Morocco is one of the most magical, diversified and difficult countries I’ve ever visited. It’s a tough country that must be embraced on its own terms. You won’t be able to enjoy it if you don’t grasp its culture. Morocco can be both magnificent and chaotic, which is why I believe it is critical to get as much information as possible before traveling there.
Morocco is a country of extraordinary diversity, located in North Africa at the intersection of three worlds – Mediterranean, Arab, and African. Beautiful coasts, towering mountains, green valleys, and broad deserts can be found here. There are also antique cities, old Medinas, magnificent Kasbahs, and European-inspired cities with modern architecture. The culture of the country is a mash-up of Arab, Berber, European, and African elements.
Is Morocco risky? Although Morocco is one of the safest countries in Africa, the worldwide danger of terrorism has been active since 2014, according to the Moroccan authorities. According to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, risk zones “have not been identified,” and it is prudent to be wary of potential theft due to carelessness and snatching.
Morocco will surely extend your horizons and increase your trip experience, but it will also be difficult. You will come into contact with a community and an environment that may be completely foreign to you, therefore you will frequently be forced to move outside of your comfort zone.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Morocco?
The best time to visit Morocco is primarily determined by your weather preferences and the type of experiences you seek. Morocco’s climate varies by region, so keep the following considerations in mind while planning your trip:
From March until May:
One of the most popular times to visit Morocco is in the spring. The weather is normally pleasant, and the scenery is lush and green.
It’s a great time to go hiking in the Atlas Mountains and explore the desert because it’s not too hot.
During this period, spring festivals and cultural events are common.
From September until November:
Autumn, like spring, has nice weather and is ideal for outdoor activities and tourism.
Crowds are generally lighter than in the summer.
Fresh products and a lively ambiance are brought to local markets by the fall harvest.
Summer months (June to August):
Summers in Morocco may be quite hot, especially in interior cities such as Marrakech and Fes. Temperatures are more temperate by the coast, such as in Essaouira.
If you can stand the heat, this is a terrific time to visit the Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches for a beach vacation.
It’s also Ramadan season, which means that many companies may have changed their hours.
From December until February:
Winters in Morocco can be bitterly cold, especially in the north and mountains. In the Atlas Mountains, snow is common.
During the winter months, the Sahara Desert may be surprisingly cold at night.
If you like skiing, you should visit the Moroccan ski resort of Oukaimeden in the High Atlas Mountains.
Traveling in Morocco: How to Get Around
We did a lot of study before our trip to Morocco to figure out the best approach to see the country. There are various options for getting around Morocco, including taking public transportation, renting a car and driving yourself, or hiring a car with a private driver.
Transportation by Public
Taking public transportation in Morocco is generally simple. There are numerous buses, collective taxis, and railways that connect the northern cities to the coast and Marrakesh. However, even if the coverage is adequate, you’ll need to have some “Moroccan time” on hand, as service outages and delays are common.
Trains are a wonderful option for traveling between major cities, but buses are a more affordable and comprehensive option if you plan to visit smaller towns.
Grand taxis cover longer journeys between towns, but they do not leave until they are completely packed. Grand taxis are shared cabs that seat up to six people – two in the front beside the driver and four in the back. Because the Grand taxis do not have meters, you should discuss the rate per person before you leave.
Renting an automobile presents its own set of difficulties. In Morocco, poor road conditions and traffic accidents pose a substantial risk. The roads in the Rif and Atlas mountains are steep, narrow, and treacherous. Also, after dark, street illumination is poor, and people or animals may appear unexpectedly in the center of the road.
Parking is also an issue. Not only in big cities, but also in smaller towns with car-free historic districts. In addition to these concerns, you should be aware that English is not widely spoken in Morocco. That makes asking for directions or trying to read the signs, which are sometimes solely in Arabic, extremely difficult. Google Maps, in our experience, is not totally reliable in Morocco.
Car Rental with a Private Driver
After months of research, we determined that hiring a car with a driver was the safest and most convenient method to travel through Morocco. Although taking public transportation or renting a car is undoubtedly less expensive, hiring a private driver is not as expensive as you may expect. Not to mention that it will improve your experience and save you a lot of time.
