Located on the westernmost tip of North Africa, Morocco is a country of rich diversity. Home to vast deserts, mountain ranges and ancient cities, Morocco is a country that just keeps on giving. To the west of Morocco is the Atlantic ocean and to the north is the Mediterranean sea. Running through the centre of the country is the Atlas Mountain range, known for its woodlands, open pastureland and small but perfectly formed lakes. To the south, you will find the awe inspiring Sahara Desert bordered by the Rif mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, with expansive views and glistening night skies. Morocco also offers some of the most exciting cities the country has to offer - from the ancient medinas of Marrakesh to the uber cool and glitzy Casablanca. Whether you want to hike up North Africa’s highest peak, people watch whilst sipping on mint tea, go camel trekking in the desert, get lost in the maze of souks or breath in the beauty of the riads, Morocco never fails to impress.
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Climate in Morocco
Morocco’s climate is diverse, with variability between seasons and regions. Generally, the country has a subtropical climate.
The Coastal Areas:
The coast has a warmer mediterranean climate, with breezy winds from the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean sea, although during the summer months (June-August) it is very humid with average summer temperatures ranging from 18 ℃ to 36℃ (64-97 ℉). Marrakesh and Agadir enjoy an average temperature of 21 ℃ (70 ℉) throughout the winter months, but go hand in hand with heavy spells of rain.
The Sahara Desert:
In the Sahara Desert in the south, temperatures can reach up to 40 ℃ (120 ℉ - sometimes higher) and drop to as low as 5 ℃ (41 ℉) at night. The Atlas Mountain highlands are covered in snow during the winter months and serve as a popular reprieve from the hot summers of the lowlands.
If you want to avoid the high heat of the summer and avoid the rain of winter, the best times to visit are during the shoulder seasons, of April, May, September, beginning of November.
Currency in Morocco
The official currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham (MAD) which is made up of 100 centimes. You can use US dollars, Euros and Pounds in some of the tourist areas but not always, so make sure you carry dirham with you at all times.
The dirham is not convertable, which means you cannot bring it in or out of the country. Instead, you will need to bring money with you and exchange it within the country, or make a withdrawal from an ATM on arrival (please be aware of any conversion charges depending on your bank).
You can change your money at the airport but you are more likely to get a better rate at the hotels or Bureau de Change in the towns. You can exchange any left over money back into your home country’s currency before you leave Morocco but if you have withdrawn it from an ATM make sure you keep the ATM receipt - otherwise they may refuse to exchange it. At the time of writing the exchange rates were as follows:
£1 = 12.25 MAD
€1 = 12.30 MAD
$1 = 9.70 MAD
You will find ATMs in most of the major cities and towns of Morocco (not all of them), but outside of those and in the more rural areas, cash is king with minimal or no access to ATMs. Credit cards are accepted in certain stores and restaurants in the bigger towns and cities.
Look into getting the Monzo card, which allows you to withdraw £250 free of charge per month and no charge incurred when paying for purchases either, although this may change so please check their policy information. Another option (if you are from the UK) is the Starling Card. This card has minimal/no foreign transaction fees which means masses of savings! I would suggest taking two bank cards with you and store them separately, so if you lose one, you always have back up.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let your bank know that you are travelling abroad, to prevent them from freezing your card.
Getting Around Morocco
On the whole, Morocco’s public transport system is pretty good, with a rail network connecting the towns in the north, to the coastal cities and Marrakesh. Buses are plentiful, as are taxis.
The main international airport in Morocco is the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) in Casablanca. It is an extremely busy airport, so make sure you get there in plenty of time. Taxis, buses and train shuttles to and from Casablanca serve this airport, so it is easy to reach. There is also the option of car hire.
Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK) is a popular choice for those visiting from Europe, located only 6km from Marrakesh, making it easy to reach via taxi.
