There are several people who have said to us, prior to us leaving the UK, as well as those that we have met on our current travels in both Portugal and Spain, that they would like ‘to do‘ Morocco and so have been following this part of the blog with interest, likewise, there are other’s who have commented that they have thought about visiting, but, for whatever reasons, they have concerns about travelling over here. Like many of those people we too had concerns, especially as at the time of our particular travels, there is a lot of unrest on the African Continent. Although there is no reported unrest in Morocco there are an element of the ‘Muslim’ faith, throughout the world I should hasten to add, that are currently anti-Westerner, some may say that this is nothing new, but recent escalation of events makes this more of a concern now and this did weigh on our minds, and made us ask ourselves the question of whether we should be even thinking of doing this at this particular time !! Additionally, there are always the ‘stories’ from those that have visited previously and who probably did not enjoy their experience, or who may have had a bad experience, they will be keen to highlight their experience which will of course be tainted. There will be those who have never actually put a wheel on Moroccan soil but will be eager to impart the ‘doom and gloom’ stories that they ‘have heard’ or ‘been told’ by ‘others’ !! However, there are just as many good accounts, often by people, who will write about their travels and experiences. So my first bit of advice is to not totally discount some of the ‘not so positive’ reports, their may be some truth in them, but balance that with the ‘positive’ reports and try to read, or talk, to those who have travelled more recently. Many Countries that were visited 10-20 years ago have changed dramatically in that time, not necessarily in landscape or even culture but certainly infrastructures like water and sanitation as well as road and other transportation links.
So, I thought that it may be useful to write about our experiences, what we did before we travelled to Morocco, the administration requirements and procedures, the entry requirements and procedures and then a few bits and pieces once we were in the country. Hopefully this will assist those who are planning on travelling to the Country at some point in the future, or indeed give those, that have concerns about visiting Morocco, some sort of reassurance that it is in fact a safe place to visit.
The other thing that I often comment about is ‘Individual Lifestyles’, people who just use the ‘Campsites’, like we ourselves are doing on this particular trip, will very likely have a very different view and experience, to those who are more adventurous and choose to either ‘Free Camp’ or ‘Wildcamp’. Morocco is a vast country with very many differing vistas within the many different regions, and there are big differences between the Northern, Middle and Southern regions as well as the Coastal and Inland areas. so it should go without saying that their will be some significant differences between staying on Campsites in Towns and Cities, to ‘Wilding’ in the desert or even travelling through towns and villages that are off the beaten track! Although I had never visited Morocco previously, not even in the days when our holidays comprised Five Star, ‘All Inclusive’ luxury package holidays, I already had pre-conceived perceptions of the place and combined with ‘my‘ security and safety concerns, and my pre-conceived perceptions, was also the thought, which is always uppermost in my mind these days, that ‘Big Momma’ is our only ‘Permanent home’, should their be a major issue whereby we couldn’t live in it, a lengthy repair job for example, we don’t have a ‘house’ to run back to and wait for her to be repaired !! For all those reasons, for our first, and who knows it may still yet prove to be our only, visit to Morocco, we would not be getting ‘adventurous’ and ‘Wilding’ off the beaten track, we would be staying on the relative safety of Campsites and we would be venturing no further South than Agadir !! What I am trying to say, probably not very well, is that I am not well-travelled when it comes to Morocco, this is our first time here and the places we will have visited are minimal in comparison to what there is available here, so these ramblings are based purely on the limited experiences that we have had so far.
Just a couple of other things before I really get into my ramblings, most of what I write here will be based on our own personal experiences, thoughts, observations and quite possibly a few ‘perceptions’, that rightly, or wrongly, will have dictated what we did or didn’t do or places we did or didn’t visit. We are all different and therefore have varying levels of acceptance of ‘Personal Risk’. In the very short period of time we have been here, and with what we now both know, I can say, somewhat surprisingly, is that if we were not travelling alone but perhaps travelling in the company of ‘others, and I am thinking now of some of our ‘Fulltiming’ friends, Roy and Amanda, Steve and Lyssa or Nick and Cathy then we would probably be much more comfortable and adventurous with venturing further South into the desert and coastal regions and ‘Wilding’. There are of course organised and supervised trips that do just that, ‘Desert Detours’ to name but one. Also worth remembering that we travelled here during ‘UK’ Winter months, so costs of things like Campsites, Aires, Ferries etc may well be significantly different to those in the ‘Summer’ months !!
