Morocco travel tips and cultural insights that every budget traveler in Morocco should know.
From the native Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains, to the rippling sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, to the madness of the Medinas and marketplaces, Morocco is diverse in landscape and rich in culture.
Moroccan life can seem a bit chaotic to the average traveler, especially in the more populated areas.
It is not uncommon to witness a heated screaming match in Arabic, a wild animal or bird on a chain or a rope, a motorbike zooming full speed through a crowded alleyway, and a local man pressuring you to buy hashish, and all within a couple of minutes.
It is vital to understand some of the local customs to avoid confusion and even scams in Morocco.
Here are some important Morocco travel tips. I’ll include basic knowledge, cultural things to be aware of, and budget travel tips.
Morocco Travel Tips
Here are the most important things to know before traveling to Morocco. I’ll start with some general knowledge about the country.
General Morocco Travel Tips:
Currency: Moroccan Dirham. 1 Dirham is about 0.10 USD, so 10 Dirhams is $1. Pretty easy conversion for me!
Language: The main language is Arabic, though many people speak French. In the north, you’ll find a bit of Spanish as well. Berber is the traditional native language in Morocco.
Outlets: two circular prongs, the same as Europe.
Visas: Don’t need one for staying up to three months. Check iVisa to be sure though because that can change depending on your nationality.
Cultural Morocco Travel Tips:
These cultural Morocco travel tips will prepare you for your trip. Remember to always respect the local culture!
Islam is the main religion.
Most Moroccans practice Islam, which means a few things for those who have never visited a Muslim country before.
About five times a day, you’ll hear the hypnotically beautiful “call to prayer” bellowing from the speaker situated atop the tower of a Mosque.
Everyone practices their religion to a different level of intensity. Some locals just turn down the music or TV during the call to prayer. Sometimes locals will leave their posts at work to run into a Mosque and pray for a moment.
It is also important to note that Mosques are usually only open to Muslims. No matter how stunning they may look from the outside, you probably can’t enter if you aren’t Muslim.
Women dress conservatively.
As a predominantly Muslim country, most women wear clothes that cover their whole bodies. Sometimes they cover their hair and face as well.
Even at the beach in the middle of summer, women wear full dress and wade into the water in their clothes.
Regardless of what we wear in our own countries, we should respect the local culture and try to blend in.
Dress appropriately, at least cover your shoulders and knees. Avoid shirts that are too low-cut.
At the beach, I only swam in a bikini when no one was around. On crowded beaches, I swam in a t-shirt and shorts to avoid unwanted attention.
Moroccans often eat with their hands.
It is common to eat many local dishes, like tagines and omelettes, without cutlery.
This is because Moroccans eat them with their hands, using a piece of bread as a spoon to mash the food up and scoop it into their mouth.
In the coastal town of Safi, we ate freshly grilled sardines with a bunch of locals. This meant we had to pick the fish apart with our hands; skin, bones, and all.
It was one of the most delicious meals ever, but my hands smelled like fish for days. Just get used to it!
Drinking tea is a daily occurrence.
The most popular beverage in Morocco is mint tea.
Moroccans usually brew the fresh mint leaves in a silver teapot with boiling water, and then pour it into small glass cups. They usually pour the cups back into the pot, and re-pour the tea a few times to mix up all the sugar.
If you don’t like sweet drinks, be sure to ask for your tea without sugar otherwise they’ll usually throw about five sugar cubes in there.
Drinking tea together is an act of hospitality and friendship. Sometimes shop owners will offer you a glass of tea while you’re browsing, and locals often drink tea with meals as well.
Moroccans are usually not punctual.
Contrary to much of westernized civilization, Moroccans are often fashionably late for things and don’t take punctuality very seriously.
Breakfast doesn’t start until 8:30 am at the earliest.
If you tell a friend you want to go somewhere in 30 minutes, it will usually end up being 3 hours.
If your tour bus leaves at 3 pm, it probably won’t actually leave until 4 pm.
Just try and be patient, and adjust your expectations to Moroccan time.
Animals aren’t treated very well.
This fact saddens me a lot, but I just had to accept it while traveling in Morocco.
In Marrakech, horses lug tourists around the city streets in fancy carriages. And at Ouzoud Waterfalls, I saw two beautiful horses dressed up and chained to a wall for photo opportunities.
