Terry and Phil show us how to visit Morocco in a Motorhome.
Fancy touring somewhere different? As anyone who follows the MotorhomeFun forum will know, every year there is a long thread about going to Morrocco in a Motorhome
There is a tendency for people to simply say, not for me, dirty, dangerous and difficult place, but, as anyone who has travelled there by motorhome knows, this is far from the truth. Imagine travelling back in time a hundred years, but with mobile phones, motorways and supermarkets! Let’s go!
Morocco is situated on the north-western coast of Africa, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. It is around 3 times the size of the UK, with a population of 35 million. To the south is an area called Western Sahara; ostensibly a nation Morocco has laid (disputed) claim and governs it as part of itself.
The population is Arab, most whom are Berber, unlike other North African states such as Tunisia and adjoining Algeria; with whom incidentally the border is closed. The main language is Berber Arabic, but most of the population also speak French, a carry-over from the days when the country was a French Protectorate. English is taught in schools and is becoming more common, especially in the tourist areas, although unless you are really out in the wilds it is usually possible to find someone who speaks a little English.
The Berbers are a friendly and hospitable race, often going out of their way to be of help and even inviting complete strangers into their homes. However, being Arabs they are always ready to turn a situation to their advantage, but in the nicest possible way! Apart from the tourist hotspots it is rare to get “pestered” but a polite and firm “Non Merci” is usually enough to discourage them.
The climate is the main reason for people over-wintering and the best time for us European Motorhomers is probably from late December through to April or early May. Before December is the wet season and after April it becomes uncomfortably hot. But it also varies where you are; northern Morocco is very much like Spain and you need to be south of the Atlas Mountains before you see a significant change.
Snow is common in the mountains until January and has been seen as late as February and March, closing roads and causing delays. In February/March you can expect daytime highs of up to 38 deg but the humidity is very low and so, apart from the risk of sunburn, it is actually very pleasant. It can turn chilly after the sun goes down though, so a warm jacket is a must. The western coast, exposed to the Atlantic, is often windy
The Roads and Terrain when doing Morocco in a Motorhome
As Morocco is quite a large country north to south, the scenery varies, from the agricultural Mediterranean-type of the north, through miles and miles of dry scrubland where you’ll see goats and sheep somehow surviving, the stupendous mountain ranges of the Riff, Atlas and High Atlas ranges, through to the endless sand dunes of the south. Enjoy the photos in this article, but be warned, photos never do the reality justice. If you’re into surfing, there are some magnificent beaches north and south of Agadir. It is also good walking country.
Again because it is a large country, and apart from the modern motorways roads can sometimes be a challenge, it often takes much longer to get anywhere than expected; two hundred kilometres in a day is enough for most people. Away from the cities and larger towns traffic can be so infrequent that it is possible to go for several hours without seeing another vehicle. Bad roads are often an excuse for not going to Morocco in a motorhome. However, driving standards are acceptable but most problems on the road come from, to us, more unusual situations. Surprisingly camels are now the preserve of the tourist trade and not seen as often as you might expect, but donkeys and their ramshackle carts are a staple of the transport system and you can often identify the presence of a local market by their numbers. In towns be prepared for poor roads and unpredictable pedestrians who seem to be unaware that we are now in the age of motor vehicles! Mopeds are the prevalent form of motorised transport but bicycles and three-wheel motorcycle trucks, used for carrying everything from goats to sacks of produce, are everywhere.
Apps and maps
Many visitors have dedicated Sat Nav’s and pay extra for the Map of Morocco to load onto their device. However, the Sat Nav on your smartphone is more than adequate for Morocco and it’s free. A bonus is that it does not require an internet connection to operate. Just download the maps for the country your visiting and you’re good to go.
For those who prefer paper maps, the best is the Van Michelin Map of Morocco. One Funster found his way around easily enough with an 11-year-old version.
There are two Apps that stand head and shoulders above the rest and should meet all your needs when visiting Morocco. Campercontact and park4nnight Get the paid version of each so you can use them without an internet connection. When you see the large number you’ll appreciate that Morocco in your motorhome is easily doable.
Recommended Road Trips
Morrocco in a motorhome gives you a lot of touring choice. Funster PhilandMena has plotted some greats road trips and routes, these can be seen here
The local currency is Dirhams and cents, currently around 12.4 Dirhams to the Pound, which is a managed rate and so varies little. Credit cards are not widely accepted, except in the big supermarkets and some fuel stations so be prepared to pay for most things in cash. However, automated cash machines are common so try not to carry too much cash at a time as you can’t exchange Dirhams outside Morocco and the return exchange rate is poor.
Tourism is the second-highest earner of foreign currency in Morocco, after phosphates.
Getting to Morocco in a motorhome is actually no more difficult than crossing the English Channel and takes about the same time. We usually obtain tickets from an agent, Viages Normandie (popularly referred to as Carlos although these days his son and daughters do all the work) near Algeciras who seems to supply every motorhomer and also provides the Immigration paperwork. There is no need to book beforehand, just turn up in the office with your V5 and some cash and you’ll be on a ferry the next morning. There is even a dedicated motorhome overnighting area nearby, and several large supermarkets to let you stock up.
