Morocco’s beautiful, ethereal landscapes and medieval winding cities attract millions of visitors each year. In 2019, the peak of Morocco’s tourism, about 13 million people came to visit and explore everything that the country has to offer.
Many people come to Morocco to explore the unique culture present in the mosques, souks, and alleyways that have attracted visitors for decades. Visit the cities of Marrakesh, Fez, and Casablanca, or explore smaller towns such as the famously blue Chefchaouen. Morocco also has a lot of natural beauty waiting for visitors to explore, such as the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, the surf town of Essaouira, and more.
With so much to see in Morocco, it’s tempting to book your tickets right away. However, before visiting any new destination, it’s important to look out for practical concerns such as safety. It’s also important to strike a balance between being cautious and letting fear ruin your trip.
This travel guide can help you prepare for your trip to Morocco thanks to our detailed guide to safety challenges in Morocco.
Is Morocco Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, Morocco is safe to visit. But you do need to exercise increased caution due to the high risk of petty crime. Many foreign governments also warn their citizens about the likelihood of terrorist attacks, which can occur at any moment in Morocco.
That being said, with the right precautions, you can still have a great vacation in the North African country. A good place to start researching the situation in Morocco is to look at what foreign governments advise their citizens to do.
The United States government advises its citizens to exercise increased caution when visiting Morocco due to the risk of terrorism.
Terrorism is a risk almost everywhere in the world, but in certain regions, it is elevated. However, you shouldn’t let that risk scare you. For comparison, let’s look at the travel advisory the United States has for France, a country people perceive as safe.
Travelers are advised to exercise increased caution due to terrorism — the same warning that’s in place for Morocco.
The perception most travelers have is just different because Morocco is a mostly Muslim country on the African continent. Crime is also a big concern for visitors to Morocco. The UK government warns its citizens about the prevalence of theft.
Common crimes include:
- Bag snatching
- Sexual harassment
However, most crime incidents are petty crimes. Violent crime incidents are rare and, when they do occur, almost never affect tourists.
Morocco has seen some situations of civil unrest. In December of 2022, thousands of people took to the streets to protest inflation and government repression. However, unrest is mostly rare, and protests, when they do happen, are mostly peaceful.
Finally, Morocco is prone to certain natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and drought.
Extreme weather is also common, especially in the summer. Try to visit Morocco during other seasons and be ready to hydrate extensively, wear light, loose clothing, and apply plenty of sunscreen.
Crime in Morocco
One of the primary concerns for travelers to Morocco is crime. Morocco does have an elevated risk of crime compared to some other places, but the crime statistics are more optimistic than you might expect.
The rate of violent crime is fairly low in Morocco. According to data from the World Bank, the homicide rate in 2020 was just 1.24 incidents per 100,000 people, which is much lower than the global average. Other violent crime incidents are also very rare.
The perception of crime by people who live in Morocco is also moderate. According to Numbeo, Morocco scores a 47.56 out of 100 on the crime index, which is a moderate level of crime.
People have a moderate fear of muggings, vehicle break-ins, armed robbery, and other property crimes. The most common crime, according to most people, however, is the crime of bribery.
People generally have low worries about break-ins, carjacking, and violent crimes. Many other countries have a higher crime index. There are definitely still problems in Morocco. A lot of crime stems from the drug trade.
According to the Global Organized Crime Index, Morocco is one of the most important producers of cannabis and an important transit route for the illegal trade of cocaine and heroin. The drug trade is run by organized criminal gangs, but they are not nearly as powerful as they are in some other countries.
The most common crime in Morocco is definitely theft. Country Reports warns American citizens about the prevalence of all forms of theft, and it is also the crime people most commonly worry about, according to Numbeo’s data.
It’s hard to unpack the reasons why Morocco is such a hotspot for theft, but the prevalence of tourism and the large income gap between tourists and locals goes a long way toward incentivizing crime.
Morocco has high rates of unemployment and poverty, which generate anger among the local youth and pushes them toward criminal acts.
The most common crime by far in Morocco is petty theft in all of its forms. Pickpockets, bag snatchers, and scammers of all stripes see tourists as an easy way toward payday.
When you look at forums, travel blogs, and even official travel advisories, petty theft is the primary concern most will express. The Canadian government lists common sites for petty crime, and they include medinas, street markets, parks, beaches, and other areas that attract many tourists.
Be careful on crowded streets, especially small streets that you find in medinas, as they create the perfect conditions for pickpockets and bag snatchers to quietly snatch your valuables.
You will need to be serious about antitheft precautions that you take in Morocco because the risk of pickpockets is serious. Research your accommodations seriously, always lock your hotel room doors and windows even when you’re in the room, and put valuables in a room or hotel safe.
Only leave your room with the money you will need for the day and keep enough cash to get back to your hotel in a separate place. Before visiting Morocco, it’s important to get a bag that is secure against theft.
It doesn’t have to be a money belt, but a fanny pack, cross-body bag, or small backpack that zips well will protect your things. Always wear your bags close to your body and put your backpacks on the front of your body while walking through crowded areas.
