Morocco is a unique, wild country in Northern Africa. While it is close to Europe, traveling there is much different than its northern neighbors. They speak less English, practice different religions and much more. Traveling through Morocco will be sure to give you new experiences and memories and, when you’re done, you’ll be wanting to come back. Here are 10 things you should know before traveling to Morocco.
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In Morocco they speak many different languages. Their official languages are Arabic and Berber. A lot of Moroccan people also speak French. So English is not widely spoken. It is not like traveling through Europe where most people can speak at least some English. Before you arrive, download Google Translate on your phone so you can have offline access to French and Arabic translations.
In Morocco, the vast majority of their population are Muslim. Everyday, five times a day, you’ll be hearing the call to prayer. Being from a non-muslim, country, this was such a unique and cool experience for me. There are a lot of mosques throughout the country. Non-muslims are not normally allowed into mosques except for the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Hassan II Mosque is the 7th largest mosque in the world and the largest in Africa. Make sure you stop in Casablanca to see it. It is incredible!
Travel Tip: Be sure to know if you are traveling during Ramadan. If you are traveling to Morocco during this time of year (typically 1 month during the spring) you will have a different travel experience. People who participate in Ramadan fast (so no eating or drinking) when the sun is up. So restaurants are likely to be closed if the sun is still up.
Because the country is Muslim, I would also suggest dressing more conservatively. Bigger cities like Marrakech might not mind as much since they see a lot of tourists, but if you’re going to venture outside of big cities be respectful of their culture. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees.
3. Tipping Culture
In Morocco the currency is Dirham. One Dirham is equal to about $0.10 USD, so 100 Dirham is about $1 USD. One of the things that surprised me is the tipping culture in Morocco. Unlike traveling in Europe, you should be tipping at least 10% at restaurants. Be sure to tip anyone who provides you with a service, for example tour guides, drivers, hotel staff, etc. at least a few dirham.
Morocco was much colder than I expected. We even saw snow! I never knew it could snow in Morocco. We visited Morocco in November and started our trip in the north by Casablanca then made a big loop to Fes, the Sahara Desert, Todra Gorge, and then onward to Marrakech. It was very, very cold for the first half of our trip and I did not bring enough layers. The south of Morocco has much warmer temperatures all year long.
In the summertime, Morocco can get very, very hot, often reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you are prepared for the hot and cold temperatures Morocco can have.
5. Don’t Drink the Tap Water
While it may be safe for Moroccans to drink, the tap water in Morocco is not safe for most Westerners to drink. You will probably be okay if you drink it, but it might upset your stomach. To be safe, don’t drink the tap water unless you have a filtered water bottle.
Travel Tip: Purchase a LifeStraw Filtered Water bottle so you can drink water anywhere!
Our tour guide even suggested to not brush our teeth with the water to avoid illness. My partner and I did brush our teeth with the water because we had been traveling full-time and felt confident we wouldn’t swallow any while brushing. We were both fine, but a few people on our trip did get a bit sick, but that could have also been from the food.
A medina is an old part of a city, normally walled with narrow streets that feel like a maze. In modern Arabic, medina simply means city or town. But medinas in Northern Africa typically refer to the very old parts of the cities. The streets are so narrow that most medinas are free from cars and motorbikes.
I would suggest the first time you enter a medina (probably in Marrakech) to go with a guide. It is very easy to get lost in medinas. But they are so special and you are sure to find some great deals there. A guide will be able to point out things you would miss without one.
7. Be Careful with Valuables
It is important to be careful with your valuables while traveling through Morocco (and traveling anywhere truly). Our local guide warned us to make sure you are putting your valuables in the safe in your hotel/hostel and to not keep things in your pockets when walking around.
This is especially important when exploring Marrakech and going through medinas. Keep your purses zipped up and close to your body and do not put your phone in your back pocket that makes it easy for pickpocketing.
Travel Tip: Use a money belt to keep your valuables safe on your body away from pickpocketers.
8. Animal Rights
One thing that is clear in Morocco is that animals are not treated the same way as in Western countries. You may be a little shocked with how animals are treated in Morocco. For example, in Marrakech, in the main square of the city, it is flooded with snake charmers, monkeys on chains, and tons of horses giving carriage rides. The snakes have their fangs ripped out, are most likely drugged to remain sedated, and do not live more than a few weeks.
Please, for the sake of these animals, do not participate in animal tourism. Do not take pictures of them or pay to touch them. Doing so encourages the harm of these animals.
9. Transportation within the Country
In Morocco, taxis are very common. Each city has a different colored taxi to use. For example, in Casablanca and Fes, the taxis are red and in Marrakech the taxis are orange. There are always many taxis around and you can easily get a taxi from standing on the street.
Travel Tip: Do NOT get into a taxi unless they agree to run the meter. They will try to scam you into paying more. Before you get in, they will try to negotiate a price with you. Do not agree to that. It is often way more expensive than if they run the meter. If you agree to a price, they will often double it when you arrive at your destination.
Trains are also widely used throughout Morocco. We used them to travel several times. They are relatively cheap and easily connect you from city to city. You can get to most major cities in Morocco by train, like Casablanca, Marrakech, Rabat, Fes, Essaouira and many more. There are plenty of trains departing daily from Casablanca to Marrakech for about $12 USD one way which would take about 2 to 3 hours.
Buses are probably the cheapest option while traveling through Morocco. They can go more places than a train can, but it might be slower travel time. The two major companies to book bus trips with are CTM and SupaTours. For a trip from Casablanca to Marrakech, it will cost about $9 USD one way and should take about 3 hours.
10. Moroccan Tea
Moroccan tea is delicious! It is green tea with fresh mint and a whole lot of sugar. I mean a ton of sugar! I loved it- super sweet, fresh taste. Moroccans have tea all of the time- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between! They will always be serving up tea so get ready! Tea is always served beautiful silver teapots and in a very unique way of pouring. It is definitely a huge part of Moroccan culture. Be sure to order it when you go out to dinner or take a tea making class!
Did you know Moroccans even give cones of sugar used in the tea to propose to their significant other?