Going somewhere for the first time can be super scary, amirite? BUT never fear, you can ease that anxiety by being as prepared as possible. Morocco was tough for me to prepare for because the country is the total opposite of what I’m used to.
I did oodles of research before I left and that combined with my experience in the country gave way to this hopefully helpful guide for you!
Morocco is either going to be one of the best places you’ve ever visited or a complete and utter sh** show – all dependent on how prepared you are and making sure you check your expectations when arriving.
My goal in this post is to give you some of the most helpful travel tips for Morocco to ensure that you’re ready and can have as much fun as possible in this amazing country!
12 brilliant tips to help you
enjoy your time in Morocco!
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Written by: Stephanie
Published on October 1st, 2017 / Updated on August 4th, 2018
Travel tips for Morocco
Culture of Morocco
Morocco is a Muslim country. As a tourist, I think it is important to be respectful of the local culture. That said, both women AND men should dress conservatively and cover at least their shoulders and knees.
We did see the occasional man in shorts/tank top, but it was very rare. We saw more women who had not dressed appropriately but expect to be stared at/hassled/whistled at-especially if you have blonde or red hair. I found that wearing these types of pants and always having a scarf or kimono to cover your shoulders was helpful in reducing the cat-calling.
You will also hear the call to prayer played over loudspeakers five times a day. Some people don’t like this, but even though I am not Muslim I found it very pretty and relaxing. Morocco is tough for me to describe, but I loved the absolute contrast of hearing this beautiful melody coming at me from every angle compared to the utter chaos of the medina.
Language spoken in Morocco
Primarily Arabic and French are spoken by the locals. However, nearly everyone in tourist areas knew enough English that we could get by. The shop sellers in the souks know enough to barter and make jokes. Like most destinations that are heavily focused on tourism, they will also tell you about their cousin who lives in your state ;).
You’re most likely to be approached in French by waiters in restaurants, but if you respond in English they quickly switch over and converse fluently. If you go out to the Sahara desert (which you should) you’ll even hear some Berber!
So, in the big cities, you can get by only with English, but it helps to know a few words in French. You’ll be treated a bit nicer if you bust out a bonjour, merci, or ask in French how much something is. There are tons of online websites that’ll give you the basics with pronunciation or you can pick up one of these handy guides to have with you on your travels.
Currency used in Morocco
Morocco uses the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which at the time of our travel 1 US dollar equaled about 9.7 Dirham. In August 2018 1 US dollar equaled 9.48 Dirhams. The Dirham is a closed currency so we were legit worried that we might not have a lot of access points to change currency. We reluctantly made the dumb tourist mistake and converted most of our cash to Dirhams at the Madrid airport.
Like anyone can probably guess, this was a total rip-off as they converted our US dollars to Euros and then to Dirhams. That mistake cost us about 1600 Dirhams. Ooooof. I’d recommend changing over just a small amount of money prior to flying into the country, otherwise, wait until you arrive.
There is a currency exchange booth at the Marrakech airport that I have heard offers similar rates to what you would find in the city, however, I didn’t exchange money there so I can’t vouch for that. While walking around the Medina I did see some signs for currency exchange and most of the larger hotels also offer exchanges.
Restaurants price in Dirhams, but we did find a few that also offer the Euro equivalent at a 10:1 ratio. Depending on exchange rates, you may end up overpaying a bit. Morocco is really a cash country so make sure you always have enough to cover. We very rarely used our cards. Also, tipping is a way of life in Morocco- nearly EVERY service can warrant a tip, so make sure you have some coins and small bills at your disposal.
Because the Dirham is a closed currency spending it or changing it once you’re through security is impossible. So only switch over what you need and if you have excess, just go buy some things at the souks 🙂
Voltage in Morocco
Standard voltage in Morocco is 220 V/50 hertz and they use the power sockets C and E. Type C is the one with the two round pins. Type E also has the two round pins and a hole for the socket’s male piece. I own and love this Bestek power converter and have used it all over the world without any problems.
Vaccinations for Morocco travel
If you’re coming from the US chances are you won’t need any extra vaccinations. We definitely didn’t get anything special before our trip. However, the World Health Organization recommends travelers to have the following vaccinations:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Anyone traveling anywhere in the world should always be up to date on their routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella, tetanus, chicken pox, influenza, etc.
Cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A are diseases that are spread through infected water and foods. It’s pretty much common knowledge in Morocco not to drink the tap water and everywhere you go you’ll be given bottled.
