Morocco is an enchanting land of wonder, excitement and adventure. Unforgiving desert landscapes make way for bustling souks and snow-capped mountains tower over minarets and modern cities. As with any trip research and planning are essential. Prepare for your forthcoming journey by reading up on the important things you should know before travelling to Morocco.
Whether this is your first time to Morocco or you're a seasoned visitor it helps to have a quick rundown of essential items to bring with you.
See also: Stijn's Ultimate Morocco Guide
Morocco is a Muslim country, and a conservative dress code is advised. In general, men can wear what they like but it's a little different for women. Nowadays increasing numbers of young Moroccan women possess a more liberal attitude towards dress and will walk around with their thighs and midriff uncovered. This is apparent in some coastal places with more western attitudes such as Tangiers, but it does attract attention.
If local customs regarding dress aren’t respected it can promote two perceptions about tourists:
1)They have no consideration for local customs and are happy to flaunt their bodies.
2)This willingness to be 'semi-naked' in public reflects the loose morals that some associate with European women especially.
Therefore, it is best to err on the side of conservatism. This means clothes such as long skirts, dresses, jeans or trousers that cover the knees. For footwear, sandals and closed toe shoes are appropriate. Heels are rarely worn. Other items to pack include long and short-sleeve t-shirts, blouses and cardigans as they cover the shoulder.
A long skirt is an ideal piece of clothing to bring to Morocco. Canva/Oleh_photographer.
Note that it is not necessary for non-Muslim women to wear a veil, or hijab that conceals their hair.
The golden rule of shopping in Morocco is to haggle, haggle and haggle some more. Although nowadays there are more fixed price shops many are still fair game for negotiating.
At the market. Canva/Ekaterina Pokrovsky.
Bargaining is not considered rude because it is simply part of Moroccan culture and a street or shop vendor won’t be insulted even if you try to get as much as 50% knocked off the asking price. It’s all part and parcel of their job. Some people relish haggling and are born naturals while others are shy and reluctant. If you fall into the latter category here are some tips you may find helpful:
Morocco is a beautiful county with friendly people willing to help you. However, as with many tourist hotspots around the world, there are always a few scammers trying to snare unwary travellers. If you’re not careful and forget to exercise good common-sense, you could become a victim of a tourist trap. Here are two of the most common scams to watch out for:
1) An Over-Friendly Person Showing You the Way
This scam can be encountered all over the country but is particularly common in big cities such as Marrakech and Fez. You'll be walking along minding your own business when a polite stranger with a big smile will strike up a conversation and offer to show you the way to the best hotel/restaurant/café /rug shop.
Once you arrive, they will ask for an overinflated tip and won’t leave you alone until they've been paid. While it's difficult to avoid these scammers, be firm but polite when approached. Tell them you know where you’re going and don’t need a guide. If you are looking for somewhere but are unsure of its location ask shop assistants or police or traffic officers.
2) Cheating Restaurants
Among the most common ways to get ripped off is in restaurants where waiters bring you items you didn’t order and charge you for them, or the eatery operates two menus.
The one they give you is cheap, but when you come to pay the bill, another menu is presented with higher prices. If this happens to you simply pay according to the first menu and only what you ordered. The restaurant workers may not be too happy about this, but they won’t do anything about it because the police know all about this sneaky scam.
Tipping is customary in Morocco although there are no hard and fast rules about how much to tip. For waiting staff in a local café tip 5% to 10% of the bill while in mid-scale or upscale establishments a 10% to 15% tip is normal provided it’s not already included in the bill. For taxi drivers just round the fare up to the nearest five or ten dirhams.
The Hassan II Mosque is open to non-Muslims. Canva/AlexeyPnferov.
Most mosques in the country are not open to non-Muslims. One exception is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca which can be visited by guided tours outside of prayer times. If you do enter the mosque, you will need to ensure that your knees and shoulders are covered.
Here are a few basic Arabic words and phrases that will help you while travelling around Morocco.
Hello = Asalam Alekum
Goodbye = Ma’a Salama
Do you speak English? = Tatakallam Inglizi?
I don't want = Ma bghitsh
How much? = Bi kam?
If you please = Min fadlak
Thank you = Shukran
Morocco is a paradise for photographers but be careful when taking photos in marketplaces or shops. Unless you are actually purchasing shopkeepers and stallholders may get angry if you’re snapping away without their permission.
They may even ask you for money. At some places such as the Djemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakech, it is customary to pay if you want pictures of snake charmers and other performers.
Hopefully you're not bringing a lot of stuff with you while travelling in Morocco! Canva/Jonas Listl.
With an extensive public transport network, Morocco is an easy country to get around. The rail network is operated by the state-run Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF) and there are reliable links between major cities such as Tangier, Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat and Fez.
Buses are another good option to travel between towns and cities and have a greater reach than trains. Many private companies and competing lines crisscross the country.
If you prefer to get around by taxi, there are two types in Morocco: Grand taxis and petit taxis. The key differences between the two apart from the size of the vehicles are:
For freedom and flexibility when you're travelling, book a rental car. In general, the main roads are in good conditions.
So, that’s our list of things to know before travelling to Morocco. Research and plan your trip well then prepare to be dazzled by a country of spectacular natural beauty, a blend of ancient and modern cities and thrilling cultural and historical sites.