Many Moroccan criminals prefer to scam their victims instead of stealing outright. The souks, or markets, are particular hot spots for scammers.
Overly aggressive sellers will use a variety of tactics to pressure tourists into buying something, from offering tea and henna to asking foreigners to read a letter from a relative abroad.
Be firm and say no to any offers unless you are sure that you want to buy something. The markets also attract scammers pretending to be tour guides who will lead tourists into the grips of aggressive touts.
Taking a souk tour is generally a safe, recommended way to explore Moroccan markets, but make sure that you go with a reputable tour guide from a registered company.
Aggressive beggars are also common in Morocco. They tend to congregate around ATMs, souks, and popular tourist destinations in big cities such as Marrakech and Fez. Be firm and get out of the area quickly.
Only use ATMs inside banks or other buildings, not those on the street that attract more beggars and crowds. Most incidents of theft are petty and nonviolent, and the worst that happens is that you are inconvenienced and a bit embarrassed.
However, the Australian government warns that there have been incidents of armed robbery, mostly involving knives. They occur mainly at night when travelers are walking alone in deserted places such as beaches.
Although Morocco has mostly low levels of violent crime, one violent crime that is, unfortunately, a risk is terrorism. Many governments advise their citizens to be on alert for potential terrorist attacks.
The Canadian government, for example, warns tourists that there is a risk of terrorist attacks targeting foreigners, giving the example of two Scandinavian tourists who were killed in 2018 while hiking the High Atlas.
The UK government elaborates more on this issue in its official warning for citizens. There are several terrorist cells in Morocco linked to multinational terrorist groups such as ISIS or Daesh.
There is also a threat of kidnapping along Morocco’s borders as terrorist groups are far more active in the country’s neighbors but take advantage of the porous desert border to cause mischief in Morocco.
However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Morocco has not had a recorded terrorist attack targeting foreigners since the tragic murders of 2018.
Morocco has not had a major terrorist attack in over a decade. Although the government frequently disrupts ISIS and al-Qaeda–linked terror cells in the country, few attacks are actually carried out due to the government’s strong antiterrorism actions.
Terrorist attacks are, by definition, random, and you can’t completely avoid the possibility of an attack happening while you are in Morocco. Stay alert when in crowded places. Avoid traveling to remote locations where terrorist cells are more active and follow the advice of authorities.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Avoiding bad areas can help you minimize your risk when you travel in Morocco. Don’t travel to the border area with Western Sahara. Western Sahara was a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975.
There is an ongoing dispute between Morocco and the native Sahrawis. Western Sahara is divided from Morocco by the “berm,” or buffer strip, which is heavily fortified with landmines and which you should not visit for any reason.
Avoid Morocco’s other borders, for example, with Algeria. These border areas are porous and have a higher rate of terrorist activity.
Be careful when traveling in all remote regions of Morocco as the threat of terrorism and kidnapping is higher there, and government power to help you is limited.
Bigger cities in Morocco have certain neighborhoods that you should avoid venturing into. Casablanca may be a romantic movie, but the city itself has many dangerous neighborhoods.
Avoid the neighborhoods of Bernoussi, Bousbir, Derb Ghallef, and the area around the soccer stadium on game days (Casablanca’s hooligans are notoriously rowdy).
In Fez, avoid Ben Debbab, Bensouda, and Zouagha. In all Moroccan cities, don’t go down small alleyways in the medina alone.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Morocco:
- Morocco is a conservative country culturally, so both men and women should dress appropriately.
- Avoid saying anything that someone could interpret as disrespecting Islam or the monarchy, as both are important institutions in Morocco.
- Female travelers will face high levels of sexual harassment and attention from aggressive scammers, so be mentally prepared for that before you go.
- Taxi drivers are other common sources of scams. Make sure that you agree on a price before you get in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about Morocco? This section might answer them:
What should I be careful of in Morocco?
You will have to be careful of pickpockets and thieves. Make sure that your valuables are always close to your body and that you put them in a secure place. You should also be careful of exploring unfamiliar areas at night, especially by yourself.
Is Morocco safe for female travelers?
Morocco is safe for female travelers, but many will find the experience unpleasant. Rates of sexual assault against foreigners are low, but sexual harassment is everywhere. Be prepared and try to dress conservatively and travel with a group to blend in.
Is Morocco safer than France?
The answer depends on who you ask. According to some statistics, Morocco has a lower crime rate than France, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the rate of pickpocketing is much higher.
Is it safe to walk around Marrakech?
Yes, it is safe to walk around Marrakech and any other major Moroccan city. Just make sure that you research dangerous areas ahead of time and stick to exploring by day, not night.
Which is safer, Morocco or Egypt?
Although the crime statistics are about the same, Morocco is slightly safer than Egypt. It has a lower level of violent crime, terrorism risk, and political repression.
So, Is Morocco Safe to Visit?
Even though it will be a challenging destination for first-time travelers, Morocco is mostly safe to visit. Just keep a firm grip on your valuables, as petty crime is frequent. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!