The question is Morocco safe is probably one of the most searched questions about Morocco. Which I completely understand. In fact, even if Morocco is a pretty popular travel destination, in many people’s head, it gets mixed with countries with civil wars and high terrorist activities. Luckily, there is nothing of that.
I grew up in Morocco and I still spend a lot of time there. I won’t lie to you, I am crazy about Morocco! I also won’t lie to you and say it is completely safe, as no country in the world is, right? Instead, I will detail different aspects of security in Morocco to help you have a complete insider overview.
Is It Safe To Travel To Morocco?
To understand safety in Morocco, it is important to understand some historical, social and cultural aspects. Terrorism, crimes, health matters, driving style, and women rights are some of the very important aspects to learn about before traveling to Morocco.
Terrorism in Morocco
The last terrorist attack Morocco suffered from was in in 2011 and targeted a café in Marrakech, killing 15 people both tourists and locals. This terrorist attack was the first after 2003 attack in a mall in Casablanca, targetting especially locals.
There are several reasons that might explain the fact that Morocco has been rarely targeted by terrorists. However, a subtle yet very important reason is that Moroccan society is very gossipy. In fact, there is a funny saying in Morocco which states that gossiping is Morocco national sport.
If you have the chance to travel to Morocco, you will notice that cafés are everywhere and men spend most of their free time drinking coffee while gossiping and catching up. Women gossip too while at home, souks (local grocery stores) or in the Hammams (a traditional Moroccan SPA). So if there is somebody who, let’s say, had changed his habits or started paying interest to some controversial subject, chances are high that the information will quickly spread and reach local law enforcement.
Gossiping is one reason, but there are obviously others. If you are interested in the subject and want to dig deeper, here is a great article that explains what makes Morocco less of a terrorist target than other countries.
This subject saddens me a lot. I was living in Paris when terrorist attacks happened in Morocco in 2011, and I was devastated. I also witnessed the terrorist attacks that happened in France in Le Bataclan, cafés terraces, and Stade de France, all in the same evening of November 13th, 2015. I was there too when Charlie Hebdo was attacked. Each time it was terrible, unfair, unpredictable, leaving us all in extreme shock and infinite sadness.
It is clear that no one can predict future events or guarantee safety. Also, no one can give us the assurance we are looking for. Fortunately, the facts and history clearly highlight that we can worry less about terrorism when we travel to Morocco than when we travel to other touristic countries.
EDIT: In December 20th, 2018, three men killed two Scandinavian female hikers in the Toubkal Mountain, Morocco. The motivations behind this act are still not clear, as the three men appeared to be mentally imbalanced. While they said they were IS supporters, IS hasn’t confirmed being behind the killings.
That being said, and as stated by this WashingtonPost article, it was an isolated and unplanned act, happening in an isolated place. Months later, Moroccan court sentenced the three killers to death penalty.
Personally, as a woman and for the reasons I will detail in this post, I would never think of spending the night alone or with my girlfriends (or even male friends) in the mountain. Sadly, the two Scandinavian women were a little too adventurous and enthusiastic despite their local guide warnings. May their souls rest in peace and may this be a reminder to always stay safe.
Crime in Morocco
Crime in Morocco is a moderate concern. In fact, the U.S. Department of State classified Morocco as a MEDIUM-threat location, especially in big cities likes Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech. The most common crimes in Morocco are pickpocketing, robberies and purse snatching. Violent crimes like murders and rapes are less frequent but must be taken seriously in some neighborhoods.
In Morocco, highly touristic areas are mostly the target of pickpocketing and purse snatching. So keep your precious items hidden, even if no one is around you. Some assailants can hide and use a scooter to quickly come and snatch your purse or handbag. I love to use this Neck Wallet as it is very discreet and impossible to snatch.
Purse snapping is very frequent in highly touristic areas
More aggressive, dangerous crimes can happen in some neighborhoods that are known for their hostility, even for locals. But this isn’t something specific to Morocco. Paris, New York, L.A and nearly all big cities have those types of neighborhoods where you don’t feel safe if you don’t blend into the decor.
Fortunately, in Morocco, places like these are rare. These neighborhoods are mainly an agglomeration of old houses, small traditional grocery shops with no touristic attractions. The picture below shows an example of how these neighborhoods look like.
Safety in non-touristy areas
So if you don’t get very adventurous and stick to Morocco main touristic attractions, there is no way you will end up in places like these believe me!
Vaccinations for Morocco
Unlike many African countries where vaccinations prior to the trip might be mandatory, Morocco doesn’t require special vaccinations and remains a safe country regarding health matters.
