Moving to Morocco: The Ultimate Guide
Yes, moving to a new country might be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. With beautiful Morocco as your destination, we know just how equally daunting and exciting this can be. Sure, you might be plagued with both a crippling fear of the unknown – but there’s an eagerness too.
Honestly, we’re glad that you’re taking this leap, but just like any adventure, it’s always best to come prepared. To salute your fortitude and spirit, we’ve come up with a comprehensive list that will help you adjust and get the most out of your experience.
From the food, to the architecture, and the culture, prepare yourself to fall in love with Morocco. We’ve made this list for every brave soul who has the mettle to go out of their comfort zones. In this article you will find 30 things we wish we knew before we moved to Morocco.
Religion is very important in Morocco. Morocco is a predominantly Muslim Country. Morrocans follow the Maaliki Islamic school which is one of the most moderate and tolerant Islamic schools of thought. Historically, Morocco is home to a large number of Jews who migrated from Spain “Andaloucia” with the Muslim who were persecuted during the recapture “reconquesta” wars.
Today, the Jewish heritage is very visible in the Moroccan culture, food and architecture. Many of the Jewish population migrated to Israel in the 1940’s. The ones remaining can still practice their religion freely in many synagogues still open across the country.
There’s a small percentage of the population that practices Christianity, there are Churches in main major cities, like Casablanca, Tangier, Rabat.
Before moving to Morocco you should consider to learn more about local weather. If you think Morocco is a warm/hot country and that you will not need to pack your winter clothes, you are committing a big mistake!
Being located on the northern west tip of Africa, Morocco experiences all 4 seasons with dramatic changes in the temperatures between winter and summer. However, the weather conditions also depend on which region you will live in.
Winter can be very cold in the mountainous areas where you should also expect a lot of snow fall, while, some other parts of the country like Agadir and the south part (the desert) remain relatively warm throughout the year with occasional Atlantic Ocean winter winds that will make you put on your jackets and switch on the heaters.
Summer in Morocco can range from a nice 28C to 30C degrees in cities on the cost line to very uncomfortable 45C to 48C in other regions.
If you’re a foreigner, it will help if you familiarize yourself with some common terms of the local dialect.
Contrary to the common believe, the spoken language in Morocco is not Arabic, or at least not 100%. It is called “Darija” and is a mix of many different languages including the native berber languages, sub-saharan languages, Portuguese, Spanish, French and ofcourse Arabic.
Most moroccans also understand and speak french. Other languages like English or German are rarely spoken unless you are in a tourist area.
Oh! Don’t get me started!! What a gastronomic treat Morocco is!
The flavors are a rich combination of Arab, French, and Berber influence. Your palate will surely enjoy the adventure and variety. Tagine and Couscous are 2 of the most popular dishes.
Oh! Did I say 2? Sorry, even these 2 dishes can be made in 100s different ways, depending on the region and the main ingredients can be anything from Chicken, beef, lamb, goat, pigeon, fish or even camel.
Apart from the Tagines and Couscous there are a lot more other dishes like “Zaalouk” a kind if mashed eggplant cooked with moroccan spices, “Bastila” which is a sweet and salty pie filled with almond paste, pigeons or chicken or seafood.
Much like their food, Moroccans have a blend of religious-based and culturally-rich habits. They are often a reflection of their Berber, African, and Arab heritage.
Habits and traditions are also very diverse, it also depends on the region, ethnic groups (arabs, barbers, sahraouis) and also social levels and whether you live in a village on the country side or in a big city.An example of habits and traditions could be how moroccans celebrate weddings.
The bridal dresses are very good example of this diversity, the berber dress is totally different than a dress from Tangier or Tetouane in the North, which are also different than the one from Fez, beautiful maybe the heaviest dress in the world, you will feel like wearing a mountain :), also there is the Rabati dress and many many others.
Now a days in the cities, brides chose to wear all of them in 1 night, Imagine having to change 6 to 8 times during your wedding night!! Good luck, and stay strong 🙂
A country on its way to progress will be sure to have a beggar or two in its streets–and Morocco is no exception. As long as you remain firm, these homeless citizens will often be respectful.
Just to set your expectations straight: no, Morocco is probably not as cheap as you expect it to be. But it all depends on where you live and your lifestyle.
Casablanca, is definitely the most expensive city in the country. Tangier also rank high when it comes to cost of living. This being said it is still away cheaper than most of Europe.
