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THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO ASK ABOUT…

Below you may find the most commonly looked for information regarding various aspects of your journey to Morocco. If however you have any additional questions please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to answer them. You can also find general information on Moroccan culture, geography, etc in our Morocco section. Should it be part of your travel plans in Morocco, we can also advise on bus / train travel and timetables.

Finally, before travel to Morocco, we advise you to check the foreign & cultural office advice of your home country, such as the UK FCO website.

Packing

A pen – you’ll need to fill out a white landing card before you pass through the Immigration control at the airport (cards are provided on your flight in or once at the airport);
Travel insurance details;
Our phone numbers per our Contact Page;
Tissues, wet-wipes, small towel;
Blankets & sheets are provided at desert camp and blankets on trek, but if you do have a preference to use a 2 or 2-3 season sleeping bag please feel free to bring it (December – February in particular);
A small, sealable plastic bag to protect phones and camera from desert dust;
Sun protection (cream, hat, sunglasses, scarf for the neck);
Trekking sandals or trainers for the desert – we advise against walking boots;
Canvas walking shoes or canvas boots for the mountains (for the foothills, even trainers) – we advise against heavy leather walking boots;
A fleece or jacket for the desert evenings – bear in mind with the heat of the sun in the daytime, it will feel cold at night by comparison (December – February particularly so) – however, a campfire is always lit;
Comfortable, loose clothing in the day, especially for the driving days in the car – pack clothing that you can layer easily and don’t mind getting a bit dusty (unless you plan to visit very upmarket restaurants/hotel bars you won’t need to dress formally in the cities);
A personal travel kit of immodium, antihistamine, painkiller, rehydration powders, insect repellant, support bandage, plasters (band-aid), blister plasters, antiseptic wipes, dressing, hand-gel, eye-drops;
Motion sickness tablets (if you might suffer with car sickness on the winding roads across the Atlas mountains, and across the desert terrain);
A small torch/head-torch (there is lighting at the desert camp and candles on trek);
Electric point adapter – plug points are two-pronged as per Europe;
Spare plastic bag to put garbage in (necessary on trek; papers can be burnt or transport your litter out of the desert).

Currency

The Moroccan currency is the Dirham (MAD) and is a closed currency (although it may be possible to purchase it at certain airport forex desks). We recommend that you simply use an ATM on arrival (at the airport or in town), or change USD, GBP or Euro at a bureau de change. There will be ATMs in towns on tour (e.g. Ouarzazate, Agdz, Zagora, Taznakht).

You shouldn’t need to carry large amounts of cash with you (just to cover lunch, drinks, souvenirs, etc). Credit cards may be used in Marrakech riads/hotels, upscale restaurants/bars and large shops. Rural shops, cafes, and guest-houses will only accept cash.

Approx. exchange rates are £1 : 12.5 MAD and €1 : 10.7 MAD.

Bottles of water (1.5l) cost around 6-10dh, small coffee or mint tea around 12-15dh, short taxi ride in Marrakech no more than 15dh, lunch/snack around 80dh each in the main square of Marrakech, lunch on tour no more than 100dh each (with a drink).

Security matters

We advise visitors to the Kingdom of Morocco to read through their own government’s foreign office advice before travelling. Check for updates before your trip. Consider how that advice compares to travel to other countries.

We encourage you to read our blog post on Morocco’s Spirit of Community, please click here. This highlights the cultural aspects of Morocco, gleaned from living in a small community here. In other words, the reasons we consider Morocco a safe tourist destination to visit.

Further points to address any concerns –

  1. We do not operate desert tours in Morocco in the territory of the Western Sahara. This is more than 1000 km away from the region you will visit.
  2. You will see a police presence throughout the country, not only in cities. This has been the case for many years and is a fact of life. Police check-points on main roads serve to not only control speed, but also to monitor vehicles/road users.
  3. The border with Algeria has been closed for 23 years. The military patrol the border at frequent intervals, although this will not be visible to you during your desert trip. You will not see the border.
  4. There is significant overseas investment in high-profile infrastructure projects (such as the NOOR solar power plant at Ouarzazate and the high-speed TGV rail line in the North), and in the tourism industry (e.g. the December 2016 opening of a new airport terminal at Marrakech). International hotel brands are increasing their numbers in Morocco (e.g. Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Sofitel, Fairmont). Airlines are increasing the volume of flights to Morocco (such as Ryanair, easyJet, Austrian, Royal Air Maroc).
  5. Morocco successfully hosted the UN climate change conference (COP 22) in Marrakech in November 2016. Annually, it hosts renowned sporting and cultural events (amongst others, the Marathon des Sables; Marrakech Film Festival; Fes Festival of World Sacred Music).

Please contact us with any question.

Footwear for the desert

Even in Winter, it’s comfortable to trek in the desert in sandals (with socks) as this minimises the risk of blisters. Running shoes/trainers are also fine to bring (especially for the evenings) yet you will find that the sand will get under your insoles. Canvas ankle boots would be fine (perhaps for the early morning/cold weather), but if you’re walking in hot weather you may find trekking sandals/trainers more comfortable. All footwear should be worn-in. Barefoot is an option if you have hard soles (be prepared to cross desert scrub/low bushes, gravel, stones) or you are simply walking on the dunes.

Animal Welfare

If you are interested in animal welfare, you may like to consider a visit out from Marrakech to ‘Jarjeer Mules’ animal sanctuary. Jarjeer is a retreat/care home for retired and rescued working animals (mules and donkeys), and has even provided a home for orphaned foals over the years. Jarjeer is approx. 25 minutes out of town. It is a registered charity. www.marrakechmules.com

The international charity, SPANA,  has produced an online, ethical animal tourism guide, ‘Holiday Hooves’. You can access this guide here – www.spana.org/ethical-animal-tourism . The guide encourages visitors to support owners who treat their animals with kindness and respect. SPANA also encourages anyone to report the mistreatment of animals to the local tourism board.