Also in Marrakech, locals dress little monkeys in tutus and chain them up for tourists to take photos with, and snakes are definitely drugged or something for the “snake charmers” to perform with.
Everywhere in the country, donkeys and mules carry locals’ carts around, and I’ve seen them get whipped furiously a few times.
So animal exploitation is something I’ve seen all over Morocco, usually for the sake of tourists paying to take photos with them.
I urge people not to support this animal abuse. But try not to let it depress you too much while traveling in Morocco because that’s just the way things are here.
Cats, however, are treated pretty well.
There are more stray cats and kittens in Morocco than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Though not all the cats survive, I’ve seen many locals treat cats pretty well.
I’ll often see fish or meat scraps left in street corners for the stray cats, and sometimes locals pet and cuddle with them.
At least some animals live a good life in Morocco!
Practical Morocco Travel Tips:
These practical Morocco travel tips will help your trip run a bit more smoothly. It’s always good to know what to expect!
Always watch out for hectic drivers.
As a passenger in a tour bus or van, or even in a local friend’s car, prepare for the aggressive driving that you’ll probably witness.
Drivers often pass other cars at the speed of light, even on narrow, winding cliffside roads with a huge truck coming the opposite way.
It’s also important to be cautious as a pedestrian. Cars will speed down even the smallest alleyways, and motorbikes are always flying in and out of crevices on the street.
Many crosswalks are also scary because cars don’t stop for you unless you’re literally right in front of them.
You have to just tough it out and barge across the road hoping cars will stop. To be safe, you can always find a local and follow them across.
If YOU are driving, drive carefully and try to follow the road rules.
When renting a car, be cautious when driving in Morocco, as the road rules are sometimes unclear.
Some intersections are just a free for all. It seems like cars are just whizzing around in reckless abandon. So be careful!
But in roundabouts you have to assert your position on the road. Otherwise, Moroccans will just keep cutting you off.
Policemen often sit by the side of the road with speed cameras.
They will actually pull you over for anything, like a broken windshield or to make sure everyone is wearing seatbelts.
Just follow every possible rule when driving in Morocco to avoid hefty fines.
Prepare to get lost in a Medina.
Most cities and bigger towns will have a Medina, which is a section of the city with high walls and a maze of narrow streets filled with vendors, plazas, and souks (traditional markets).
Cities like Marrakech and Fes are famous for their sprawling Medinas. Fes has the oldest Medina in the world!
Medinas just don’t have many street names and all the alleys look similar. So prepare to lose your sense of direction and wander aimlessly until you find your way out.
A navigation app like Maps Me or Google Maps can help you at least walk in the right direction.
Anticipate the heat.
Much of the landscape in Morocco is dry and the weather is usually hot.
Winter is still around 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and summer can get well into the 100s.
Because you need to dress conservatively, try to pack clothes that are lightweight and breathable. Sandals are acceptable, and sunglasses are a must.
Despite the heat in summer, the temperature of the ocean is actually pretty cold. It feels great after sweating in the sun all day.
Try not to drink the tap water.
Some locals say the tap water is fine to drink, others say it isn’t.
Be safe and drink either filtered water or bottled water.
I drank the tap water for my first few days in Morocco, and though I didn’t get sick, it definitely tastes off so I eventually stopped.
A 1.5L water bottle should cost 6 Dirhams, though touristy places might charge 10.
Expect to get ripped off. Often.
Some say that in Morocco, there’s the “tourist price”, and then there’s the real price.
It’s just too easy for locals to take advantage of tourists, so they often charge us way more than the actual price.
Whether this is the price of a taxi ride, the cost of a bag of fruit, or a souvenir from a shop, always assume you’re paying more than you should.
Just use your judgment about when you should negotiate the price or not.
Sometimes you just have to suck it up, in cases like food you’ve already eaten or a taxi ride you’ve already taken.
If you don’t speak the language well enough to discuss the price, most of the time you’ll just have to pay the tourist price.
But if you’re buying clothes or a trinket in a shop, locals will often ask you what price you want after you decline their first offer.
Just don’t get too cocky, and try to be respectful even when the locals aren’t necessarily nice in return.
Many locals rely on tourism for their income, so just know you’re supporting someone when you pay extra.
