Difference between revisions of "Morocco"
Revision as of 19:10, 12 October 2017
Morocco is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.
Ethnically speaking, Morocco is composed mainly of Arabs and Berbers or a mixture of the two. Sizeable numbers of Berbers live mainly in the country’s mountainous regions, long areas of refuge where they have preserved their language and culture. Some segments of the population are descendants of refugees from Spain and Portugal who fled from the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, that spanned until the 15th century.
Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco annexed much of the Western Sahara, a former territory of Spain, in 1975.
Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997, although the King still possesses the actual political power. The press is mostly state controlled, even though there are free newspapers, and clampdowns have occurred following criticism of the authorities or articles concerning the Western Sahara situation.
The foreign policy of independent Morocco has often differed from that of its Arab neighbors. Throughout the Cold War, Morocco generally sided with the Western European powers and the United States rather than with the Eastern bloc, whereas other Arab states usually chose neutral or pro-Soviet positions.
The major resources of the Moroccan economy are agriculture, phosphates, tourism and textiles.
Critical development challenges include lingering widespread corruption and improving the education system.
Electricity and voltage
The voltage in Morocco is generally 220 V, and outlets will fit the 'two-pin plug known as the Europlug. It's probably the most commonly used international plug, found throughout continental Europe and parts of the Middle East, as well as much of Africa, South America, Central Asia and the former Soviet republics. Europlugs are included in most international plug adapter kits.
Watch out for American and Canadian appliances, which are made to be used with 110V. That means that even with an adapter, plugging them into a 220V socket may damage them. If your appliance is "dual-voltage", it should be fine (it's designed for both 110 and 220V). If not, you'll need a power converter as well as an adapter.
The biggest event on the Moroccan calendar is the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day time and break the fast at sunset. Most restaurants are closed for lunch (with the exception of those catering specifically to tourists) and things generally slow down. Traveling during this time is entirely possible, and the restrictions don't apply to non-Muslims, but it's respectful to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during the fast. However, outside tourist "trap" areas it may be difficult to find any food at all all day. Surprisingly this applies even to cities like Casablanca. At the end of the month is the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when practically everything closes for as long as a week and transport is packed as everybody heads back home. Although alcohol consumption is not prohibited for tourists during Ramadan, only a few restaurants and bars serve alcohol. In addition, alcohol can be purchased in a supermarket if a tourist shows their passport to the staff (Moroccans are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol during the holy month).
All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport, but visitors from the following countries are exempted from having a visa for 90 days unless otherwise stated:
Schengen member states, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Hong Kong(30 days), Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Macau, Mali, Malaysia(Just signed on July 19th 2017) Mexico, New Zealand, Niger, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore(30 days), South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela
For tourists from countries that need a visa to enter Morocco, the Moroccan Embassy is usually the first port of call. The embassy charges the equivalent of GBP17 for a single entry and GBP26 for double or multiple entries. (Double or multiple entry visas will be issued at embassy discretion.) Visas are usually valid for 3 months and take around 5-6 working days to process.
Visa requirements include completed application forms, four passport-size photos taken within the previous six months; valid passport with at least one blank page and a photocopy of the relevant data pages; fee, payable by postal order only; photocopy of all flight bookings and a hotel reservation.
Tourists can stay for up to 90 days. Visa extensions can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. (You may find it easier to duck into the Spanish-controlled Ceuta or Melilla and then re-enter Morocco for a new stamp). Anti-cholera vaccination certificates may be required of visitors coming from areas where this disease is prevalent, and pets need a health certificate less than ten days old and an anti-rabies certificate less than six months old.
Many European carriers serve Morocco including Iberia, TAP Portugal, Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish Airlines, Norwegian, BMI, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Air Berlin, Alitalia, Transavia, Portugalia, and Germanwings.
Ryanair  — Has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government and flies to Morocco from Bergamo, Girona, Reus, Bremen, Madrid, Brussels, Frankfurt-Hahn, Eindhoven,London, Porto. Flying to Fez 3 times per week. Flights to Marrakesh are also available. A Bergamo-Tangier route has been opened in July 2009.
Royal Air Maroc  — The state airline, which drastically needs a price cut.
Air Arabia Maroc Air Arabia Maroc, owned by Air Arabia, is another low cost carrier which flies to other Moroccan destinations as well as France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Tunisia and Turkey.
Aigle Azur — A small North-African carrier with reasonable rates.
