Essential Morocco Travel Tips for an Unforgettable Journey

Casablanca – One Week Morocco Itinerary Along The Atlantic Coast – A World to Travel (1)

Morocco is an incredible, exotic country that’s rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From the busy cities to the vast deserts, Morocco offers you an unforgettable travel experience. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world!

But it’s also a country with its own unique customs and traditions. Some that are very different from what you may be used to if you’re visiting from a different culture. 

In this article, we’ll provide you with some essential Morocco travel tips that will help make your trip go smoothly. How to interact with the locals, approach your first shopping experience, and even how to get around while you’re here. It’s the perfect pre-planning guide.

🔌Electricity: Plug types C & E are common; voltage is 220V, 50Hz

💰Currency: the Dirham; one dirham is made up of 100 santims

🌦️Best times to Go: Spring (April & May) and Autumn (September & October)

🗣️Official Languages: Moroccan Arabic and Amazigh; most also speak French; Spanish is common in Northern and Southern Morocco

General Morocco Travel Tips

1. Respect Local Customs:

When traveling to Morocco, it’s important to keep in mind that the country is predominantly Muslim, and modesty is highly valued in Islamic culture. (Muslim people follow the religion of Islam).

➣ Modesty in how you dress is important. This is especially true in rural areas and around religious sites. And if you’re in a super conservative spot like a mosque, it’s a good idea to add an extra layer. Women, think about wearing a headscarf. You might consider just carrying a scarf around with you, in case you end up somewhere where you need a little extra cover.

➣ This applies to both sexes. Men and women should both steer clear of clothing that’s too revealing, like shorts, tank tops, or tight clothes. When you’re exploring religious spots, remember to cover your shoulders and knees, and ladies will want to cover their arms and legs too. 

➣ It’s a hot and humid climate. Loose-fitting things like knee-length skirts and dresses, or loose pants are good choices. Dress for men is more relaxed, but you’re best opting for long pants and shirts with sleeves.

➣ Beaches and surf spots along the coast tend to be more relaxed, but if in doubt, err on the side of modesty.

Related read: Morocco road trip along the Atlantic coast

2. Learn Basic Arabic Phrases

Locals appreciate visitors who make an effort to speak their language. Learn a few common greetings and polite expressions in Moroccan Arabic. The Atlas Cultural Foundation has a good online phrasebook. Here are a few to try:

➣ Salam alaikum (sah-lahm ah-lay-koom): This is the most common greeting in Morocco, and it means “peace be upon you.” The response is wa alaikum salam (wah ah-lay-koom sah-lahm), which means “and peace be upon you.”

➣ Sabah el-kheir (sah-bah el-khayr): This is a morning greeting that means “good morning.”

➣ Masa el-kheir (mah-sah el-khayr): This is an afternoon/evening greeting that means “good afternoon” or “good evening.”

➣ Shukran (shoo-krahn): This means “thank you.”

➣ Afak (ah-fak): This means “please” or “you’re welcome.”

➣ La shukran (lah shoo-krahn): This means “no thank you.”

➣ Bslama (bis-lah-mah): This is a farewell expression that means “go in peace.”

3. Bargain Wisely

Haggling is a common, even expected practice in the souks of the marketplaces. It is a negotiation process between the buyer and the seller to agree on a price that is acceptable to both of you. Here are some tips that can help you haggle effectively:

Research: If you’re nervous, do a little research on things you might want to buy before you head out to the souks. You’ll get an idea of what things are going for elsewhere and help you set a realistic target price.

Start low: Start with a lower price than what you are willing to pay. This will give you room to negotiate and increase your chances of getting a better deal.

Be patient: Haggling can take time, so be patient. Don’t rush the process, and be prepared to walk away if you can’t reach an agreement.

Maintain a friendly attitude: Be polite and respectful throughout the negotiation process, but try to also relax and have fun with it. A friendly attitude can go a long way in building rapport with the seller and increasing your chances of getting a good deal.

Know when to stop: It’s important to know when to stop haggling. If you’ve reached your target price, or if the seller is not willing to negotiate any further, it’s time to stop.

Haggling is all part of the fun of being in Morocco. It’s a negotiation process, and it’s important to approach it with a positive attitude. Be sure to maintain a friendly and respectful attitude towards the seller.

