So you’ve decided to move to Morocco—congrats! There are few countries to rival Morocco’s rich diversity of culture, language, music, architecture, landscape and market scents.
This country is one of my favorites, and it is not so difficult for Westerners to move there.
There are some adjustments to be made of course, but once you get past these hangups, Morocco’s beautiful and colorful landscape will take you years, if not decades, to explore.
Here is a guide to moving to Morocco from our Expat Travel Expert, Wailana!
– What to Expect –
Morocco runs on “Mediterranean Time,” meaning that things happen when they happen. While you’re here, it’s best to adjust to a slower, simpler pace—everybody else has.
Don’t expect the same standards as in Western countries. Life here is more relaxed and easygoing—but on the flip side, this means that there is garbage on the streets and sometimes restaurants can feel a bit dirty.
- The Food
The food is incredible—seriously my favorite country is Morocco almost exclusively due to its food. Fresh bread, colorful spices, countless type of olives, spicy Merguez sausages, harsha with olive oil, lamb tajine with couscous, kofta tajine… ah the list goes on and on.
Overall, Moroccans tend to be very polite and genuine. They are usually quite curious and open-minded, yet appreciate privacy. There is an intimacy among friends—and even strangers help each other out, giving gifts and kindness without a feeling of reciprocity.
- Avoiding Scams
However, the country does have its fair share of scams, especially in the cities of Tangiers, Casablanca, and Marrakech, so be on the lookout for anyone trying to make a quick buck. People may grab your hand for a henna tattoo, or take you to a cheap carpet shop owned by their cousin.
It’s not common, but it does happen. Just be aware.
It’s also best to get used that you will spend more than the locals, just by the fact that you’re a foreigner. Shopkeepers, museum docents and ticket sellers will charge you more.
- The Language
It’s a good idea to pick up some of the local language here, as many people don’t speak English. Start with Darija, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic—if all else fails you can resort to French or Spanish.
- Cost of Living
It’s extremely affordable to live here. Sandwiches will cost you about $2 USD. Almost everything will cost less than in any Western country. This is great news if you earn US Dollars or Euros by remote work, but if you earn Moroccan dirhams expect to live within modest means.
– Visas and Immigration –
As a U.S. citizen, you plan to stay in Morocco for more than 90 days, you will need a residence permit (carte sejour) from the immigration office. There are a number of ways you can apply for a residency permit in Morocco, whether you’re a student, married to a Moroccan, employee or pensioner.
Ultimately the information changes depending on who, when, and where you ask.
It’s best to inquire directly at the immigration office in your district for what exactly you’ll need. Expect to go through a lot of bureaucracy while you’re sorting out your paperwork—Morocco is not known for its organization or communication in the public office!
Required documentation in general includes: application forms, passport photos, criminal background record check, copy of your passport, birth certificate, bank statement, and medical certificate from a local doctor.
You may also need to have a rental contract and a police form, and some of these documents need to be translated into Arabic or French. Of course if you are applying as a student or an employee, you also have to submit documents that prove your status.
Once you have submitted your documents, you will be issued a 3-month temporary residence permit while you are waiting for your official permit. The waiting time varies widely, but expect at least 2-4 months.
You can avoid the permit process if you leave the country every 3 months. However, this is generally not recommended as you may encounter a bit of trouble from the authorities. They may require you to stay out of the country for a week or more. Plus the hassle of going to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta (the closest border crossing) every 90 days is a bit annoying.
– How to Find Accommodation –
Accommodation is a bit tricky to secure in Morocco. The best way to find one is by word-of-mouth; ask friends, ask around. If you already have a job arranged, ask your employer.
Go around in a neighborhood and ask the doormen if there are any open apartments in the buildings. You could also use a real estate agent but the costs can be high; about one month’s rent once you find a place. If all else fails, try the website avito.ma, which lists apartments.
Many expats choose Rabat or Marrakesh as their home base.
You can either opt to live in the medina, the old part of town, but this usually comes with archaic plumbing and building structure—or choose the more modernized Ville Nouvelle area. Almost every city has one of each.
– Getting Around –
It is extremely easy to get around in Morocco, if you know the system. There are planes, boats, trains, long-distance buses, grand taxis and petit taxis that will get you practically everywhere. If you’re taking a cab, negotiate the fare in advance.
Trains are the most comfortable and quickest but the route limits you to a few select cities. Buses are divided into luxury and local, with the former offering A/C and tend to add more comfort and expense.
If you’re traveling between towns for less than an hour, opt for the grand taxi. The price is distributed between passengers, so you can hop in a car that already has 3-5 people heading to your way.
Grab a petit taxi for a quick way to zip around within a city.
– What’s the Expat Community Like? –
Morocco has been an ethnic melting pot for centuries—here you’ll find Europeans, Berbers, Africans from the south, Middle Easterners, Americans and more.
As the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the locals have embraced many customs, dialects, traditions into what is now a rich cultural mishmash. Because of this, the expat community is alive and well and quite close-knit, with neighbors relying on each other for news and info in their adopted home.
However, to find them you have to go hunting at first. Sign up for Facebook groups. Try an expat club like the Intercultural Thaqafat Association or the American International Women’s Club of Casablanca. If you have a job, for example if you work as an ESL teacher, take the time to connect with other teachers.
– Other Helpful Tips –
Be patient, and keep your schedule loose. In Morocco things tend to move at their own pace, and you never know what challenge is going to be next.
- The Hammam
Take full advantage of the hammam while you’re there—Moroccan public baths where you can relax, get a vigorous massage, and scrub away all the dirt from your day.