The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Morocco at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Mission in Morocco does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Morocco-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is considerable risk from crime in Casablanca, and moderate risk from crime in Rabat. Media reporting and anecdotal observations indicate that the frequency and intensity of crime in Morocco’s major cities is similar to other large cities in North Africa. The most common crimes are petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, theft from unoccupied vehicles, robbery, purse snatching, and burglary. Criminals focus on high-traffic and high-density areas such as tourist sites, markets, medinas, and festivals. Criminals tend to fixate on people who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, dressed in obviously foreign clothing, or otherwise draw attention to themselves. Due to the low availability of firearms within Morocco, violent crimes tend to be committed with edged weapons such as knives and occasionally swords.
The Government of Morocco’s 2018 crime statistics included a significant increase in arrests connected with human smuggling/trafficking networks. Police arrested 603 human trafficking/smuggling facilitators in 2018, a significant increase from 294 in 2017. Police disrupted 45 different smuggling/trafficking networks in 2018, compared to 38 the previous year. The National Police (DGSN) increased anti-crime operations by 6% in 2018. The number of people arrested totaled 554,202, while the number of criminal cases reached 584,516. Police detained 91% of those arrested.
Violent crimes made up 10% of all cases, with 56,878 total reported incidents. These violent crimes had a detention rate of 73%. Murder and sexual assault cases fell by 7% and 5% respectively, according to official figures. DGSN arrested 37,851 individuals in 2018 for crimes involving property damage, and dismantled 495 criminal networks related to violent and armed robberies. Although there is limited information available to the public, this likely indicates that the overall frequency and intensity of criminal activity throughout Morocco remains moderate.
Most crimes committed against U.S. tourists and visitors occur in Marrakech, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, and Rabat; most of these are pickpocketing, bag snatching, and mugging. Crimes that are more serious have been committed against U.S. citizens either residing in or visiting Morocco, but these are much less common. Larceny and residential burglary are commonplace in low-income neighborhoods, and occasionally occur in neighborhoods that are more affluent. Burglars generally try to avoid confrontation, and commit break-ins during daylight hours. Many wealthier Moroccans secure their homes with guards, perimeter lighting, security grilles, and alarm systems to deter intruders. Consider homes equipped to prevent unauthorized entry, with security grilles protecting accessible windows and glass doors and solidly built exterior doors with a minimum of two deadbolt locks.
Single-family homes should have a wall that discourages intruders from entering the premises. Apartment dwellers should consider the possibility of intruders gaining access via adjacent balconies or structures and ensure that there are functional locks or other protection for areas vulnerable to unauthorized entry. Keep doors and windows locked, even when home.
Cyber Security Issues
ATMs are generally safe to use if you observe normal precautions. In 2016, there were several documented cases of debit/credit card fraud, when victims reported money withdrawn from their accounts after using their cards at ATMs, or receiving bills for unaccounted charges to their credit cards after using them at local establishments. One notable case of stealing credit cards occurred in Tangier in 2017. The operation consisted of stealing credit cards and getting owners’ personal information to use at ATMs. Following an arrest, DGSN advised ATM users to stay wary while withdrawing money and file immediate reports in case of credit card hacking. Despite these incidents, debit/credit card fraud is not a widespread problem. Be aware of surroundings while using an ATM, and use ATMs attached to or inside banks.
Cybercrime in Morocco remains generally limited to common scams, such as requesting money upfront for promised services with chances to obtain more money with a downpayment. More advanced cyber fraud is common in Ouad Zem, in central Morocco, where many cases of internet sexual blackmail took place in 2018. Much of the blackmail targeted foreigners. The overall rate of cybercrime appears to be increasing, with 1,091 cases reported in 2018 versus 765 in 2017.
Other Areas of Concern
The Western Sahara is an area where the legal status of the territory and the issue of its sovereignty remain unresolved. The area was the site of armed conflict between Moroccan government forces and the POLISARIO Front, which continues to seek independence for the territory. However, a UN-monitored cease-fire has been fully in effect since 1991. There are thousands of unexploded mines in Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to Western Sahara. Exploding mines are occasionally reported, and have caused death and injury. There have been sporadic reports of violence in the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla stemming from sporting events and from political demonstrations. Morocco claims sovereignty over Western Sahara and closely monitors and controls access to the territory. There have been instances in which visitors suspected of being participants in political protests or of supporting NGOs that are critical of Moroccan policies have been expelled from, or not been allowed to enter, Western Sahara.
