May 25, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary. Ultimate authority rests with the king. The capital is Rabat. Morocco has an economy based largely on agriculture, fishing, light industry, phosphate mining, tourism and remittances from citizens working abroad. Modern tourist facilities and means of transportation are widely available, but they may vary in quality depending on price and location. The workweek in Morocco is Monday through Friday.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Travelers to Morocco must have a valid passport. Visas are not required for American tourists traveling in Morocco for less than 90 days. For visits of more than 90 days, Americans are required to apply for an extension (with a valid reason for the extension of stay). Travelers who plan to reside in Morocco must obtain a residence permit. A residence permit may be requested and obtained from immigration authorities (Service Etranger) at the central police station of the district of residence. For further information on entry requirements for Morocco, please contact the Embassy of Morocco at 1601 21st street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 462-7979 to 82, fax 202-462-7643, or the Moroccan Consulate General in New York at 10 E. 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 758-2625, fax 212-779-7441. The website for Morocco is: http://www.embassy.org/embassies/ma.html.
Children born to a Moroccan father may experience difficulty in leaving Morocco without the father's permission. These children are considered under Moroccan law to be Moroccan citizens. Even if the children bear U.S. passports, immigration officials may require proof that the father has approved their departure before the children will be allowed to leave Morocco. Although women, regardless of their nationality, are normally granted custody of their children in divorces, the father must approve the children's departure from Morocco. Women must obtain permission to move the children more than 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from their last residence before the divorce. American women married to Moroccans do not need their spouse's permission to leave Morocco.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the childs travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The government of Morocco considers all persons born to Moroccan fathers to be Moroccan citizens. In addition to being subject to all Moroccan laws affecting U.S. citizens, individuals who also possess the nationality of Morocco may be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: A series of terrorist bombings took place in Casablanca on May 16, 2003. However, additional attacks have been thwarted by the vigorous efforts of Moroccan law enforcement since then. Although U.S. Government facilities were not the target of the Casablanca attacks (and no Americans were killed or injured), the potential for violence against American interests and citizens remains high in Morocco. Establishments which are readily identifiable with the United States are potential targets for attacks. These may include facilities where US citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters and public areas. Such targets may also include establishments where activities occur that may offend religious sensitivities, such as casinos or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed.
While in Morocco it is important to be vigilant to one's surroundings, and to maintain a low profile. All U.S. citizens are urged to consider seriously their personal security and to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being. Report any suspicious incidents or problems immediately to Moroccan authorities and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and usually center on local domestic issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in the major cities. All demonstrations require a government permit, but on occasion small, unauthorized demonstrations may occur. Travelers should be cognizant of the current levels of tension in the region and remain alert to their surroundings. Avoid demonstrations if at all possible. If caught in a demonstration get off the street immediately and seek a safer area such as a police station, firehouse, hospital, government building, shop, etc.
Although rare, security personnel in Morocco may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. As a general rule, travelers should not photograph diplomatic missions, government buildings or other sensitive facilities and, when in doubt, they should ask for permission from the appropriate Moroccan authorities.
The sparsely settled Western Sahara was long the site of armed conflict between government forces and the PolisarioFront, which had demanded independence. A cease-fire has been in effect since 1991 in the U.N. administered area. There are thousands of unexploded mines in the Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to the Western Sahara border. Exploding mines are occasionally reported, and they have caused death and injury. Transit to the Western Sahara remains restricted; persons planning to travel in the region may obtain information on clearance requirements from the Moroccan Embassy.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Departments Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, as well as consular information for other countries, such as Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME: Morocco has a moderately high crime rate in urban areas. Criminals have targeted tourists for robberies, assaults, muggings, thefts, purse snatchings, pick pocketing, and scams of all types. Most of the petty crime occurs in the Medina/market areas, transportation centers, parks and beaches. Commonly reported crimes include falsifying credit card vouchers and shipping inferior rugs as a substitute for the rugs purchased by the traveler. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate have also received reports of thefts occurring in the vicinity of ATM machines. Aggressive panhandling is common.
Some travelers have been befriended by persons of various nationalities, who have offered them food, drink, or cigarettes, which are drugged. Harassment of tourists by unemployed Moroccans posing as "guides" is a common problem. Prudent travelers hire only official tour guides through hotels and travel agencies. Thieves sometimes bump cars from behind and rob their victims when they get out of the car to inspect the damage. Taxis and trains in Morocco are generally crime-free; buses are not. Traveling alone in the Rif mountain area is risky because tourists have fallen victim to schemes involving the purchase and/or trafficking of hashish. Unescorted women in any area of Morocco may experience verbal abuse. The best course of action is to ignore such abuse. Some women who have responded have come under physical attack.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care is available in Moroccos largest cities, particularly in Rabat and Casablanca, although not all facilities meet high quality standards. Specialized care or treatment may not be available. Medical facilities are adequate for non-emergency matters, particularly in the urban areas, but most medical staff will have limited or no English skills. Emergency and specialized care outside the major cities is far below U.S. standards, and in many instances may not be available at all. Travelers planning to drive in the mountains and other remote areas may wish to carry a medical kit and a Moroccan phone card for emergencies. In the event of car accidents involving injuries, immediate ambulance service usually is not available.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of States Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Visitors to Morocco should exercise common sense and caution when purchasing food from street vendors or stalls. The beaches and ocean to the immediate north of Casablanca are polluted and considered to be unsafe for swimming, although other coastal areas are generally safe.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP ( 1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Morocco is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Traffic accidents are a significant hazard in Morocco. Driving practices are poor, and they have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities to U.S. citizens. This is particularly true at dusk during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when adherence to traffic regulations is lax, and from July to September when Moroccans resident abroad return from Europe by car in large numbers. Congested streets are characteristic of urban driving. Traffic signals do not always function, and they are sometimes difficult to see. Modern freeways link the cities of Tangier, Rabat, Fez and Casablanca. Two-lane highways link other major cities.
