Planning a trip to Morocco? Great! This Morocco Travel Guide will help with that.
One of only 3 countries with an Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline, Morocco is on the northern coast of Africa and is easily reachable from Europe. It’s the 25th largest country in Africa, and this diverse country includes miles of coastline, the Atlas Mountains, and is home to part of the world’s biggest desert, the Sahara. Don’t miss the flavorsome cuisine, trying to haggle at a souk, and exploring the country’s beautiful architecture.
Morocco is a member of the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, the Francophonie, the Mediterranean Dialogue group, and Organisation of Islamic co-operation. Although it’s not a member of NATO, it’s considered a major ally of the United States.
- Morocco travel guide: quick facts
- States of Morocco
- How to travel to Morocco
- How to travel around Morocco
- What to pack for Morocco
- The best time to travel to Morocco
- What to eat in Morocco
- Famous events in Morocco
- Public holidays in Morocco
- Cultural customs to be aware of in Morocco
- Where to stay in Morocco
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Basic phrases and their pronunciation
- Is Morocco safe for travel?
- The use of cash and cards in Morocco
- Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Morocco
- Tipping in Morocco
- A brief history of Morocco
- Posts about Morocco
Morocco travel guide: quick facts
Size: 446,550 km² or 172,414 sq mi
People living there: more than 33,848,000
Governmental structure: Constitutional monarchy.
National day: July 30th
Time zone: Central European Time / UTC+1
Power voltage and socket type(s): 220-240V, plug types C and E. If these don't match with your devices, make sure to bring a universal adapter.
Official religion(s)/Freedom of religion: Sunni Islam is the official religion.
Official language(s) and general knowledge of English: Arabic and Berber are the official languages. English isn’t widely spoken. French is the foreign language of choice; Spanish in the north of the country.
Drives on this side: right
International driver's licence accepted? yes
Phone code: +212
Vaccinations needed? none, but Hepatitis A and Tetanus are advised
Can you drink the tap water? No
States of Morocco
Morocco is divided up into 12 states, reduced from 16 in 2015.
1. Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima
Located at the northern tip of the country, this state shares a border with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, while looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. The top most visited cities in this region are the port of Tangier, the blue-washed town of Chefchaouen, and the historical walled city of Tétouan.
For those who want to get out and explore nature, the national parks of Al Hoceima and Talassemtane are a great place to see the rugged coastline, mountains, and fir forests.
Oriental is in the north-east of Morocco and shares borders with Algeria and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The state capital is Oujda, and other notable towns and cities are Nador and Berkane.
In this state, there’s a lot for nature lovers. You’ll find pristine blue Mediterranean waters perfect for taking a dip at the stunning Charrana beach, great hiking in the forest park of Sidi Maafa, and you can even enjoy a camel ride through the El Chebbi Desert to the oasis town of Figuig.
Also a northeastern state, Fès-Meknès is best known for the historical capital, Fès (sometimes referred to as Fez). It’s often referred to as Morocco’s capital of culture, and it’s home to Marinid architecture dating back to medieval times, busy and bustling souks, and 14thcentury religious schools such as Bou Inania and Al-Attarine.
Away from the capital, the fortified city of Mèknes is also alluring thanks to its beautiful architecture. Moulay-Idris, a holy mountain town to the north, and the Roman ruins of Volubilis are also popular destinations in this region.
Home to Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, this region is located in the north west of the country and has an Atlantic coastline. Rabat is home to a lot of important archaeological treasures and museums and is a great place to visit for history lovers. You’ll find Roman ruins, mausoleums, mosques and even a Kasbah in the old city.
You’ll also find the town of Salé, where each year the candle procession takes place on the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Kenitra boasts lots of naval history and was the site of the Battle of Port Lyautey before the port was captured by the United States during the Second World War.
5. Béni Mellal-Khénifra
Béni Mellal-Khénifra has a lot to offer to outdoor enthusiasts. The Middle Atlas foothills and the High Atlas Mountains can be found in this region. The most popular attraction here is the Ouzoud Falls, where you can take a boat ride by the cascades, which are surrounded by olive trees. You might even spot a monkey. Lake Tiguelmamine is also situated here, as well as a number of other lakes and mountains.
