Morocco is one of the top destinations on most travel lists, and quite rightly too as it is the most amazing place to travel through. Being only 3 1/2 hours from the UK by plane and easy access via road and ship from Europe, it really is the gateway to Africa and to most people a different world.
Our first tip is to remember this is Africa, not Europe so do not expect a European lifestyle or services. We are not saying the services are substandard, and in fact I would say on a par or better in some cases, but it is how you find them and fund them which may be different.
Morocco has a system, you cannot fight it or change it so go with the flow. We always say to get anything done takes 4 hours, if it happens sooner then it’s time saved, if it takes longer then so be it. This is particularly true of anything do do with the police systems (extension visitor permits and the like) or any local authority (electric, internet provider, water).
Most Moroccans do not like queuing and will always try to push in or have a friend in the queue ahead of you – but generally you just have to be patient and stand your ground – don’t get upset or start an argument as life is too short for all the hassle – chill and accept you are a visitor and not a local.
Having said this, Moroccans are very friendly, have a super sense of humour and love to fool around. They are very generous and you will often be invited to tea or for a tagine – if you do accept (the offers will be genuine) do take a small gift of sweet biscuits, fruit or cakes as this is very polite to do so.
Morocco has a reputation for not being safe – not sure why as in all the years visiting and living here, we have never had a situation of any kind (unlike England!). Tourism is the largest industry in Morocco and so welcomes travellers – biting the hand that feeds is counter-intuitive and Moroccans know this.
As with all travel, do not put yourself in situations that may cause problems – I have heard of crazy things like walking on a beach alone late at night – well that’s nuts and so just don’t do it! You would not do that in any place so keep your guard up and wits about you.
Our advice is simple, keep jewelry to a minimum and only carry what you have to. Keep phones hidden and not on display. Petty crime will happen in any country but the police will act swiftly to any crime involving tourists and the perpetrators are dealt with severely.
Again, having spent years here, all I have had stolen is a pair of beach shoes whilst surfing, annoying but not the end of the world. I told a Moroccan friend and they spent hours searching for them and questioning all the kids on the beach… a bit embarrassing for me really as the value was probably a few Euros!
You will be hassled, this is a fact. In some places worse than others. Marrakesh is probably as bad as it gets but you just say No thank you (La, Shukran!), firmly but politely and walk away. It will be worse near areas like Souks and Medinas but stay firm and polite.
If you do engage with a guide (they will have an ID card which may or may not be false!) or a taxi, agree the prices and what you want before the tour, if not it will cost you dearly at the end. The Souk scams are highly intricate and clever and you will get sucked in, so expect to pay if you get involved in any thing on your own.
Cash is the common mode of payment, few places still take debit cards, so make sure you have cash on you at all times. There are plenty of ATM’s about so you can get cash easily. When drawing cash, put the majority in a very safe place and only carry small amounts in a purse just in case.
Haggling is part of the culture, so when buying any goods from vendors, it is part of the whole experience. Our rule of thumb is to image the time it takes to make the item and the material costs involved, then you have a fair idea of what you are willing to pay.
The seller will start much higher than the value, you will start much lower and so the game begins. Only pay what you think it is worth and be prepared to walk away and find something elsewhere. They will only sell at a price they are happy with. Enjoy the game, have fun but don’t be rude or unrealistic. I personally love it and have spent lots of time with a Moroccan friend who has taught me well on how to do it properly.
Learn a little Darija or Berber…the shopkeepers and locals will try and teach you in exchange for English – Moroccans are language geniuses and love to speak in English and show off. In our local souk, each week we get taught a new vegetable or fruit from one particular vendor and that seems to give us a discount too, so win win again.
As Morocco is primarily a Muslim country, women should cover shoulders and legs, especially in more rural areas, so long skirts and shawls are a great idea and easy to pack and use as required. Again it is all about being polite and non offensive when visiting other countries and cultures. You will see some tourists in shorts, vests and the like but in our experience you will be more welcomed by just covering up a bit.
The main advice we would give is to enjoy the diversity of the country – each city and region is totally different and offers hidden gems and experiences – it is actually like going to many different countries in one country.