15 Important Things To Know Before Travelling To Morocco

 

From the peaks of the High Atlas mountains to the sweeping sands of the Sahara desert, Morocco’s landscapes are as varied as the colours you’ll witness in the souks. Pyramid piles of sweet dates, round loaves of bread served next to sizzling tagines and the overpowering smell of traditional tanneries. The Aladdin-esque allure of the country has travellers arriving from all over the globe so before you go, here are 15 useful Morocco travel tips – and before your shoes fill up with sand.

Cactii and palm treets Jardin Marjorelle Marrakech Morocco

MOROCCO TRAVEL TIPS | MOROCCO SIM CARDS, CAMEL RIDING, BARTERING & MORE

1. Taxi Drivers

Our reading from blogs and discussion boards on tripadvisor consistently revealed that taxi drivers will try to rip off unsuspecting visitors. Do NOT pay the first price they quote! (Also refer to our next point).

We flew into Marrakech and stayed in the Medina. We read of one incident whereby a poor soul paid 300 DH for this journey, however, most advice from previous travellers highlighted that a taxi from the airport should cost only 70 – 80 DH. Turns out this advice remains up-to-date. When we walked out to the taxi rank outside Marrakech Airport, we overheard an American woman arguing with some drivers, “My hotel told me it would cost no more than 80 DH!” – good on you, lady!

Our riad had quoted us €15 (approx 160 DH) so we decided to take a risk and put our bartering skills to the test. The first quote given to us was for 300 DH and we refused this immediately. Our counter offer was for 100 DH and we refused to budge. The taxi driver originally offering his services reduced the price to 250 DH but would go no lower.

Eventually, the man managing the taxi rank “called a friend”. We made sure that the price was agreed upon before allowing our bags to be packed into the boot and voila! We arrived close to our destination safely and handed over 100 DH in exact change. Remain resolute. There are enough taxi drivers around and one will be willing to drive you for your stipulated price.

2. Bartering

Bartering is an everyday occurrence in Moroccan culture. And nowhere else are you likely to be ripped off or scammed than in the souks of the medinas. Do NOT pay the first price you are quoted. Advice that we received was to pay approximately half of the original quoted price to you. Obviously, this will differ on where you are and what you’re buying but stick to your guns! Even walk away. Guaranteed, nine times out of ten, the shopkeeper will chase you to coerce you back and lower their price.

Do some window shopping if it all feels a bit overwhelming at first. Wander the souks for a little while to get a feel of the goods being sold and what it is you really want to buy. Have an idea in your mind of the maximum amount you’re willing to pay. It will also help if you have exact change. You may consider joining a walking tour or hiring a private guide if it will provide you with a higher level of comfort and security. Keep in mind that you will be taken to “particular” stores with whom the guide has connections. Don’t feel obliged to purchase items from these stores. You’ll also need to tip your guide.

FUN FACT: You might see a third person hold hands with a buyer and seller to help complete a sale in a local market.

Jasmine stands in front of colourful woven rugs in Marrakech medina, Morocco
Colourful ceramic plates in Essaouira Morocco
Leather bags for sale in Chefchaouen Morocco

3. Morocco SIM Card

The main telecommunications networks operating in Morocco are Maroc Telecom, Inwi and Orange. It is quite simple to purchase a prepaid SIM card at the airport or tobacco stands in the cities provided your smartphone is unlocked. Before we arrived, we read online that SIM cards cost more at the airport than on the street (which is probably the case most of the time).

Whilst we didn’t inquire of the price at the airport, we were handed a free SIM card when exiting at arrivals, however, the representative took a photo of our passport. In hindsight, this was not a smart move as we don’t know where that photo went or how it was used but we did not use this SIM card in the end.

Our riad host helped us to purchase a SIM card just on the outskirts of Marrakech Medina. We purchased a prepaid Maroc Telecom SIM card for 50 DH (approx €4) which gave us 5GB of data valid for 1 month. This was all we needed for our 10-day adventure as we mainly wanted access to Google Maps during our stay in Marrakech. We read that Maroc Telecom provided the best coverage across the country and since we were travelling all over, it ensured we remained connected too.

From our experience, the Maroc Telecom SIM card provide adequate coverage across Morocco. Data speeds varied depending on coverage but for most of our trip we had 3G signal and in the major cities sometimes better.

