General Information

Travel in Morocco

Morocco has a history as an independent nation state stretching back to the 9th century, interrupted only by the brief interlude of the Protectorate (1912-1956) when the country was divided into French and Spanish zones. Morocco, unlike her North African neighbours, was never part of the Turkish Empire.

To the south, Morocco claims and has occupied the territory of the Western (formally Spanish) Sahara. This claim forms a major rallying point in domestic politics. Morocco's political system is evolving from a strongly centralised monarchy to a parliamentary system. The King retains much of the executive power, but the Parliament and most of the government are democratically elected.

morocco-map.jpg

Morocco has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Spanish territory to the north, Algeria to the east, and Western Sahara to the south. Since Morocco controls most of Western Sahara, its de facto southern boundary is with Mauritania. Morocco's capital city is Rabat; its largest city is its main port, Casablanca. Other cities include Agadir, Essaouira, Fes, Marrakech, Meknes, Mohammadia, Oujda, Ouarzazat, Safi, Salé, Tangier and Tétouan. The geography of Morocco spans from the Atlantic Ocean, to mountainous areas, to the Sahara Desert.

A large part of Morocco is mountainous, the Atlas Mountains are located mainly in the central and southern regions of the country. The mountain areas are mainly inhabited by the Berber people. The Berber people have their own language although the official language of Morocco is Arabic. Due to historical influences French and Spanish are also widely spoken.

What Currency is Used in Morocco?

The Moroccan Dirham is the official currency of Morocco. You can see today's exchange rates here. For more information regarding accepted currencies and ATMs see our Practicalities page.

What Is The Time Difference in Morocco?

Morocco time is GMT/UTC 0. Check out the current time in Morocco here. The Morocco Country Code is +212. For making calls back home, international rates can be quite expensive, be sure to check with your local carrier prior to visiting Morocco. Wifi is available in most hotels and street side cafes in major cities in Morocco. However, WiFi in rural areas is often slow, spotty, or non-existent.

Cellular service is reliable in major cities and throughout most of Morocco. However, keep in mind you will be traveling in remote areas, we cannot guarantee cellular services or internet. Expect to be un-plugged for the majority of the journey. For more information see our Practicalities Page.

How Do I Charge My Electronics While in Morocco?

Morocco uses a Europlug and Schuko plugs. The voltage is 220-240. Electricity is widely available throughout Morocco.

Remember that batteries do not like the cold. When traveling in cold temperatures you should carry your phone or camera battery close to your body. At night, keep your batteries and electronics with you in bed in order to keep the battery from draining. A portable battery pack or solar charger, although not necessary, is certainly a useful tool.

What Language is Spoken in Morocco?

Arabic is the official language of Morocco. Berber is also spoken widely here. Arabic is a script-based language and is often difficult for westerners to speak. English is spoken by guides and people involved in the tourism industry. With that being said, it is always advisable to learn a few words and phrases in the country you are visiting. Check out these helpful Arabic phrases

What Is the Climate in Morocco?

The climate in Morocco is such that it does not exclude travel at any time of the year, although some will find the mid-summer temperatures uncomfortable for trekking. Daytime temperatures in Marrakech vary from around 18degC in December-January to 36degC in July. In the Atlas, the temperatures will generally be a few degrees cooler and with the effects of wind-chill. On a cold day in the winter high in the Atlas the temperature is well below freezing with abundant snow cover.

Along the coast, the weather takes on a more Mediterranean feel, dry and mild. However, if you head south the climate exudes a desert atmosphere with vast temperature swings from day to night. Daytime is very hot and dry, while the temperatures can be below freezing at night.

Additional Weather Resources:

For up-to-date weather information check out snow-forecast.com.

Morocco books and maps

Here are some handy resources for your trip to Morocco. 

