10 things you need to know before visiting Morocco
Good afternoon lovelies ♥ I just got back from our Morocco trip, we had such a lovely time and I just cannot wait to share everything with you guys! I still have SO many photos to sort through and edit, so it will probably be a couple more days before I am ready with the first post, but until then I thought it might be helpful for those of you that are contemplating visiting Morocco if I shared some of the things that I have learned during my trips.
I will elaborate a lot more on this in my upcoming blogposts about Morocco, but I just want to give a quick thank’s to the Moroccan National Tourism Office, Marokko Eksperten, Air Arabia and Hotel Hyatt Place for inviting us on this wonderful trip ♥
1.) Make sure to set aside enough time
I have been to Morocco twice now and what I have learned – and what I have heard from people I know who have been to Morocco as well – is that you never really have enough time, there is so much to do and see in Morocco, so make sure you have enough time there. I could spend hours and hours just walking around, exploring, taking photos and even more time in the souk looking for treasures and haggling. On my previous trips I have had 3-4 full days in Morocco and it was not enough time if you ask me, so I would recommend to arrange for at least a couple more days.
Or you can simply go for a quick trip like I did and then have the perfect excuse to go back to explore more of beautiful Morocco again soon ;)
2.) Hire a driver, go explore
One of the things that I love to do when traveling is to hire a driver for the day, it gives you so much freedom to really see the city and its surrounding areas. Use it to both go explore places you have planned for ahead, but also ask the driver if he can recommend any special (and maybe less touristy) places that you should see and make sure keep an eye out as you go – I have often stumbled upon the most magical moments of our trips while driving from one place to another! In places like Morocco, Bali etc. it is fortunately quite cheap to hire a driver for the day, so you do not have to break the bank to do this. I would ask your hotel, travel agency etc. if they can recommend a driver or you can find one online, just make sure to check their credentials first if booking one online.
3.) Be mindful of your clothing and don’t drink in public
Morocco is a muslim country and I would encourage you to be respectful of their religion and culture by wearing appropriate clothing that doesn’t show off too much skin (they don’t really care in the touristy areas/cities or in the hotels though, so you can usually feel free to wear almost whatever there) and also to not drink alcohol in public places.
I have been to Essaouira, Marrakesh and Agadir and the locals are usually really relaxed when it comes to tourists and we did not feel any pressure to dress a certain way + we were able to order wine with our meals in almost all of the restaurants we went to (not when you are seated outside in a public areas though), so if you are going to any of those cities or other places where they are used to tourists, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
4.) Don’t pay full price, always haggle
When you are looking for treasures at the souk or even when you are getting a cab, then do not just pay the first price they tell you as it is usually very overpriced and haggling is expected and welcomed. It can be hard for us as foreigners to know what a fair price for an item is, but what I usually do is to visit different sellers, haggle a little and compare their prices for similar items (they often vary quite a lot) and then either buy the item from the one with the lowest price or use that lower price as leverage with another seller. Don’t seem too eager to buy something and don’t be afraid to walk away if the price is too high, the seller will most likely run after you and offer a much better price.
Personally I wouldn’t haggle too much though. I know some people almost see it as a sport and they try to get the absolute lowest prices on everything, but this is how many locals make a living and while the prices for ceramics, fabrics and bags might almost seem like petty cash to some of us foreigners, then those extra dirhams will mean a lot more to the locals than it will to you. I would rather pay a bit too much for an item instead of pressing the prices too much and risking that the seller barely makes a profit from the sale.
5.) Pack light or bring an extra suitcase
I can almost guarantee that you will find so many treasures in the souk that you will want to bring home, Morocco is a shoppers paradise when it comes to beautiful rugs, pillows, spices, jewelry, ceramics, bags, lamps etc. – they have SO many beautiful items and no matter your personal taste, then I can almost guarantee that you will find something that you just can’t leave Morocco without buying. Many of these things take up quite a lot of space, so I would recommend that you either pack light and have extra room in your suitcase or even bring an extra one for your purchases – they pack the rugs for you so that they can fit in a suitcase.
6.) Stray animals and animals in tourism
One thing you need to prepare yourself for when going to Morocco is that you are going to see a lot of stray cats and dogs, many of them sick and malnourished, as well as donkeys that are often very overworked and treated poorly. It can be hard to watch, especially when you feel like there isn’t much you can do to help the individual animals – you can help Moroccan animals in general though, check this and this link. The articles are focused on stray cats and dromedaries, but are helpful regarding many other Moroccan animals as well.
Make sure to read the link about dromedaries if you want to ride them, I personally wouldn’t do it, but I believe it can be done in an ethical way if you read the article and follow its advice.
7.) Take a lesson, go on an excursion
I sadly haven’t had the time to do this yet, but I am always introduced to all these amazing lessons when I visit Morocco (I have to try one next time!), there are so many places that offers surfing lessons, yoga lessons, ceramic lessons, cooking lessons etc. and often at very reasonable prices.
If you don’t care for taking lessons during your vacation, then I can recommend going on excursions instead. Rather than just focusing on the city that you are staying in, then going on excursions will allow you to explore more of Morocco and get a more authentic experience. Visit little neighbouring towns, mountains, the sea, plantations etc. and driving from A to B is often one of my favorite ways to see more of Morocco and find hidden gems.
8.) Do not let people lead you astray
One thing you need to keep in mind when going out to explore the Moroccan streets and souks is that it is quite common for locals to lead you astray only to demand money to help you find your way back. The locals are of course mostly very kind and helpful and you generally shouldn’t be distrustful, but it is a quite common trick that is used to lure money out of unsuspecting tourists, so be aware of this and download a map with GPS onto your phone to keep you from getting lost.
9.) Morocco is a lot more than what you see on Instagram
Morocco is a country in great growth and while it is in many ways a somewhat modern country, then there is still a lot of poverty and a more old-fashioned way of life. It is for example still very common to use donkeys and horses as means of transportation and a lot of work is still done by hand without any use of technical aids. The contrasts are fascinating, you can see a young man on the street dressed in traditional robes with a donkey loaded with goods standing right next to another young man fashionably dressed in modern brands with his new iPhone in hand.
Morocco is full of contrast and while it is both as beautiful, colorful and magical as you see on Instagram, then it is also dirty, worn down and riddled with poverty. I do not write this to discourage anyone from visiting Morocco, I think these stark contrasts are part of the country’s charm, but because I know that some mostly know of Morocco through social media and beautiful perfect photos, then I want to make sure that you know that Morocco is a lot more than that. It is one of the most beautiful and magical countries that I have visited and I cannot recommend going there enough, but be prepared for the stark contrasts and see it as part of the countries charm instead letting it be a negative experience.
10.) How to communicate
In most areas frequently visited by tourist the locals in the markets, restaurants, taxis, hotels etc. speak English and they actually speak it quite well – not all feel comfortable speaking, but they often understand most if what you are saying, which makes it possible to communicate with gestures and simple words.
They do however not speak English everywhere, so you will have a great advantage if you speak french or arabic. Morocco used to be a protectorate of France, which means that french is one of the two prestige languages of Morocco – the other being arabic. It is estimated that 33% of the population speaks french, so if you are having trouble communicating with the locals in English, then French is worth a try.
In the markets we had some problems communicating with a few of the sellers at first, but they simply brought out a calculator and then we could use it to write down our prices and haggle without the language barrier being a problem.
Overall we did not have many problems communicating with the Moroccan locals on any of my trips, like I said, everyone in the service and tourism trades seem to speak English very well and the few who weren’t very good at English were so eager to help us and to communicate that we managed to do so with gestures and a mix of English and French words piecing it all together.