Displaying items by tag: morocco travel ban

Wednesday, 16 December 2020 10:15

Travel to Morocco in 2021- is it safe ?

Vaccines are here. Is Morocco ready to welcome visitors ?

Update 7/06/2021: Since last night, Morocco's borders are now open to EU countries, meaning you can book your flights to/ from Morocco with a layover in major European airports. France and Spain are allowing visitors from US and other countries, without the need for on- site Covid testing or quarrantine. Direct flights from the US to Morocco have been open and operating since last September.

[ See photos of our guests touring Morocco recently ]

Presently, there are no Morocco travel restrictions in placeThose currently flying to Morocco are asked to present a less than 48 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a hotel booking. There is no obligation to quarantine upon arrival in Morocco. 

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

VACCINES AND TESTS

After a gruelling wait, the much- anticipated vaccines are finally making a difference, not least in the way people are booking up travel again. Some countries, like Greece, are already open to tourists. 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 end of summer . What's more, 9 out of 10 Moroccans have declared willing to take the vaccine. You can see here the evolution of the vaccination campaigns around the world. 

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 trailing just behind Portugal and France ( see graph below).  After an explosive start of the campaign, the efforts were somewhat thwarted by India's case outbreak in the last few weeks. Since the beginning of May, Morocco is back on track with an average of 200.000 vaccinations a day, for a population of roughly 30 million. On 13 May, Morocco has started to vaccinate its population under 50 years old. Already last September, Covid testing facilities opened up in major cities and a PCR test would set you back about 500 Dirhams ( 50 USD/ 45 euros). 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. 

Screen Shot 2021 06 07 at 11.28.28

Screen Shot 2021 06 07 at 11.24.28

Presently, the daily Covid cases in Morocco are at an all- time- low, with an average of 63 new cases per week per million persons, about 10 times less cases than Spain or France ( see graph above). 

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

IS MOROCCO READY TO WELCOME TOURISTS ?

While Greece is already welcoming tourists from abroad, carrying a vaccine certificate or a PCR test, Spain and France have declared being open to American tourists and tourists from other countries starting in June. Morocco maintains its borders closed with most European countries until at least 10 June, most likely to dully get ready for the summer season. Flights from US and Golf countries are operating normally. Royal Air Maroc flies into Casablanca from New York and Washington, with connections also in place from Dallas, Miami and Boston. Given the actual circumstances, we recommend booking direct flights to Morocco and avoiding connecting flights.                                                                           

[ Read: Book a summer private tour in Morocco ] 

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS INSIDE MOROCCO 

Presently, travel between regions within Morocco is allowed, subject to a permit relatively easy to obtain from local authorities. Wearing a mask is compulsory nation- wide in public spaces. A curfew is still in place in large cities from 8 PM to 6 AM. Public monuments are still closed to public, although Majorelle Gardens, Dar El Bacha museum, Le Jardin Secret or Kasbah des Oudayas ( most privately- owned tourist attractions) have been now open for months.  Most of our partner guest houses, riads, desert camps and eco lodges have been opened since last Christmas. 

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

We expect the vaccination campaign to only gather more and more steam in the next few 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. The success of the vaccination campaign largely hinges on vaccine supply and it appears that Morocco has now managed to stream a steady supply of vaccines into the country. 

[ Read: Trek in Morocco in 2021 ]

Considering the above, we estimate that traveling within Morocco should be back to normal by September. With the vaccination campaign in full swing and the new- cases rising curb bent, mask wearing and curfews should be wavered, public monuments open and free movement within the country possible by September. 

Babouche slippers crafts medina of Marrakech                                                                         

Presently, there are no Morocco travel restrictions from the US. Those flying to Morocco are asked to present a 48 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a hotel booking. Presently, there is no obligation to quarantine upon arrival. 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.

Trekking High Atlas in December

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 2020 until now, from the spontaneous 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.

 

Published in Morocco travel blog
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 00:00

Morocco - best time to visit ?

jemaa el fna square marrakech

When to visit Morocco and travel around ?