Find your way to the well-signposted ferry port and get in the correct lane for your ferry company, of which there are five. Check-in is no different to Dover – passports and tickets being all you require here. Once on the ship, you’ll need to seek out the Moroccan police post, which is obvious by the queue, with your completed immigration card to get your passport stamped and issued with a CIN number. This is your temporary 3-month visa.
Once the ferry docks you will be directed to the Customs Post where you need to temporarily import your vehicle into Morocco and register the main driver. This can take a little time but eventually, you will be checked and, if you’re not carrying any contraband, get your Import document. Once clear you can then get some currency at the nearby bureaux de change before setting out on your adventure.
Coming back is even simpler; just go to check-in and get your boarding cards, hand in your Temporary Import document (please don’t lose it, the consequences are dire!) and outbound Immigration cards at the Customs point, pass through a scanner then go wait for a ferry to appear – but that’s another story! The Spanish don’t seem too worried about checks so once the ferry is back in Spain you should be quickly on your way.
This is all covered in more detail in an article available to fully paid-up members of MotorhomeFun in the Resources section of the online forum, along with some advice about practicalities whilst in Morocco.
Morocco is an easy place to get on with life, as long as you don’t mind everything taking three times as long!
Safety/Security and Health
The UK Foreign Office rates Morocco as low-risk from a security point of view, and we’ve never seen anything to contradict that advice. The police are friendly towards tourists and extremely smart as well as helpful, although they do expect to be respected. Recognisable as being by far the best-dressed people in Morocco, they are supported by quite a number of plain-clothes officers. Effectively Morocco is a police state and so crime is low but offenders are harshly punished.
There is no NHS, of course, so you will need good travel insurance but minor medical problems can usually be sorted out at the modern pharmacies, which are everywhere. Many towns have Health Centres and the larger, hospitals. We have seen ambulances, but they are mostly for patient transfer and don’t carry paramedics.
Food and Drink
Although there are a few supermarket chains, most “dry” goods are sold in small shops, very much “Open All Hours” style with a front counter and the goods stacked on shelves behind. Be prepared to see some old familiar names, such as Omo washing powder! You’ll get your bread here too, typically a round flat unleavened loaf, which is very nice and keeps reasonably well too. You may also get French-style baguettes if you’re early enough. Fresh milk is sold either in one-litre cartons or more usually in half-litre sachets.
Fruit and vegetables are best bought at the markets held at least weekly in every small town and here you will find heaps, literally, of the freshest produce you can imagine. Simply take a plastic washing-up bowl and fill it with how much of whatever you need then hand it to the stall-holder who will weigh it and you pay one price for all. Note you don’t haggle food prices but it’s so cheap you will wonder if he’s got that right, but you can bet he has!
Meat is often on individual stalls for each type and is also really fresh; sometimes a little too fresh! And they display and sell every part of the animal too, and we mean every part – the squeamish amongst you may well want to be careful at what you look at! Being a Muslim country, pork is a bit of a rarity, so you would be well advised to stock up on bacon and sausages. Turkey is as popular as chicken, both of which are widely available.
Fish, especially at or near the coast, is often brought round to campsites by the fisherman himself, who will charge you for the gross weight, happily clean it for you then take the “innards” home for his own tea! Sometimes they are a bit vague as to the actual species but if you like fish you’ll be spoilt.
Morocco has its own specialities too. If you are into cooking with spices you will wonder at the huge mounds of different types, although, unless you can recognise them, knowing their French names would be useful.
Honey is produced all over the country and is often sold at roadside stalls as well as specialist shops supplied by women’s cooperatives. Argon oil is probably unique to Morocco and can again be bought at the roadside or in specialist shops. There are two distinct varieties, one for cooking and the other for cosmetic purposes, made from the nuts of the argon tree, indigenous to the country and found everywhere, as well as the goats that form part of the harvesting process.
Being a Muslim country, alcoholic drinks are not as readily available as European countries although Morocco does produce some likeable wines and beers. For those who must have their tipple, beers, wines and spirits can sometimes be found in a separate section of some supermarkets, with its own entrance and exit to avoid upsetting the more devout, but it is very expensive.
Tap water is normally safe to drink although bottled water is available everywhere for pennies.
Only the larger cities have European style shopping areas although the Marjane chain of hypermarkets usually has a gallery of small boutique-like shops, much like their French counterparts. Everywhere else you can find whatever you may need in the souks, usually enclosed and sometimes covered areas containing numerous stalls selling just about anything you can think of.
These are the traditional Arab markets where you can practice your haggling skills to get yourself a bargain – just remember this can become quite a long affair as the stallholders just love to get you involved in their “game” and will be disappointed if you don’t play. And don’t think you can just browse; to an Arab, showing an interest in anything means you want to buy and then it’s just a matter of deciding the price!
Having few landlines, most communication is carried out by mobile phone. As such there is a modern and highly efficient mobile phone network which covers every part of Morocco, even into the mountains and desert. This lends itself very well to mobile internet which is cheap and reliable, using either a local sim card for your smartphone or a data sim for a MiFi, iPad etc.