Guidebooks

Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas, D. Clark, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1852846114
Trekking in the Atlas Mountains, K. Smith, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1-85284-421-9
Moroccan Atlas - The Trekking Guide, A. Palmer, Trailblazer, ISBN 978-1873756775
The High Atlas: Treks & Climbs. H. Brown, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1852846718
Atlas Mountains, Morocco. R G Collomb. West Col Productions. ISBN-13: 978-0906227084

Maps

Toubkal & Marrakech, 1:50,000, Orientazion, ISBN 84-935600-0-6
Toubkal, Alto Atlas, Marruecos. 1:40,000, Editorial Piolet, ISBN 13: 9788495945426
Jbel Toubkal, 1:50,000. Ministere de l'Agiculture. Feuille NH-29-XXIII-I a
High Atlas Morocco, 1:100,000/1:1,500,000/1:20,000, TerraQuest, ISBN 9788361155263
Morocco Adventure Map, 1:1,000,000. National Geographic. ISBN-13: 978-1566955300

History & Culture

Morocco: From Empire to Independence, C. Pennell, Oneworld, ISBN 978-1851686346
A Traveller's History of North Africa, B. Rogerson, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, ISBN 978-0715637388

Climbing and Mountaineering

Mountains of the Mind: a History of a Fascination, Robert Macfarlane, Granta Books, ISBN-10: 1847080391, ISBN-13: 978-1847080394

Laws

Laws in Morocco

The following advice is intended to provide a brief outline of any laws in the destination country that are directly applicable to travelling there. This is not intended to be exhaustive or complete and laws do change from time to time so we strongly advise visiting the UK Foreign Office website and checking for their current advice.

In general the laws of any country will be based on the same values as at home but significant differences can be present subject to the prevailing cultural, religious and political environment in the country. These four basic factors can be your main guide to how to act in unfamiliar situations. If you are any doubt as to what to do in a given situation it is usually possible to identify the "safest" fallback option and go with it. For example, not buying something, not taking a photo of a government building etc.

This information should also be read in conjunction with our relevant pages dealing with Cultural Awareness and Visa Requirements.

Religion

Local laws reflect the fact that Morocco is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. Women, especially when travelling alone, will attract attention. To minimise hassle, you should dress inconspicuously and avoid wearing clothes that could be regarded as provocative (e.g. short skirts and low-necked strappy tops), except on the beach.
It is against the law to carry bibles in Arabic, to attempt to distribute any non-Muslim/evangelical literature or be involved in any such activity.

Relationships

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Morocco. Sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law. British nationals travelling to Morocco with a view to marrying a Moroccan should, before they travel, check what documentation they will need to provide. Advice can be found on the British Embassy’s website (www.ukinmorocco.fco.gov.uk).

Drugs

The penalties for possession of even small amounts of drugs are severe: up to 10 years’ imprisonment, with no remission for good behaviour, heavy fines and confiscation of your vehicle/vessel. If you travel through the Rif Mountains, a major cannabis growing area, you may be harassed by drug dealers.

Money

You should bring sufficient funds for the visit in cash or credit cards. There is no limit on the amount you can import.

Culture

Cultural Tips in Morocco

As with travel to all locations in the world it is important to respect the social and cutural norms of Morocco. This will ensure that you are welcomed and get the best possible reaction from our hosts.
However, you do not need to worry about causing offence by failing to observe subtle details of Moroccan culture. The main thing is that you behave respectfully and in a friendly way. If at any point you are unsure of what might be expected of you, just look around at what others are doing or simply ask.

Morocco is mainly Muslim in its religious observation and as such many of its customs stem from Islamic beliefs. You will certainly notice the 'call to prayer' in Marrakech and up in the mountains at Imlil. The Moroccan staff will also disappear at various points during the day to pray.

Moroccan Concept of Time

One thing that sometimes takes a bit of getting used to is the local Moroccan interpretation of time. In common with many places in Africa, it is not considered unusual for things to run on a fairly relaxed schedule. For example, it is not unusual for a breakfast set for 8am to arrive at 8:30am or even later. In the UK and a lot of other western countries is is considered rude or unprofessional to be anything more than a few minutes late. However, lateness does not imply this connotation in Morocco. Therefore, it is necessary to be patient and try not to be offended if timings start to slip a bit. 

