- The organisation of your stay
The organisation of your stay
Procedures in Morocco
Morocco has adopted perpetual Summer Time. This means that during summer, Morocco has the same time as the United Kingdom but in winter, time corresponds to that in France. However, during the Sunday morning preceding Ramadan, time reverts to GMT and goes back to summertime on the Sunday morning after the holy month.
The whole country is equipped with 220 V with European standard plugs. Adaptors are required for visitors from countries that do not use European plugs.
- Foreign exchange offices: in principle, they are open every day, except (sometimes) on Sunday afternoons; their opening hours are very extensive.
- Banks: their opening hours are more limited: they are open from Monday to Friday from 8.15 am to 3.30 pm or 4 pm (9.15 am to 2.30 pm during Ramadan), sometimes have a break during Friday prayer and when the ATMs are being loaded with cash.
- Shops: the stalls in the Medinas open early in the morning and you can shop there until late in the evening.
- The post offices are open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.15pm.
- Arabic: a distinction is made between classical Arabic which is the language of the Koran, the literary language and that of education, administration and the media, and dialectal Arabic, a spoken language that varies according to region and social class. Moroccan dialectal Arabic takes directly from French many modern names or common expressions.
- Berber: Berber is spoken in many parts of Morocco, as is Arabic. For Berbers, Arabic is a foreign language.
- French: in many companies employing university level staff, French is the working language, including among Moroccans. Depending on the person in front of them, the same person may speak either Arabic or French. The majority of Moroccans who have attended school speak French.
- Spanish: another vestige of colonisation. The language is spoken mainly in the North.
- From the UK to Morocco: +212 (country code) plus a 9-digit call number (from the new numbering) without the initial 0.
- From Morocco to the UK: +44 plus a 10-digit number (without the initial 0).
- From Morocco to Canada: +1 + city code + subscriber number (without the initial 0).
- Beware if you are calling from a hotel, prices are often multiplied astronomically!
- There are “teleboutiques”, open from morning to night. You can recognize them by their blue sign. There are several of them in every town and even in the villages. Some of them also have an Internet point. They are used for trunk calls if a mobile is not available or feasible.
- With your mobile phone, there is no problem if you have contracted a "roaming" option. With a dual-SIM smartphone, it’s preferable to get a local SIM card and add a 50-dirham plan which gives free calls, messages and data. Coverage has improved significantly.
There are Internet cafes everywhere, including in small towns. 1hours’ cost is 10 Dh in general. At certain hours, they are full to overflowing, frequented in particular by young students who make it a national sport. Otherwise, most tourist accommodation is now equipped with Wi-Fi, which they offer free of charge to their guests, as do most cafes.
Access to the kingdom
- A passport valid for the duration of the stay is required for UK nationals.
- For Canadians, a passport is mandatory.
- Visas are not required for European Union nationals or UK, Swiss and Canadian nationals, but the stay cannot exceed 3 months. For those who wish to stay longer (with a maximum of another 3 months), the request for an extension must be made on the basis of proof of residence and resources, at least 2 weeks before the expiry of the initial period of validity (passport required).
- To rent a car in Morocco, a national driving license is sufficient. But it is necessary to have one year of driving experience and a payment card. Be aware that most companies make a large charge on the credit card and only release it after the car is returned. It is advisable to find out about the rental conditions before departure and to check the availability of the amount on your card.
Flights connect Europe to many Moroccan airports including Agadir, Casablanca, Essaouira, Fez, Marrakech, Nador, Ouarzazate, Oujda, Rabat and Tangier.
Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia also fly domestically with flights all over the country. Many of these flights are feeder flights for onward international travel.
The ONCF (the railway company) has relatively fast, clean, air-conditioned trains. TGV lines have started in the north of the country. A good way, therefore, to travel on the major routes.
Seats on most lines are now reserved in both 1st and 2nd Classes. This is not the case on some short or branch lines such as El Jadida to Casablanca or "navette" (shuttle) trains. Only 1st Class passengers on these latter can be sure of finding a seat as the company only sells tickets for the number of seats in 1st.
The network, inherited from the protectorate, is small but mainly electrified and 2067 km of lines connect cities mainly in the north and central Morocco:
- The Eastern line connects Casablanca, Rabat, Kenitra, Meknes, Fez, Oujda. Another line connects Taourirt to Nador.
- The Northern line connects Casablanca to Tangiers Ville and Tangiers Med.
- The first al Boraq (high speed train) line should allow the same journey to be made in 1h30 when fully operational. At present it takes 2h 10m as the highest speeds are not yet possible. It will in the future connect Marrakech, Essaouira and Agadir.
- The Western line connects Casablanca to Marrakech. It takes 2h 25m on the upgraded line.
