16 Tips for Traveling to Morocco • What I Wish I Knew
Morocco has long been on my “must see” lists. The bright and colorful photos of the country always seemed to captivate me, and the Sahara desert was something I had only seen in movies. Due to Morocco’s proximity to Europe, more and more travelers are hopping on the next ferry out of Spain to visit Morocco for themselves.
As soon as you cross the border you will be taken back into another world. As enthralling as it is, here are 16 Morocco travel tips to know before you go.
Morocco Travel Tips!
Marrakech is dubbed “scam city”, but so is the rest of the country
Let’s just open up with the most obvious, Marrakech has been known for years to be a city full of scams and deceitfulness. Touts roam every corner waiting for a naive tourist to pass by to try and rip them off. You know when you read reviews online and think “Yea, this person is just paranoid, that will never happen.” Well after reading articles like this and this we thought that too.
Turns out, that every scam that we had read about and tried to prepare for was a real thing! Crazy henna ladies, constant short-changing, and intentional wrong directions became daily battles in Marrakech. However, it didn’t just stop there, almost every city we visited during our six weeks while traveling in Morocco had its own way of persistently trying to scam you. Do your research before, know what to look out for, and don’t let those scammers get the best of you. Just when you’re about to let your guard up—don’t.
Brush up on your language skills
Moroccan Arabic is the official language of Morocco. Berber is completely different than Arabic and is spoken by the Berber people. Next there is French, which many Moroccans can speak fluently. If you’re going to Northern Morocco, near Spain, you may find that many of the locals even speak Spanish.
That’s a lot of languages in one country. One of my tips for traveling to Morocco is to brush up on those high school foreign languages as it will certainly make your experience a little more enjoyable. Or pick up a Arabic language book!
And in case you forgot…
Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to Northern Africa. They make up over 70% of the Moroccan population! Get to know some of them, they are among some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.
Don’t catch yourself taking a local bus
Besides renting a car, there are three main ways of transportation and traveling around Morocco – train, bus, and taxi. You have two options for buses—to go local or choose a private bus company. One of my best travel tips for Morocco is to save yourself the hassle and pay to take a private, “touristy,” bus.
The local buses are extremely crowded, run down, and stop for literally every Joe Schmoe on the side of the road. Supratours and CTM are the two private bus companies, they are still inexpensive by western standards and provide much better comfort.
Grand taxis are not grand
Your other option is to take a grand taxi to get from point A to point B. Before you go thinking that you’ll be in the back seat of a luxury crown sedan, let me explain. A grand taxi is a small 4 door jalopy that Jimi Hendrix probably rode in when he visited Morocco in the ’60s.
The taxis go to certain destinations and wait until the car is filled with 6 passengers until they hit the road. Undoubtedly, an experience and also a cheap way of transport—just not exactly comfortable.
The Sahara is really really really far away
If you’re going to Morocco and have some time to explore I’m sure seeing the Sahara is high on your list. It’s beautiful and will take your breath away—just know that it is extremely far away. I’m talking like 10 hours of straight driving through mountainous regions far.
I knew this going in, but it still felt like forever trying to get to the dunes. A good thing to note is that the desert gets extremely cold at night as well, so make sure to know what to wear in Morocco and pack accordingly.
Fill up on your vitamin C
One thing I will certainly be missing is my daily Vitamin C fill. You’ll find fresh squeezed orange juice just about everywhere when you travel Morocco! Are you ready for the best part? It’s only 4 DH ($.40)! You can actually find a variety of fresh juices all around, including my personal favorite – avocado and banana juice.
Bread lovers unite
Anyone planning to go on a no carb diet should hold off until they leave Morocco. Bread or “Khubz” in Arabic is a daily part of life here, and is a large portion of every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It often replaces silverware in that you essentially scoop your food with it! We were able to escape the bread madness on a few occasions, including that one time we went to Tangier just to have this meal.
….and sugar fiends
To help you achieve that perfect bikini bod is breads’ BFF—sugar. You’ll be brushing your teeth 3 times a day with all the sweet treats in Morocco. Moroccans will constantly be inviting you in for their special mint tea or “Berber whiskey,” and it is addicting! However, to save yourself an extra trip to the dentist when you get home, ask for no sugar.
Get your camera ready
One of my best tips for traveling to Morocco is to pack a camera! There are so many beautiful things in Morocco. If you’re wondering what Morocco is known for it’s the colors, the textures, and the shapes. Everything in Morocco so darn mesmerizing.
Pack your camera with an extra memory card before going to Morocco, and get ready to become instafamous. For some picturesque views from above, try a hot air balloon ride with a camel ride after.
