Morocco travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go

Marrakech  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Marrakech (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It takes less time to travel to Morocco on the plane than it does to go from Edinburgh to London on the train – and you’re catapulted into a dazzling mix of sunshine, souks, desert, mountains and ocean. In March, you can be climbing the snow-covered Atlas mountains in the morning and riding a camel through the Agafay desert in the afternoon, or kite surfing off the coast of Essaouira at dusk.

Morocco packs in an enormous amount of diversity. The culture is a mixture of Arab and Amazigh (Berber) with a dash of French. It has a rich history, from the romantic red fortress of Ait Ben Haddou, made famous by Gladiator, to dinosaur footprints embedded into the mountain sides.

Moroccans are expert craftspeople and you can buy beautiful handmade goods at a great price. Meanwhile, Moroccans’ hospitality is legendary. In Morocco they say, “Guests are from God.”

Current travel restrictions and entry requirements

To enter Morocco, passengers are required to have had three vaccine doses (or have had their second vaccine dose within the previous four months) or present proof of a negative PCR result from a test taken within the 72 hours before boarding. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from these requirements. Masks are no longer worn on the ground.

Best time to go

Morocco can be visited all year round as it has such a diverse range of microclimates. However, July and August are extremely hot in most parts of the country, excepting the Atlantic coast where breezes keep it cool. The best times to visit are April/May and October/November. It can get cold in winter, even though it’s usually sunny. Tourist hotspots, like Marrakech, can get busy during peak periods.

Top regions and cities


Marrakech is a fantastic place to start your trip. It’s central, so you can get out to other regions and cities. The city has been an important trading hub for centuries, linking Africa to Europe. That heritage is encapsulated by Jema El Fna, the main square, where the snake charmers play their flutes and you can eat snails or drink fresh water melon juice from a food stall. There are plenty of sights – including the Bahai Palace, the Marjorelle gardens and Yves Saint Laurent museum – plus great restaurants and a thriving club scene.


Far less touristy than Marrakech, Fes was the Islamic capital of north Africa and has 300 mosques in the city. It has the largest covered souk in the world (following the destruction of Aleppo in Syria), and you feel like you have been transported to medieval times as you pass through the winding alleys. The city is famous for its leather and its exquisite pottery.


Easily accessible from Marrakech by bus, Essaouira is a laid-back haven for artists, musicians and surfers. The weather is good all year round and it’s where the Moroccans go to holiday during July and August. The beaches surrounding the town are expansive, with every kind of beach sport on offer – particularly kite and regular surfing. Head to the port to get fish fresh from the boats cooked on a tiny barbecue in front of you.

Atlas Mountains

The giant Atlas mountain range stretches all the way through north Africa and provides excellent hiking and biking. Tiny, clay-built Amazigh villages cling to the red and black cliffs and the valleys are crammed with fruit and walnut trees. You can walk over the mountains through traditional villages for a chance to experience a simpler way of life and some stunning mountain scenery.

The Sahara

The desert has a magnificent beauty all of its own and is worth the long journey to get to. There are numerous entry points: Ouarzazate, Merzouga and Zagora. All are good but for my money the best dunes are at Erg Chigaga, south of Zagora and west of Mhamid. If you can walk in with camels, you’ll lose yourself in a vast expanse of golden sand and blue sky for a few days – an experience like no other.

Best under-the-radar destinations


Guelmim is a desert town surrounded by small oases, which has the biggest camel market in Morocco. The people are Sahrawi and the women wear a colourful tie-dyed cloth called a milfah, which wraps round them rather like a sari. Here you can experience life in the Sahara; camels may well block your path as you drive, and you can see the shackles and chains of the slave trade of the past in the museum at nearby Tighmert.

Ait Bougemez

Ait Bougemez is known as Happy Valley. A rich agricultural region right in the centre of the country, it’s an area where the nomads migrate to with their flocks in the summer. In spring the mountain slopes are smothered in wild flowers and there’s excellent hiking and biking, alongside the must-browse local weekly markets. You can also visit the granaries: fortified stores perched on the top of rounded hills that were used to protect the villagers’ food stocks from marauding tribes.


