Is Morocco safe for international tourists? Is it an ideal place to take a vacation or business travel? Well, this comprehensive guide offers all the answers you seek about this African country.
Morocco is one of the most visited countries in Africa and the world at large. In fact, it is referred to as the ‘gateway to Africa’ for a reason. From its unforgettable sights, warm culture, and rich diversity, Morocco boasts of many tourist attractions than you can imagine.
Morocco has a beautiful blend of African, Islamic, and French influences, something that has played a major role in shaping the country. However, despite all these positive things, there have always been concerns about how safe Morocco is for tourists, and especially those coming from America and other western countries.
For example, in August 2020, the US Department of State issued a Morocco travel advisory to American tourists. This was in the view that Morocco was not safe, in terms of Covid 19 and the threat of terror. However, such blanket warnings apply to many countries and do not reflect any particular concerns the US government may have about Morocco.
But the question remains; is it safe to travel to Morocco?
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Is Morocco Safe?
The answer is simple; Morocco is safe for both the locals and the tourists. But, I know you’ll still want to ask this; is Morocco safe for Americans? And again, the answer still remains a resounding YES.
The country is one of the safest countries in the world for tourists. In the year 2019 alone, the country had over 13 million visitors making it one of the most visited countries globally. These high tourism numbers are proof of Morocco’s safety for travelers.
Since tourism is one of the major pillars of Morocco’s economy, the government continues to make a lot of investments to boost tourism. This includes investing in areas like infrastructure and security.
However, that is not to say that there are no incidences involving tourists. But they are minor and very rare. To be on the safe side, you need to have an idea of what to expect and how to carry yourself while there.
Here are 10 things to know about Morocco to help you stay safe and enjoy your visit.
1. Most Mosques are Not Open to Non-Muslims
Over 90 percent of Moroccans are Muslim. This means that you should expect to find mosques in almost every corner of Morocco. However, most of them are off-limits to anyone who is not Muslim.
This is unlike other Muslim countries in the world which allows non-Muslims to visit at least some parts of a mosque. Therefore, even if Morocco is safe for non-Muslims, avoid getting into a mosque to avoid inviting trouble.
Luckily, there is one exception for those who would like to visit one; the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. As one of the biggest mosques in the world, it is considered a tourist attraction. It has a capacity of over 105,000 people.
Non-Muslims are allowed to walk around the courtyard and for a small fee, you can tour the inside.
2. Many Moroccans Are Camera Shy
While it is common in many countries for natives to want to take photos with tourists, this doesn’t apply to Morocco. Most Moroccans are not very comfortable with people photographing them. Some of them are even offended by it.
This could be due to a variety of reasons, among them religion. Islam forbids the creation of images as it is considered a form of idolatry. This seems to be taken more seriously in Morocco compared to other Muslim countries, which are a bit relaxed about it.
Some may not express their reservations but will ask you for money in return for taking pictures with them. Tourists, especially, are the most likely victims of such extortion tactics. So before you get out your camera to take a picture of any Moroccan, inquire first if they are okay with it.
However, you are allowed to photograph other things like their architecture and other physical attractions.
3. Drones Are Prohibited
Drone photography is prohibited in Morocco. The country banned the private use of drones in 2015 for security reasons. Therefore, as a tourist, you are not allowed to enter the country with a drone. In case you’re carrying one, you need to declare it immediately after you land at the airport.
Failure to do this will lead to your drone being confiscated. You will also be fined a significant amount of money. But if you declare it, you will be required to leave it with customs and pick it on your way out of the country.
Also, the drone is only allowed to stay at the airport for a maximum of 45 days. If you take longer than that to pick it, you may never get it back. So, if you are keen on Morocco travel, it is advisable to leave your drone at home.
4. Public Transport Is Safe and Reliable
Public transport can be very frustrating for tourists in many countries for a couple of reasons. The most common ones are overcrowding, steep costs, insecurity, and unreliability. Fortunately, Public transport in Morocco is pretty safe for tourists.
The trains, for example, offer world-class service. They are comfortable, are always on time, and are very affordable. Trains are the best way of traveling long distances in Morocco.
In case you want to travel shorter distances, there is the option of buses, minibuses, and taxis. However, taxis are the most preferred by tourists.
There two types of taxis in Morocco; small ones and bigger ones referred to as grand taxis. You can use them to get anywhere around the cities. However, the prices are not fixed and you need to agree on the price with your driver, before you get in.
