Is Morocco Safe in 2017?
Is Morocco Safe?
“Is it safe to travel to Morocco ?” is the question on everybody’s lips. Is it safe to bring my family to Morocco? Is it safe to travel solo? Is it safe to travel as a woman?
I am often asked “Is Morocco safe?” by clients both before and after they book their tour of Morocco with us. Some are concerned about travelling solo, some want to know are women safe in Morocco, some are nervous about scams and con-men. Others ask about the food, the water, the vaccines required and of course many want to understand the threat of terrorism specific to Morocco.
I have been travelling to Morocco for many years, studying all aspects of the country, talking to locals, expats and tourists. I’ve travelled alone, with children, with elderly parents, with friends, and with locals. I’ve spent time in all the major cities, in tourist hotels, in rented apartments, and in local homes. I’ve gone way off grid and stayed in all sorts of places in the mountains, the desert and deep, deep in the countryside and not only have I gained a huge knowledge of the subject of safety in Morocco, I personally have only ever once felt unsafe in Morocco.
At the hands of a bad guide in Fes on my first ever trip to the country, I was intentionally intimidated as part of a sales ploy. I made the right decision to walk away. I was nervous that I would be lost in the confusing medina forever without my guide but decided to take my chances rather than staying with someone who clearly wasn’t putting my feelings of comfort and safety first. Of course, as soon as I did this, he rushed after me and escorted me back to my hotel, profuse apologies and sudden awareness of the big trouble he was now in with the company who had hired him on my behalf.
Anyway, my point is that this was an isolated incident and is the one and only time in all these years that I have had a bad experience regarding perceived safety in Morocco. In Italy, in Spain, in the USA and in the UK, there have been all too many occasions of harassment, theft, intimidation and downright fear, but in Morocco, I always feel safe.
I have separated some of these questions in order to help you find the answers you are looking for.
Morocco is very different from other North African countries such as Egypt or Tunisia. In fact, it is geographically as far away from Egypt as England is from India. Unlike these countries, Morocco has seen a growth in tourism in recent years. Politically, Morocco is calm and stable under the inspired leadership of their much-loved King.
Safety in Morocco – your questions answered.
There are no mandatory vaccines required to enter Morocco but you are advised to have your polio and tetanus vaccines in order. Optionally and dependent on the type of travel you are doing, you may want to consider having the Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccines too.
Malaria-free, (except for a very limited risk in one rural province in the north) Prophylaxis is not recommended.
Food & Water
Local food, especially street food is not always prepared in the same conditions you would expect in the UK. However, So Morocco have eaten at every hotel we feature and our drivers won’t take you anywhere for lunch or coffee that they haven’t previously tested on a number of occasions. Generally, the Jemaa el Fnaa in Marrakech and Skala du Port in Essaouira are safe places to try Morocco’s infamous street food.
We recommend only drinking bottled water, however, most tap water is safe to drink. Alternatively, bring sterilising pens or tablets with you as a more eco-friendly option. At our desert camps, where the conditions are more challenging, we serve only hot, freshly cooked food and cooked salads and advise against eating uncooked vegetables if you stay at other camps.
Tagines are usually an extremely safe option due to the enclosed and long cooking style. Bring anti-diarrhea medication with you and try the local cure of tea heavily dosed with cumin but be prepared that due to the climate and the change in diet, you may well get some minor tummy problems.
Crime in Morocco
Is it safe in Marrakech? In general, Morocco is a very law abiding country and crime tends to be isolated to petty crimes such as pick-pocketing. However, Marrakech, in particular, has a reputation for con artists operating tourist scams. The most common is when you become lost (as you inevitably will in the souks) and someone offers to help you find your way then, demands money. Our advice is to ask your riad to give you a lesson on finding the way from riad to main square and back again and then if you do get lost, go into a shop and ask for help rather than accepting someone’s offer.The biggest concern for a tourist in Morocco is the popularity of fake guides. Although this is on the decline thanks to undercover tourist police operating, they do still exist. My first experience of this was in Kasbah Oudayas in Rabat and I know that the experience can make you feel intimidated. They are usually very forceful, telling you that something is closed and that you should follow them. No legitimate guide is ever going to approach you in this way. If you are with a So Morocco guide, then, of course, none of this is relevant but if not;
- Don’t listen to the fake guides that tell you that somewhere is closed as a con to get you to follow them instead. Try and hold your nerve and just ignore them, or call them out as a “Fake Guide” and threaten to report them to the tourist police. The best thing to do is just IGNORE THEM! Once you start talking you will find it hard to get rid of them. So we recommend avoiding eye contact and ignoring them while walking purposefully in another direction.
- Do not accept an offer by anyone to take you to a shop that sells “the best / the cheapest / the most perfect” item as you will find yourself in a shop in a hard sell situation.
- Do not accept a free gift from anyone outside a shop as you may then be accused of stealing and asked to pay.
- Don’t leave your accommodation with anyone claiming to be your tour driver without asking for proof. Your tour driver will know all the details of your tour, a fake guide will not. If in doubt call the So Morocco office for clarification. (This is only a risk if you book city hotels direct instead of using our trusted partners)
Remember Consular Officers are able to help you. For details of what support you can receive and to contact the nearest British Consulate follow this link – FCO
If you have chosen to spend a few days in Marrakech before or after your tour with us, we strongly recommend that you utilise our extensive knowledge and experience when booking accommodation. If you have chosen hotels which are not our trusted partners, you may be exposed to tourist scams especially during the journey from our vehicle to your hotel as there is rarely close parking in these pedestrianised areas. Please bear in mind when booking direct, on line that you should make yourself aware of the quality of the neighbourhood, the parking and access situation and the trustworthiness of the staff.
