When it comes to fabulous new travel destinations, Morocco is certainly on many traveller’s wish lists. It is a vibrant, colourful country and offers so much variety to its visitors.
However, it is also a country that is quite different from the modern Western world. This means that there are some important things to remember before you visit Morocco to keep you safe, happy and able to truly make the most of your trip.
So, what exactly do you need to know before visiting Morocco?
1. Morocco has a closed economy
The local currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. However, Morocco has a closed economy, which means you have a few things to remember when trying to exchange your money, or enter the country with cash in your pocket.
When exchanging your money, you may find it a little difficult to do so. There are fewer companies around offering the opportunity to exchange your money into Moroccan Dirham, so, you may find yourself hunting for a little while to get the best rates. Here in the UK, we were able to exchange our money at the airport with Moneycorp. This sadly didn’t give us groundbreaking rates, but it was one of very few companies even offering the chance to exchange our money into Morocco’s currency!
Another thing to remember is in knowing the limit of how much Moroccan cash each person can enter the country with. It’s best to settle for less than 1000 dh each to err on the side of caution.
When travelling to Morocco, it is also possible to take some US Dollars, Euros or British Pounds with you as well. There are lots of souks and independent shops accepting these different currencies, with the idea that any change returned to you will be in Moroccan Dirham. This can be a very cheeky way of getting some local currency into your pocket. Furthermore, Hotel receptions will also be willing to take these currencies from you and exchange into Dirham for you. Sometimes, these rates are even better than what you can get back home!
Finally, one last thing to take into account when it comes to money. If using companies like Moneycorp to exchange your money, you will be given notes of no smaller than 200 dh as this is all they have available. If you find yourself in this position, it’s best to ask your Hotel reception to change up your notes for you into smaller values. This is particularly worth bearing in mind if you plan on hitting any Moroccan souks during your visit where small notes and change are best for optimal haggling.
2. Transportation in Morocco can be tricky to get right
If you want to get out and about around the country, then transport can be tricky to get right.
There are different kinds of taxis in Morocco, each with its pros, cons and different uses among the locals. For instance, small red taxis are perfect for 3 people travelling within major cities. Try to avoid these if you’re travelling solo or as a couple though as the extra seats will be given to anyone else who needs a taxi. This includes locals carrying chickens or even goats! (Yes, goats). Large beige or cream taxis are great for parties of 4 or more, or for longer journeys.
If you choose to use a taxi, ensure you have agreed a price before getting in (particularly if you’ve been told that the meter is broken). If you haven’t pre-agreed a price, you may end up getting overcharged.
Driving in Morocco is an interesting concept. In larger cities like Marrakesh, you’ll find crazy drivers, mopeds whizzing around, pedestrians in the road, donkeys pulling carts – you name it, you’ll see it! But driving can be a great way of seeing more of the country, especially rural areas like Paradise Valley or the Atlas Mountains.
3. Haggle at souks to get your money’s worth
It is a complete shopaholic’s dream to mooch around souks in Morocco, and is definitely one for the bucket list. From fruit to vegetables, ornaments to rugs, you can find almost anything in these markets.
But you’ll need to haggle (even if there is a price displayed next to the item). Merchants always increase their prices with the hope that they can whittle money from unsuspecting tourists.
From knowing what prices to start from to whether you should accept that free mint tea offered to you, haggling at souks is important to get right. This article shows 6 things you need to know – are you ready to master the art of haggling?
4. Be prepared for a traditional Hammam massage
No trip to Morocco is complete unless you embark on a traditional Hammam massage. But there are a number of differences between this massage and a typically Western one, so what do you need to know to avoid any Moroccan misadventures?
Firstly, please make sure you wear a swimsuit as you will get wet!
Upon entering the spa, you will be ushered into a sauna-like room (this is the Hammam part). You will relax here for about 10 minutes or so before being offered a body scrub (if you’ve purchased this little extra). This particular scrub is great for removing dead skin cells, ensuring your skin is easy to tan. Thus, you should have this done early on in your holiday.
Once you’ve had this body scrub on for 10 minutes or so, you’ll need to wash it off in the shower (which is likely to be still inside the steam room). Next comes a natural salt water pool, allowing you to chill out and swim around for about 15-20 minutes.
By this point, you should feel nice and relaxed in time for an indulgent 30 minute full body massage (or longer if you’ve paid extra). Hint: full body really does mean full body!
Massage prices vary across the country and between spa places, but you’ll know you’ve got a good deal if you pay between 200 and 400 Moroccan Dirham.
5. It’s best to dress conservatively
Dressing conservatively can be a large challenge for Western travellers in Morocco. What is revealing and considered ‘skimpy’ can differ from person to person, culture to culture.
To avoid any unwanted attention in Morocco or causing offence, women should ensure their chests, stomachs, arms and legs (from the knee-up) are all covered. This is especially true within rural areas and large cities. Therefore, no shorts, crop tops or vest tops in these areas! On the beach, shorts and bikinis are expected so this is acceptable in most cases.
On the other hand, men should cover their shoulders and legs (from the knee-up), unless also soaking up some rays on the beach.
6. Remember to tip appreciatively
In most cultures, tips in response to good service are expected. This is no different in Morocco.
It is customary to tip between 10 and 15% in restaurants, and approximately 5 Moroccan Dirham for anyone who helps you with your luggage or cleans your room. Hint: helping with luggage and cleaning hotel rooms warrant tipping. You will not make any friends by not doing so.
7. Do not meander through Mosques
It can be very frustrating that when in Morocco, you are not allowed to enter Mosques. Ensure you adhere to these rules otherwise you will cause serious offence (unless practicing Islam).
That said, there is one Mosque that you are allowed to enter in Morocco: the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. If visiting, do so with the utmost respect. You will absolutely need to dress conservatively when inside, avoid taking photos with the flash on (or using a camera tripod) and be quick when taking photographs.
8. You may need to be a cautious woman
When travelling in Morocco, the internet is awash with varying stories on how female travellers are treated in the country. Some have experienced extensive sexual harassment, whilst others have avoided it completely.
Personally, I did not receive any unwanted attention (or actually any attention)! However, I would always recommend being cautious when travelling, and here are some other thoughts I have on this topic:
- Remember to dress conservatively. Take note of which parts of the body are acceptable to show, and which are not.
- Avoid travelling alone. Moroccan men can interpret solo female travellers as being totally single and available, thus, comments are likely to be made to you.
- Pretend to be married. If you’re receiving unwanted attention, politely indicate you’re married and most men will leave you alone.
9. Moroccans speak Arabic, Berber and French
Around the country, you could hear any one of these three languages: Arabic, Berber and French.
Morocco’s official languages are Arabic and Berber, influenced by how they were raised and which part of Morocco they come from.
There is also a heavy European influence on Morocco, thus, there is a high chance that you will also hear many locals speaking fluent French. Unless you’re lucky enough to cart around an interpreter everywhere you go, I’ve listed a few choice words in French and Arabic that would be worth learning before your trip:
Hello: Bonjour / Marhabaan
Goodbye: Au revoir / Wadaeaan
Thank you: Merci / Shukraan
Please: S’il vous plaît / Raja’
Sorry: Pardon / Maedhira
Excuse me: Excusez-moi / Efu
Enjoy your trip to Morocco! What are you most looking forward to seeing and doing there?
Did you find this useful? Don’t forget to share it!