The capital of the state is Béni Mellal, famous for its fortress. The city has good transport links to Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca.
Casablanca-Settat is on the Atlantic Coast, and also where you’ll find the largest city and economic capital of Morocco, Casablanca. The city is home to Africa’s largest minaret, and the Hassan II mosque is the 5th biggest in the world. As well as stunning architecture, the city is home to some of the country’s best nightlife.
Outside of Casablanca, the cities of Mohammedia and Berechid are exciting places to visit, while the coastal town of El Jadida-Mazagan, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The capital of this region is Marrakech, widely regarded as the most important of Morocco’s 4 former imperial cities. It’s certainly the most popular with tourists, thanks to a blend of ancient and modern. It has a great combination of colorful architecture (it’s known as the red city), vibrant and buzzing souks, and tantalizing street food. At the center of the city is the famous Jemma el-Fna square, which sits at the center of a largely pedestrianized medina.
In the state of Marrakech-Safi, you can also find the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains – in fact, you can see them to the south of Marrakech, and there’s also a palm oasis to the north of the city.
I spend a week in Morocco traveling around Marrakech and Essaouira. Check my Morocco itinerary here.
One of the states which best showcases Morocco’s natural beauty, Drâa-Tafilalet borders Marrakech-Safi in the west and the Algerian border in the east. The river canyons of the Todgha Gorges are part of the High Atlas Mountains, which is also home to M’Goun, a mountain over 4,000m in height which has excellent trekking and colorful cliffs.
You’ll also find ergs here – huge dunes formed by sand being blown by the wind. Erg Chebbi is one of the country’s most famous, although it’s not considered part of the Sahara. You’ll find a number of kasbahs here, and you may recognize the movie studios in Ouarzazate from Star Wars, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia.
The state capital of Souss-Massa is Agadir, located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It’s one of Morocco’s major population centers, rebuilt after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1960. Here, the first language isn’t Arabic or French, but in fact Taselhit, a Berber language of the Shilha people.
The language is spoken throughout the region, from the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains, down to the Draa and Sous rivers. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Souss-Massa are the Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace, and Menara Gardens. For nature lovers, head out to the Souss-Massa National Park.
10. Guelmim-Oued Noun
Guelmim-Oued Noun is located in the south of Morocco and extends into the disputed region of Western Sahara. The region shares borders with both Algeria and Mauritania, and the small disputed eastern part is recognized as part of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
There are long stretches of virgin beaches on the state’s Atlantic coast, with one of the most popular being Lagzira Beach. The capital of the state is Guelmim, a former trade route city and capital of Saharan Tribes. Nowadays, it’s known as the “Gateway to the Desert.” The city is home to a camel market and gives its name to Goulamine beads, popular among hippies. Goulamine beads are mostly produced in Venice now.
11. Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra
Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra is mostly located in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, with the western part being administered by Morocco and the east by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The region is dissected by the Moroccan Wall, and it has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The Canary Islands, a part of Spain, aren’t too far of the coast of this state.
The capital of the state is Laâyoune, founded in 1938 by Antonio de Oro before it was designated as the capital of the Spanish Sahara in 1940.
This part of Morocco is also known as “the Region of the Sands.”
12. Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab
Considered by the Moroccan government as the country’s southernmost state, Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab is also located in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The United Nations and most other countries do not recognize this region as being under Moroccan sovereignty. The capital city of the region is the coastal city of Dakhla, which used to be known a Villa Cisneros.
How to travel to Morocco
Morocco travel visa requirements
European and North American travelers do not require a visa to travel to Morocco, but you must have a return ticket out of the country. You are permitted to stay up to 3 months, and your passport must have at least 6 months validity after you leave the country.
It used to be possible to extend your Morocco travel visa but it's not anymore. If you overstay, you aren’t permitted to leave until you pay a fine and you'll have to go to court.
Getting to Morocco
The Morocco-Algeria border is closed, and Algeria is reluctant to reopen it until the Western Sahara dispute is resolved. There’s only one border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania, and it’s in the Western Sahara region. It connects Dakhla (Morocco) and Nouâdhibou (Mauritania).
