Morocco travel guide
Morocco is a heady mix of languages, cultures, religions, ancient traditions and modern sensibilities. It conjures up images of mint tea and tagine, date plantations and minarets, labyrinthine medinas and pungent spice stalls. Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac and Winston Churchill were all drawn to this enticing North African nation, which continues to pique the interest of curious minds today.
One of the more liberal countries in North Africa, Morocco’s biggest drawing card is Marrakech, a giddying and grandiose city that Winston Churchill described as “simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon.” This sentiment rings true for many travellers today.
Each city has a distinctively different character. Tangier, in the north, is the gateway to Africa, and is characterised by its white-washed buildings, sandy beaches and burgeoning cultural scene. Further down the coast lies cosmopolitan Casablanca, the faded coastal town of Essaouira and the lively beach resort of Agadir, favoured by sun-seekers and surfers. Inland lies spell-binding Fez, with its dusty souks, high-sided streets and maze of stunning riads (traditional houses built around a central courtyard).
The blend of ancient and colonial architecture that characterises Morocco’s main cities makes them beautiful propositions: Marrakech, Essaouira, Fez and Tetouan are all on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and are home to an increasing collection of cultural attractions. And when sightseeing begins to pall, visitors can retreat to a traditional hammam, sample the country’s delectable cuisine or barter for bargains in the souks.
Beyond the cities, awesome landscapes await. Carving Morocco in two are the Atlas Mountains, home to the monumental gorges of Todra and Dades, the palmeries of Tinerhir and the beautiful Berber city of Ouarzazate. You can even ski. Then there’s Merzouga, famous for camel-trekking and birdwatching, and Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain.
The epic waves of Western Sahara prove an adventure too far for most travellers, alas. Government forces continue to occupy this disputed territory, even though Moroccan sovereignty is not recognised by the United Nations. The issue remains a sensitive subject, tread carefully.
710,850 sq km (274,461 sq miles, including Western Sahara).
35,121,465 (UN estimate 2016).
46.9 per sq km.
King Mohammed VI since 1999.
Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani since 2017.
127/220 volts AC, 50Hz, depending on age and location of building. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Demonstrations and protests can occur at short notice across the country. In general, demonstrations are peaceful but there have been isolated incidents of vandalism and looting. You should follow local and international developments in the media and take sensible security precautions. Avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. Always observe instructions given by the local security authorities.
Incidents of violent crime occasionally occur. There have been recent incidents involving the use of knives against tourists in street attacks, thefts and burglaries in the major cities and along beaches. Avoid quiet areas and be vigilant at all times, particularly after dark. Don’t carry large amounts of money or valuables around with you.
Petty crime is common, especially in tourist areas like the medina quarter of towns/cities and on beaches. Crimes include pick-pocketing, bag snatching and drive-by motorcycle theft of visible jewellery and handbags. Be vigilant when asking for directions and using ATMs as crime and aggressive begging can occur. Credit card fraud and scams like substituting inferior goods for those that were actually bought are common. You should remain vigilant and alert to potential confidence tricks.
When visiting the medina quarter of a town or city, make sure any guide you use is operating with the agreement of the local tourist authorities, and displays an official badge. Harassment of tourists by people posing as official tourist guides is common.
Women should exercise caution particularly when travelling alone as they could be vulnerable to unwanted attention or harassment.
Exercise caution when travelling to Morocco for a relationship initiated via the internet. There have been incidents of marriage fraud and attempted extortion affecting foreign nationals. When travelling for a first visit, make sure you keep your return ticket, passport and personal belongings safe in case problems arise.
Morocco has a poor road safety record. In 2013, nearly 4,000 people were killed and over 100,000 injured as a result of traffic accidents.
Drive carefully, especially in poor weather conditions, on secondary routes and on mountain roads. Driving at night can be particularly hazardous due to poor lighting. It’s common to encounter pedestrians crossing motorways. You should take extra care when overtaking, particularly where there is no hard shoulder. Leave plenty of time to reach your destination and respect speed limits.
If you’re involved in a road accident, you should complete a ‘Constat Amiable’ form, to be signed by both parties. Blank forms are available on arrival at Tangier port from the insurance company booths and from tobacconists in all cities.
If you’re involved in a road accident resulting in a fatality and the Moroccan authorities consider you responsible, you may be detained pending a trial hearing.
If you enter Morocco with a vehicle, the registration number will be recorded. If you’re not in possession of the same vehicle when leaving Morocco, you’ll be refused exit and detained. You’ll need to provide evidence of adequate motor insurance. You should always carry your insurance, licence and registration documents with you.
If you’re hiking in the mountains seek local advice and take necessary precautions.