SPANA estimates that there are 2 million working animals (donkeys, mules, horses) in Morocco.

Working in the far North of Morocco, the NGO ‘Barbary Macaque Awareness & Conservation’ (BMAC) aims to conserve the endangered barbary macaque and its habitat, and to raise awareness of the species. www.barbarymacaque.org/about-us/  One of the BMAC campaigns targets the photo prop trade and urges visitors to avoid having photos taken with macaques, and to report the photo practice/pet trade to the local tourism board. Never offer to pay to rescue an animal from its keeper.

Further information on the photo prop trade and illegal pet trade in Morocco is featured on the BMAC website here, where you can download free infographic sheets – www.barbarymacaque.org/publications/

Wifi and staying connected

You can expect to find wifi at the guest houses we use on the tours.

There is no wifi service in the Sahara desert. If you have an urgent need to stay connected you should buy a SIM card from network operator Orange. You should be able to find an Orange outlet in the Marrakech medina on Boulevard Mohamed V, or near the Place Ferblantiers. Alternatively at the Almazar shopping centre which is out of town.

Sometimes, free SIM cards are handed out at the Marrakech airport. These won’t work in the desert (only the Orange network works through the Iriqui National Park/Erg Chigaga region).

Weather forecast

We find the ‘meteoblue’ forecasts fairly accurate. Search for Mhamid for the Sahara desert:

www.meteoblue.com

Alternative forecast on ‘weather underground’:

www.wunderground.com

Vaccinations

There are currently no official requirements for travellers to have specific inoculations before arrival but we recommend that you be up-to-date with jabs for hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus, and polio. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary.

Food

We do ask you to specify any special dietary requirements to us.

On trek and at camp in the desert, you will eat very well indeed – the emphasis is on fresh vegetables & fruit, tagines (meat / vegetable), soup, salads, bread, and lots of mint tea.

For trekking, you may consider bringing your own snacks / energy bars if you like to snack on-the-go. You certainly won’t go hungry though.

At your guest-houses, expect the same sort of meals – usually on half-board basis at guest-houses there is no ‘a la carte’ choice for your evening meal but you can expect to eat three-courses, all home-cooked of course.

Lunch en-route is inexpensive (approx. 100dh pp) for kebab skewers, salad, drink or tagine, drink.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely discretionary and is a very welcome and accepted way for guides, drivers, cooks etc to support their low incomes. Fair amounts are – 100-150dh per day for the driver, 50-100dh per day per guide on trek (factor in an additional % of this tip for the camel-handler on trek), 50dh per night per person at Berber desert camp.
In cafes, it’s usual to round the bill up or to leave a few coins for your waiter. In restaurants, 10% of the bill is about right.

Your driver

He is experienced and knows the roads (and desert terrain) exceptionally well. He is your travel companion and route guide. Please feel free to ask him to stop whenever you need to and don’t be afraid to ask him questions – after all, you’ll be spending a few hours in the car together and this is a great opportunity to exchange cultural insights (from both sides). He does know the best places for comfort breaks, snacks, views and photos.

Time-keeping

We provide you with collection and / or departure times each morning. Timings are approximate and are for guidance, after all this is your holiday so nothing is pre-determined – it really doesn’t matter if you’d rather spend an extra 20mins over breakfast!

Time-keeping here is more ‘fluid’ than you may be used to back home. But what are very important to adhere to – flight schedules and sunset in the desert!

Self-driving in Morocco

Please refer to our tips here on self-driving in Morocco.

Hammam

We recommend you experience a hammam when in Morocco – in fact it’s one of Our Top 5 Things To Do In Morocco. The hammam is a deep-cleansing and bathing ritual in a heated room. Most visitors to Morocco will be able to try this in a private spa (we can recommend spas for you, if your riad doesn’t have one). You will need to bring a change of underwear or swimwear with you.

However, you can visit a public baths as the local residents would do once per week (segregated men/women of course). The local hammam is often adjoining the local mosque. (NB: the embers used to heat the water for the hammam often bake the neighbourhood bread loaves and/or tanjia – meat dish cooked in earthenware pot).

Marrakech restaurants

We can advise on some of our favourite places to eat out (within / outside the medina) – but please consider our comments on dining in the desert!

Alcohol

It’s easily purchased in Marrakech shops, and even in Ouarzazate. Most riads / hotels in Marrakech will sell it. There are some rural guest-houses that also do so.

Shopping

In the souk in Marrakech – when shopping for souvenirs, homewares, items of clothing, etc, do expect to have to haggle over the price; this is perfectly normal and all part of an elaborate bargaining game between you and the shop-keeper! Have a price in mind before you start the negotiations and try to keep to it. Don’t forget, you can always walk away from the negotiation at any time (this often helps the shop-keeper come round to your price!).
Handling goods & showing any form of mild interest, when browsing in the souk, is most often interpreted by the shop-keeper as a sure purchase. If you really have no intention of buying, don’t act interested.

If you’re coming to Morocco with a view to pick up some local handicrafts please let us know. True, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for in Marrakech. However, if you’d rather wait until you’re on the road to go ‘direct to the source’, and for fairer pricing without the hassle factor, then we can take you to a pottery cooperative in Tamegroute and a carpet cooperative in Taznakht. Family-run and supporting their local communities, you’ll also get to see how the wares are made, using centuries-old techniques. We only recommend this as we have bought goods here ourselves.