In 2018, a tourist died of rabies after a cat bite in Morocco. While this is really rare, it’s better to stay away from crazy-looking/dirty dogs and cats. If you get bitten, head to the closest hospital and get yourself checked. Rabies can be easily taken care of if treated quickly.
Other general safety measures can apply. Don’t forget your medicines and prescriptions if you have any, bring your emergency quit, mosquitoes repellents products, sunscreen and if possible, get Typhoid and Hepatitis A (and even Hepatitis B) vaccines. Essential oils can also be of great help to treat some travel inconveniences.
Another frequent travel inconvenience is the Turista, that digestive discomfort that can occur during our trips either because of tiredness or diet change.
Morocco is not a country that is at high risk of Turista, but it is always better to get prepared. No one wants to spend his vacation in the bathroom, right? Here are my recommendations to avoid Turista in your trip:
- Wash fruits thoroughly and peel them before you eat them.
- Switch to bottled water if possible, especially if you are in small cities or villages.
- Eat yogurt once a day to support your stomach with probiotics. Oh, and why not try local Raïb? A Moroccan version of yogurt very tasteful and creamy.
- Use lemon essential oil throughout your trip to strengthen your immune system.
Driving in Morocco
If you are planning on driving in Morocco, I will start by giving you two advises: 1-Be careful, 2 – Be zen. Driving in Morocco varies a lot from a city to another. Casablanca and Marrakech, for example, are by far the most stressful, messy and confusing places to drive in. If you’re bold enough to take on the road, you’ll be surprised by how rude people can be. A piece of general advice would be to avoid driving in Morocco except when really obliged to. Cabs are cheap and very convenient.
When I drive in Morocco, I am either amused or angry, depending on my mood. The difference is enormous compared to the other places I lived in, such as France and the US. Moroccan people drive fast and don’t always respect road signs. In a nutshell, it is a bit of anarchy. If you are used to driving in a straight line, one car behind the other, well, in Morocco, most people don’t do that. It’s like drivers have their own unwritten manual of road signs. So don’t be surprised if the drivers unrightfully overtake your car from the right and the left. Really. Oh, and if you are in the front line and the traffic light has just turned green, either don’t waste your time and start the car immediately, or be prepared to be honked at furiously.
So here are my recommendations for a safe drive in Morocco :
- Be concentrated and follow road signs, drive carefully.
- Don’t get distracted by honks and get pressured to do something. For example, if you are not ready to make a turn, don’t. Take the appropriate time to make your maneuvers.
- Stay zen
- In town, cabs are your friends. They are cheap and very convenient.
Morocco and the LGBT Community
If you are part of the LGBT community, of course, you can visit Morocco and have a beautiful vacation, but on one condition: Stay very discreet about your sexual orientation!
In fact, Morocco, due to its religious background, is not tolerant of any sexual manifestation in public spaces. For example, a man and woman, even married, cannot show affection in public, especially in small and conservative cities. Some places are more tolerant, so you might see couples holding hands, but not everywhere.
For the LGBT people, showing affection or anything about their sexual preference can be dangerous as it is illegal. So discretion, discretion, and discretion.
Women in Morocco
Women in Morocco and Women safety is a subject that is very dear to my heart. In fact, women safety in Morocco is one of my battle horses. And that’s why I developed an online platform to help Moroccan women have more safe choices when going for outdoor activities, entertainment, places to visit or dine-in etc.. But I am going to talk about that in a future article.
Although women safety in Morocco is rather above average, I find that Moroccan women don’t enjoy overall the same level of freedom and choices as men do. This applies especially to Moroccan local women who permanently live in Morocco. Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to female tourists who stick to the touristic places. And guess what? These touristic places are the ones local women frequent whenever they want to go out and enjoy their freedom safely.
In contrast, Moroccan men are the champions of catcalling. So if you are a woman and experience such behavior, ignore the catcall, avoid eye contact and keep walking. Besides, if you happen to interact with a man, try to stay neutral. No touching, laughing or flirting unless you want things to go further, as Moroccan men can misinterpret your signals.
And if ever you get aggressively harassed (although it happens quite rarely in touristic places), yelling, screaming and calling for help will intimidate the harasser and draw other men attention to hurry help you. But as I have said, this is a quite unlikely scenario.
My other recommendation for women would be to avoid wearing sexy clothes and showing a lot of skin. Unless you are with a local guide and he tells you it is going to be fine. Décolletés, shorts or shorts skirts can draw catcallers attention. So make sure you pack your clothes smartly and if you get catcalled, please don’t get offended. I know sometimes such behaviors can make us very angry. But remember that you’ve made it all the way to Morocco to enjoy your time. So just ignore anyone annoying you and have fun!