Thomson fly  — Flights from Manchester to Marrakech and are very reasonably priced.
Binter Canarias  — Flights from Canary Islands to Marrakech.
Emirates  — Flights from Dubai to Casablanca.
Egypt Air  — Flights from Cairo to Casablanca.
Turkish Airlines  — Flights daily from İstanbul to Casablanca.
The only open border posts on land are the ones at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The frontier with Algeria has been closed for ten years. For the closest maritime connection you head for Algeciras or Tarifa in southern Spain. At Algeciras, there are ferry services to Ceuta and Tangier that carry cars. Tarifa has a similar service to Tangier, and this is the shortest and fastest route (just 35 minutes).
It's also possible to enter Mauritania by car from Dakhla. Most countries' citizens need a visa to get into Mauritania, which are available at the Mauritanian embassy in Rabat (visas are no longer issued at the border).
It might be hard to get into Morocco with a commercial vehicle. Campervans are acceptable (but they must look like a camper van), but other commercial vehicles might get turned around and prevented from traveling onwards. If you want to take a commercial vehicle and there is more than one person traveling, it may be worthwhile if a French-speaking person travels to any international border with Morocco of your choice and meets with the head of customs before you try to bring in a commercial vehicle.
By aware: In Marocco there are frequently police controls for speeding (with laser gun). These are on all main roads between the coast and cities (Rabat, Agadir, Essaouira, Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Casablanca). So be aware particuler on the roads where the maximum speed is 40 or 60 km/u.
There are several ferry connections to Morocco, mainly from Spain. Algeciras is the main port and serves Ceuta and Tangier. A ferry between Algeciras and Ceuta takes 40 minutes, and less than 2 hours to get to Tangier. You can also get to Tangier from the small port of Tarifa, on the southernmost tip of mainland Spain. This will take 35 minutes. Some companies run buses between Tarifa and Algeciras for free (25 minutes), so you will have no problems getting to the train station. Other Spanish ports that have connections to Morocco are Malaga and Almeria who connect to Melilla and its Moroccan neighbor town of Nador.
Ferries from France go to Tangier from the port of Sète near Montpellier and Port Vendres near Perpignan. However, these ferries are rather expensive. The Italian towns of Genoa and Naples also have direct connections to Tangier. The British crown colony of Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service.
From Tarfia to Tangier the ferry costs €37 as of August 2016. Return cost €81 with the date of return open. However, you can get the ferry ticket from Tangier at MAD390, about €36. To Algeciras from Tangier, it costs MAD395 single.
Trains are generally the best option because of their speed, frequency and comfort; however, the network is limited. The train network links Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat, and a branch line to Oujda starts at Sidi Kachem, linking Meknes and Fez to the main line.
Luxury buses are the next best bet, with almost universal coverage, if with somewhat odd departure times in some places. CTM, Supratours and some smaller companies provide good comfort at reasonable prices. Supratours buses offer tickets that allow you to link with the rail system. All bus companies charge for baggage separately; however, CTM is the only one that does this officially and provides baggage receipts. On Supratours, whoever takes your bag will demand up to MAD20; pay no more than MAD5.
Local buses are a completely valid choice for the hardier traveler and often even have more leg room than luxury buses (although this may be just because the seat in front of you is disintegrating). They can be extraordinarily slow as they will stop for anyone, anywhere, and only luxury buses are air conditioned (and locals hate open windows).
Shared taxi services (grand taxi) also operate between towns; fares are semi-fixed and shared equally between passengers. However, note that there are six passenger seats per car, not four, (this is for the ubiquitous Mercedes; there are 8 or 9 seats in the bigger Peugeots in the southeast). Two people are expected to share the front seat, with four across the back. If you want to leave immediately or want extra space, you can pay for any additional empty seats. Grand taxis generally cost less than a luxury bus but more than the local. Late at night, expect to be charged a little more than during the day; also expect to pay for all the seats in the car as it probably won't show up other customers late. Petit taxis are not allowed to leave the city borders and thus are not an option for traveling between cities.
However you are traveling, work out which direction you are heading and where the sun will be for the majority of your trip and choose a seat on the shady side.
Domestic flying is not a popular means of transportation; however, Royal Air Maroc, the national flag carrier, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities. Another option is Air Arabia Maroc.
