Information Packet

Morocco: the adventure starts here…

Morocco – the very name conjures up the romance of <>, the high Atlas Mountains and beyond to the empty skies of the Great Sahara Desert. Whether you decide to enjoy its hot summer sunshine or its balmy winter days, Morocco will captivate you with a wealth of things to see and do. In Marrakesh, beautiful gardens and the famous souks, with the ceaseless activity of Djemaa El Fna Square; In Agadir, you will find miles of fine sandy beaches. Join one of our tours and you will discover a kingdom unmatched for historical splendour, legendary hospitality and a variety of beautiful landscape seldom seen in one country.

With hotels from the simple to the magnificent, turquoise pools, golden beaches, a Moroccan holiday is as full of value as it is sunshine. And yet Morocco can be so much more than a fast tanning holiday bargain, It can be adventure, a journey of discovery, and above all, great fun. Step into an ancient walled market, and surround yourself with the vibrancies of a life-style virtually unchanged for the past 900 years. Or venture off the beaten track into deep mountain gorges, carved from weathered rocks by babbling melt water, and your every adjective fails to capture the majesty. And when you see the iridescent colours of dawn burning dew from Saharan sand dunes, Morocco reveals itself as an enigmatic chameleon.

To the north, light Mediterranean sands look to Spain, whilst the seemingly endless Atlantic beaches are a glorious yellow. From rolling moorlands facing snow capped mountains, to tracts of sunburnt desert speckled by emerald oasis and ochre red villages, the landscape changes with every mile. Yet though the land alters shad, all is unmistakably Moroccan. From the ever smiling Amazighs (Berbers) of the Atlas, to the power dressed members of Casablanca society, Morocco is a proud whole, and it’s a land they love to show off. By all means come to Morocco for a quality beach holiday at an affordable price, but before you settle on a sun lounger, how about making this a holiday you’ll really remember?

Whether you fancy the Sahara by land Rover or camel, trekking in the Atlas Mountains; or gently touring the magnificent Imperial cities-somewhere, there’s your very own Moroccan adventure waiting to be discovered.

THE TRUTH ABOUT MOROCCO

Morocco is like no other holiday destination within easy reach of Europe. When the crimpling-set landed on day trips from nearby Gibraltar and Spain, or clambered down from the first jet charters some 16 years ago, they got a shock. Instead of Sombreros they found women in veils. Instead of some wicked local spirit, they found villagers puffing at unusually fragrant roll-ups.

This was all too much for Joe Ordinary, and Morocco never made it into the big-time holiday league. However Morocco captured the hearts of more than a few discerning travellers.  The Rolling Stones came for the music, Yves St Laurent came for the chic, Winston Churchill came to paint, and  Malcolm Forbes came to throw his greatest ever party. But Morocco offers much more than just traditional winter sun holidays with a reassuringly French influence. Morocco also means the chance to explore terrain as varied as the snow clad Atlas Mountains, to the rolling Saharan sand dunes. However for most, Morocco remains an unknown, and although we are always willing to answer your questions by phone or e-mail, here are a few of the most common queries:

How safe is Morocco?

Morocco is much safer than most of the top tourist destinations all over the world. Lurex cycle shorts and mini skirts will of course attract some attention especially if worn outside a place of worship or wandering around traditional markets. Please use a modicum of common sense, show a little respect for the Moroccan way of life, and you’ll find this a warm and welcoming place to holiday. In a few areas, unofficial guides and persistent traders can sometimes prove tiresome; in our experience, if you don’t want to buy, or are quite happy finding your own way around, a polite but firm refusal is all that’s required.

What about outstretched hands?

At some point everyone in Morocco, and that goes for the locals as well, comes across an outstretched hand, and we ask you to be tolerant rather than offended if asked for money. A Dirham or two won’t make any difference to your holiday, yet it can make a big difference to the requesting person.

Food

Visit Morocco and we’ll guarantee you’ll be astounded at the quality and variety of food available; from superb French and Italian cuisine, to the delights of traditional Moroccan menus. In fact we’ve noticed that Moroccan recipes have been appearing in an increasing number of world magazines and cookery books, so why not try a few before you travel?

Is Morocco clean?

