Displaying items by tag: morocco safe to travel

Wednesday, 16 December 2020 10:15

Travel to Morocco in 2021- is it safe ?

Vaccines are here. Is Morocco ready to welcome visitors ?

Update 1/05/2021: Morocco's vaccination campaign is on track with 24 percent of adult population having received at least one dose.

{ Presently, there are no Morocco travel restrictions in place from the US. We expect the UK travel restrictions to be wavered later this month, as European Union is set to launch green health passes which will allow their holders to travel within the EU. Those currently flying to Morocco are asked to present a 72 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a hotel booking. The good news is that you are dispensed of the obligation to quarantine for a week or two, still required in other countries.} 

natural pools amtoudi gorges Gorges and palm grove in the Anti Atlas mountains 

While being the first country in Africa to start vaccination ( on January 25 ) and having curbed new cases since past November, is it safe to travel to Morocco in 2021 ? 

[ Read: Start planning a private Morocco tour in 2021 ]

VACCINES AND TESTS

After a gruelling wait, the much anticipated vaccines are finally here and although some dispute the reduced time of developing a vaccine, it is after all nothing short of a milestone. You can see here the evolution of the vaccination campaigns around the world. Major airports have introduced already on- site fast Covid tests and airlines are making it easier for tourists to test before traveling. In Morocco, the first country in Africa to start vaccination, the campaign started on 29 January and intends to vaccinate most of the adult population by summer . Will this terminate the pandemic ? Unlikely. Success depends on quite a few factors, among which: how well the vaccine will be distributed and available to the population at large, how many people will be willing to take it, the rate of contagion, etc.

amtoudi small granary                                           Fortress - granary in Morocco's south 

HOW DOES MOROCCO COMPARE TO OTHER COUNTRIES ?

Having started end of January its vaccination campaign, Morocco is currently suffering from a relative shortage of vaccines. A few months ago, Covid testing facilities opened up in major cities. In some locations, like Marrakech, for a little extra, you can have a specialized professional coming to your house and giving you the test for a cost of about 800 Dirhams ( 80 USD). In November, private clinics in Morocco were finally allowed to treat Covid patients, assuaging the over- burdened public health system. Morocco was the first country to start its vaccination campaign and aims to vaccinate most of its adult population by summer 2021. 

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[ Read: Book a summer private tour in Morocco ] 

IS MOROCCO READY TO WELCOME TOURISTS ?

In the summer of 2020, Spain and Portugal, among other countries opened their borders and welcomed tourists from abroad. The logic was to restart the tourism industry, particularly hit by the pandemic and make up for the losses incurred in March, April and May. Access to beaches was regulated, nightclubs, cinemas, attractions parks and other popular hotspots were kept shut down, restaurants were limited in terms of how many customers they could serve at one time, etc. Portugal had put into place Clean and Safe label and some regions in Spain even went as far as to relodge and compensate for all associated expenses for those tourists that contracted the virus while on holidays. Did it work ? No. Partly because population at large was still afraid to travel, partly because quarantine measures upon return made it impossible.

High Atlas mountains trekking Morocco                                                                                                    High Atlas mountains in December

In that respect, Morocco trailed behind. The government thought it too risky to open the borders and allow travel agents and hotels to recommence their activity. Besides, summer translates into low season in Morocco, generally. Yet, in the long run, it seems that Morocco's strategy worked better as both total number of cases as well as new cases are significantly better in Morocco as of late February compared to Portugal, Spain or France and the recent figures show a tendency towards a descendent trend since November. In Marrakech, Majorelle Gardens, Yves Saint Laurent museum, Le Jardin Secret, Dar El Bacha museum, among others, are already open to visitors. Our partner riads, kasbahs, lodges, boutique hotels and desert camps have mostly reopened since last Christmas.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS INSIDE MOROCCO 

Compared to other countries in Europe, the situation in Morocco is covetable, to say the least. Whereas Italy has seen no Christmas markets, with many regions will be under partial lockdown, Spain prohibited citizens from moving between regions during Semana Santa and France reinstated lockdown in several regions, in Morocco terraces, restaurants and hotels are open, from early morning till 8 PM, although night clubs and bars are still shut. Travel between regions is allowed, subject to a permit relatively easy to obtain from local authorities. Wearing a mask is compulsory nation- wide in public spaces and on the street. And let's face it: Morocco is much more about the Sahara desert than museums or other crammed spaces, so when on a Morocco private tour, you forget all about mask wearing and struggling ICU's.

