Climate and seasons
Morocco is a land of contrasts. Lapped by the water of the Mediterranean in the north and by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, it is also crisscrossed by the Rif and Atlas Mountains, which means the country is affected by a host of climatic influences.
The coastal regions are lavished with sunshine. The sun's rays are constant throughout the year and you can soak up their goodness in any season. Agadir, for example, is on the shores of the Atlantic. As the country's premier seaside resort town, it offers fans of la dolce vita300 days of sun per year with mild temperatures and gentle breezes. Further to the north, Taghazout, Mogador and Magazan are also worth a visit.
Because these are a bit further inland, their climate is less Mediterranean and more continental. The topography is more pronounced with splendid panoramas. This is where you find wide, open spaces where adventurers embark on treks and hikes in all seasons.
To the south, the country opens up to the vastness of the Sahara. Spring and fall are the best times to venture here. The sun gleams and reflects off the dunes in a sand-filled landscape. The desert expanses exude a sense of unreality. Climb atop a camel tofind yourself in one of the most beautiful scenes nature has ever made.
What to Pack for Morocco
Aside from cultural considerations and the different activities you have planned in Morocco, you also need to pack clothes to cover you for a changeable climate. No matter what time of year, bring layers and prepare for both hot and cold weather at some point.
Even on a short visit to Morocco, you could go from breaking out a sweat in the markets of Marrakech to being very cold at night in the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert.
Layers will serve you well in any season and cover you for all situations. Also, think lightweight, breathable and loose. Aside from wanting clothes that are comfortable in the heat and easy to wash and dry, overly tight clothing can attract unwanted attention.
There are a few simple items both men and women will want to pack for Morocco.
- A sun hat will be a must. You are in Africa after all.
- Equally, a warm winter beanie if you are planning to visit the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert. It gets very cold in the mornings and at night.
- A hoodie or other warm, lightweight top will be necessary. We like a hoodie for the added warmth of the hood and the Smart Travel Hoodie because it has loads of Anti-Theft pockets for your valuables and it packs down small. Perfect for Morocco.
- A lightweight travel scarf for both men and women. You will need one for keeping the sun at bay and the sand from your face in the Sahara. It is also handy for both men and women when visiting mosques and religious sites. Men wearing shorts will often be asked to cover up.
- Pack a swimsuit. In addition to the many beach possibilities, many hotels and riads will have pools. We found the opportunity to cool off at the hotel pool at Ait Benhaddou very welcome after a full day sightseeing. You may also be able to have a dip at one of the hotel pools in the Sahara.
- Unisex Travel Scarf
- Unisex Sun Hat
- Smart Travel Hoodie for Cold Nights
- Warm Beanie Hat for Cold Nights.
Best Shoes for Morocco
It goes without saying; bring shoes suitable for the activities you will be undertaking. The following will help you decide the best shoes for Morocco based on your itinerary.
Sandals are suitable for most casual occasions in warmer weather. Just make sure they are comfortable, especially for a long days sightseeing.
In cities and especially when exploring the Medina’s, we would highly recommend a comfortable closed-toe walking shoe. Not only will you be doing some miles, the road conditions, in the medinas especially are not always pleasant. There will be many uneven surfaces, and your feet will get very dirty.
Unless you are doing some serious hiking, sneakers will be suitable for the majority of activities in Morocco such as the Atlas Mountains or Sahara.
Flip-flops are always a handy addition especially if you are planning to visit a Hammam.
Formalities for your trip to Morocco
Passport, visa and length of stay
To avoid any problems when you arrive in Morocco, double-check to be sure you have a valid passport.
Whether you need a visa depends on your nationality.
For all nationalities, the maximum length of a tourism trip is 90 days.
Embassies and consulates
As you prepare for your trip, make note of the contact information for your embassy and consulates outside the capital. You can go there to reissue your travel documents if they are lost and to get an array of advice (health, safety, etc.). Each diplomatic mission usually has an emergency number to be used only if absolutely necessary. Most of the time there is a social services office to help you, even in an emergency.
Is it safe to Travel to Marrakech or Morocco? The security in Morocco is strong. Both the police and the touristic police operate, without counting the reinforcements of the national security alert system and intelligence services, following the growth in terrorist risk. The Kingdom of Morocco is one of, if not the most permissive and tolerant country of the Arab world. The State actively fights against extremism threats and advocated a peaceful Islam. In August 2016, Mohammed 6 made a strong speech in this direction during the 63rd anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People.
