Okay folks, it’s PSA time.
If you’re planning on visiting Morocco any time soon, I need to let you in on a not-so-sexy secret… this crazy country is much more than a romantic Instagram playground of patterned plates, blue walls and glam camel selfies.
In fact, coming here can be just as challenging as it is magical, all the more so if you don’t do proper research.
See, in recent years, I’ve heard many travellers say that they disliked their travels in Morocco because it didn’t “live up to their expectations”, but as a die hard fan of the country, I need to say this: yes, Morocco is gorgeous, and packed with stupidly photogenic sights, but it can also a really challenging place to visit, especially when you flail in blindly without getting your research on.
Luckily, that’s what I’m here for!
After two trips to Morocco – once to visit Marrakech and Essaouira, the second to gallivant around Fez and Chefchaouen, I’ve foolishly made buckets of mistakes and assumptions for you, all so you don’t fall into the same traps 😉
Yay me. *throws confetti*
In this post, my goal is to give you some practical info and takeaways so that you have some more realistic expectations for your trip to Morocco – think of it as tips from one silly tourist to another 😉
So, without further ado – don’t travel to Morocco without knowing the following handy tips!
Travelling to Morocco soon? You might also find these posts helpful…
Looking for the Cheapest Hotel Deals in Morocco?
One of the first questions I usually get about Morocco is where to stay, so let’s get that first point out of the way first. Morocco is filled with amazing accommodation options, from hotels and hostels to gorgeous riads (which I highly recommend). To find the best fit for you, I recommend using HotelsCombined, a great free site to use that lets you search prices from multiple sites like Expedia, Booking, etc. at once, securing you the best possible deal.
Alright, now onto the good stuff…
My Travel Advice for Morocco: 18 Must-Knows
1. Morocco is yuuuuuge (seriously though, it’s a big country)
Geography is not my thing, especially for places I’ve never been to.
Here’s the #1 mistake I see people making: a lot of folks (past me included) wrongfully assume that Morocco is small and that all the most insta-famous spots are closely clustered together. I mean, if I had a nickel for each time someone asked “how can I do a day trip from Marrakech to Chefchaouen?” Ohh yenno, just a casual night train and bus combo….
But yes, know this: if you want to travel Morocco, understand that it’s a pretty freaking massive country.
At first, it might be tempting to think that you can cover the entire country in a single trip, but unless you have a lot of time at your disposal, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Try to focus instead on one part of the country rather than waste time commuting from place to place. I’m very glad I did separate trips for Marrakech/Essaouira and Fez/Chefchaouen, rather than brave night trains and long commutes just to “see it all”.
2. Brush up on your French (beyond oh la la and croissants)
As you travel in Morocco, you’ll quickly notice just how common French is.
While in big cities, you’ll encounter plenty of English speakers as well, most are much more comfortable in French, and nicer to you if you can speak it.
I can’t tell you the number of times a shopkeeper or taxi driver immediately cranked up the nice meter as soon as I busted out my rusty français. Definitely get some basic travel terms under your belt like, “how much will this cost” or “how do I get to ____” – it’ll help you a ton.
For those extra prepared folks, consider buying a phrasebook in advance (they’re cheap – like less than $10!). Here’s one for Moroccan Arabic, or one for French.
3. Morocco IS safe… just be wary of scams
Often travellers (especially those going solo) wonder whether or not Morocco is safe.
After having been there twice (once with a group of girlfriends and the second time with my boyfriend), I will say that it’s definitely safe.
Will you feel very uncomfortable at times? Probably.
Will people will stare at you, persistently follow you and randomly shout Asian ethnicities at you until they guess the right one? That last one was niche, but the answer is still YES!
All that said, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be too concerned about your physical safety. I have a full guide all about safety tips in Morocco that you can read here, but I’ll summarize some of the main points below.
(I’d recommend getting a nice, subtle brass whistle though just in case. They’re good for ease of mind and you can get them for under $10! This set comes with a leather necklace so you can wear it at all times.)
Anyways, there are naturally a few common sensical things that you should be mindful of – don’t walk around at night by yourself (especially as a solo female traveler). The streets get very eerie after all the shops close, and you’ll likely encounter lots of “friendly” guys trying to help you find your accommodations. It’s super unsettling, so I wouldn’t recommend being alone in quiet areas like the souks after dark.
Besides that, I think you will be fine in terms of physical safety. The #1 thing to be mindful of though is ALL the scams. Tourism drives a lot of business here, so many have become experts at taking advantage of naive tourists. Don’t be disheartened by it – just view it as a way of doing business 😉
A few tips for avoiding scams:
Be wary of anyone that’s overly friendly. Someone offering to help you find where you need to go will want money for it after. Someone offering you a cool photo opp like a snake to hold will want money for it after. Nice women beckoning you to get henna will literally grab your hand and just start doing it…. and will demand money after. Unfortunately, these things are common.
Know that every price they give you is meant to be bartered down. I’ll discuss haggling more in a second, but shopkeepers often give sky high prices to start with because they assume you don’t know better.
