Take a pair of adults eager to explore new cultures, a teenager who prefers surfing and shopping to museums, and a restless seven year old. Planning a family vacation, to please everyone, can be a trying experience. Not in Morocco. This North African country offers something for everyone. Travel camel back across rolling sand dunes. Ride mules in centuries-old Berber villages. Surf and ski at modern resorts. Visit imperial cities, complete with palaces, mosques and open-air markets. A family holiday in Morocco combines adventure, culture and just plain fun.
Generations of moviegoers have followed the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and Alexander the Great through Morocco's southern deserts and will recognize the ancient fortress of Aït ben Haddou from films such as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Yet many visitors are surprised by the authenticity of these exotic film locations and that their experience, through film, is limited to only a few of the country's many attractions.
In just one week, you can bathe in the Mediterranean, visit the Roman ruins of Volubilis and spend a day in the Middle Ages, just by wandering through the winding alleys of Fès, one of the largest living medieval cities in the world. And still have time to drive some nine hours south, traversing the Atlas Mountains along the way, to the Sahara Desert.
Riding a camel to the top of the sand dunes of Merzouga, to watch the sunrise or set, is an unforgettable experience. But not the only one. Follow the "valley of one thousand kasbahs" and discover sand castles that rise up along this ancient caravan route. Marrakech, with its snake charmers, storytellers and bustling market, is another must. And if you have the time and energy, visit Essaouira with its windswept ramparts that overlook the Atlantic. It's a favorite among surfers. But you can also ride horses and camels along the beach, savor fresh fish and stroll through this historic town, which the rock star Jimmy Hendrix once wanted to buy.
Only 13 kilometers of water separate Morocco from Spain. Yet the one-hour ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar transports you into an entirely different place and time. Good roads and railways, twelve airports and friendly Moroccans make travel easy. And between one destination and another, there is a whole world for each family member to discover. That is the magic of Morocco.
Unless overland safaris are your bag travel to Morocco will be by air or ferry. And thanks to the boom in European low cost carriers flights from Europe to Morocco are not only more plentiful they cost significantly less. European discount airlines service Agadir, Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez and Tangier from cities throughout Europe. Most major airlines offer direct flights to Casablanca and Marrakech only. A variety of companies offer ferry service between Spain, Italy, France and Morocco.
Most domestic flights connect through Casablanca thus unless you intend to traverse the country from north to south and east to west, without stopping in between, the hassle of connections may outweigh the benefits of flying. Marrakesh is just 238 km (148 miles) from Cassablanca,175 km (109 miles) from Essaouira, 389 km (242 miles) from Fès and 204 km (126 miles) from Ouarzazate. The quality of Moroccan roads varies greatly, the quality of its drivers doesn't. They leave much to be desired. Hiring a car and driver is the safest and least frustrating solution. Train travel is convenient, efficient and safe and is a great alternative for independent travelers on a limited budget.
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your scheduled return date. Visas are not required for visits of 90 days or less. Extensions can be obtained from police offices throughout Morocco.
The weather in Morocco varies significantly from one destination to another. The best time of year to visit the Atlas Mountains and desert regions is spring (March and May) and fall (September and October) when it is neither hot nor cold and there is almost no rain. Summer is the best time to visit the Mediterranean and Atlantic beach resorts and coastal villages.
Traveler's diarrhea is the most common aliment afflicting tourists in Morocco. Avoiding tap water and unpasteurized milk are the cornerstones to prevention. Drink bottled water and eat cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables and packaged ice cream only. While the incidence of theft and crime is negligible big city caution and common sense are warranted in cities large and small. Do not leave valuables lying about in your hotel room, be careful how you carry your money on crowded public transport and on the street, make you sure you have all of your luggage and bags when you alight a taxicab and keep an eye, if not a hand, on the kids at all times. Be sure to check your local government website for updated travel advice and advisories before you book travel and again before you depart. And don't allow the kids to pet stray animals.
The currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. U.S. dollars and Euros are widely accepted at hotels and large shops but are not accepted elsewhere. Credit cards are broadly accepted in the main tourist centers but usage isn't free. A fee of up to 5% is added to credit card transactions at shops and low-end hotels. ATM cash machines are found throughout the country. Usage of cash cards abroad is governed by your local bank; inquire before you depart.
The continual request for backsheesh (a tip for services rendered) is annoying but there is no reason for it to ruin your trip. Carry small bills and coins and be prepared to tip everyone from waiter to guide. Moroccan Muslims celebrate Ramadan, a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. While non-Muslims can eat and drink any time of day many restaurants remain shuttered until the sun goes down. The timing of Ramadan varies from year to year in accordance with the lunar calendar.
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