Morocco Basics

A Quick Guide to Morocco

This is the basic information you need to know before a trip to Morocco.

Time: Local time is GMT. Daylight usually saving starts on 1 June and lasts til the beginning of Ramadan – this year ( 2013) around July 20- when the time is GMT + 1hr.

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin round plugs are standard. Swiss two pin work as well in most wall plugs but 3 pin will not work.

Currency: The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes. It’s a restricted currency, so can only be bought inside the country. ATMs are available in the larger towns.

Cash can be exchanged at banks or official bureau des changes, which are also widespread in major towns. Dirhams cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants, but not AMEX. Travellers cheques are not generally very useful; it’s best to bring Euros, Sterling, or USD .

Currency Exchange Rates are fixed by the government: please check your exchange rates here: EXCHANGE

Language: Modern Standard Arabic is the official language and all TV and newspapers are in Arabic. However, Moroccan Arabic is the spoken language. Tachelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit are all derivations of the Berber language Tachelhit is spoken in south-west Morocco, in an area between Sidi Ifni in the south, Agadir in the north and Marrakech and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east. Tamazight is spoken in the Middle Atlas, between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal and Errachidia. Tarifit (or Rifia) is spoken in the Rifarea of northern Morocco. French and Spanish are also spoken. English is generally understood in the tourist areas, but French is the more common.

Visas : For New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, EU passport holders and US citizens, no visa is necessary for a stay of up to three months. Please check our Important Information page for a larger list.

Health: Health insurance should be taken out before you leave your home country. No vaccinations are required to enter Morocco. It is advisable to drink bottled water and be selective in the case of street food. Often street food is safer than some tourist restaurants. Medical facilities are good in all major towns bit can be sparse in remote areas of the country.

Tipping: A tip of 10 % is welcome but some places include a service charge. Giving a few dirhams to the poor is a good thing to do, but never give money to children unless they’ve provided a service, like showing you the way to your guesthouse, when Dh5 is sufficient.

Safety: Morocco is a very safe country. Violent crime is not a major problem, but there have been occasional reports of thefts at knifepoint in major cities and sometimes on beaches. These are exceptions to normal daily life that Morocco enjoys. As in most parts of the world it is good to use commonsense. Be sensible in dark streets at night , do visit “shady areas and walk with a friend. In the tourist towns of Marrakech and Fes use official (badged) guides only.

Traditions and customs: Morocco is a Muslim country and it is preferable to keep the wearing of swimsuits, shorts and other revealing clothing to the beach or hotel poolside. Women traveling alone will receive less hassle if dressed conservatively. Smoking is practiced widely, and it is customary to offer cigarettes in social situations. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. The giving and receiving of things, and the eating of food, should only be done with the right hand, as the left is considered unclean. Homosexuality is a criminal offense, and sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.

Business: Business in Morocco is based on French customs and is much more formal than in some Western countries. Always check in what language a meeting will be held. Arrange your own translator well in advance. Some businesses are closed on Friday afternoons; most are closed on weekends.

Communications: Internet Cafes are everywhere but the keyboards are often French (non-qwerty!). The international access code for Morocco is +212. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)524 for Marrakech and (0)537 for Rabat. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is best to check before making long international calls. Three mobile networks cover the the country and SIM cards are inexpensive.

Duty free: Travellers to Morocco over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 400g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine; and perfume up to 5g.

In-country travel: Note that distances are deceptively far in Morocco, so don’t try to see too much in too short a time. CTM is the best bus company, though the website is not helpful. Train travel is easy and inexpensive. See www.oncf.ma for train schedules, though you can’t book online. If possible, book a day or two in advance and try to travel first class for comfort’s sake.