The essential 10 tips for first-time travelers to Morocco

 

There are always 2 sides of the coin when visiting a country for the first time. Like most travellers, I choose to see the good, but sometimes it’s hard to miss the not so good things. On that note, I feel it only my duty to share these essential tips for first-time visitors to Morocco.

A country at the peak of north Africa, Morocco’s tourism industry is one that continues to grow in popularity. The country’s a popular destination for many tourists, but don’t forget that it’s still a Muslim country and a strict one at that. 

What you need to know if visiting Morocco for the first time

Arriving at Marrakech Menara Airport? Bring a pen

This might seem like an odd tip to begin with, but hear me out. When you arrive at Marrakech Menara airport, you’ll need to fill out an immigration form as standard. What’s not standard, is that there are no pens at the stands with immigration forms.

Unknowingly, many people head straight to the immigration counter, only to be told that they need to fill out a form first. It’s a bit chaotic and can delay the procedure of exiting the airport.

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The language

The main languages in Morocco are Arabic and French. I came across many Moroccans (mainly men) that spoke fluent Spanish and Italian — better than English. There are some who speak (broken) English, but if you know any of the above, you’ll have a slight advantage.

Taxis in Marrakech

In Marrakech, the taxis are yellow, and come in different forms. However, when taking a taxi, we never once saw a meter. Instead, we negotiated a price before getting in. On the one occasion when we didn’t do this, the driver cheekily asked for €20 for a 10-minute ride. Naturally we said no, as by this point, we knew the price point. Taxis aren’t as cheap as you might think, and Uber is available in some places in Morocco.

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Unwilling taxi drivers in Fes

In Fes, I’m sorry to use this word, but beware of lazy taxi drivers. We had 2 drivers: 1 who refused to take us to the old medina from the new city (6 minutes driving), and another who didn’t take us to our destination. Instead, he dropped us off at the famous blue gate, which was another 15 minutes walk from our destination. I was more than happy to pay for him to take us closer to our destination, but he just wasn’t willing. On the plus side, taxis in Fes do have meters, so you can rest assured you’re not being scammed. 

Driving isn’t for the faint hearted

We decided to do a road trip around Morocco, and I’m so lucky that my partner did all the driving! We met many bad (and illogical) drivers, especially when in the cities. Pay very close attention to the cars, motorcycles, bicycles and horse and cart in Marrakech. Also, it may just be the norm in Morocco, but people don’t seem to look when crossing the streets! We saw at least 3 road accidents during our travels. 

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“However, taxis in Fes do have meters, so you can rest assured you’re not being scammed.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten
Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten
Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten

Don’t make eye contact

Whenever I’m in a place I’m unfamiliar with (even at home), I always pretend I know where I’m going. It’s a sign of confidence, though faux, and one that I use often.

Whether walking in the medina or in the car, I advise as much as possible not to make eye contact. We had a few incidences with young Moroccan guys who were quite aggressive in being a guide, showing a restaurant etc.

Unless of course you want to engage, and pay them after for their assistance (around MAD 20 / 2 euros). For me, it’s not about the money, but instead not wanting to be swarmed by guys when you don’t need the help.

The constant questions can become tiresome and downright annoying. Of course, there are times when you can’t help but make eye contact. Take our experience in Fes. We were accosted by 3 aggressive men acting as the ‘guide’ for parking, and sworn at by 2 boys around 9 and 10 years old, just because we didn’t want their help.

Don’t open your window when driving or stop for anyone other than police

This might sound obvious, but some people will stand in the middle of the street to get your attention! We had 1 occasion in the car where we came to a junction on the way to Merzouga. Suddenly, a guy (not police) walked in front of our car, waving at us to stop.

Once rolling down the window, he began telling us there were 2 ways to Merzouga, though our GPS only showed 1. For at least 5 minutes he kept trying to convince us. When he realised we weren’t buying his story, he then asked if we could take his friend to Merzouga! Suffice it to say, we didn’t take him up on his offer.

Hitchhiking is common

The above point makes great sense when we found out that hitchhiking is very common in Morocco. I don’t know if it’s legal, but we saw many people, including young children, trying to hitchhike. Again, I’d advise not to pick up anyone. 

Alcohol is not available in many places

Bad news if you like wine with your dinner. If a riad, hotel or restaurant is in view of a mosque, there’s a high chance they won’t sell alcohol.

We found this out the hard way in Essaouira. In one restaurant we asked for some wine, and the manager gently shook his head. It was only another Western couple who explained about the mosque being nearby, so no-no to alcohol. That’s not to say however that you can’t buy your own. I didn’t see any convenience shops selling alcohol, so if you see a chain like Carrefour, be sure to stock up here. 

Luxury experience in Vienna - Kunsthistorisches Museum

“If a riad, hotel or restaurant is in view of a mosque, there’s a high chance they won’t sell alcohol.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Allow enough time upon departure

If you leave Morocco from Marrakech Menara, allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. I say this, because there’s a bag check before entering the terminal building, and lines build up very quickly. This is on top of having to fill out another form for immigration, plus the usual security checks. I counted at least 4 before arriving in the departure lounge. 

Have you been to Morocco? Is there anything else you would add to the list?

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