Stay safe in Morocco
Overall, Morocco remains a relatively safe country; however, homosexuality is criminalised and punishable by up to 3 years in prison in both Morocco and Western Sahara. Gay and lesbian tourists should be confident and cautious. In 2014, 70-year-old British traveller Ray Cole was prosecuted and imprisoned for 4 months after police searched his mobile phone and found incriminating photos. He ended up sleeping on the floor of an overcrowded Moroccan prison filled with hardened criminals, despite interventions on his behalf by the British Foreign Office and a British MP.
Just like any other country, Morocco has its own problems. Many of them can easily be avoided with common sense. Avoid dark alleys. Travel in groups whenever possible. Keep money and passports in a secure wallet or hotel safe. Carry your backpacks and wallets with you at all times. Make sure that nothing important is in the outside or back pockets. There is some intolerance towards the public practice of non-Arab and non-Sunni religions.
Women, in particular, are harassed almost constantly when they are alone, but this is usually only (disturbing) whistling. Don’t feel obliged to be polite – no Moroccan woman would put up with such behaviour. A pair of sunglasses should be enough to avoid eye contact. If someone won’t leave you alone, look for families, a busy shop or a woman in the neighbourhood and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you wish, you can wear a hijab (scarf), but it is not necessary. Morocco can be a liberal country and many Moroccan women do not wear a headscarf. However, women should always dress conservatively (no high necklines, no shorts) out of respect for the local culture. In the cities, women can wear more revealing clothes, but as a general rule, they should follow the local women. Residents will also assume that Moroccan women who venture out on their own into the nightclubs or bars of the new city are prostitutes looking for customers. Foreign women who enter such establishments are not considered as such, but are considered accessible.
Be careful if you are drugged, especially if you are travelling alone. GHB, a widely available and easy to produce drug, lasts only 3 hours and is undetectable in the body after 7 hours. So if you are assaulted, act immediately.
Traffickers can be a big problem for travellers in Morocco and especially in Tangiers. It is often difficult to walk down the street without being approached by someone who offers to show you the way or sell you something. It is best to refuse politely and keep walking, as they are only looking for money. There are reputable tourist guides, but your guide will receive a commission for anything you buy while he or she is with you, so don’t be forced to buy something you don’t want.
It is strictly forbidden to drive under the influence of alcohol, even if you have only had one beer.
In some places, scammers will do their best to intimidate you. They may be very sticky and insist that you give them money or offer their “services”. Don’t be intimidated; a firm “no” is usually enough. Some of them may become cheeky and abusive, but before you get there, go to a shop or a crowd. Most Moroccans will turn the person away immediately if they see you being harassed.
Armed fighting in disputed areas of Western Sahara is less frequent now, but clashes between government troops and the Polisario Front still occur. Don’t stray too far off the beaten track either, as this region is also heavily mined.
Stay healthy in Morocco
- Vaccinations : Under normal circumstances, no special vaccinations are required for Morocco, but check the travel websites of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for current disease outbreaks. As with most trips, it is advisable to be vaccinated against tetanus. Consider vaccinations against hepatitis A and B.
- Food and drink: Stay away from any uncooked fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled. Avoid any food that is not prepared at the time of ordering (e.g. buffets, etc.). In general, fried and cooked foods are safe. Some travellers have also had problems with unrefrigerated condiments (for example, mayonnaise) used in fast food restaurants.
- Water: It is advisable to drink bottled water (make sure the cap is tightly sealed – some people may try to sell you tap water in recycled bottles). Watch out for ice cubes or drinks made with tap water. Some hotels provide bottled water free of charge to their guests and it is advisable to keep a supply in your room so you are not tempted to drink tap water.
- Shoes: Keep your sandals/fabrics etc. for the beach. Moroccan streets also serve as rubbish dumps and you may not want to wade through fish heads and chicken pieces with your shoes open.
- Malaria: it is prevalent in the northern coastal regions of the country, but is not a major problem. Take the usual precautions to avoid bites (light-coloured clothing, insect repellent, etc.) and if you are really worried, ask your doctor for anti-malarial medication before you leave.
Pharmacies are marked with a green cross, usually in neon colour. They sell medicines, contraceptives and often beauty products and the like.
Medical treatment can be obtained from independent doctors, clinics and hospitals. Most general practitioners, specialists and dentists are self-employed; look for signs indicating “Doctor”. An average medical examination in a city costs between 150 and 300 dirhams. In general, the quality of their work is decent, but you can try to ask for advice and recommendations from some people in the city.
There are few English-speaking doctors, although French is widely spoken.
Medical care can be difficult or even impossible to find in rural areas.
Public hospitals are cheap and work well for minor injuries and problems, but they tend to be very busy, and for serious problems a private clinic is usually preferable. Treatment in private clinics will be quite expensive, and travellers will have to pay for any treatment in advance.