GENERAL INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLERS TO MOROCCO

MOROCCO

Travel in Morocco is still, today, an adventure that provides cultural and geographical diversity that is possibly unequalled anywhere within a 3-hour flight of most European cities.

For an in-depth travel guide we recommend the Rough Guide to Morocco and probably the most up to date in terms of restaurants and places to go in Marrakech is TimeOut, Marrakech. For an insight into life in Morocco, The Caliph’s House, by Tahir Shah, is an excellent starting point.

CULTURE AND ISLAM

Dress

In the big cities, the dress code is quite relaxed and near European, but in the countryside it is much more conservative. Short skirts and sleeveless tops for ladies and men are frowned upon outside of the big cities and regarded as disrespectful in the cities so best avoided. To dress correctly is to show a mark of respect to the Moroccans, their culture and religion.

If you are travelling in the summer months it is advisable to wear a hat or cap. In some areas the temperature rises to 40°C +

Ramadan

This is a month-long religious festival that occurs every year. In 2019, it will take place between approximately 6 May and 3 June. Numerous websites will give you the dates for future years (e.g. Wikipedia). Ramadan is a period of strict fasting for Muslims when no food or drink can be consumed and smoking is not allowed, between sunrise and sunset.

Be prepared for the pace of life to be somewhat slower than normal. In most places restaurants are open for tourists. As a mark of respect you should not smoke, or be in a location where you may be seen to be smoking, during daylight hours. Once the Imam has declared that the day’s fast is over, you will notice a sudden exodus of just about everybody in shops, restaurants etc as the locals hold parties, often with their extended families to break their fast and eat. Shops, taxis and bars all get back to normal about an hour after sunset.

Shopping

Visiting the souk, particularly in Marrakech, is an adventure that requires great powers of resistance or an acknowledgement that you are going to emerge with a range of souvenirs. No purchase, apart from food, is made without bartering and you should not start the process unless you intend to buy. Time Out and other guidebooks will tell you more about this. If you do not want to shop and are approached by a salesman just smile and say “non merci”, and walk on. Strict controls have been brought in where being 'hassled' by a salesman is illegal and the tourist police are regularly on patrol to ensure these regulations are adhered to.

If you use a guide, a trip to a rug shop is a regular element of a trip around the souk and the guide may well receive an appreciation from the rug shop owner if a sale is made. If you do not want to buy a rug, tell your guide clearly at the outset. If you do want to buy a rug, be prepared to spend a long time in the shop with glasses of mint tea whilst the whole negotiation process takes place. The prices of rugs vary considerably and prices are rarely fixed.

Medical

You are advised to take normal and sensible precautions.

Only drink bottled water or water from a known safe supply. Mains tap water in the towns is officially of drinkable quality but is heavily chlorinated. Bottled water is more pleasant to drink.

Carry usual medicines and plasters and Imodium, or a similar product, is recommended for those who may suffer from ‘travellers’ tummy’.

On the coast and in the mountains, where it is cooler, beware as the sun is still very strong. Even if there is a cold wind blowing, sunburn or sunstroke can happen. The use of high factor sun-cream (50) and sun block is very important.

Moroccan doctors are very well trained and versed in treating tourist ailments.

Mobile phones and Internet

Morocco has excellent mobile phone and internet coverage (3G & 4G) and you will often be surprised where you will get a signal. The main providers are Maroc Telecom, INWI and Orange and SIM cards are available in their respective outlets in the suburbs of major cities. Naturally, there are areas with no signal – mainly in the mountains and desert. Most villages have public payphones where you will find someone in attendance with vast piles of coins to feed into the phone.

The internet is very widely available in the big cities with many internet cafés available. An hour in an internet café is about 1 euro. Away from the cities you will be surprised by where you will find access to the internet. Hotels may have charges to access Wi-Fi so you are advised to check the rate before using.

Alcohol and Drugs

Although an Islamic country, alcohol is available but respect has to be shown by not overdoing it or making a big show of it. Drunkenness is dealt with very severely and can result in arrest and a heavy fine and often a long period of detention.

In the big cities you will find a wide range of bars and all modern hotels sell alcohol. In the Marrakech Medina (old walled city) licensed bars are very rare. In the new quarter, there are numerous bars and clubs where alcohol is served. Here you will find off-licences and most people will tell you where they may be found. Moroccan wines are generally very good.

Away from the cities, apart from tourist hotels, alcohol is generally unavailable. If you want to take alcohol with you, as you travel in more rural areas, purchase your requirements at an off-licence before you set off.

Drugs are illegal in Morocco in the same way as in the UK. The use of illegal drugs and any attempt to smuggle them out of Morocco will risk arrest and prosecution.

N.B. Kasbah du Toubkal does not have an alcohol licence. Guests staying at the Kasbah are welcome to consume their own alcoholic drinks.

Driving in Morocco

Self-driving in Morocco is not for the faint hearted. This is advice that you will find in most travel guides. During daylight hours self-drive is generally straightforward but beware of your speed as speed traps are frequent. Speed cameras are in common use and ‘on the spot’ fines are payable.

At night it is quite different. Donkeys, goats, camels and other animals are constant hazards as they have little or no road sense and street lighting may be limited or non-existent. Most bicycles, motorbikes and some cars are not well lit either, in contrast to the standards that one expects at home. Another hazard is black-robed pedestrians who often walk close to the road edge. We strongly advise you to use the expertise of a local driver to whom these hazards are a part of everyday life. In any event travelling around Morocco is far more enjoyable if you have a professional driver. You can sit back, relax and really enjoy the sights and you will get the benefit of spending time with a Moroccan who will give you a personal insight into the land and the people.

We do not recommend self-drive travel unless you are a highly experienced driver able to cope with severe mountain roads and the unfamiliar. If you do decide to self-drive you need to understand the very unpleasant implications of any accident – even if not your fault. The administrative formalities and the delays that might occur, depending on the gravity of the incident, could considerably impact on your holiday.

For further advice on visas, passport and health information, visit the UKFCO (United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office) website.

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