"Situated at the tip of North Africa, just a few miles from Spain, Morocco is infused with African, European, and Middle Eastern influence, but manages not to belong to any of them."
"From the windswept Atlantic coastline to the intimidating peaks of the High Atlas, and the desolate golden Sahara stretching way beyond, Morocco is a land that surprises you every time you turn a new corner. In the space of just one day you can see ancient walled cities, travel through cedar forests where it's possible to see wild monkeys playing, meet families of nomads still living as they did centuries ago, and end up watching the sun fade into the horizon from atop towering sand dunes. But for me the most alluring aspect of Morocco is the fact that less than a hundred years ago, the country was still very much living in a medieval world, where the tribe meant more than the nation, the rule of the sultan was only nominal, and very few westerners had even visited. Today, Morocco is moving slowly towards the modern world, but it's not hard to see remnants of this age, in the dark alleyways of the souks or in the oasis towns of the south. Go before it changes any more!"
Jim O'Brien, Head of Operations – Imaginative Traveller
Official Language: Arabic. Others: Berber dialects, French, Spanish
Religions: Muslim 99%, other 1%
Voltage: 220 Volts. Sockets are of European two round-pronged variety.
UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and many EC passport holders do not require a visa to enter the country, and will be granted a 3 month stay from the date of entry. This information was correct at the time of writing. However it is advisable to re-check the latest information regarding your specific visa requirements with your local Moroccan Embassy or Consulate, a few weeks before your planned date of travel.
The monetary unit in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (DH), divided into 100 centimes. Approximate exchange rates (as at March 2009) are as follows:
There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Morocco.
Note: Moroccan Dirhams are not usually available outside the country and should not be taken out of the country. Left over Dirhams can be exchangedback into foreign currency at the airport on departure, or you may like to leave them as a donation to our Responsible Travel Project.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: During your stay in Morocco, you will notice a general lack of small change. We recommend maintaining a small supply of coins and small denomination notes.
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
Banks and Bureau de Change facilities can be found everywhere in Morocco. It is advisable to exchange money at banks, in large hotels, and authorised Bureaux de Change where an official receipt will be issued (which you may have to present on departure when changing any remaining Dirhams back into the original currency). It is usually possible to exchange money at the airport on arrival, although the Bureau de Change does not normally accept travellers cheques. There are ATMs in the Arrivals Hall and in most major towns and cities.
Our starting point hotels have limited exchange facilities, so we would recommend that you do not rely on these for obtaining currency within Morocco.
It can be very difficult to change traveller's cheques outside the major cities of Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech and is not particulary easy even here. For this reason we advise that you bring an alternative source of funds (cash and credit/debit cards) in GB£ or US$ (Scottish pounds are not recognised outside of the UK) to ensure you have access to enough funds during your stay.
Note: Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollar traveller's cheques and cash may not be accepted at all. It can be difficult to change money on Saturdays and Sundays, except at large hotels.
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday. Below are some specific notes relevant to our tours in Morocco.
Although Traveller trips include entrance fees to all sites specified in your itinerary there are additional ancient sites that you may like to visit. You may also like to arrange a local guide to visit specific places. Adventurer trips do not include any entrance fees. Most sights charge an entrance fee of between US$1 and US$2 and guide fees are extra. The exception is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca where entrance and a guided tour costs approx. US$10 per person.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Remember to bring your student card if you have one or are entitled to one as some places will offer a student discount.
All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on (Adventurer trips generally have more than Traveller). Although we do not arrange any specific optional excursions in Morocco, there is plenty of free time for you to undertake activities not covered specifically in the itinerary. You should allow approx. US$15-20 per week for extra activities.
You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is often provided, and other meals are included in remote areas. Approximate costs for meals not included are shown below;:
Simple snack: US$2-3 Light meal: US$5-8 3 course meal: US$10-15 Fancy restaurant: US$25+
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Morocco see the Local Food & Drink section of this dossier.
Tea and Coffee is always provided with breakfast. All other drinks (i.e. bottled water, soft drinks) are at your own expense. Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below.
Note: Prices in restaurants, hotels, and in remote areas can be double those specified.
It is not recommended that you drink the local tap water in Morocco. However, bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the country.