To put you in perspective, for a family of 2 or 3 people living in the city of Agadir, you can get a decent 2 bedroom apartment (non furnished) for around €200 to $300 a month. For food, shopping from the local markets would cost €25 to €35 a week and that would include all sorts of vegetables, fruits, meat, chicken and maybe some fish.
For water, you should expect to pay between €10 and €20 a month, electricity would depend on the equipment you have at home (AC, Heater, cooking, washing machine…) you can expect to pay anywhere between €30 to €150 per month.
You can also get a good home internet package for around €20 a month.If you own or rent a car, the diesel is fluctuates between €0.7 and €1 per litter. While the gasoline is more expensive and ranges between €0.9 and €1.2 per litter.
Much like other places in the world, there is wide range of choice depending on your budget, you can go for basic local residential area or the heart of the big cities or even chose high-end condominiums or even villas.
For short rentals, Airbnb is one of your best options as it offers some kind of guarantee and will save you some hassle. However, if you are planning for long term rentals, you should checkout mubawab.ma and Avito.ma.
Try to look for listings that are posted by individual owners rather than real estate agencies or “professionals” as it is always better to negotiate directly with the landlord. And yes, everything is negotiable even when you see a “non-negotiable” price. Get help from a local friend to help you bargain as foreigners tend to be asked to pay more than what a local would.
Moroccan streets are always bustling with food and goods. To strike a bargain, haggling has become a huge part of Morocco’s culture. So is siesta, or an afternoon nap. It is this laidback way of life that makes this country endearing. On the flip side, this rather languid way of life often irks expats like me. Time isn’t a much-respected currency in these areas.
Celebrations are big in a country that likes to celebrate with food too. A simple family gathering just doesn’t quite cut it. Celebrations here are often grand, complete with plenty of food and music.
One more thing that makes this country so unique is the diversity of its landscapes. It is unbelievable how the scenery can change from green lush forests or snow covered mountains to arid land to desert in a matter of few hours drive. You could literally go Skying on the Atlas mountains in the morning and kite surfing or running on the beach on the Atlantic cost in the afternoon.
Get ready to share baths in a public Hammam too. This is a big part of Moroccans’ everyday life.
Public baths or Hammam are an essential part of lives or most Moroccans from all social classes. Once a week or at least once per month, a mandatory relaxation trip to the Hammam is needed. Here you can expect not only exfoliation from head to toe but also a calm bliss when you walk out. Hammams aren’t just for hygienic purposes, but it’s also a place to relax and unwind and specifically for women, believe it or not, it is a place to socialize. That’s why Moroccans would tell you that women spends more time in the Hammam then men.
Some might think Moroccan Hammams are related to the Turkish ones. Historically, since Morocco is the only country in North Africa that kept its independence from the Turkish Empire, Moroccan Hammams are originated from a much older empire, which is the Roman’s. There are many Roman ruins across Morocco that show the use of Hammans during that era of history. Just like the old Roman baths, the Moroccan Hammans consists of 3 to 4 large steam rooms with running hot and cold water. The rooms are aligned from cooler to hotter.
Moroccans usually start the experience with the hot room (depending on the capacity of each person to take on heat and humidity) then gradually move down to cooler rooms, each room or stage has it’s own ritual, starting from putting on Moroccan black soap in the hot room, scrubbing to remove the dead skin in the next room, washing off with normal soap and shampooing in the next one and finally cooling off on the last stage.
You’ll meet the most beautiful and friendliest people in Morocco. If you talk to Moroccans you will immediately feel their sense of pride and confidence, but at the same time you will experience their unique generosity and humbleness. And what’s a better way to show all these qualities than to stuff you with some of the most amazing food you can taste!
If you have young children, you would be surprised how much attention and love your baby or toddler will get from every one you meet. Even strangers would smile to the children or even come closer and try to play with them.
Moroccan society is very family oriented. Families are usually big and there is a strong bond between each member. Elderly people are very well respected and cared for by everyone in the family.
Well, to start with the transport infrastructure in Morocco is one of the best in the African continent. Moroccans enjoy more than 57000 km of roads national and regional roads and addition 1800 km of highways which like all major cities in the country. In addition Morocco has 70 international and regional airports, over 1200 km of railway which includes the only high speed train in Africa connecting Casablanca to Tangier in the north in just 2 hour instead of 4 hours by normal train.
If you don’t have a car, the most comfortable way to move around the city is small taxi or “Petit Taxi” as moroccans calls it. These taxis run by meter so make sure the driver switch it on. A taxi ride is not very expensive and would cost you anywhere between €1 and €3 depending on the distance.