Standards of sanitation are high, local councils employ armies of street cleaners, and by law the sea-front hotels have to groom their own areas of beach.

How long is the flight?

The flight from the UK is approximately 03 hours and 15 minutes to Casablanca and about another half an hour to Marrakesh, Tangier and Fes, and a further half an hour down to the sparkling new airport outside Agadir. To put things in perspective, Spain and Gibraltar are within sight of Tangier, whilst the Canary Islands lie just off the coast close to Agadir.

Passports and Visas

A full passport which should be valid at least six months after your return is essential. European & American passport holders do not need a visa for entering Morocco. Citizens of other countries should check with the Moroccan Embassy or Consulate for compliance with existing regulations.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Climate

Morocco – spring and autumn: 55–75°F; summer: 65–95°F; winter: 45–65°F. Bring comfortable walking shoes, a sweater, clothes you can layer and an all-weather jacket. Some religious sites may require modest dress to enter (no shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless tops). In summer, bring a hat and sunscreen.

Health

No special inoculations are required for visiting Morocco. Consult your doctor in case he recommends topping up the shots you may have for previous trips, especially if you’ll be travelling in the south. A travel health insurance policy is a wise investment before you leave home. On the spot, avoid too much sun; start with morning and late afternoon outings, and splash on the sunscreen lotion. It’s prudent to drink mineral water and avoid dubious food stalls. If the worst happens, any pharmacy will dole out pills to hurry you back to health. In case you need a doctor, the pharmacy, your hotel or your consulate can recommend one. Water is generally fit to drink but to be on the safe side, especially in the south, stick to bottled mineral water or national standby, mint tea.

Eco & Sustainable Tourism

We support global efforts to create a more eco-friendly world, intolerant of any forms of cruelty, abuse and intentional environmental destruction. To that end we ask that our clients maintain a watchful eye as they travel, and report any abuses they may encounter. One of the many benefits of tourism is the shared cultural knowledge and ultimate elimination of negative behavior through education. We rely on your good feedback to enable this element of symbiosis. As you travel to and learn about foreign cultures, we ask first and foremost that you practice tolerance and respect for local customs.

Formalities

For most tourists no visa is required to enter Morocco; all you need is a valid passport. However, we recommend that you check with the nearest Moroccan embassy or consulate for updated regulations as these may change. You have to fill in a form for the immigration department on arrival. You’ll probably be waved through the Customs inspection. The only complication is money: it’s forbidden to import or export the national currency, the dirham. But you can bring in as much foreign currency before leaving the country. Shops in the departure area of the airport do not accept dirham even if you are smuggling them.

Airports

Most flights, domestic and international, converge on Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport. The impressive modern terminal contains a tourist office, car hire desks, currency exchange counters, shops, a post office, bars and restaurants, and a prayer hall. There are free luggage trolleys. The second busiest airport, Agadir, has non-stop flights to and from several European capitals. Marrakech, Tangier and Ouarzazate are among other cities handling some international traffic. Royal Air Maroc domestic flights link towns all the way down to Laayoune and Ad’Dakhla in the extreme south.

Driving

The roads are generally good with expressway between the major cities. But the local standard of driving —and walking, too—means you can never relax your vigilance. The regulations resemble those of France; direction signs are normally written in French as well as Arabic. Other than the unpredictable human element, such as country folk and live-stock meandering down the middle of a highway, the dangers include the weather. Tracks (pistes) in mountain and desert regions can be folded by melting snow or sudden rainstorms, and accumulations of snow can snarl the mountain roads between November and springtime. Night driving in general can be very dangerous, with unlit bicycles, animals, potholes and other surprises potentially around every bend. Pleasant tree-shaded rest areas with picnic tables are frequently found along the highways; they are sign-posted (Air de repos) well in advance. In and around the towns there are plenty of petrol stations to choose from but be sure to fill up before undertaking any wilderness jaunts. (Stations supplying lead-free petrol are rare but well sign-posted). Speed limits are normally 40 km per hour in towns and 100 kms per hour on the highway.