After two weeks in Morocco, I am still certain that hiring a driver and travel guides in each major city was the finest option we did. Even my husband, who enjoys driving all over the world (even the steep, tight roads of Sicily), believes that hiring a private driver is the best way to travel in Morocco.
There are numerous companies that provide these services, but deciding which one to choose can be difficult. Before making a decision, always examine the company’s reviews. We had a great experience working with Morocco Hire Car. They have English-speaking drivers, very reasonable costs, and excellent service.
Our driver did more than just get us from point A to point B. He also escorted us to several interesting areas that we were unaware of, provided us with useful information, assisted us with our luggage, and treated us as if we were his own family.
Morocco Travel Tips for Women
During the day, Morocco is no less safe for female tourists than any other large European city requiring only the most basic precautions. Prejudice is more common than actual instances, so don’t be afraid.
Remember that you are in a Muslim country and must follow certain rules, particularly those concerning attire. Wear long, discrete clothes that cover the shoulders, bathing suits instead of bikinis, and always take a scarf with you to cover your hair if necessary at mosques and other places of prayer.
In Sahara, wear a head scarf
Wearing a headscarf in the Sahara, or any desert environment, can be a practical choice, especially for women, to protect yourself from the harsh sun and blowing sand. However, wearing a headscarf is not mandatory for everyone and largely depends on your personal comfort and preferences. Here are some reasons why you might consider wearing a headscarf in the Sahara:
Sun Protection: The Sahara Desert can be extremely hot and sunny during the day. A headscarf can provide shade and protect your head, neck, and face from the scorching sun, reducing the risk of sunburn and heatstroke.
Dust and Sand Protection: The desert is known for its strong winds that can kick up sand and dust. A headscarf can help shield your hair and face from blowing sand, making your experience more comfortable.
Cultural Sensitivity: In some parts of Morocco and other North African countries, it’s customary for women, especially in more conservative areas, to cover their hair as a sign of respect for local customs and traditions. While this is not mandatory for tourists, it can be a way to show respect for the local culture.
If you choose to wear a headscarf in the Sahara or any desert region, here are some tips:
- Use a lightweight and breathable fabric, such as cotton or linen, to keep cool in the heat.
- Secure the scarf in a way that’s comfortable for you. You can wrap it around your head, neck, and shoulders, leaving enough airflow to stay cool.
- Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen to protect your eyes and skin from the sun.
Money and currency conversion
Morocco’s official currency is the dirham (MAD), which is equivalent around 10 cents of a euro, thus conversion is simple. To exchange money, as in any other country with a different currency, it will depend on each individual instance. There are three primary options: changing money in your home country, changing money at a bureau de change in your destination, and withdrawing money from Moroccan cashpoints.
Scams and harassment
Scams, haggling, and minor crime are common when visiting Morocco. Particularly if you are traveling alone. Fortunately, we were either with a tour guide or with our driver the majority of the time. But when we were alone, we were an easy target. “Are you disoriented? Where would you like to go? Where is your hotel? I’ll accompany you. There is no money. Don’t be concerned!” If you accept, you will be unable to get them off your back until you give in to their demands.
Morocco’s health care system
When it comes to food hygiene in Morocco, always be cautious. Drinking bottled water, washing your food thoroughly, and avoiding street food stalls where possible are all effective ways to avoid getting sick on your trip. In any case, it is important to pack some form of stomach medication.
The country’s healthcare system is adequate, and Moroccan cities have good, primarily private clinics. If you have travel insurance, you will be able to get the best healthcare available. Healthcare is inadequate in both cities and rural places.
Fortunately, no vaccinations are required for travel to Morocco. However, it is always a good idea to consult the Ministry of Health and the Spanish Vaccination Association.
Drones are prohibited in Morocco
While we’re on the subject of photography, you should be aware that drones are prohibited in Morocco. There are warnings throughout the airport declaring that you are not permitted to bring a drone into the nation. Don’t even try because your bags will be scanned at the airport. They may fine you, seize your drone, or even imprison you!
Should You Stay in a Riad or a Hotel in Morocco?
When you visit Morocco, you will face many new experiences: customs, food, culture, and even lodgings will be different from what you are used to. When arranging your trip, you’ll need to determine whether to stay in riads or hotels. Although there are many parallels in terms of amenities and facilities, there is a considerable distinction between the two.
What exactly is a Riad?
