Area Codes -- A recent overhaul of all phone numbers, landline and mobile, in Morocco has seen an additional number added to every phone number. Listed below are the country's main area codes, with their now obsolete former codes in parentheses:
Casablanca: 0522 (022)
Oualidia: 0523 (023)
Marrakech, Essaouira, and Ouarzazate: 0524 (024)
Agadir, Tafraoute, and Taroudannt: 0528 (028)
Erfoud, Fes, Meknes, and Midelt: 0535 (035)
Rabat: 0537 (037)
Tangier, Asilah, and Chefchaouen: 0539 (039)
Automobile Organizations -- There are no auto clubs or roadside assistance organizations in Morocco.
Business Hours -- The Moroccan working day is a combination of both Western and Eastern cultures. For example, most Moroccans eat three meals a day at the usual mealtimes of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, most will also work from 9am to 7pm, with short breaks during the day to pray and an extended lunch break. Shops in the medina will usually open at 8 or 9am and stay open until 8 or 9pm. Business hours for the country's banks are Monday to Friday 8:15am to 3:45pm, though during Ramadan these are shortened from 9am to 2:30pm, depending on the bank. Government departments work from Monday to Thursday 8:30am to noon and 2 to 6:30pm, and Fridays 8:30 to 11:30am and 3 to 6:30pm.
Drinking Laws -- Contrary to preconceived notions, liquor is available throughout much of Morocco. Many Moroccans -- mainly men -- drink, but do so privately. The legal drinking age for Moroccans is 18, but for visitors this is a gray area, as most establishments will serve you no matter what the age (within reason, of course). Moroccan bars, called brasseries, are usually smoky, dingy drinking dens frequented by Moroccan men and prostitutes. Most top-end restaurants and many maisons d'hôte will also offer alcohol, as will nightclubs in the resorts of Agadir and Marrakech. The business hours of these establishments vary from town to town, but you'll find most restaurants are closed by 11pm and local brasseries by midnight, while nightclubs and hotel bars may stay open until 4 or 5am, especially in tourist areas. To find a shop selling alcohol, it's best to ask at your hotel reception desk, or locate a branch of the national supermarket chains Acima and Marjane, mentioned where applicable in the "Shopping" sections throughout this book. Drinking alcohol in public is frowned upon and downright ignorant if practiced near a mosque.
Electricity -- 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.
Embassies & Consulates -- The following embassies are in Rabat: Canada, 13 bis rue Jaâfar as Sadiq, Agdal (tel. 0537/687400; www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/morocco); South Africa, 34 rue des Saadiens, Hassan (tel. 0537/706760; www.dfa.gov.za); U.K., 28 av. SAR Sidi Mohammed, Souissi (tel. 0537/633333; www.ukinmorocco.fco.gov.uk); and U.S., 2 av. Marrakech (aka av. Mohammed el Fassi), Ministères (tel. 0537/762265; http://rabat.usembassy.gov).
The U.S. also maintains a consulate in Casablanca, 8 bd. Moulay Youssef (tel. 0522/264550; http://casablanca.usconsulate.gov), as does the U.K., 36 rue de la Loire, Polo (tel. 0522/857400), although all consular services to British citizens have recently been transferred to the embassy in Rabat.
The U.K. operates another consulate in Tangier at Trafalgar House, 9 rue de l'Amerique du Sud (tel. 0539/936939), and has honorary consuls in Marrakech, at Résidence Taib, 55 bd. Zerktouni, Guéliz (tel. 0524/420846), and Agadir, c/o Complete Tours, 3rd floor Immeuble Oumlil, 26 av. Hassan II (tel. 0528/840469).
Australians are provided consular assistance by the Canadian embassy, or must otherwise contact the Australian embassy in France, 4 rue Jean Rey, Paris (tel. 1405/93300; www.dfat.gov.au).
Irish citizens are represented by their embassy in Portugal at Rua da Imprensa a Estrela 1-4, Lisbon (tel. 121/3929440; www.dfa.ie). There are also two honorary consuls of Ireland in the COPRAGRI Building, Boulevard Moulay Ismail, Km 6.3 Route de Rabat, Aïn Sebaa, Casablanca (tel. 0522/660306), and in the Hotel Kenzi Europa, bd. du 20 Août, Agadir (tel. 0528/821212).
New Zealanders are represented by their embassy in Spain at Calle del Pinar 7, Madrid (tel. 915/230226; www.nzembassy.com), but in an emergency can call on the U.K. Moroccan embassy or consulates.
Emergencies -- In any emergency, dial tel. 19 from anywhere in Morocco, which will connect you with the local police. For a public ambulance, dial tel. 15. On the other end of the line, however, may be someone who speaks only Moroccan Arabic or French at best. In the medinas of the major cities, ask a local shopkeeper to find you the Brigade Touristique.
Insurance -- Purchasing travel insurance is a good idea for travelers coming to Morocco. In particular, I recommend coverage for lost luggage and medical expenses and emergencies. Inshal'lah (God willing), I've yet to experience it firsthand, but I've come across many travelers in Morocco who arrived safely, but without their luggage. As the majority of travelers are only visiting the country for a maximum of 2 weeks, most lost luggage that does eventually arrive sits at the arrival airport until the traveler returns to board his or her departure flight. The ensuing cost of purchasing necessities such as clothing and toiletries can be reimbursed against most insurance policies, and helps to counter some of the frustration and inconvenience. Insurance coverage for medical expenses also makes sense, when you take into account the high number of road accidents (most if not all of your traveling will be by road) and the amount of walking that usually takes place while sightseeing (medina pavements can be uneven and slippery).