Watch Maze Runner before you land
Accept the fact that while you are in the medinas of Fez and Marrakech you will get lost. I had read about the thousands of old streets before landing in the country, but didn’t quite understand their scale until I was walking them myself. The old medinas are an intricate maze that not even Google Maps can detect. Your best bet is to just let it happen, get lost and enjoy what you find. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Learn to love Riads
So what is a riad? A riad is a traditional Moroccan guesthouse, and chances are you will be staying in at least one while visiting Morocco. Usually, riads are a couple of stories with a big open courtyard in the middle. Bedrooms are on every side of the square. It is something that I found cute and fun at first, but I grew to hate them after six weeks.
As a wannabe sun goddess, I became annoyed with the fact that there is virtually no natural light in the bedrooms, and that they are generally very noisy. To each their own.
I want to note that Morocco isn’t that cheap. Sure, Morocco is much more affordable than Western Europe, Australia, and the United States but if you are coming here thinking it’s going to be like Cambodia then you should reassess your budget.
When we really tried we were able to get by in Chefchaouen and Essaouira for less than $25 a day per person, but some days in the bigger cities ran us upwards $35-40 a day (this is for budget backpacking). If you’re looking for a little more of a mid-range experience then budget for about $40-55 a day. Find more information on pricing here.
No, the Moroccan men are not your friend
Now I’m not saying that you can’t have a genuine Moroccan friend because you definitely can! However, if some strange man in the medina starts randomly approaching you, run for the hills. It seems that Morocco is just swarming with “nice guys” that are willing to show you around or assist you in some unwanted way. Generally, some young (ish) guy will start talking to you, claiming to be your friend, asking where you’re from, and the list goes on, and on. Some of these men are sketchy at first glance, but some could be on their way to the Oscars with their 5-star performance.
Chances are you were probably raised to be a polite person. Be forewarned, your politeness may quickly lead you to a scam. Use your common sense and trust your gut. A firm “no” (or “la” in Arabic) will usually do the trick to whatever they have up their sleeve. Even just asking for directions in big cities will result in you paying some sort of “tip”.
It’s sad, but I stopped trusting anyone while in this country; men, little boys, hotel owners, and even the cats seemed shady! The only time I completely found refuge from this was in the villages with my Berber family homestay. I’m not saying Morocco isn’t a good place to visit, but just be aware that if something seems questionable – it probably is.
You’re never in any real danger
Despite the constant lies, scamming, and unwanted groping, we never found ourselves in any real danger. Morocco truly is a great and unique place to visit. We traveled as a couple most of the time, but I had met plenty of women traveling alone who were enjoying Morocco to it’s fullest! Sure, you may want to pull your hair out and scream more than once, but you will leave the country in one piece.
Cash is king
Don’t expect to rake in airline miles with your credit card purchases while in Morocco. We did not pay with a credit card once while in Morocco. Everywhere is cash only unless you are in a McDonalds and in a major urban city. Flash your Visa and you will get stared at like a crazy person. Check out our top travel banking tips for your travels!
Planning and Packing for Morocco
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
I would recommend getting a good one online before arriving. It can be tough to find a decent travel adapter for a reasonable price, but then again you never know!
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Morocco since the sun reflects off the desert landscape. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Our first trip to Morocco was with $5 pairs from off the side of the road.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling to the around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the African sun and it can be very hard to find outside major cities.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean just go with a reliable name brand.
It’s best to bring a pair of breathable shoes to walk around Morocco. The hear in Northern Africa and Morocco is intense. This means if you don’t want your feet to always feel sweaty and stinky wear cool and comfortable shoes.
I love the Nike Free Flyknit Shoes for their breathability in situations like this.
I love wearing a relaxed pant when we travel. Their Women’s Mantra pants are made out of hemp and recycled polyester while offering 50+ UPF protection. They are perfect for Morocco as they’re comfortable and conservative.
These pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. Cameron has now found his favorite pair of pants in the men’s version which is the Vaha Pant.
You’ll find most people wearing sandals in Morocco and they are definitely for every Moroccan dress code. You don’t want to live in shoes and you certainly don’t want to live in heavy boots. A good pair of sandals is great for being comfortable on long travel days and under the hot sun of Northern Africa.
We spend 90% of our time in a pair of sandals when traveling around Morocco. The only time we opt for our boots is certain city neighborhoods with dirty streets and hikes in the Rif and Atlas Mountains.
Just throwing this into your bag is going to make packing for Morocco a breeze. A Shemagh is the perfect travel accessory for both the men and the women travelers out there. This can be worn for just about anything. It will keep you warm, cover your face, protect valuables in your backpack, and even double as an eye mask the shemagh has tons of different uses.
It’s perfect for anyone heading into the Sahara wanting to keep the sand out of their face. I would personally recommend buying this before you land because once you travel to the desert there will plenty of touts willing to sell you a cheap one at an exorbitant price.
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