Get tickets before travel. A ticket purchased on the train from the ticket inspector will cost 25% more. Advance purchases online or in person can result in hefty discounts which are up to 50% cheaper on the high speed al Boraq line northwards to Tangiers and back.
These criss-cross the country and take passengers to the most remote corners at reasonable rates. Always ask for a receipt or a ticket, the buses are monitored by inspectors.
Two major bus companies, CTM and Supratours, have their own bus stations (or simple offices where buses leave) in major cities, but there are often other stations of varying sizes. Local companies, going to the same destinations, are obviously cheaper, but the comfort and service are not equivalent. Some use old vehicles that are patched up.
If it is very hot, do as the Moroccans do and take the buses first thing in the morning. And bring your own bottled water.
The CTM covers almost all of Morocco.
Buses are often full, so book 24 hours in advance.
The Supratours is a subsidiary of the ONCF. Tel: 05-37-77-65-20. You can also buy combined train + bus tickets. Its services are excellent. For long journeys, it is recommended because two drivers always take turns.
“Petits taxis” are not allowed out of the cities. Fares are very affordable, especially if you know the rules of the game. In larger cities, they are usually metered. There are two possibilities. You can take a taxi by negotiating (firmly) the fare before boarding or you insist on the meter being used in cities where this is obligatory. In those cities where these taxis do not have meters, you have to trust the driver or know the prices.
- At night there is a legal surcharge of 50%.
- In small taxis, no more than three people, including children, can ride in the same taxi.
- Always have change.
The old Mercedes from the 1970s are rapidly being replaced by modern people carriers. They're the only taxis that can travel between cities. Journeys are not metered. Start by looking for the taxi marshal with a notebook. He has the authority to sell you a ticket and put you in a car.
Prices are only slightly higher than those of buses (and not always), and taxis are more comfortable. There are six passengers, plus the driver. Grand taxis leave when they are full.
Do not tip the drivers of small or grand taxis.
This means of transport for 10 to 12 people is rare, intermediate between the big taxis and the bus. Newer than grands taxis, they should in principle be more reliable, but in practice this is far from being the case.
Driving on the road
Driving at night is strongly discouraged. Almost all cycles and motorbikes are completely unlit as are obstructions such as roadworks.
No one seems to teach young children to always look left and right before crossing. Also beware of children who stand in the middle of the road and force you to stop.
As soon as you see that there is someone on the road, put your finger on the horn.
- Population: 36 million (2015 estimate).
- Area: 710,850 km² with Western Sahara and 446,550 km² without.
- Capital: Rabat (1,885,000 inhabitants).
- Languages: Classical Arabic and Amazigh (official languages). Among the languages spoken: Arabic dialect, Berber dialects (Riffi, Chleuh and Zenet), French (common in the administration), Spanish (used locally in the North and the Saharan Provinces).
- Type of state: Constitutional monarchy.
- Head of state: King Mohammed VI (since July 1999).
- Currency: The Moroccan dirham.
- Human development index (life expectancy, education, standard of living, education attainment). World rank: 130 out of 187 countries.
- Guaranteed minimum wage: about 2 415 Dh (about 220 €) net.
- UNESCO World Heritage sites: the medinas of Fez (1981) and Marrakech (1985), the Ksar of Aït-Benhaddou (1987), the historic city of Meknes (1996), the medina of Tetouan (1997), the site of Volubilis (1997), the medina of Essaouira (2001), the Portuguese city of El Jadida (2004), and Rabat, modern capital and historic city: a shared heritage (2012).
- No vaccination is required for travellers from Europe. Some vaccines are nevertheless useful for the individual protection of the visitor.
- Be up to date with "universal" vaccinations, recommended in Europe for everyone: tetanus, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis B, typhoid.
- Use normal measures to avoid holiday tummy such as frequent handwashing. Municipally-supplied water is safe in Morocco, but some people prefer to drink bottled water. Eat in places where there are many locals eating. These will be safe. Rabies is present in Morocco, so in case of an animal bite (including from a cat), contact the local "Service d'Hygiene" in the town you are in for instructions on how to get emergency vaccinations which are given free. Complete the course after returning home. The treatment will not include gamma globulin which will have to be injected after arriving back in the home country.
Some basic rules
- Remember to wash your hands regularly, especially before meals. Any soap is effective at removing bacteria, as long as the washing is vigorous. Keep nails short.
- According to the WHO, "safe drinking water is available in all major cities and some villages, but mineral water is recommended. Demand that it be opened in front of you. For hot drinks (especially tea), the water must be boiled. Refrain from consuming non-industrial drinks, ice cubes, milk and its non-industrial by-products as well as shellfish etc". However, it must be said that millions of visitors do no such thing with no ill effects.