How to Greet People in Morocco

The usual verbal greeting would be "Salam oo-alley koom" or just "Salam" and in most cases a handshake. The normal reply would be "Oo-alley koom salam". Sometimes people will touch their hear or kiss their hand directly after shaking your hand, as a mark of particular respect or affection. A lot of Moroccans, especially those who regularly deal wth tourists will simple say "hello", "Bonjour" etc based on their assessment of where they think you are from! When meeting a female Moroccan they may offer their hand for you to shake. However, if they do not offer their hand then a slow bowing of the head will be appropriate instead. Moroccans who are good friends are likely to kiss each cheek and may have a more lingering handshake. They may also stand with a hand on each others shoulder or hold hands.

A Note about Moroccan Women

The interaction with Moroccan women can vary greatly. In Marrakech you may see young Moroccan women in very western outfits with uncovered hair and riding mopeds. You may also visit businesses such as a riad where a woman may be the main manager and interact freely with you. However, in general you will probably observe that many women dress and behave very conservatively and reserved and may just be 'hovering in the background'. In this case, it is appropriate to acknowledge them but they may become uncomfortable if you attempt to engage them in too direct or open a manner.

How Should I Dress in Morocco?

All persons should dress 'modestly', this is especially true of female visitors. For general guidance you should keep your upper arms to the elbow and upper legs to the knee covered. In addition, tops should not finish above the waistline of your trousers and expose your mid-riff and your neckline should not extend down more than a few inches. In some situations it will be appropriate for women to cover their head and hair with a scarf. You should look around to see if others are doing so or ask one of the Moroccan's accompanying you.

What is Appropriate Behavior in Morocco?

Try to conduct yourselves in a generally calm and reasonably quiet manner. As a guide simply observe the local Moroccans around you and try not to be significantly louder or more boistrous than them.

Can I show Public Displays of Affection in Morocco?

Public displays of affection between a male and a female, such as kissing, is not considered appropriate and should be avoided. You may notice Moroccan men walking or standing holding hands, this is normal between good friends and does not indicate anything beyond platonic friendship.

A Note About Hands

Some Muslims may consider the left hand to be unclean. You should always therefore shake hands, eat or offer and receive with the right hand.

A Note About Feet

Feet and shoes are often considered ritually unclean, avoid sitting with them up in the air or stepping over someone sitting on the ground. Also ensure that where you sit you will not force others to step over you. When entering a home or guest house always assume that you should remove your shoes. In some cases the host may say that you don't need to but it would still be appropriate to do so, perhaps making the excuse that they are dirty.

Food and Drink of Morocco

It is common for food to be eaten with your hand from a communual tagine or dish. You may therefore be offered a bowl to wash your hands in before eating. In this situation you just hold your hands over the bowl and the host will pour water over them to allow you to wash. There is a technique to mashing and scooping up the food with a small piece of bread, just copy the locals or ask them to teach you, it can be good fun.

Can I Enter a Mosque in Morocco?

It will usually be the case that if you are a non-Muslim you will not be able to enter mosques or the immediate area of some religious shrines. If you are unsure then simply ask.

Can I Haggle in Morocco?

As with many nations, there is a culture of negotiating prices in Morocco. If there is a price marked on an object then it is almost certainly inappropriate to negotiate on the price unless perhaps you are buying many items at once. However, if the price is not marked then you may begin the fine art of haggling. The vendor will quote you a price to begin with, depending on whether you are in the tourist district of a large town or in a village market the starting price may be somewhere from ten to one and a half times the going rate. At this point you will need to make a judgement call. On the one hand, paying over the odds can drive up expectations and prices generally for everyone including locals. On the other hand, driving the price of a souvenir down by the equivalent of 25 pence will make virtually no difference to you but may change the weekly income of a rural family by a few percent.

Tipping in Morocco

Tipping in Morocco is expected in hotels. 10-20 Dirhams should suffice for bags and cleaning services. At restaurants tip 10-15% of the bill if a surcharge has not already been added. For taxis, round up your fare.

Tipping guides and porters is not mandatory, but it certainly is appreciated. For more information on tipping please see our tipping guide.

