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Is It Safe to Travel to Morocco?

Being prepared before you travel to any country is important, but Morocco is one of those places where travel insurance is an absolute must. This is due to much of the country being made up of desert and mountainous terrain, so finding medical facilities can be difficult when there’s an emergency. For some holidaymakers, there is also concern over general travel safety and terrorist attacks. But for the most part, this magical country is safe to visit as long as you take precautions and follow the necessary travel guidelines.

Moroccans are a peace-loving nation, and most of the people you will come across are friendly and welcoming of tourists. In fact, tourism is a main industry and many Moroccans rely on tourists from around the world to keep their businesses running. With over 12 million visitors in a year, and such close proximity to Europe, this is a path well-travelled – but with the sense of being totally off the beaten track!

The tourism sector is strong and stable, making it easy for you to get around, book tours, and see all the amazing sights. Whether you dream of experiencing the hustle and bustle of Marrakech markets at night, the spellbinding views and tribal villages high in the Atlas, or camping under the stars in the Sahara, a holiday to Morocco is truly unforgettable. It’s a great destination for families or couples in search of some romance, as well as groups wanting a variety of city, beach and culture.

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Health Concerns in Morocco

There are public hospitals in Morocco, located in towns and cities. But it’s important to remember the level of healthcare may not be what you get back home in the UK. There’s a growing number of private facilities too, but you will need to check what your insurance covers. Speaking to your family doctor or health consultant is recommended for anyone who has pre-existing medical conditions. If you think there is a good chance that you will require medical treatment during your time away, it’s important to do some research on nearby hospitals and medical centres.

At the very least, you should make sure your travel insurance policy includes 24 hour medical assistance.

When it comes to vaccinations, the NHS advises all travellers have Hepatitis A and Tetanus boosters. Other vaccinations to consider include Hepatitis B, Rabies, and Typhoid. The spread of Hepatitis A is increased through poor sanitation, so packing anti-bacterial hand gel and ensuring you wash your hands before food are highly recommended.

Hepatitis B is advised for frequent travel to Morocco, for long stays, for those who require medical treatment during travel, or for young children.

Food and Water

Moroccan cuisine is delicious and tasty. And being mild in spice yet bold in flavour, it’s liked by most who try it – even picky children! Getting an upset stomach is generally rare in Morocco, but it’s important to take the same food hygiene precautions as you would in any other foreign country, particularly with street food.

While the famous street food markets such as Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh, Skala du Port in Essaouira and other large markets are very safe places to eat, travellers must remember that cooking conditions may differ from back home. If you’re concerned about food hygiene, or are prone digestive issues when abroad, be selective about the type of street food you indulge in. Only eat fruit or vegetables that have been peeled, washed or cooked. And try to stick to the food stalls that are popular with the locals.

Many guidebooks will tell you to avoid drinking tap water, but filtered water (available in most hotels) is considered safe to drink. Bottled water is preferred by many travellers, but the Moroccan government are working hard to reduce plastic waste so bringing a filtering device or water sterilising pen is advisable.

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Crime

Street crime isn’t a major threat for travellers in Morocco. Just like anywhere in the world, pickpocketing and bag-snatching can happen in crowded areas. But this can be prevented with secure bags and by keeping valuables out of sight. Busy tourist cities such as Marrakech or Fez may have more petty crimes, but the main danger for holidaymakers is scam artists.

Hustlers and con artists can be found on busy streets trying to sell you counterfeit goods, or trying to trick you into paying for a service. The easiest way to prevent being caught out by a con is to refuse street sellers politely. The Brigade Touristique are the tourist police, and they help to manage the industry by catching fake guides and scam artists. But some of these fraudsters slip through the net, so holidaymakers should be extra vigilant when approached by strangers.

Things to look out for when approached on the street:

  • People pretending to be students – some scammers may start talking to you and tell you that they just want to practice their English, but will try to lead you into a shop and pressure you to buy something.
  • Vendors offering “free gifts” – do not accept any gifts as this is often a scam where recipients are later accused of stealing and forced to pay extortionate prices.
  • Guides claiming everywhere is closed – this is a trick to get you to follow them to a certain shop / attraction / restaurant where they will receive commission.

If you are approached, the best thing to do is avoid eye contact and walk swiftly on. If they continue to follow you, refuse politely but firmly. Some of them can be persistent, but they will leave you only eventually.

Terrorism Risks

According to Gov.uk foreign travel advice, terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in Morocco, and travellers should be vigilant at all times. Despite this, many holidaymakers still consider Morocco to be one of the safest destinations in Northern Africa.

Incidents in the past have included the 2003 Casablanca bombings, the 2011 explosion at the Argana Restaurant in Marrakech, and the killing of two foreign nationals whilst hiking near Mount Toubkal in 2018. Although there have been terrorism cases linked to extremist groups such as ISIS, and the threat against British Nationals continues to be heightened globally, Moroccan security forces are in place to protect visitors to their country. Armed security officers can be found in busy tourist areas, and many hotels, malls or public buildings may employ their own security personnel.