If you plan to buy something (e.g. a tour, a certain good, etc.), ask for standard prices from your riad or hostel owner so you have a rough idea of how much it will cost. It’s better this way to have a rough gauge.
4. Get your haggle pants on
Alright, we all have that embarrassing aunty who haggles everything down and has a consistent surplus of useless crap for her exploits.
When shopping in Morocco, it is time for you to become that aunty.
Seriously though, don’t be afraid to haggle! I’ve been told it’s a part of the culture by a lot of shopkeepers, who will laugh off my stubborn hard assness.
One of my proudest moments was being told I was “haggling like a real Berber woman”. Why thanks. *flips hair* Someone just get me a Haggle Queen t-shirt already. (FYI, they exist. No joke. Here’s proof).
If you feel weird about haggling, do note that prices they give you at first can literally be 7x what they actually want to sell it for, so it’s probably in your best interest to barter a little… it’s even quite fun.
FYI, shop owners can be SUPER pushy. If you step inside their little stall, they will often stand by the entrance and low-key trap you in their store. I’m not saying this to scare you, it’s just something to be aware of. You’re not in actual physical danger, but it’s pretty uncomfortable to say the least.
At the end of the day, you’ll quickly notice that most stores will sell the same goods so feel free to shop around too! Nothing is more effective for haggling than “the walk away”. 😉
5. Mosques are a no-go unless you’re Muslim
Unlike some other Muslim-dominant countries like Turkey where you’re invited to visit the inside of moques, mosques in Morocco usually have closed door policy unless you’re Muslim yourself.
So, take all those ridiculous “top things to do in Morocco” lists with a grain of salt (PSA to my fellow bloggers, stop recommending these mosques when all you can do is peek at the courtyard from afar!)
I mean, are there loads of gorgeous mosques to see in Morocco? Totally, but you won’t really get to see any of them unless you’re Muslim. Just an FYI so you’re not too disappointed.
PS: If you’re staying longer in the country, consider getting a guidebook about customs/traditions. It might come in handy. I’ve heard great things about this one.
6. Bring stretchy pants (cuz you gon’ eat)
Nnngh, give me a second to wipe all the drool off my screen. I have to tell you – food in Morocco is THE best.
One of my Christmas gifts this year was literally a tagine cookbook and I’ve never felt more #blessed. Truly, when you travel to Morocco, one guarantee is that you’ll be well fed. Like royalty even, for highly affordable rates.
These are ubiquitous foods you’ll find at every single restaurant (yes, they are cliched, and touristy, but for a reason). PS: Any Moroccan folks reading this, please holla in the comments with your favourite traditional foods… I need some more inspo!
BUT for now, you will 100% need to get…
Fresh fruit juice: MMMMMF. Available almost everywhere and so ridiculously good. NOTE: It’s always cheaper to drink it there from a glass rather than get it to take away. The stalls will often have a very cheap price (e.g. 4DH) listed in big letters, and that is usually the price for if you stand there and drink it on the spot. Don’t be surprised if you need to pay a bit extra to take it with you.
Mint tea: You can get it anywhere and they love to serve it up with sugar. Their default sweetness is ridiculously sweet, so unless you love cavities, you should probably ask for sugar on the side.
Tagine: Slow cooked stew cooked in an awesome clay or ceramic pot (also called a tagine). There’s lots of different kinds, usually with meat. My personal favourite is the kefta tagine, which is meatballs in a tomato/onion sauce with eggs cracked on top. It will change your life, it is my favourite ever!
Couscous: Fluffy and plentiful. I’m not a big fan of it myself (I’m a die-hard rice girl) but you’ll find it everywhere with all kinds of pairings.
7. Don’t expect a booze & drugs kind of vacay
A LOT of people forget that Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country.
… and then they turn up ready to raaage.
That might be a problematic mindset.
You won’t find a ton of shops readily stocked with sweet alcoholz for your bender. That said, despite having such a large Muslim population, alcohol and drugs (hash is especially popular) aren’t tough to come by in Morocco.
In major cities, you’ll find plenty of bars and of course, depending on where you’re staying (if it’s a big resort-y type hotel), you’ll have no trouble finding booze. So, if you need your fix, you’ll be fine.
In my opinion though, I wouldn’t prioritize scouring the streets for alcohol in Morocco. There’s so many better things to do here than get drunk, and it’s much pricier than drinking your weight in fresh fruit juice and mint tea, which is infinitely better (in my humble food-obsessed opinion).
8. Don’t get run over by a donkey
I literally was having one of those “wow travel is so amazing and lifechanging” moments when I promptly was knocked off my pedestal by a donkey.
Like, an actual donkey.
This was in Fez, where there’s a lot of donkeys trotting around with stuff on their backs. So um, just a general PSA to keep an eye out for asses. 🙂
9. Despite what they say, not everyone is “your friend”
I alluded to this before, but you need to be wary of those who are overly friendly.
Of course, there are tons of genuinely hospitable Moroccans out there, but in major cities, especially when you’re out and about in touristy areas, those hollering at you “come with me, my friend!”, “I will show you, my friend!” etc. etc. are probably interested more in your money than your friendship.
