Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Where's best to change sterling into Morocco dirhams?

 

Q I'm going to Marrakech in a week or so. Where's best to change sterling cash into Moroccan dirhams - here or there?

Christopher Burbidge, Leicestershire.

A In Morocco. "The importation and exportation of Moroccan currency is strictly forbidden," warns the National Tourist Office. "It cannot be converted outside the Kingdom's borders." There is a certain amount of wishful thinking in those statements, since plenty of people take dirhams in and out, and the currency is traded in neighbouring countries. But the leading bureaux de change in the UK will not handle the dirham. Instead, bring sterling in cash and change it little and often when you are there. You should also bring a debit card as a back-up.

So why not change a big slab of cash all at once? First, you will probably not get a particularly good rate at Marrakech airport when you arrive; you will probably find better deals at hotels or bureaux de change (you're looking for a rate of 12.5 dirhams to £1). Next, when you change back surplus dirhams to "hard currency" (sterling, euros, dollars, etc) at the end of your stay, you are allowed only half the amount that you changed during your visit - this will not prove a problem if you have bought dirhams as you go along, so long as you remember to keep all receipts.

Finally, the Foreign Office warns "It's very difficult to exchange travellers' cheques," and I agree.

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