The Important Stuff
Travel Tips and Info
Number one on most peoples list of questions is: Is it safe?
In 2019, after an very unpleasant incident close to where I live in the mountains, new security measures were put in place. It is absolutely understandable to have mixed feeling about travel to certain countries, especially for young women and solo travellers. However, as a single woman living alone in a small mountain village, I can tell you, I feel perfectly safe. This is my playground and I do sometimes hike alone in this region, even now. The extra security measures mean there are cameras and police checkpoints, so they know who is coming in and out of the National Park. Here in the mountains, they are the loveliest, warm, friendly people and you will feel welcomed and safe. Mountain guides are now compulsory for travellers hiking here which is something we have advocated for over many years. All our tours and hikes include a guide for your safety and to ensure you have the best possible experience in Morocco.
History and Language
If it´s your first time coming to Morocco, please take a little time to find out about its history and customs, just some basic knowledge and also try to learn a few words of greeting and regularly needed words.
Assalamu Alaikoum, is the usually greeting and is responded with Walaikoum Salam. Literally means: peace be with you.
Labas, kolchi bikhir, means: is everything ok with you.
Labas Alhamdolillah is the usual response.
Choukran means: thank you
Afwan means: your welcome. Marhaba also means welcome
Bshal means: how much ?
Na´am: yes La: no La choukran: no thank you.
Darija, which is Moroccan Arabic is the language widely used here.
In the villages and mountains you will hear several different Berber languages and dialects. Tanmirt to say thank you, Timinsiwin to say good night.
English, French and Spanish are widely spoken, some drivers and guides have many languages they can speak.
Morocco has a closed currency; the Dirham, it cannot be bought outside the country except near the ports of Algeciras and Tarifa in Spain where sometimes you can change money when you buy your ferry ticket but the rate is terrible. Morocco has many places you can go to change money; in the airport on arrival, post offices, western union, banks and hotels. There is a little difference between them so check the rates to find your best option. Usually, but not always, your passport is required to make the exchange. Once you leave the major cities and travel around the country you will find many small towns and villages do not have cash machines, so do go prepared. If you need to change money at the airport, I suggest you only change a little as the rates aren't so good. Also keep your receipt so you can change back to your currency at departure time if you wish. Please note: credit cards are accepted in major cities and there are many cash machines. Once you leave the cities many places do not accept cards and neither do the machines all work, especially in the desert regions. Please find out the daily limit your card can take out and budget to allow for these things.
Sockets here are 2 pin so bring suitable adapters. Please be aware that the quality of electricity can be poor in some places and if you want to work on your laptop you may want to bring a surge protector and if there are electrical storms be sure to unplug your appliances. In some of the desert locations power is turned off at night, so make sure you have charged your devices in plenty of time. I advise bringing powerpacks for mobile phones, especially if you are going on a nomad trek and will be away from power sources and also extra memory cards for all those photos and videos you will want to take.
Medication and Personal Hygiene Items
I advise you bring sufficient of those items that you are familiar with. The pharmacies are well stocked here and most things can be found, however, in small towns and villages perhaps not the same as you would prefer and not the same quality and strength.
Bring mosquito repellent, after bite cream, suitable sun screen (minimum of factor 30), upset tummy medication, lip balm and moisturizer, water purification tablets if you are camping near natural river sources, protection for the head and sunglasses.
For women it is better to bring your normal brands of personal hygiene items. For people on regular prescribed medication, make sure to bring all you require.
If you intend to be in Morocco during the holy month of Ramadan, please be aware and informed about the local laws that apply during this time. During the hours between just before sunrise and at sunset most people are fasting, this means no food or drink of any kind. There are strict rules about the public consumption of alcohol and smoking. Although alcohol is available to purchase here in supermarkets and in bars in the new city, and in hotels, it is wise to be discreet. Many restaurants, cafes and shops are not open during these hours and open in the evening. Please be sensitive to the five times of prayer and that your guide / driver will be fasting. Also please dress appropriately during this time, especially in the vehicle.
Morocco is well serviced when it comes to transport, cars and 4x4´s, buses, trains, taxis and flights, bikes and donkeys. How you choose to get around depends to your budget, time frame and personal preferences. However I do strongly advise the use of a driver if you want to maximize your time here. You can hire a car from one of the many rental agencies, you can bring your own car if you have the correct documentation or better still hire a driver with a 4x4, comfy 8 seater or minibus up to 17 seats. If your budget doesn´t stretch to this, then buses and trains cover all of the north from the High Atlas and buses and taxis the south, though there do seem to be plans to add a train service to Agadir in the future. If you can, try to book your bus tickets a day in advance as some do fill up quickly. Supratours and CTM are the better quality coaches, and there are many other local buses serving all the towns. You may need to take a grand taxi between some rural places. Between rural villages, taxis and local minibuses operate regularly enough but don´t depart till they are full. For trains and Supratours and CTM www.ctm.ma.
