If you are reading this article now, probably the thought of visiting Morocco have already crossed your mind enough often to make you really consider this destination for your next holiday.
Either you’re a fan of the mountains or a lover of oceanic/sea air, there is no taste this country cannot satisfy. Placed in North part of Africa, having direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco is covered by a part of Sahara and crossed by the Atlas mountains. Thus, hiking, sunbathes and riding of camels are all possible.
Moreover, the diversity of relief is complemented by the existence of medieval cities, Roman ruins, Berber fortresses and Muslim monuments which will cut your breath through their beauty. There’s no chance that the enchanting atmosphere of this country will not suddenly conquer your soul.
Therefore is not surprising that Condé Nast Traveler chose Morocco as one of the best places in the world to take a trip in 2018.
However, since Morocco is located on the African continent, you might ask yourself how safe is to visit this place. And that’s exactly what this article is gonna tell you.
Overall Risk in Morocco: MEDIUM
From a general perspective, Morocco is relatively safe to visit. It means that on a scale from one to ten, the possibility of being injured in any kind of way would be somewhere between the fourth and the fifth level.
Being an Islamic country, Moroccans behavior is influenced by the traditional culture. Although people are generally kind and friendly to strangers, the possibility of getting robbed or physically hurt grows directly proportional to how much unfamiliar you look.
The tourists who have already been there declared that wearing clothes similar to the locals made them feel more protected. Here you have some tips related to this subject, which will help you when you make your luggage.
According to OSAC, crime in Morocco represents a moderate concern, especially in major cities and tourist areas. The most frequent crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity (such as pickpocketing, robberies, purse snatching, burglaries, theft from unoccupied vehicles etc.) committed by criminals who primarily operate in high-traffic and density areas.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risk: MEDIUM
As I have already said in the lines above, one of the most common dangers in Morocco is depicted by the burglars. Always on the guard, they are looking for careless persons who keep their valuable goods unprotected and on sight.
Most of the thieves are needy people from the poor quarters, who rather take advantage of the inattention of tourists than violently attack them. Thus, carrying your money and other precious objects (jewelry, electronic devices and so on) covered in a bag that you can permanently supervise (this kind of front-purses is strongly recommended) should be enough to keep thieves away.
Obviously, the areas most targeted by muggers and pickpockets are medinas, the famous bars and the agglomerate streets. In particular the medinas from Marrakech, Casablanca and Tangier have a bad reputation when it comes to petty theft.
How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios?
- Pickpockets often work in a group, so if someone tries to steal your attention by asking something, keep your eyes on your belongings. Be distant and vigilant whenever your instincts tell you that something is wrong and not only. Never let your bag unattended on a table or hanging on a chair in a restaurant.
- Don’t take a large amount of money with you. Try to approximate how much you’ll need to spend after you’re out of your hotel room and leave the rest of the banknotes there. At least, supposing you are robbed, you won’t lose all your financial resources that way.
- Don’t leave your precious thing on the seats of the car, so that everybody who takes a look into it can see them. It’s like asking for trouble.
- As credit card fraud is also a common kind of robbery, be careful whenever you use your card. Make sure nobody is watching your pin code. Keep your card in your breast pocket, especially if you have all your money on it.
Also, in the bigger cities such as Fez, Tangier or Casablanca aggressive begging is common at ATMs. Try to use ATMs inside buildings and banks and take somebody with you for added safety.
They tend to focus on people who are dressed in obviously foreign clothing and seem not to know the surroundings. Pickpockets and bag snatchers may target pedestrians, particularly in big cities.
Since street crimes are not unusual, areas frequented by tourists are widely protected by the police. Visitors are advised to carefully take care of their possessions if riding on public transportation or if passing crowded places.
The biggest number of crimes against tourists and visitors are registered in Marrakech, followed by Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, and Rabat.
Scam Risk: HIGH
In Morocco scam is, undoubtedly, on the top of the risky things pyramid. There is a huge list of tricks used to fool the tourists and take their money. So if you’re planning to visit this exotic African paradise, you really need to know some of the most common scams practiced there.
