Traveling to Morocco for the First Time? Here Are 8 Fun Tips!
I’ve spent a lot of time in Morocco and I’m still happily discovering all its hidden surprises. For the first-time traveller, there are endless discoveries in a culture rich with history and African, Middle Eastern and European influences.
There’s no end to the exotic sights, sounds and flavors. And best of all, in Morocco you can feel like you’re straying off the beaten path while being well within reach of luxury and modern conveniences.
How Do I Plan It?
The nice thing about traveling in Morocco is you can make it as simple or extravagant as you want and still stay on a very reasonable budget. Morocco routinely lands as a top budget destination on travel lists.
There are many options from 5-star hotels and luxury riads – the traditional Moroccan homes converted into hotels – to cheaper rooms and Airbnb options in the bigger cities like Marrakech, Tangier and Fes as well as in smaller towns.
You can research and book a tour before you come; reviews through TripAdvisor or other online forums are invaluable here. It’s also fairly easy to be flexible and book as you go once you’re in Morocco. If you take this route, find a tour company that has an official office in Morocco and stop in to book excursions like tours to the Sahara. It’s good to notify your tour guide of any limitations for a trip and maybe spend a bit more for a private tour.
For example, I travelled with a friend who recently had hip surgery. She wanted to try the camel rides into the Sahara Desert but wasn’t sure if it would be good for her hip. So, we booked a private tour for her and her travel partners. She got to get on the camel for some photos but then had a guide drive her to the desert camp while the rest of the group still had the experience of riding in on camels.
Where Should I Go?
Morocco is an amazingly diverse country. It has beautiful coastlines and beaches, interesting mountain ranges and vast desert dunes. You should first decide how much time you have and what activities you want to do.
The cities of Morocco are spread out north to south so allow for some traveling time if you plan to visit different cities. A very short visit may be better suited for one city while four to five days will allow you to see one region and two weeks will give you a very good taste of all Morocco has to offer. Morocco also has an amazing train system so it’s easy to go between major areas or book a tour that will provide transportation.
Is Morocco Safe?
Most of the questions I get about Morocco are about safety. I can understand the concerns however, Morocco takes tourism very seriously and welcomes travelers from all parts of the world. As a frequent solo woman traveler, I have never felt unsafe while traveling in Morocco and have had many Moroccans look out for me if I needed help.
People should follow the same cautionary tips when traveling to new places. I don’t go out alone at night, wear little to no jewelry and always take notice of what I’m carrying. Especially in the busier areas, I prefer to have a small bag or purse I keep by my side instead of a backpack.
Ah but Hasslers!
It’s more likely you will get some “unwanted attention.” It’s common to be hassled by vendors or people claiming they are local guides, especially in the medinas and souks. If I’m getting approached by a vendor I don’t want to engage with, I simply say, “No thanks” – La choukran in Arabic – and walk away.
Be careful when hiring a single guide in a touristy area. Negotiate the price first as you might be surprised by their fee afterward. The same goes for taxis.
I have noticed when I travel alone – and have heard the same from other women – that I can get a fair amount of attention as a female foreigner. Men may walk up or try to talk with me. Be cautious about areas you’re going to, don’t engage with strangers and in my experience, if you look uninterested the attention dissipates quickly.
Do Credit Cards Work, or Should I Bring Cash?
You may find that many small vendors, restaurants and even smaller hotels may not accept credit cards. I’m not a big fan of carrying around a lot of money so I would recommend having an ATM card and taking out cash in each city you visit. ATMs are very easy to find in most cities.
Should I Bargain?
Yes, bargaining is a way of life here. Unless it’s a fixed-price market, vendors are usually open to bargaining. I try to find a balance between nudging the price down lower to a fair price – the vendors need to make a living – but not getting ripped off. If you have a price in mind for an item, stick with it and leave if you’re not happy with the amount they want.
What Should I Bring?
Morocco is a conservative Muslim country so it is culturally appropriate for women to cover up, especially shoulders and legs. You will see tourists in shorts but I would recommend longer skirts, capris or pants. Pack a shawl or scarf, especially if you are visiting a mosque, as covering the shoulders is required. Rules do loosen up a bit on the beaches so shorter clothes are more accepted, but still bring layers. Aim for light, airy clothing and good walking shoes.
Also, you may be lured by the many beautiful and unique handmade crafts sold here. If you plan to pack light, you might think about either packing an extra bag to bring your goodies home or budgeting to buy an extra bag, which is easy and cheap to purchase in the market.
Finally, I have run into problems with mosquitos in certain areas so pack some bug spray. Malaria isn’t a big worry here, but the bugs are a nuisance nonetheless.
What Experiences Should I Not Miss?
The list is long but here are a few: Sit on a rooftop cafe overlooking the busy souks and enjoy the sweet Moroccan tea or a café au lait. Savor some traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous or tagines. Cool off in a pool in the beautiful riads. Wander – and maybe get a little lost – in the colourful medinas.
Drive the scenic road through the Atlas Mountains, past traditional Berber villages. Ride a camel through the Sahara and sleep under the brilliant stars in a desert camp. Marvel at the exquisite Moroccan architecture and the beauty of the Moroccan people and landscapes. Support artisans and take a small piece of Morocco home. What will you add to the list?
Have you travelled to Morocco? What was your experience like? Is Morocco on your list of countries that you would like to visit one day? What other questions do you have? Join the conversation in the comments.