Getting to Morocco
There is no need to pre-book ferries, although you can do this on-line if you so wish, it will cost more though if you elect to do it that way. I would, however, recommend downloading and completing the necessary Vehicle Importation Form as this will save you some considerable time upon arrival in Morocco. The other important thing that you will need, to legally drive your vehicle in Morocco, is Insurance, we obtained a ‘Green Card’ from our Insurers, Comfort Motorhome Insurance’ at a cost of £17.50. Do bear in mind that although your Green card allows 120 days cover, you are only permitted, as a ‘Temporary Visitor’, to remain in Morocco for 90 days. As well as your Passports you will also need to take the original copy of the Vehicle Registration Document and that is it, fairly simple really.
We chose to sail from Algeciras (Spain) to Tanger Med (Morocco) because although a Ninety minute crossing, as opposed to a Sixty minute crossing from Tarifa (Spain), the Algeciras route was cheaper !! There is also another route, Algeciras – Ceuta, Ceuta is still Spanish Territory, albeit on the Northern Tip of Africa. The sailing you choose may well depend on your route once in Morocco. You can go direct to the ticket office at the Port and purchase your Ferry ticket, however, we chose to drive to ‘Palmones’, which is six miles away from the ferry terminal at Algeciras, to purchase our ticket from ‘Carlos’, a registered ‘ticket agent’ (GPS N036 10′ 46″ W005 26′ 28″). We did this for two reasons, all the pre-planning we did for this trip, the majority of people recommended ‘Carlos’, not only could you purchase the ferry tickets, and as we discovered, much cheaper than the prices quoted on-line, but they would complete and issue the necessary ‘Temporary Vehicle Importation Form’, or, as in our case, check the form we had completed and downloaded ourselves from the Internet. They also provided the individual ‘Immigration Forms’, much like the ones you get issued with on an aeroplane when you are going on a package holiday. It was a very quick and straightforward process. Additionally we were able to change some of our Euro into Dirham at a very competitive exchange rate and before we left the office they presented us with a carrier bag containing a bottle of Cider and a fruit cake !! However, for those that want to purchase their tickets themselves from the Port, once you have purchased your ferry ticket and boarded the ship, you get and complete the ‘Immigration Forms’ on-board, and irrespective of where you got your forms, these have to be taken to the ‘Police Office’ on the ship during the sailing, with your passports, where they are checked and stamped. There is a tannoy message that notifies you when the ‘Police Office’ is open. After disembarking you just follow the directions up to the ‘Customs & Immigration’ check-points. This is where having the pre-completed ‘Temporary Vehicle Importation Form’ saves you a lot of time. If you do not have this form then they will give you a blank one (carbon copy triplicate) which you then have to complete. They will not help you complete the form and will not wait with you whilst you complete it, they will move on and deal with someone else and you then have to queue again !! If you have the pre-completed form ‘do show it to them‘, otherwise they will just give you the blank form and walk away. Be prepared to have your vehicle searched, this may entail emptying external lockers !! On a sailing that has lots of vehicles, foreign visitors, like yourselves, and Moroccans returning from Spanish shopping spree’s, be prepared for long queues. We were very fortunate, our sailing had no more than a dozen vehicles on it and only three Motorhomes so we were processed within thirty-minutes and they did not request to search ‘Big Momma’, they probably looked at the number of external lockers and thought better of it or they may have missed their lunch !! Once through the ‘Officialdom’, you will be greeted by people trying to sell you Moroccan ‘SIM’ cards for your Mobile Phones, I cannot comment on the authenticity of these or the value of buying one as we declined the offer, however, in hindsight it may have been worth listening to what they had to say, but you can purchase these from most ‘Maroc Telecom’ shops in most of the major towns and cities. Once you have got passed these ‘Sales People’, again before you actually depart the Port, there are Kiosks (Banks and Exchange Bureaus) where you can purchase ‘Dirham’. Then that is it, you are in Morocco and can start your travels !!
To give you a rough idea of what things cost in relation to the Euro, just divide the cost in Dirham by ten e.g. 10 Dirham = €1, 100 Dirham = €10, 1,000 Dirham = €100 etc. the actual exchange rate is slightly better and may of course be subject to a fluctuation depending on when you travel but as an example, we exchanged money on three separate occasions, with a small variation in rate on those three exchanges, therefore we are working on an exchange rate of €1 = €10.61 Dirham.