Morocco is a popular destination for outdoor activities. Anyone travelling into remote areas within Morocco should use a licensed and accredited guide, and prepare to check in and out of remote checkpoints by presenting their passport number. Moroccan authorities may restrict access to certain areas. Only camp within designated camping areas. While the Royal Gendarmerie is capable of responding to backcountry emergencies, travelers should ensure that they are prepared and appropriately provisioned prior to departing for remote areas, and that someone not on the trip has a copy of their proposed travel itinerary.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Moroccan roads vary from modern, high-speed toll roads to secondary roads in disrepair. Road conditions vary by season. Heavy rains can wash away sections of road and create sinkholes large enough to swallow a car. During the winter, heavy snow can close roadways in mountainous areas.
Traffic accidents are a major concern. On average, more than 11 Moroccans die in motor vehicle accidents every day. The fatality rate for motor vehicle accidents is approximately twice that of the United States. Compared to North America or Europe, driving in Morocco can be more erratic, aggressive, and even reckless. It is common to see vehicles driving counter-flow into oncoming traffic and ignoring stop signs or traffic signals. Drivers frequently execute right turns from the left lane and vice-versa. A wide variety of vehicles (e.g. bicycles, scooters, donkey carts, slower-moving utility vehicles) shares the road. Many cars are older and poorly maintained. Trucks are often overladen and in disrepair; it is common to see them overturned or broken down along highways. Pedestrians often walk into traffic without looking, or intentionally dart between moving cars. Riders on mopeds and motorcycles routinely split lanes and do not yield to vehicles making legal turns.
Speed limits are clearly marked, and law enforcement speed traps are frequent along highways and toll roads. If police stop you for speeding, expect a fine. Valid traffic fines will include paperwork similar to a traffic ticket issued in the United States, and can be paid on the spot. It is common for police to stand in the road and wave vehicles over; these police checkpoints, for security reasons, are common when entering towns or cities. Police rarely question foreign visitors transiting checkpoints.
Drivers may only use cellular phones with hands-free devices. Visitors who self-drive must present their passport and driver’s license when stopped by local law enforcement. Traffic enforcement authorities have reportedly asked for bribes on occasion. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.
Criminals have thrown rocks off overpasses onto cars on the highway between Rabat and Casablanca. These actions were likely intended to get the drivers to pull over, where they could be robbed at knifepoint. Local media reported at least six of these incidents in 2017, and several more in 2018. Media coverage of these incidents resulted in a robust police deployment on overpasses between the two cities, and improvements to the physical security features around the bridges themselves.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation is somewhat reliable in Morocco. Drivers often do not follow road safety rules or traffic laws, and many vehicles are in disrepair. Keep an eye on belongings when using any type of public transport.
Some popular web-based ride-sharing services have operated in Morocco; however, the French-based company Heetch is currently the only service legally authorized to operate. Fierce taxi union opposition has significantly limited the ability of other companies to operate. Taxis have been known to team up against drivers they believe are working for ride-hailing services, forcing them off the road or boxing them in until the passengers get out and take one of the offending taxis. Police have been at these scenes, but often have refused to intervene, essentially allowing the taxi drivers to enforce street justice outside of Moroccan law. This problem is particularly acute at transportation hubs such as airports and train stations, major hotels, tourist sites, and shopping malls. These incidents have affected privately hired drivers and tour operators, which can be frightening and confusing for passengers; U.S. Mission Morocco has not yet received word of any incident in which passengers were physically injured. For more information on ride sharing, review OSAC’s report, Safety and Security in the Share Economy.
“Petit taxis” are common in most cities, and hold up to three people. These taxis should use a meter and can pick up additional passengers along the way. Each town has its own particular color for petit taxis; red in Casablanca, blue in Rabat, and yellow in Marrakech. The availability of safety features like seatbelts and airbags may vary from taxi to taxi.
Riders may have to hail multiple taxis because drivers are not obliged to agree to take them to their destination. Taxis are generally less available late at night or early in the morning.
“Grand taxis” are usually white with black lettering, and are often older Mercedes or Dacia vehicles that use fixed urban or inter-urban routes. They can be crowded and uncomfortable, and are less restricted on how many occupants may ride in them at one time. Avoid these vehicles, except in rural areas where there are no other transportation options. “Airport taxis” are often newer minivans or sedans.
Avoid intra-city public buses in Morocco. These buses are often in disrepair, and drivers can be aggressive and reckless. The buses become particularly crowded in the summer, to the point that riders hang out open doors and windows.
