It is the country that opened the doors of Africa to us, located right at the northern tip, and which has so much to discover. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll reveal everything you need to know if you want to travel to morocco or you are already planning a trip to this destination. There is always time to take into account our tips, namely on the care to be taken.
Morocco has a population of 33 million people, in a territory that extends over more than 710 thousand square kilometers. Its coast embraces the Atlantic Ocean, passes through the Straits of Gibraltar and extends to the Mediterranean Sea. On the other side of the strait, Morocco borders Spain to the North, with Algeria it borders to the East and with Mauritania to the South.
The country has an elected parliament and is a constitutional monarchy, in which the king holds a number of executive powers, including the power to dissolve parliament.
How to travel to Morocco
Portuguese citizens are exempt from visas for tourist stays of up to 90 days. However, it is necessary to have a valid passport, whose presentation is mandatory, even if you are traveling in organized groups.
From Portugal, you will find daily flights Lisbon-Casablanca and flights Lisbon-Tanger, Lisbon-Marrakech, Porto-Casablanca and Porto-Marrakech, carried out by several airlines, such as Royal Air Maroc (official carrier of Morocco), TAP, Air France, Iberia and Ryanair.
Mohammed V International Airport is the main international airport and is located in Nouasseur, about 25 kilometers from Casablanca. In addition, there are also around 60 regional airports across the country.
You can also reach Morocco by sea, as there are several cruise lines that offer itineraries with a stop, mainly, in Casablanca, as is the case with Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Accommodation in Morocco
Morocco offers different types of accommodation. In the case of larger cities, such as Casablanca and Tangier, you will find several hotels from international chains, including the Ramada, the Sheraton and the Hyatt Regency, among other quality options, albeit with lesser-known names.
However, many travelers feel that the experience of a trip to Morocco is not complete without staying in one of the many riads. These are traditional Moroccan houses that have been converted into small hotels and private homes for tourists.
This type of accommodation is generally located all over the country and is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the local architecture.
Gastronomy in Morocco
The gastronomy of Morocco is one of the most diverse in the world, as it results from influences from different parts of the world, such as Corsica, Portugal, Spain, the Middle East, African countries and countries of the Mediterranean Sea.
The spices stand out right away, used extensively and imported by Morocco over thousands of years of history. Cinnamon, cumin, ginger, sesame, saffron and black pepper are some examples of the most characteristic Moroccan flavors.
Chicken is the most consumed meat and lamb, despite being more expensive, is the most popular type of meat.
When traveling to Morocco, you should try one of the most typical dishes of the region and which is increasingly consumed in Portugal: couscous. They are balls of wheat semolina, steamed, which can be accompanied by different side dishes, namely vegetables, meat or fish, according to taste or even the ingredients available in the fridge.
Another unmissable delight are the tajines, a typical Moroccan dish, steamed and stewed in an earthenware vessel called a tajine. As it is prepared over medium heat, each meal is very refined, always giving it different flavours. A bit like cod in Portugal, tajines can be prepared in a thousand and one different ways.
Must-see attractions in Morocco
Morocco is a country of great natural beauty and unforgettable and intriguing places. As such, for those who want to immerse themselves in Moroccan culture and history, there is good news: there are hundreds of mosques, palaces and historical sites to visit, such as the ancient city of Asilah, the Caves of Hercules or the El Bahia Palace.
As well as several museums, which faithfully portray Morocco’s past, in order to better understand the present, such as the Museum of Antiquities, the Ethnographic Museum of Tetouan and the Museum of Moroccan Art.
In the latter you can discover unique collections of glass objects, ancient manuscripts, exquisite rugs, jewelry and ceramics. All these are examples of materials that are very typical of the country and which you will not be able to resist when traveling to Morocco.
The country’s natural landscape is something that leaves no one indifferent. The Sahara Desert, the High Atlas, the Chefchaouen Mountains, the Souss Massa National Park or the Intercontinental Mediterranean Biosphere Reserve offer outdoor activities and contact with the more natural side of life, with atmospheric conditions that can be a real challenge .
But for those who prefer quieter places, there are also several options, both on the Atlantic coast and on the Mediterranean coast.
The best time to visit Morocco
Most of northern Morocco, particularly along the coasts, has a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The wettest season runs from October to April, when torrential downpours wreak havoc in the country, causing floods that can be devastating.
As we go down the country, the scenario changes almost to the opposite, with the occurrence of periods of drought even being frequent.
In this way, the best time to visit Morocco is between March and May, when the temperatures are really reminiscent of the Portuguese spring, or between September and November, in that peaceful beginning of autumn.
Advice on local customs in Morocco
As a Muslim country with very own customs and traditions, there are some tips to keep in mind to respect local customs when traveling to Morocco:
- Access to mosques and holy places in Morocco is generally forbidden to non-Muslims. As such, if you want to visit one, make sure you can actually do it beforehand;
- It is not advisable to eat, drink or smoke in public during Ramadan, which in 2019 will run from May 5 to June 4;
- You must not photograph or film people without authorization;
- Homosexual relationships may be subject to criminal prosecution, in accordance with current legislation.
Useful tips about Morocco
The official languages of Morocco are Standard Arabic and Amazigh, with French also being used a little. In everyday life, Darija, Moroccan Arabic, is the most used. In the North of the country, Spanish is also spoken, as well as English, in the most touristic places.
The Moroccan currency is the Dirham, which corresponds to €0.092 and there are:
- 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 dirham notes;
- 1, 2, 5 and 10 dirham coins; 5, 10, 20 and 50 dirham cents.
The dirham is a restricted currency and cannot be withdrawn from the country, it is not traded and, theoretically, is not available abroad, so it can only be exchanged at exchange offices, airports, banks, hotels and ATMs in the country.
Health care and hygiene
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Portal das Comunidades, leaves some recommendations in terms of health care and hygiene for all those traveling to Morocco:
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B;
- Have your typhoid vaccine up to date;
- Avoid eating raw and unwashed foods, as well as loose nuts;
- Always consume bottled water;
- It is not recommended to swim in rivers, dams and on some beaches, due to pollution, lack of surveillance and the strong force of tides and currents in some areas of the coast;
- It is advisable to take out travel insurance that offers coverage in cases of illness, hospitalization and health repatriation.
Morocco is a country that is characterized by its political stability, when compared to other African countries. However, there is a general threat of terrorist attacks related to the links of Moroccan citizens to terrorist groups active in Syria and Iraq.
Furthermore, crossing certain more problematic areas of the Sahara Desert is not recommended, not least because the sovereignty of the territories of Western Sahara, namely from the city of Tarfaya to the south, continues to be disputed.
You must not take pictures of military installations or approach street demonstrations.
Still on the street, be aware that theft is frequent in tourist areas in Morocco, so greater discretion is recommended in carrying and using valuables.
In case of problems, pay attention to the emergency contacts:
- Police (urban area): 19
- Gendarmerie Royale: 177
- Ambulance and Firefighters: 15
With due care, getting to know Morocco is, without a doubt, an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. It is to get in touch with a country very different from Portugal, but where you will find several Portuguese influences, the result of centuries of close coexistence.