The oasis and palmeraie of Skoura is like a fantasy from the Arabian Nights, where red Kasbahs rear above the tops of elegant palm trees. The temperature drops by 5 degrees when you step from the desert surroundings of the Draa into a sudden paradise of green. This area is the date basket of Morocco, and every variety is grown. Eat them with the local vegetable and chick pea soup, harira.

Best things to do

Climb Mount Toubkal

The trek to summit Mount Toubkal (4,167m), North Africa’s highest peak, typically takes two days starting from Imlil, which is easily accessible from Marrakech. It is a serious climb and you must have a guide, but it is doable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and good walking shoes. From the summit, you can gaze for miles over the peaks of the High Atlas.

Do a cookery class

Morocco is famous for its food: couscous on a Friday, steaming tagines, piquant harira sauce and savoury pastries dusted with sugar. Doing a cookery class will not only provide you with a recipe to show off to friends – it also gives you an insight into women’s lives in the country. Most classes are run by women, giving them a way for them to earn some income.

Ride a camel

In Islam, camels are considered to be at the very top of the animal kingdom. They are perfectly designed for desert living, from their hovercraft feet that float above the sand, to their Teflon lips and tongues that can eat thorns the size of nails from acacia trees. One of the ill effects of Covid was that camelteers were no longer able to buy oats for their camels as there were no tourists, and they had to rely on sparse desert grazing. By doing a camel ride, you guarantee the animal a hearty lunch (plus it’s super fun).

The Gnaoua Festival

Every summer, Essaouira hosts the Gnaoua music festival and thousands of people pour in to enjoy music from all over Africa. Gnaoua is a traditional music genre that was brought up from sub-Saharan Africa during the slave trade. The festival is a dance fest and a wild celebration with some crazy fusion combinations.

Seek out a Moussem

Moussems are festivals held by communities in honour of their local saint. They are often attached to the end of a religious pilgrimage and are usually held in late spring or early summer. One of the best ones is at Had Draa. There are always fantastic displays of horsemanship, with villages competing for prizes for the best teams of riders and shooters. There are also food stalls, fun fair rides, music and hundreds of local people out for a good time.

Getting around

Getting around in Morocco is cheap and easy. Most Moroccans can’t afford a car so there are good transport links everywhere. Between cities, the train network is mainly to the centre and the north and you can book ahead online or from any station. The two major bus companies, Supranet and CTM, are clean, comfortable and usually on time. Tickets can be bought online or from a station.

In the cities, you can get around with petits taxis – these are shared small taxis and are metered. You tell the driver where you are going and if it is his direction, he will pick you up. The taxis are different colours in different cities. Grands taxis are bigger and more expensive. Shared taxis and mini buses also run between cities from certain stations; ask at your hotel for information. There are also domestic flights between major cities.

How to get there

All the major budget airlines fly into Morocco and there are often good deals available.

Alternatively, Morocco is accessible by sea. Ferry services run from southern Spain – Algeciras or Tarifa – and sail into Tangier.

Money-saving tip

Morocco is generally a cheap country to visit. If you’re on a very tight budget then one way to save money is to eat street food rather than in restaurants and cafes. Look out for spicy sausages, fresh doughnuts, giant egg sandwiches with pickle, cactus fruit, and tea and coffee from sellers with little stalls and stools to sit on.


What’s the weather like?

The weather varies through the seasons but it can always (apart from July/August) get cold in the evenings, so bring layers. Many places have no heating.

What time zone is it in?


What currency do I need?

The currency is Dirhams (approx. 12 to the £) and it is a closed currency so you can’t take any back out with you. ATMs work everywhere with cards.

What languages are spoken?

The main languages are Arabic, Tamazight (Berber) and French but many Moroccans speak English. If you say Salaam Alaykum in greeting and Shoukran for thank you, it will be appreciated.

As it’s an Islamic country, is there anything I should be aware of?

Morocco is an Islamic country, so dressing respectfully is appreciated. This means no vests or short shorts (men or women). Long sleeves and tops that cover the bottom, or dresses below the knee are ideal for women.

It is not acceptable to kiss in the street, and homosexuality remains illegal in Morocco.