There are a number of inter-city bus options available. The quality of buses varies greatly, and corresponds with the ticket price of the particular bus. Avoid taking overnight bus trips, because roads become more dangerous overnight; criminals have robbed and/or sexually assaulted sleeping travelers.
Morocco has an extensive and reliable inter-city train network. Train destinations and times are located on the ONCF website, which has information in English, French, and Arabic. Casablanca and Rabat have tramways that service parts of the cities, with plans for expansion in the future.
There are 28 civilian airports in Morocco, and several support international flights to Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. All international airports in Morocco meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards for safety and security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Morocco’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation security standards for oversight of Morocco’s air carrier operations.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is moderate risk from terrorism in Casablanca and Rabat. Terrorist attacks took place in Morocco in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2018. The earlier attacks targeted tourist sites, official Moroccan government facilities, and the U.S. Consulate and Public Affairs annex in Casablanca. Numerous people died or received injuries in these attacks.
In the 2018 attack, extremists claiming allegiance to ISIS specifically targeted two female Scandinavian tourists, following them into a remote hiking area near Imlil, and murdered them.
According to open-source reporting, more than 1,600 Moroccan nationals have traveled to conflict zones to fight alongside extremist groups. Many of these individuals may try to return to Morocco, especially as successful anti-ISIS efforts in Syria, Iraq, and Libya progress. Moroccan security services are aware of the potential danger these individuals may pose, and have gone to great lengths to intercept these personnel at international border crossings.
Moroccan security services are generally proactive and effective in identifying and neutralizing terrorists and terror cells. According to local media reports, the Moroccan government has broken up hundreds of terrorist cells, many of which expressed allegiance to or sympathy with ISIS. These arrests often include individuals spreading extremist ideologies and propaganda.
Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Morocco, and the potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists. Moroccan authorities have taken robust actions to guard against terrorist attacks, and continue to disrupt groups seeking to attack U.S. or Western-affiliated and Moroccan government targets. Law enforcement has arrested numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups. With indications that such groups still seek to carry out attacks in Morocco, remain keenly aware of surroundings and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile.
Establishments that are identifiable with the United States are potential targets for attacks. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters, U.S. brand establishments, and other public areas. Such targets may also include establishments where activities that may offend religious sensitivities occur, such as casinos or places that sell alcoholic beverages. Popular outdoor tourist destinations, such as Mt. Toubkal and the Ouzoud waterfalls, are also potential attack sites for extremists.
Remain alert to local security developments both in the country and across the region, and be vigilant regarding personal security. Immediately report any suspicious incidents or problems to Moroccan authorities and to the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca.
Regional and global events have the potential to inflame public opinion and incite large demonstrations. While crowds remain generally peaceful and the vast majority of incidents are not anti-U.S., U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile and avoid demonstrations. Crowds ranging from several hundred to thousands of individuals demonstrated near the Consulate in Casablanca and in Rabat following the December 2017 announcement that the U.S. planned to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (see OSAC report). Protest organizers stated in local media that these protests were not anti-U.S. in nature, but against a particular policy; protests concluded peacefully, with no known injuries or use of force by the police. Despite the fact that the majority of Moroccans view the United States and its citizens favorably, travelers should remain aware and informed of regional issues that could resonate in Morocco and create an anti-U.S. response.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is moderate risk from civil unrest in Casablanca and Rabat. Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and typically focus on internal political, economic, or social issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in major cities. For example, demonstrations occurred on a regular basis from late 2016 through August 2017 in the northern town of Al Hoceima. These demonstrations began in response to the death of a fish vendor whose product local authorities had seized. Demonstrations rapidly expanded to include long-standing grievances including jobs, roads, universities, hospitals, and investment in the region. Of the hundreds of protests involving thousands of participants, only a few turned violent, but were mostly contained to Al Hoceima. Similar protests occurred in the eastern city of Jerada in 2018, with thousands of protestors facing off against security forces sporadically for nearly a month, and a few turning violent.
Moroccan law requires that all demonstrations obtain a government permit, but spontaneous unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur. In addition, different unions or groups may organize strikes or protests in response to an emerging issue or government policy.
Avoid demonstrations. If caught in a demonstration, remain calm and move away immediately when provided the opportunity.
Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims, and are tolerant of other religions. Longstanding churches and synagogues exist in many major cities, and religious and/or ethnic violence is virtually unknown. The government places strict controls on religious preaching, and local Imams are under close state control. Proselytizing is illegal, and as recently as 2017, the government deported proselytizing evangelical Christians.