Royal Air Maroc (RAM) operates domestic flights throughout Morocco, with changes in Casablanca. Depending on your schedule, and where you are visiting, internal flights may not be worthwhile due to their high prices. More more information on Morocco's airports, head over to the Office National des Aeroports.
Bus travel tends to be the cheapest option in Morocco, although if you are in a group, splitting a shared taxi is also a great budget option (see below). When it comes to buses in Morocco you have two choices: CTM buses and Private Buses.
Buses run by CTM (national bus company in Morocco are much faster and more reliable than private services, which tend to be small outfits with limited resources and staff. On the other hand, unless you are at an official CTM stop, they will unlikely pick you up; whereas private buses will.
Most of the towns have a main bus station, but CTM buses usually leave from their offices, away from the main bus station. Inside the stations, you will see multiple ticket windows, one for each company operating out of that area. There is no need to buy your tickets in advance, but we would advise it for the more popular routes. Please note that on private line buses, you generally pay for your baggage to be loaded into the hold - you do not have to pay for it to be unloaded, so don't be scammed into thinking you do.
Most of the long distance buses run throughout the night and tend to be quicker and much cooler than travelling during the day. However, there have been many reported accidents with buses travelling at night, so be careful, especially between busy routes (Marrakesh and Agadir).
Traveling between cities in Morocco is easily achievable by train and the experience tends to be fairly comfortable and fast. Operated by the Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF), the network serves major cities including Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Rabat and Meknes.
There are two main train lines in Morocco:
- From Tangier in the north, to Marrakesh down the coast
- From Oujda in the northeast, through Marrakesh, and then joining the Tangier line at Sidi Kacem.
Branch lines serve Casablanca Airport as does the high speed line (LGV) from Tangier. The high speed service between Casablanca and Fez, has reduced travel time from 4.5 hours to 3 hours 20 minutes.
The trains tend to run on time, but it is always best to check the timetables beforehand. These can be found in all major train stations or you can also ask the train station offices to print off a timetable for you. You can also check schedules on line. Most intercity routes are served by air conditioned Train Rapide Climatise (TRC), although you may occasionally have to take a less comfortable Train Navette Rapide (TNR) route if you are travelling locally or late in the night.
There are two classes of ticket, First and Second.
In first class there are fewer seats per compartment and your ticket is reserved, along with the option of sleeper trains and couchettes. Couchettes are a more expensive option, but it means you will have your own locked carriages and the presence of a guard.
If you are planning to spend a lot of time travelling by train, buy a rail pass from ONCF, which will save you money. These can be bought for 7, 15, or 30 days, with discounts for travellers under the age of 26 years old.
As an additional service working alongside the train company ONCF, Supratour buses run as a feeder service. They run from Tetouan Essaouira, Agadir and the western Sahara, connecting with multiple rail services.
Head to their website for more details. Please remember these buses do not leave from main bus stations. Make sure you know where to go before your bus departs! It is best to book in advance if you can.
Shared Grand taxis operate across multiple routes throughout Morocco and they are much quicker than buses, and sometimes trains! Carrying up to 6 passengers, these taxis are usually Mercedes sedans. Head to the bus terminals or the taxi stands within the place you are visiting, and ask for the price of where you are going. The taxis don’t leave until they are filled up and the best time to get one is early in the morning before it gets too busy. Do not go around lunch time when it is quiet and the taxis take longer to fill up. If you are a woman travelling on your own, you might want to pay for two places so you can have the front seat to yourself, rather than being squished in the back.
Fares for set routes are usually fixed and you do not have to pay for baggage. There have been reports of dangerous driving and accidents (and unless you are in the front seat, there are no seat belts) so you may wish to avoid using a shared taxi for night time journeys.
Petit taxis are small options for in-town trips. They are not licensed to leave the city. They can carry up to 3 passengers and they are usually on a meter. Remember, rates go up by 50% after 8pm. You can flag these taxis down in the street or find them near the bus and train stations.
Other options for transport include taking a ferry from Europe (Spain) or renting a car.
