After spending some time in Lebanon and sharing with you the ultimate digital nomad guide to Lebanon, it's time for Morocco.
I spent a big part of my life in Morocco, first as a kid and many years later as a digital nomad. I know every nook and cranny of this stunning country, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
It's sort of amusing to write about digital nomadism in a country where most of its southern inhabitants used to lead true nomadic lives. The Sahraouian and some Berber tribes would move between the north of Morocco and the historical south of the country, nowadays Mali, along the Ivory Road – a route that served for transporting goods from the Sub-Saharan Africa and exchanging them for spices and fabric coming from India through the Middle East.
Morocco has simply always been the main link between Europe and Africa.
Among the hundred countries I have visited so far, Morocco is at the top of my list of digital nomad friendly places. Good infrastructure, fast internet, cheap accommodation, easy transport, its proximity to Europe and great food make it the perfect choice to launch a digital nomad expedition before heading to more challenging countries.
My co-founder and I have made a decision to spend the next 12 months traveling the world in order to meet local entrepreneurs, university students and startups in 12 emerging countries. In every country, we are to be giving workshops on helpful and affordable tools to build and grow a business. Our goal is to share our knowledge by taking tech outside the usual close-knit startup community, away from the traditional tech hubs.
We are going to publish videos and posts from every country we visit so as to share our intense experience and to inspire other digital nomads. We hope that the series of Digital Nomad tips can help some of you to take the final leap towards leaving your desk.
How to stay as long as possible on your tourist visa
Morocco makes it easy for the majority of western countries’ citizens to stay on a tourist visa for up to 3 months. But prolonging it afterwards without leaving the country gets a bit complicated. You can apply at the main police station in the city of your stay for temporary or permanent residence. However, having interviewed many foreigners who live in Morocco, the easiest way – and that was also the message I got at the police station – seems to be to leave the country every 3 months for a short trip to Europe. Low cost flight companies and the growing number of international airports in Morocco make the trip really affordable. Below you can see the documents you need to collect to apply for permanent residence in Morocco (in French):
Which city to choose in Morocco
Morocco is a huge country with many big cities spread throughout all of its four corners. It boasts a coastline of 3,600 km total length (Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea), the second highest mountain in Africa, and population of 34 million citizens. The choice of your stay will depend on if you’d like to be by the sea (my favorite cities are Essaouira and Tangier), in a cosmopolitan city (Casablanca, Marrakech and Rabat), a small village (Chefchaouen), at a surfing spot (Taghazout, Dakhla), in a place full of history (Fez), or in the middle of the mountains (Ait Bougmez).
Where to look for good WiFi connection
Internet in Morocco is quite good and way cheaper than in many European countries. Coffee shops have reasonably good Internet connection when they aren’t overcrowded. As for your accommodation, the smaller the hotel, the better the Internet connection you can get. My tip is to unlock your smartphone and buy a SIM-card with data.
Where to get the best SIM-card with mobile data
Mobile data is cheap in Morocco (Maroc Telecom and Meditel). Count around $3 for a SIM card and $6 for 4GB. The speed of 3G Internet speed in Morocco is far better than the one you'll have when connected to WiFi in a café. The coverage is quite good in cities, but you'll get the GRPS signal once on the road. Thanks to the affordable price, the best option is to buy two SIM-cards from the two different operators, in case you face wavering connection.
Where to find people to join your team
You can check Rekrute.ma to find people looking for new job opportunities, Nabbesh.com for freelancers in the MENA region, and Stagiaires.ma for interns.
What are the best and cheapest places to stay in Morocco
Websites such as Selektimmo.com, Marocannonces.ma or Avito.ma are the main places to check for peer-to-peer renting (some listings come from agencies though). Airbnb is still one of the cheapest and most trouble-free ways.
Otherwise, for a longer stay, you can get in touch with a local real estate agent (called “Samsar” in Moroccan). You'll be presented with many affordable places, and if you opt for a popular quarter, expect to spend around $200 to $300 per month for an apartment. The maximum should be around $500 to $700 in the heart of Casablanca for an equipped studio. Bear in mind that some neighborhoods are mainly family oriented, so if you plan to throw parties at your place, it’s better to avoid flats and rent an entire house.
