FACTS AND ADVICE FOR TRAVELLING IN MOROCCO
This guide is based on my experience of travelling around Morocco during February and March 2012. I spent almost two months touring the country, backpacking and on a low budget: all the places I mention are places I visited, and all the prices I put are those I personally paid.
Along with «Inshallah» (God willing), «Welcome» will be one of the words you will hear most during your trip to Morocco. Morocco is one of those countries that shake you up, that hit you, that don’t leave you indifferent. At times it is pure Africa, at times it looks like Asia (because of its colours, its aromas, its street life), at times it resembles the collective imagination we have of «Arabia» and its thousand and one nights…
It is a country full of stimuli, colours and «micro-worlds»: there are white medinas in front of the sea that look like (as I was told) Greece, there are caves with nomadic families living in the mountains, there are crazy and hyper-tourist cities, there are lost and silent villages, there are medieval medinas, there is snow (yes), there is a lot of sun (they say Morocco is a cold country with a very strong sun), there is mint tea at all times, there is haggling, there is hospitality, there is insistence… Morocco is a country that fascinated and exhausted me at the same time, and a place I would return to without hesitation.
Here I leave you some practical information to organize your trip. If you want to read my travel stories about Morocco, go to the end of this post and choose the one you like best.
How to get to Morocco
Boat: I crossed to Morocco by boat from the south of Spain. I made the crossing Tarifa – Tangier (took about an hour) and paid £33. There are two ferry companies that make the crossing from there, one costs £33 and the other £35 (both one way). I bought the ticket on the spot without any problem at the port (I recommend you to do that). Once in Tangier, I walked to the medina (the «old city») and looked for accommodation there. You can also make the crossing Algeciras – Ceuta.
Plane: You can reach Morocco by plane. Cheap flights from Europe arrive mostly in Marrakech. I paid about 80 euros to fly from Marrakech back to Barcelona (with Vueling), but I got quite a bit out of it on the date. If you search with time, you can find much cheaper tickets. Here I tell you how to buy a nice and cheap ticket on the internet.
Do I need a visa?
If you are Argentinean or have a European Community passport you do NOT need a visa to enter Morocco and you can stay for up to three months. If you are of another nationality, check this website: Do you need visa?
Health and vaccinations
I was not asked for the International Certificate of Vaccination at any time. I did not get any new vaccinations, as I had them given before for my trip to Asia. Strictly speaking, the only vaccine «required» by the WHO is the Yellow Fever vaccine, although in Morocco, I read, they can ask for the certificate for the cholera vaccine.
Also, before you go anywhere in the world, I recommend that you visit your family doctor or go to the «Travel Medicine» sector of your nearest hospital or social work for advice. Do you want to know whether to take medical insurance or not? Then read this post and decide. But my answer is yes, take it. Nothing happened to me (apart from the fact that I had chilblains on my fingers for weeks – a story to tell in another post), but you never know.
Don’t drink water from the tap, mineral water bottles are very cheap and safer.
Is it hot or cold?
We all imagine Morocco as a very hot place (it’s Africa! It’s sure hot!). Yes, but don’t get too confident. I went there in winter (December to March) and I was very cold (snow and all!), especially at night and inside the medinas (they are built in such a way that they don’t let the sun pass too much, so they are quite cool).
Morocco has several climates:
On the coast (the north and west of the country) the climate is moderate and subtropical, with cool winds from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. In winter (December to March) the north of the country is rainy and humid.
Inland, temperatures are more extreme: winters are very cold (in the Atlas, the central mountain range, temperatures reach below zero and there is snow) and summers are very hot (above 38°C).
So if you ask me what’s the best time to go, I’d say spring (late March, April), when it’s not so cold and not yet so hot.
Is there internet everywhere?
In general yes, all the cities have cibers and some tourist restaurants and hostels have wi-fi. I doubt they get internet in the middle of the desert (unless they buy one of those USB’s that give you internet using your cell phone signal), but they don’t need it either. 🙂
What socket do they use?
In Morocco, the «European» plug is used (see photo). Don’t worry too much as you can buy an adapter there in any market and very cheaply (for one euro or less).
What language do you speak?
One of the things that surprised me most about the Moroccans is their «polyglotism» (if there is such a thing as a word). They speak many languages and very well: the official ones are Arabic, Tamazight (Berber language) and French. In the north, moreover, it is common that they also speak Spanish (since they were a Spanish colony) and in the center and south it is more common that they speak French or English, so with those languages they will do well. It never hurts to learn words in the local language such as «la, shokran» (no, thank you) or «salam alaikum» (the traditional greeting).
The important thing: the budget for the three basic expenses
(accommodation + transport + food)
The aim of this section is to help you save (so you can travel more!), so the prices I give you here are the cheapest (or at least the cheapest I could get, maybe if you haggle you get it for less). If they want to travel in more comfort and/or luxury, they will have to pay more.
- The currency used in Morocco is the dirham. The exchange rate (June 2012) is 1 euro = 11 dirham / 1 usd = 9 dirham
- They will probably cross to Morocco from Spain, and if so, I recommend that they travel with euros and/or dollars and exchange them there, once they are in Morocco, since the exchange rate will always be more favorable. (I know that in Argentina we are in a complicated moment to get foreign currency. Many people wrote me to ask me but the truth is that I don’t have the solution yet).
- Within the medinas there are not many banks or exchange houses, since these are almost always in the Ville Nouvelle or new part of the city. There are plenty of ATMs.