Taxis are the most effective method of local transport, and recommended for all journeys within a city. In Morocco there are two types of taxis - Grand and Petit. Grand taxis, which are invariably Mercedes, are the more expensive of the two. They run over set routes, with fixed prices for each route, and are the only taxis which are authorised to take passengers outside city limits. Petit taxis are usually small Fiats or Peugeots, which only operate within city limits. They have meters, but these are sometimes out of order, so you may have to negotiate the fare you will pay with the driver. This can be fun, but it is a good idea to find out in advance, from your Tour Leader or the hotel receptionist, approximately how much the fare should be for the journey you propose. You will almost certainly have to accept that you will pay more than local Moroccans do. Even so, the average fare within a city centre is cheap at around US$1-2.
Be prepared, in both Grand and Petit taxis, to find yourself sharing with others who are heading in the same direction, with each passenger paying for their portion of the journey.
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are certain items of equipment (e.g. sleeping bags, towels) that you will need on some tours and not on others. Check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In Morocco's hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. You should bear in mind that Morocco has conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women. It is advisable to keep legs, shoulders and upper arms covered, and we recommend that you bring appropriate clothing for this purpose.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Make sure you bring lots of clothing that covers shoulders and knees and also several outfits which cover your legs to ankles and your arms past the elbows. A sarong is an invaluable item to carry as it can be used to instantly cover any exposed areas (i.e. head, legs). It also doesn’t go amiss to bring along a set of smart/casual clothes for the occasional night out.
In certain areas and religious sites your Tour Leader may ask you to dress conservatively. Out of respect for local values, we ask that you follow your Tour Leader’s advice at all times.
Make sure you allow for climate changes and remember that even in very hot countries, night-time and early morning temperatures can be extremely cold. You will generally find it is better to have several thin layers rather than one thick layer as it gives you more flexibility and warmth. A fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow.
Due to the fact that some hotels in Morocco are located in streets to which it can be difficult to gain access by vehicle, there may be occasions when you need to carry luggage for a short distance - please bear this in mind when deciding what type of baggage to bring.
For trekking in the Atlas Mountains clothing should be modest (covered shoulders, upper arms and legs). You will generally only need lightweight trousers, shirts or T-shirts, a warm, windproof fleece and waterproof jacket. Well worn in hiking boots and cotton or woollen socks are essential.
Other Useful Equipment
You will find a general equipment list in our Pre-Departure Booklet which should help you decide what to bring – and may remind you of a few things you haven't thought of! However there are some items on this list which we highly recommend you bring with you on trips which include trekking. A torch (and spare batteries), travel towel, spare boot laces, water bottle and strap/holder, sun block and lip balm can be invaluable. An emergency first aid kit is carried by the guide during the trek, however this kit DOES NOT include any kind of oral medications. You should bring personal medical supplies, including rehydration salts, a blister kit, supply of plasters, aspirins, sunscreen, tiger balm or equivalent for sore muscles, necessary medicines, etc. It is also worth noting that you DO NOT need a mosquito net on any of our tours in Morocco.
Luggage and Load Limit
While trekking in the Atlas Mountains all equipment, food and luggage will be carried by mules. Luggage for the trek should be limited to 12-13kg per person and be carried in a soft compact bag rather than a framed backpack or hard suitcase. Any luggage not required on the trek can be left in storage at the hotel in Marrakech. If you plan to do this, don’t forget to bring a bag to carry each set of clothes. It is also advisable to bring a day pack so that you can carry your camera and water with you whilst you trek.
On trips where an overnight camel trek in the desert is an option, accommodation is normally in a communal Berber-style tent. Bedding is not provided so you will need to bring your own sleeping bag. While summer months can be very hot in the desert, the temperature can drop dramatically at night, so you may find you will still need a lightweight sleeping bag during summer.
You will need a small daypack in which to keep some clothing and personal belongings for use during the trek. The remainder of luggage will be stored at the base hotel/auberge. Things to ensure you have for a camel trek include hat, sunscreen, water bottle and carrier, torch (and spare batteries), insect repellent, moist wipes. Loose cotton clothing with long sleeves and long trousers are good for riding camels, and to help avoid sunburn. You should carry a fleece/warm jacket as nights in the desert can get cold. You will find more detail about camel treks in the relevant Trip Dossier.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
If your trip includes a trek in the Atlas Mountains you will need a good level of fitness and we recommend that you do some physical preparation before your trip. The more physically fit you are, the more easily your body will adapt to hiking in the High Atlas and the more you will enjoy the experience. Hill walking and aerobic activities like jogging, tennis, swimming and aerobics classes are all excellent exercise.
Some trips have a few days where toilets are not available – such as while trekking or on a camel trek. When you do answer the call of nature please burn your toilet paper – do not bury it. If it is not possible to burn it, take it back to the camp where it can be placed in the rubbish bin and disposed of appropriately.