4. Carry Cash

It’s common for many places, especially in rural areas, to not accept cards. It’s a good idea to carry enough cash for small purchases and tips. A few more things to consider:

➣ Research: Before you travel, research the exchange rate. This will give you an idea of how much cash you need to carry.

➣ ATMs: ATMs are widely available in cities and towns in Morocco. You can use your debit or credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs. But it’s important to note that some ATMs may not accept foreign cards, so be sure to check with your bank before you travel.

➣ Cash exchange: You can exchange your currency for Moroccan Dirham at banks, exchange bureaus, and hotels. Exchange bureaus usually offer better rates than banks and hotels, though.

➣ Carry small denominations: It’s a good idea to carry small denominations of cash, as many vendors may not have change for larger bills. You’ll need it for tips, as well.

➣ Safety: It’s important to keep your cash safe while traveling. Don’t carry large amounts of cash in one place. Keep some in a secure place like a money belt or a hidden pocket.

5. Respect Ramadan Customs

If you’re traveling during Ramadan – the start time is different each year – it’s important to be mindful of the fasting hours. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, which means they refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours. 

Here are some Morocco travel tips that can help you during Ramadan:

Be respectful: It’s important to show respect for the local customs and traditions during Ramadan. Refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours, and dress modestly. Plan ahead and be prepared to have your meals in your room or away from people during the day.

Be patient: Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and self-discipline. It’s important to be patient and understanding during this time when you’re traveling in Morocco.

Be flexible: If you are traveling in Morocco during Ramadan, flexibility is important. Many restaurants and cafes may be closed during the day, and the streets may be quieter than usual. But, there are still plenty of things to see and do during Ramadan. 

Ramadan is a great time to explore Morocco. You get to experience this important cultural tradition in person, and get a feel for the people and what’s important to them.

Safety Tips

6. Dress Modestly

As mentioned, it’s important to dress carefully out of respect for the culture. But modest clothing can also help avoid unwanted attention. Women who dress modestly are less likely to be harassed or approached by men, which can help you feel safer while traveling. 

You’ll want to dress in lightweight and breathable fabrics, especially during the summer months, to stay comfortable in the hot weather. 

7. Secure Your Belongings

Petty theft can happen in Morocco, particularly in crowded areas. Here are a few Morocco travel tips to help you hold onto your belongings while traveling in Morocco. 

Again, avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Keep most of what you have in something like a money belt or hidden pocket.

Use a cross-body bag: They’re more difficult to grab than shoulder bags or backpacks. Keep the bag in front of you and keep an eye on it.

Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and aware of who and what’s around you at all times. This will become second nature before too long. Also avoid walking alone at night, especially in poorly lit areas.

Keep important things out of sight: Leave the valuables at home. Keep your phone, camera, and other electronics tucked away when not in use.

8. Avoid Isolated Areas at Night

Stay in well-lit, populated areas at night to stay safe, especially if you are traveling solo. Take a taxi door to door if you have somewhere to go after dark. Know what areas and neighborhoods you should stay out of outside daylight hours.

Cultural Etiquette

9. Greet with Your Right Hand

When shaking hands or giving/receiving something, always use your right hand, as the left hand is considered impolite.

In Moroccan culture, greetings are an important part of social interaction. When you greet someone, offer your right hand to shake. After shaking hands with an elder or a child, you may then touch your right hand to your heart in respect.

If either of you has a full or dirty right hand, the other person might grip the right wrist instead of the hand. 

10. Accept Invitations

If you’re lucky enough to be invited into someone’s home, accept graciously. It’s an honor and a gesture of hospitality. Refusal is rude.

It’s polite to bring a little something, like flowers or a small box of sweets. It’s a nice way to show your appreciation for their generosity.

Make it a point to dress modestly, and If you’re female, be sure to cover your head. You’ll need to remove your shoes outside the door of the house. 

Make sure to greet each person in the room with a smile, and shake each person’s hand.

It’s likely that you’ll be offered a glass of tea, and it’s good manners to accept.

11. Ask Permission for Photos

When taking photos of locals in Morocco, it’s important to show your respect by asking your subject for consent first. This can be done through a polite gesture, a smile, and showing your camera.

One of the few basic phrases in Moroccan Arabic (Wash momkin nswr?) or French you might learn is “Can I take a picture?” 

If locals refuse, respect their wishes and move on. Avoid taking sneaky shots as they can make people uncomfortable and cause conflicts. 

