Morocco

Best time to go and how to get there

Morocco: When to Go

Spring (March-May) - lush valleys, flowers galore, snowcapped peaks, pleasantly warm and sunny conditions (typically in the 70s inland, cooler on the coast), but also the busiest season, particularly over Easter. In autumn (mid Sep-mid Nov) temperatures are also very agreeable, but the countryside tends to look parched.

Winter (Nov-Mar) is the time to head for the desert regions of the south, but be prepared for cold nights, often subzero. It's also the most promising time for skiing at Oukaimeden, though snow, like anything in Africa, can never be guaranteed.

Summer temperatures inland exceed 100F in July/August; retreat from the intense heat to the coast or the High Atlas which remain windy and cool. The season for Atlas hikes is May to October, but those with winter mountaineering experience and equipment might well find a clear, crisp day to tackle an icy peak in January/February.

For further details of Average Temperatures: click on cities given below...

Marrakech
Essaouira
Fez

Ramadan is not an ideal time to travel - the month of daytime abstinence from food, drink, smoking and sex (see below).

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

1 Jan: New Year's Day
11 Jan: Independence Manifesto
1 May: Labour Day
30 July: Feast of the Throne
14 Aug: Allegiance Day
20 Aug: Anniversary of the King's and People's Revolution
21 Aug: Youth Day
6 Nov: Anniversary of the Green March
18 Nov: Independence Day

All Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, and their dates move forward by about 11 days every (Western) year.

Ramadan (Dates vary)
The key event of the year, when the whole country abstains from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. Try and avoid doing any of these in front of locals, as it may seem provocative. You may consider joining the fast for a bit, to see what they are going through - and boy, does that harira (fast-breaking soup at sunset) taste good! It's not an ideal time to be travelling around, but can provide great evenings of hospitality, feasting, improvised music and dance into the small hours. If you're driving, watch out for sleepy drivers coming the other way! The end of Ramadam is celebrated with the festivites of Eid al-Fitr.

FESTIVALS

Honey Festival in Immouzer des Ida Outanane in April
Essaouira Festival - a week long art and music festival held in mid June. www.festival-gnaoua.co.ma
Rose Festival - held in late May at El-Kelaa M'Gouna in the Dades Valley
National Folklore Festival - 10-day festival of music, theatre and dance held in the grounds of Marrakech's El Badi palace in June/July.
Date Festival in Erfoud in November

From May-September Moussems, or Ammougars, are localised markets and/or fiestas held in honour of saints or marabouts. At some of the larger ones you will find horse-riding, music, singing and dancing as well as eating and drinking.

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Getting There

NB, please do not rely on this information for your travel planning.

MOROCCO: BY AIR

From the UK: carriers include easyJet, Ryanair, Atlas Blue, Thomsonfly, Royal Air Maroc, British Airways and bmi . Flight time is around 3 to 4 hours.

Within Europe: try Royal Air Maroc, Air France, Atlas Blue, Jet4you, Aigle Azur, Ryanair, easyJet, KLM, Iberia, Norwegian,
Royal Air Maroc, Aer Lingus.

From the USA: Royal Air Maroc.

By boat from Southern Spain: take a look at Direct Ferries.

Getting Around

FROM THE AIRPORT: The best way to reach your hotel is by taxi.

INTERNAL FLIGHTS: Try Royal Air Maroc from Marrakech to Errachidia, Zagora etc (1 hour instead of 6-8).

BY CAR: This is a good option for any tour in the Atlas mountains and/or on the coast. When leaving your car in cities or popular tourist spots, you are well advised to pay someone to guard it - preferably a capped ‘official’. Never leave valuables visible. If driving at night (try not to if possible) look out for unlit vehicles; Moroccan law allows them. Don’t be too put off by the older generation of hire cars on offer - most are sturdy and reliable. Tell the hire company where you plan to go. See our car rental recommendations.

BY BUS: There is a frequent and reliable bus network, but journeys are slow and hot. If you are traveling from Marrakech to Essaouira, get the Supratours bus from outside the train station in Gueliz. These are faster (2.5-3 hrs) and air-conditioned, but less frequent, timed to coincide with trains from Casablanca and often pre-booked by passengers from these trains. Alternatively, other bus companies (including CTM) leave from the main bus terminal at Bab Doukkala, which is 20mins walk (or a short ride in a petit taxi) from Djemaa el Fna. It is worth getting a ticket in advance.

BY TRAIN: A decent rail network ONCFM links the major cities in the north / centre (Marrakesh - Casablanca - Rabat - Meknes - Fes - Oujda - Tangiers). Both first and second class are cheap by European standards.

WITHIN CITIES: Walking is the best way to get around the winding lanes of any medina. You can rent your own bicycle if you want to go further afield (e.g. to Gueliz, the modern part of Marrakech); or in Marrakech you can take a caleche (horse-drawn carriage). As for driving within the medina, don’t. Most hire car companies are situated in the new part of town (i.e. in Fes' Ville Nouvelle, in Marrakech's Gueliz) and can drop your car off at a central point in the medina (Place Batha in Fes, Djemaa el Fna square for central Marrakech riads).

Visa / Entry Requirements

No visas are required for visitors from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and most EU countries. Nationals of Israel, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Benelux DO require visas. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the date of your arrival. From point of entry visitors can stay 90 days (you will need an official permit or extension for longer stays).

Other Essentials

See Travel Health Advice for travellers going abroad from the UK.

No inoculations are officially required, although you should always be up-to-date with polio and tetanus. Malaria pills are only necessary for travel in the far south. Beware of altitude sickness if attempting high treks around Mt. Toubkal and heatstroke in the desert.

The usual precautions apply to food and drink - stick to hot, freshly cooked meals, peel fruit and avoid stale-looking meat!
Tap water is generally safe in the larger towns and cities, though in mountain areas there is a small risk of livestock-borne giarda, while in the southern desert areas the threat of bilharzia means you should avoid all contact with slow-moving or stagnant water. It's worth taking carbon-based capsules with you in case you get diarrhoea.

It goes without saying that you should have a valid health insurance; E111 forms are not valid in Morocco. Local doctors speak French and often English.