Whenever you use a squat style toilet please place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: You may find it useful to take a supply of antiseptic wet wipes and sealable plastic bags to put your toilet paper in if it cannot be burnt/ placed in a bin.
In mountain areas water supplies are drawn from local streams. Please do not wash yourself, your clothes or cooking utensils directly in or near streams and water courses. It is important that you use the bowls provided and wash yourself / utensils at least 20 metres away from the water source. Please limit the use of soaps and detergents as much as possible and make sure that those you do use are biodegradable/eco-friendly.
While trekking or on a desert camel trek it is particularly important to take all rubbish and non-biodegradable items with you when you leave camp sites. Try to leave camp sites even cleaner than you found them.
In Morocco non-Muslims are prohibited from entering mosques (the only exception to this on our tours is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca). However we encourage travellers to experience religious festivals, such as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, as a visit to the Middle East/Africa during this time will give you a whole different perspective. If you would like to know more about Ramadan or you are travelling at this time please consult our special Ramadan Information Sheet (this can be found on the download pages of our website).
There are several simple rules of etiquette in Morocco and in most cases your Tour Leader will brief you accordingly, however there are a couple of good points which are worth noting. The left hand is considered unclean, therefore you should remember to use your right hand for giving, receiving, shaking hands or eating (if there is no cutlery). If you are visiting someone's home it is customary to remove your shoes before entering. You should also note that public displays of affection, although very common amongst friends of the same sex (Moroccan men holding hands is a sign of friendship or 'brotherliness' rather than sexuality) is frowned upon between couples, even married ones.
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for a few Dirhams in return for a photo.
Begging is a way of life in North Africa. Ultimately donations are a travellers personal choice, however in line with initiatives and government policy in many of our destinations, our recommendation is NOT to give money, pens, gifts or sweets as this encourages a begging mentality and is largely ineffectual. If you do want to help it is probably better to give to a recognized charity. If you choose not to give simply say no with a smile and keep on walking. If you learn nothing else of the local language, learn to say ‘no thank you’.
In many shops prices are not negotiable; however, haggling is expected for tourist souvenirs. The shop keeper or market trader will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price. If the seller accepts your price it is very bad form to not go through with the sale. Haggling should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun – you will find most shop owners are very friendly and will probably invite you in for a cup of tea to break the ice before the haggling starts.
Upon arrival at Marrakech or Casablanca airports, please look out for our representative who will be holding a sign with The Imaginative Traveller or Orion Trek Voyages on it. At both airports, our representative will be waiting in the main arrivals hall area, AFTER exiting Customs and Immigration. In Casablanca; please proceed to the Information Point to find our representative.
Please make sure you take time to look around carefully for our representative with the sign. There may be a large crowd of people waiting, and it may take time to find them.
If several travellers on Imaginative Traveller tours are arriving on the same flight, the transfer representative may be taking you all together to the meeting point (this is often the case with those arriving on the British Airways flight). Please be patient if you need to wait a few minutes for other travellers from the same flight.
If you have arrived at Casablanca airport and cannot find your arrival transfer, please call our local representative on (212) 0661 178608), who will be able to advise you accordingly.
If you have arrived at Marrakech airport and cannot find your arrival transfer, please call our local representative on (212) 0661 429700), who will be able to advise you accordingly.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: If you experience any problems with your luggage and are delayed in the baggage/customs area, please try to make contact with the transfer representative immediately to advise them of the problem and ensure they wait for you. You may need to ask permission of security to exit the customs/baggage hall and then re-enter.
The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers. A complete list of all meeting point hotels can also be found at Imaginative Traveller Downloads.
From Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport you can either take a taxi or a train to the meeting point hotel (the city centre is 30km away from the airport).
Grand Taxis (Mercedes) operate from outside the main exit. They have a set fare of DH250 (US$20). You should agree a fare with the driver before getting in.
To catch the express train follow the signs in the Arrivals Hall to the train station below the ground floor (the trains operate between the hours of 06:15 and 22:45 only). You should take the train to Casablanca Voyageurs station. The journey takes approx half an hour and costs DH30 (US$3) second class. Once you have arrived at Casablanca Voyageurs station you will need to take a petit taxi (small red taxi) to the meeting point hotel. These should cost DH10 maximum.
Marrakech Menara Airport is 6km southwest of town. Grand Taxis operate from outside the main exit and there is a set fare of DH50 from the airport to the city centre. You should establish the fare before starting.
Bus number 11 also runs irregularly from the airport and goes close to the Djemma el Fna (Main Square of the medina). From here the hotels are a short walk away.
