I would like to start with a confession: today’s post was one of the most exciting for me to write but, at the same time, the one that gave me the most pause. Today, dear readers, we will talk about some useful Morocco travel tips.
I wanted to be very sure of a number of issues: first, that I wouldn’t leave anything out; second, that this article could give you something different from the swamp of information on the Internet and finally, and perhaps most importantly, to avoid rambling. What a challenge!
On the other hand, I do have a lot to share on the matter, but I won’t overwhelm you. I think it’s best to explain the reasons to people and then let them make their own decisions after being informed.
Without further ado, I’ll start with some tips. I hope you find them fun and useful. Let’s get started!
The official currency of Morocco is the dirham, and the official exchange rate with respect to the dollar, for example, is usually 9.5 dirham for each dollar (more or less depending on the week, but always somewhat less than 10).
Regarding whether to exchange currency before traveling, I will tell you that, in addition to being complicated, I don’t consider it advisable, largely due to the commissions. In contrast, after you arrive in Morocco there are numerous sites: exchange houses at the port, at the airport, in the medinas themselves and sometimes you can even exchange currency in your hotel’s reception. On the other hand, other than the dirham the only other currency that can be used sometimes in Morocco is the euro.
There will be more or less favorable rates depending on where you exchange currency, although there is not a major variance. For more information about this, I recommend the entry on Moroccan currency.
If you are afraid to haggle, but you plan to make a purchase, you must keep in mind that it is intrinsically linked to the Moroccan culture and practically everything can (and should) be haggled. It is true that some stores set and label the price of items, but that is not, by far, the norm.
In general terms, you should treat it as a game and as part of the shop owner’s routine. So, there is no reason to think that it’s a tense situation, although sometimes it seems that they are angry at the price you offer, because that is an indispensable part of their game. Remember that if they really got angry every time someone insinuates a price that they consider unfair, all the shop owners in Morocco would die of a heart attack or stroke before they turn thirty.
If you want to know all the trick to become a professional haggler, check out this article I wrote.
Food and drink
Drinking from the tap is one way to send your vacation in Morocco down the tubes (no pun intended, really). It is no secret that their plumbing facilities are not the best in the world, so I recommend drinking bottled water if you do not want your visits to the bathroom to increase alarmingly.
I would also be careful with carbonated drinks because, although most come from international companies, not all are produced to the same standard. I have had stomach aches and, after stopping drinking carbonated drinks, they have stopped (I do not think it’s something widespread because it will depend on each person’s body, but it doesn’t hurt to put you on notice).
Although I advise you to take precautions with drinks, you can have at the food, even if you don’t usually eat much fruit or vegetables. I don’t neither, but I have enjoyed the intense flavor of each fruit and salad I have had in Morocco.
I would even say more: I’d tell you not to be afraid of customs far from our hygienic standards. For example, have you seen those street stalls, with the meat hanging there and literally surrounded by flies? Well, even if you don’t believe it, that’s where I’ve tried the best lamb sandwich of my life.
I know that hygiene rules are there for a reason, but I assure you if you decide to be a little “flexible” for a week during your vacation nothing will happen to you. Who has never eaten a fruit directly from a tree?
They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. If you think that after a long day walking through the medina you might feel like having a drink in the hotel room to relax, I advise you to bring alcohol from home.
Not that it’s impossible to find a drink in Morocco, but it’s much more complicated than in a western country. In Islam it is forbidden to drink, so it is not usually offered in restaurants (unless it’s a restaurant that primarily serves foreigners).
In addition, establishments that sell alcohol have to pay an extra fee to the government, which together with the fact that most of it’s imported, causes it to be quite expensive (for example: a beer can cost between 2 dollars and 2.5 dollars and a bottle of wine up to 10).
The only places where you can buy alcohol at reasonable prices is in the large shops located on the outskirts. Although there are some quality wines from Morocco, if you’re not a wine expert and you just want a decent bottle of wine, I recommend imported wines.
Passports and Visas
If you’re a citizen of the European Economic Community or the United States, you don’t have to have a visa. Only your passport, with a minimum expiration of 3 months from the date of arrival is necessary (something logical: think of the bureaucratic mess that would mean if your passport expired during your stay if your return was delayed due to some setback).
If you are from another country, you can consult this list or ask the consulate; It’s usually enough to process a vacation visa, but in some cases the process might be more complex or, worst case, your country might have no agreement with Morocco.
Please, if you have to get a passport or a visa, don’t wait till the last minute: you wouldn’t be the first person to miss a vacation due to procrastination.
Ramadan and Other Celebrations
Ramadan lasts about a month and is one of the most important times and a moment when Morocco changes radically. Does this mean that I’m discouraging you from going to Morocco during Ramadan? Not at all, but I think it’s important for you to be informed (check out my article on Ramadan).
Another moment to consider is during the feast of the lamb, where it is very common to butcher animals on the street. If you are sensitive, I recommend not going.
And finally there is the Day of the Throne, a national holiday, when most of the buildings and monuments are closed, but there are parades through the streets.
Of these three holidays, the Day of the Throne is the only one celebrated on a specific date (July 30), since most of the festivities are based on the lunar calendar, no one knows when they will happen until a few days before. You can check the updated calendar at this link, but keep in mind that you will always have a margin of error of ± 2 days, and that every year varies (approximately, religious dates advance 11 days each year).
You can travel with peace of mind, as most cities in Morocco have hospitals and clinics. On the other hand, although it is true that in rural areas specialized medical care is more complicated, not traveling to the desert for fear of becoming ill would be as ridiculous as opposing spending a family weekend in the mountains.