Riads are the Moroccan equivalent of a guesthouse, built around an open-air courtyard with a fountain. Riads are historically mansions that were formerly home to rich households. Many of these riads have been renovated and converted into luxury hotels.
Riads feature all of the conveniences of a modern hotel while maintaining the traditional feel of a Moroccan home. These magnificent structures frequently contain exceptional examples of Moorish architecture and Moroccan craftsmanship.
Riads often feature fewer rooms than hotels and are found within the Medina’s walls, in small lanes. This implies they are smack in the middle of the action and hence closer to the attractions. However, because the medinas are car-free zones, they are also more difficult to access. Walking down these tight, winding lanes after dark might also be a little frightening.
Hotels, on the other hand, are more accessible due to their location outside of the old town. They also have more alternatives for rooms and are frequently held to international standards. So, if you’re not feeling adventurous and desire maximum accessibility and large rooms, you should stay in a hotel. However, if you want to really immerse yourself in Moroccan culture and lifestyle, you should stay at a riad.
Morocco Shopping and Bargaining
Shopping and bargaining are essential components of the Moroccan shopping experience, particularly at the country’s bustling markets known as “souks.” Here are some purchasing and bargaining suggestions for Morocco:
1. Go to the Souks
Souks are historic markets where you may buy textiles, spices, ceramics, jewelry, leather products, and other items. The bustling souks of Marrakech, Fes, and Chefchaouen are well-known.
2. Be Ready to Bargain
In Moroccan markets, haggling is expected, and it’s a talent that can save you money. Because vendors frequently start with high pricing, bargaining is an important element of the buying experience.
3. Begin low and work your way up
Begin by giving a price that is much lower than the initial asking price (typically half of what is quoted). Anticipate counter-offers and engage in back-and-forth bargaining.
4. Maintain polite and friendly demeanor
Politeness and friendliness can go a long way. Engage the merchant in conversation, inquire about the goods, and demonstrate genuine interest.
5. If necessary, walk away
If you don’t get the price you desire, don’t be scared to walk away. Vendors may return your call with a better offer.
6. Do some comparison shopping
Before making a purchase, go to many kiosks or businesses that sell similar things. This will provide you with a better understanding of price ranges and quality.
7. Examine the Merchandise
Examine the item’s quality carefully. If you find defects or damage, use it as a bargaining chip.
8. Take into account the exchange rate
To have a better grasp of the prices in your home currency, become acquainted with the local currency (Moroccan Dirham, MAD) and the current exchange rate.
9. Consider Cultural Sensitivities
While haggling is anticipated, remember to be kind and avoid excessive negotiating. An approach that is kind and patient is more effective.
10. Know When Not to Haggle
In some more upscale stores or fixed-price shops, haggling may not be appropriate. Respect the pricing policy in such cases.
11. Shopkeepers May Provide Tea
While you peruse their wares, it’s usual for shopkeepers to offer you tea as a gesture of welcome. If you accept the tea, you are not required to make a purchase.
12. Maintain Small Denominations of Currency
Having small bills and change on hand can be useful during the bargaining process.
Remember that haggling in Morocco is about more than simply finding the best deal; it’s also about connecting with locals, learning about their culture, and having fun while shopping. Be patient and enjoy the vivid ambiance of Moroccan marketplaces while searching for one-of-a-kind treasures to bring home.
Alcohol is difficult to come by in Morocco
Because Morocco is a Muslim country, finding alcohol is more difficult than it is in Europe or other parts of the world. While alcohol is available in larger stores and some bars, drinking does not have a positive image in Morocco, and most Moroccans regard alcohol as a Western drug. Nonetheless, a recent survey found that Moroccans are drinking more now than they were a few years ago.
Drinking alcohol in public is generally against the law and can land you in hot water with the cops. As a result, it’s best to drink quietly and avoid strolling around if you’ve had too much to drink.
Hashish and Marijuana in Morocco
Growing, selling, purchasing, or using narcotics is prohibited in Morocco. Nonetheless, the country remains the world’s largest cannabis exporter. The majority of the crops grow near the Rif Mountains, with the local police complicitly watching and turning a blind eye.
