Morocco travel guide: what you need to know about your vacation
If you want to organize yourself an unusual vacation where you can combine a cultural program, recreation, beach and a lot of unique experiences, you should definitely think about Morocco. Once you come to this eastern country, immediately think of the cartoon “Aladdin” or the fairy tale “1001 Nights” – the Sahara desert, sandy castles, colorful carpets and ancient cities with bustling bazaars – all this you can see with your own eyes on a trip to the wonderful country of Morocco!
Morocco on the map
The Kingdom of Morocco is located in the northwest of the African continent and is one of the most attractive countries for tourists from all over the world. The capital city of Morocco is Rabat. The richest country in northern Africa is washed by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, so there are excellent beaches, as well as very popular water sports such as surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Also in Morocco lies the Atlas Mountain System, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean coast of Morocco through Algeria to the coast of Tunisia. The highest point of the Atlas Mountains is Mount Toubkal, which reaches a height of 4167 meters. So these are high mountains, covered with snow, where the ski resorts are located.
In general, despite the fact that Morocco is usually associated with deserts and oases, it is a very green country. We did not even expect to see so much forest and vegetation in the northern part, as well as so many rivers and reservoirs where you can swim or at least refresh yourself.
Great news! Russian citizens do not need a visa to Morocco for up to 90 days. At the entrance you just put a stamp, and a handwritten number and that’s all. The main thing is that your passport must be valid for 6 months after the trip.
How to get to Morocco
Morocco can be reached by different ways – by direct flight from Moscow to Casablanca, by plane with connections in Europe and by ferry from Spain.
By direct flight
The most comfortable option is a direct flight from Moscow to Casablanca by Royal Air Maroc. Planes fly three times a week, but the price is quite expensive. The flight will cost about €500, and there depending on the current exchange rate.
By Plane with a Change
Most carriers offer connecting flights from Russia. So, you can fly from Moscow to Marrakech or Casablanca with Air France with a connection in Paris. Alitalia changes planes in Rome, Iberia – in Madrid, and Swiss Air – in Zurich – in general, each European company in its city. Turkish Airlines also flies from Russia, with a stopover in Istanbul.
Here we are talking about much cheaper tickets. So, to fly from Moscow to Casablanca with change in Lisbon will cost you about €166.
How to get to Morocco at the cheapest price
If you are looking for the cheapest way to get from Moscow to Morocco, you’ll need a Schengen visa and a stopover in Europe. Only we are not talking about buying a ticket with a connection, but about buying two different tickets. Ryanair flies from Europe to Morocco at absolutely ridiculous prices!
A one-way ticket from Barcelona to Fez cost €10! The same specials are often from Milan, for example. All that remains is to get from Moscow to those cities. Here to the rescue comes the airline Pobeda, which often offers very cheap flights, such as Moscow – Barcelona €47.
Residents of St. Petersburg can go to Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, or Vilnius by bus and from there fly to Morocco on a low-cost flight. If you monitor the specials, you can find a ticket for ridiculous money! The main thing to remember is that the lowcosters have very strict rules on hand luggage, and often for the suitcase you have to pay double the price of your own ticket! So either backpack and minimal stuff or pay more.
On the ferry
If you’re traveling in Spain by car, you can get to Morocco by ferry. The shortest way from the south of Spain from the cities of Tarifa and Algeciras to the Moroccan city of Tangier or the Spanish Ceuta (located on the African continent). The travel time is about 2 hours. There is also a ferry from Almeria to Tangier, but it takes about 7 hours. It takes more than a day to sail from Barcelona to Morocco, but there are also ferries.
Car rental and roads in Morocco
We decided to write about it separately, because we want to tell you about some of the nuances. Rent a car in Morocco is not the same as, for example, in any airport in the European country.
We have pre-selected the most reliable company at the airport in Fes, booked everything through the website and paid. We booked everything on the website and paid for it on the spot with the offered insurance. But when we arrived and went to the office, they told us to buy some other insurance supposedly missing, and the amount of additional payment turned out to be quite considerable – about $300. And the initial amount was even more, but it turns out you can bargain! Just as in the market in town.
If you do not have this amount, and it must be paid in cash, then you will be offered to leave a deposit, blocking the amount on the card. For our 12 days it was almost $2000 – completely crazy, considering that it is Morocco and it is unclear whether it will be returned later. We ended up having to pay for another full insurance policy and took our car back.