Travel Insurance for Morocco
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Considerations for Morocco
When you know where you want to go in Morocco, go to your doctor's surgery and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper.
When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel. It is likely that you will need:
- Make sure your booster for MMR and Seasonal Flu vaccine are up to date
- Hepatitis A and B, tetanus
- Rabies, typhoid
- Malaria Tablets (location dependent)
What to Pack for Morocco
Morocco is a Muslim country so it is important to dress appropriately and understand cultural norms before you arrive. For example, women travellers to Morocco will feel much more at ease by covering up - at least from shoulders to knees. It’s hot though so light long skirts, tunics or lightweight dresses, polo shirts and t-shirts are great to take with you. A pair of comfortable sandals or trainers are great for cities, with more substantial walking gear for any hiking. You can definitely leave your heels at home...
- Lightweight longer clothing for day time.
- Warm clothes for the evenings, particularly if you visit during the shoulder seasons.
- Scarf to cover your head from visiting mosquitos!
- Long sleeved tops and long trousers
- Light clothes for the coastal region - loose fitting trousers and tunics and long skirts.
- Dresses must cover your knees.
- Shorts are sometimes fine but follow local cues.
- Light coloured t-shirts and no strappy tops. It is important to cover your shoulders and respect Muslim culture.
- Sarong to cover your shoulders.
- Swimwear for the hammam!
- Quick dry towel
- Good walking shoes / walking boots / trainers / sandals
- Waterproof clothing / rain jacket / poncho
- Packing cubes. Get a different colours to separate your dirty and clean clothes!
- First aid kit inclusive of Imodium and Electrolytes
- Battery pack / electronics
- Head torch
- Money belt
- Padlocks x3
- Ipod / music for the long bus journeys
- Sunscreen and bug spray (with DEET if possible)
- Biodegradable soap (especially when hiking in nature). Hand gel for cities
- Travel pillow
- Water purification tablets
- Zip lock bags for traveling with leftover food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
- A hat
- Leggings or similar suitable clothing if you fancy horse riding or a camel trek
French is commonly spoken in the cities in particular - it’s worth picking up a few phrases or downloading something like Google Translate and select French as an offline language (this means you won’t need data to use it).
Safety Advice for Morocco
Being aware of your surroundings and taking precautions is always important.
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away. If you can, leave valuable items at home.
- Keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front or secure it with a padlock.
- Always choose an ATM inside of a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel nervous about withdrawing money, go with someone else.
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security: put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes.
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and put your rain/protective cover over it.
- Be wary of walking around alone too much at night, and be prepared for a bit of hassle if you do. Walking around as a group of two or more is much easier. Take a taxi if you are unsure.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Bring two different bank cards (Visa / Credit) with you.
- Keep your bank cards separate, so if anything happens, you have a second source of money.
- Always have a photocopy of your passport so if you lose it, you have backup.
- Bring another form of identification with you (driver’s license). Students should bring ID for discounted entry fees.
- Stick to bottled water to drink.
Budget for Morocco
Once you’re in Morocco it’s easy to get by fairly cheaply. There are plenty of cheap eats from market stalls to budget-friendly restaurants. Alcohol often isn’t widely available, which help to keep costs down too.
- A dorm bed in a hostel can be found from about 50 dirhams per night, while a night in a riad will set you back from around 200-300 dirhams.
- Entry to museums and gardens costs from 10 to 50 dirhams on average, although somewhere like the Jardin Marjorelle is closer to 70 dirhams. If you’re a student take ID as you can save on entry at some places.
- A cheap restaurant or market stall is likely to set you back from 20 to 40 dirhams, while a meal for two in a mid range restaurant is more likely to cost around 200 dirhams.
- If you’re after a hammam experience, bigger spas are likely to set you back around 200 dirhams for the pleasure, but are also likely to be that bit more luxurious. There are also local hammams that are a much more affordable price, around 30-50 dirhams.