Jemaa El Fna square Marrakech                                                                                                   Jemaa El Fna square, Marrakech 
WILL IT BE SAFE TO TRAVEL INSIDE MOROCCO ?

We expect the vaccination campaign in Morocco to curb the rise in new cases in the next couple of months. Although Morocco is a country where still many people live in remote regions, previous experience indicates that a vaccination campaign will be successful. 11 million Moroccans were vaccinated in 2013 against measles in only 4 weeks.

[ Read: Trek in Morocco in 2021 ]

Considering the above, we estimate that it should be safe to travel inside Morocco as early as May. With the vaccination campaign in full swing and the new- cases rising curb bent, safe travel around Morocco should resume as early as May. When we say safe, we mean that the probability of catching the virus will be scant, yet not inexistent. We also mean that travel restrictions will be relaxed, if not completely removed.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO TRAVEL TO MOROCCO RIGHT NOW ?

Flights between US and Europe are presently at a halt, following a decision back in March this year by the US to impede the entrance of all EU citizens in the US. An exception to that is the Atlanta to Rome flight Delta Airlines offers. It is, however, very likely for flights to resume soon, pending approval by the US authorities, as United Airlines and other major carriers in the US are already offering flights in March, April and May to some European capitals. The Moroccan borders are currently closed to UK nationals but we foresee an opening before the summer. 

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With airports and airlines struggling in the last 12 months, the approval of the vaccine and the widespread introduction of fast express Covid tests at the airport terminals, it seems plausible to believe that international flights will resume soon. The good news is that you don't need to book your flight through Europe if you wish to fly direct to Morocco. Royal Air Maroc offers direct flights into and out of Casablanca from New York, Montreal, Miami and Washington. Moreover, Air Arabia, EasyJet and Royal Air Maroc have added new destinations to connect visitors to Morocco. 

Babouche slippers crafts medina of Marrakech                                                                                   Babouche slipper making class in the medina of Marrakech 

Presently, there are no Morocco travel restrictions from the US. Those flying to Morocco are asked to present a 72 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a hotel booking. The good news is that you are dispensed of the obligation to quarantine for a week or two, still required in many other countries. Naturally, most of the travelers will already have a booking confirmation whether booking just their accommodation or more comprehensive travel arrangements, such as a private tour to include accommodation, transport, activities, guides, etc.

amtoudi granary at sunrise

BEST TIME TO VISIT MOROCCO ?

Perhaps it has never been a better time of year to book a Morocco holiday. Avoid the crowds: We estimate that it will take some time before Morocco's visitor numbers will return to a 'normal'. How does that translate for those wishing to visit soon ? Popular sites, such as Jemaa El Fna square, UNESCO world site Ait Benhaddou or the picture perfect village of Chefchaouen will see much less of the usual hustle and bustle, rendering them all more genuine and picturesque (yes, you can actually walk around Jemaa El Fna without being pestered by a monkey...). So, no danger of confining yourself into people- packed spaces. What is more, booking a Morocco private tour will include a lot of travel to remote, off- the- beaten- track areas, such as Draa Valley, the Sahara desert or the Gorges of Dades. No chance there of being jostled. A private tour could, or rather should, include a traditional hammam and body scrub treatment or a cookery class, both of them private experiences. All our local guided tours are private, your only escort being a local, well- informed guide.

Discounted rates and flexible cancellation terms: It is no secret to anyone that everyone working in tourism in Morocco has toiled and strained from March until now, from the informal food stalls on Jemaa El Fna square to the booking department of uber- luxury hotels such as La Mamounia or Royal Mansour. Therefore, you are likely to be offered last minute and/ or early- bird discounts, part of a nation wide effort to attract tourists back and ensure a more than necessary money flow to a depleted trade.

Help local populations: The pandemic has hit everyone, that is true, but unevenly. Before the pandemic, populations in remote areas of Morocco, where climate change and rural exodus are contributing to social inequalities were helped by the slight, yet constant passage of visitors. The few teas with the nomads, guided tours, bread- baking classes and the likes helped making ends meet. These populations living on a day to day basis are currently the most affected. Each of us can make a small difference in our own way by inspiring people to travel again to those areas. 

Sunset over Marrakech palm grove                                                                                                             Sunset over palm grove

We've all been through a lot in 2020. I can't think of a better place to put it all behind, than the top of a dune in the Sahara, soaking in the oceans of saffron- couloured sand, while the sun rises on the horizon. Here is to a 2021 full of hope and traveling to that once- in- a- lifetime destination.

Marrakech, 5 February 2021.

 

Published in Morocco travel blog