You can enter Morocco by bus from continental Europe, via a ferry from Spain. CTM, Eurolines, and Supratours all offer bus journeys from European countries. During major Spanish and French holidays, make sure you book in advance as Moroccans who work abroad usually return home at this time.
It’s possible to travel from London to Tangier in under 48 hours. There are stops in Paris and Madrid, and you’ll have to spend a night in Algeciras before crossing via ferry. Morocco is no longer a part of the Eurail or Interrail systems, and you must buy a ticket locally to add Morocco onto your trip.
A number of ferry companies operate services from Spain, France, Italy, and Gibraltar. The most common route is Algeciras (Spain) to Tangier, which takes between one and one and a half hours and prices start at around €30. During low season, you can just turn up and buy a ticket on the day, but in the high season, it’s better to book in advance. If you want to drive in Morocco, you can take your car onboard at an extra fee. Make sure you get an exit stamp when leaving Spain, as you’re heading out of the Schengen zone.
Morocco has a number of international airports, with the most used being Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. The country’s national carrier is Royal Air Maroc, and there are also large international airports in Marrakech, Fez, and Tangier.
How to travel around Morocco
Independent travel in Morocco
If you’re a first-time traveler or if you plan to solo travel to Morocco (especially as a woman), it’s not a bad idea to visit the country as part of a tour. It’s an intense country and the sensory overload can be overwhelming at first. If you have a tour booked when you arrive, it’s also a great way to avoid faux tour guides, who are everywhere. They will tell you that they don’t expect any money, but they definitely do.
The public transportation system is limited and getting to remote mountain and desert locations can be difficult.
Morocco has a mixed reputation when it comes to driving. If you’re going to attempt it, there are a few things you should know first. Drivers honk a lot to convey a whole load of different messages, so ignore them and simply concentrate on your driving.
Inner city driving can be hectic, and the roads throw up dust. The country has an extensive motorway network which has a fee, but it’s cheap to use and uncongested. Driving on the mountain roads can be nerve-wracking as other drivers take corners very quickly.
Morocco does not have drink driving laws, but it has strict alcohol laws, so if you’re caught drinking and driving you’re still likely to be arrested. Don’t do it.
Train travel in Morocco can be a good option if you solely want to move between the bigger cities. The network is not extensive but train company ONCF does run between Marrakech, Fes, Rabat, Oujda, Tangier, Meknes, and Casablanca (including the International Airport).
What to pack for Morocco
Thanks to the size and diversity of Morocco, the climate varies across the country. The coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate, whereas the inland areas have a continental climate, which is hotter and drier. In southern Morocco, the temperatures are very hot and dry but drop dramatically at night. In winter, temperatures in the Atlas Mountains can drop below 0 degrees Celsius, and peaks are snow-capped year-round.
Whatever else you pack, these three things are good to have with you in every season:
- Modest clothing, especially when you're a woman
- A refillable water bottle
- For women, a wide scarf. Something like this pashmina is light and still big enough to cover your hair, shoulders and/or legs when needed.
What to pack for Morocco in summer
- a hat
- sun cream
- lightweight, loose-fitting pants like these ones
- good walking sandals
- light cotton shirts with long sleeves or loose-fitting t-shirts
- swimwear for at the hotel
- sports/hiking shoes
- a light sweater
What to pack for Morocco in winter
I visited Morocco myself in December and have put together a detailed list of the things I packed and really needed while I was there during the coldest season. Read about what to wear in Morocco in winter here.
What to pack for Morocco in fall and spring
- a jacket
- a scarf
- clothing to layer
- comportable sneakers
The best time to travel to Morocco
Morocco is a year-round destination, but there are a few things to take into consideration before you book your trip. If you want to avoid the heat, visit during the shoulder seasons which are from April to May, and September to November.
What to eat in Morocco
If you happen to go to Marrakech and want to be sure you're eating authentic Moroccan food in places only Moroccans would go, consider booking a tour with Marrakech Food Tours. It's run by my best friend and her Moroccan husband and I'll vouch for the quality of what they offer any day. My parents went on one of their tours and loved them too.