If you’re happy to communicate with friends and family via social media, then buying data via a prepaid SIM is good value and easy to do. This way, you have access to Google Maps, you can update your Instagram and not have to worry about extortionate international roaming charges.

4. Camel Riding

The use and treatment of animals as part of tourist attractions and “experiences” continues to be a hotly debated topic and rightly so. No animal, whether in the wild or in human care, should ever be subject to abuse. We as travellers should make informed decisions before engaging in any activities associated with animals.

Almost all camels in Morocco are domesticated and prized possessions. Long associated with the kingdom’s rich trading past, the one-humped dromedaries are still used by nomads for transportation. Nowadays, camels are increasingly being used in the tourism industry. During our time in Morocco, we personally did not witness any abuse or mistreatment of camels. We participated in a camel ride with Intrepid Travel where the animals appeared in good shape and treated well by the handlers overseeing our experience. If you are still unsure, make enquiries with your tour operators. This link also provides some handy information.

A woman stands facing a kneeling camel in Morocco

5. Tipping

Tipping in Morocco for service has become customary with the usual rule of thumb being around 10%. It is handy to carry some coins (dirhams and centimes) with you to aid in this process. Waiters will often bring the bill and mention that service is not included. Luggage porters and tour guides are usually also tipped. For taxi drivers, it is best to agree on a price before you hop into the car. The tip is usually already included in this agreed price.

6. Mint Tea

Mint tea in Morocco is what a pint of beer or cup of coffee is in the Western world. It is a much-loved tradition signifying hospitality and friendship and it would be considered impolite to refuse when it is offered to you. Morocco is one of the largest importers of Chinese gunpowder green tea which is in fact, one of the main ingredients of Moroccan tea.

Combined with fresh spearmint, boiling hot water and lots of sugar (we’re talking 4 – 6 sugar cubes per person!), you’ll be drinking mint tea at all times of the day! Moroccan tea is famously sweet so if you prefer your tea less sweet, make sure to check with your host. In restaurants and cafes, sugar cubes will usually come on the side so that you can add as much as you wish.

Mint tea and sugar cubes - things to know before your travel to Morocco
Pouring mint tea at NOMAD cafe Marrakech Morocco

7. Children

While primary school education is compulsory in Morocco, there are always exceptions. You’re likely to come across children often and they’re not shy to hold out their hands and ask for dirhams. As much as their faces may pull at your heartstrings, don’t give the children any money. If the children receive money from tourists and travellers, they will become reliant on it and start to or continue to skip school, which we don’t want to encourage!

8. Taking Photos

These days, we photograph everything and often without blinking an eye of how it may affect others around us. Be careful and respectful in Morocco. If you wish to take photos of locals in a certain setting, ask for their permission. Respect their wishes if they decline to have their photo taken. Be wary – some locals may say ‘yes’ and then ask for some money. As much as we love to visually document moments from our travels, it is more important to be respectful of people.

Two men sit outside blue door in Essaouira Morocco
A porter waits to assist travellers with their bags in Essaouira, Morocco

9. Money & ATMs

The official currency of Morocco is Moroccan Dirhams (MAD). Cash is widely used and is the preferred (or only) method of payment. Moroccan Dirhams is a closed currency, meaning that depending on where you arrive from, you will only be permitted to bring in and leave with a certain amount of dirhams. Don’t despair. ATMs are widely available in the major cities and towns. Make sure to notify your bank of your travel plans to prevent your card from being swallowed up!

We travelled with a tour group so our tour leader was able to advise when ATMs would and wouldn’t be available. If you’re bringing in foreign currency to buy Moroccan Dirhams on the ground, your best bet is to bring GBP, EUR or USD. Travelex and Western Union have several branches around the country and in major airports too.

10. Drones

Morocco has a strict NO drone policy. They are not even permitted into the country and your bags will be scanned at the airport on entry and before you exit. Make sure to leave your flying camera at home.

Rooftop view of Marrakech from Atay Cafe Restaurant Morocco
Cacti on display at Jardin Marjorelle Marrakech Morocco
View of Chefchaouen at sunset Morocco

11. Helpful Directions

When our taxi driver dropped us off in the main square in Marrakech, we were quite disorientated. International roaming wasn’t working on our phones and we hadn’t purchased a local SIM card yet. Fortunately, our driver let us take a photo of the Google Maps directions on his phone. Even then, there were hardly any street signs in the medina and we stuck out like a sore thumb with our backpack and suitcase.