People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco, and you will find yourself perpetually talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advise you on some new place you should go or invite you to their home for couscous. Stations in smaller cities are often poorly marked, and your fellow passengers will be more than happy to let you know where you are and when you should get off. It's expected to greet (Salam) new passengers entering your compartment, and if you bring fruit, cake, etc., it's common to offer the other passengers something as well. If you spend a little extra for 1st class you increase your chances of meeting someone proficient in many languages.
There are three daily departures from Tangier bound for either Oujda or Marrakech, although all of them can be used to reach either destination as there are corresponding trains in Sidi Kachem using the opposite branch of the train coming from Tangier. The night trains (train de nuit) between Tangier and Marrakech offer couchettes for an extra MAD100. This is the only option if you would like to lie down sleeping as there are obstacles between the seats in regular compartments.
The only disadvantage of Moroccan trains is that they are very frequently delayed, so don't count on the timetables if you are in a hurry.
The train network is operated by ONCF.
The major cities, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. There are usually several trains every day to or from every major town. There is also a night train between Marrakech and Tangier.
The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about MAD200 (GBP16) second class, or MAD300 (GBP24) first class. Casablanca to Marrakech- MAD90 for second class.
In order to check costs on the ONCF website, don't be alarmed by the French. Scroll down to Billets Normaux (under Prix & Reservation) and choose your ride.
For longer rides (> 2 hours) it is good to spend some more money (30%) for a first class upgrade. These seats are better and you have good air conditiong.
Nearly every city has a central bus station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air conditioning and a TV or you can take the local buses which cost only 25%-50% and are much more fun. Local buses are not very comfortable, but you can get in contact with the local people and learn a lot about the country. The local buses often take longer routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to see as a "normal" tourist. This is not advisable for heat-sensitive people, though, as locals may tell you that 35 degrees is "cool" and no reason for opening a window. The route from Rissani, Erfoud, and Er Rachidia to Meknes and Fez, while long, runs through the Middle and High Atlas and is particularly scenic.
Luxury buses operated by CTM  are also inexpensive and offer an easier travelling experience than local buses.
Here is CTM's timetable and tariff rates: 
Supratours , a major rival of CTM, complements train network to Essaouira and all major Atlantic-coast towns south to Marrakech.
Travel by taxi is common in Morocco.
The main road network is in good condition. Road surfaces are good but roads are very narrow, in most cases only one narrow lane in each direction. Note that many roads in the south marked as sealed are actually only one lane total sealed with wide shoulders to be used every time you meet oncoming traffic.
The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended. Example tolls as for standard car (Feb 2017): Tanger-Kenitra 66 dirhams; Kenitra-Rabat 13 dirhams.
Fuel is not so common in the countryside, so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
Road signs are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe, but you give way to the right. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering it. Be very careful as many drivers respect signs only if a policeman is nearby. There are numerous police checks on the main roads where you must slow down to allow them to see you. The speed limit is enforced, especially the 40km/h in towns and at dangerous intersections, where fines are imposed on the spot. A general rule to follow is that vehicles larger than yours should be given priority/yielded to (trucks, buses and even grand taxis).
Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.
The centre of Marrakech can be a scary place to drive. You will be constantly beeped at regardless of how well you drive. Marrakechis like to beep their horns at anyone they feel is holding them up. This may mean even if you're just in front of them at a red light. Also, pay very close attention to your wing mirrors and your blind spots. The two lane roads often become free-for-alls, to the point where you may see four cars wing to wing at a red light. One of the major hazards on the roads in Marrakech are the mobilettes. These pushbikes with an engine will zig-zag around you and generally make themselves a nuisance; however, on longer stretches of road, they tend to keep to the right. Often a few beeps of the horn will cause a mobilette rider to pay a little more attention to his surroundings. However, be warned that some drivers pay absolutely no attention to your horn. Drive defensively and keep your speed down so any accident causes minimum damage. Do not be intimidated by other drivers. Make sure that you drive predictably, and don't do anything rash.
Rental firms abound in the large cities. Most worldwide rental networks have offices in Morocco. There are also several local rental companies (5-7 have rep offices in Casablanca airport). They offer lower prices, but be sure to check a vehicle's condition, spare tire, jack, etc. Local companies' employees may be less proficient in English, but if you are ready to take a risk in order to try to save money, when you rent in an airport, try to negotiate with them first; if you fail, you always have worldwide rivals to go next.
Multinational companies seem to easily share cars with each other (although prices and service level may vary), so if your company of choice doesn't have what you need, they may ask another company.
Check where you can drive - some rental companies won't allow travel on unmade roads.
Next, stay to the main (Western) companies as the local ones are not always as reliable and try to charge you afterwards (scratches, cleaning, etc).
All Alamo and National Car Rental offices are co-located in Morocco. International companies like Sixt, Liligo and Europcar are usually situated in strategic places like airports and tourist centres but they are much more expensive than national companies. However, lots of small national companies do not have sufficiently professional methodologies. The best solution between the extremes are big local companies which have agencies in at least three different cities, like Abid Cars. These companies have the best service quality at better prices. They also offer the possibility of returning a car in a different city, and they generally deliver the car to the airport for free.
During low season (November), expect at least a 20% discount from the list price if you come without a reservation, at least for economic class (Peugeot 206, Renault Logan Dacia). In high season, avoid coming without a reservation; if you do, you may not find a car or you may find a bad quality car at a very expensive price.
Deposit is taken as a paper slip of a credit card; Alamo is unable to transfer your slip to the city of your destination if it's different from your starting point.
Some economy class cars (like Peugeot 206) are as old as 4 years, with mileage up to 120,000km.
Renting a vehicle with driver/guide
Some tour operators will arrange for you to hire a 4x4 or SUV with a driver/guide, and offer customized itineraries, including advanced booking in hotels, riads, etc. most of the drivers are fluent in foreign languages(French, English, Spanish...).
Hitchhiking is a routine form of travel in the country, particularly in large farm trucks which supplement income by picking up paying passengers. The price is about half that of a grand taxi. Expect to ride in the back with lots of locals.
It would greatly enhance your visit, increase your understanding of signs and notices, and avoid difficult situations if you were to brush up on your high school French or embark on a course of Arabic.
At just a few hours from the main European cities, Morocco has everything to overwhelm you with the amazing colors, smells and sounds of Islamic Africa. Imagine bustling souqs and spice markets, stunning mosques, white-washed sea side towns and medieval city centres. With panoramic views varying from snow-covered peaks in the High Atlas to the endless sand dunes of the Sahara, no-one ever has to be bored in this beautiful country.
Movie-famous Casablanca might be the most famous of Moroccan cities and is home to the huge Hassan II mosque, the second largest mosque in the world with only the Grand Mosque of Mecca surpassing it. Many travellers quickly leave this vibrant and modernist metropolis on a search for a more traditional Moroccan experience, but admiring the impressive colonial architecture, Hispano-Moorish and art-deco outlook of the city centre is actually time well spent. Marrakesh, known as the "Red City" and probably the most prominent former imperial capital, will leave you with memories to cherish for life. Spend your days wandering through the lively souqs, admiring the old gates and defensive walls, see the Saadian Tombs, the remnants of the El Badi Palace and visit the Koutoubia Mosque with its 12th century minaret. However, when evening falls make sure to head back to Jamaa el-Fnaa, the largest square in Africa, as it fills up with steam-producing food stalls. Indulge in the bustling activity there, listen to Arabic story tellers, watch magicians and Chleuh dancers. Fez, once Morocco's capital, is another gorgeous imperial city. Get lost in its lovely labyrinth of narrow Medieval streets, enjoy its huge medina, see the beautiful city gates, the ancient University of Al-Karaouine and the Bou Inania Madrasa. Also, make sure to visit a traditional leather tanning factory. The city of Meknes is often called the "Versailles of Morocco" for its beauty. Its lovely Spanish-Moorish style centre is surrounded by tall city walls with impressive gates and you'll be able to see the 17th century blend of European and Islamic cultures even today.
For a more laid-back experience of city life, catch a sea breeze at Asilah or lovely Essaouira. The blue-washed town of Chefchaouen is an old time travellers' favourite and a great starting point to explore the impressive High Atlas Mountains. Climb Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North-Africa, passing lovely adobe villages and exploring the gorgeous Ourika and Amizmiz valleys on the way. The stunning panoramic view from the top will make it worth every bit of your effort to get there. Other praised hiking routes lead through the beautiful Ameln Valley in the Anti-Atlas and the wooded Rif Mountains in the very north.
Hop on a camel back for a trip through the golden Sahara sand dunes at Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga. Spend the night in a desert tent, under the incredibly starred sky. The Sahara is also accessible near the town of Zagora; it's easier to get to from Marrakech but doesn't have the imposing dunes of Erg Chebbi. Somewhat less easy to reach but therefor also less crowded are the dunes of Erg Chigaga near M'hamid. On your way to the desert, make sure not to miss the stunning Todra gorge near Tinghir. The ancient fortified city of Aït-Benhaddou is another must-see sight. Although rainstorms damage the mud-brick kasbahs time and again, this mostly abandoned village remains an impressive sight and has been the decor for a range of movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.
There are two types of Hammam (steam baths) across Morocco.
The first is the tourist hammam, where you can go and be pampered and scrubbed by an experienced staff member. As these are promoted only to tourists they are the more expensive option with pricing usually around DH 150 for a hammam. They can not be technically referred to as a proper hammam, but they are nonetheless enjoyable, especially for the timid. Your hotel can recommend a good one.
The second option is to visit a "popular" Hammam. Popular hammams are the places where the locals go. Ask the staff at your hotel where they would go.
At the popular hammams, you do it all yourself. To make the most of a popular hammam, you need to take a scrubbing mitten (available cheap in the Souks), a towel, and some extra underwear (otherwise, you will be going home without any, as it will be sopping wet). Popular hammams are often only identified by tiles around a door and entrance way. If you do not speak French or Arabic, it could be a daunting, or at least a very memorable, experience. Men & women have either separate session times or separate hammams.
Nudity in a popular hammam is strictly forbidden for men, so be prepared to wear your underwear or a bathing suit. For women, you'll see some wearing underwear and some going naked.
Whilst in a popular hammam, you may be offered help and a massage from another person. It is essential to remember that this massage is nothing but a massage, with no other intentions. Sexual contact or presumption of sexual contact does not occur in these places. If you accept a massage, be prepared to return the favour.
Normal entrance prices for a popular hammam are MAD7-15, a scrub will cost around MAD30, and a massage another MAD30.
The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes (c).
As of May 2016: 1 Moroccan dirham = USD0.10, €0.091 or GBP0.072
There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, MAD1, MAD2, MAD5, MAD10 coins, although coins smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Notes are available in denominations of MAD20, MAD50, MAD100, and MAD200.
While the dirham is the only currency officially accepted in Morocco, some hotels may accept your EUR/USD unofficially.
It's illegal to bring more than MAD100 of local currency out of the country, however you can buy dirhams outside Morocco. By law, exchange rates should be the same at all banks and official exchanges. Make a note of the exact rates before you go to make sure you're getting a fair deal.
Don't expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, although in larger cities there are often an ATM near the main gates, and even one or two inside the large souqs (if you manage to find your way). You may also encounter "helpful" people who will exchange dollars or euros for dirhams. Unofficial exchange on the streets outside souqs or medinas doesn't seem to exist.
Besides banks and dedicated exchange offices, major post offices provide exchange, and work until late hours. There are several exchange offices in Casablanca airport.
ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern ville nouvelle shopping districts. Make sure that the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before you put your card in.
Try to have as much small change as possible and keep larger bills hidden separately.
Most businesses in Morocco accept credit cards(In big cities of course). Those that do are most likely to accept Visa or MasterCard however will often apply a surcharge to cover the cost of processing your transaction.
Advise your bank or card issuer that you intend to travel abroad so that no block will be put on the usage of your credit or ATM cards. Notify the issuer and give them a 'phone number where you can be contacted abroad.
Before travelling, ensure you make a note of all credit card numbers and associated contact numbers for card issuers in case of difficulty. The numbers are usually free to call as you can reverse the charges, make it clear to the operator at your hotel, riad etc that you wish the call charge to be reversed. Preferably get a pre-paid card, with good exchange rates and low withdrawal fees eg fairFX.
When making payments with a credit card, for example at a hotel for services, it is vital to memorise the PIN as signatures in many instances are no longer accepted, however certain establishments such as restaurants may still use the old method of signing.
Many people now use a prepaid FairFX or Caxton card. Theses offer good exchange rates, are safe and money is protected if the card gets lost or stolen. These are accepted in Moroccan ATMs anywhere you see the MasterCard logo and in some shops too.
What to buy?
Apart from classic tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things from this region that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique:
If you're looking for T-shirts, consider designer items by Kawibi--they look much more inspiring than boring traditional set of themes. They are available in duty-free stores, Atlas Airport Hotel near Casablanca and other places.
What not to buy
Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected. It is not really possible to give an accurate indication of how much to start the bargaining at in relation to the initial asking price, but a general idea would be to aim for approximately 50% off. Prices are set on a daily, even, hourly basis, depending on how much has been sold on a given day (or period of hours), while also reflecting the vendor's personal estimation of the potential client. The souks are often a good reflection of the basic economic principles of supply and demand, particularly with regard to the demand side. If a lot of products have been sold by a particular merchant he/she will raise the price, and may refuse to sell any more products for the rest of that day (or for days) unless the price is much higher than usual. If there are many tourists around prices go higher and bargaining even small amounts off the asking price becomes quite difficult. In addition, the seller will generally inspect the client, whose dress and possessions (particularly if the potential client sports an expensive Swiss watch, camera, etc) are usually the main indication of how high the price may be set above the usual. However, the potential client's attitude is also taken into consideration.
Taking all this and other factors into account (such as the time of day, day of the week, season, etc.), initial prices may be up to 50 times or more in excess of normal prices, especially for more expensive items, such as carpets. Carpets, however, are a very specialized item and it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of production techniques and qualities. If possible, an ability to distinguish between hand-made and machine-made carpets, hand-dyes, and the like is helpful to avoid being utterly duped.
Bargaining is an enjoyable experience for most vendors and they prefer clients that don't appear hurried and are willing to take the time to negotiate. It is most often actually necessary to give reasons why you believe the price should be lower. The reasons you might give are limited only by your imagination and often lead to some very entertaining discussions. Common reasons may include: the price of the item elsewhere, the item not being exactly what you are after, the fact that you have purchased other items from the stall/store, that you have built a rapport with the vendor after discussing football and so forth. On the other hand, if there is little movement in the price after some time, the best advice is to begin leaving, this often has the result of kick-starting the bidding anew, and if not, it is likely that the merchant is actually unwilling to go further below a given price, however absurd.
It is also important to show a genuine interest for the workmanship of the product for sale, no matter how uninterested you may actually be in what you are buying. This does not, however, mean that you should appear over-enthusiastic, as this will encourage the vendor to hold his or her price. Rather, it is important to project a critical appreciation for each article/object. Any defects are either unacceptable or a further opportunity to bargain the price down.
You should take caution to never begin bidding for unwanted items or to give the vendor a price you are unwilling or unable (with cash on hand) to pay. Try to avoid paying by credit card at all costs. In the event you do pay by credit card, never let it out of your sight and demand as many receipts as possible. There is typically a credit card carbon copy and an official shop receipt.
Never tell a vendor where you are staying and 'never tell a vendor how much you paid for any other purchases. Just say you got a good price and you want a good price from him or her too. And, above all, never be afraid to say 'No'.
It must also be said that, as is true for buyers, not all sellers are actually very good at what they do. A vendor that is completely uninterested or even aggressive is unlikely to give a good price. Move on.
Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on cafe and restaurant menus throughout the country. Most restaurants serve dishes foreign to Morocco considering that Moroccans can eat their domestic dishes at home. Apart from major cities, Moroccans do not generally eat out in restaurants so choice is generally limited to international fare such as Chinese, Indian and French cuisine.
A MAD3-5 serve of harira or besara will always include some bread to mop the soup up and will fill you up for breakfast or lunch:
Many cafes (see Drink) and restaurants also offer good value petit déjeuner breakfast deals, which basically include a tea or coffee, orange juice (jus d'Orange) and a croissant or bread with marmalade from MAD10.
Snacks and fast food
Snackers and budget watchers are well catered for in Morocco. Rotisserie chicken shops abound, where you can get a quarter chicken served with fries and salad for around MAD20. Sandwiches (from MAD10) served from rotisserie chicken shops or hole-in-the-wall establishments are also popular. These fresh crusty baguettes are stuffed with any number of fillings including tuna, chicken, brochettes and a variety of salads. This is all usually topped off with the obligatory wad of French fries stuffed into the sandwich and lashings of mayonnaise squeezed on top.
You may also see hawkers and vendors selling a variety of nuts, as well as steamed broad beans and BBQ'd corn cobs.
Clarify the price before ordering and make sure about what you order (the best is asking for the menu). Otherwise you might be charged more or get food you haven't orderd, but last one happens very infrequent.
Although a predominantly Muslim country, Morocco is not dry. You can legally buy alcohol when you're 18. However, there is no minimum legal drinking age.
Alcohol is available in restaurants, liquor stores, bars, supermarkets, clubs, hotels and discos. Some Moroccans enjoy a drink although it is disapproved in public places. The local brew of choice carries the highly original name of Casablanca Beer. It is a full flavoured lager and enjoyable with the local cuisine or as a refreshment. The other two major Moroccan beers are Flag Special and Stork. Also you can find local judeo-berber vodka, mild anise flavoured and brewed from figs.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal even if you drank just one beer
As a rule, do not drink tap water at all in Morocco, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of minerals than the water in Europe. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for travellers from places such as Europe, drinking the tap water will usually result in illness. Generally this is not serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it is enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday.
Bottled water is widely available. Popular brands of water include Oulmes (sparkling) and Sidi Ali, Sidi Harazem and Ain Saiss DANONE (still). The latter has a slightly mineral and metallic taste. Nothing with a high mineralization produced (so far?).
Any traveller will be offered (sometimes very sweet) mint tea at least once a day. Locally known as "Moroccan whiskey" due to its similarity in color, the small glasses it is usually drunk from, and the fact that most Moroccans do not drink alcohol, even the most financially modest Moroccan is equipped with a tea pot, a few glasses, and an almost reverent attitude toward sharing this drink with a guest. Sometimes the offer is more of a lure into a shop than a hospitable gesture -- use your wits to determine when to accept. Before drinking, look your host in the eye and say "ba saha ou raha". It means "enjoy and relax," and any local will be impressed with your language skills.
Note that a solo woman may feel more comfortable having a drink or snack at a pastry shop or restaurant as cafes are traditionally for men. This doesn't apply to couples though.
Hotels in Morocco are a matter of choice and fit every budget. Classified hotels are 1 star (simple) to 5 star (luxury), and are classified as an auberge, riad, rural gîtes d'étape or hotel. Stays usually include breakfast, and many include dinner.
Places to stay
Auberges are found in the country or in rural small towns, and are built in the traditional mud (kasbah) style, many with wood burning fireplaces and salons or roof terraces for taking meals. Auberge are very comfortable, small and usually family run and owned.
Riads or Dars In Marrakech, Essaouira, Fes or anywhere there is a medina (old city), small hotels renovated from old houses are called riads or dars. These are often small (about 6 rooms or less), clean and charming, often with to a lovely walled garden where breakfast is served on an inner patio or up on a roof terrace. Dars are usually too small to have a swimming pool, but riads may have what is called a plunge pool to cool off in during summer months. Some are in former merchant houses or palaces and may have large opulent rooms and gardens. These are ideal places to stay in Morocco, and can range in price from budget to splurge depending on size and amenities.
Gîtes d'étape are simple country inns and hostel style places, where mountain trekkers can grab a hot shower, a good meal, and have a roof over their head for one night.
Desert bivouacs are traditional nomad carpeted wool tents with a mattress, sheets and blankets. You can shower at the auberge where you will also have breakfast.
Otherwise there are the usual more modern hotels or equivalent found anywhere in the big cities and larger towns around Morocco. On the lower end of the budget scale, HI-affiliated youth hostels can be found in the major cities (dorm beds from around MAD50) while the cheapest budget hotels (singles from around MAD65) are usually located in the medina. These hotels can be very basic and often lack hot water and showers, while others will charge you between Dh 5 and Dh 10 for a hot water shower. Instead, consider public hammams as there are quite a lot of them in the medina and in rural areas.
Newer, cleaner and slightly more expensive budget (singles from around MAD75) and mid-range hotels that are sprinkled throughout the ville nouvelles.
Many hotels, especially those in the medina have delightful roof terraces, where you can sleep if the weather's too hot. If you don't need a room, you can often rent mattresses on the roof from MAD25.
For those looking to camp, almost every town and city has a campground, although these can often be some way out of the centre. Many of these grounds have water, electricity and cafes. In rural areas and villages, locals are usually more than happy to let you camp on their property; just make sure you ask first.
With the exception of large high end hotels, expect the hot water supply in hotels to not be as stable as in more established countries. In Marrakech, MHamid, near Ourzazate and possibly other places, the hot water temperature varies dramatically while you take a shower.
Most foreigners looking to study in Morocco are seeking either Arabic or French language courses. All major cities have language centres, and some will even arrange homestays with an Arabic-speaking family during your course.