For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Internet Access -- Internet access is very good throughout Morocco, with most towns and cities well served by public Internet cafes, called cybercafés.
Language -- Moroccan Arabic (sometimes called Darija) is the country's official language. A distinctive dialect of the worldwide Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), it is largely a spoken, rather than written, language. Newspapers and official documentation will therefore usually be written in MSA. Moroccan Arabic is constantly evolving, and includes words adapted from Spanish, English, and French. French is widely spoken throughout the country, and is the language of business, commerce, and, to a large degree, tourism. English is becoming a popular language to learn in universities, and is spoken frequently in heavily touristed areas. The regional languages of the country's Berbers are widely spoken in the Atlas mountains and central Morocco, although French and some English will be spoken in the more touristed areas. A Moroccan Arabic Conversation Guide by Mohamed Lamzoudi and Jacques Tronel (Librairie du Monde Accueil, Casablanca; www.limactuel.com) is a well-researched and easy-to-read phrasebook that is available at most airports in the country or via their website.
Laundromats -- Very few laundromats are found within Morocco, and even fewer are self-service. Most Moroccans wash their everyday clothes at home, and use dry cleaners (m'sbana in Arabic, pressing in French) for their suits, jellabahs, and other fine dresswear.
Legal Aid -- If you need legal assistance, your first (and only) option is to contact your embassy or consulate. Although consular officials can't serve as attorneys or give legal advice, they can usually provide a list of local attorneys and help you find legal representation. Remember that it is illegal to bribe a police officer or public official in Morocco -- even though the practice is commonplace. If you have been dealing with a local guide, sometimes they can help with translation, though they will be very wary of treading on the police's toes. There are no community or free legal aid organizations in Morocco.
Mail -- The Moroccan postal service (Maroc Post) is fairly reliable, with postcards and letters taking between 1 and 3 weeks to international destinations, depending on where you post from. A postcard or small letter costs 7dh to 8dh to Europe, 9dh to 12dh to the U.S. and Canada, and 10dh to 15dh to Australia. A package weighing 1 kilogram (2.2 lb.) costs around 110dh to Europe, 150dh to the U.S. and Canada, and 195dh to Australia and New Zealand. Post offices are open Monday to Friday 8am to 4:15pm, and Saturday 8 to 11:45am. Stamps (timbres) can be purchased from post offices and sometimes from souvenir shops and tabacs, which also sell cigarettes and sometimes newspapers. Separate parcel counters are found in all post offices, and all packages need to be inspected beforehand. DHL and FedEx offices are located at various cities within the country.
Newspapers & Magazines -- All major newspapers and magazines in Morocco are in either Arabic (MSA) or French. Weekly international editions of The Guardian, Herald Tribune, and Time magazine can sometimes be found at newspaper vendors in the major cities.
Photographic Needs -- Photo stores can be found all over Morocco. Although the number of these shops offering digital services -- such as copying images to CD and selling digital accessories -- is increasing, for the moment most shops' services usually revolve around film-processing services and the supply of film (usually only Fuji and/or Kodak, and only 100 ASA) and sometimes camera batteries.
Police -- For police assistance, dial tel. 19 anywhere in the country.
Smoking -- Smoking is common and an accepted part of the Moroccan lifestyle and thus there aren't many designated nonsmoking areas to be found. This isn't so much of an inconvenience at the outdoor cafes and restaurants, but if you are sensitive to smoke, then it's worth checking out the haze in an indoor cafe or restaurant before you sit down. This is also relevant when staying in the country's cheaper hotels, where it might be an idea to check out your room for cigarette smell before completing the check-in formalities. Thankfully, it's considered impolite to smoke inside public transport.
Taxes -- The main indirect tax in Morocco is a value-added tax (VAT), 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 supposed to be added onto the cost of your accommodations. I found some accommodations already doing this, some are adding it on to your bill at the end of your stay, and some are not even aware of it. The amount is between 10dh and 50dh per person per night, depending on the grade of accommodations.
Time -- 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. The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla keep Spanish time, which is GMT plus 1 hour in winter, and GMT plus 2 hours in summer. Remember to keep this in mind when traveling by ferry from/to the Spanish mainland.
Tipping -- 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 or service -- 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 minimum tip for any meal or drink is 10%. For informal services such as parking attendants and luggage porters, I usually give 5dh to 10dh. If asked to tip when taking a photo, I usually pay 10dh to 20dh. For guiding services it depends on how much guidance was given and whether it was any good or not. For official guides, budget on a 10% tip per person. For faux guides who have perhaps assisted with a small navigational problem, 5dh to 10dh is enough. For other services such as gas (petrol) attendants and taxi drivers, I usually round up to the nearest 5 dirham. 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.
Toilets -- There are very few public restrooms in Morocco, and those that are anywhere near hygienic I've included in this guide. 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.
Visas -- See the Moroccan Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website (www.maec.gov.ma; click on "Consular Action" in the English version) for its current list of visa-exempt countries and a visa application form (in French). Currently, the most notable nationalities that do require a visa are Israeli, South African, and Zimbabwean citizens, who need to apply at a Moroccan embassy or consulate for a 90-day single-entry (around $30/£15) or double-entry (around $50/£25) visa.
Water -- 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. From any street-side shop, a 1.5-liter bottle of water will cost no more than 10dh.