If you want to be extra cautious you can avoid fresh fruit and vegetables, but we didn’t and we were okay.
The typhoid vaccine is recommended for those who are traveling to more rural areas or those who are adventurous eaters.
You should only need the rabies vaccine if you’re planning on being out in the wilderness and doing some camping, hiking, or other activities in which you would come across a wild animal.
Most people should already have Hepatitis B vaccines but check with your doctor to be sure. Hepatitis B isn’t recommended for most travelers as it spread through bodily fluids or contaminated needles etc.
Though I’m not a doctor so ask your physician before traveling to Morocco if they recommend any additional vaccines.
Haggling & bartering
Haggling is a way of life – NEVER pay asking price for anything in the souks. Most vendors start two to three and up to TEN times higher to build in some cushion for negotiating. They want to negotiate and want you to join in on it as well.
Keep it lighthearted and fun, but don’t get too caught up in trying to get the best price. Everything is already so cheap in Morocco that you’re really only haggling 10-20 dollars on most things.
Our first counter offer on items was about 75% less than their offer and we ended up meeting somewhere in the middle for most of the stuff we bought.
It would also be wise to have some bills smaller than a one hundred. We found most of the shop owners will say they don’t have change when in reality they do.
When you’re paying for things make sure to only pull out the necessary money – don’t ever show them any extra.
On the topic of haggling, if you decide to take a taxi somewhere make absolutely sure you’ve agreed on a set price for either one way or round trip. We took a taxi from our riad, Riad Dar Attajmil, to the Jarden Majorelle.
We agreed on a particular price before we left and when it was time to part ways he saw we had extra money and demanded double the price. After arguing for several minutes we paid him more than we agreed to and stopped the fight by getting out of the car and walking away.
Don’t let yourself get in this uncomfortable situation!
To get a ballpark idea as to how much things cost I recommend talking with your riad owners. They’ll be able to give you typical prices for rugs, lamps, ottomans, taxi rides etc. You’ll obviously pay more because you’re not Moroccan, but it’ll give a good jumping off point.
Clothing in Marrakech
When deciding what you want to wear, you’ll want to choose loose, lightweight items that cover your knees and shoulders. Maxi dresses, maxi skirts, harem pants, kimonos etc.
Morocco is hot so you don’t want to wear form-fitting clothing, anyway. Always carry a scarf or shawl with you as well. Dressing respectfully in Morocco will mostly get you treated with respect. The catcalling can be intense, but dressing appropriately will significantly cut that down.
And when the catcalling happens – don’t acknowledge it, don’t smile, don’t look at him – just keep walking and ignore it.
The disrespect isn’t something you are personally going to solve so just let it go. Some things are not worth the fight.
Related: 33 epic reasons to visit Morocco
Religion in Morocco
Morocco is a Muslim country and if you yourself are not Muslim you will not be allowed to enter most mosques. A known exception to this is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca– though we didn’t have enough time to visit.
On our first day in town we spent some time walking around the Koutoubia Mosque, which was nice, but you really only get a view of the gardens and courtyards. So, don’t get your hopes up if you wanted to explore the Mosques.
Geography of Morocco
Also, Morocco has coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, large vast deserts, and a mountainous interior….and, it’s hot.
We visited late September and each day was at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Our first day in the country was 100. In Marrakech, we found the mornings very pleasant. Around 10 AM or so the sun really starts to heat the city and you’ll want to seek out the shaded areas. We had one day in Marrakech that was quite comfortable due to the clouds and wind.
Wouldn’t you have it that it actually rained not once, but TWICE while camping in the desert? It rains nearly every time we go camping either in Minnesota or all the way in the freakin’ Sahara, haha.
Speaking of the desert, it does get a little chilly at night so it wouldn’t hurt to bring a light jacket, cardigan, or sweater.
Also, September is date season so the flies are straight up ridiculous. I’d maybe advise planning your trip around this if you plan to visit the desert…which you should. So don’t go in September.
Related: The most amazing sights in Marrakech
Food in Morocco is so good! Wearing the stretchy harem pants is really a two for one because you’re gonna need some pants with a little waist room, haha!
Some of the best things to eat in Morocco are the endless tajines, a thousand different orange juice concoctions, MINT TEA, and a camel burger?
Okay, full disclosure – the camel burger was disgusting, but it’s one of those “when in Rome” things.
