There are dozens of reasons why Morocco is cherished by travelers, whether it might be the cultural diversity, delicious cuisine, incredible natural scenery, rich history, or the beautiful coastline. From the moment you arrive in Morocco, you’re met with a sensory overload. There are endless memorable moments in Morocco you can experience learning about the unique culture at palace museums, having meaningful encounters with locals, cooking tagine at a cooking class, or getting custom-designed henna art on your hand.
Whether you’ve come to explore the sounds, sights, and smells of the medina, shop for handcrafted artisan goods in the souk, or ponder the universe while sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert, there are a few things you should know before you go to Morocco. Here are some Morocco travel trips to help you enjoy your time in this beautiful country.
Please dress conservatively
Morocco is tolerant of many religions and there aren’t any laws about what you can and cannot wear, however, the respectful thing to do is to dress conservatively while exploring the country. On the other hand, you don’t need to wear the local djellaba or wear a headscarf. If you want to wear a kaftan or tunic go for it (as long as you’re being sensitive to the culture), but it’s not required. At the coastal cities it’s fine to wear a bikini at the beach, but don’t walk around town in your swimwear. Be mindful of your attire and pack lightweight items that go below your knees and cover your chest and shoulders in order to be considerate of local cultural customs.
There’s More to Morocco than Marrakesh, Chefchaouen, and the Sahara Desert
Marrakesh, Chefchaouen, and the Sahara Desert are incredible places that you absolutely must visit. But, there’s so much more to Morocco than these typical tourist hot spots. Essaouira is the best place to start a trip in Morocco, as the medina is relatively calm and the beach town vibes are welcoming. From there, it’s easy to venture south to see the famed Ait Ben Haddou, which is a popular site featured on Instagram, or north to the capital city of Rabat. Those looking to explore other aspects of Moroccan culture will enjoy Tangier and Casablanca. There’s something for every traveler in Morocco, from staying in an ancient riad in Fez to taking surf lessons in Taghazout, to witnessing the incredible Ouzoud Falls in the El-Abid River gorge.
Understand the Nuances of Commerce
The medinas in Morocco are magical places. It’s mesmerizing to watch people navigate the souk picking up the fresh produce, spices, and nuts to make meals for their family that evening. Herbalist’s shops feature dried roses for tea, black olive oil soap to cleanse the skin, henna for coloring hair, blocks of sandalwood perfume, and, of course, argan oil for the softest hair.
Before you step inside a shop or even converse with a shopkeeper, you need to have an understanding of the way commerce works in the Moroccan souks. Haggling is expected and part of the culture, but there are certain things you should know before you begin bargaining. The asking price is normally at least three times more than the value of the product. counter with 30 percent of the original offer and be prepared to pay at least 50 percent. If you touch an item, the store owner will chase you down the street telling you to buy it. Don’t say that you’ll come back to buy something later unless you mean it. The souk may be busy but the shopkeeper will remember you when you stroll by later and don’t stop in their shop to make a purchase.
Berber Whiskey Isn’t Booze
It’s a common occurrence for shop owners to insist that you sit down and chat for a while. Don’t miss this chance to chat with a local — they’re hoping to make a sale. If you intend to buy something, then it’s fine to ask them about what life is like in their city. At some point, you’ll certainly be offered a small serving of brown liquid in what appears to be a shot glass. When you inquire what the concoction contains the shop owner will surely give you a wry smile and exclaim, “It’s Berber whiskey, sister!”
Don’t fret, there’s no alcohol in Berber whiskey. What the fresh, mint tea lacks in booze it makes up for in sugar. Berber whiskey is consumed instead of alcoholic beverages and is enjoyed all day long. It’s an honor to be invited to share Berber whiskey with locals and it would be insulting to refuse this hospitality, especially in a family home or shop.
Not All Hammams Are the Same
Indulging in a private luxurious hammam at a riad with a spa attendant is a divine experience, but nothing beats going to the local hammam for a scrub-down. At the local hammam, you’ll have a more authentic experience. The public bathhouses are hundreds of years old and visiting them to purify the body is part of a weekly, and sometimes daily, tradition for most Moroccans. Usually, for around 10 USD, an attendant will scrub your skin raw with olive oil black soap and a sponge glove in a steaming room full of other folks. It’s a unique experience as a woman, because you’re invited into the private lives of Moroccan mothers, daughters, and wives. Everyone is mostly nude, laughing, singing, and helping to scrub each other raw. Some say Moroccan women use the hammam as a place to scope out potential wives for their sons.
Kids Aren’t Helpful in the Medina
It’s impossible not to look like a lost tourist in the medina. With the maze-like streets and with a map in hand, you’re an easy target. Children often make a game out of telling foreigners that they’re sure that you must be lost, are definitely going the wrong way as the road is closed, or offer to show you a historic place you must not miss. But as you arrive they’ll chummily ask you for a few Durham to thank them for their services. They’ll remind you that you were horribly lost before they saved you! If you don’t hand over the coins the kiddos will chase you around the medina until you pay up. It’s better to firmly tell them you aren’t lost, even if you are, and tell them that you’ll find your own way. If you’re actually lost, stop into a riad where the reception can help point you in the right direction.
Don’t Take Photos of Military Personnel
It’s a big no-no to take photos of the military or police. This is especially crucial to keep in mind when crossing borders if you’re coming across the Strait of Gibraltar on a ferry and doing the border crossing in a vehicle. If you’re seen taking a picture from within a bus or car, the vehicle will likely be stopped, the officer will enter the bus and confiscate your camera or phone, and delete the photo for you as they give you a stern scolding.
Watch Out for Traffic Scams
Another road rule that many intrepid travelers wish they’d known before driving a rental car around Morocco is that the police will pull you over for any reason and give you a ticket for any wrongdoing they choose — even if you aren’t breaking the law. Refuse to pay the ticket unless they give you a paper receipt, otherwise, you’re just giving them petty cash and not actually paying a fine for a traffic violation.
Transportation in Morocco is Affordable and Safe
It’s incredibly easy, comfortable, and affordable to get around Morocco using public transportation. The bus and train systems are well-connected to most of the popular destinations in the country and departures are offered throughout the day. Just as you would anywhere in the world, try to travel during the morning so that you arrive at your destination in the daylight. It can be extra tricky to find your accommodation in Morocco with the windy, confusing streets. It’s also advisable to get a sim card so that you can use Google Maps or call your accommodation should you need help finding the location.
Have you ever been to Morocco? Have some tips to share? Check out our upcoming trip with Acanela Expeditions!
Header image by Lindsey Lamont.