Health, Vaccinations in Morocco
Regarding Health, Hygiene and Vaccinations: Morocco has become a clean and safe country. There is no need for special injections for Morocco except usual ones, unless you are going a long time in rural areas where rabies vaccine is recommended.
In most of the moroccan cities, the water is safe for drinking. But to avoid the risk of a change of diet, it is better to drink encapsulated mineral water. Hygiene is generally satisfactory, it is recommended to wash hands regularly, especially before eating, and wash any fruit or vegetable eaten raw. The food in the restaurants is good for human consumption, particularly when baked or grilled.
The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham MAD, which is divided into 100 cents. The dirham is a closed currency, meaning it can only be traded in Morocco, so you can’t order and collect it in your home country to take to Morocco with you. It’s easy to purchase your cash in Morocco from a local bureau de change (plenty at the airports), bank or withdraw it using an ATM. Many hotels also offer this service. Exchanging money in the street is illegal however, so please avoid these unofficial schemes.
It’s a good idea to keep your receipt when buying dirhams as you’ll need it to convert any remaining dirham to your local currency before you leave. Please be aware – you won’t be able to change Scottish or Northern Ireland bank notes and it‘s also very difficult to exchange travellers’ cheques.
Cash is the preferred method of payment across most of Morocco as very few traders have card facilities, though larger stores, hotels and other amenities are more likely to take payments on a card, usually Visa and Mastercard (AMEX is rarely accepted). There is often a small charge to cover this service. Always try and have some small change on you – ATMs usually dispense 100 and 200 dirham notes which can be quite hard to break and aren’t much good if you just wish to pay for something small such as a coffee or a taxi ride.
As with travel to any other country, please inform your bank/credit card company of your travel plans. This should avoid unexpected blocks being placed on your card. Also check whether they impose a fee for withdrawing cash or making purchases abroad so you don’t have a raft of surprise charges waiting for you when you come back! Keep a list of your card numbers and contact phone numbers for your bank separate to your wallet or purse, so if you do lose your cards you’ll know how to get in touch with your card issuer.
Check with your bank to find out where you can withdraw cash using your credit card. Most banks in Morocco's major cities have ATMs. Exchange currency as you go. The vast majority of purchases and services are paid for in cash – afterbargaining, of course!
Key Information on Ramadan, Ftour, Aid
If you are wondering what to do during the month of Ramadan, be aware that in most cities everything is open: museums, restaurants… Some shops of the Souk are closing from 11am to 4pm though. The museums close earlier, at 4pm. It is advised to drink discreetly and not smoke in front of Muslims, by respect, as they are fasting. The period of Ramadan 2019 will last 1 month from 06 May 2019 to 4 June 2019.
The Ftour, breaking of the fast during Ramadan, at sunset, is a great moment. The Muslims are pleased to be able to eat and drink. The Ftour becomes popular. Many restaurants in Marrakech have now Ftour offers, with appetizing buffets, and which are a moment of conviviality.
2 months after the end of Ramadan, the Muslims celebrate the Aid, which could correspond to the Christmas for Catholics. More commonly known as the feast of the sheep, the Aid lasts 1 day.During this time, many museums are closed and a lot of shops also. The restaurants and shops for tourists remain open. It is advisable to make an excursion in this day.
Language and common vocabulary
Exploring a country means learning about the language. Morocco's two official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, or Berber, but virtually all Moroccans speak and understand French. Spanish is widespread in northern and southern Morocco. You will be enchanted by Arabic. The language sings and its warm intonations encourage conversation. The Amazigh language, which uses the Tifinagh alphabet, is the shared heritage of all Moroccans.
To rub elbows with the locals and make the most of your trip, here are some Arabic concepts you should learn. Once you leave your hotel, a few words are all it takes to make contact. With "as-salaam alaykum" you have said hello to a new friend, who will reply with "waalaykum as-salaam". Ask "labass" to find out how he's doing, then say goodbye with a hearty "beslama".
When your day takes you to the souk, the art of negotiation kicks in. For successful dealings, make note of these essential phrases: "kayen" means "do you have" something; "ma'arft" means you are not sure; "iyah" and "lla" mean "yes" and "no". Finally, say "rally bizef" for "too expensive" and the bargaining has begun!
Later, as you order tea on the patio, tell your server "AtiniAttay" for "I'd like a mint tea" and when he brings it to you, thank him: "Shukran".
Because Moroccans have a natural gift for languages, your stay is destined to be a pleasant one!
Labass – How are you?
As-salaam Alaykum – literally means peace be with you, but is used as a ‘hello’. The correct response is Wa Alaykum As-salaam
Beslama – Good bye
Iyah – Yes
Lla – No
Ma’arft – I don’t know/I’m not sure
Kayen – Do you have?