How to move around
Public transport is good enough in most of the cities. There is no tube in Morocco, but Rabat and Casablanca have modern trams. Taxis are really cheap, as well as buses. Always ask to have the meter switched on in your taxi, or bargain the price before getting in. There are two types of taxis, small (“petit taxi”) and big (“grand taxi”). Small taxis don’t take more than 3 people and they are not allowed to leave the perimeter of the city. Big taxis can take up to 6 people, they don’t have meters and they transport people between cities. Their advantage is that they are faster (not cheaper) than buses. In smaller towns, none of the taxis have meters, though.
There are good train and bus connections all around the country, with an updated online timetable. Morocco has got 1,800km (1,118 miles) of highways, which are faster and safer than other common roads if you rent a car (the prices start at around $30/day).
How about shopping?
You'll find well-stocked supermarkets and clothes shops in big cities such as Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech. Even though Morocco is a Muslim country, in some supermarkets (Asima, Belle Vie, Carrefour) and liquor shops (“epicerie”) it’s possible to find alcoholic drinks for a reasonable price. If you wish, you can also find some pork meat. Otherwise, you can buy vegetables, meat, and bread from small shops all around the city, but you won’t find alcohol there. In general, fruits & vegetables produced in Morocco are dirt cheap, whereas imported foods would cost you more.
What about co-working spaces
There are not many co-working spaces in Morocco. You can try out a hot desk at New Work Lab in Casablanca. Dare.inc is a social incubator in Rabat and the Blue House is a cool retreat program for entrepreneurs in Taghazout. If you’re building a startup, definitely get in touch with the guys of StartupYour Life.
How to legally register your business in Morocco
You need a fiduciary to help you go through all the required steps. It takes around 2-3 weeks. The organization in charge is Centre Regional d'Investissement (CRI).
More details can be found here: http://www.casainvest.ma/tabid/67/Default.aspx
The documents you need: http://www.cri.ma/entreprise/etp_pieces.htm
How to stay safe in Morocco and which places to avoid
Overall, Morocco is a safe country. It’s not allowed for people to possess or carry around weapons, and police (uniformed and plain clothed) keep an eye on all the neighborhoods. But still, just as everywhere, you should watch your bags in working-class suburbs of the big cities (especially Casablanca) and in souks (markets).
Moroccan customs to be aware of
Morocco is a 99% Muslim Sunni country. The people are open-minded but still conservative in terms of behavior in public space. You should avoid short outfits for women in traditional areas and drinking alcohol on the street. Also, use common sense when discussing the three religions of the Book and especially Islam.
Where to go to relax
There are so many places where you can spend your free time. If you are in the center of the country, close to Marrakech, you may want to pass a few days in one of the quaint riads (guesthouses built in traditional style). If you like hiking, explore the amazing trails of Atlas Mountains, close to Toubkal (the second highest mountain in Africa, after Kilimanjaro). If you prefer to relax by the beach, resorts such as Agadir (colder Atlantic ocean) and Saidia (warmer Mediterranean sea) are among the most popular ones. If you’re into water sports, go to Essaouira (kite surfing), Dakhla or Taghazout (surfing).
Of course, visiting traditional hammam (spa) is usually the number one leisure activity for foreign visitors. There are two kinds of hammams – public and private. In public hammams, men and women are separated and the hygiene standards fall a bit lower. However, they are considerably cheaper, and you get the real Moroccan experience. Private hammams are usually located in big cities, in luxury facilities. They can be quite pricey, but clean, and suitable for couples.
History lovers will want to visit the so-called “imperial cities” (cities that used to serve as capitals in the past) – Marrakech, Fez, Meknes, Rabat – and other sites of high historical value, such as Tangir (which was in the past endowed with international status by foreign colonial powers), Essaouira (old medina, Jewish heritage), Ouarzazate (Berber complex of mud brick houses). Most of the wine in Morocco is produced around Meknes, so wine enthusiast can go for wine tasting to the local cellars.
Which bars and clubs to visit for Morocco's nightlife
The nightlife in Marrakech (e.g. Le Pacha, 555, Theatro) and Casablanca (e.g. Cabestan, Sky bar, Amstrong, Bodega) is rather average and quite expensive. A bottle of beer will easily cost you around $10. Most of the coffee shops you'll see around the city don't serve alcohol.
What to do in case of an emergency (like finding English-speaking hospitals)
Morocco is mainly a French speaking country, but staff in good hospitals usually speak some English. However, good hospitals are quite rare, and well-equipped private clinics can be found only in big cities. The United States Diplomatic Mission put together a great list of the best hospitals around Morocco.
Have you visited Morocco before? Share your own tips in the comments below!