19 Best Things To Know Before Visiting Morocco 2024

As an avid traveller who recently visited the magical country of Morocco, I was captivated by its bustling souks, ornate riads, towering mosque minarets and the majestic Atlas Mountains.

However, unlike Europe, Morocco has its own unique culture, etiquette and way of life that first-time visitors may find surprising or confusing.

Things To Know Before Visiting Morocco

During my own trip, I made some blunders – like wearing sleeveless tops or shaking hands with the opposite gender – considered rude in the Islamic culture.

Getting hassled relentlessly by hustling shop touts and persistent demands for tips really irritated me initially given my relaxed Caribbean mindset.

Through trials and errors exploring the alleyways of Marrakech and hiking the High Atlas terrain near idyllic villages. I gained plenty of insights on what makes travel in Morocco easier and more enjoyable for first time visitors.

Things To Know Before Visiting Morocco

From dress etiquette, haggling tips, avoiding scams and handling persistent touts to figuring out transportation, this Morocco travel guide details everything you need to make your maiden trip to this mesmerizing North African country. Here is what to know before travelling to Morocco!

1. Morocco Is an Islamic Country

Ben Youssef Madrasa

What to know before travelling to Morocco is that Morocco is a Muslim country, with Islam being the official state religion. About 99% of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims.

As such, it’s important to dress modestly when visiting public places. Shoulders and knees should be covered. Public displays of affection, even handholding, should be avoided.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. As a visitor, you aren’t expected to fast, but you should avoid eating, chewing gum or smoking in public while others are fasting. Ramadan festivities at night carry on quite late and most restaurants will be closed until after sunset prayers.

2. The Local Currency Is the Moroccan Dirham

The local currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). Many places accept euros, but you’ll always get a better exchange rate if you pay in dirhams, this is one of the top tips for travelling to Morocco.

ATMs are widely available if you want to withdraw cash. Credit cards are accepted in mid-range to high-end establishments.

When exchanging money, always count your change carefully and check for counterfeit bills, especially for 200- and 500-dirham notes. It’s advised to exchange money only at authorised exchange bureaus or banks to avoid black marketers.

3. Moroccan Arabic Is the Spoken Language

Most Moroccans speak Moroccan Arabic in day-to-day conversations. French is also widely spoken, due to Morocco being a French protectorate in the early 19th century.

Spanish is spoken in the north and the Sahrawi areas. English isn’t very common, mostly in areas frequented by tourists.

As a tourist, brushing up on a few basic Arabic phrases will make your interactions with locals more rewarding. “mrhban” (hello), “shkran lak” (thank you) and “Afwan” (you’re welcome) can go a long way.

4. Touts and Scammers Abound, Especially in Tourist Areas

Rules for visiting Morocco

In tourist hotspots like Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, touts and scammers trying to sell you stuff are commonplace. Common scams to watch out for are:

  • Being sweet talked into buying overpriced souvenirs
  • Led to shops they have deals with for a commission
  • Offered fake ancient coins or artifacts
  • Given incorrect change

Always be alert when dealing with new friendly strangers. Don’t hesitate to bargain firmly for souvenirs and politely decline if you’re not interested.

Not responding and walking away is often the best way to handle touts. Also, ask your riad or hotel staff on approximate prices of items you wish to buy.

5. Driving Can Be Chaotic

driving in Morocco scaled

While driving in Morocco is on the right side of the road, just like North America and mainland Europe, driving habits tend to be chaotic and undisciplined.

It’s not uncommon to encounter unclear signboards, unmarked speed bumps, donkeys and livestock wandering on highways as well as overloaded vehicles.

Lane discipline is poor, and you’ll often find vehicles overtaking on either side. Most drivers don’t adhere to speed limits either. It’s advisable not to drive at night. Unless you are an experienced driver, hire a private car or use buses and trains for inter-city travel.

6. Quality of Street Food Can Be Inconsistent

Moroccan street food is iconic, delicious, and budget-friendly. However, due to lack of proper regulation, quality can be inconsistent at times.

Avoid stalls that have food sitting out in the open sun for hours or have flies hovering around. Check for signs of fresh preparation like hearing sizzles from a tagine on the stove.