1. The friendly guy
He is gonna be there to help no matter what your desires are. He is the friendly guy who wants to show you the best parking space in the area, who knows some secret wonderful views and who can guide you wherever you want to go.
This seems to be the portrait of an angel, but in reality we’re talking about exactly the opposite creature, as after he finishes his job he will ask for a huge sum of money in exchange for his services. In case you won’t give him what he “deserves”, usually the friendly guy instantly becomes a little devil, aggressive and threatening.
To avoid this situation, whenever a nice guy offers to do something for you, ask for the price of his services.
It is good if, before starting your vacation, you verify on the internet the average prices that should be paid for common services in Morocco (as the rental price of a sun lounger, the hourly price for parking etc). In this way, you won’t be fooled because you have no idea about the normal local rates.
Also, don’t trust everybody who pretends to be a guide, opt for a person who works for a touristic agency or ask for their guide diploma before starting a trip, unless you want to be financially exploited or even worse.
2. Costume photo and cute animals scam
The mechanism of this scam is pretty simple. While walking on the street, admiring the surroundings, talking with your travel mate(s), eating a tasty B’stilla or whatever else, one or more guys wearing traditional Moroccan costumes or having a cute little animal come(s) near you and, somehow, convince(s) you to take a picture with him/them or with the fluffy creature.
Sure, after this, you’ll have to pay as if you have just made a photography with Madonna.
From the same sphere, you should also know about the parrot/ monkey scam. The owner of the animal will tell you that his pet is able to predict the future. All you have to do is to touch it, and then the animal will pick a note from a hat on which you’ll find a cliche sentence about life.
This amusement usually costs like a witchcraft session with Morgan Le Fay.
If you don’t want to waste your money on this kind of “memories”, all you have to do is to stay away from these street performers, who can be met in places like Jemna El-Fna and Marrakech’s main square.
3. Fake Persian objects and Argan oil
A bunch of traders will claim to own original Persian objects (such as carpets, mats, ceramics) or the most efficient end natural Argan Oil. Although in some cases their intention to fool you is obvious, sometimes they can use more subtle strategies.
For example, they can organize a kind of theatrical piece, in which a man who looks like a versed collector, negotiates a precious “original” object. You will “incidentally” hear all their loud conversation, both the arguments of the seller and of the fake buyer and, in the end, you’ll begin to believe all the story about the authenticity of the objects.
This playing is also available with the beauty expert in the role of the collector.
In order to avoid throwing your money on fake things, before buying something search on the internet for tips about how to distinguish an original from a counterfeit good. Ask the personal from your hotel /hostel about how much certain items should cost. The locals know better.
Always negotiate. The initial price is even in the case of original items many times much higher than they deserve.
4. Overcharging the taxi trips
As this is already part of the common knowledge of every traveler, I won’t insist too much on the world’s most famous scam: overcharging the taxi trips. As it usually happens in the developing countries, the taxi drivers from Morocco will also try to rip you off. So only take taxis that use meters.
Also, whenever a taxi driver insists that you should see some cool shops, kindly refuse. The reasons they tell you about this shops are that they are not on your route and that they are paid to bring clients there.
Kidnapping Risk: LOW
Morocco kidnapping rate is really low, compared to the same rate for more developed countries such as Belgium, Canada or France. However, the number of kidnappings has increased in recent years, which means you also need to consider this risk if you decide to go there.
The most likely to be kidnapped are Westerners, as the terrorist organizations from the Sahel are the main responsible for this kind of acts. They usually take rich, important people or journalists in order to underline their power.
However, be you a minister or a simple worker, prudence is the best approach, regardless of your holiday destination.
How to Avoid Being a Victim of Kidnapping in Morocco?
- Although traveling alone is our biggest pleasure, if you choose to visit the areas which are generally associated with a high rate of kidnapping (the desert, the peripheral parts of cities- yes, there are people who love to do that) maybe you should start searching for a traveling mate.
- Try to travel in the daylight, the more empty the streets are, the more vulnerable are you.
- Don’t accept strangers’ invitation to their place/ a very intimate and special place. Generally be skeptical about unknown people’s invitations. If your instinct tells you that something is wrong, trust it.