Things not to do when visiting Morocco
When visiting Morocco, it’s essential to be aware of the local customs, culture, and etiquette to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience. Here are some things not to do when visiting Morocco:
Affectionate Displays in Public
In Morocco, public shows of affection, such as kissing and hugging, are considered unacceptable. Keep your physical affection to yourself, especially if you live in a conservative area.
Avoid wearing anything revealing
Morocco is a Muslim-majority country with strict dress restrictions, particularly for women. Avoid wearing anything revealing or provocative. When out in public, women should cover their shoulders and knees, and it’s a good idea to bring a shawl or scarf to cover up with.
Local customs and traditions should be respected
Local customs, traditions, and religious practices must be respected. During Ramadan, for example, it is vital to be subtle when eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours.
Photograph People Without Permission
Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in more rural or traditional areas. Some people may expect a small tip in exchange for allowing their photo to be taken.
Bargain Aggressively Without Respect
While haggling is typical, remain kind and considerate throughout discussions. Negative interactions might result from aggressive or rude bargaining.
Use your left hand to eat or greet others
Because the left hand is considered dirty in Morocco, use your right hand for eating and greeting others.
Point the Soles of Your Feet at People or Religious Objects
Pointing your feet, especially the soles, at people or religious objects is considered disrespectful in Moroccan culture. Be mindful of your body language.
Engage in Drug Use
The possession and use of drugs, including marijuana, are illegal in Morocco and can lead to severe legal consequences.
Disrespect Holy Places
When visiting mosques or other religious sites, dress modestly and follow any rules and guidelines provided by the authorities. Non-Muslims are often not allowed inside mosques during prayer times.
Show the Soles of Your Feet
Avoid showing the soles of your feet, whether when sitting or crossing your legs, as it is considered impolite in Moroccan culture.
Litter or Pollute
Respect the environment by properly disposing of rubbish. Littering is not only disrespectful, but it is also punishable by fines.
Assume Everyone Speaks English
While many Moroccans in tourist areas speak some English, it’s helpful to know a few basic phrases in Arabic or French to facilitate communication and show respect for the local culture.
Engage in Overly Aggressive Street Vendors
While haggling is widespread, avoid intense debates or confrontations with street merchants. If you aren’t interested, a courteous “no, thank you” would sufficient.
Remember that Morocco is a diverse country with varying levels of cultural and religious conservatism, so you must adjust to the customs of the region you’re visiting. Respecting and appreciating the local culture will make your trip to Morocco more beneficial and pleasurable.
Where to Buy Low-Cost, Authentic Moroccan Souvenirs
While you can buy almost anything in Morocco, some items are exclusive to certain locations and so cost less where they are manufactured. Argan oil, for example, will be cheaper in the Souss-Massa-Draa region of southwestern Morocco, because that is where the Argan trees grow. If you want to buy leather items, head to Féz, which is home to world-renowned tanneries.
Although there are shopping malls and elegant boutique stores in the new parts of every major Moroccan city, you should not shop there. The best bargains may be found in the Medina, the city’s historic quarter, where prices are significantly lower.
We adored shopping at the souks in Marrakech, Essaouira, Meknes, and Fés el Bali, where we discovered every type of Moroccan art and artisan we could imagine, as well as an abundance of options.
Also, keep in mind that lesser medinas are always significantly cheaper than popular tourist attractions like Marrakech. The Medina in Essaouira is an eclectic mix of art galleries, jewelers, and stores selling anything from indigenous woodcrafts to Argan oil-based products and leather goods.
What souvenirs to purchase in Morocco?
Morocco is a treasure trove of unique and beautiful souvenirs that reflect its rich culture, craftsmanship, and history. When visiting Morocco, consider purchasing the following souvenirs:
Ceramics and Pottery
Hand-painted ceramics and pottery, such as tagines (traditional cooking pots), bowls, and plates, are a popular choice. The vibrant colors and intricate designs make for stunning decorative pieces.
Rugs and Carpets
Morocco is renowned for its high-quality rugs and carpets. Look for Berber, Beni Ourain, or Kilim rugs, each with its distinct patterns and designs. These make excellent additions to home decor.
Marrakech is well-known for its leather goods, including as bags, wallets, belts, and shoes. Fes tanneries also create high-quality leather items.
Spices and Herbs
Moroccan spices are famous for their rich flavors. Purchase spices like saffron, cumin, cinnamon, and Ras el Hanout, as well as aromatic herbs such as mint and thyme. They make great additions to your kitchen and gifts for food enthusiasts.