If you are on a small budget, you can use the bus service. However, you may want to avoid rush hours as the buses can get very crowded and uncomfortable. You will also need to be careful of pickpockets who get on buses to try their luck. Some cities like Rabat and Casablanca also have a tramway service which is much more comfortable.
Ah! You will ask, what about uber? Well uber does not exist in Morocco due to legal issues. However, there are few local apps you can use these do not work with private drivers but only with formal taxi drivers and also may not work in all cities. A good example is an app called “YASSIR”.
Now what about travelling between cities? Here you have 3 choices: the most comfortable one is of course train, however the rail way does not cover the whole country yet. The 2nd way is enter-city buses which you can take for the city main bus station, these are reasonably comfortable but are relatively slow.
The 3rd option is the big taxi or “Grand Taxi”, you get to share a taxi to another city from the main taxi station. These taxis are faster way to travel compared to the bus but these normal size cars will take up to 6 people + driver onboard, so as you can imagine not the most comfortable way to travel few hundred kilometres.
Contrary to middle eastern countries where the weekend is usually Thursday and Friday or Friday and Saturday, Morocco’s weekends are the “Normal” Saturday-Sunday couple. So not much you need to adapt to here :).
The main public holidays in Morocco are mostly religious. Eid Al Fitr or as Moroccans calls it Eid Sghir which translate to “Small Celebration” at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Eid Al Maoulid (Prophet Mohammed PBUH birthday) and ofcourse Eid Al Adha or Eid Kbir, and ofcourse, since we already had the small celebration why not have the “Big Celebration” (the sacrifice day) which is the most important Muslim celebration of the year.
There are also few National holidays like the Independence day, The Green Marche day and The Throne day (the day Mohammed 6 became king after the passing of his father Hassan 2). Public holidays also include some international celebrations, mainly the Labour day on 1st May. Below is a link the a website with detailed public holidays calendar for 2020.
Much like any nation, Morocco imposes different form of taxes on companies and also on individuals living in the country for more than 6 months per year. Let’s set the tax on companies a side, and lets only talk about tax on individual income. If you are an employee of governmental or private sector, it’s easy, the income tax is automatically deducted from your salary by your employer who then has to pay it to the state. The individual income Tax can go from 0% to 38% depending on your salary level, so if you are negotiating a work contract, it is a good idea to ask your employer for the salary after tax, this way you know exactly who much you will be getting to your account.
Other tax that would be included in your restaurant of shopping Bill’s is TVA this can go anywhere between 7% for certain essential products and a maximum of 20%.
If you own an apartment or a house, you will also be taxed a small annual amount which you will receive to your address and must pay within a specific period of time that would be mentioned on the bill.
The payment of these kind of taxes is relatively easy as it can be done via your bank mobile app or online. Here is the official website for the tax authority that you can use to pay your taxes.
The culture in Morocco is quite tolerant, giving plenty of leeway to expats and tourists alike. However, if you want to blend in, make sure to respect their somewhat conservative culture.
Holding hands is ok in most places (unless you are visiting a far away village) but you should definitely avoid kissing anywhere in public. Ladies, don’t worry, this is not Saudi Arabia where you need to cover from head to toe. you don’t need to cover your hair neither (unless you are going to a mosque). However, unless you are on the beach where you can put on your sexy swimwear, you should avoid wearing revealing clothes especially those that let show the high parts of your legs, your shoulders and chest.
Shaking hands with the opposite sex is fine. however, if you are a man, do not shake hands with a women unless she offers her hand first.
Anywhere you go in the world, you might come across some bad people that do not represent the rest of the population. Scams targeting foreigners in Morocco are quite rare. However, you should always be careful of strangers that offer you “great deals”.
In general most of if happens in tourist areas and around bazaars, which is nothing too bad. Some people might try to convince you that you are buying a rare item, some might even try to sell you a fake expensive watch, sunglasses or even fake gold jewellery, saying that they found it on the beach and that’s why they are willing to sell if for a lot less than its value. The General rule is if the deal sounds too good, then there is a big chance it is a scam.
Again, scams like this are quite rare. But when you go to the markets, know that no one is expecting you to pay the price that they ask flat first. If you are a tourist, or just arrived in Morocco, the margin for negotiations gets higher than for locals.
There are plenty of things in the market that might catch your eye. However, before you commit to buying an item, make sure to do your research. Walk around first and compare prices before making your decision. Once you find the store which offered you the lowest price you can return there and start another round of negotiations.