Most people find that Morocco is a very friendly and hospitable country and feel quite comfortable wandering around alone during the day. However, as with any country you are not familiar with (and in particular in large cities), it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night and generally take taxis rather than walk.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager.
In Morocco we also use the services of specialist guides at sights of particular historical interest, and specialised mountain guides for any trekking/ hiking activities in mountain regions.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, it will be possible for you to contact our local agent to arrange activities or request further information.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats, trains and while camping.
A laundry service is available in most of the hotels we use (especially in Casablanca and Marrakech). Prices can vary from US$1-3 per item.
Moroccan food is rich with flavour, combining fresh ingredients - particularly vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses – with exotic spices. Add to this the influences of other cuisine such as Middle Eastern and French and the result is an array of delicious dishes. Couscous is without a doubt the staple food in Morocco and usually served with a mix of vegetables and pulses, with or without meat. Other popular dishes include Berber omelette, a mixed omelette with tomatoes, onions, peppers, cumin and coriander, harira, an appetising thick soup made from meat, vegetables, chick peas and spices, tagine, a casserole cooked in an earthenware dish with mixed vegetables with or without meat, lamb with prunes or apricots, chicken with almonds or lemon and olives. Brochette - grilled lamb or chicken kebabs and fresh fish are also often on the menu. An unusual speciality is pastilla, a pie made with layers of filo pastry, pigeon or chicken meat, almonds and spices. Bread is served with most meals and is a staple for breakfast.
Tea is undoubtedly the national drink. It is made sweet and flavoured with mint and is always offered as a welcome drink to visitors. Many people are surprised to find that this is a most refreshing drink in hot weather. Coffee is commonly of the percolated/espresso variety, served black or with milk (cafe au lait). The usual collection of bottled water and soft drinks - coke, lemonade, orangeade - can be found almost anywhere, but freshly squeezed fruit juices are excellent in Morocco.
Despite being a Muslim country, alcohol is available in main cities in many hotels. Some restaurants are licensed but the majority are not – particularly those in the medina's (old towns). Morocco brews its own beer and Stork or Flag Special are quite palatable lagers. Most of Morocco’s wine comes from the region around Meknes, and the best is considered to be Medaillon, Cuvee President or Guerrouane. Foreign beer, wine and spirits are also available but inevitably cost more.
Meat is often the main feature of a meal, and can be found in many dishes, even if only as a stock. Therefore, if you are a vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available at meal times. Your Tour Leader will do their best to offer a vegetarian alternative, but your patience and understanding is requested.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: You should advise us at time of booking if you have any special dietary requirements, particularly for tours that include trekking. You may like to bring some snacks or supplements in case food choices are limited.
Internet cafes can now be found almost everywhere in Morocco. The cost for an hour is approx US$1.
The Moroccan phone system is fairly good, although international calls can be expensive. A 3 minute call (to the UK) will cost approx. US$8 from a hotel and approx. US$5 from a telephone centre (called a teleboutique).
The postal service is relatively good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp for postcards will cost approx. US$0.80. Posting of parcels can be time-consuming however, and contents of parcels normally have to pass customs inspection before they are sealed for posting.
Availability of Film
Colour print camera film can be found in Morocco however you should always check the expiry dates. Slide film, black and white film and video film can be more difficult to come by so it is best to bring your supply from home.
Due to its size and varied topography, Morocco experiences great extremes of climate. Weather common to Mediterranean countries (hot, humid summers and mild rainy winters) can be found along the north coast, while the west coast sees the cooling affects of the Atlantic, making summer more temperate and winter very wet.
In the mountainous regions, high altitudes make for the coolest temperatures in the country, making summer time very pleasant, but this invariably means that winters are bitterly cold. Moving over to the south-east, you'll find a real desert climate - scorching hot, dry summers with little rainfall and dramatic drops in temperature at night. These areas are frequently punctuated with stunning fertile oases.
The following shows average daily temperatures (in degrees celsius):
|City / Temp||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Islamic Holidays are fixed in accordance with the Lunar Calendar and dates vary slightly each year for:
The official language in Morocco is Arabic, although French is widely spoken and most signs, menus, etc are written in French. Berber dialects are also spoken. Moroccan Arabic is a dialect of the standard language and can differ greatly from that spoken in the Middle East. However, if you do know some Arabic words from Middle Eastern countries, you may well be understood.
Many words contain the sound ‘Kh’. The ‘K’ is not pronounced. Instead the sound is like the ‘ch’ in Loch.
Note: Although Arabic script reads from right to left, numbers are read from left to right.
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