wash yourself (with your left hand) after performing.
There’s often no toilet paper (papier hygiénique) so keep a supply with you. Don’t throw the paper into the toilet as the plumbing is often dodgy; instead discard it in the bin provided.
Public toilets are rare outside the major cities. If you find a public toilet, you’ll need to bring a tip for the attendant, stout-soled shoes and very often a nose clip.
Some cities and larger towns have tourist offices, which are normally repositories of brochures run by uninformed staff and, as such, usually best avoided. Often the receptionist in your hotel or another local will be more helpful than such bureaus. The best tourist offices are found in smaller destinations that are trying to promote themselves.
The Moroccan National Tourist Office (www.visitmorocco.com) runs most tourist offices.
Travel With Children
Morocco has plenty to capture a child’s imagination. The souqs of Marrakesh and Fez are an endlessly fascinating sensory explosion, and nights around a campfire or camel rides on the beach are equally memorable – but factor in some time by the hotel pool at the end of a hot day.
Best Regions for Kids
All generations can retire to pool, park, calèche (horse-drawn carriage) or camel back. The Djemaa El Fna is Morocco’s carnival capital.
- Northern Atlantic Coast
The Atlantic Coast offers plenty of beaches and water and wind sports. Agadir’s long, sandy beach is popular; mix it with somewhere more colourful such as Essaouira, with its fun-to-explore ramparts and medina.
- Draa Valley
Tour Ouarzazate’s film studios and kasbah, then head down the valley for dunes and dromedary rides.
With souqs, ruins and gardens, this is a relatively mellow slice of urban Morocco. Attractions include the beach, amusement park and pony rides.
- Middle Atlas
For mountain scenery, waterfalls, forest walks and less hair-raising passes than the High Atlas. Easily visited from spots such as Azrou and Fez.
Morocco for Kids
Morocco is ideal for parents who once travelled to intrepid destinations and don’t necessarily fancy a Western poolside now they have knee-high travelling companions. Morocco is easily accessed from Europe and North America; Marrakesh is less than four hours from London. When you touch down, you’ll find that children open numerous doors, getting you closer to the heart of this family-oriented country.
Meeting the Locals
Moroccans love children so much that you may even want to bring a backpack to carry smaller kids, in case they grow tired of the kissing, hugging, gifts and general adulation. Locals have grown up in large families, so children help break the ice and encourage contact with Moroccans, who are generally very friendly, helpful and protective towards families.
As you travel the countryside, women may pick up their own child and wave from their doorway. Such moments emphasise your children’s great benefit: having yet to acquire any stereotypes about Africa and the Middle East, their enduring impression of Morocco is likely to be its people’s warmth and friendliness.
Of course, this certainly doesn’t mean parents receive special treatment from the salesmen in the country’s souqs. However, even the grizzliest shopkeepers generally welcome women and children, as it gives their store the image of having a broad, family-friendly appeal. Letting your kids run amok in carpet shops can also be an excellent bargaining technique!
Tajines contain many familiar elements, such as potatoes and carrots. Although you may want to encourage your child to try Moroccan food, you may struggle if they don’t like potatoes or bread; in which case Western foods, such as pasta, pizza and fries, are available. High chairs are not always available in restaurants, although staff are almost universally accommodating with children.
Be careful about choosing restaurants; steer clear of salads and stick to piping-hot tajines, couscous, omelettes and soups such as harira (lentil soup). Markets sell delicious fruit and veggies, but be sure to wash or peel them. Local fried doughnuts are a sweet sticky treat.
To avoid stomach upsets, stick to purified or bottled water. Milk is widely available – UHT, pasteurised and powdered – but baked beans are not, and you should bring any special foods you require.
- Mountain walk, High Atlas Travelling by road to a High Atlas trailhead such as Imlil and then taking a day walk in the mountains with a guide and mule.
- Camel ride, Essaouira Camel or horse rides along the beaches around Essaouira or in the Sahara, with accessible dunes in the Draa Valley and Merzouga.
- Calèche ride, Marrakesh Calèche (horse-drawn carriage) rides around the ramparts of places such as Marrakesh, Meknes and Taroudant.
- Watersports Wind and water sports around Essaouira, or the beach at Agadir for young children.
- Oualidia The lagoon has safe, calm waters and a wide, sandy beach.
- Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo Ceuta’s creative maritime park, its pools surrounded by restaurants and cafes.
- Jnan Sbil These shady gardens in Fez have plenty of fountains for cooling down amid leafy surrounds.
Fun & Games
- Marrakesh Explore Jardin Majorelle and its collection of desert plants. At Djemaa El Fna, children enjoy amusements such as the ‘fishing for a bottle’ game.
- Ouarzazate The Atlas Film Corporation Studios features sets and props from famous films made in the area.
- Fez Cooking classes at Café Clock Good for children of most ages – from making spice mixes to kneading dough and taking bread to the communal oven. Kefta (meatball) tajine is a good knife-free meal to prepare. There's also a Cafe Clock in Marrakesh which is popular with families.
If you look hard enough, you can buy just about anything you need for young children in Morocco. Before leaving home, think about what you can take with you to Morocco’s various environments; wet-weather gear is vital in the mountains in case the weather turns bad.
Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children has more information and tips.
Some hotels are more family-friendly than others, so check your children will be well catered for before booking.
Many hotels will not charge children under two years of age. For those between two and 12 years sharing a room with their parents, it’s often 50% off the adult rate. If you want reasonable toilet and bathroom facilities, you’ll need to stay in midrange hotels.
Northern Morocco has a great rail infrastructure and travel by train may be the easiest, most enjoyable option: children can stretch their legs and fold-out tables are useful for drawing and games. Travellers with children can buy discount cards for rail travel.
Grands taxis and buses can be a real squeeze with young children, who count not as passengers in their own right but as wriggling luggage, and have to sit on your lap. The safety record of buses and shared taxis is poor, and many roads are potholed.
Hiring a vehicle – a taxi in Marrakesh or a 4WD to the mountains – is well worth the extra expense. You might bring a child seat, but note that many taxis don't have seatbelts to help attach them. Hire-car companies normally don’t have them; child seats generally cost more in Morocco than in Europe.
Health & Hygiene
Hand sanitiser (alcohol gel) is essential, as children tend to touch everything. Disposable nappies are readily available. All travellers with children should know how to treat minor ailments and when to seek medical treatment.
Make sure the children are up to date with routine vaccinations, and discuss possible travel vaccines well before departure, as some are not suitable for children aged less than a year.
Upset stomachs are always a risk for children when travelling, so take particular care with diet. If your child is vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea, lost fluid and salts must be replaced. It may be helpful to take rehydration powders for reconstituting with sterile water; ask your doctor. Be aware that at roadside stops and cheaper hotels, squat-style toilets are more common than Western-style toilets.
In Morocco’s often-searing heat, sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration should all be guarded against, even on cloudy days. Bring high-factor sunscreen with you, and avoid travelling in the interior during midsummer, when temperatures rise to 40°C plus.
Encourage children to avoid dogs and other mammals because of the risk of rabies and other diseases – although there isn’t likely to be a risk on camel rides in the desert, or with donkeys and mules working in places like Fez medina.
There are many international and local organisations that arrange voluntary work on regional development projects in Morocco. They generally pay nothing, sometimes not even providing lodging, and are aimed at young people looking for something different to do for a few weeks over the summer.
Some of these organisations are really just summer camps and international exchange programs. Always ask of the organisation 'who benefits?' Good volunteering projects should be aimed at providing outcomes for beneficiaries not the volunteer.
A good starting point is Lonely Planet's The Big Trip, a guide to gap years and overseas adventures that includes a chapter on volunteering and working overseas, as well as a directory of resources.
International or local organisations that sometimes have Morocco placements or camps:
Chantiers Sociaux Marocains Rabat-based NGO engaged in nationwide health, education and development projects, with international volunteers aged 18 to 35.
Baraka Community Partnerships (www.barakacommunity.com) In cooperation with the Tighza Village Association, UK NGO Baraka Community Partnerships offer volunteer vacations in the remote, rural village of Tighza, 16km east of Telouet. Current long-term projects involve the replacement of irrigation channels and larger groups can assist with tree planting.
Morocco Exchange (www.moroccoexchange.org) Offers short-term student exchange and travel programs with a focus on cross-cultural education through visiting cities and rural villages. Previous custom-made programs have explored Morocco's medical system, the use of the French language, and women's rights.
Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) Long-established US volunteer scheme with deep roots in Morocco; volunteer programs lasting two years.
Idealist.org Has volunteering and job opportunities in Morocco.
Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) A good place to start looking for volunteer places, as it provides links to organisations with Moroccan programs.
International Cultural Youth Exchange (www.icye.org) Allows you to search for upcoming Moroccan volunteer opportunities.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Morocco uses the metric system.
Before marriage, many Moroccan men have little opportunity to meet and get to know women outside their family – a major reason why Western women receive so much attention. Frequent unwanted looks and comments can come as something of shock to first-time visitors and the constant attention can be extremely wearing.
Some women choose to develop a thick skin and ignore the hassle, and it's worth keeping in mind that low-level harassment rarely goes any further.
A benefit is that unlike male travellers, you’ll have opportunities to meet local women.
Dress modestly. It's best to cover your shoulders and knees, and avoid low-cut tops altogether.
Bikinis are OK on private beaches. Play things by ear in hotel pools – some are fine, at others it will attract unwanted attention.
Sunbathing topless on the beach is never appropriate in Morocco.
Havens & Pitfalls
If the hassle gets too much, look for the ever-increasing number of places accustomed to having the business of single Moroccan women.
The upper floor of a salon de thé (teahouse), a restaurant or a hotel terrace are also good bets.
Hammams are good male-free zones for a relaxing reprieve.
Hotel and public swimming pools usually attract groups of men, whether they be swimming or drinking at a poolside bar.
Be aware that some budget hotels double as brothels; any cheap hotel above a popular locals’ bar is a likely contender.
If you want an alcoholic drink, head to a large hotel rather than braving a bar, as these are generally male-dominated establishments. Local women who frequent watering holes (even the posher ones) are generally prostitutes.
Male Travelling Companions
Women travelling with male companions are less likely to experience much of the hassle that solo women inevitably encounter.
It may be better to claim to be a married couple rather than just friends (the latter concept is usually greeted with disbelief).
If you are a Moroccan woman (or Moroccan in appearance) travelling with your non-Moroccan spouse, it is advisable to carry a copy of your marriage certificate. Premarital sex for Muslims is forbidden, and Morocco has a stern attitude to prostitution.
For the same reason, if your partner is thought to be Muslim, you may meet with some uncomfortable situations at hotel reception desks. This is less of an issue in larger cities.
Try to sit next to a woman on public transport, especially in grands taxis where you’re squeezed in closely, and on trains, where you could potentially be trapped inside a compartment.
Many women travel in grands taxis without problems, regardless of where they sit, but you could pay for two seats to get a ride by yourself in the front. It would be considerably more comfortable.
Hitchhiking isn't recommended – female travellers looking for free rides may be assumed by male drivers as being prepared to offer sexual favours in return.
Avoid wandering about alone at night, as there’s an attitude that all ‘good women’ should be at home after dark; take a taxi. Avoid walking alone in remote areas such as isolated beaches, forests and sand dunes.
Wearing dark glasses is good for avoiding eye contact, but don’t spend your entire Moroccan journey hiding behind them.
A simple non merci or la shukran (‘no thank you’) is much more effective than reacting with aggression (which could be returned in kind).
The key concept is ‘respect’, something that most Moroccans hold dear. Hashouma! ('shame!') can also be used to embarrass would-be harassers.
A wedding ring may help you avoid unwanted attention – along with a photo of your ‘husband’ and ‘child’. The fact that you’re travelling without them will arouse suspicion, but you could counter this by saying you’ll be meeting them at your next destination.
Take extra care at music festivals (and other large gatherings) as complaints have been made of physical harassment
Tampons can be hard to buy in Morocco. Carrefour is the only dependable supermarket to stock them, and even then offers limited choice. You'll need to take along a plastic bag for disposing of tampons and pads.
With huge unemployment and a largely out-of-work youthful population, Morocco isn’t fertile ground for job opportunities. A good command of French is a prerequisite and some Arabic would help. There are more volunteering opportunities.
If you secure a position, your employer will have to help you get a work permit and arrange residency, which can be a long process.
There are a few possibilities for teaching English as a foreign language, although they are not terribly well paid. Rabat is one of the best places to start looking.
The best times to try are around September and October (the beginning of the academic year) and, to a lesser extent, early January. Having a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification will be useful.