Things to know before you visit Morocco

My trip to Morocco was one of the highlights of 2018 for me. I’d been wanting to go for a long time, but never felt comfortable to go by myself. I’m so glad I went though! Not only is Morocco amazingly beautiful, I found the people generally to be lovely and kind. But from how to dress to how not to get scammed, there are a few things you should know about traveling in Morocco. So take advantage of my experience and inform yourself about these things to know before you visit Morocco, to ensure a fun trip:

1. Dealing with potential culture shock in Morocco

Morocco was the second Muslim country I visited, after Malaysia. Some of the blogs I read in preparation made me pretty nervous, with their stories about harassment, culture shock and scamming. I know to take those things with a grain of salt. Not to say that as a woman, solo or otherwise, you won’t experience any harassment. But as an experienced solo traveler, I’m usually not easily intimidated and know how to handle unwanted attention. The big take away here is that you should be mentally prepared for some unwanted attention and harassment, but not to worry too much. Apart from stares, the occasional catcalls, a few proposals and a couple of unwanted touches, I found it to be pretty tame and easy to deal with. Ignoring them, a firm ‘no’ and avoiding eye contact kept things from escalating. The best way to avoid attention in the first place is to dress appropriately. You don’t have to wear a headscarf, lots of Moroccan women go bareheaded themselves. No formfitting and revealing clothes and you should cover your shoulders, knees and cleavage. If you travel to small rural towns, cover to the wrist and ankles. You’ll probably still be stared at, especially if you’re blonde, but it’s nothing compared to what women encountered who were walking around in shorts.

Since Morocco is a Muslim country, alcohol is expensive and rarely served, Friday is a holy day when you’ll find many stores closed. Mosques in Morocco are not open to non-Muslim visitors, except the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, but they’re all really pretty from the outside as well.

I didn’t experience any culture shock in Morocco, in general it’s a very modern country, and they’re used to tourists. If you do have concerns or questions, let me know in the comments!

2. Make sure you get your money worth

Morocco is pretty affordable as far as vacation destinations go. You can find hostel beds around 10 euro, meals around 5 and bus tickets are cheap as well. The way to really make the most of your money in Morocco is to haggle. This might feel weird at first, but it’s part of the culture. Vendors overcharge tourists, so haggling just makes sure you pay a fair price. I generally offered 50% of their asking price and then went up to 75% max, depending on how much it was worth to me. If you are buying several items in a store you can often get a further discount. Haggling does not work for food, but it does for tours and cab rides!

You’ll find many warnings about scams online and each is as obvious as the next. People will try to take advantage of you by telling you that something is closed, insisting on taking you somewhere and then demanding money afterwards and so on. You’ll recognize them instantly and just tell them no.

3. You don’t have to be fluent in Arabic

Knowing a few words of Arabic will help you to both deal with harrassment and haggling. Morrocans appreciate your effort and are more likely to give you a good deal. Keep in mind that Moroccan Arabic is quite different from the Arabic spoken in other countries.

A few useful phrases:

Salam Alaikum – Hello

Beshal – How much?

Shukran – Thank you

Iyyeh – Yes

Lla – No

But don’t worry if you’re not great with languages because Morrocans are.
The linguistic abilities of Morrocans really impressed me! The official languages are Morrocan Arabic and Berber, but most people also speak French. Those in big cities and working in hospitality or tourism also speak English, often Spanish and Italian as well. In the north, Spanish is more widely spoken than French. I got by easily with English and a few words of high school French.

4. Where to find the best food in Morocco

For food, avoid eating in obvious tourist restaurants. They are overpriced and the food is bland. Instead, eat street food and at hole in the wall places, the smaller the better. The best food is often served in Riads, homecooked Moroccan classics like tajine.

I also highly recommend taking a cooking course to learn to make those delicious dishes yourself. The Amal Womens Centre in Marrakesh has a fantastic cooking class and the food tastes even better knowing that the money goes to a worthwhile cause.

These are the dishes I most recommend you try in Morocco

5. How to make sure you see all the best sights in Morocco

The best time of year to visit Morocco is fall or winter. Even in December temperature are around 25C and the weather sunny. Rain season doesn’t mean incessant showers, luckily. Summer is both too crowded and too hot.

Morocco is a big country with a ton of worthwhile cities and sights. I recommend flying in and out of different cities to maximize your travel time. During my 10 day trip, these are the places I visited, although I wish I had a bit more time in each. The one thing I recommend above all is a trip to the desert, it’s such a unique and impressive landscape and the starry night is beyond beautiful.

Getting around to all these places is easy as well. I used CMT buses to move between cities. The buses are comfortable and affordable. Get your ticket at the bus station at least 30 min in advance or ask your hotel to book it for you. Taxies are pretty affordable as well, but hailing a taxi is cheaper than getting one at the airport/ bus station.

I don’t recommend booking a tour in advance, it is cheaper and just as easy to book it once you arrive. Hotels often have a tour guide they work with, and they can also recommend hammams and such. Or simply walk around and speak to several guides to find and haggle over the best price. Most tours offer basically the same experience, but higher prices get you more comfort. Tours from Marrakech to Fez are cheaper than the other way around for some reason.

Are you excited to visit Morocco? Do you have any questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Things to know before you visit Morocco

  1. I love that the Amal Womens Centre offers cooking classes! And that the money goes to their organization. I wish more countries would offer this, so that you can learn about the cuisine, culture and ensure your money goes to a good cause.

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  2. Great post!! Definitely helpful when visiting Morocco for the first time. I always had an issue with haggling and still feel super uncomfortable with it. As for being a Muslim country, I actually didn’t feel strange, as long as you were somewhat modest.

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    1. Thank you, I’m glad you think so. People make a big deal about Muslim culture being really different, but I didn’t find it hard at all. You’re right, being respectful of their culture and customs goes a long way. As for haggling, I’m not as tough with it as I could be but I’m getting better 😉

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