Route Planning And General Driving
Unfortunately, our ‘Snooper Ventura S7000‘ Sat Nav (Snoopy) does not have ‘mapping’ that covers Morocco, although I am led to believe that ‘other’ brands either have it or the appropriate mapping can be downloaded onto them as ‘POI’s’ (Points Of Interest) so it may be worth going onto the Internet to research this for yourselves. However, we managed quite well with the combination of the ‘Google Maps’ on our iPads, the ‘Marco Polo‘ road map of Morocco and the ‘Le Maroc en Camping-car‘ guide book. The latter having excellent street plans of the towns, showing where the Campsites and Aires were actually located, what facilities were available along with useful landmarks such as fuel stations, supermarkets etc. We also had a copy of the ‘Camping Morocco‘ guide book from ‘Vicarious Books‘, although the actual directions given in the book were not accurate but they did give a very useful description of the sites, in English, whereas the other guide-book is a French publication, but not difficult to interpret the symbols for the facilities. Google maps was only useful when we had an Internet connection, but if not available on site then there were always plenty of Cafe’s that offered WiFi. The road map was very good for the main journey, planning a route, but not much good when you arrived at the destination. This is where the iPads came into their own, we (Shazza) used the French guide-book to locate the selected site from the provided street plan, she found, as near as possible, either the actual site or nearest road to it, in the village, town or City on the iPad mapping and dropped a ‘Pin’ to mark the location then simply plotted a route to it on the iPad. She scrolled down the route directions on the iPad until she came to the point where we left the main road and entered the outskirts of the village, town or city and then she painstakingly wrote them all down, including distances between junctions or roundabouts etc. using this system she got us to every site without getting us lost or turning down ‘no through’ roads.
Having never driven in Morocco before we elected to ‘wimp’ out wherever possible and use the excellent ‘A7’ (Toll) Motorway to carry us Southbound, coming off it at strategic points to get to our selected destinations. By way of example of the cost of the tolls, although we didn’t use the Motorway all the way from ‘Tanger Med to Agadir’, as we stopped at some locations en-route, which involved some time on the ‘N1’, we did do a lot of mileage on it and the total cost down to Agadir was €41.75 (£34). I would hazard a ‘guess‘ that had we have gone directly from the ferry port at Tanger Med to Agadir, using the Motorway all the way, it would have cost no more than €50. But there is always an however, those that are more adventurous than us, or perhaps been to Morocco more than once, may tell you that there is nothing wrong with using the ‘normal’ roads and I for one would bow to the benefit of their experience. What I will say, after having used one of those ‘normal’ roads, namely the ‘N1’ is that in parts it is very well surfaced and in others it can be quite uneven and pot-holed and extremely slow going, especially in some of the smaller more rural towns and villages. However, ‘Big Momma’ at nearly thirty-feet long and weighing five tonnes, coped quite well. So, my advice, for what it is worth, is this, if you elect to use non-motorway routes then allow extra travelling time to get to your destination. On the Motorway, travelling on cruise control set at 60mph I averaged a distance of 50mph (slowing down and stopping at toll booths and on uphill gradients when driving through the mountains), whereas, on the ‘N1’ that average distance covered was reduced to only 35mph.
Fuel is not an issue in Morocco, first of all it is much cheaper than in Europe, averaging at around €0.92 (£0.75) per litre (Diesel). Fuel stations are a plenty, along most roads and in towns and villages. On Motorways there are service stations much like Motorway Services in the UK, however, the ‘Aire de Repos’ as they are called out here are located literally just before the exit to Major towns or Cities. The advice we read was to only use either the ‘Afrique’ service stations or the major branded names such as ‘Shell’ or ‘Total’ and again there are plenty.