Other than that, these are some top foods to try:
- Tagine – Morocco’s national dish. Usually, chicken or lamb stew cooked in a clay pot with a mixture of herbs, spices, and vegetables. Served with bread.
- Harira – Rich soup made of tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, lamb, and fresh herbs. This soup is usually used to break fast during Ramadan.
- Fish chermoula – Fish is marinated in chermoula, a mixture of herbs and spices, before being grilled over hot coals. The remainder of the marinade is used as a dipping sauce.
- Couscous – Served with 7 vegetables and over either lamb, beef, or chicken, this is crushed durum wheat rolled by hand. Often served with either sweet raisin jam or buttermilk.
- Makouda – Deep-fried potato balls served with a side of harissa – a spicy chili pepper paste.
- B’stilla – A pie from the Fez region. A thin pastry filled with pigeon meat, almonds, eggs, and a mixture of spices before it’s dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon.
- Rfissa – Hot meat and broth poured over a plateful of bread, after being marinated in fenugreek, saffron, and ras-el-hanout.
- Mechoui – A lamb whole roasted in a pit over araar wood.
- Street food – Some of Morocco’s best street food includes sweet meat from sheep’s cheeks, spicy snail broth, and lamb’s liver on skewers.
- Mint tea – Also called ‘Moroccan whiskey’, mint tea is served after almost every meal. It’s usually heavily sweetened.
Famous events in Morocco
- March – Marathon des Sables – An extremely difficult ultramarathon which takes place across 6 days in March of April. The 243km desert marathon begins and ends in Ouarzazate.
- May – Festival Mawazine – A popular festival in the capital Rabat which gets bigger every year. This crossover of African, Arabic, and Western music has hosted the likes of Elton John, Bruno Mars, and Kanye West.
- May – Kelaa-des-Mgouna Rose Festival – This takes place in the Dades Valley, also known as the Valley of the Roses. The two-day festival involves a rose parade, traditional music, and the Miss Rose pageant.
- June – Cherry Festival – This celebration of the cherry harvest in Sefrou is the country’s longest running town festival. Folk music, sports events, and parades lead up to the crowning of the Cherry Queen.
- June – Fès Festival of World Sacred Music – Many open-air concerts which celebrate sacred world music over 9 days.
- Summer – Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival – launched in 1997 as a celebration of Moroccan culture, this 4-day festival now sees musicians come from all over the world to perform. Gnaoua is a musical genre inspired by the Berber, African, and Arabic people.
- September – Marriage Moussem – In Imilchil in the Atlas Mountains, this 3-day festival sees local Berbers, dressed in traditional clothing, search for a partner.
- October – Erfoud date festival – This 3-day festival celebrates the date harvest with vibrant processions and traditional music and dancing. The highlight is the crowning of the Date Queen.
- November – Salé Procession of Candles – A tradition which dates back to the Saadi dynasty (1578 – 1603). It’s imported from Istanbul, where Moroccan sultan witnessed the parade during his exile. It takes place on “Mawlid” (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday).
Public holidays in Morocco
- New Year’s Day
- Independence Manifesto Day (January 11)
- Throne Day (July 30)
- Oued Ed-Dahab Day (August 14)
- Revolution Day (August 20)
- Youth Day (August 21)
- Islamic/Arabic New Year
- Green March Day (November 6)
- Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday (November 10)
- Independence Day (November 18)
Cultural customs to be aware of in Morocco
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, so both men and women should dress conservatively, especially when visiting religious monuments.
When greeting someone, a handshake is followed by touching the heart. You should always use your right hand, as well as for eating, especially from a communal dish like tagine. The left hand is considered dirty.
Where to stay in Morocco
I always use Booking.com to find hotels and – in the case of Morocco – riads. It has a bunch of filtering options so I can easily get a list of only those places that meet my criteria. If you're looking for accommodation in Morocco, I highly recommend checking here.
When I want to book an apartment rather than a hotel, I check Airbnb.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan and research a trip, there are always things that happen beyond your control. Something might get canceled, you can get ill or hurt while traveling or one of your electronics might break or get stolen. When misfortune strikes, travel insurance has got you covered. I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on. Don't have insurance yet? You can get a free quote here:
Basic phrases and their pronunciation
Morocco uses the Arabic alphabet. Here, you can see the pronunciation of the words written in the Roman alphabet.