It’s always better to eat at proper restaurants to avoid a bad stomach, but if you do wish to sample street food, opt for fresh fruits or items that are prepared right in front you like harira soup, brochettes or crepes. Avoid anything with mayonnaise if it has been sitting out for long.

7. Get Offers in Writing to Avoid Payment Issues

While most Moroccans are genuinely warm and hospitable people, there are a few who try to scam tourists whenever they spot an opportunity. To avoid payment disputes, always ask for written confirmations with specific charges listed even for small purchases.

For example, get receipts from street food carts or written price quotes from merchants to avoid arguments over charges later. When hiring cars or guides, have a printed contract clearly mentioning agreed fees and charges. Paying a little extra for the peace of mind is worth it.

8. Be Firm About What You Want on Tours

Best Things to Do in Marrakech Morocco scaled

Rules for visiting Morocco – a common issue many tourists face are unpleasant surprises or demands for more money midway through private tours. For example, being taken to shops or unknown locations despite clearly stating an itinerary.

To avoid this, be very firm right at the start on exactly what places you want to visit and get it confirmed in writing.

During the tour, politely decline any suggested detours or additional stops added spontaneously. Don’t be afraid to firmly remind the guide if they diverge from the agreed tour plan.

If they refuse to comply, you always have the option of discontinuing the tour and hiring another guide instead.

9. Getting Sick Is Common

This is one of my best travel Morocco tips, due to the different food and water conditions, many travellers suffer some form of sickness while in Morocco – most commonly ‘Traveller’s Diarrhoea’. Other illnesses include flu, cold, nausea, food poisoning, etc.

Having a medical kit with ORS packets, electrolyte supplements, antacids and medicines for pain, nausea and diarrhoea is highly recommended.

Also, no matter how hungry or thirsty you get, avoid tap water, raw meat, uncooked veggies and questionable street food. Only drink sealed bottled water and stick to hot, thoroughly cooked vegetarian dishes to minimise health issues.

10. Be Sensible About What You Wear and Post Online

While Morocco’s culture encourages tolerance, it is still a largely conservative country. Avoid revealing, skimpy clothing when going around town. Men shouldn’t go bare-chested, and women are advised to cover cleavage and shoulders.

You are asking for trouble from religious nuts or perverts by wearing inappropriate clothing, so best to avoid this.

Be sensible about what photos you post online too – keep it clean. Candid pictures showing intimacy or featuring alcohol/drugs can offend some people. The last thing you need is an angry online mob baying for your blood!

11. Getting Hassled to Buy is Common

Shop owners in tourist markets can be extremely persistent in trying to make a sale. The minute they spot a potential customer, price quotes and pleas to ‘come check my shop’ start. Even if you say ‘No Thank You’, many continue to hassle you relentlessly.

Bargaining is expected, so never accept an initial quoted price. Stall owners often start at 3-4 times the actual value before eventually agreeing to a reasonable price after bargaining. If you’re not interested in buying, a curt “No!” and walking off briskly usually works.

12. Taxi Fares Often Require Negotiation

Here is what to expect in Morocco, unlike urban taxis in most countries that run by meter, Moroccan cabs generally don’t have meters and require negotiating the fare with the driver beforehand. Hotels can arrange an airport pickup with a trusted driver for a fixed fee.

But for other routes, know that the fare depends on factors like distance, time taken, luggage quantity etc.

Don’t be afraid to bargain firmly until you reach an acceptable price – local drivers try to gauge and charge foreigners inflated rates assuming they don’t know better. Before getting in, make sure you and the driver clearly agree on the fare. Have the exact change ready to avoid further discrepancies after reaching your destination.

13. Quality of Accommodation Can Vary

Dos and Donts in Morocco

In Morocco’s cheap hotels and riads, ‘standards’ differ greatly in amenities and services. Budget rooms compromising on comfort is understandable, but issues like lack of heating, noisy plumbing and musty odours are common even mid-range places. If this is your first time in Africa, the read this ultimate travel guide to Marrakech Morocco.