Secondary routes in rural areas are often narrow and poorly paved. Roads through the Rif and Atlas mountains are steep, narrow, windy, and dangerous. Maximum caution should be exercised when driving in the mountains. Pedestrians, scooters, and animal-drawn conveyances are common on all roadways, including the freeways, and driving at night should be avoided, if possible. During the rainy season (November - March) flash flooding is frequent and sometimes severe, washing away roads and vehicles in rural areas. Often Moroccan police officers pull over drivers for inspection within the city and on highways. In the event of a traffic accident, including accidents involving injuries, the parties are required to remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the police have arrived and documented all necessary information. This procedure may take several hours.
While public buses and taxis are inexpensive, drivers typically exhibit poor driving habits, and the buses are frequently overcrowded.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at: http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Moroccan driving permits, vehicle inspection and mandatory insurance, please contact: Moroccan National Tourist Board, P.O. Box 22663, Lake Bella Vista, FL 32830, tel.: 407-827-5337, fax: 407-827-0146, website: http://www.tourism-in-morocco.com/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Moroccos civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Morocco s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation from within the United States at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 256-4801.
TRAIN TRANSPORTATION: Train service in Morocco is fair to good. The trains are air-conditioned, comfortable and generally on time. Second-class cars are usually crowded, and passengers are not guaranteed a seat. First-class, which costs only slightly more than second-class, is less crowded, but it is not available on every train or in every region.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Moroccan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Morocco of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, business equipment, and large quantities of currency. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Morocco in Washington, DC or the Moroccan Consulate General in New York for specific information concerning customs requirements.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.
Moroccan customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (admission temporaire/temporary admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, send e-mail to email@example.com, or visit www.uscib.org for details.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Moroccan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Morocco are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.
PROSELYTIZING: Islam is the state religion of Morocco. The Moroccan government does not interfere with public worship by the country's Christian or Jewish minorities. However, while Christians are allowed to practice freely, some activities, such as proselytizing or encouraging conversion to the Christian faith -- both considered to be legally incompatible with Islam -- are prohibited. It is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. In the past, American citizens have been detained or arrested and expelled for discussing or trying to engage Moroccans in debate about Christianity.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. U.S. citizens detained by law enforcement authorities should request that the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca be informed immediately. Although the U.S. Consulate General cannot secure release or intervene in the Moroccan judicial system, U.S. officials can contact friends and family, provide a list of attorneys, and help ensure that due process of law is respected.
CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Traveler's checks and credit cards are accepted at some establishments in Morocco, mainly in urban areas. Traveler's checks may be cashed at most banks, although some require the bearer to present both the check and the receipt. ATM machines are available in Casablanca, Rabat, and Fez, and some American bankcards may be used to withdraw local currency on an account in the United States. Current Moroccan customs procedures do not provide for the accurate or reliable registration of large quantities of U.S. dollars brought into the country by tourists or other visitors. As a result, travelers encounter difficulties when they attempt to depart with the money. In particular, American citizens with dual Moroccan nationality have been asked to provide proof of the source of the funds and have incurred heavy fines. Moroccan currency cannot be converted back into U.S. dollars prior to departure.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Morocco is a moderately earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at: http://www.fema.gov.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/ U.S. EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Morocco are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca and obtain updated information on travel and security within Morocco. American citizens who plan to visit Morocco may register with the Consulate General by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (212-22-20-41-27), or telephone (212-22-43-05-78). Please provide your name, date and place of birth, passport number, itinerary, and points of contact in the U.S. and Morocco. The U.S. Embassy is located at 2 Avenue de Marrakech in the capital city of Rabat, telephone (212)(37) 76-22-65. The American Consulate General in Casablanca is located at 8 Boulevard Moulay Youssef, telephone (212)(22) 26-45-50. Please note that all consular matters are handled at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca. The Consulates workweek is Monday to Friday. The Consulate is closed to the public on Wednesdays for all consular services with the exception of emergency services for American citizens. The consular section's American Citizens Services hotline is (212)(22) 43-05-78. Please visit our website at http://rabat.usembassy.gov for information on services offered by the Embassy and the Consulate General, the latest warden messages and Public Announcements, and links to other sites of interest to travelers.