Morocco is definitely a hot destination right now, as it is a country boasting beautiful deserts, incredibly architected mosques, and giant artisan markets. If you follow travel influencers on instagram, many of them have been visiting the country within the last couple years, definitely attracting more tourists to the country. And why wouldn’t you want to visit? Morocco has a lot to offer!
I did overall enjoy my time in Morocco, but there were a couple of things I wish I knew and researched better before I arrived. I’ve compiled a list of my top Morocco travel tips to share with you!
Always Have Local Currency on Hand
Although Euros are widely accepted, the locals seem to be quite reluctant to accept the currency. The Euro is worth a lot in comparison to the Dirham – about 1 to 10 – and their banks will not accept coins and ripped bills. It is rare that you will receive change in Euros as well. Locals also don’t work off of accurate exchange rate, and you will get charged anywhere from 10-15 Dirhams per Euro. Credit cards are accepted at some places, but not in markets, smaller hotels, some restaurants, and more.
Always Negotiate on Prices
If you look like a tourist, whether this is based on skin colour, clothing, accessories, etc., you will be charged a lot more money for almost everything. Hotels and larger restaurants are safe zones, as they have set and advertised prices. Markets and Taxis, however, do not have advertised prices.
Let’s start with the markets, as I discuss Taxis later on in this post. There are beautiful handmade items everywhere, ranging from plates and bowls, decorations, to gorgeous antiques. It would definitely be difficult not to buy everything if you were paying the locals price! The shop owners will up-charge you anywhere from 5-20 times the actual price of the item, always. Never accept the first price they give you! They are trying to see how much they can get from you.
A few tips I’ve learned from negotiating prices in countries such as these are:
- If you are happy with what you are paying for the item, just take it. Sure, someone else may have been able to get less for the same item, but if you are happy with what you paid, then who cares!
- Expect to pay more than the locals and be okay with it. I like to think of it as I am contributing to the economy. An extra dollar or two doesn’t hurt me!
- Look horrified when they give you their initial price. I’ve found this leaves the shop owner in shock and they feel like they offended you. They immediately drop the price.
- After the initial drop, just say no, I’ll pass. This will make them drop the price again.
- After that drop, walk away! They come chasing you and ask what you are okay with paying. Say a realistic price that you are okay with.
- If they try to raise the price again, start to walk out of the store. They almost always go with the price you said!
- If you look fairly young, say you are a student. This also seemed to help with negotiation. “Help me, I’m poor”
Take Advantage of the Train System
The train system in Morocco is quite convenient, with lines that connect most major cities. It seems to be the easiest, and safest method of transportation throughout the country. Some locations, such as Chefchauouen (the Blue City), are not accessible by train, and take more research and planning to get to.
ONCF trains run between Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech and a few more destinations. Most of your tourist spots are covered! They offered first class, second class, and sleeper cars (on some trains). The price difference between second and first class usually is not that much, and the upgrade is recommended for comfort on longer trains.
I ended up taking an overnight train from Tangier to Marrakech, and I highly recommend getting a sleeper cabin! I stayed in a 4 person, 2-bunk bed cabin, and no one ended up joining my friend and I. We were provided sheets, and not disturbed until morning. The train ride is about 10 hours, and being able to lay down and sleep definitely saved our next day!
To buy tickets, you will have to go to the station. The website only seems to accept cards from Moroccan banks. Make sure you check what time ticket offices close – I was very close to missing the cut-off and missing the last train!
Avoid Taxis as Much as Possible
I cannot describe how bad of a time I had with Taxi drivers – they are all hustlers! There are two Taxi companies – Petit and Grand – which have different fleets operating in different regions of the country. Grand Taxis only offer flat rates, while Petit Taxis have meters – that is, if you can get them to use them!
Taxi drivers, like shop owners, will up-charge you a good 20 times to go anywhere. It was very rare we could convince a taxi driver to bring us anywhere for less than 10-15 euros! The Petit taxis refused to turn on the meter for us. ONE kind driver finally used the meter, and our trip cost 15 DIRHAM, when we were getting charged ~200 dirham every other time.
The drivers get more aggressive when they know you need a taxi, like when you arrive at a train station or airport late at night. Try your negotiating tactics here as well, but you may be wandering from taxi to taxi for a while! Unfortunately, there is no Uber in the country!
Try to travel during the day when you can take public transit, or book prearranged travel through your hotel. I hope you have better luck than I did!
Research Tour Groups Beforehand
This is also important everywhere you go, especially when you are going on a tour that involves animals. Like elephants in Thailand, camels are sometimes abused for the pleasure of tourists. I strongly recommend reading reviews on the companies prior – we have been in situations where the camels were abused and it was an extremely upsetting experience.
It is always a good idea to research other types of excursions before you go on them so you are prepared for what your day entails. Whether this is a tip in the reviews to bring a bathing suit to swim at the base of a waterfall, to bringing enough water and snacks for a hike, to bringing extra cash to get into an attraction, being prepared always makes the day run smoother!
Research Hotel Locations
This is important anywhere you travel. Every city has less-desired neighbourhoods and areas to avoid. It is important that you don’t find yourself staying in one of these areas, especially for safety reasons. If you have a limited amount of time in a city, it is usually beneficial to spend a little extra money to stay in a more convenient location to the sites. If you have more time, I definitely recommend staying further out of the core, in a place that has convenient transit options to get around.
In Morocco, there are tons of beautiful Riads. If you haven’t already read about Riads, they are traditional Moroccan houses with a courtyard in the middle! Many have little pools or fountains, and are so beautiful. We had wonderful experiences staying in smaller Riads around the country, with great families running them.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
This also goes for travelling anywhere in the world with a more conservative culture. The women in Morocco are typically covered head to toe. Dressing appropriately not only avoids unwanted attention, but also shows respect to their culture. The locals can’t typically afford luxury items, so try not to flaunt expensive bags, watches, or accessories.
It is definitely difficult to both dress for the heat and dress appropriately for the culture. I found thin, light long sleeves and pants were the way to go! I got away with a few long dresses and wore a scarf around my shoulders if they were showing.
Beware of Locals Offering to Help
This one I learned the hard way multiple times in Morocco. Whether someone is pointing you in the direction of your hotel, calling a taxi for you, walking you 10 feet to an open taxi, or is answering a question in any way, they expect a tip. If you don’t tip them, some cause a scene, which is really uncomfortable. We once let a man walk us from our taxi to our Riad (one little street), and he demanded 10 euros!
Ask Permission Before Taking Photos of Shops, Etc.
This is mostly important in the markets, where there are small shops selling artisan goods. Some shop owners don’t like you taking photos in their shops if they are selling custom items, or if you are simply blocking the way of actual paying customers. Although some shops are gorgeous, boasting all gold lamps and handmade bowls, it is always best to ask permission for a photo to avoid conflict!
Do Not Try to Enter Mosques
Unless there are advertised tours, do not try to go into a Mosque. They are the locals’ place to worship, and they are extremely protective of the inside. There was a time where we walked toward a Mosque to LOOK at the inside, and we had several men running towards us, yelling. It’s best to admire from a distance, or research beforehand for Mosques that allow tourist entry. If you do find one that you can enter, please dress appropriately. Cover your shoulders and wear at least knee length bottoms!
Have you visited Morocco or are you planning to in the near future? What did you do while there / what are you planning on doing? Let me know in the comments!