Sustainability Issues in Morocco

At Adventure Alternative we promote sustainable tourism. This means that we advise against using disposable plastic water bottles. Treat water with a bag filter, iodine, or a SteriPen instead. Also, avoid using plastic bags by bringing your own cloth bag for shopping. Limit the use of toilet paper by using a Shewee or a pee rag for number 1 bathroom trips in rural areas. Don’t litter, and always dispose of your waste in proper containers.

Festivals and Holidays

Morocco is a predominantly Muslim nation. So all Muslim holidays are observed. However, do take note that the Islamic calendar is different than the western calendar. For up to date information, research when Islamic holidays fall on the calendar year you are traveling.


Other notable holidays and festivals include:

Marathon des Sables: Every year competitors from around the world partake in a 6-day race through the Morocaan Desert. Happens in April

The Rose Festival: Celebrates the rose harvest in Kalaa de Mgouna. Held in May.

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music: Held in June, this festival celebrates spiritual dances and songs. With whirling dervishes, chanters, and mystics this festival provides a unique look into the culture and customs of Morocco.

Essauira Gnawa and World Music Festival: This festival is held in Essaouira an celebrates the music and acrobatics of the Gnawa. Held in June.

Marrakech Popular Arts Festival: A national festival celebrating folk music, fortune tellers, snake charmers, fire swallowers and acting troupes.

Imichil Marriage Festival: This is a Berber marriage festival where up to 40 couples get married in the High Atlas Mountains. Happens in August.

Erfoud Date Festival: Early October the Erfoud region celebrates the date harvest with dance, food, and folk music.

Practical Information

Morocco Frequently Asked Questions

Travel to Morocco is an unforgettable experience. Be in the know before you go with these helpful tips. For more info, see our Morocco Trip Prep Page.

Do I need a visa to visit Morocco?

Each country has different visa requirements. It is important to check with your home country and the country you are visiting prior to travel. British visitors do not need a visa to enter Morocco. However, everyone should have a passport that is valid for up to six months after your stay. For up to date visa information see UK’s travel advice page.

Where do I Arrive When Visiting Morocco?

There are many different cities in Morocco with international airports. Casablanca, Marrakesh and Agadir all have flights from Heathrow. Marrakesh is likely where you will fly in when arriving to Morocco as it’s the closest airport to our treks.

Will I Be Able to Contact Home While I Am Away?

Moroccan time is GMT/UTC +0 hours. Morocco’s country code is +212. For making calls back home, international rates can be quite expensive, be sure to check with your local carrier prior to visiting Morocco. Consider downloading WhatsApp, a free internet-based texting and calling service to keep in touch with loved ones. Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and cafes in major cities. Along trekking routes, some locations may have WiFi but connection speeds tend to be slow.

Cellular service is reliable throughout most of Morocco. However, keep in mind that you are still traveling through remote areas. Service is not always working or reliable. Since you will be traveling in remote areas, we cannot guarantee cellular services or internet. Expect to be un-plugged for the majority of the journey.

What Vaccinations Do I need for Morocco?

We heavily advise that you schedule an appointment with your doctor, or a travel-specific doctor prior to coming to Morocco to discuss your health needs. Depending on where you are traveling and where you have traveled prior to arriving in Morocco may affect what kind of vaccinations you may need.

Do plan on bringing any prescriptions you may require during your stay. Medication does exist in Morocco, but the quality and type may not be something you are used to. We suggest you bring any over the counter medications from home that you use on an regular basis.

What is the Quality of Medical Facilities in Morocco?

Morocco has a two-tiered healthcare system with private and public clinics. The private clinics are much better than the public ones. If there is an extreme illness or injury, medical evacuation to a nearby country or your home country may be required.

Although we do not anticipate any troubles while you are in Morocco, accidents do happen. Here at Adventure Alternative we take care of you in the event of an emergency and help get you to proper care. However, we strongly urge you to carry traveler’s insurance that covers you for the activity you are doing. Be sure the plan includes the altitude in which you will be traveling at.

Will I have Access to an ATM in Morocco?

