Travel to Morocco

Located in North Africa, Morocco’s coastline borders both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Neighboring countries include Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla.

For Western travelers, Morocco is an endearing travel destination. The idea of Morocco holidays is filled with thoughts of colourful markets, rich scents of spices, flavourful food, intriguing culture and incredible landscapes.

While there is a modern atmosphere in the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, other Morocco cities are still deeply rooted in its past histories. Fez, often regarded as one of the best cities in Morocco, is still rooted in medieval times. Marrakesh, the fourth largest Moroccan city, again still portrays a rich history. Here, you can visit many of the old mosques and madrasas as well as experience the many red sandstone walls throughout the city – which is how the city got its nickname of “Red City”.

With such a diverse landscape it’s always a good time to visit, however the best time to visit Morocco is during the shoulder seasons. April to May or September to November is when the weather is not too hot or cold and there are fewer tourists. However, if you’re looking to do specific activities like hiking the Atlas Mountains or surfing, then you’ll need to go at specific times suited to those activities.

This guide is here to provide you adequate travel in Morocco advice and enough information to start planning your Morocco itinerary. If you’d prefer to join one of the Morocco tours rather than plan your own itinerary, we recommend looking into the Morocco tours with Contiki, Intrepid Travel and G Adventures.

Read our top Morocco travel tips.

Travel tips for Morocco

Visa Requirements for Morocco

Nationals from selected countries do not require a visa to enter Morocco. These include members from Schengen states, the United States, the United Kingdom, UAE, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as some Asian and South American countries.

For other nationals, they will need to obtain a visa prior to entering Morocco. Unfortunately, getting a Morocco visa is not always easy to get hold of. Even if you are approved for a visa, it may be difficult to receive a copy before you travel. There have been cases of the wrong information being printed on the visas, making it a hassle to get it corrected. If you have to apply for a Morocco visa, we recommend starting the process early to ensure that you have enough time. The Morocco tourist visa is for a stay of 90 days. For more information on Morocco visa requirements visit this website.

Important Cultural Information

Moroccans are comprised of two ethnicities – Arabs and Berbers. Large numbers of Berbers live in the mountainous regions of Morocco, where they have sought refuge to preserve their culture and language. Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of Morocco, however the vernacular is Moroccan Arabic. French is also widely understood and spoken in Morocco due to its history as a French protectorate. Spanish is also spoken in some northern and southern parts of the country.

The month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and break fast at sunset, is the biggest event in Morocco. Things generally slow down during this time, with most restaurants even closing the day time. If you are traveling to Morocco during this time it’s important to respect the time and refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public during the fast.

Keep in mind that Morocco is a conservative country. Female travelers may want to wear more conservative clothes, covering up their shoulders and knees to avoid additional attention.

Banking & Money in Morocco

The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes (c). There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, MAD1, MAD2, MAD5, MAD10 coins. Notes are available in denominations of MAD20, MAD50, MAD100, and MAD200. Some hotels and tourist spots may accept USD/EURO unofficially.

Major banks in Morocco include Attijariwafa Bank, Banque Populaire du Maroc, BMCE Bank and Société Générale Maroc, among other smaller banks.

Foreign exchange stations are available at all airports, though they may not have the best exchange rates. The best would be to look for a registered foreign exchange center. You will also be able to withdraw cash from the available ATM’s – this is often the easiest and most affordable way to get local currency. Note that your bank will likely charge you. Don’t expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, though some in the bigger cities may have ATM’s at the main entrance.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, though generally only at bigger hotel chains and restaurants in popular tourist areas. When shopping at markets or other small shops, it’s recommended to carry cash on you. Try to have as much small cash as possible and hide the larger notes – especially when trying to bargain the price down!

Medical Emergency Information

To get hold of an ambulance in Morocco, call 150.

Other important contact information for emergencies in Morocco include:

  • Police: 190 or 112 from mobile phones.
  • Fire brigade: 15
  • SOS Medecins 24/24: 05 22 98 98 98
  • Anti-poison centre: 081 00 01 80 (for any exposure to poison such as snake or scorpion bites).