Online reviews can’t always be relied on either – many places have got family/friends to post fake 5-star reviews.

To avoid disappointment, speak to the hotel staff directly before booking and confirm specific requirements like room types, meal options, heating, housekeeping frequency etc rather than assuming anything. This is one of my top travel tips for Morocco.

14. Be Careful When Exchanging Money

Though there are many legit currency exchanges, black market money changers on the street offer seemingly better exchange rates to con tourists. They make a sleight of hand or use doctored calculators to trick people while counting out the money.

A common scam is to fold one or two bills under another without the customer noticing. Later the scammer shows the partially hidden bills saying you didn’t count properly.

Use only trusted exchange bureaus like Forex Change or Western Union for currency conversion. Avoid black marketeers roaming the streets no matter how good their rate seems.

15. Always Confirm Multiple Transportation Options

When planning sightseeing trips, have back up plans for getting back instead of relying solely on your guide/driver.

Note bus numbers plying the route, how to request taxis via phone/app or schedule alternate drivers beforehand. You might get abandoned somewhere if a dispute ensues or vehicle breaks down enroute.

In smaller towns, budget hotels offer packaged day trips combining both transport and guides taking you places. Check for vehicle registration details and avoid dilapidated vehicles. Also, useful having the hotel’s local emergency contact number handy before venturing out.

16. Get Receipts for Deposits and Advance Payments

Many Moroccan hotels and tour operators demand full or heavy advance payment for booking confirmation citing high seasons and demand. While established brands are usually reliable, a few dodgy operators take the money and later refuse check in saying no rooms available.

Insist on getting proper receipts clearly mentioning check-in/out dates, room type and number of guests whenever you make advance payments directly or online. For extra protection, take photos of owners/staff you interact with and notify friends/family about where you’re staying before arriving.

17. Solo Female Travellers Get Harassed More – Visiting Morocco as a Woman

Is Morocco dangerous for Tourists? Yes, While violent crime is extremely rare in Morocco, solo female travellers often face constant ogling, catcalling and uncomfortable questions from unfamiliar local men considering conservative background. Heckling tends to happen more in congested public places like souks and markets.

A cold ‘Don’t talk to me!’ is enough to silence most creeps. But if harassment continues, approach the nearest woman, family or shop owner indicating your discomfort and they’ll intervene.

Have emergency contacts handy and avoid isolated areas when alone. Local female guides greatly minimize hassles exploring conservative neighbourhoods.

18. Expect Repeated Requests for Tips

It’s customary to tip waiters, bag handlers and other service staff in Morocco. However, persistent demands for tips even for tiny tasks can get annoying e.g. pushing a door open for you or pointing directions.

Porters stalk you for miles literally begging to carry your bags for tip money. Kindly but firmly decline unsolicited favours unless you actually need assistance. For necessary staff like drivers and guides, tip what you deem reasonable at the END of service periods – Requesting tips upfront means illness or disappearing midway.

19. Hotel Breakfasts May Not Meet Expectations

Rooftop Terrace Morocco scaled

Morning meals are included with most hotel room bookings. But the spread varies greatly depending on your budget.

Some places provide just basic bread, jam and juice where others have elaborate buffets. When expecting a nice hearty breakfast after an early flight, a slice of plain cake can be upsetting.

Request details before checking in if morning meals matter. Pictures online can be misleading too – those plump omelettes may just be folded up crepes in reality.

Plus, dishes sit uncovered for hours risking contamination. For a safer, tastier start of day, head out to one of many cool cafes serving fresh baguettes, doughy msemmen flatbread with honey or creamy bessara dip.

Dos and Don’ts in Morocco

Travelling to Morocco as a first timer can seem daunting, but I hope this guide has provided ample insights and tips to make your maiden trip smoother. By dressing appropriately, being firm with the touts, paying attention to hygiene and exercising common sense, Morocco can indeed be a wonderfully rewarding destination.

The key is to respect local culture while also not tolerating any mistreatment. Stay vigilant of petty crimes, but don’t let fear overshadow the magical experience of wandering through ancient medinas and gazing awestruck at vibrant Djemaa el-Fnaa street performers.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *