What is the best time to travel to Morocco?

Morocco is a fine destination for traveling all year round. Even the warmer summer season is a fine time for traveling, because the air will be warm and dry. In the heat of the day you may look for some shade, but in the morning you may very well participate in an excursion, while during the afternoon you may enjoy a medina and buy nice souvenirs.

What are the formalities for entering Morocco?

All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport but visitors from the following countries do not need to obtain visas before arrival: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus (except Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Czech Republic, Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, 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 visas are usually valid for 3 months and take around 5-6 working days to process. 

Tourists can stay for up to 90 days and 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).

What is the local currency in Morocco?

The Moroccan currency unit is the Dirham. You will get it only once in Morocco by means of travelers, currency exchange or international credit cards. You will find a lot of exchange offices and ATM's in bigger cities such as Marrakech, Ouarzazate and Essaouira.

For your information: 1 euro = 10 Dirhams.

When withdrawing at a local ATM, we advise you to ask your bank how much commission you will be charged. Normally it is fixed, so it is better for you to withdraw the necessary amount for your extras and shopping in one or two times to economize the costs.

Are there health risks in Morocco?

Morocco health information also states that it is a malaria-free country. In order to enter Morocco, no vaccinations are needed. But, there are two vaccinations that are needed. They are Typhoid and Hepatitis A. According to Morocco Health Information, it would be advisable to have polio and tetanus vaccines. Please check your local health institure for update information on vacinations.

As sun is very strong in Morocco, you must apply sunscreen lotion to your skin. Moreover, drink plenty of water. Avoid buying food from street stalls. Do not drink tap water, as it might be harmful. Thus, it is a health advice for travelers to drink boiled water.

What kind of clothes should I wear?

The normal dress code on the street in Morocco is to cover legs, chest and arms for both men and women and although this is much more relaxed than it used to be, please don't assume that you won't offend because others dress in a western style.

Though the days can be very warm between late October and April, it is usually cold at night, so it is wise to bring some warm clothing with you.

What is the food like?

In one word....DELICIOUS :-)

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. Apart from major cities, Morocans do not generally eat out in restaurants so choice is generally limited to international fare such as Chinese, Indian and French cuisine.  Traditional cuisine Couscous made from semolina grains and steamed in a colander-like dish known as a couscoussière is the staple food for most Moroccans, and is probably the best known Moroccan meal. It can be served as an accompaniment to a stew or tagine, or mixed with meat and vegetables and presented as a main course.

Tagine, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name). Restaurants offer dozens of variations (from Dh 25 in budget restaurant) including chicken tagine with lemon and olives and prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce.

A popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is kaliya, a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.

A popular delicacy in Morocco is Pastilla, made by layering thin pieces of flakey dough between sweet, spiced meat filling (often lamb or chicken, but most enjoyably pigeon) and layers of almond-paste filling. The dough is wrapped into a plate-sized pastry that is baked and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.

A Dh 3 - Dh 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:  Moroccans often elect to begin their meals with warming bowl of harira (French: soupe moroccaine), a delicious soup made from lentils, chick peas, lamb stock, tomatoes and vegetables. Surprisingly, among Moroccans harira has a role of nourishing food for "blue-collars" rather than a high-flying cuisine.

Soups are also traditional breakfasts in Morocco. Bissara, a thick glop made from split peas and a generous wallop of olive oil can be found bubbling away near markets and in medinas in the mornings.

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 Dh 10.

What language is spoken?

Moroccan Arabic is a dialect of Maghreb Arabic. The language is fairly different from the Arabic traditionally spoken in the Middle East and is also slightly influenced by French or Spanish, depending on where in the country you are. This dialect is also related to Spanish, as Spanish was heavily influenced by Arabic from Morocco before the expulsion of 1492.

Berber, or the Amazigh language, is spoken by Morocco's Berber population. In the mountain regions of the north the dialect is Tarifit, the central region the dialect is Tamazight, and in the south of the country the dialect is Tachelheet.

French is still widely understood in Morocco, and it is the most useful non-Arabic language to know.

What is the weather like?

Morocco has such a varied climate (snow capped peaks to scorching desert dunes!) that there is always somewhere to go. Taroudant is the warmest place in Morocco between October and April. Essaouira is the perfect place at any time of year, as the temperature varies so little. Ouarzazate and the Deep Desert is best in spring and autumn to avoid extremes. Being further inland Marrakech, Fez and Ouarzazate have a more extreme climate.

 Note that there can be a great contrast between day and night temperatures. Even in the depths of winter the sun tends to produce very pleasant warmth during the middle of the day.

What are the national holidays in Morocco?

Morocco has such a varied climate (snow capped peaks to scorching desert dunes!) that there is always somewhere to go. Taroudant is the warmest place in Morocco between October and April. Essaouira is the perfect place at any time of year, as the temperature varies so little. Ouarzazate and the Deep Desert is best in spring and autumn to avoid extremes. Being further inland Marrakech, Fez and Ouarzazate have a more extreme climate.  Note that there can be a great contrast between day and night temperatures. Even in the depths of winter the sun tends to produce very pleasant warmth during the middle of the day.