To be safe, you should have travel insurance for Morocco. Make sure to get good travel insurance for Morocco beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Morocco

There are three main mobile operators in Morocco: Maroc Telecom, Orange and Inwi. All three of the operators offer similar deals and coverage. You can choose one depending on convenience. SIM cards are available at the airport otherwise you will generally find venders in the main cities. Note that to buy the Moroccan SIM card, you will have to show your passport. Most prepaid SIMs will include either just calls, just internet or both. Make sure to let the person that is helping you know what you want.

Free Wi-Fi is generally available in hotels, restaurants and cafes however it is not always reliable or fast. If you need the internet for work, rather get a local SIM card and use it as a hotspot. It is also not as common to work from restaurants and cafes in Morocco as it is in other countries. Just make sure to use a VPN service if you’re using free Wi-Fi hotspots to protect your personal information – we recommend ExpressVPN.

Coworking in Morocco isn’t as popular as in European and North American countries, though there are a few places in Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat and Taghazout.

Arrival in Morocco

The best way to get to Morocco is to fly. The Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca is probably the best known and most commonly used international airport in Morocco. There are flights from New York, Montreal, Dubai, various European cities and other various other cities to Casablanca. Menara International Airport, just outside of Marrakech is the second most popular Morocco airport. International airlines flying to Morocco include Iberia, TAP Portugal, Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish Airlines, Norwegian, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Alitalia, Transavia, Portugalia, and Germanwings.National airlines in Morocco include Royal Air Maroc, Jet4you, Air Atlas Express, Atlas Blue, Regional Air Lines and Mondair.

Other Morocco airports include Nador airport, Goulimime airport, Dakhla airport, Errachidia airport, Agadir airport, Laayoune Hassan I airport, Tetuan S. Ramel airport, Rabat airport, Al Hoceima Charif Idr airport, Beni Mellal Airport airport, Fes-Saïss airport, Essaouira airport, Zagora airport, Oujda L. Angades airport, Ouarzazate airport, Tangier Boukhalef airport and Tan Tan airport

Search for flights to Morocco on Expedia.

Another option is to fly to Spain, Italy, France or Gibraltar and then take a ferry to Morocco. Algeciras is the main port in Spain that serves Ceuta and Tangier. A ferry between Algeciras and Ceuta takes 40 minutes, and less than 2 hours to get to Tangier. Ferries from France leave from the port of Sete and Port Vendres going to Tangier. Italian towns Genoa and Naples have direct ferries to Tangier while Gibraltar offers a high-speed boat service to Tangier.

Read about the do’s and don’ts of cruising in Morocco.

If you don’t want the hassle of planning a journey to Morocco by yourself, there are plenty of guided tours of Morocco from Spain that you could take.

The only way to get into Morocco by land is from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, as the border post with Algeria has been closed for some time now. You can of course drive through Europe and then hop onto one of the above mentioned ferries to Morocco.

Areas of Morocco

Morocco is geographically divided into four main regions: the coast, the cities of the plains, the Rif and Atlas mountains and the oases and desert of the Sahara.

Morocco cities include Fes, Marrakech, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Meknes, Ouarzazate and Dakhla. Fes, Marrakech and Casablanca are the best cities in Morocco for tourists.

Alternatively, the main areas of Morocco include:

Mediterranean Morocco & Tangier

A region in northern Morocco with popular sea ports and a variety of beach towns and markets. This is also home to Tangier, a major Moroccan city where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel.

Morocco’s North Atlantic Coast

Home of the capital of Morocco, Rabat, which is a very relaxed and hassle-free city. It’s also home to Casablanca along with a few more laid back beach towns.

Morocco’s South Atlantic Coast

The southern coast of Morocco is a laid back area, with lovely beach towns like Essaouira and Agadir. Agadir is well-known for having some of the best beaches in Morocco. It’s an example of modern Morocco with less emphasis on tradition and history.

High Atlas & Marrakech

This is the area covering the High Atlas mountains as well as Marrakech. Marrakech is one of the most popular Moroccan cities to visit as it includes a mix of old and new Morocco. It is on the itinerary of many Morocco tours where tourists can explore the maze of souks and ruins in the medina.

Middle Atlas & Fes

This area covers the Middle Atlas mountain range along with surrounding areas. Cities in this area include Fes and Meknes. Fes is one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world while Meknes is a much more modern city in Morocco offering a break from the busy tourist cities. The Berber town of Azrou, however, is the true capital of the Middle Atlas Mountains.