Be confident saying “No”.
You can’t walk 5 feet in Morocco without locals trying to get you to buy something.
Shop vendors will yell at you from across the road to come look at their stuff.
Random men will offer you weed and tobacco all day long.
Seemingly friendly locals will try to walk you to your destination or show you around as a favor, then demand money afterward.
Even kids will try and hassle you.
You just have to say “No”, and say it with confidence. If someone is especially persistent, say you have no money to pay them as soon as possible and they should go away.
You can’t visit a rug shop quickly.
Morocco is full of traditional rug shops, selling gorgeous handmade rugs and blankets made of usually sheep, goat, or camel wool.
If you show even the slightest amount of interest, the shop owner will probably proceed to unfold every rug in his shop and throw them on the ground in front of you.
He’ll hold a lighter up to the expensive cactus silk rugs to prove they don’t burn. He’ll show you your favorite rug in every possible color, and he’ll unfold the giant rugs even if you’ve already said you can’t afford them.
If you’re really not planning on buying one, just leave right away to avoid feeling guilty after the owner unfolds rugs for 30 minutes for no sale.
And he will definitely continue unfolding rugs until his entire floor is covered in countless layers, or until you tell him to stop.
If you are actually planning on buying a rug, this customer service is wonderful.
Budgeting Morocco Travel Tips:
These are the best Morocco travel tips for anyone who wants to save money.
The price of accommodation varies.
Morocco is a relatively cheap country. So you can find some great accommodation when traveling on a budget. The options vary from city to city, however.
Hostels in Morocco
Our last few weeks in Marrakech we found a hostel on Workaway, called Ya Salam Hostel. They let us stay for free in exchange for some help answering emails in English and cleaning a bit.
(Ya Salam Hostel is not running anymore as of 2022, but Workaway and Worldpackers have other work exchanges in Morocco!)
Airbnb in Morocco
Surprisingly, Casablanca didn’t have any hostel dorm beds for less than $20 a night.
So it was actually cheaper to rent a whole spare room in an apartment on Airbnb for $20 a night.
I’ve heard the hostels in Rabat also cost $20 for a dorm bed, minimum.
We also used Airbnb in Safi, because there were no hostels at all here. We got kind of ripped off by the hosts. They said the price we paid for online was inaccurate and we had to fork over an extra $40 per night at the end of our stay.
At this point, we were used to Moroccans trying to milk money out of us at any opportunity. So we weren’t too shaken.
Riads and Work Exchanges in Morocco
Moral of the story: always check multiple websites for accommodation options depending on which part of Morocco you’ll be in.
Some people with a bit more money than us like to stay in Riads. These are like traditional Moroccan townhouses with gardens and courtyards.
And of course, luxury hotel rooms are available everywhere.
But for the budget traveler, there is always at least one somewhat cheap option.
Bus is the cheapest way to get around.
A cheap and easy way to travel from city to city in Morocco is by coach bus. CTM is a popular and reliable bus company.
Tickets vary but usually won’t be any more than $20 for a long journey, and the buses have small air vents and curtains to block out the sun.
This website can help you plan your journey, and you can buy tickets the day of at the station, or in advance at a CTM ticket booth. Supratours is another popular bus company to use if CTM doesn’t have the journey you want.
Sometimes the buses charge you a fee if you have luggage, but it usually won’t be more than 5 dirhams ($0.50).
If there is no bus, consider a collective taxi.
Some Moroccan destinations are more remote, like villages in the Atlas Mountains or waterfalls in the middle of nowhere.
Collective taxis are often available to somewhat popular destinations. You can share a mini-van taxi with other travelers for 50-100 Dirhams.
Just find out where the collective taxi stand is in your town, and show up early in case you need to wait a while for the taxi to fill up.
Research on Google or ask a local if collective taxis run to your destination. Sometimes they are even faster and more convenient than a local bus.
With these Morocco travel tips, your trip should run smoothly.
Unidentified scents, vibrant colors, and intriguing music will follow you everywhere in Morocco.
You’ll encounter some intense, aggressive people and some super laid-back and friendly people.
Morocco must be received with an open mind and a positive attitude. Otherwise, the culture shock can be strong.
Using some of this cultural knowledge and applying these tips to your trip, you will definitely have a rich Moroccan experience.
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