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Morocco: Deserts and Oases - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Morocco, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Deserts and Oases tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information, you'll need for getting ready for your Moroccan adventure.
Morocco is on Greenwich Mean Time year-round, which equates to 4 or 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S., depending on if daylight saving time is being observed. Thus, during the summer in the US, while Daylight Savings Time is in effect, the time difference is 4 hours and when it's noon in Morocco, it's 5AM in San Francisco and 8AM in New York.
There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from Morocco, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. Very few places have formal dress codes in Morocco. Some people do dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants and bars, but this is optional. While you will see women wearing shorts, tank tops, etc., to be respectful of local customs, you should have your shoulders and knees covered. You can easily buy a nice, long scarf in Morocco, or you can bring one from home. Not only will it come in handy when entering mosques, when you should cover up, but it will be a real life-saver in the desert where it will protect you from sand. A good hat and comfortable walking shoes are a must as well. Have some packs of tissues, they are great to have when using public bathrooms in the countryside. For the night spent in the desert, bring as small flashlight or a head lamp and plastic zip-lock bags in different sizes to protect your belongings, especially your camera, from the sand dust.
Visitors to Morocco require a current passport, valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry and with a minimum of two blank pages. Citizens of the US, Canada, UK and Australia do not require a visa to enter Morocco. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts in Casablanca (airport code CMN) and ends in Marrakech (airport code RAK). You should make your own flight arrangements using the "open-jaw" or "multiple-city" search. The tour starts in Casablanca at 2:00PM on Thursday, April 4, 2019, and your flight should arrive no later than 12:00 noon. You'll probably depart North America on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, unless you choose to arrive a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Casablanca. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. This tour ends after breakfast on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Marrakech, and we have arranged for individual airport transfers to the Marrakech airport in accordance with your departing flight time. If you cannot find a good return flight from Marrakech, it's possible to arrange a private transfer to Casablanca airport for an additional fee (around $165US). Such transfer takes around 3 hours. If you need help with your flights to Morocco, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Morocco group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be taken care of by a private guide and a bus driver, who will accompany the group from the start of the tour in Casablanca to the end of the tour in Marrakech. There will also be two additional local guides: in Volubilis and in Rabat.
Traveling in Morocco presents no serious health concerns. If there is one, it's that of traveler's diarrhea, sometimes dubbed "Morocco belly." As with similar destinations around the world, there's only so much that can be done to avoid an upset stomach. Some people stay away from street food, others never order a salad and drink only bottled water, while others eat only peeled or cooked food. All of these are good ideas, but the most cautious of travelers can still fall victim. It can happen simply because your body isn't used to the unfamiliar cuisine. Increasing your daily intake of water is the most effective way to keep Morocco belly at bay. Bottled water is available everywhere, inexpensive, and recommended. Traveler's diarrhea can be a result of dehydration. Morocco's summer months are often oppressively hot, and can be too much for the body to cope with. It's always good to bring along a course of anti-diarrhea, Imodium and Pepto-Bismol tablets and oral rehydration sachets, although these are usually readily available from the country's pharmacies. Moroccan pharmacists are very well trained, and regularly act as the village doctor. If you need the attention of a doctor, Moroccan doctors, private and public, are very professional and well trained, with most having studied in France. You should also bring sunscreen. No vaccinations are required to enter Morocco, but as with all exotic destinations, it's always wise to be up-to-date with your tetanus, hepatitis and typhoid vaccines.
Morocco's Saharan ergs and the surrounding stony hammada are home to a number of scorpions and snakes. Although very few of the country's scorpions are venomous, a notable exception being the decidedly nasty Androctonus australis, the sting can still be extremely painful, especially if you are allergic. The same goes for the country's snakes, which other than the largely nocturnal and terrestrial Saharan horned viper, are mostly nonvenomous. The chances of coming across a snake, however, are slim. All snakes, without exception, are greatly feared by ordinary Moroccans, and no distinction is drawn between venomous and nonvenomous species. Snakes are invariably killed whenever and wherever they are found. To be safe, wear closed footwear when outdoors, and shake them out before putting them on. If bitten, try to stay calm and seek medical help as quickly as possible.
Much of Morocco's water is potable but may upset Westerners' stomachs. Bottled drinking water is available everywhere and is inexpensive, although some restaurants charge an exorbitant markup.
There are very few public restrooms in Morocco, and those that are may be squat only or not very clean. Most restaurants will allow you to use their toilette if you ask politely. Sometimes there might be a small fee, or if there is an attendant keeping them clean, 2dh to 3dh is expected as payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you.