Peace be upon you (when someone says “hello”)
How are you?
Nice to meet you
What is your name?
My name is …
Do you speak English?
I don’t understand
How much is this?
May God bless you
I need some help
Where is the toilet/bathroom?
Please speak more slowly
I don’t understand
La shukran ala wajib
Baraka Allahu feek
Ana mouhtaj lil mousa ada
fin kein ibit lma?
tkellem beshwiya afak!
Is Morocco safe for travel?
So is Morocco safe to travel to? Well, it is generally safe to travel in Morocco for tourists, but the country requires more vigilance and common-sense than if you'd go somewhere in Western Europe. Although you’re unlikely to face any violence, petty crime is extremely common here.
Solo female travelers will also attract a lot of unwarranted attention and should avoid walking around deserted areas. While there have been cases of women being followed and in some cases, groped or sexually assaulted, you should be fine if you're careful and avoid situations in which you find yourself isolated.
Some other tips to stay safe would be don’t walk alone at night, dress conservatively (Morocco is a Muslim country), don’t carry your valuables, and be on your guard when it comes to tour guides and shop owners inviting you in for tea. Give a firm no, as otherwise there’s a risk of being followed until you give in.
If you are a first-time solo traveler or a solo female traveler, Morocco can be difficult and uncomfortable at times. Think about your travel style (and level of confidence) before you commit to solo travel in Morocco.
The use of cash and cards in Morocco
Morocco is still very much a cash society, so it’s a good idea to always carry dirhams. It’s a closed currency, meaning that you can’t buy or sell it outside of the country. Prices are often quoted in Euro, and some establishments accept this as well as US dollars and the British pound, but sellers often round up the price, so you’ll be paying more.
Keep your receipts when you exchange cash in Morocco so that you don’t lose money changing dirhams back at the end of your holiday. You can exchange your cash in many cities, airports, and hotels. It’s best to shop around to get the best rates, as they fluctuate wildly.
Outside of major tourist destinations, debit and credit cards aren’t widely accepted so make sure you have enough cash with you. Don’t use DCC (dynamic cash conversion) at ATMs as the conversion rates are not in your favor.
Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Morocco
As I have a Belgian/European SIM card, I would normally pay roaming charges when calling, texting, or using data in Morocco. To get around this, I use the Solis mobile hotspot by Skyroam and buy day passes for the duration of my trip.
Aside from day passes, Skyroam also offers monthly prescriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I've been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I'll go over my phone's data plan.
Check out Skyroam here.
Tipping in Morocco
In Morocco, it's common to tip for good service and at the same time, it's appreciated when you tip discretely. More on tipping in Morocco here.
A brief history of Morocco
Morocco’s known history dates back to the Phoenicians in 1,000BC. The Phoenicians, originally from Lebanon, founded the city of Carthage in what is now Tunisia, and their empire expanded into modern-day Morocco. The Berbers founded the kingdom of Mauritania in around 400BC.
The Romans conquered Carthage in 146BC, and their influence grew. They annexed Mauritania, and Morocco was under Roman rule until the 5th century AD.
The Arabs gained control of Morocco in the 8th century and introduced Islam, before breaking the country up into a number of kingdoms. Moroccan culture prospered in the 12th century, under the Almohad dynasty. They had also conquered most of Spain, but lost most Muslim territory in the 13th century, with the exception of Granada.
The Berber dynasty of the Wattasids started to take control of Morocco in 1240 and ruled the country completely by 1469.
The next dynasty would be the Saadis in the 16th century, ruled by Ahmed el-Mansour. After his death, the dynasty declined in the 17th century, but the country remained independent until the 20th century.
Morocco was under French rule from 1912 – 1956, before regaining its independence. King Hassan II ruled from 1961 – 1991, when there were periods of political instability, 2 coup attempts, and riots.
Nowadays, Morocco is developing fast, with its main industries being textiles and tourism.
Posts about Morocco
Click here for all the posts I've written about Morocco.
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