The speed and accessibility of Wifi and mobile data are quite decent in Morocco too. In fact, there are a number of service providers that you can choose from like Maroc Telecome, Inwi and Orange.
You can choose either a prepaid plan which you can top up from the many small convenience stores nearby your home or, and I think this is the best option, you can use a postpaid plan which you can pay on monthly basis. Ask the telecom company to give you all the different packages possible so that you can choose the one that fits your needs and budget.
Immersing in Moroccan culture means enjoying the population’s favorite past-time: shopping.
Most Moroccans go to Souks (translated Market ) once a week to shop for food as well as other house hold items. In certain cities like Agadir, Souk Al Had is a place you can buy pretty much anything you need, from a couch for your living room to pets, clothes and of course spices and food.
This is not to say that there are no other shopping options. You can small shopping centres called “Qisariya” that usually sells cloths, tissue, electronics and other household items.
There is a considerable number of big chain of malls and supermarkets. Marjan and Aswaq Asalam are among the most popular.
Unlike in most countries, there really is no assigned percentage as to how much you should tip.It all depends on the type of service you are buying. For example, if you buy a coffee that costs 10 dhs to 15 dhs it’s ok to tip between 2 to 3 dhs. If you don’t have change, don’t worry, usually the waiters will make sure they give you back small coins to get a better chance for a tip. :).
If you eat at a restaurant a full lunch or dinner, usually a tip of 5 to 20 dhs is ok depending on the level of the place and the cost of the meal.For your tour guide, tipping anything between 50 and 200 dhs is good depending on how satisfied you are and also the length of time you spent with the guide.
If you are a lady, you would be happy to know that you will be very well protected in Morocco. If you are a man, be careful what you do or say to women especially those you don’t know. Things that can be seen as a normal thing to say like “I like you, can I get your number?” in europe and the western countries in general, can be considered as sexual harassment in Morocco. So my advice, do not make such a move unless you are sure the lady is interested in you.
A new law criminalizing sexual violence and harassment has entered into force in Morocco. Law 103-13 on violence against women now criminalizes certain acts considered as forms of harassment, assault, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment. It also provides for measures to combat harassment in public places, including sentences ranging from one to six months in prison or/and fines.
As you may know, tourism is one of the main industries in Morocco. In order to encourage the tourism sector, Morocco allows visa free entrance to citizens of more than 90 countries. You can check on the moroccan consulate website to know if your country is in this list. The tourist visa is usually for 90 days but can be extended at the main police stations in the country.
Of course, if you are planing to stay for a long period, either for employment, investment or joining your Moroccan spouse, you will need to apply for “la carte de serjour” resident ID card. The procedure is quite simple for foreigners married with Moroccans. A visit to the main police station in your city will give you all information and documents you need in order to apply.
The Moroccan currency is called Dirham.
Incase you are looking for its value online, the international currency code is MAD (it’s not mad at all 😉 ). For those interested, Morocco monetary policies can seem very strict, but at the same time it is giving the country a great competitiveness while keeping the value of its currency somewhat stable. The Moroccan currency is tightly linked to US dollars and the Euro since a lot of the Moroccan trade is with these 2 regions of the world. Just recently, the moroccan Gov decided to make its currency a bit more flexible by allowing it to move up or down against USD and EUR by not more that 5%, this means at the moment there is no risk of big losses due to exchange rate for foreigners living in Morocco.
At the time this article is written, 1 USD = 10.22 MAD and 1 EUR = 11 MAD.
Morocco is also very protective of it’s hard currency reserves (USD and EUR), so transferring money from Morocco to another country is complicated unless you can prove you legally employed in Morocco and sending money home, or if you have a business that needs to important certain goods or in certain cases families sending money to support a moroccans student aborad. Of course if you own a company, it is possible to pay for imported goods by providing the related documents to your bank. For normal people, you are allowed a maximum of €1000 per year for your online purchases on foreign websites and €4000 per year if you are travelling abroad for tourism.
There are plenty of banks that you can trust in Morocco, it’s all just a matter of personal preference. Some Moroccan banks are present also in Europe and African countries. Attijari Wafa Banque and La Banque populaire are 2 of the most popular banks in Morocco.
Based on experience, I would recommend avoiding BMCI (belongs to the group BNP PARIBAS) It took them 2 months to process my application to open an account and any other services takes like getting ATM card or a cheque book takes ages. Their customer support is all over the place too.