Note; At most places, both in cities and in the countryside, you have the possibility to sleep on the roof or terrace. This will normally cost you MAD20-25 and you're provided with matresses and a warm blanket. Just ask the receiptionist in the hotel/auberge/gite. If you wanna ask in French, which works fairly good, you can say ca sera possible de dormir sur la terrace, s'il vous plait? Often you can bargain on the price and if it's more than MAD30 you should bargain.
Some Moroccans that you meet on the streets have come up with dozens of ways to part you from your money. Keep your wits about you, but don't let your wariness stop you from accepting any offers of generous Moroccan hospitality. Put on a smile and greet everybody that greets you, but still be firm if you are not interested. This will leave you significantly better off than just ignoring them.
Try to learn at least a phrasebook level of competency in French or Arabic (Spanish may help you in the North - but not largely). Just being able to say "Ith'hab!" ("Go Away!") may be useful to you... Many locals (especially the nice ones who are not trying to take advantage of you) will speak limited English. If you can at least verify prices in French with locals, you could end up saving a lot of money.
What to wear
You won't need high and heavy mountain boots unless you go in coldest time of the year like February: it's quite warm in the country even when it's heavy raining in November. Even in medinas, streets are paved if not asphalted--just be sure your footwear is not toeless in medina, as it may be dirty or unsanitary.
For trekking in valleys, low trekking shoes will be likely enough.
For a desert trip to dunes, ensure your pockets can be easily shaken out as sand gets in there very quickly.
Morocco does not normally operate Daylight Saving Time, but has adopted it during recent years. In 2011, legal time is advanced one hour from 2 April to 31 July.
The general rule is to follow the lead from local women. Locals will assume that Moroccan women venturing into nightclubs or bars alone are prostitutes in search of clientèle but foreign women entering such places will be not be so considered but will be thought of as approachable. Be careful about being drugged, especially as a solo traveler.
Travellers will often be required to pay for drugs/treatements received up front.
Most general practitioners, specialists, and dentists are self-employed; look for signs saying "Docteur" . An average doctor’s check-up in a city costs between 150 and 300 dirhams. In general, the quality of the doctors work is decent, but you should always try to ask some locals for a good doctor recommendation. There are few English-speaking doctors, though French is widespread.
Treatments in private clinics will be quite expensive and travelers will be required to pay for any treatment received up front.
Government hospitals are cheap and okay for minor injuries and minor problems, but they tend to lack of money and be very crowded. For anything serious, a private clinic is generally preferable.
Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used. The international dialling prefix (to dial out of the country) is 00, but international rates are comparatively expensive. If you have a lot of phone calls to make, it may be worth ducking into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla.
The telephone numbering scheme was changed in March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0.
Useful Numbers Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160; International Information: 120; Telegrams and telephone: 140; Intercity: 100.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel  or Maroc Telecom . Prepaid cards are available. More infos on available services, coverage and roaming partners are available at: GSMWorld .
It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign. The SIM card (carte Jawal) costs only MAD30 (€3) with MAD10 (€1) airtime. The rate is national: MAD3-4, to Europe ca. MAD10, SMS MAD3. The card is valid 6 month after the last recharge.
The Moroccan postal service is generally reliable and offers a post restante service in major cities for a small fee. You will need some identification (preferably your passport) to collect your mail.
Items shipped as freight are inspected at the post office before they are sent, so wait until this has been done before you seal the box.
Don't leave postcards with the small post office at Marrakech Airport as they'll never be delivered, despite taking your money for postage stamps. Postboxes on streets seemed to be a more reliable means to send postcards.
Email & internet
Moroccans have really taken to the internet. Internet cafes are open late and are numerous in cities and smaller towns that see significant tourist traffic. Rates are about 4 - 10 dirhams per hour and they are often located next to, above, or below the telekiosque offices. Speeds are acceptable to excellent in the north, but can be a little on the slow side in rural areas. Most internet cafes will allow you to print and burn CDs for a small charge.
Moroccans have also really taken to 4G coverage. There is excellent access to email and the internet via Mobile Phones and it is relatively cheap. As a result, there are fewer Internet cafes in tourist areas. There is 4G access throughout the mountains and in the desert, as well as in all cities. To obtain 3G pay-as-you-go SIM cards from the phone network's stores, you will need to show your passport. These stores cost the same as the unauthorised vendors but often provide better service for tourists, telling you your phone number, showing you how to top up and giving you tariff information, etc. These extra services make the long queues worthwhile!