I recently returned from twelve days in the beautiful, colorful, and crazy country of Morocco, and figured I could share quite a number of useful tips and other important information about Morocco based on my experiences.
Bear with me – as Morocco is not for the feint of heart or the less seasoned travelers, so some of these tips may cause shock to the average reader. Nonetheless, these tips are pretty important. I sure wish I had known this stuff when I visited Marrakesh for the first time two years earlier.
Do cover your shoulders
Morocco is located in North Africa, but it is a Muslim country. You will quickly notice that locals dress very conservatively. While you may never look like a local, per say, you can at least try to respect the local culture and follow suit.
Don’t eat from the food stalls
I know I probably sound super snobby right now, but the food had flies on it. Moroccans eat it and do not get sick, but our stomachs are not as strong as theirs. Just on the side of caution, it is probably best to stay away.
Even if you think you’re being safe though, and even if you think you have a stomach of steel, life happens and food poisoning does too. Of all things, I was knocked out with food poisoning in Fes from a cappuccino at a four star hotel.
Don’t drink the tap water
You may see Moroccans drinking from faucets but I wouldn’t recommend it. Since it’s so easy to become dehydrated in Morocco (hello, Sahara desert) be cautious and carry around a water bottle or two. You can pick them up at any gas station, supermarket, hotel, or restaurant.
A word from the wise – make sure not to ask for ice in your drinks, since it is made from the tap water.
Leave a Tip
For dinners at restaurants, and especially if you order room service at a hotel. It doesn’t have to be a large tip – 20 Durhams (2 cents, give or take) is probably plenty, depending on how much you order.
I was told that Morocco was more credit card friendly than, say, Italy. Yet, every time I tried to use my card, I was told, “no.” Just make sure you always have enough cash or know where the nearest working ATM machine is. Emphasis on the word “working” because my card was rejected from one ATM machine and another was out of money.
Do bring toilet paper or tissues everywhere you go
Most bathrooms will not have any toilet paper for two reasons:
- Older generations do not use toilet paper to clean themselves. They use their left hand.
- It gives people a reason to make money. People sell a few squares of toilet paper at the entrance of each bathroom.
What to Expect
You will eat a lot of tagine and couscous
You may have no other choice. I joke, sort of – actually not really.
When I am in Italy, I eat pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner every day and never get tired of it. Ever. After two days of tagine and couscous in Morocco, even chicken, date, prune, and vegetable varieties, I ready to order sandwiches from food service.
Trust me – I went to 10 cities in the 12 days I spent in Morocco and each menu was the same: salad, vegetables, couscous, bread, lentil soup, fruit, and mint tea.
I did, though, thoroughly enjoy having fruit for dessert after meals and mint tea after that.
Bargaining can get aggressive
As a general rule of thumb, I was told that in big cities, you should expect that you will be charged at least twice the original price. This goes for food, clothes, and even taxi rides – unless you are at a fancy restaurant with a set menu price or a hotel. In Marrakesh, the taxi driver asked for 5 times the price for a taxi ride (I asked a local). It took me bargaining with four different drivers to finally score a ride. The rest pretended to get angry and walked away.
That being said, I never felt threatened or scared. Sometimes, if I smiled at the seller and tried to talk to them, they would instantly calm down. There’s something universally humanizing and welcoming about a simple smile.
You will get catcalled, regardless of what you wear
Some days, I wore pants, other days I wore skinny jeans. Better yet, some days I wore T-shirts and others I wore dresses. Sometimes the dresses showed my shoulders and some dresses covered all aspects of my body. Believe it or not, I found that it still did not matter at all what I was wearing. It depended more on the city – Meknes and Marrakesh were probably the worst, while Fes wasn’t far behind. None of my outfits were inappropriate, but the one below was by far the one I was most harassed while wearing.
Do book a Sahara Desert Tour
From Ouarzazate, leave with a tour group, and take a 5-hour drive to the desert.
Just make sure it has reviews and is not dirt cheap.
However, be wary of buying it when you get there. I had a really bad experience during my Sahara Desert tour, but that doesn’t mean all experiences will be like that.
Useful Words and Phrases in Moroccan Arabic
In Morocco, the most common language spoken is Arabic, so it is helpful to learn a few basic words. I have found that even knowing the simple phrase of “thank you” in Arabic really can make people much more warm and welcoming.
Besides for Arabic, many Moroccans, especially those who have gone to school, speak French. If you know French, go ahead and speak it instead!
- Shukrun – Thank you
- Iyah – Yes
- La – No
- As-salaam Alaykum – Peace be with you (but often used as a greeting like hello)
- Owni afak – Help me please
What to Pack
Magic Fiber Cleaning Cloths