What are the national holidays in Morocco?

A handy list of Morocco holidays is given below:

January 1New Year's Day
January 11Proclamation Of Independence. On this day, Moroccan King Mohammed V declared the erstwhile state of Morocco be liberated from the French rule.
May 1International Labour Day
July 30Celebration Of The Throne. This is the day when the Moroccans celebrate the accession of King Mohammed VI on the throne.
August 20Revolution of the King and the People
August 21Birthday of King Mohammed VI.
November 6Green March. On this day in 1975, there was a mass demonstration in Morocco with the aid of the government against the Spanish withholding of the now Western Sahara region.
November 18Independence Day.

Above are the national holidays in Morocco that follow the Gregorian calendar. Morocco is a predominantly Islamic country with a plethora of Islamic festivals, all following the lunar calendar. The discrepancy between the Islamic lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar means that the precise Gregorian date for these festivals cannot be predicted.  Below is a list of the Morocco public holidays according to the lunar calendar:

Muslim New Year
Rabi' al-awwal 12Birthday of Prophet Muhammad
Shawwal 1Eid ul-Fitr
Dhu al-Hijjah 10Eid ul-Adha

Would it be wise to bring some sort of medication for stomach discomfort?

Yes. While the food in general and municipal water supplies in Morocco are perfectly safe, one never knows how your body will react to new and unusual foods or different water supplies. Therefore, it is always wise to keep with you some sort of stomach medication such as Imodium at all times.

Do you have any tips for women-travellers?

Encountering unwanted attention from Moroccan men is unfortunately a possibility for female travelers. The relative lack of social interaction between the sexes in Morocco results in men having little exposure to women other than their immediate family. They often see Western women as not being bound by Morocco's social restrictions, and perhaps have a not-so-respectful assumption of them via easily accessible Internet pornography. This assumption of availability emboldens the Moroccan male to make advances on female travelers that they would never attempt with Moroccan women.

This generally takes the form of catcalls and straight-up come-ons. Blonde women may be singled out, and women traveling alone generally receive more attention than most.

All of this sounds terribly negative, but most women never receive any harassment and are nothing but glowing in their praise for the respect shown to them. Try not to be paranoid or aggressive toward all Moroccan men. It's extremely rare for harassment to go any further than the odd catcall or lewd remark.

Basic tips:

Ignore cat calls, tsskkss's, whistles and anything else thrown at you verbally by bored men.
Wear sunglasses to avoid direct eye contact with men.  
Respect the culture you are in.  
Dress conservatively. This is very important in Muslim countries if you want to avoid extra hassle. No mini skirts, shorts, tank tops or tight shirts.  
Don't go out on your own at night.  
Say you are married and carry a photo of your 'husband' with you.  
If you feel you are being harrassed or followed, walk into a shop or hotel and ask for help.
If you are lost ask directions from a woman or family.
Make a scene if you are groped or pinched and shame the person publicly. A shout will usually do the trick.

What are faux guides and touts?

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.  Faux guides and touts congregate around tourist areas and will offer to show you around the medinas, help you find accommodation, take you to a handicraft warehouse, or even score some drugs. While these men can often be harmless, never accept drugs or other products from them. Be polite, but make it clear if you're not interested in their services, and if they get too persistent, head for a taxi, salon de the, or into the nearest shop.

The best way to avoid Faux guides and touts is to avoid eye contact and ignore them, this will generally discourage them as they will try to invest their time in bothering another more willing tourist. Another way is to walk quickly; if eye contact happens just give them a smile, preferably a strong and beaming one rather than a shy one meaning no! thanks (they are very clever in judging human emotions and will bother you if they feel a weakness). The word La ( Arabic for No ) can be particularly effective, since it doesn't reveal your native language. Just another is to pretend you only speak some exotic language and don't understand whatever they say. Be polite and walk away. If you engage in arguing or a conversation with them, you will have a hell of time getting rid of them, as they are incredibly persistent and are masters in harassment, nothing really embarrasses them as they consider this being their way of earning their living.

Some of the more common tactics to be aware of are as follows.  Many Faux guides will pretend they are students when they approach you and that they just want to practice their English and learn about your culture, invariably if you follow them, there is a big chance you will end up in a carpet or souvenirs shop. A variant is they will show you an English letter and will ask you to translate it for them, or will ask for your help to their English speaking friend/cousin/relative etc abroad.  Expect to be told that anywhere and everywhere is 'closed'. Invariably, this is not the case, but a con to get you to follow them instead. Do not do this.  Do not accept 'free gifts' from vendors. You will find that a group of people will approach you accusing you of stealing it, and will extort the price from you.  Always insist that prices are fixed beforehand. This is especially true for taxi fares, where trips around a city should cost no more than 20 Dirham, in general, or be done on the meter. This cannot be stressed enough. In ALL situations (including Henna Tatoos) always agree on a price before!  When bargaining, never name a price that you are not willing to pay.  At bus/train stations, people will tell you that there have been cancellations, and that you won't be able to get a bus/train. Again, this is almost always a con to get you to accept a hyped-up taxi fare.  In general, do not accept the services of people who approach you.  Never be afraid to say no.