Communications

Coin-operated and card-operated telephones are found in railway and bus stations, cafés and other public places. Direct-dial service covers the entire country. If you have enough coins, you can make an overseas call from a street-corner phone. In the post office (PTT) there is normally a separate wing handling telecommunications. Calling from your hotel room usually involves a surcharge, which can be substantial. Mail works relatively efficiently. The PTT sells stamps, as do places that deal in postcards. For fastest processing of your homeward bound postcards, use the post box in the PTT.

Social graces

Moroccans are friendly and open with visitors. Much hand-shaking goes on, but that’s about as much formality as you’re liable to meet. You shouldn’t be too polite; for instance, a waiter might be offended to be called “sir” or thanked too effusively. If you can learn few elementary phrases in Arabic you’ll be rewarded with surprised smiles and kindnesses.

Shopping

Shopping in a foreign country can be a wonderful experience. As you explore the country, you may find fantastic, one-of-a-kind merchandise. You may get terrific bargains. However, we advise you to exercise care and common sense when making any purchase. Always get a formal receipt. And remember that, just like in this country, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Crime

Carrying whopping bankrolls or flash jewellery only tempts fate. Keep valuables in your hotel safe. Leave nothing of value in a car, visible or hidden, locked or unlocked. In crowded markets and terminals beware of pick-pockets.

Local Emergency Phone Numbers Morocco

  • Ambulance/Fire: 15
  • Police: 19

Languages

Amazigh and Arabic are two official languages. French is spoken with a remarkable ease all over the country. Spanish is spoken in northern regions and English is somehow limited though widely spoken in all touristic spots in the country. 

Code of Conduct

Morocco is an Islamic country. Shaking hands is a standard form of greeting. Normal courtesies should be observed. Casual dress is acceptable, but women should take care to dress modestly. Beachwear should be confined to the beach and poolside. While freedom to practice one’s religion is guaranteed and non-Muslims are not harassed, proselytizing is prohibited and even a discussion of religion in public may violate this restriction.

Holidays and festivals

Because two calendars are used in Morocco —the standard Gregorian model of 365 days as well as the Muslim year, which is 11 days shorter—things tend to be complicated. New Year’s Day, a national holiday always falls on January 1, but religious holidays follow a different rhythm. Consequently there is no such ting as a religious holiday that always occurs at a certain season. (The holy month of Ramadan starts in the end of September in 2006). Here is the line-up of non-religious public holidays.

  • January 1                     :               New Year
  • May 1                            :               Labour Day
  • May 23                          :               National Day
  • August 14                     :               Allegiance Day
  • July 30                          :               Coronation of King Mohamed 6
  • November 6                  :               Anniversary of the Green March
  • November 18                :               Independance Day

Currency and Credit Cards

The unit of currency is the Moroccan dirham (DH), divided into 100 centimes. In practice, tourists rarely see anything smaller than a half-dirham coin. Coins go up to 5 DH. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 DH. Well-known credit cards such as visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted in hotels, restaurants and most shops. It’s best to change traveller’s cheques at the bank. Eurocheque are also useful at banks and in some shops and hotels. Always have your passport with you as identification when changing money.

Time

All year round all of Morocco is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) —this means that in summer it is usually two hours behind South Africa and the rest of Europe.

Tipping

People often let you know, subtly or otherwise, when a tip is appropriate. Don’t forget waiters in cafés and restaurants, porters in hotels and terminals, toilet attendants, taxi drivers, helpful museum curators, and (not at all optional) those human parking meters (gardiens de voitures).

Suggested Tipping: (Tipping is personal preferences; the following is just a guide line for your convenience)

  • Escort guide: $6 or $7 per person per day
  • Driver (Provides chauffeur services and limited assistance with luggage): $3 per person per day
  • Local Guide (Offers in-depth information at specific locations. There may be one or many guides along a tour program): $2 per person per half day of sightseeing
  • Private car tours: $12 to $16 per person per day for each day of sightseeing
  • Porter: $1.00 per bag per person
  • Waiter staff: $1.50 per person (lunch or dinner)
  • Chamber maid: $1.00 per person per day

Broadcasting

In addition to Moroccan television, in Arabic and French, many hotels provide satellite service, relaying programmes from French, Italian, German and English language networks.

Voltage

Most of the country’s supply is rated 220 volts, but some places still have a 110 volt supply; sockets are of the continental variety, with two round pins. You may need a travel adapter.