Update 26.03.2021: Presently, there are no Morocco travel bans in place from the US. Those flying to Morocco are asked to present a printed 72 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a travel agency or hotel booking. Children less than 11 are dispensed of the test. You are dispensed of the obligation to quarantine upon arrival.

{Read: Is it safe to visit Morocco in 2021 ?}

In a nutshell: 

I've lived in Morocco since 2006 and believe the country is best visited all year round. Avoid the crowds ? January and February is your best bet, with plenty of sunshine. Best rates all year round ? July and August, but keep to the Atlas mountains and the Atlantic coast, if 40 plus Celsius is not your thing. March, April, May and October/ November ? Great weather, warm enough to sun tan and enjoy a pool, but it's also when Morocco gets most tourists, so you'll have to mingle with the crowds. Naturally, you can avoid them and explore Morocco off the beaten track: the Sahara desert, the Anti Atlas mountains and Morocco's southern regions boast enough open spaces for everyone to feel remote. Travel with the children ? By all means, they will remember it for the rest of their lives. 

azalai desert camp morning

The details: 

You're just coming out of the pandemic blues and you're looking for that special destination, somewhere a milliion miles away from mask wearing and travel bans ? On top of a saffron dune, overlooking Sahara's infinite rolling hillocks, can you picture it ? Can you put yourself there ? Yet, not everyone is afforded the luxury of choosing when to visit Morocco. Is October the best time to visit ? Is Christmas busy ? What about Ramadan ? What are the temperatures in March ? 

The good news is that there isn't really a bad time of year to visit Morocco. What makes me say that ? Well, first of all, sunshine.  Sunshine 300 days a year ? More like 350. And yes, sometimes it can get too hot, but even in July and August choices abound: after all, Morocco is blessed with 2500 km of Atlantic coast and at least that or more of mountain ranges. Stroll around the dreamy or picturesque villages as Essaouira, Oualidia and Chefchaouen or trek up in the High Atlas mountains over 2000 meters high, and you're guaranteed dispensing with air conditioning. 

{ Read: What to experience and see in Morocco in summer }

h4thrNow of course, Morocco has different climate zones and the difference in temperature in some areas is quite important between summer and winter. It is also known to be an incredibly diverse country when it comes to landscapes. From green lush areas where forests and lakes have earned Ifrane, the village in the Middle Atlas close to Fez, the nickname ‘ Switzerland of Morocco’ to the Sahara with its oceans of dunes, from wild Atlantic beaches to lush palm groves, from wine producing regions around the cities of Meknes and Rabat to the resort towns of the Mediterranean and Atlas Mountains with their spectacular gorges and over 4000 meters high peaks. In Chefchaouen, a picturesque village in the northern Morocco, famous for its blue- washed houses and alleys, you may glimpse palm trees and pine trees growing next to each other.  

 { Read: Travel private from Marrakech to the Sahara dunes and back over 3 days }

Some travel agents think that October or perhaps March is best to visit Marrakech or Fez. The reality is somewhat different. Morocco is incredibly diverse in landscapes, altitudes and latitudes. While it may be snowing in Ifrane or Imlil, you are almost guaranteed sun bathing in Laayoune or Dakhla, by the Atlantic. If you want to just tick some boxes in your travel notebook and scrape Morocco off that list, you can hire the services of any tour operator or travel agent. For someone that can customize a once- in- a- lifetime experience and choose the best places to visit and things to do based on the time of year you wish to visitgo for a local specialist. It may be that you'll even need your agent to customize your holidays after you arrived in Morocco. On a few occations, we had to reverse the order of a private tour when snow had blocked the Tizi n Tichka pass, while keeping the same start and end dates and encompassing the same local experiences. 

souk in marrakechOf course, one could argue that temperatures are ideal to visit Morocco in March and October. There are, though, a few downsides with this. It is the peak of the tourist season with most other tourists on all inclusive holidays being taken around by charter buses. This means cues to enter monuments, rubbing shoulders with everyone else visiting smaller venues and the night in a desert luxury camp you'd so long anticipated risking to resemble more an attraction park than the zen- like, unforgettable experience you were hoping for. Peak season time means also peak season rates. Most Riads/ hotels consider these months high season (given the volume of tourists) and raise their rates accordingly.