This really is a good idea wherever you’re traveling.

Read also: 30 Destinations in Africa you should visit

Transportation Tips

12. Getting around Morocco

➣ Walk when you can. To really soak up the Moroccan atmosphere, there’s nothing like walking through the busy streets. And especially in cities like Marrakech and Fez, it’s more practical to explore the Medina on foot.

Always keep a map handy, a paper one or a map app on your phone. Be ready to get a little lost – it’s a great way to discover unexpected and interesting places. A map app will get you right on track again, so no worries.

Always carry the address of your accommodation with you, in Arabic and/or French if you can. A business card is perfect. Then if you’re quite hopelessly lost or it starts to get dark, you can just hop in a taxi.

➣ Take the train. Consider the excellent rail network for longer distances. I love the train system in Morocco. It’s not only efficient, reliable, and comfortable, but also offers a great chance to soak in the country’s scenic beauty. 

➣ Hop on a bus. If you’re traveling between cities, buses are an economical option. Companies like CTM and Supratours are comfortable. Just be sure you book your tickets in advance. 

➣ Wait to speak till spoken to: It’s not a habit in Morocco for strangers to engage in conversation on public transportation. It’s best to respect people’s privacy and personal space. If someone initiates a conversation with you, feel free to respond politely. And if you are eating a snack, it’s rude not to offer some to others around you.

* In Moroccan culture, showing the soles of your feet is considered disrespectful. Keep this in mind when sitting on public transportation, or anywhere else.  

➣ Trade two legs for 4. If you’re in the Sahara or Agafay Deserts, ride a camel! Not usually an option around cities, but if you get the chance, take it! It’s an unforgettable Moroccan experience that you shouldn’t miss. A day trip in Agafay is epic.

Understand Local Traffic

13. Road rules may be different than you’re used to

Pedestrians should be extra cautious when walking in Moroccan cities and towns. Traffic can be chaotic, unpredictable, and fast, with cars, buses, and mopeds weaving in and out of traffic. 

Pedestrian crossings are rarely respected, especially in larger cities, so it’s important to be very careful when crossing the road. In smaller places, it’s also important to be aware of other hazards such as bicycles, donkeys, and camels that may be sharing the road with you. 

Food and Dining

14. Expand your palate

There is a lot of delicious food to try throughout Morocco. The blends of spices are unique, and you may see ingredients you never expected. That’s part of the fun, too!

➣ Try local cuisine: Moroccan cuisine is a blend of Berber, Arabic, and Mediterranean influences. It’s known for its bold flavors, spices, and herbs. Be sure to include some simple dishes like tagine and couscous. But stay away from raw seafood, and make sure all meat is cooked through.

➣ Eat where the locals eat: Look for places that are crowded with locals. They are likely to serve authentic and delicious food. Street food is a great option when sampling local delicacies.

➣ Use bread as silverware: In Morocco, it’s common not to use silverware. Meals are eaten communally from a large dish – not on individual plates. You’ll use bread as silverware, not a fork or spoon. This is all a part of the fun – do as the locals do!

➣ Be aware of dietary restrictions: As anywhere, if you have any dietary restrictions, it’s best to inform the restaurant staff beforehand. Options like halal, vegetarian, and vegan dishes are usually easy to find.

➣ Be prepared to see a lot of mint tea: It’s a popular drink in Morocco and is served throughout the day. It’s a symbol of hospitality. 

15. Be mindful of hygiene

When it comes to street food and food stalls, choose the cleanest-looking ones. Always avoid eating salads, fruits, and vegetables that may have been washed in tap water. This goes for ice cubes too. The tap water is not safe to drink.

You should also carry toilet paper with you whenever you’re out exploring. Public bathrooms aren’t common, so if you stop at a cafe for lunch, be sure to use their facilities. And chances are high that there will be no toilet paper. Expect to see squat toilets, too.

16. Respect Dining Etiquette

When invited to someone’s home, always wait to be seated, and eat with your right hand. It’s polite to finish all the food on your plate, too. Also:

Dressing modestly applies to dining occasions as well. When dining in more formal settings, try to dress up a bit. Men often wear suits or traditional Moroccan attire, while women opt for conservative and stylish outfits.

Greet your host: In Morocco, hospitality is deeply ingrained in the culture. Greetings play an important role in establishing a warm and welcoming atmosphere. When entering a restaurant or someone’s home, greet your host with a sincere “As-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you).