Environmental hazards mainly revolve around flooding and the occasional earthquake. The rainy season (November-March) often results in flash floods in the mountainous and desert areas. These floods can cause landslides and damage roads, making them impassable. In addition, strong rain can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flooding. Major roadways, including the high-speed toll roads, have closed for extended periods due to standing water.
Morocco experiences occasional strong earthquakes. There have been damaging earthquakes in the north (near Al Hoceima), and the south (near Agadir). Strong earthquakes are relatively rare, but can be extremely destructive.
Few industrial accidents occur in Morocco. Hazardous chemical spills on highways are a top concern for the government. Aging buildings, especially in the Medina or “Old City” area of major cities, can be hazardous. Building collapses occur occasionally. One incident of note was in 2017, when a large wall in Casablanca collapsed onto the adjacent sidewalk and street, killing seven people.
The government of Morocco has made important strides in improving its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime, including combatting counterfeit goods. Morocco has signed the multi-national treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
In 2014, Parliament approved an IPR law that streamlines the patent application process and consolidates IPR enforcement by improving procedures for the destruction of counterfeit goods, enlarging the scope of border investigations, and providing complainants with enhanced judicial remedies through civil and criminal courts to defend their rights. Morocco introduced the “Our Safety” label to certify importers and distributors of non-counterfeit auto parts in the Moroccan market.
Morocco’s capacity to detect and address internet-based IPR violations remains inadequate in some respects. Counterfeiting of consumer goods is still common, and U.S firms allege that the use of pirated software is widespread. Counterfeit goods commonly available in Morocco include apparel, appliances, food, software, computer hardware, and auto parts arriving mainly from Asia, through the Tangier-Med and Casablanca seaports, as well as the southern border with Mauritania. The U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement ensured Morocco’s IPR legal framework is one of the strongest in the region. As Morocco continues to enhance its IPR enforcement measures and procedures, companies must work closely with Morocco’s IPR enforcement authority to ensure the law effective and efficient implementation.
Personal Identity Concerns
Although a law banning any form of sexual harassment has passed, harassment against women remains prevalent in both urban and rural areas. Many western women in Morocco report persistent harassment to varying degrees in public places in Morocco, including streets, parks, stores, cafés, and restaurants.
Moroccan men will often engage in whistling/hissing/staring/yelling and, on occasion, inappropriate physical contact. Groups of individuals have attempted to lure women into cars in smaller cities and rural areas, but this can also occur in urban areas late at night. Many sexual assaults go unreported because victims are afraid of shunning from their friends and families. A 2016 UN Study indicated that 53% of Moroccan men polled admitted to having sexually harassed a female.
Sexual assaults have also taken place in broad daylight and at public events with many witnesses. In August 2017, a teenager was gang-raped on a bus in Casablanca by a group of juvenile males. Bystanders videotaped the attack; the bus driver did not stop or seek police assistance. The attack caused a major public outcry, and police arrested the culprits within several days of the attack.
Teachers at the American schools have reported that witnesses on the street often fail to intervene or assist when Moroccan men harass them. Successful prosecutions for harassment are still relatively rare in the Moroccan legal system.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons regularly face discrimination and harassment. While there is a perceived level of tolerance, particularly in larger urban centers, homosexuality remains illegal. Open displays of affection will likely attract unwanted attention.
The illicit drug trade is thoroughly entrenched in Morocco. The primary drugs exported from within Morocco are cannabis derivatives. Most drugs are destined for European markets. Morocco is a transit country for cocaine traffickers who funnel their product from South America into sub-Saharan countries and Europe.
The government places a great deal of effort into fighting international narcotics trafficking. Police reported seizing 1.65 tons of cocaine, over 1.3 million psychotropic and ecstasy pills (up 43% over 2017), 52 tons of cannabis resin, and 693 kilograms of cannabis. Penalties for possession of narcotics are severe, and police deal with suspected traffickers harshly. Police/gendarmerie corruption in regards to drug trafficking occurs. While authorities have occasionally been involved in assisting traffickers, when identified they face legal consequences.
Many homeless individuals in large cities are addicted to huffing solvents such as gasoline, paint, and glue. These individuals often engage in criminal activity or collapse on sidewalks or in the streets in drug-induced stupors. Their behavior is often unpredictable; avoid if possible.
Law enforcement officials have good training, with many attending international training programs. However, the police are generally understaffed, and in some cases underequipped.