Afek – Please
Shukran – Thank you
La deed – Delicious
Rally bizef – Too expensive (a good one to remember when bartering!)
Attay – Mint Tea
Atini – I would like.
Simple street cafe's 5 Dh
Chic modern cafe / lounge bar 10-20 Dh
Simple restaurant (street food) 10 Dh
Smarter restaurant 80-150 Dh
Hotel porter 20-50 Dh
Guardian for car parking 3 Dh
Driver on shorter transfer (-1 hours) 50-150 Dh
Driver on longer transfer (1+ hours) 100-300 Dh
Your guide after a half or full day tour 100-300 Dh
Fly to Morocco from the USA
- Fly Direct
At the time of publication, the only direct flights between the United States and Morocco are those operated by Royal Air Maroc between New York's JFK airport and Casablanca. This flight runs at least three times a week and often more frequently; check the Royal Air Maroc website for the most up-to-date flight schedule. If you don't mind at least one intermediate stop, quite a few other airlines offer flights from the United States to Morocco, including Air France, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Norwegian, Air Europa and Condor.
- Fly via Europe
Flying via Europe really opens up travel options to Morocco, while also giving you the opportunity to add a European city to your travel itinerary. In addition to the main airport in Casablanca, Morocco has airports at Agadir, Fez, Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Rabat and Tangier. These alternative destinations are accessible from a variety of European cities. For example, if you travel through Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, you'll have several flights to choose from that go to Casablanca, Nador, Tangier, Marrakech and Agadir. Other possible transit cities include London, Frankfurt, Barcelona and Paris.
Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country (though a more socially liberated one than many others), so please be aware that some behaviour that is acceptable at home is not permitted here. Dress is usually more restrained. Miniskirts and short shorts should be avoided in public areas. Some places are more relaxed than others however, especially in coastal resorts with a strong tourist presence, but if in doubt take note of how locals are dressed and use it as a guide.
Fridays are seen as a holy day so expect shops and market stalls to close around midday. And during the month of Ramadan (the dates of which change every year) you should refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public as a mark of respect. The consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Islam but it can still be purchased in larger stores, especially in touristy areas, and in hotels and restaurants.
Morocco is a visual feast and it can be hard to know where to point your camera first! Landscapes are no problem as they rarely have an issue with their picture being taken. When photographing people though, it’s important to be respectful – imagine how you’d feel if strangers started to take your picture without a by-your-leave! Always ask permission first, and it helps if you get to know your subject a bit better. Moroccans are very friendly and you should have no trouble getting to know them.
With luxury chains, camping, riads, bed and breakfasts, cottages, hostels and even bivouacs, you will be treated to unique experiences!
Spend a night in a bivouac -- a tentin the middle of the desert – tounplug completely. Let yourself be swayed by the timeless ambiance of the desert and wake up to the world's most beautiful sunrise fora unique experience that you won't soon forget!
Or stay in a riad, a traditional house in a historic district punctuated by a patio in the middle of a column of light. Your stay is guaranteed to feel authentic.
Exploring a country also means getting to know the locals and experiencing their everyday lives at home.
Choose a cottage or hostel to have a sightseeing experience full of direct contact with the native population.
Or why not go camping? It is the preferred way to stay for surfers working up the coast. Camping in the mild Moroccan climate promotes team spirit and human contact.
Finally, if you are hoping for a premium trip, sleep in the best international or local luxury brands for hotels that have built a long-standing reputation!
Local Clock and Holiday Schedule
In Morocco, every holiday is cause for a celebration in which you will be thrilled to take part. The atmosphere is quite different and very rewarding at these times.
The dates of religious holidays depend on the lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan will give you a chance to experience something out of the ordinary: it's all about sharing and nightlife!
Morocco is on GMT+1. It's very easy to adjust to the different schedule and you will not waste a minute of your exceptional trip!
Transport in Morocco
With its colors, friendly people, customs and traditions, and characteristic architecture, Morocco is a place that compels you to explore every last inch.
The national airline, Royal Air Morocco (RAM) operates many domestic flights. There are 18 airports to help you discover Morocco, from north to south! Visit www.royalairmaroc.com to learn more.
The rail network run by Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF) covers the entire country and the Supratours bus company takes over if your destination does not have a railroad station. Starting in 2018, a high-speed train will serve the Casablanca-Tangiers route.
Cars drive on the right and most vehicles have manual transmissions. Road signs are in French and Arabic. There are national highways that run north-south to serve all of Morocco.