Why am I calling them Essential Morocco Travel Tips? Because Morocco is not an easy country to travel independently and it can quickly turn into a very stressful trip if you don’t know some things before.
I’m an avid traveler, I’ve been to 55 countries, mostly by myself, but Morocco was challenging. I actually left the country two weeks before my flight was scheduled because I felt very uncomfortable. And I’m based in Egypt, so I’m used to some hassle, but this was next level.
I guess my expectations were completely off, which is why I want to give you some tips before you actually get to Morocco. They’ll help make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful.
That being said, the architecture and nature in Morocco are stunning, it’s definitely worth a visit even though there’s a lot of things I didn’t like. You can get some inspiration in my photo diary of Morocco. If you’re planning on doing a road trip in Morocco, I also have lots of helpful tips in this article. Let’s get started!
7 Essential Morocco Travel Tips You Have To Know Before Going:
1. Be aware of scams in Morocco
Tourist scams are common in many countries, and the same goes for Morocco. Whether it’s corrupt cops trying to charge you for driving misbehavior you have or have not committed, or people offering you help to find your way in the medinas. First Morocco travel tip: Don’t trust anyone, they’re out for your money and nothing else.
During all my years of traveling, I’ve never experienced as many scammers as I have in Marrakech. It makes you disappointed in humanity, seriously. Make sure you read up on the most common scams beforehand in order to avoid the drama.
2. Be prepared for hassle
Morocco is not a country that can be traveled hassle-free on a budget. If you want a relaxing vacation, be prepared to spend some money on private transportation and good hotels (you can get amazing ones starting from $100) or a fully organized tour.
This ensures you will not be hassled by bus/taxi drivers and hotel staff as well as people lurking around your riad/guest house. Especially in the medinas and around bus stations or popular tourist spots, everyone will try to offer you something and rip you off.
3. Book tours & hotels before you arrive on-site
You don’t have to book everything before you even arrive at the airport, but I do recommend booking a hotel before you arrive in a new city instead of looking for one when you get there. It’s hard to navigate there without a plan. The souks are confusing and people will ask you for money showing you the way, and in remote places everything is spread quite far so it’s hard to just scout hotels on-site.
Most regular tourists probably do this anyway, but for me as a long-term traveler or for backpackers it’s not standard. The same goes for tours like the Sahara desert tour. Once you arrive in Merzouga, the town where the tours start from, you will be stopped by dozens of people trying to sell you tours aggressively.
4. Moroccan food is really bad
One of my biggest misconceptions about Morocco was the taste of the local cuisine. I was so excited to try the famous tajines and couscous dishes, especially as a vegetarian. Oh boy, was I wrong! There was not a single tajine that I liked, and I wasn’t the only one having that problem.
Pretty much everyone I met, vegetarian or meat-eater, was extremely disappointed by the lack of flavor. Yes, the meat is well cooked, but while the markets are full of colorful spices, restaurants don’t seem to use any of them for cooking. Hard to believe, but the Moroccan cuisine was one of the bluntest I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried A LOT.
There are, of course, some good restaurants in the big cities, but you do have to spend money to get anything tasty (price level is comparable with good European restaurants). There’s also hardly any street food. So one of my Morocco Travel Tips is to have low expectations about the food and prepare to splurge a bit if you want a tasty dinner.
5. English is not widely understood in Morocco
Brush up on your language skills, ladies and gentleman! It is definitely not easy to get around with English (unless you’re in a fancy hotel), so you better download a good translation app or practice your French.
I was really surprised to find out that you can actually get around with Spanish very well too, especially south of Marrakech (Atlas Mountains & Sahara Desert). I’d been living in Egypt for almost two years at that point so I usually understand at least a bit of Arabic as well, but it’s completely different than the Arabic in the Middle East.
6. Get a local SIM card
…and if it’s just for the sole reason of being able to use a translation app. I bought a Telecom sim card and had much better service all over the country than my friend who bought his Orange sim card at the airport. The price was 200 DH for 20GB (roughly 10 DH per GB), only the sim card is usually like 30 DH.
7. You can’t exchange Moroccan money anywhere else in the world.
Seriously. Whatever money you still have left at the end of your trip, exchange it at the airport as this is your last chance – I wish I had known this Morocco travel tip because I still have like 200€ in Dirhams lying around at home. Unless you want to come back soon, it doesn’t make any sense to keep it even when the exchange rate isn’t good at the airport.