Saharan Morocco

Morocco features a vast desert region that runs along the border of Algeria, it’s here where you can join Morocco desert tours of the sand dunes or perhaps ride a camel.

Transportation in Morocco

Trains are a common method of transport in Morocco, mainly because of their speed and frequency. The network however, is limited. The train network links Marrakech and Tangier with Rabat and Casablanca, while Meknes and Fez are linked to the main line at Sidi Kachem.

Royal Air Maroc offers domestic flights from its hub in Casablanca to major Morocco cities. Generally though, flying is not always the best option unless you are covering long distances, eg. to Laayoune or Dakhla in the Western Sahara.

There are also some great luxury long distance bus services, including ones offering overnight routes. CTM and Supratours are examples of bus operators to consider. There are also local buses, which are a completely valid choice for the more adventurous traveler. They are much slower though, and don’t have air conditioning.

Bus travel is generally only marginally cheaper than taking a shared grand taxi. Grand taxis operate between towns with flexi-fares that are split equally between passengers. If you are traveling in a group, or can find other travelers to join, this would be a great option as they are much quicker than buses. The taxis are usually big Peugeot or Mercedes cars carrying six passengers.

You can of course also hire a car to travel at your own pace. Many visitors rent a car in Casablanca, Marrakech or Agadir. Note that fuel is quite expensive and Morocco has a high accident rate. Consider Europcar for car rental in Morocco.

When in the cities you will most likely get around on foot, the alleys of the old Medina quarters are so narrow that there is no other way than by foot. You may make use of city taxis and occasionally a bus. Petits taxis, different from the grand taxis, are refined to the city limits. They should have meters, if not you will have to bargain a price.

Accommodations in Morocco

Morocco offers a diverse range of accommodation options, including trendy medina houses, luxury hotels, beach resorts, desert and mountain kasbahs and luxurious sultan palaces. High-end travelers will be pleased to hear that accommodations in the luxury spectrum have considerably increased over the years. Though, there are still plenty of lower to mid-range accommodation options.

Riads are a popular choice for accommodation in Morocco. These are residential ‘houses’ with distinct Moroccan architecture – most offer the option to rent per room or the enter house. Riads range from simple homes to grand palaces with luxurious features. The houses are usually two or three floors and feature a central garden, often with a fountain, and an accessible rooftop. Riads are pockets of oases from the busy medina streets, usually beautifully decorated with traditional decor.

If exploring further south, you may want to stay in a Gite – a traditional Berber-style mud-brick building. Alternatively, there are desert camps which range of basic to ultra luxurious!

We recommend booking your accommodation in advance. Search for accommodation and book online at Booking.com and Agoda.

Booking.com

What to Eat and Drink in Morocco

Moroccan cuisine is packed with interesting flavours and spices. Moroccan dishes are influenced by Berber, Jewish, Arab, and French cultures. Most traditional Moroccan dishes take hours to prepare, ensuring that each dish is packed with flavour and extra delicious.

Traditional Moroccan foods that you must try in Morocco include:

  • Tagine – probably the most popular dish in Morocco. Tagine can either be chicken or lamb and is slow cooked in a clay pot with a mix of vegetables, spices, and meat.
  • Eggplant Zalouk – slow-cooked eggplant which is then pureed into a dip with garlic, spices and tomatoes.
  • Couscous – a staple side dish in Morocco usually mixed with spices and vegetables.
  • Fish Chermoula – Chermoula is a mix of herbs and spices used when grilling or baking fish and seafood.
  • Chickpea Stew – Slow cooked with tomatoes and potatoes.
  • Nuts and olives – a variety of nuts and olives are often served as snacks or as starters.

Some of the cheapest foods to try are on the streets – go to the market and sample the different foods or enjoy a kebab at a street-side stall. When looking for a good restaurant look out for where the locals are going and go there! If you’re not sure about the menu, always ask. Moroccans are friendly people and will gladly assist you with what is the best dish to order.

With so many different vegetarian options on offer, vegetarians and vegans are almost always likely to find something on the menu to eat.

Since Morocco is a Muslim country you won’t find much alcohol (tourists are allowed to buy though). Mint tea is a popular drink that is often served as a welcome drink or with meals.

