Morocco is a beautiful country with the best of all types of scenery. From mountains to beaches to cities to deserts – you’ll want to have your camera ready everywhere you go. But it is a culture very different from that of European countries or the States. It’s a Muslim nation and therefore the religion, culture, and traditions may not be familiar to most westerners. From being awoken by morning prayer broadcasts through a loud speaker, to the differences in cuisine, and the somewhat aggressive hecklers on the streets – it’s a country that really does require a bit of research, especially if you plan to go on your own. But with some background knowledge on the country and culture, you will love everything Morocco has to offer and appreciate the beauty of this fantastic place.
Getting There and Getting Around
The only direct flight from the U.S. to Morocco is from New York City (JFK) to Casablanca on Royal Air Moroc, the Moroccan airline. We opted for this flight, with a return flight from Marrakech (which had an obligatory stopover in Casablanca).
From the airport, it’s best to arrange a car ahead of time to take you to your hotel (we used Viator). Otherwise, there are plenty of taxis available, but if you’re not familiar with the area you may end up paying a bit more than necessary. (Given the exchange rate, however, it won’t be a significant amount.)
Speaking of taxis – in most of the cities there are local taxis for close destinations and separate “out of town” taxis which will take you to the airport or other further destinations. Your hotel can usually call you the correct one. It’s ideal if you can get a taxi with a meter so you will be charged an exact fare. Otherwise, negotiate the price before you get in. (If the price is a negotiated flat rate then there’s no need to tip.) And don’t plan to take an Uber – the company is currently being protested by the taxi drivers and has led to some violent incidents (mostly for the drivers, not the passengers).
Certain areas of the cities are walkable (although the small alleys of the medina can be very intimidating and are best with a guide). People will often ask you if you want help but beware they expect a tip for offering directions, so always have a few dirham in your pocket. (In some cases they won’t even wait for you to accept their help, they will begin leading you to a destination and still demand a tip. If you do not need the help, try to be persistent and forceful in saying “no.”)
The exchange rate for the Moroccan dirham is in the traveler’s favor, so most things will be affordable. In the higher-end hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists, however, prices will be similar to home. (Some places even allow you to pay in Euros.) It is mostly a cash country, so try to arrive with some dirhams already exchanged. Shops and smaller restaurants will often not take credit cards so it’s best to stick to cash. In hotels and more touristy areas, major credit cards are usually accepted.
Morocco is a tipping culture. As mentioned, people will often ask for tips after they’ve given you advice. Try to rely on advice from your hotel as much as you can, but if you do need help and need to stop and ask someone – especially in the medina – make sure you have some dirham readily available in your pocket. (Click here for our tipping guide.)
Morocco mostly faces just petty crime, with pickpockets very common in tourist areas. You will very often be harassed by people looking to make money off giving you directions and shop keepers will often pressure you into buying something from them, especially if they give you a demonstration. This can get particularly annoying and sometimes uncomfortable, but it is not unsafe. After dark, you may want to avoid wandering too far on your own, particularly in the medina of a city where the alleyways are very narrow and it’s nearly impossible to not get lost. Many riads and hotels offer escorts within the medina which should be taken advantage of.
The biggest challenge for us was feeling uncomfortable rather than unsafe. People will approach you often, especially in the medina, telling you they will guide you to a landmark, or they will bring you to a particular shop. Sometimes they will tell passing tourists “You’re going the wrong way” or “That street is closed, go this way instead” when the street is clearly “open.” It’s best to say “No, thank you” or better yet just ignore them completely.
As a Muslim nation, Morocco is a conservative country and tourists should respect the culture. This is particularly challenging in the hot weather. Many Moroccan women will traditionally wear clothing that covers their elbows and goes to their knees, although that is not expected of non-Muslims, especially in the bigger, more tourist-friendly areas. For the most part, women should be sure to never show any cleavage or wear super tight or short clothing, and attempt to cover your shoulders. If you’d prefer to blend in a bit more (as I did) stick to dresses or longer shirts and carry a scarf with you to cover your shoulders or head (especially important when you enter a mosque).
In a nutshell…
Overall, Morocco is a safe, beautiful, delicious, and unique country well worth the visit. All the “do’s” and “don’ts” can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it should not discourage you from enjoying this amazing nation. As with any trip overseas, you should always stay alert and use your head when in a foreign city. If you follow the basics of being a good, responsible tourist, you will be just fine and so happy you explored all that Morocco has to offer!
For more travel information and advice visit our Morocco Travel Guide or continue reading about our adventures in this gorgeous country!
Leave a Reply