So instead, why not visit before Christmas ? Or just after NYE ? You get low rates on hotels and other services. Perhaps not quite the temperatures to swim in a pool, but at 20 plus Celsius day- time and constant sunshine, you are far from the rainy and cold winter affecting most of Europe and US. The rain season in Morocco, if such a thing exists, falls late February or March. During a week or so, you may get occasional rain showers. For those interested in the best photography shots, the winter months are ideal - the light is at its best then when air is depleted of any dust. 

{ Read: Morocco on a honeymoon 

With so many things to do and see, in Fes, it isn’t the weather that Yasmina Suitedecides when visitors come. As Vanessa Bonnin, former manager of Dar Roumana guest house, puts it: "The best time to visit Morocco is in June to coincide with the incredibly inspiring Fes Festival of Sacred Music. It showcases an eclectic mix of world music and always has fabulous head-liners too. During the festival the medina is even more alive and buzzing than usual, with the added energy of happy music lovers visiting from all over the world. It shows this magical city at its best!".

In July and August one should consider staying away from the desert and inland cities like Marrakech, Fez or Ouarzazate. But even in Fez and Marrakech, with careful preparation from a knowledgeable local travel agent, one can still enjoy the beauties of these two cities. The best way to do it is to choose to stay just outside the city and come into the city early in the morning to sightsee. You can then return to your guesthouse in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the lush gardens and pool. After all, it is only a 10- 15 minutes drive and if you are on a private Morocco tour, you will have your driver and 4x4 available 24 hours a day. 

essaouira-general viewYou may also choose to spend the night in the Medina and travel to the coast to either Essaouira, Oualidia or Agadir (each within less than 3 hours drive from Marrakech and considerably cooler during the summer). Max Lawrence,  of Lawrence of Morocco  agrees: “Marrakech is wonderful all year round but if the summer heat is too much for you then you should head to the ideally temperate Atlantic coast in July and August. Oualidia, Essaouira and Agadir all provide 28 C whilst in Marrakech it can be 45 C.” Some parts of Morocco like Agadir and Dakhla benefit from all year round mild temperatures. Further north, Essaouira yields more charm and character than a resort as Agadir, but the cold current makes it too cold to swim even in summer.

When it comes to Christmas and NYE, Marrakech is on the top of the list to foreign visitors’ preferences. Marrakech is definitely worth visiting, but if you expect to find the same festive ambiance as in Europe, you are in for a disappointment. Mostly because Morocco’s population being largely Muslim, they do not celebrate winter holidays as Westerners do. 

{ Read: Off the beaten track Morocco }

Maria Joao, a travel adviser who has made Morocco her second home, says: ‘For me the best time to visit Morocco is the whole year. At any time of year there are spectacular places to discover or revisit. Morocco is a very diverse country in terms of landscape and climate, has imperial cities, desert, mountains, snow, Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches.’’ 

camel ride in atlas mountainsMax agrees: ‘Morocco is a country which offers perfect travel conditions all year round as one is able to move geographically to different areas for different periods. The Atlas mountains are wonderful all year but if you are thinking of trekking then avoid the winter months of December, January and February as there can be too much water flowing in many of the rivers to allow walkers to easily pass. During these months, trekking in the Anti Atlas is ideal.

The only place you should avoid in July or August is the desert. Temperatures can soar over 45 degrees Celsius and there is no tent provided with A/C. Not yet anyway. Max says: ‘Southern Morocco and the desert is ideal from September to June (10 months of the year) and should not be missed.’ If you really have to do the Sahara in July or August, think of booking a room in an air conditioned kasbah by the dunes, where early next morning, you can take a short camel ride into the dunes to witness a sunrise as you've never seen before.  But spending a full day in the dunes is not an option, unless you are training for Marathon de Sables. 

 

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Published in Morocco travel blog