Rape Risk: MEDIUM to HIGH
Harassment of women is something common in both urban and rural areas. Foreign female travelers are more exposed than the local women, as their modern clothing is perceived as a kind of “rape me” sign in the Islamic culture.
Also, the women who travel alone are extremely vulnerable to this kind of aggression and not only, as their independence can be seen as a sign of depravity.
Moroccan men often whistle after a woman who has her legs/ breast exposed. Also, they feel no shame in giving a rude stare or yelling if they consider a woman is dressed too sexy. Occasionally, they even try inappropriate physical contact.
Aggression incidents and rapes usually happen during the night, thus women who walk alone after the sun goes down are the main targets of the rapists. However, assaults have also taken place in the daylight, at public events, though these incidents are unlikely to happen.
A good news is that the Moroccan legislation has been modified recently in order to decrease the number of rape cases. The punishment for any form of sexual harassment is more harsh.
Although the lines above may have changed your mind about visiting Morocco if you follow the next advice you’ll be completely safe as a woman during your holiday.
How to Avoid Being a Victim of Rape in Morocco?
- Do not walk alone during the night. If you are in a group of people or if you are accompanied by a man, you are safe.
- Wear conservative clothes. A long dress and a scarf to cover your shoulders is the perfect anti-rape combination. As long as it doesn’t let too much of your body exposed, any type of clothing is ok. Excepting tight items, obviously.
However, if you are in a larger city and you are accompanied, you can dress the way you want, but better try to respect the local culture.
- Do not make your makeup too strident. You’ll be seen as a typical easy woman.
Terrorism Risk: LOW TO MEDIUM
Given the unfortunate events related to terrorism that have taken place in the world in recent years, is normally to ask yourself how safe you would be into a Muslim country.
The US Department of state asserted in its 2017 report about Morroc crime level, that this country presents a low to medium risk of terrorist attacks. During 2016, the governmental authorities reported the discovering and annihilation of multiple terrorist groups which were tied to international networks that included ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Al-Nusra Front).
As stated in local media, Moroccan security forces dismantled 18 terrorist cells and conducted 161 terrorism-related arrests in 2016. Since then, continuous counterterrorism efforts contributed to the decline of this kind of risk.
Although the country is still facing threats, largely from small, independent, violent extremist cells, only a few people have been injured by the terrorist in the past two years.
Risks for People Traveling with Children: MEDIUM
No matter if you already have a lot of experience with traveling abroad with your kid(s) or this is the first time you take your little monster(s) with you in a foreign country, you should mentally prepare for the Moroccan adventure.
One of the biggest risks for people who travel with their kids in Morroco is that they might lose their offsprings in the crowded medinas.
Also, the desert trips might be too tiring for the children, which need a proper hydration and a higher sun protection. Also, usually they want to do more exciting things than riding a camel for a day. Thus, they might become irritable.
Generally, the medical system in Morocco is not the best in the world. Unless you have enough money to go to a private hospital, the state hospitals in which the tourists with a valid passport have access might make you go out your mind before you see a doctor.
Anyway, if your kid(s) is/are not the sickly type and you choose to visit Marrakesh, for example, Morocco might me the dream destination for your family, as the locals really love the children and are really kind to their parents.
Natural Disaster Risk: LOW
The main natural risk in Morocco is represented by the earthquakes. Although they occur occasionally, usually they’re not enough strong to provoke great damage.
The last strong earthquake hit northern Morocco around the port town of Al Hoceima in 2004. More than 600 people died then.
Hence, try to familiarize yourself with general safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and take read carefully the instructions about what you have to do in case of an earthquake from the hotel room.
List of Vaccines You Need When Visiting Morocco
No vaccines are mandatory for entering Morocco, although it is advisable to get immunizations for Hepatitis A and B, as well as for typhoid fever.
Concluding Remarks: Is Morocco Safe to Visit?
As every country on the earth, there are advantages and disadvantages to visiting Morocco. Wherever you go, there will be some risks you have to assume, it only depends on you if you want to take them or not.
Although Morocco is a medium-risk country, if you are aware of what might possibly affect you and you put in practice the tips from above, you will be as safe as you are home.