The official currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. Current exchange rates can be found here. You can exchange USD, GBP, and Euros in Morocco, but the bills must be crisp and free of any tears or ink marks.

ATMs are available throughout most of Morocco. ATMs typically only dispense 100 and 200 dirham notes. Change for small items is hard to come by. Limits vary by bank, and typically your home bank will likely over-ride any withdrawal limits at an ATM. 

Reliability of ATMs is improving, but do not rely on them all the time. Certainly, be sure to keep cash on hand, especially when traveling in rural areas. Credit cards are taken in more posh establishments, however there is usually a service fee applied to them, so it’s best to use cash.

What can I expect from Toilet Facilities?

Western style, sit toilets are common in hotels in major cities. Toilets in major cities flush. The story in more rural areas is quite different. Morocco is a country where water is scarce. Outside of major cities toilets are usually squat type toilets. Long-drop pit toilets are not uncommon. Another common type of toilet are the bucket flush types. You have to flush by pouring buckets of water down the toilet. 

Please do not dispose of any paper products in a bucket flush toilet. Instead, use the dustbin provided. Always remember to use hand sanitizer after using a toilet. Do take care to watch where you step when using public restrooms.

We advise to always bring toilet paper for your trek. For ladies, utilizing a wee-rag or “Shewee” device helps when you need to wee. A wee-rag is a small bandana or cloth that you use when you go number one. Simply wipe when you are finished and attach the rag to your pack to dry and disinfect when you are finished. A “Shewee” is a device that enables females to wee standing up, certainly handy along the trail. For feminine hygiene products consider investing in a moon or diva cup. A menstruation cup is reusable, after being cleaned per manufacturer instructions. This helps eliminate the need of hygiene product waste, making life on the trail a much simpler experience.

What is the Water Quality in Morocco?

You should always treat any tap or well water in Morocco. Purification can be done using one of several methods. A SteriPen is a good option, however be sure to bring plenty of extra batteries. You can also bring iodine and chlorine tablets to purify your water. Another option is to use a backcountry or wild camping water filter. Whichever method you choose it is important to also bring a backup method as well. Some hotels may offer guests free filtered water for use.

The water out of the tap throughout Morocco is unfit to drink, brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, etc. It will need to be purified using one of the methods described above. The same rules apply along the trek.

We do not promote the use of disposable plastic water bottles in Morocco. Unfortunately, there is no way properly recycle bottles in Morocco. Since you are in a desert environment and will likely be drinking large quantities of water, we recommend that you bring a method to purify your water.

Costs in Marrakech

We have compiled the following to give you a rough idea of the costs of various common goods and services in Marrakesh. This is to help you to budget and also not to pay over the odds for things. Prices up in the mountain villages will usually be a bit cheaper, maybe 10%.

However.... please do not take these prices as definitive, they are just based on our experience. As with many places in the world, there is a huge gap between "locals' prices" and "tourists' prices" and there will always be certain salemen who will be somewhat 'speculative' with their pricing!

Arriving at a price that is at an acceptable level somewhere in between the extremes is where the art of haggling and bargaining comes in.  

Goods / Service                                  

Approx Price
Taxi Airport-Centre of Old Town 150 MAD/car
Meal in decent riad restaurant 150-200 MAD
Basic Tagine & Soda in central cafe 60-100 MAD
Tip for a waiter 5-10 MAD
Horse & Cart Tour 100 MAD /Half Hour
City Tour Guide (ask for official ID) 300-400 MAD /Half Hour
Cotton Fabric 2m x 2m 100 MAD
Cotton Fabric 2m x 3m 120 MAD
Velour/Silk Fabric 2m x 2m 160 MAD
Velour/Silk Fabric 2m x 3m 200 MAD
Scarf 60-100 MAD
Tea Pot & 4 Glasses 150-400 MAD
Traditional Leather Slippers 150-300 MAD
Plain full size clay Tagine 100 MAD

You will normally get around 13 MAD per GBP but you can check current rates at xe.com , bearing in mind that all foreign exchange bureaus will give you a slightly different rate to this to allow them to make their own commission.