I cannot provide any information on ‘Free Camping‘ or ‘Wildcamping‘ as it is not something that we have done on this our inaugural trip, perhaps on future visits, if we elect to come back. However, many do without any issues and there are numerous ‘other’ blogs where you can read about their adventures and experiences. Even we have witnessed on our brief travels many Motorhomers ‘Free Camping’. Likewise, I cannot comment on using ‘Aires‘ in Morocco, yes they do have them, with and without ‘Motorhome Facilities‘, these are also listed, with location details and street plans within the ‘Le Maroc en Camping-car‘ publication mentioned earlier. As a bit of a footnote to the ‘Free Camping’, we have spoken to numerous other Motorhomers, mainly of the French variety, who park up outside City walls either on waste ground, car parks or even on the side of the street. There are lots of local parking attendants in most towns, usually wearing fluorescent vests, for a few Dirham they will keep an eye on your van for you. I had heard of this from others before our travel but thought it may have been a scam, however, according to our French informants, this is how these attendants earn their living, they assist motorists, visitors and locals alike, manoeuver into a space and then, patrolling their ‘set or assigned area’ keep an eye on the vehicles until the owners return. You do not pay them until you return, there is no fixed price, it is left up to your discretion. I have witnessed this myself whilst in El Jadida and also in Agadir, these assistants are friendly individuals, even though we were not in a vehicle, one of these chaps asked if I wanted him to get us a taxi, expecting a couple of Dirham for his trouble no doubt, we didn’t require a taxi but thanked him anyway.
Morocco does have ‘Campsites’ as we know them by European standards e.g. Marked pitches, showers, toilets, swimming pools, restaurants, supermarkets etc. but these are minimal. Generally, the Moroccan campsite is more equivalent to what we would call an ‘Aire’ (Stellplatz, Sosta etc.) and the standard of the facilities are widely variable !! The major difference is that in Morocco they all have ‘Guardiens’ and have either walled or fenced perimeters. When I first read about this it initially caused me some concern, why did they need these ‘Guardiens’, is it not safe ? The confusion is caused by the first part of the description ‘Guard’, in reality these are not ‘Guards or Security’ as we think of them, these are just employees, generally locals, who look after the booking in and departures, general maintenance and cleaning, but, there is always someone on-site twenty-four hours a day every day.
The ‘Campsite’ facilities will vary, most have Motorhome Services, a place to empty the toilet cassette, a grey waste drain and access to ‘Fresh’ water and Electricity. Most Cities and large Towns do have ‘Chlorinated’ water which is safe to drink (Potable), however, use your own judgement !! Even in Agadir where the water was pretty safe to drink, we elected to stick to Bottled Water, the water we put in the water tank we used just for getting washed and washing the pots, we used bottled water to brush our teeth and for cleaning the toothbrush after use, for putting in the kettle for hot drinks and also for washing fruit and vegetables. We have seen examples of Motorhomers, who should know better, using the hose pipe on the ‘drinking water tap’ to rinse out cassette tanks !! I should add that I have also seen this done in UK, France, Portugal and Spain not just here in Morocco ! Other facilities you may find on these Campsites are Showers and Toilets, most look a little tired but are generally clean and have hot water, however, the standards can and do vary from being ‘bloody awful’ to ‘acceptable’. On some sites you may find, a shop selling basic provisions, a Cafe or Restaurant and many sites, but not all, now offer some level of access to WiFi.
We have the ‘Gaslow’ system, two permanently fixed 11kg bottles refilled via an external filling point at any service station that sells ‘Auto Gas’, called LPG in UK but GPL in Europe. There are no service stations in Morocco, at this time, that sell ‘Auto Gas’. However, Bottled Gas is readily available, unfortunately, because I do not use the ‘exchangeable’ bottles I am unable to confirm whether it requires a different type of regulator, if it does, I would suggest that you could get one in Morocco, because you can get everything and anything out here and by simple Powers of deduction, if they sell the bottles then I am certain that they must sell the regulators !!
However, for those with ‘Gaslow’ systems, or similar, I have been ‘told‘ by one of the local ‘Moroccan’ gas suppliers (bottled gas), that he can refill the cylinders via the external filler point !! This certainly would not be permitted under European Health & Safety Directives but those don’t apply in Africa !! Whether what he was telling me is true, and I have no reason to doubt that he could refill the cylinders, I cannot confirm as we had no need to have this done.
You cannot get ‘Calor Gas’ (UK) bottles in Europe or Morocco so people who use the ‘exchangeable’ bottles usually have to purchase local bottles from within the Country that they are touring, So assuming that you travel with two full ‘UK’ bottles you will need, at some point, to purchase a local bottle for each country that you are in once your UK gas supply has depleted. Although, if what the local ‘Moroccan’ gas supplier says is true, perhaps you wouldn’t need to ?