A few local boys offered to direct us to our riad and whilst it may appear friendly, we knew that they would expect their help to be returned in kind with a tip. Given that we didn’t have any small change on us and the fact that the boys soon began to taunt us, we were loathe to accept their offer. “You’re lost aren’t you?”. “I can help you find your riad – come with me this way”. Eventually (and thankfully!), we managed to locate our riad by ourselves.

If you are staying in the medina and have not pre-arranged door-to-door transfers with your accommodation, just keep calm. Be firm with the locals if you don’t want their help. If you have an unlocked smartphone, consider buying a local SIM and then using Google Maps to help guide you.

12. Dress

The official religion of Morocco is Islam. About 99% of the population is Muslim. Many women wear a hijab and it was quite common for us to see locals wearing the traditional djellaba (a long loose hooded garment with full sleeves). If you’re visiting during the hottest months of the year (generally from June – August), pack clothes in lightweight, breathable fabrics. Climates in Morocco will vary from the north to the south and from the mountains to the coast.

It is strongly recommended that you dress conservatively and respectively, particularly during Ramadan. For women in particular, it would be wise to cover your knees and shoulders to not draw any unwanted attention or cause any offence, especially when visiting any religious places.

Facade within a Moroccan medina

13. Plastic

Since 1 July 2016, plastic bags have been banned in Morocco. The country ranks as one of the greenest in the world alongside Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia. Food markets will offer a micro-fibre cloth bag for your purchases. You can also assist by carrying reusable cloth bags and buying bottled water in larger containers.

14. Be prepared for hot & cold weather

Don’t underestimate the temperatures in Morocco like we did! We visited in late April/early May and whilst we knew we were bypassing the scorching middle-of-summer heat, we didn’t expect the mild/temperate climate. Our first night on our Southern Morocco tour was spent in the Atlas Mountains and had everyone rugged up in all their layers and warm blankets. Additionally, our experience in the Sahara Desert was hardly the blistering heat that we expected. In the evening, it was surprisingly and pleasantly cool. As such, we all dragged our mattresses from the tents and lay under the night sky.

Double check the climate for the time of year that you visit. The mountains tend to be much cooler given the elevation and the coastal cities will also be chilly from the wind factor. The hottest months are generally June – August.

Jasmine stands in front a hut with rusted doors in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

15. Language barriers

The official language of Morocco is Arabic and the other is Berber. Both are spoken throughout the country. In the larger cities, English and French are largely used but as you move into more rural areas, it will be more common to hear Berber and/or Arabic. Our tour guide was fluent in all four of these languages. Knowing a few phrases in French or Arabic will be helpful when you travel to Morocco.

Do you have any other Morocco travel tips to share?

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35 thoughts on “15 Important Things To Know Before Travelling To Morocco”

    • Thank you Moha! One of our most memorable trips to date! We appreciate you reading our post 🙂

      Reply
  1. I am going to Morocco next month. I noticed the article said to take GBP, EUROs or USD as cash to exchange, but what about Australian Dollars?
    I am planning on getting a local sim and your advice was very welcomed as was the whole article
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Clare! So glad to hear you’ve found this article helpful. So like we said, Moroccan Dirhams is a closed currency. Although we’re Australian, we actually travelled to Morocco from London and during our trip, we met travellers from Britain, the USA and Canada but funnily no Aussies! Honestly, we don’t recall seeing many money exchange places, but ATMs are quite prominent in the big cities. So provided you advised your Aussie bank that you’re travelling to Morocco, withdrawing cash should be okay except you also have to pay ATM fees most likely, which we did with our British bank cards with no problems at all.
      Hope this helps and enjoy Morocco! It’s it will be cold in March so pack something warm!
      Jasmine x

      Reply
    • Hi Anthony! We did do a withdrawal from the airport upon arriving. We flew from London Gatwick to Marrakech and decided to do our first withdrawal at the airport as we knew we would need cash to pay the taxi driver. Moroccan Dirhams is a closed currency so you can only buy a small quantity from limited FX places so if you can’t access it in your home country, this is likely your only option for when you first arrive. Hope this helps! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hello guys,

    Your article was simple and very helpful! I’m currently planning a trip to Marocco.