But I would live in Morocco solely for the breakfasts, though – holy Hannah they were amazing. And we had this EPIC sardine tajine from our riad chef, Fatima.
Related: Ultimate foodies guide to Morocco
Getting around Morocco
If you’re staying in Marrakech it’s fairly easy to get to all the tourist sites by walking. However, the Jardin Marjorelle is a bit away from the medina and you’ll need a taxi to visit.
Taxis are readily available, just check with your riad owner about what a typical price should be so you have some leverage when bargaining. The taxi drivers are a total scam and will try to take you for all your worth. Also, do not let your driver see any of your extra money.
We got into a very uncomfortable situation when our driver stopped and demanded more money from us. However, my husband is a stone-cold badass and we walked away from that confrontation like bosses.
Be very wary of who you trust and don’t take any unsolicited advice- the men standing at street corners saying “this street is closed, let me show you another route” are not being honest.
They will take you around in various alleyways and get you totally lost and then demand money for helping. If you do end up lost, which is pretty easy, always ask a local shop owner or an elderly person – they’re more likely to be honest.
We did need help finding something and had walked by an elderly man a couple times, he asked if he could help us and we took him up on it. Our GPS wasn’t working and we were getting really frustrated.
He walked us around for about 10 minutes and shockingly did actually get us to where we needed to be. He, of course, wanted money for his time, but we were happy to tip him.
So, I don’t say all of this to scare you, but you should definitely be mindful. There are nice people around though.
If you’re traveling to other cities in Morocco, I have heard the easiest way is by bus, but I don’t know for sure.
If you’re planning a trip to the Sahara Desert, which is an absolute must do I definitely recommend going through these guys at the Desert Luxury Camp – they will arrange everything for you and pick you up/drop you off anywhere in the country that you like.
Related: How to plan the ultimate vacation
Is it safe to travel in Morocco?
It also wouldn’t hurt to carry around a small pack of Kleenex or camping toilet paper. I ran into a few bathrooms that either didn’t have anything or wanted to charge for toilet paper.
Why do other countries do that? That’s so annoying.
Always be aware of your surroundings, pickpocketing is common in crowded places such as the square and souks. As anywhere in the world, don’t bring expensive items and only carry whatever cash you need, separated out into different pockets.
We didn’t have any trouble with theft, but Pete carried an impenetrable rolltop backpack.
Beware of the scams – they run rampant in Morocco.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to be very leery of anyone who is just a little too friendly, especially a young male. He’s likely trying to use you for some money. I lost count of the number of times we were walking and a young man would say “That road is closed, let me take you a different way”; when in fact, the road is NOT closed.
They’ll take you around in circles and get you nice and lost and then demand money for “showing you another route”. Steer clear of the women doing henna in the square. It’s fake ink that’s probably super toxic, gets all over your clothes and sheets and they will harass you if you get too close.
Also, be aware of where you are walking, especially in the alleyways. There are donkey carts and scooters literally everywhere and they don’t always stop for you.
You’ll wanna wear closed toed shoes anyway because the roads are really dirty. I wore something very similar to these and was very happy with them. I put in some gel inserts before we left home to make the shoes extra cozy for all the walking I knew we’d do.
One of the sad parts of Morocco is if you’re female you’re likely to experience some form of male attention/intimidation. The majority of Moroccans are very nice, friendly, and willing to help you (always at a cost, however). There is a handful that will catcall.
Just keep moving and don’t pay attention to it. I never felt scared in Morocco, though I never went anywhere without Pete. It also helps to dress the part – loose and baggy clothing, knees and shoulders covered etc. I think the attention is worse for blonde or red hair girls because they don’t see that hair color often.
And it’s worse for those that dress in short or tight clothing. You should always have a scarf with you as well. So if the attention is too much, just cover your head and walk away quickly.
I put safety at the end because it’s likely to make anyone change their mind. But I hope you don’t let it change yours! It’s really one of those countries where you just need to roll with it! Morocco is both an incredibly beautiful albeit incredibly annoying country.
Read Next: How to spend an amazing week in Morocco
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Founder of Packing for Plenty in July 2017. Along with her husband, Pete, she is on a mission to visit most countries. And wants to take y’all along as well! On PFP Steff provides travel itineraries ranging from a weekend trip nearby to 2 weeks living abroad like a local…detailed destination specific travel tips that aren’t readily available elsewhere…and unique and interesting bucket list worthy experiences.