If you do need to purchase a ‘local’ bottle then you will also need to take into consideration the storage space for at least one of your empty ‘UK’ bottles.
If you intend to just stay on the ‘Campsites’ that provide EHU, bear in mind that you may not be using very much Gas anyway as the Electricity will power your Fridge/Freezer, kettle, electric hob on cooker (for those that have one) and Water Boiler.
When travelling in Europe we use the ‘Caxton FM Euro Cash Card‘ (Other Service Providers operate similar systems), this is very similar to using a normal UK Bank Debit Card. There is no charge for having this card. The maximum balance you can hold on the card is €7,500. You ‘pre-load’ your card with the amount of Euro you want, payment for this is taken directly from your UK Bank Account and you can ‘top up’ the card at any time via Phone, Text or Online, worthy of note for iPhone and iPad users, there are ‘Apps’ available which make topping up and checking your account balance very quick and easy (Using Security Protocols). You use the card in Europe in the same way that you would use your Debit Card in the UK, obtaining cash from ATM’s (Caxton do not charge you for this and you can make two withdrawals, up to a maximum of €500, in any one 24 hour period). You can also use the card to purchase items in Shops or for meals in Restaurants, however, you cannot use it on ‘toll’ booths. There are no commission charges and the daily rate you see advertised on their site is what you get when you purchase it. We have ‘topped’ up whilst ‘on the road’ in Europe and it takes literally just a few minutes from making the transaction to it being credited on the card. However, the downside is that as this is purely a ‘Euro’ cash card, if you use it to withdraw any other currency, other than ‘Euro’, you will be charged for the conversion into whatever currency you are drawing, including UK Sterling !! The advantage is, if you are restricting your travelling to just Countries within Europe, that use the Euro, then there are no additional charges (unless the ATM providers charge you, which we have found is not generally the case and we have used it in France, Spain and Portugal).
You can of course use Credit Cards to do exactly the same thing, the only differences being that you will probably be charged for currency conversion, e.g. UK Sterling into Euro or Dirham when in Morocco. Credit Card Providers will also generally charge you a percentage for making cash withdrawals and then of course there are the monthly interest charges, unless you pay them within a specified period of time.
As we were travelling in Europe prior to our trip to Morocco we built up a ‘cash’ supply of Euro and took this with us, exchanging small amounts as and when we required it. You can purchase Dirham at the ‘Port’ upon entry and from the majority of the banks within Morocco as they do foreign currency exchange, we had no problems, but I do not know how it would be in the smaller towns in the more remote areas. The obvious downside of this is carrying large amounts of ‘cash’ in the van !!
At the time that we were in Morocco the exchange rate fluctuated between 10.71 and 10.74 Dirham to the ‘Euro’. However, when doing quick ‘cost comparisons’ when shopping, or paying for Campsites or Fuel, it was easier to just divide the amount by 10 e,g. 10 Dirham was equivalent to €1.00, so if shopping cost us 450 Dirham that was roughly €45.00
There are plenty of Supermarkets, large and small, in Morocco and we have discovered that, in most large town at least, fresh milk is widely available. But, there is no real need to use Supermarkets as fresh meat, poultry, fish and fruit and vegetables are widely available in the local markets and there are a vast number of small shops. Bread is always available and the Moroccan flat breads are beautiful, you can always get Baguettes. I cannot vouch for the smaller more remote areas, however, in most reasonable sized towns you can get lots of things here that you can get ‘back home’, stock cubes, pasta, pasta sauces, tinned fish and meats, crisps, cheeses (European), Salami’s, brand name chocolate and sweets even Nescafé Coffee. Well I could end up making a full shopping list, my point being, no need to think you will be having to live on Goat meat and Sheep’s eyeballs, although they are available if you want them !! If you do have a particular need to eat Pork though, bring it with you !!
I hope I have covered most of the basics to give you a good idea on how to get to Morocco as well as answered some questions that you may have asked yourself, about what is available once you are over here. There are some fantastic blogs and books that will give a lot more information than the limited bit I have given above, especially about places to drive to, places to overnight etc.
what I haven’t really covered is all the negatives about getting to or indeed travelling in Morocco, there is a good reason for that………………..we havn’t found any, yet !!