Moroccan artisans craft intricate metalwork items like lanterns, tea sets, and trays. These pieces often feature geometric patterns and are ideal for adding an exotic touch to your home.
Look for colorful textiles like Moroccan caftans, scarves, and pillowcases. The fabric is often beautifully embroidered or woven with traditional motifs.
Moroccan jewelry is known for its unique and intricate designs. Consider purchasing silver or gold jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, often adorned with semi-precious stones.
Hand-carved wooden items such as boxes, furniture, and decorative panels are widely available in Moroccan markets. They showcase the country’s exceptional craftsmanship.
If you’re interested in music, consider buying a traditional Moroccan musical instrument like a darbuka (drum), oud (lute), or flute.
Explore Berber culture through the purchase of traditional artifacts such as hand-woven baskets, Berber rugs, and silver jewelry adorned with Berber symbols.
Argan Oil Products
Argan oil is native to Morocco and is used in cosmetics and skincare. You can find argan oil-based products like soaps, lotions, and hair treatments.
These colorful, pointed-toe slippers are a classic Moroccan item. They come in various designs and sizes, making them a great, lightweight souvenir.
Moroccan Tea Sets
Bring the Moroccan tea-drinking experience home with a traditional tea set, complete with ornate glasses, a teapot, and a tray.
Handmade Paper and Calligraphy
Moroccan artisans create beautiful paper products, including notebooks, journals, and decorative pieces. You can also find calligraphy art and prints.
Remember to haggle when shopping in Moroccan markets, as it’s a common practice. Take your time exploring different souks and shops to find the perfect souvenirs to remind you of your Moroccan adventure.
Moroccan Souvenirs Shipping
Shipping Moroccan souvenirs might be a simple option to transfer your purchases, especially if you’ve purchased a significant number of goods that won’t fit in your luggage. The following is how to mail Moroccan souvenirs:
Choose a Reliable Shipping Service
Look for reputable international shipping services or courier companies that operate in Morocco. Companies like DHL, FedEx, and UPS are commonly used for international shipping.
Pack Your Souvenirs Carefully
Ensure that your souvenirs are well-packaged to protect them during transit. Use sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, and packing material as needed to prevent breakage.
Declare Your Items Accurately
When filling out customs forms, be honest and accurate about the contents and value of the items you’re shipping. Customs authorities may inspect packages, so it’s essential to provide correct information.
Check Customs Regulations and Duties
Research the customs regulations and duties for both Morocco and your destination country. Some items may be subject to import restrictions or taxes.
Complete Required Documentation
Depending on the shipping service and your destination, you may need to fill out customs forms and provide documentation such as invoices, receipts, and any necessary permits.
Choose a Delivery Option
Consider the delivery options provided by the shipping service, including shipping speed and tracking services. This will help you determine how long it will take for your souvenirs to reach their destination.
Pay Shipping Fees
Shipping fees will vary based on the size, weight, and destination of your package. Be prepared to pay the shipping costs, and inquire about any additional fees or taxes that may apply.
Track Your Shipment
Many shipping services offer tracking capabilities. Use this feature to monitor the progress of your shipment and ensure it arrives safely.
Consider purchasing insurance for your shipment, especially if you’re sending valuable or fragile items. Insurance can provide financial protection in case of loss or damage during transit.
International shipping can take some time, so be patient while your souvenirs make their way to your destination. Keep the tracking information handy to stay informed about the shipment’s progress.
Delivery and Customs Clearance
Once your souvenirs arrive in your home country, they will go through customs clearance. You may be required to pay import duties or taxes, so be prepared for potential additional costs.
Ensure that the recipient’s name, address, and contact information are accurate and up to date.
Shipping Moroccan souvenirs can be a simple method to bring your purchases home, but it’s important to plan ahead, follow shipping instructions, and be aware of any customs regulations and costs to guarantee a smooth and trouble-free shipping transaction.
Morocco is a place that will both challenge and reward you. It’s a location where you can immerse yourself in a lively culture, experience stunning landscapes, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Morocco offers something to offer any traveler, whether they are interested in history, adventure, or simply soaking up the ambiance. Enjoy your journey and take in the splendor and diversity of this magnificent country.