5. Very Few Moroccans Can Speak English
Even though it is a popular tourist destination, very few locals speak English. The most widely spoken languages are Arabic and Berber. A majority of Moroccans are also well-versed in French. This means that if you don’t understand any of those languages, communication may be a challenge for you.
Many Moroccans assume that visitors can understand French and use the language to address tourists. You can deal with this challenge by engaging a local tour guide who can act as a translator. And if possible, you can learn some basic French or Arabic to allow you to communicate.
But if all that is not an option, you can still use basic English to get by. If need be, you can even use your phone or pocket dictionary to translate. Also, non-verbal cues can still work for the most part.
6. There are Silent Limitations on Alcohol Consumption
Being a Muslim country, many Moroccans do not consume alcohol because it is forbidden in Islam. As a result, many hotels and eateries do not sell alcohol. A few locals still indulge in alcohol and tourists are also allowed to, as well. booze
However, this is mostly done in private. Consuming alcohol in public is frowned upon and it rarely happens. Most of the establishments that sell alcohol are mostly found in cities.
If you’re wondering whether Morocco is safe for booze lovers, then the answer is yes. You can still enjoy your favorite drink. But it is advisable to do it inside a hotel or from the privacy of your room or terrace, to avoid offending others.
And as it’s often advised, do not indulge too much, especially when traveling. This will help avoid putting yourself at risk.
7. Unsolicited Help Is Not Always A Good Thing
This is not a problem specific just to Morocco. However, being a popular travel destination, many locals have learned the art of making money from tourists by offering favors. Some of them are quite pushy and will not even wait for your request.
That is why you should be wary of anyone offering you unsolicited help. Some will try to get money from you in very cunning ways.
For instance, they will offer to carry your luggage or show you around. But they are really after money because they will expect a tip from you. And if you’re not forthcoming, you may find yourself in trouble.
You need to be very firm and ward them off. Also when walking around, try to look confident to avoid inviting unsolicited gestures of help. If you do this, you will find that Morocco is safe and fun to visit.
8. Modest Dress is Encouraged
Muslim countries are very conservative when it comes to dressing. This is no different in Morocco. And, this especially applies to women.
Most of the local women wear loose Muslim clothing that covers most parts of their bodies. They also cover their hair. Although tourists are not expected to stick to this strict mode of dressing, modest dressing is encouraged.
Avoid wearing skimpy tops and shorts or any other revealing clothing. The locals may not take this kindly. No matter how hot it is out there, you must have clothes that aren’t too revealing.
Women especially should ensure that they at least cover their legs and arms. This helps you to avoid courting the wrong kind of attention. Women may also carry a scarf as it may come in handy when you want to blend in.
Although Morocco is safe for anyone, you should avoid being too conspicuous because it makes you vulnerable. Dressing modestly will help you to fit in with the Moroccan locals.
9. Exercise Caution When Walking At Night
Is Morocco safe at night? Well, the country is safe whether during the day or at night because most cities are busy throughout. However, past 11 pm, you need to be very mindful of the places you visit. Always be alert and aware of what is going on around you.
Stick to well-lit areas and busy places where your safety is assured. Fortunately, most cities have very well lit roads and alleys and you will always see people moving about their business.
Avoid walking alone at night. Team up with a fellow traveler if you want to do some night exploration to avoid becoming a victim of petty theft. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized for women.
They are more vulnerable than men travelers. Women should ensure they move in a group especially late at night. Even in public places, a solo female tourist should always ensure she can see other women or families around her.
10. Moroccan Cuisine is Remarkable
Food in Morocco is safe and incredibly good. Being a melting pot of different cultures, their cuisine is very rich. They offer a wide variety of foods to choose from and have very unique ingredient and seasoning combinations.
One of the most popular dishes is the couscous. It is prepared weekly and especially on Fridays. It is made by mixing beef, chicken, or lamb stew with steamed couscous grains.
Other popular dishes include tagine, harira, and mechoui. You can also find a lot of seafood, fruits, and vegetables from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.
The food is safe, so you should be able to sample the different dishes without any problem to your stomach or your health. Even local food stalls and eateries offer good food, which is proof of just how safe Morocco is for visitors.
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- Is it safe to travel to Morocco in 2021? – Yes. Except for the travel advisory issued by the US government about Covid-19 and terror threats, Morocco is a safe country to travel to.
- Is Morocco safe for women? – The answer is yes. As long as you wear decently and avoid lone escaped, especially at night, you are good to go.
- Can you drink a beer in Morocco? – Definitely yes. However, you shouldn’t do it in public.