A quick response and the familiarity of the police with the people and area they patrol often results in quick arrests of perpetrators if victims report crimes in a timely manner. In general, the police rely primarily on confessions rather than forensic evidence to determine culpability, although this is changing given Morocco’s recent judicial and police reform programs, which the U.S. government is supporting. All police officers speak French or Arabic; English translation may not be readily available.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention of Harassment
Detained U.S. citizens should ask to speak with a U.S. Consulate representative immediately by contacting American Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca at 212-522-64-20-46. Police harassment of visitors and foreign nationals is rare; any U.S. citizen experiencing police harassment should contact ACS.
Crime Victim Assistance
Police generally respond effectively to a report of a foreign victim of crime. There have been limited instances where interactions with the police, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas, have not been positive for foreigners. Victims are often present during interrogations of suspects, which can create an uncomfortable situation for a victim. In the event a visitor is the victim of a crime and requires assistance, contact ACS and report the incident to the local police. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Morocco is 190 g from a mobile phone, and 91 from a landline.
Some U.S. citizens report that police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns compared to procedures in the United States, particularly in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, or when both the victim and the perpetrator are foreigners. Few victim assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas; they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes often proceed without female police officers present; police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. The quality of interpreting from Arabic to English can vary, and has caused problems for some U.S. citizen victims.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Visitors should research and comply with local laws and restrictions at all times. This includes strict adherence to Moroccan immigration laws. U.S. citizens currently may have 90 days of visa-free entry to Morocco. Travelers must exit Morocco prior to the original 90-day expiration of their original authorized entry, or request an extension from Moroccan Immigration authorities. Morocco automatically bars from departure travelers who overstay, including from boarding any international flight out of Morocco. Individuals overstaying their entry must see an immigration judge to resolve their visa overstay and pay a fine.
The Moroccan police force mirrors the French police system, with the police (Sûreté Nationale, DGSN) enforcing laws in the urban areas and the Royal Gendarmerie doing so in the rural areas. The General Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DGST), also a national security agency, handles matters involving terrorism.
These different agencies can and do cooperate on investigative matters. Criminal cases can transfer from one investigative agency to another depending on the victim, locale, and public visibility of the incident under investigation.
Morocco has adequate medical services in the larger cities, but the quality of care diminishes elsewhere. The medical facilities and hospitals in Rabat and Casablanca can treat most general illnesses, and can provide emergency trauma care. However, specialized care is less accessible in Morocco than in Western countries. It is not uncommon for doctors and medical facilities to demand payment before providing treatment, even for emergencies. Medical personnel generally speak French and Arabic; the availability of English translation services at medical facilities may vary greatly from location to location.
Over-the-counter drugs obtainable from pharmacies in large cities may be difficult to impossible to find in smaller cities or rural areas. Specialty prescription medication may be difficult to locate even in Rabat or Casablanca; a pharmacy stocked with a particular medication one week may not have it in stock again for several weeks due to availability issues. In the event of a medical emergency or serious traffic accident, immediate ambulance services are usually not available. Ambulances in Morocco often will not have a paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) assigned to them.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Consular Affairs maintains an up-to-date list of available physicians and hospitals in Morocco. For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Union Marocaine d’Assistance (Tel: +212 (0) 522-45-0000) can arrange a variety of medical transport and services within Morocco and air evacuation to Europe, and operates in English. It will need verification of ability to pay up front. Other global air evacuation services are available.
Consider insurance and flight options before leaving home. Carry insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance.
Keep a supply of insurance claim forms. Many U. S. insurance policies are invalid in Morocco. U.S. government subsidized medical programs such as Medicaid and Medicare are not available outside of the United States. The U.S. Government cannot pay for hospital or medical services for U.S. citizens overseas. Consider purchasing international travel insurance prior to travel.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Morocco.
OSAC Country Council Information
The OSAC Country Council in Casablanca meets quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should direct OSAC inquiries to the RSOs in Rabat and Casablanca, and can contact OSAC’s Middle East & North Africa Team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy and Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy: Km 5.7, Avenue Mohamed VI, Souissi, Rabat 10170
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0800-1700
Embassy Contact Numbers
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +212-661-13-1939
Consulate General: 8 Boulevard Moulay Youssef, Casablanca
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0800-1700
Consulate Contact Numbers
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +212-661-13-19-39
U.S. Mission Morocco Guidance
U.S. citizens traveling to Morocco should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.