Internet is useful for staying in touch with other travellers and is often the source of useful information, such as road closures or good wild-camping spots. In case of problems it is also an easy way for other Funsters to offer advice and help if needed.
Since the initiative a couple of years ago to develop tourism, a number of new campsites have come into being, with excellent facilities to a European standard. These supplement other, older sites where standards can be, well, variable to the extent you may wish to use your own facilities! Prices range from £5 – £10 per night, the latter being very upmarket. They do tend to get crowded, mainly with French, in the popular areas and pitch spaces can be tight. They do also tend to be a little away from centres of interest this is when having your own alternative transport is an advantage.
Popular and seen almost everywhere are places termed as “Guardian Parking”. These are a cross between an “aire” and wild-camping where an area of land, maybe an old car park, has been taken over specifically for motorhome parking. There is always an attendant around the clock who will provide security, see to disposal of waste, often having water available and always happy to sort out any other needs you may have. For example, if you need a mechanic, a repair on your van or a camel ride, he is the guy to go to. Costs are small, from as little as £1 to no more than £4 p.n. and they are usually located close to places you may want to see, such as town centres. To find one, just look for a local waving you down!
You will sometimes find hotels are happy for you to use their car parks at a small fee, which usually includes use of their facilities – these are more often found in the quieter areas of the country rather than towns and cities.
This is unofficially accepted, subject to the usual considerations, and you will see units parked up in all sorts of odd, but attractive, places. The police will often drive by but only to check you are okay – the only time they are likely to stop is if they consider your situation unsafe and will then guide you to a safer spot. Wild camping can be the best way to see Morocco in your motorhome.
LPG, usually butane but propane is sometimes possible, is everywhere and is extremely cheap, both in 13kg and small bottles identical to Camping Gaz 907. Unfortunately for those of us with refillable systems there is nowhere in Morocco that can top you up, but there are a number of workarounds.
Perhaps the easiest is to buy a 13kg bottle for around £9 (including gas!) and a regulator, then plug it into your BBQ point with a suitable connector bought before you leave home. Or you may wish to replace one of your Calor bottles with a Moroccan one assuming you have room in your gas locker.
If you have a refillable system, buy an external adapter hose, available from Gaslow, that screws into your filler point at one end and directly to a big Moroccan bottle at the other. Interestingly, the threads are opposite so provided you start both ends at the same time you don’t get a twist in the pipe! The downside to this is that you must store it outside and also find somewhere to carry the bottle in transit. When you leave the country just “gift” the bottle to a local, it’s cheap enough.
It is possible to get your existing bottle refilled. There are three gas bottling plants around the country and provided you can carry it through the gate they profess to be able to refill anything! It is quite possible that your local campsite or guardian can arrange for this to be done for you, usually as an overnight job. Yes, someone will take your bottle and return it next day refilled!
If you enjoy cooking outdoors and have a Camping Gaz cooker, you can buy a small Moroccan bottle for around £2.50 and use that with no further complication. Or you could buy a gas ring that screws into the bottle directly at any souk for around £2 – it’s what the locals do!
Nominally 220v, the electricity supply can sometimes be a little problematical. Moroccans think nothing of using one supply point for several connections and overload detectors, and even fuses, are not part of a Moroccan electrician’s kit. It is not unusual, therefore, to see voltages as low as 180v, which most motorhome fridges deem to be electrical failure and switch to gas. Your onboard charger can usually cope but other more sensitive equipment may not work or even be damaged. You can buy voltage regulators, which take whatever the campsite supply is putting out and convert it to a stable 220v but at the expense of the amperage of course.
For most normal activities your onboard 12v system is adequate but although probably good for only a few days. Thought ought to be given to extending it with the addition of an extra leisure battery or two, if your payload is enough, plus a decent solar panel with a modern regulator. If there is one thing that is free and in abundant supply in Morocco it’s sunshine and a 100w panel suffices to replace normal daily use, although you can never have too much solar energy.
Generators are another solution, although you won’t be popular on campsites unless it is of the silent variety; but okay out in the wilds though. A B2B smart charger will also recharge your batteries much faster than your alternator and if you move about, can be a useful addition to your van.
There are no problems if you want to take your pets with you. Mostly the regulations are to ensure you will be able to bring your pet back into the UK as there doesn’t seem to be any checks in place for animals, either in or out of the country. You will already have your pet chipped and have a Pet Passport through your vet. A rabies inoculation, together with a lab certification that the jab has “taken” is a must and can take a month to organise.
We hope this artice and pictures have whetted your appetite. Don’t forget that the annual Morocco threads on the forum are also a source of useful information. A new thread will probably start around October and it is worth mentioning your intention there as you may well be able to pair up with a more experienced traveller willing to show you the ropes.
Look forward to meeting you in Morocco!
Most of the words are Terry’s Most of the photos were taken by Phil.
Disclaimer: we based this article on experiences gained over 5 years travelling to Morocco. However, no responsibility is accepted for errors or omissions, either by the author or MotorhomeFun Magazine. Stay up to date by visiting The Foreign Travel Advice on the government Website