Sunday, 17 August 2014

What to know when travelling to Morocco

I had the most excellent time when I spent 2 weeks travelling round Morocco. Whilst on my travels, I wrote a travel diary which I will publish shortly. Here are some of the practical things I learned on my trip in Morocco:

1. When's the best time to go to Morocco?

Weather plays a big part on when deciding the best time to go on holiday. The peak tourist season in Morocco is July and August. If you want to avoid the crowds and the heat, travel before or after this time. During the winter months, from November to March, it can get quite cold and rainy especially in the Atlas mountains. I went in January and found the air to be fresh. Experiencing driving through the Atlas mountains with gushes of rain water crossing the roads was an experience I will never forget. Avoid the desert in the summer months and watch out for sandstorms in February to April.

2. Do I need a visa when visiting Morocco?

Most nationalities including those from the US, Canada and the UK do not need a visa to enter Morocco as a tourist. Like with many other countries your passport must be valid for at least six months after you enter Morocco. You will get a stamp in your passport upon entry into the country (make sure you get it) which will allow you to stay for 90 days. No entry fees are charged.

3. What immunisations do I need when travelling to Morocco?

No vaccinations are required by law to enter Morocco but my doctor did recommend Typhoid and Hepatitis A which I did take. It is also a good idea to be up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccines as you never really do know what you will encounter.

4. Women Travelling in Morocco, including single travellers

Morocco is an Islamic country so it’s advisable to be modest in what you wear. No short skirts, shorts or tank tops. Wear a bikini or swimsuit only at a pool or on a beach. You'll attract male attention regardless what you wear, just ignore it and move on, most of it is harmless. I did have a number of men who thought it their right to touch my waist or arm but it was mostly in Marrakech. I firmly but politely requested they removed their hand which they all eventually did. I even wore a small gold ring on my wedding ring finger as a preventative measure since I was travelling alone. I am not sure if I would have got more attention if I hadn’t been wearing one though. Of course it didn’t help me being blonde but I tied it back with a headband/scarf most of the time. One thing I did find in Morocco is that the people were very welcoming and generous and even though I was alone I never felt I was ever in any serious danger.

5. Can I drink the tap water in Morocco?

Tap water should not be drunk. Bottled water is the way to go and is available all over. Make sure that when you order bottled water at a restaurant they open it in front of you. Also be careful what you eat and try to avoid street vendors.

6. What foreign currency do they use in Morocco?

The currency used in Morocco is the dirham which is divided into 100 centimes. I found there to be ATM's throughout Morocco in all of the major cities and most towns. Credit cards are accepted at most of the higher end hotels, restaurants and shops. You can change money and travellers cheques at all major banks, bureau de change and at some of the larger hotels.

7. What is the best way of travelling round Morocco?

Before you arrive at your destination, especially in touristy towns like Marrakech and Fes, you are quite likely to have unofficial tour guides offering you ‘guides’ and offering you to stay at their hotel saying that your hotel is booked up. No matter how persuasive people may be, don't believe everything you hear and stick to your original plans.
Train is a really great way of getting around. There are train lines between the main cities and towns and train tickets are very reasonably priced. You have to pay for your tickets at the train station in cash so make sure you have your cash to hand. Also, it's wise to know the approximate time of your arrival because stations are not well sign posted and the conductor is barely audible when he announces the trains arrival. If you bring your own food for the journey it's courteous to, offer some to your fellow passengers (unless they're fasting during Ramadan of course).

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