If you are coming to Morocco for a short time visit, it is better to get a travel insurance from your country, you will be asked to show it if you need to apply for a tourist visa to enter Morocco.
For those that are planning to settle for a long time and that have employment in Morocco, you will be entitled to a mandatory health insurance policy that your employer needs to enrol in. Like everywhere, there are many different packages and inclusions, hence you may want to ask your employer about the type of health insurance you get and what does it cover.
If you are coming under a visa other than employment, like spouse visa, there are many moroccan insurance companies that offer national and even international health insurance packages, Saham insurance is a popular one.
For a foreigner, finding a job in Morocco can be difficult especially if you don’t have top high education specialised or having skills that are rare to find in the country. Ideally you should already have a job contract before moving to the country.
Finding a solid network of fellow expats is important when job-hunting in Morocco. Expats will point you to the right career path if you simply know who to ask. Many foreigners work as free-lansers online or offer to teach foreign languages. This could be good for making some money, but it will not help to get you a legal long stay visa in the country.
Below are some websites you can use to look for a job in Morocco:
Foreigners can buy real estate property in Morocco except for farms and agricultural land.
The administrative procedures can take a long time. To avoid problems, go through a real estate agent. He knows both the market and the administrative details. His help is absolutely essential to avoid wasting time, energy and money.
The main danger comes from “Melkia” properties. These are without titles. They have no legal existence at the register of property. The Melkias have limited legal value, mainly derived from Islamic law. In the medina (the old cities) and villages, 90% of real estate is of this type.
Before signing anything, find out about the property legal situation. For added security, avoid investing in this type of property all together.
If you decide to do so, you will have to register the property via a notary in order to obtain the land title, but this procedure is very long and can have issues. If you buy a housing off plan, be very careful because the Financial Guarantee of Completion is not compulsory in Morocco. In the event of the promoter’s default, you will therefore not be covered.
The best and safest way is to buy a new property that is ready to move in as all new properties must have a Tittle and legally registered. But again please make sure not to sign or pay anything without the presence of a notary.
Morocco is home to various universities and schools of higher education. If you want to pursue your education, you can easily do so here. You can study anything from business management, international trade to Medicine and all sorts of high level engineering.
It is Important to note that their are 2 types of higher education in Morocco: Almost free public universities and faculties and Private universities where you should expect to pay a considerable amount.
Of course it is also good to know that the main universities are all consecrated in big cities and regional capitals like Rabat, Tangier, Casablanca, Marrakech and Agadir. With the exception maybe of the University Al Akhawayne which is one of the best but is located in the beautiful small city of Ifran in the Atlas Mountains.
Just like tiger éducations, there are plenty of options for the younger génération. However, post parents (except those that can’t afford it) prefer sending their children to private international schools rather than public schools.
Private schools offer a much better education as it is more encompassing and most of them use the modern teaching techniques. kids are thought Arabic, French and English at a very early age.
For those families with toddlers and children less than 5 years old, there are plenty of option too, Preschools and Daycare facilities are widely available and are most of the time integrated together with primary schools especially the private ones. Most Public schools do not include this section and take children only starting from 6 year old.
Much like job-hunting, looking for a preschool for your kids is mostly on recommendation-basis. You can choose from half or full-day options for your kids and these can range from $80 to $120 per month. Of course you can always find cheaper options but you should expect a lower quality in this case.
Food isn’t often part of the tuition, so make sure to prepare for this additional expense.
You’ll never be short of entertainment in the big cities. In summer, Morocco becomes a big scene for many music festivals, some of them like MAWAZINE in Rabat and GNAWA music in Essaouira attract famous international artists and many fans from all around the world.
There are also plenty of choices of night clubs and party places in main cities like Marrakesh, Casablanca, Agadir and others. The same can’t be said in smaller cities though.
As you may imagine, and like anywhere else in the world, the highest concentration of expats is of course in the large cities where there are more chances of finding a job.
Casablanca, being the largest city in Morocco and the economic capital of the country , has the largest expats community in the country. Other cities like Rabat, Marrakech, Tangier, Fez and Agadir are also popular destinations.
Expatriates in Morocco come from all over the world but there is a strong presence of Europeans and African communities due to the geographical proximity and the historic ties of Morocco with Europe and its roots in Africa.
Personally, I am settled in Agadir where there is a considerable size expat community including from Russia (where I am from) and russian speaking countries and of course western European communities. We make it a point to create camaraderie by spending our Saturdays doing activities together. Be sure to check our FB groups too!