Some travel experts may advise that it’s best to travel with private tour operators and smaller groups than to join large tour parties in order to avoid being a target. But for travellers looking to explore the remote parts of the country, safety in numbers may be better. This is due to potential kidnapping threats, with terrorist groups being linked to past kidnapping of civilians, tourists and government officials for financial gain or leverage.

The people most at risk of kidnapping are those who are travelling alone in remote areas, humanitarian aid workers and journalists. It’s a common misconception that volunteers and aid workers are safe from these kind of threats, but your reason for being over there will have little influence on your safety. So it’s important for both tourists and workers to remain guarded and aware of their surroundings at all times.

Morocco for Families

Despite some of the concerns, most areas in Morocco are very safe for families. There are many fun activities to choose from that are suitable for all ages, including young children. Any many resorts are designed to be family-friendly, with all the facilities you could need. If your child has a pre-existing medical condition or a disability, it may be hard to navigate around the cities, but most parents will find that travelling with the kids in tow is easy. It’s even possible to travel here with a toddler, as long as you’re organised and research amenities.

Moroccan culture is very family-orientated and they love children, so they will always be made to feel welcome. Although parks and green spaces are lacking, kids will be able to enjoy exploring the colourful souks, the lovely beaches, and will have access to pools and play areas within resort grounds.

If you’re looking for a safe, secure hotel, choose somewhere with on-site security and private beach areas that are closed off from the public. It’s also important to keep an eye on your children at all times when walking about in busy areas, ensuring that you hold their hands in crowds and stay in well-lit areas when it gets darker.

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Morocco for Women

Travelling alone as a female can be a liberating, exciting and fulfilling experience. But women should take extra care when they are in Morocco, and should avoid walking alone at night. Due to the extreme contrast in cultures, it can be a shock to the system for British women to experience the male and female dynamics in an Arabic and Muslim society.

It’s not unusual for men to be particularly forward and try to talk to you, or even propose marriage. Even females travelling in groups can be vulnerable to unwanted attention or harassment. Moroccan men may shout things that seem strange or inappropriate, but if you ignore them, walk away and politely decline any propositions, they will generally leave you alone. Even the more persistent men will give up eventually, and don’t mean you any harm.

Women should also be wary of starting relationships with men in Morocco (or going over there to meet someone after talking over the internet). There have been multiple incidents of marriage fraud and attempted extortion of foreign nationals.

As well as being cautious of local men, it’s important to remain alert when travelling anywhere alone. There is a threat of kidnapping by many groups operating in North Africa, particularly groups from Libya, Mauritania, and the Sahel region. Remote areas and the desert pose an increased risk, so staying in a group when out of busy tourist zones is advised.

Tips for Staying Safe in Morocco

Morocco is considered to be the safest destination in North Africa, and offers excellent amenities and support for tourists. But for many British travellers, there may be a culture shock when you first arrive. Here are some tips to help you make your stay as safe, comfortable and risk-free as possible.

Buy the right insurance

Having the right travel insurance before you travel is key. Ensuring that 24 hour medical assistance is covered will give you greater peace of mind, and including sports or activities means that you can enjoy a range of pursuits when you arrive. Try to find a country-specific insurance policy, and make sure you look into a higher level of cover if you decide to go skiing, sky-diving or anything extreme.

Dress conservatively

Although there are many tourist resorts and areas in Morocco, it’s important to remember that it is a Muslim country. This means that the way you dress needs to be respectful, otherwise you could run the risk of offending people or drawing unwanted attention. Women should keep their midriff covered, and try to cover knees and arms if possible too. Both men and women should keep swimwear to the pool and beach areas only. Women should also avoid topless sunbathing, as this isn’t culturally acceptable in Morocco, not even within the confines of a resort.

Dine with care during Ramadan

If you are travelling during Ramadan, be careful when you eat and whom you eat around. Although non-Muslims can eat and drink during this period, it can be rude to eat and drink in front of those who are fasting. Stick to tourist restaurants to avoid offending locals, or be discreet when in a public space.

Don’t drink on the street

Whilst it’s fully acceptable to drink in public areas in the UK, alcohol can only be served in restaurants, hotels and bars with a license. If you are caught drinking on the street, you could be arrested.

Choose transport wisely

Traffic accidents happen 9 times more often in Morocco than in the UK, according to the Gov.uk website. Beware of taxi drivers breaking road laws, and avoid hiring a car by choosing public transport instead. Train travel is popular and can be a safe alternative to travelling on the roads. However, most tour companies and tour buses will be driven by full-trained, professional drivers and should be safe and compliant.