    I’ve got a question, if you don’t mind. Do you know if there are any trustworthy bus companies doing Marakech-Fez?

    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi there! Thank you so much for your feedback – we’re always so happy to hear that it has helped somebody to plan their own trip to Morocco. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to travel to Fez on this particular trip. I believe if you choose to catch a bus it will go via Casablanca. The two reliable bus companies we have heard of in Morocco are CTM or Supratours. We used CTM on one of our tours travelling from Essaouira to Marrakesh. They are coach style buses and the first class coaches are air-conditioned and tend to be direct routes. We would recommend reserving a seat on these buses as well. If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, even a riad, your hosts would certainly be able to point you in the right direction. Have a wonderful time in Morocco – we hope to return one day! 🙂 Jasmine

      Reply
  3. Great post! We will be traveling to Morocco in March of 2019. I have a question: did you take out your “at home” SIM card and replace it with the one in Morocco? I know that doing so changes your phone number to a local Morocco number. What impact did that have on texts?

    When we went to Australia, we took an older iPhone and put the sim card in that, so our regular phones were not impacted. I’m trying to figure out if that is necessary, or whether I should just replace the card in my newer, open iPhone. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    Shelley

    Reply
    • Hi Shelley! Yes, we did take our “at home” SIM card out and put the Moroccan SIM card in my iPhone as it is an unlocked smartphone so I knew it wouldn’t have any troubles. We mainly purchased the SIM card to have access to data so we could use Google Maps. The phone did ask me if I wanted to switch over to the local Moroccan number for WhatsApp but I just selected “No”.

      Where are you travelling from? Before we arrived in Morocco, we read in quite a few blogs that some American smartphones are locked and may not welcome a local SIM card but I can’t vouch for that. My iPhone was purchased in the UK but I knew it was unlocked and it would be fine to use a local SIM card. I hope this is of some help? We hope you love Morocco!

      Jasmine xx

      Reply
  4. Terrific article. I’m traveling to Morocco in a couple of days and these tips are exactly what I needed to know. Super practical, straight forward and answers all questions. Thank you!

    Reply
    • We are so thrilled to read this! Have a wonderful time in Morocco and if you come across any other handy tips, please come back and share them with us! Safe travels 🙂

      Reply
  5. I’m regards to languages, I have heard from many sources that Spanish is fairly commonly spoken in the North of Morocco so it can be helpful throughout that region. Can’t say for certain yet, but my ferry will be docking in an hour so I will find out first-hand soon enough!

    Reply
    • Hi! You’re absolutely right! When we visited Chefchaouen, we did notice that menus would often have English, Spanish and French translations. If you get to use some Spanish in the north, do let us know! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Great article! Straight to the point with good info, yet well put. It was super helpful as I will be traveling there in a month. Thank you and good luck on the rest of your travels! ?

    Reply
  7. Such an amazing article with very helpful info ! i loved reading and loved the stunning pictures as well . Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! We’re so glad to hear that you found this post helpful! If you’re travelling there soon, have an amazing time! 🙂

      Reply
  8. I like your article , and I’m 100 % agree . I’m from Morocco but Im living abroad . I know everything about Morocco I just want to see my country from other people view . Thank you

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for commenting! We appreciate hearing from a native Moroccan. We loved our time there and dream of visiting another day 🙂

      Reply
  9. This is all sounds like good advice (I’ll test it next week :-)). One thing I would add: Google Maps has an “offline maps” feature that lets you download in advance maps for areas that you’ll be visiting, and with the maps downloaded, you can use Google Maps without any Internet connection. We now always download the Google Maps before we leave home, and then we can navigate in a foreign city even before buying a SIM card.

    Reply
    • Google Offline maps doesn’t always work in Morocco! We’ve heard this from other travellers too as the souks are a labyrinth! The SIM card did help us many times though when navigating Marrakech. Would love to hear how you fared during your trip 🙂

      Reply
  10. Great article, precise and to the point. Unlike others, where I need to take vacation just to read them. I’m not interested in a novel, just basic info. Going to Marrakech tomorrow, this was helpful. Greetings 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for reading and letting us know! We’re thrilled to hear that you enjoyed this post and you found it helpful. Enjoy Morocco! It is a wonderful country 🙂

      Reply

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