Food and Drinks in Morocco

Things to Do and See in Morocco

Morocco is a mix of historical cities, beautiful beaches, mountains and deserts. It’s almost impossible to include absolutely all of the highlights of Morocco in one trip, unless you have an extended Morocco itinerary to work with.

Most trips to Morocco will include some time spent in Marrakech – home of palaces, mosques, gardens, souks and markets. Popular things to do in Marrakech include visiting the Jemaa el-Fnaa market, strolling through the garden at Jardin Majorelle, visiting Koutoubia Mosque, Saadian Tombs, Tanneries, souks and museums. For more monuments, Fez is also a worthwhile visit.

Hiking is popular in the Atlas Mountains, particularly in High Atlas at North Africa’s highest mountain, Jebel Toubkal. Mountain biking in Morocco is also quite popular.

If you’re there in the winter months, then you can go skiing in the Central High Atlas Mountains, at Oukaimeden or Jebel Azourki. The Ouzoud Waterfalls in the Middle Atlas Mountains is a great day trip from Marrakech – check out this tour.

Even further south is the Sahara, where you can do desert tours in Morocco – like this one.

Beach lovers will love the Atlantic Coast where you can go surfing, kitesurfing, snorkeling and scuba diving at the popular beach resorts.

Visiting a hammam (local bath house) is another popular Moroccan activity. There are a number of bath houses throughout Marrakech and other main cities.

Things to do & see in Morocco

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Shopping in Morocco

Shopping will be a big part of your trip to Morocco. Souks and markets are found throughout the country and are very much a part of everyday life in Morocco. From the enormous markets in Fez and Marrakech to the smaller rural town markets, all offer a great adventure for travelers. Be ready to bargain while shopping in Morocco.

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main market in Marrakech, the buzzing hub of the city. There are countless stalls selling various culinary delights along with intriguing goods. Tourists flock here so expect it to be quite crowded.

Souks include a mix of food, spice, pottery, jewellery, leather and other ornate goods. Haggling is a necessity on prices – if it’s taking too long to get your price, don’t be afraid to walk away.

For more ‘Western’ style shopping, Morocco Mall is located in Casablanca. This 10 hectare mall is North Africa’s largest shopping centre. You will find most major international brands here, including Aldo, Dior, Diesel, Armani and Gap.

Special items to buy in Morocco include traditional metal work lamps and blue-and-white glazed earthenware from Fez. More expensive specialty items include rugs and carpets.

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Morocco’s Nightlife

Morocco has a variety of nightlife activities, from bars and clubs to live music or belly dancing for an evening entertainment. Clubs are mostly located in Marrakech and Casablanca where you can find buzzing nightclubs and cocktail lounges. Tangier has more late-night cafes while Agadir is famous for its resort-style nightlife. If you’re staying in a big resort or hotel, it will most likely offer an evening entertainment program.

Marrakech, Mohammedia, Agadir and Tangier all have casinos which can be popular spots to hangout at night. The smaller centers won’t have as much of the nightlife scene.

Safety Tips for Morocco

Many travelers ask, is it safe to travel in Morocco? Well, it’s actually one of the safer African countries to travel to. It does however, have its share of problems so it’s important to follow common sense at all times. Travelers should avoid walking alone at night, travel in groups, keep valuables in the safe at the hotel and keep your backpacks close at all times. Like most countries, pickpockets are common in busy and tourist areas.

Hustlers can also be a problem in Morocco. It can be difficult to walk down the street without being haggled by someone. The best is to remain firm and refuse their services while keeping on walking.

Women travelers will most likely experience harassment if alone, usually kept to cat-calls and hisses. It’s not necessary to wear a hijab (headscarf) as Morocco is an extremely liberal country, but women should dress conservatively out of respect for the culture.

Conclusion

Ready to explore the exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Morocco? A trip to Morocco is always an exciting adventure, whether you’re going to get lost in the medina of Marrakech, hike the Atlas mountains, ride a camel through the Sahara or catch some waves in the Atlantic Coast. There is something for everyone to enjoy in Morocco.

The best time to visit Morocco is during April to May or September to November – the shoulder seasons when the weather is still good and the crowds aren’t as big. Top things to do in Morocco include shopping up a storm at the many souks and markets, tasting all of the different kinds of foods and mostly just soaking up the bustling energy that can be found throughout the country.

Travel tips for Morocco

Morocco tips

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