food stand marrakesh moroccoPre-Trip Preparation

Before your trip to Morocco, be sure to have your health insurance and vaccinations in order. Not all standard health insurance policies cover overseas travel, and if you plan to engage in sporting activities like kite surfing, trekking or cycling, you may need more specific insurance. All travelers should choose a plan that includes emergency medical evacuation.

MD Travel Health recommends visiting your physician four to eight weeks before departure to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. For travel to Morocco, recommended vaccines include hepatitis A and B, MMR, typhoid, rabies (particularly if you will be outdoors) and tetanus. Risk of malaria is very low in most part of Morocco, and malaria prevention medication is not recommended.

When packing your bags, put together a basic medical kit that includes your prescriptions, a full course of antibiotics to fight traveler’s diarrhea (such as Cipro or Levaquin), anti-diarrheal pills, pain killers, dehydration salts, sunburn relief and first aid supplies.

Food and Water

Avoid eating fruits and vegetables that have not been peeled or cooked. Carrying a small pocket knife with you may prove useful if you plan to buy fruit from roadside vendors. At many street stalls, food may have been sitting for hours, and especially in the summer heat this can wreak havoc on a traveler’s digestive system. It’s best if you can eat food that is freshly prepared and served steaming hot. As a general rule of thumb, don’t eat seafood unless you’re near the sea.

In most places in Morocco, tap water and well water is not safe to drink. Water should be boiled, filtered or chemically treated. You can buy bottled water in most major cities and towns, and backpackers should bring water purification tablets or a filtration system to self-treat water in rural areas.

Swimming

Unfortunately, many fresh bodies of water in Morocco are breeding grounds for snails infected with the schistosomiasis parasite. Although this parasitic worm is not found in the United States, more than 200 million people are affected worldwide, and infection is a risk in Morocco. The parasitic infection leads to a chronic disease that damages internal organs, and it can be devastatingly harmful to children.

In order to avoid contracting schistosomiasis, do not swim or bathe in fresh water that may be infected with the parasite. Additionally, avoid eating snails being sold by vendors in Morocco. While saltwater swimming does not pose a risk of schistosomiasis, some beaches along the coast (particularly near Casablanca) are polluted and should not be used for swimming or water sports. Towel drying after swimming is not necessarily an effective way to avoid infection.

General Safety

While not frequent, terrorist attacks have taken place in Morocco. In 2003, a set of hotels and restaurants were targeted in Casablanca, and in 2007 the U.S. Consulate General and the private American Language Center were attacked. It’s best to avoid establishments associated with the U.S. or with ‘Western’ cultural or economic interests. Places that may be targeted include American government buildings, international clubs, casinos, nightclubs that double as brothels and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Be aware of your personal items in crowds, especially on the train and in busy public markets like Marrakesh’s Djemm-el-Fna. Pickpockets in Morocco can be quite efficient, and it would be wise to wear a concealed money belt while in public. While we do not wish to scare, our blog about Morocco is dedicated to keeping you safe for your journey!

Written by Heather Carreiro.

Photo by christianstark.