Arabic is the official language but local Berber dialects are spoken in the mountain and desert regions. French is the most commonly used second language, followed by Spanish and English.
The Dirham is the national currency. 1 Euro = about 11 Dirhams; 1 Pound Sterling = about 15 Dirhams; 1 U.S. Dollar = about 8.5 Dirhams. Cash and travellers checks can be changed in each of the many banks in Morocco . You will also find ATM’s in all major towns. Credit cards can be used in some larger shops and hotels, however most places prefer payment in local currency. (American Express cards are not widely accepted). Please note that currencies such as the Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar and Scottish Pound notes are not widely recognized for exchange in Morocco.
You can only obtain Dirhams in Morocco and they should not be taken out of the country. There are cash dispensers and exchange counters in the arrival hall at airports, however please note that the exchange counters here do not normally accept traveller’s checks. You will need to change remaining Dirhams back to original currency at an exchange counter in the check-in area of the airport, before passing through passport control.
220V, 50Hz is standard, but in some older buildings you may find 110-125V sockets. Power outlets are round two-pin European style.
You can find telephone kiosks and internet café’s in all towns and cities. There is reasonable mobile phone coverage in most of the country.
Visas & Passports
For all visitors, a passport is required which should be valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in Morocco. Citizens of the UK, EU, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand obtain a 3-month visa for free upon arrival. These three-month visitor’s stamps can be extended by the Immigration Office or at the Bureau des Étrangers in most large towns. Other nationalities should check with their local Moroccan Embassy or Consulate for visa requirements, as you may need to obtain a visa in advance.
It is worthwhile to inquire about the exact dates of festivals because many festivals don’t take place at any fixed dates according to the Western calendar, but are linked to seasonal changes and harvests. Many local festivals are organized from August through October. Around May, there is the Mousseum of Sidi Mohammed M’a al-Anim, where you can see the ‘blue people’ (Moors of the Sahara). Here, desert tribes gather to trade and to meet each other.
Also in May, the harvest of the roses is celebrated at the Rose Festival in the Dadès Valley. The World Sacred Music festival is held in Fes each year in May/June. The National Folklore Festival of Marrakech is a 10-day tourist event in June well worth attending. Also in June is the Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira. At all these music festivals you can see dancers, musicians and other entertainers from all over the world. In October, the Date Festival is worth visiting, as are the festivities on Independence Day on November 18, which is celebrated throughout the country.
At the coast, the weather is tourist-friendly almost all year round, although winter can bring cool and wet conditions in the north. In the lowlands, the cooler months, from October to April, are favoured by many visitors. This time of the year is pleasantly warm (around 28°C) during the day and cool (ca. 15°C) at night.
In the higher regions, winter can be cold. The ski season (in the Atlas Mountains) usually lasts from December to March. In the high season, for mountain treks (June 15 to September 15) you should book well in advance for most hiking-trips. From mid-October to May is the best time for camel-safari’s and hiking in the Saghro Mountains.
While Morocco welcomes all visitors, it is an Islamic country. As such, your dress should be modest. This is particularly so in rural village areas. Morocco is very tolerant and welcoming to visitors: you’re not expected to act or look like a Moroccan. Longer shorts and shirts are fine for men.
For women, it’s a good idea to bring a scarf to cover bare shoulders and arms in rural villages. Shorts are not acceptable for women unless below knee length. However, in major cities Agadir, Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech women and men often wear dress as they would be in New York or any other Western City.
The locals are used to seeing tourists and therefore it is not an issue. But in the rural areas, we recommend you follow local traditions and dress more modestly. Rural people will be visibly embarrassed if you choose to dress with skin showing, and react with a muffled laugh or cover their eyes. In their view, you’re walking around in your underwear. City dwellers often dress as we do.
The clothes you will need depend on the time of year and the area you visit. In the summertime, it is hot in all parts of Morocco, except at the Atlantic coast. We advise wearing light, loose, cotton or linen clothing. A hat or turban is a must to protect the head against the heat and sun. In autumn and spring a light jacket or fleece is recommended; the evenings can be quite cool. In winter, and at higher elevations in all seasons, you will need a sweater/fleece and a light waterproof jacket. Clothes can be bought in bigger cities, but hiking boots and fleece sweaters are not available. These should be part of your luggage.
There is little to worry about in terms of diseases and Morocco is the safest country in Africa in this respect. Check with your medical practitioner whether he/she finds vaccination for hepatitis A and/or typhoid fever to be necessary.
It is recommended that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that would cover you in cases of medical emergency, repatriation, cancellation and curtailment, and loss of baggage and belongings. Local hospitals have limited diagnostic capability. Foreign clinics can be expensive, evacuation can cost thousands, and luggage can disappear.
Travel insurance should be obtained before leaving your country of origin. Most insurance companies require a local police report to support claims of loss or damage to personal property. We recommend World Nomads for good deals and excellent service for medical and personal property insurance while traveling. However, we do not require you to purchase insurance.
Food and Beverages
Moroccan food is a mix from the French, African and Arab kitchens. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are used in Moroccan cooking. An important dish is the tagine, named after the clay pot in which a stew of potatoes, vegetables and meat or fish, seasoned with a mix of particular herbs and spices is cooked over a fire.
Couscous is a world-famous Moroccan dish: a granola of wheat and barley served with a tasty sauce and topped with sliced vegetables. The meat is hidden under the granola as the best part to be kept for the end. Meat is often the main base of all cooking, therefore vegetarians or people with special dietary requirements may find their food choices limited.
“Atay Nana” is the national drink: it is Chinese green tea with mint-leaves and loads of sugar. It is readily available everywhere and at all hours. It is the typical welcome drink when you enter a house or a shop. Fresh orange juice is also widely available and very inexpensive and healthy. Beer is served only in some bars and (together with wine) in the more expensive restaurants. It is advisable to drink bottled water throughout your stay or to use water purification tablets while you are hiking or making a camel safari.
Alcohol Available for Purchase
In spite of Morocco being a Muslim country, alcohol is widely available. You will notice that majority of hotels and riads in the old parts of cities, medina offer alcoholic beverages. In the modern part of the cities, bars, restaurants and hotels owned by foreigners or visited by tourists will serve alcohol. That is also true for establishments outside of cities. Most hotels and auberges have bars where they serve alcohol.
You can purchase alcohol in special shops and big supermarkets. Buying in large supermarkets is the cheaper option and the have nice selections too from wines, beers to hard liquor. However, you are not allowed to drink alcohol in the streets and open public places. The Islamic religion prohibits drinking of alcoholic beverages (haram), but there are many young Moroccan men and women drinking alcohol. There is nothing that prohibits them from buying or selling alcohol.
You are welcome to drink alcohol on our tours. Many clients are interested in taking beverages for their nights in the desert. Please let your driver know and he will stop at one of the stores for you.
Morocco produces several local brewed beers, Casablanca and others. Morocco is also known for production of local wines.