Morocco is a very safe country. You will find plenty of honest and friendly people throughout the country. However, as everywhere, carry only small amounts of money, keep your valuables hidden and hold your camera close. You should be careful in crowds and you should avoid fake guides who offer false Morocco travel information to tourists and travelers.
Encountering unwanted attention from Moroccan men is unfortunately a possibility for female travelers. The relative lack of social interaction between the sexes in Morocco results in men having little exposure to women other than their immediate family, and they often see Western women as not being bound by Morocco's social restrictions. This generally takes the form of catcalls and straight-up come-ons. Blonde women may be singled out. You should ignore it. It's extremely rare for harassment to go any further than the odd catcall or lewd remark.
During the Deserts and Oases Tour in Morocco, we will travel by bus. To be able to enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day. You need to be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you need to be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. During the venture out to the Sahara Desert, we will ride camels. You will be assisted with getting on and off the camel, and riding a camel is not considered difficult. Overall, this trip is not strenuous though it is busy. Due to limited transportation options in Morocco, there are two days with long bus drives. You must be prepared for some full days and early starts.
The weather extremes in Morocco can be surprising for some. Between November and February, the country can experience occasional European-like cold spells bringing cold, wet, and sometimes snowy weather to many regions. Between June and September, Morocco is hot, a land fringed by Saharan sands and harsh, barren mountains. Morocco is at its best in spring (mid-March to May), when the country is lush and green, followed by autumn (September to November), when the heat of summer has eased. In the High Atlas, snowcapped peaks persist from November to July. The north coast and the Rif Mountains are frequently wet and cloudy in early spring.
Morocco's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Morocco's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have Wi-Fi Internet available for their guests.
Electricity is generally reliable and available throughout Morocco, barring obvious places such as the top of Jebel Toubkal or in the dunes of central Morocco. Moroccan power points accept the European two-pin plug only, and run on a 220V/55Hz current. International adaptors are very hard to find within the country, so bring your own.
The official language of Morocco is Arabic and it is spoken by most Moroccans. Second to Arabic is Berber (Amazigh), spoken by over 50% of Morocco's population. Most Moroccans understand and can speak at least a little French. Although Arabic is the national language and used for all formal proceedings in Morocco, international business is often conducted in French and many schools now teach in a mix of French and Arabic. Morocco’s months of the year are in French and many street names and signs are written in both Arabic and French. With northern Morocco in such close proximity to Spain, Spanish is readily spoken in Tangier. In Agadir, a beach resort destination attracting many Germans, German is spoken. English is commonly used by anyone working in the tourism or hotel industry, thus you will have little trouble traveling in Morocco. Just speaking a few words of Arabic will make Moroccans immediately friendlier and impressed because your attempt implies a respect for their culture.
The national currency is the Dirham (DH, Dh, or MAD). Dirhams cannot be exchanged or purchased outside of Morocco. As a general guide, divide the Moroccan price by 10 to get a rough estimate of cost in $. International credit cards are accepted by many merchants, although you may get a better price for a cash transaction. ATM machines are abundant in major cities, and US dollars and Euros are widely accepted, as well. It is recommended to keep small change in local currency handy for impulse purchases, tips to restroom attendants, and the like. US
The main indirect tax in Morocco is a value-added tax (VAT), the standard rate is 20% with rates of between 7% and 14% included in the cost of basic goods and services, including those offered in all restaurants and hotels. A recently introduced Tourist Promotion Tax (TPT) is added onto the cost of your accommodations.
The restaurants', guides' and drivers' gratuities are included in the tour's cost, however tipping is expected by Moroccans for every service provided to you, whether you requested the service or not. Sometimes those asking for a tip are bordering on begging, considering the assistance, if any, that was given. However, it's best not to fight this national habit and rather enjoy your time with no hassle. The expected tip for any meal or drink is 10%. For informal services such as luggage porters, it's usual to tip 5dh to 10dh. These are relatively small amounts and are worth shelling out to both create harmony between Moroccans and tourists and save you from continuous hassle and agitation.
At the conclusion of the tour, it is customary to offer your Tour Director a gratuity. We recommend around $10US, per person per day if you feel that her services enhanced your experience of visiting Morocco.
The most important piece of Morocco travel information is how to bargain. Bargaining is a sport in Morocco, and outside of hotels, restaurants and Western merchants, you are expected to bargain for nearly everything. It's best to simply say Tan Shouf, which means Just Looking. Find out what you want by wandering around, and always do comparison shopping. If you are set on buying something, determine a price that is best for you and bargain around that. Merchants will inflate the cost of an item when dealing with a tourist, so you have to stay firm. If you decide the price too much, walk away because otherwise they will believe you can't live without the item, which gives them the advantage. This can be difficult, time consuming and tiring, but by staying firm you will get what you want at the price you can afford.