Hashish is known locally as kif and is grown extensively in the Rif Mountains. However, the drug is illegal and the penalty is up to ten years imprisonment in a harsh Moroccan prison.
If you are offered drugs on the street it may well be by undercover police who specifically target tourists. Avoid any involvement with illegal drugs and do not carry parcels or luggage through customs for other people.
Update August 2017 – Local and unofficial reports state that security has been tightened in the very North of Morocco, near the southern tip of Spain. However, there is no travel advice update from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Update June 2017 – The FCO has issued a travel advice update advising vigilance in the northern area of Al Hoceima following a series of protests. As this area is away from mainstream tourism it shouldn’t adversely affect you.
Update Feb 2017 – Morocco & the USA launched “Group of Friends” a counter-terrorism and anti-extremism initiative which focusses on human rights dialogue and sharing of lessons learned it will promote best practice approaches against violent extremism. This “Geneva Dialogue” joins a long list of joint US – Morocco programs to combat terrorism through training, information sharing, cyber forensics, evidence management procedures, border security and rehabilitation (to name but a few.) In addition, Morocco is a member of the Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Partnership, a founding member of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum and a major non-NATO ally.
The situation in Morocco is very different from many other Islamic and North African countries and Morocco remains one of a handful of continuously stable countries in this area. There are a number of reasons for this:-
Politically, Morocco is very stable and the Kingdom is making steady and informed progress towards democracy with strong support for the modern, progressive king, Mohamed VI. The relationships and strategic partnerships between Morocco and the USA and Europe help to foster the continuance of Morocco’s stability over the longer term
Religion – This is a tolerant country with a multi-faith history and a very gentle form of Islam. The administration of King Mohammed VI has ensured this by sending 100,000 imams into the country’s 50,000 mosques, to promote the moderate Islam of the Maliki school of thought. Both the Christian and Jewish faiths are respected and tolerated here and the government protects the rights of religious minorities going so far as to use public funds to restore synagogues and other religious monuments representing diverse faiths.
Terrorism – Morocco’s intelligence services and local police forces have been working incessantly to protect their country from terrorists. Morocco has an excellent counter-terrorism model which is fully immersed into society and is being hailed around the world as the model we should all adopt. As a result, terrorism incidents have become rare over the last few years as Moroccan security services increase their emphasis on finding and arresting potential terrorist cells before they become operational. The very fabric of society here is such that it would be almost impossible to not be known to your neighbours and a system of informants is pro-actively used for national security purposes.
Morocco is also pro-active in attempting to spread its counter-terrorism methods to other countries, both close neighbours and far-flung territories. The USA does not list Morocco on their 2016 list of potential conflict zones, the Times stated in July that Morocco is a “Safe Havan” and “immune” from terrorism, the FCO classifies it as the ONLY safe country in the MENA region and the international SOS lists it as the safest country in North Africa.
Is it safe to drive in Morocco? Road safety is largely dependent on weather and problems can be caused by heavy rains or snow in the mountain passes. Local drivers are erratic by western standards and all kinds of vehicles and animals are found on the roads.
Our So Morocco drivers are trained, experienced and skillful. If you’re going to cross a mountain in bad weather or drive in the desert at night, you will want to be in the safe hands of a driver who has many, many years experience in such situations. Safety is paramount and our safety record is exemplary. Although some European tourists opt for self-drive – in all honesty, we cannot recommend it for a number of reasons.
Morocco with Children
Is it safe for children in Morocco? Morocco has a very friendly, family-oriented society and your children will be welcomed wherever you go. But, be very aware that safety standards are not what they are in Europe and there may not be guard rails or deep water signs etc. Many properties have steep steps and often no banisters and pavements (where they exist) can be full of potholes and obstacles.
Is it safe for women to travel in Morocco? This is a subject of great interest for me. As a woman, I have never experienced sexual harassment or been made to feel uncomfortable because of my gender in any way in Morocco, unlike when I’ve traveled in Italy for instance. However, I am aware that many female tourists complain of harassment in the cities.
I strongly believe in respecting local customs which means dressing appropriately. This is a Muslim society where the women are predominantly covered (not facially). As a tourist, I recommend wearing trousers or long skirts rather than short skirts or shorts and I always carry a scarf to drape over my shoulders. Many of the men in Morocco are good looking by western beauty standards and will tell you anything they think you want to hear. So I do advise single ladies to keep your wits about you and try to avoid situations where you may later feel vulnerable.
If unwanted sexual harassment becomes a problem and you feel uncomfortable, respond how you would at home: shouting at the perpetrator or calling for help is perfectly acceptable and appropriate as this will shame them but also alert locals who will come to your assistance.
So in answer to the question – is Morocco safe? In general, yes. Morocco is an exceptionally safe country to explore and Moroccans are renowned for being hospitable and tolerant. As with many other countries, tourists can be targeted but there is no need to be afraid of traveling to Morocco, and on a So Morocco Tour you will have the added reassurance of having your driver with you to help steer you away from any potential difficulties.
If you would like to discuss the issue of safety in Morocco, or anything else, with us in more detail please contact us.