A Few Realities of Moroccan Travel

Although Morocco is just a small hop across from Europe, it can feel very different. Most of the country is far less developed than the UK for example. Whilst we may expect reliable running water, electricity, warmth, comfort and even Wi-Fi as a matter of course, for most people in Morocco this would be considered luxury. For some travellers, this is all part of the charm and experience, at least at first. For others, they may get frustrated by black-outs, the water being turned off or the shower suddenly going freezing cold. 

And now we come to the concept of the Moroccan mountain refuge. Some of you will have stayed in mountain refuges before; perhaps in the Alps or elsewhere. You may have also noticed that the level of comfort and luxury can vary quite a bit. Be aware, that the Moroccan refuges are generally nearer the bottom of the scale, especially when compared to those in the Alps. For some, it may be a fairly alien concept to find yourself in a queue of five or more people, all waiting in a cold communal washing area to use one of only a couple of toilets allocated to the full refuge of maybe 100 people. This is often a reality in a Moroccan mountain refuge. Keep in mind that this is not home.

It was Einstein who helped us all to understand that time is relative. Though he was perhaps not referring to time-keeping, the concept still holds. Those of you who have travelled, even within Europe, will know that 8 am does not always mean 8 am to everyone. In Morocco 8 am can easily mean 8:30 am, or worse. We do work hard to make sure that our Moroccan staff understand the cultural differences between Moroccans and their guests. However, you may still need to meet them halfway on occasion and accept that in Moroccan culture it is simply not considered rude to show up late. They will, of course, understand if you give them some light-hearted abuse if they are late; just please don't bottle it up and get frustrated.

Marrakech can be manic. It can be hot, dusty, smelly, and busy and it even rains sometimes. The Atlas Mountains can be hot, cold, dusty, snowy, sunny, rainy, clear, overcast and tiring. On some days we may expect you to up at 5 or even 4 am, long before any hint of the sun. Your leader may keep on at you to force down some breakfast and a hot drink, to check your pack and to recall which mountain we are off to today. You may then not be back for a proper meal until maybe 2 pm; you may have to survive on a few hunks of bread, a tin of sardines and a few handfuls of nuts for 8 hours on the go (especially if you ate all your personal snack supply the day before).

Lastly, remember that English isn't everyone's first language. Be patient with folks and try to learn from them. Before you go, try to learn some Arabic, so you can show locals that you care about their culture and language. Even if you sound silly, giving it a try goes a long way.

Morocco Books and Maps

Suggested guidebooks and maps for Morocco

Here are some handy resources for your trip to Morocco. 

Guidebooks

Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas, D. Clark, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1852846114
Trekking in the Atlas Mountains, K. Smith, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1-85284-421-9
Moroccan Atlas - The Trekking Guide, A. Palmer, Trailblazer, ISBN 978-1873756775
The High Atlas: Treks & Climbs. H. Brown, Cicerone, ISBN 978-1852846718
Atlas Mountains, Morocco. R G Collomb. West Col Productions. ISBN-13: 978-0906227084

Maps

Toubkal & Marrakech, 1:50,000, Orientazion, ISBN 84-935600-0-6
Toubkal, Alto Atlas, Marruecos. 1:40,000, Editorial Piolet, ISBN 13: 9788495945426
Jbel Toubkal, 1:50,000. Ministere de l'Agiculture. Feuille NH-29-XXIII-I a
High Atlas Morocco, 1:100,000/1:1,500,000/1:20,000, TerraQuest, ISBN 9788361155263
Morocco Adventure Map, 1:1,000,000. National Geographic. ISBN-13: 978-1566955300

History & Culture

Morocco: From Empire to Independence, C. Pennell, Oneworld, ISBN 978-1851686346
A Traveller's History of North Africa, B. Rogerson, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, ISBN 978-0715637388

Climbing and Mountaineering

Mountains of the Mind: a History of a Fascination, Robert Macfarlane, Granta Books, ISBN-10: 1847080391, ISBN-13: 978-1847080394

morocco kit list.jpg

Perched on a ledge on Mount Toubkal in the summer months.