Morocco Travel Guide: Morocco Travel Safety Tips
One of the first things you need to do is to stay in a reputable hotel when you are in Morocco. Hotels are quite affordable so try to go with an international chain hotel or one recommended by your travel agent. This way, you can be assured of international safety and hygiene standards. You will also have more reliable access to amenities such as Internet use and reliable mail service. Those staying in rural areas may have more difficulty finding a reputable place to stay, so check travel advisories and other traveler suggestions first.
Street crime is a problem in Morocco, so travelers should be vigilant with their belongings. Purse-snatchers, pickpockets and panhandlers are common in the streets of major tourist areas. In some instances, the perpetrators will use knives and other weapons. It’s best to travel in pairs or in groups when going to the different areas, especially when using the taxis and other public transportation.
Have copies of your travel documents on hand so that these can easily be replaced in case of an emergency. It’s a good idea to leave your passport in the hotel safe and simply carry a colored photocopy with you instead. When going through the various flea markets and other crowded places, keep an eye on your belongings. Do not allow strangers to hold your things and shopping bags, so asking a stranger to take your picture may not be a good idea.
When taking pictures, it is best to ask a Moroccan official before snapping away. Some areas may be deemed sensitive, such as palaces, military installations, government buildings and other facilities. When in a temple, do not take pictures while there is an ongoing service. The interior of the temple may not always be open to tourists.
Also, the people themselves do not appreciate having their picture taken, so don’t take pictures of the Moroccans unless you have their express permission to do so. In many instances, you may end up in a verbal skirmish with someone who may take offense or get downright angry due to your actions.
When using an ATM, check your surroundings. Avoid carrying too much cash with you since theft is known to occur any time of the day. Leave some cash in the hotel’s safe and carry just enough with you for the day. It may be better to use international credit cards to pay for your rooms and meals. Save the cash when shopping at the markets so you can negotiate for a better price.
When out shopping, do not buy pirated or counterfeit goods and products. These are illegal and you may face stiff sanctions when reentering your home country. Also, be sure to inspect your goods thoroughly before you hand in your payment or leave the store. Return policies are strict or non-existent, especially in the street markets.
Women traveling alone to Morocco may face many challenges, so it’s better to travel to Morocco with a companion or group. Assault, whether verbal, physical or sexual, is a distinct possibility, especially at night. Avoid making eye contact with men who may be harassing you since it can escalate to violence.
Morocco is a generally peaceful country although there are instances when some groups indulge in unsettling activities that can threaten the security of citizens, including travelers. So do always be on the alert when you are in a foreign country and keep abreast of local and foreign news. It will also help to check advisories from the local authorities and your embassy/consulate. Check with your hotel concierge so you will know if there are areas that you should avoid.
While Moroccans generally welcome Americans and other Western tourists it pays to be wary at times. Always plan your day’s itinerary well and let the staff of the hotel where you are staying know your plans for the day. This will help in locating you if anything untoward happens. Always carry your hotel’s contact information so you can readily get in touch with them. Carrying a list of local emergency numbers is also a good idea. Know the political climate of the country you are going to visit, not just in Morocco but anywhere you plan to go. Avoid getting caught in unpleasant incidents by avoiding mass gatherings that you feel will escalate into something dangerous. It will be best to avoid this and head off to safer tourist spots. It is advisable to tour Morocco with a group and a guide so you will be safer.
Another place that travelers should stay away from is sport facilities such as soccer stadiums when there is a game. The crowds can get unruly and riots can occur, regardless if the team wins or loses.
It’s quite easy to get around Morocco. Taxis are a good option for travelers. There are also buses in the city, but these aren’t considered as safe or secure compared to taxis. Trains are also quite safe, although tourists should be aware that crime could happen.
Although the Western Sahara region may beckon to those who want to explore the more exotic side of Morocco, the region is known to be an area of armed conflict. This is why travelers are not advised to travel to the Western Sahara region. There are continuing territory disputes in the Sahara between the government and the POLISARIO Front. Although there is a United Nations-administered ceasefire in effect since 1991, the region remains hazardous because of the unexploded land mines. These unexploded land mines can cause death and severe injury.
The tap water in Morocco is not potable so travelers are advised to simply purchase bottled water when eating out. It’s a good idea to purchase a few bottles at a store and take it with you when you go out on a day tour since it can get quite hot. Drink a lot of water during the day to avoid dehydration.
When eating out, travelers may want to take a few precautions. Some of the food can get quite spicy. To avoid an upset stomach, travelers may want to take along some anti-acids as a precaution. Also, be careful about eating food bought from the streets since these may upset the stomachs especially those with a sensitive constitution. It’s best to dine in well-established places where food safety standards and practices are more likely to be followed.
The good news is, unlike other African countries, Morocco is considered malaria free. However, it’s still a good idea to get the proper immunizations to protect against a number of diseases. Update your vaccinations four to eight weeks prior to your trip to Morocco. Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, tetanus and MMR vaccines are highly recommended. Polio vaccine should also be updated.
It’s also a good idea to have a general checkup before leaving your home country to ensure that you are in the best possible health to travel. Bring ample amounts of any prescription drug medication since it may not be readily available in Morocco. Take along the accompanying doctor’s prescriptions. Have these packed in your carryon rather than in your check-in luggage to avoid any problems in case of lost or delayed luggage. Specialized prescription medicine may not be readily available, especially if you will go to the rural areas.
There are many adequate medical facilities that travelers can avail of in case of emergency, especially in the larger cities such as Casablanca and Rabat. In many areas however, don’t expect English speaking medical personnel. Emergency care may not be up to the same standards as in other developed nations. For example, ambulances may not be readily available in case of a vehicular accident wherein you may have been injured. Be sure to be in the best of health when traveling. If you plan to go to remote areas, especially the mountains, pack your own medical kit and appropriate medication. It would be a good idea to pack a first aid kit, including your prescription medications, painkillers, sunscreen, dehydration salts and anti-diarrheal medication and antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea.
Purchase travel and medical insurance before you leave your country. However, expect that these policies work on a reimbursement basis so you may need to put some cash out to pay the doctor, hospital and other medical care you may receive. Make sure that the insurance you purchase will include emergency medical evacuation.
When buying food from street vendors, be sure to buy only fresh fruits with their peels on. And if are in need of a meal, see to it that the food has been freshly prepared and if possible avoid seafood unless you are very sure that these are fresh. It is your insurance against stomach trouble as the heat in Morocco causes food to spoil easily.
Travelers are best advised to stick with tour groups rather than renting a vehicle and exploring on your own. The roads can be quite hazardous, especially since safe driving practices aren’t always common in the country. Congested streets and heavy traffic is to be expected in the urban areas. At the same time, the roads aren’t always lit or marked properly. In the rural areas, the roads aren’t always paved and are oftentimes narrow and difficult to maneuver in.
The roads are especially busy and quite unsafe during Ramadan. During this time, traffic law enforcement is lax. The months of July, August and September also experience heavy traffic since many citizens based abroad drive in to visit the country.
The road conditions can change, especially due to inclement weather, resulting in flash flooding in some areas. Aside from this, it is quite difficult to drive around because aside from other vehicles and pedestrians, you may need to contend with donkeys and other animals that don’t want to get out of the way.
For travelers who wish to drive in Morocco, a foreign driver’s license can be used for up to a year. Those who will stay longer will need to obtain a Moroccan driver’s license.
By keeping these Morocco travel safety tips in mind, you can have an enjoyable and safe time in one of the most interesting places in Northern Africa. You can still expect to have an amazing vacation in Morocco if you exercise a high degree of caution.
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