- Fruits and vegetables: according to the WHO, "wash, peel, boil or leave". But if the risk is higher in the rare areas where drinking water is not safe, it is not much of a risk in large cities. It would be a shame to miss out on delicious Moroccan salads and fresh fruit juices.
- Eat meats that are well cooked and served steaming, reject rare-cooked meat (unless served in an upscale restaurant) and go for couscous, tajines and mechouis, which are not a problem.
- Do not consume unpasteurized milk and its derivatives. A rare risk for travellers, more frequent amongst expatriates and widespread among Moroccans is brucellosis.
- Consult a doctor in case of diarrhoea containing mucus, pus, blood and/or accompanied by a fever. For simple, frequently-passed loose stools, do not use an antibiotic or Imodium, but rather probiotics, live yogurt or live "l'ben" made from pasteurised milk. Use electrolyte replacement therapy also.
- STDs and AIDS are present as they are everywhere else. Go out covered! Condoms and gel can be found in all Moroccan pharmacies.
For the rest
- Avoid swimming or wading in stagnant fresh water.
- Protect yourself from the sun everywhere and even more so in the mountains.
- In case of a minor illness, Moroccan pharmacies are often well stocked and the doctors well trained.
- Before departure, take out "repatriation assistance" insurance.
For UK citizens, a valid passport is needed (ask for confirmation from your airline company, as some refuse a document that expires less than 3 months after the return date).
- Obligatory vaccinations: none.
- Best season: March to June.
The Moroccan economy has not been spared by the financial crisis of 2008 nor by the economic crisis affecting Europe. And for good reason: France accounts for nearly half of foreign investment, particularly in the telecommunications sector. To attract more and more investors, Morocco is pursuing a major policy of privatisation, modernisation of infrastructure and diversification. Driven by low manufacturing costs and fewer restrictive regulations, industry is booming: automotive (Renault employs 5,000 workers in Melloussa), aeronautics (Airbus, Boeing, Safran, Bombardier), pharmaceutical laboratories...
The country's economy, which is highly dependent on the vitality of the agricultural sector and the European economy, is holding up reasonably well. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Morocco’s GDP will grow by 4 percent in 2020. The medium-term economic outlook projects a continuing decline in real GDP growth, to 2.9% last year, 2019, before a rebound to 4.0% in 2020. However, the overall public debt of the economy will increase to 82.5 percent.
A primary sector that is still predominant
Agriculture is one of the pillars of the Moroccan economy (about 18% of GDP in 2013). Highly dependent on its agriculture, the Moroccan economy is all the more fragile for that. The problem is the structure of the farms, the archaic farming methods, climatic vagaries, the overexploitation of natural resources and a cereal crop which consumes 80% of the country's water.
To modernize the sector, the authorities implemented the "Green Morocco" plan in 2008. It is an ambitious agricultural reform program to last 15 to 20 years, which takes into account the specific nature of the land and the climate. The “Green Morocco” plan just reached another goal in 2019, that of strengthening localized irrigation.
Climatic vagaries can have dramatic consequences. A bad year, and a large part of the country's economy falters; conversely, good harvests considerably limit the exodus from the countryside and the consequent development of city slums.
Fishing, another branch of the primary sector, represents a significant financial windfall. The fishermen work in rich waters, but these waters are a little too prized by their Spanish, French or Portuguese neighbours.
Textiles and the clothing sector represented, until 2005, almost 40% of exports. The first to pull out of the game: Moroccan rugs. Competition from Asian countries, compounded by the global crisis, has hurt.
"The spring of Moroccan tourism"
Tourism in Morocco represents 7% of the GDP. It is therefore a key sector of the economy, turned upside down in 2011 first by the “Arab Spring” and the wait-and-see attitude of travellers and especially by the attack perpetrated in Marrakech at the end of April 2011. A lot of money has been invested in the tourism sector.
The Vision 2020 plan aims to open 200,000 new beds and double the number of foreign tourists by 2020, or 20 million visitors. It is on track. The plan also plans to emphasize cultural tourism.
If such a hope is based on tourism, it is because it constitutes the main source of foreign currency in the country with nearly 5.5 billion euros in revenue in 2013. That same year, the symbolic bar of 10 million tourists was also crossed (+ 7% compared to 2012).
Manna from abroad
Another significant source of foreign currency, Moroccans residing abroad (MRE) bring more than 3 billion euros into the coffers each year. Over the past 10 years, this foreign windfall has represented almost 7% of GDP.
The money comes mainly from young graduates who felt that their future in Morocco was compromised by nepotism and corruption. Almost 70% of educated Moroccans are tempted to emigrate. It’s a brain drain harmful to the country.
Lastly, more and more foreigners are settling in Morocco, and real estate is experiencing a something of a boom thanks to second homes.