This isn’t to say that they won’t actually help you – they probably will, but just know that it’s because they expect some money for it, not out of the genuine goodness of their hearts.
10. Morocco has a closed currency
I know this sounds scary but it basically just means that Morocco’s currency (the dirham, or DH) isn’t readily available outside of Morocco, so you will most likely need to just wait until you’re there to get any.
There will definitely a currency exchange at the airport, and there are loads of banks to visit in major cities too, so don’t worry!
11. Ladies, get ready for attention like you’ve never received
Often people ask whether or not it is safe to travel to Morocco, especially for female travelers.
So again, is it safe to travel to Morocco?
Yes, but there are certain things you need to be wary of (as a female). Especially as a female that is noticeably foreign (my blonde friends, I’m lookin’ at you).
Morocco is such a wonderful country with so much to offer and I would hate for your impressions of it to be spoiled because you didn’t go in with the right expectations, so let me clear this up for you: LADIES, you will inevitably get catcalled.
It’s gonna happen.
It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or who you’re with. If I could still get cat called while wearing a big doofus jacket while holding hands with my boyfriend, then you will also get some unwanted advances.
If you tend to sensitive about these things, remember just how common it is, and I beg you: don’t let it ruin your trip!
My approach is to just move on and ignore. Don’t make eye contact, don’t smile. If you smile, you’re essentially inviting them to talk to you… so don’t do it. Just keeping walkin’, cool as a cucumber.
12. Dress appropriately
So, a lot of girls wonder what is considered “appropriate” dress in Morocco… and luckily, I have a full guide on that, which you can read here.
But here’s a quick digest. The truth is it’s not really about what you can and can’t wear. You CAN wear a spaghetti strap tank top and Daisy Dukes, I mean… nobody is going to arrest you, but you WILL feel terribly uncomfortable.
It’s true, many Moroccan women will wear what they want, but remember that you (as a foreigner) are already going to stick out like a sore thumb so it’s really a matter of dressing in a way that a) you’e comfortable and b) minimizes unwanted attention.
As a good rule of thumb, I would say to cover your legs and cover your shoulders.
In Marrakech, there was a MASSIVE difference for me when I wore a dress one day vs. pants on another. Even though it was a long-enough dress (around knee-length), the amount of eyes that began to slide down and focus on my calves was too damn high.
So, I would encourage dressing modestly, with an emphasis on covering shoulders, legs and cleavage. You can read my full packing guide (and free packing list) for Marrakech here.
13. BYOT – Bring your own toilet paper
Seriously guys, bring your own toilet paper when you travel around Morocco. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and there will be a cute lil woman at the front selling tissue for a small price (usually this is the case with rest stops) otherwise you’re on your own. #ShakeShakeBaby 😉
PRO TIP: I highly recommend just buying tissue packs in bulk. You can literally buy an entire case for less than $30 here. It’s always good to have them on hand, and buying in bulk is cheaper.
14. Cash is king
Trust me, you need to have cash on you when you travel around Morocco, in small bills if possible.
We encountered a few taxi drivers who told us he didn’t have any change for big bills (whether or not that’s truthful or just fishing for a larger tip, I’m not sure!) BUT remember: you should always carry some change with you as well, whether for tipping or having exact change for cabs/services.
15. Fridays are holy days
Fridays are considered a holy day for Muslims, and so on Friday, you’ll find that the souks might be a little quieter and that the operating hours of certain shops might vary.
A lot of visitors get scared that everything will be closed on Fridays, but for us this wasn’t the case.
The major tourist attractions and main “tourist heavy” spots will remain open, but there were definitely a lot of noticeable shop closures as well. Just plan accordingly and don’t leave all your big shopping days to Friday and you’ll be fine.
16. No need to really book tours in advance, there are loads of tour operators and options once you arrive
A lot of people stress out about getting a tour booked for activities in advance.
I really don’t think this is necessary.
There are so many tour operators going to the same places every single day that you could easily (if you’re feeling spontaneous) just wait until you’re there to make any further plans.
If you are a very Type A planny type person though, you can also book online. I like using GetYourGuide for things like this because they have a low-price guarantee 🙂
17. It gets surprisingly cold
I know – usually when travellers think about Morocco, their minds go to this warm sepia-toned image of a sun-drenched country, of deserts, palm trees and warm balmy temperatures.
This can be the case yes, but temperatures really do drop at night, and it can get very windy by the coast.
Be prepared for the weather and do your research beforehand. Always pack a jacket!
18. You will inevitably get lost
See it as part of the fun!
Undoubtedly you’ll have already heard of how romantic and wonderful it is to “get lost in the dizzying labyrinth of Moroccan souks” – what most blog posts seem to glaze over is that it’s ALSO kind of scary. Maybe really scary – especially at night.
Know this: if you don’t get lost at some point, you haven’t had the real Morocco experience… just be careful, (again, especially at night). And remember: worst comes to worst, if you’re really super lost, there will most likely be someone around willing to guide you back home…. for a small fee of course 😉
Alright, I hope you enjoyed this roundup of must-knows before you travel to Morocco, packed with travel tips and advice! If you have still have any Morocco-related questions, feel free to ask away in the comments.