Wait to be told where you should sit: Moroccan dining often involves seating arrangements that reflect social hierarchies and customs. The host takes the seat of honor, often at the head of the table. Guests are seated based on their age, status, or relationship with the host.

Use your right hand here too: When it comes to eating in Morocco, using your hands is common. Moroccans traditionally eat with their right hand, using the thumb and first two fingers to pick up food. 

This method is especially followed while enjoying traditional dishes like couscous or tagine. But at a more formal meal, you might see cutlery at the table. If you do, it’s polite to use them. 

Accommodation

17. Choose the best stay for your needs

There are a few things to keep in mind when arranging where you’re going to stay while you’re here:

Choose the right location: Morocco has a good variety of accommodation options, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. You’ll be able to choose your location based on what you want to see. For example, the Medina area is a good choice if you want to explore traditional Marrakech.

Book in advance: Morocco is a popular destination, and accommodation can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. (March through May and September/October are the busiest times).

Consider the style of accommodation: Morocco has a rich cultural heritage, and this is reflected in the architecture and design of its accommodation options. I highly recommend you spend some time at a traditional riad. You might also want to do some camping in the desert and experience some of the local modern hotels. 

Read reviews: Before booking your stay, read reviews from other travelers. They’re a good, easy way to get an idea of the quality of service and amenities offered by the accommodation.

Health and Hygiene

18. Visit your doctor or travel clinic:

Do this at least 6 weeks before you leave on your trip. This will allow time for any vaccinations or medications that they might recommend to take effect. At the very least, always be sure that your routine inoculations are up-to-date. Also, discuss antimalarial options.

19. Remember your hand hygiene:

This isn’t just about avoiding Covid. It will help you stay healthy, which goes a long way toward making sure you have a great trip. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer frequently.

20. Don’t drink the water:

Buy bottled water, boil water, or use another method of purifying your drinking water. This means avoiding any tap water, fountain drinks, ice cubes, and fruits and vegetables that might have been washed in tap water.

 21. Beware of little critters:

There is a risk of mosquito-borne illnesses in Morocco. Avoid getting bit by wearing light-colored clothing that covers you up and using insect repellent. Screened rooms are also important. 

As well, parasites and bacteria can be found in freshwater here. Be careful when swimming, and do a little research on a spot before you dive in.

Local Customs:

22. Participate in Tea Rituals:

If you’re invited for tea while visiting Morocco, always accept. Tea is a symbol of hospitality and respect. It’s customary to have several rounds during a visit, and the ceremony can last as long as an hour.

➣ Mint tea is very common in Morocco, and very delicious. It’s the custom to pour the tea from high above the glass to create a froth. Hold the tea glass by placing your middle finger on the bottom of the glass and your thumb on the top rim to avoid getting burned.

➣ The tea is most often served along with cookies or some other sweet. 

➣ Traditionally, you will drink three glasses of tea. The first is said to be as bitter as life, the second as strong as love, and the third as sweet as death. 

23. Respect Friday Prayer Time:

Businesses and restaurants may close on Fridays. This is an important day for Muslim people, who typically spend the day feasting with family. Plan ahead by picking up whatever you will need for Friday’s meals and snacks on Thursday, along with anything else you might need.

Communication:

24. Use Polite Titles:

When you meet someone familiar or pass them on the street, it’s impolite to just say “hi” and keep walking. Stop to shake hands and ask them how they’re doing. Also, when addressing someone use titles like Mr. or Mrs. followed by their last name as a sign of respect.

25. Get a local SIM

For long-distance communication, pick up a local SIM card. It’s an easy and affordable way to stay connected while you’re traveling in Morocco. You can buy a SIM card at the airport or in many places around the cities. The two main providers are Maroc Telecom and Orange.

In Summary – Morocco Travel Tips

Morocco is a beautiful, exotic country with a fascinating culture and history. It’s a destination with many different faces, from the lively cities to the tranquil desert. With the right preparation and knowledge, you’ll have an unforgettable experience in Morocco

Remember to pack light, dress appropriately, and use your bug spray. Don’t forget to try the local cuisine and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture! I hope these travel tips have been helpful in planning your trip to Morocco.

Keep reading: Best things to do in Morocco

– Contributed by Deb Hendricks