I recommend purchasing assistance insurance, since Morocco does not usually have health agreements with other countries. Nothing should happen to you, but the extra cost involved in the budget of a trip is very small in relation to the security it provides.
Internet and Phone Service
I would advise you to set this question aside, or at least to not worry about it too much. After all, it’s important in general to disconnect from time to time from the bombardment of information we’re subjected to, all the more so when we are trying to enjoy a journey to a simpler time in a place like Morocco.
That being said, if you can’t give the digital world a break, you should have no problem finding a Wi-Fi connection in Morocco, whether at your accommodations or in most restaurants.
Also, I must remind you that a smartphone uses data continuously, not only when browsing. You wouldn’t be the first person who gets home from vacation and is welcomed by a big fat phone bill, claiming that they didn’t use any data but didn’t notice that their smartphone continuously consumes data for updates, notifications, messages, etc.
My advice? As soon as you arrive in Morocco, put your phone on airplane mode and then activate Wi-Fi (you will still be able to use all the applications, including messaging services and the call options they provide when you connect to a network). This may be a somewhat drastic measure, but it’s also effective.
If these options don’t fit your needs, another way to remain informed is to buy a prepaid SIM card in Morocco, which surprisingly is quite affordable and has good coverage, except for places like the deep desert and in mountainous areas, etc.
For example, Maroc Telecom’s “Jawal” card offers 2 gigs of data for 7 days for 20 dirham. Just go to any store with logos of telephone operators in their shop window, buy a SIM with service and ask them to activate it (the activation has to be done in Arabic).
Dress and Grooming
Just to be clear: if you are a woman you don’t have to hide your hair. Seeing women with scarves covering their heads does not mean you have to imitate them. However, if you visit a religious building, they may ask you to cover your head, in which case they will provide you with a handkerchief to use during your visit.
Although some customs in Morocco are still preserved, the lifestyle of its citizens is increasingly varied. Also, one of their main sources of income is tourism and they are more than accustomed to receiving visitors from different cultures. So, you won’t feel like a weirdo.
Obviously, an olive-skinned girl with a veil and dress is much more common than a fair-skinned girl with her hair out and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Although the second girl will undoubtedly stand out more than the first, you should not worry. Your way of dressing won’t be interpreted as a transgression.
What to Take
I’d like to make a series of recommendations on what to take in your suitcase. For obvious reasons, I’ll avoid describing everything that you would take anywhere else in the world (clothes, tissues, chargers, hair dryer, etc.) and I will focus on what is specifically necessary when traveling to Morocco:
Try to wear comfortable outfits, because you will appreciate clothes that allow you, for example, to take long walks through the medina: comfortable shoes, somewhat baggy clothes, sweatshirts, a jacket for when you feel cool, etc.
If you go in summer you should protect yourself from the sun, since at certain times of the day and certain places you’ll need sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
And to address all possible cases, I recommend, especially if you go to the desert: a wool hat (to protect you from the cold at night if you sleep in a tent), a baseball cap (to avoid sunstroke if you think you’ll spend a lot of time outdoors) and a handkerchief (to protect your face from the sand).
If you want to find out more, our page on climate in Morocco will be useful, because in addition to the weather it indicates what clothes you should wear depending on the time and the area you visit.
Medicines: although morocco has plenty of pharmacies, if the medicine that you need is very specific, you may need to ask for a similar one, which means you’ll need to talk to a Moroccan pharmacist about it’s active ingredients. Oftentimes, there is a major language barrier in such situations. Therefore, I suggest taking everything that is permanently in your medicine drawer, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc., to Morocco as well. And if you get carsick, take carsick pills along with you, especially if you plan to take the ferry or travel to rural areas.
And finally I recommend carrying a backpack: it may seem obvious, but you wouldn’t be the first person to only take a suitcase and a handbag and forget that you may need to carry supplies if you are going to be hiking all day, or even if you plan to spend a night in the desert.
There are as many reasons to visit Morocco as there are travelers but, I think we all agree that, the main reason to visit the country is that it is a different world. So, why is it that although differentness can attract us to explore a country, it can at times also turn us off?
If I could only give one piece of advice to someone traveling for the first time to Morocco I would say: let yourself go. Appreciate it in all its magnitude and think about how lucky you are to be where you are. If what we envy most about Moroccans is their easygoing lifestyle, why should we be surprised when we ask for something and it takes a long time? Shouldn’t that be normal? Also, shouldn’t we just relax and enjoy it?
Or why should we be worried if they approach us to sell us something or if they offer guide services? Isn’t that entrepreneurial spirit one of the things that most attracts us about the country? And if you do not want what they’re selling, it is enough to say “no” in a sharp but kind manner, and continue along your path. As soon as they see the naturalness with which you refuse, they will stop bothering you.
You just need to relax and enjoy an experience that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. If you don’t, you’ll swear you’ll never ever set foot in Morocco again. But if you do, you’ll be planning your next trip before you get home. There is usually no middle ground (and believe me, it would be a shame if you go for the first option).
And now, finally, we are done with all my recommendations before traveling to Morocco. I hope that, given my tendency to go on and on (especially on important subjects), this article has not been overwhelming and, above all, that you find it useful if you travel soon.
See you at the next post! Don’t forget to comment if you want to add something!
This entry is part of our beginner’s guide. If you want to know more, check out our page on Morocco tourism.