We rarely overpay and take full car insurance, but in a country like Morocco, it is a necessity. Here they often steal tires, scratch cars, and can also steal. So why do you need any extra trouble? Also, before taking the car, check each scratch. When you rent the car they will definitely try to find flaws and take your money.
The roads in Morocco are generally not bad. Along the coast and in tourist areas are very good. But if you want to see the country not only on the tourist routes, but you need to take a car with good wheels and all-wheel drive. Many Berber villages and mountainous areas have no tarmac at all, so count your strength!
Weather and when best to go
Morocco is generally a hot country, so the best time to visit depends on what you want to see. In summer the temperature in cities like Marrakech and Fez can reach up to +35℃, and in the desert it doesn’t drop below +45℃. But the temperature on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean is very comfortable for a beach holiday.
The winter months are good for visiting the desert, and in the Atlas Mountains you can not only see the snow and ski, but also go hiking. However, many hotels do not have heating and it is cold to sleep at night.
In general, the ideal time for a holiday in Morocco is considered the spring from April to May, or the velvet season from September to October, when it is not so hot. However, this is all relative, we were in February and had a great time in the desert and the Atlas Mountains, and the coast. But in the “off season” flights are always cheaper, and nature has no bad weather!
Cuisine and what to try
In Morocco it is not difficult to find a dish to your liking, because the food is quite diverse. There are many fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, as well as rice and couscous. Moroccan cuisine combines the traditions of the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, so the dishes are very unusual. It is often customary here to combine meat or fish with sweet fruit or salty with sour.
Definitely worth a try is the most famous dish – tagine. It is meat or fish cooked with vegetables in a conical clay pot, where all the ingredients slowly simmer. Also order yourself some couscous, which is grits with vegetables or meat. This dish is served at any restaurant. Drinks include peppermint tea! It is brewed at every step – while you are waiting for check-in at the hotel, on any excursion, or if you were invited home. The tea is strong, sweet and served in tiny glass cups, the traditional Moroccan way.
Hotels and where to stay
You won’t have any problems with accommodation in Morocco! Whether you are in the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains or in the cities, there is a wide choice of hotels and guest houses. Morocco has a lot of so-called riads, traditional guesthouses. Each is chicly decorated in Arabic style with mosaics with a well courtyard with massive wooden doors. All the rooms are different and also decorated in the national style with carved wooden furniture, intricately shaped windows, colorful fabrics and beautiful lighting.
Hotels are another nice part of vacationing in Morocco because you can stay in a very classy place for little money, which in another country would be hard to afford. Since we were on a road trip and never knew exactly where we were going to get to, we always looked for and booked accommodation on the go through Airbnb or Booking sites. There are lots of offers everywhere, the main thing is to look at the reviews!
What you need to know
First of all you need to be patient! Be prepared that in Morocco, you will have to endlessly haggle, bicker, and refuse. It’s at every step: street vendors, false guides and barefoot children beggars. It’s often better not to look at anyone at all, because a simple “No, thank you” leads to the fact that they will follow you for about 20 minutes trying to sell you something or show you the way.
This, of course, applies more to cities than villages. Where there are a lot of people and tourists, there is a lot of cheating and peddling. Just keep this in mind and don’t spoil your mood.
Morocco is a Muslim country, so if you are traveling during holidays such as Ramadan, be prepared to observe a strict fast. There may also be disruptions in transportation. Entrance to mosques for non-Muslims is usually strictly forbidden. If you are invited to a visit or a cafe for a cup of tea, keep in mind that the refusal can be a reason to be offended.
In Morocco they are used to tourists and our way of dressing. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that you are a guest here and observe the basic dress code – do not walk in short shorts and skirts and cover your shoulders.
Morocco is considered a safe African country for tourists. The locals respect the police. The police tend to make sure that tourists are safe and do not get molested. However, in markets and crowded places valuables should be kept under supervision. Pickpockets are not uncommon here.
The police don’t stop tourists on the road unless you’re breaking something. Bribes used to be very common here, as in many African countries, but now they are strictly controlled.
It is necessary to be careful with food and water. Morocco is a hot country, and the level of hygiene in terms of food here is low. You should not drink freshly squeezed juices on the streets, water on ice and anything not boiled. Water is recommended to drink only bottled.
Otherwise, Morocco is not classified as a risk country for any disease, and vaccinations are not necessary here. In terms of health, it is a fairly safe country, but many tourists suffer from stomach upsets – this is Africa!