Morocco is still developing in some areas so many things are a little cheaper than in Europe. Even today it is marketed with bartering, exchanging objects or food. It is normal to haggle, to buy you have to negotiate the price with the seller with skill and without abusing. In normal shops, however, most things are a fixed price. Its all part of the rich fabric of life here, all with a smile and at the end of the day, it´s what you, the buyer is willing to pay for the item you want to purchase. Everyone has a different idea of the value of any item or service. I do urge you, when buying artisan goods, to think about how much work goes into the making of these items, carpets for example can take months. If you are able to buy anything directly from the maker, better still, because they get all the profit.
In the cities there are many Tourist Police, and many are undercover, masquerading as shoe cleaners and cigarette vendors in Marrakech Medina. if you are lost, or need advice, always ask a policeman rather than a stranger who may lead you off and then ask money as a faux guide. If there are none, then ask a shop keeper who is more likely to know and can´t leave their store to go off guiding. Always keep your money and devices well secured, pickpockets are in every city of the world, here the boys are nimble and fast too, and in the evening older men gather at bus stops where crowded queues are easy pickings. Generally however, Morocco has a low crime rate and Tourists are well cared for and people are genuinely friendly and hospitable.
What to wear
On almost everyone's lips..what should I wear. In the cities people are quite liberal and really you can wear what your are comfortable with and what is practical for the activity. In the more rural parts, it is better to be more conservative, women should cover their shoulders and perhaps not wear shorts, men also. In the Berber communities they actually look at you as though you are in your underwear and will find it embarrassing and amusing. Women do not need to cover their hair unless they feel the need. During Ramadan please be sensitive with your attire.
In Morocco tipping is a vital part of the income for many people. Depending which country you are from depends to your culture of tipping, some people do it automatically while others would rarely or never. I do urge you to tip here, even if it is only one dirham for your coffee, or a few dirhams for your lunch. For trekking guides and muleteers however there is a recommended rate for tipping and it is expected. Information on that will be detailed in the appropriate place. In your accommodation too, please give something if you are happy with the service. Thank you.
Important note about passports
Most Europeans can enter Morocco without a visa. Check with your embassy. You need a valid passport with a minimum validity of 6 months from the date of entry to Morocco. The maximum stay legally authorized is 90 days from the stamp of entry. Make sure you fill out the Embarkation cards on entry and on exit, failure to do so can cause you delays.
A note about time
Morocco Standard Time is GMT/UTC + 1. in 2018 the change of time was abolished in October.
This year 2019, Ramadan will be approximately May 5th to June 5th depending on the moon sightings.
A note about Photos, Videos and Drones
Please please do not just take random photos and video of people, always, always ask first, especially in rural areas, women do not like their photos taken and put on the internet.
I see a lot of people doing it secretly and hope no-one saw them, then some one of their relatives or friends sees them on Facebook. In some places people will ask for money, especially in the medinas, I suggest you give no more than 20 dirhams, again ask first and agree the price. Be sensitive.
Drones are illegal in Morocco. If you are a media company, you need to get special permissions from the government.
Morocco enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year. In the evenings however it can be pretty chilly depending where you are, check a reliable forecast before you travel and be sure to pack suitable clothing and footwear for all your activities. Having said that, Climate Change is very real and we are noticing it mostly in rural areas.
Part of the Moroccan ritual; the hammam is an integral part of life here. Its therapeutic benefits and health giving properties are known for centuries. The products are natural and wonderful for the skin. If you wish to avail of this amazing tradition I recommend you use a well reviewed premises. Check Trip Advisor for the best options. I recommend one particular one in Marrakech, email me for details.
My Community Projects and how you can help
These projects are an evolving story, as I meet new people, visit new villages and see more needs. If you would like to get involved, in any way, collecting items for donation, raising funds for small building projects, donating for my One Million Trees Project, bringing your friends and having lunch in a Berber house, or bringing something small in your suitcase, whatever it is; thank you. Just email me and follow the blogs I will be posting, and on my Facebook page.
A note about Insurance
I advise you organise your own insurance for travel. If you are coming to do adventure activities check what your policy covers and if it covers you in Africa (outside the EU).
Sometimes due to extreme weather conditions, roads can get flooded and clients can suffer delays in their program, even leading to missed flights, always check the forecasts as we can not be held responsible in these situations.