Morocco travel tips: 10 essential things first-time travelers should know
There are always 2 sides of the coin when visiting a country for the first time. Like most travelers, I choose to see the good, but sometimes it’s hard to miss the not so good things. This is why I want to share my 10 essential Morocco travel tips for first-time visitors.
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 bear in mind it’s still a Muslim country and a strict one too.
1. Bring a pen when arriving at Marrakech Menara Airport — Morocco travel tips
This might seem like an odd tip to begin with, but one you’ll hopefully thank me for. 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 to the immigration counter, only to be told they need to fill out a form first. With no pens in sight, the situation can get a bit chaotic, with travelers searching frantically their bag for one. Bringing your own pen means a calm arrival, and also no delay in exiting the airport.
2. Prepare the Google Translate
The main languages they speak in Morocco are Arabic and French.
I also came across many Moroccans (mainly men) that spoke fluent Spanish and Italian — and better than English. There are many that speak (broken) English, but if you know any of the above, you’ll have a slight advantage.
3. Morocco travel tips — taking 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 already knew how the taxis worked in Marrakech. Taxis aren’t as cheap as you might think, so if you find Uber available, I advise checking their prices instead.
4. Unwilling taxi drivers in Fes
When visiting Fes, I’m sorry to use this word, but beware of lazy taxi drivers. On one occasion, one driver refused to take us to the Old Medina from the new city (6 minutes driving). Another dropped us off at a random place, nowhere near our requested destination. It turned out to be an extra 15 minutes’ walk.
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 easy that you’re not being scammed.
5. Driving isn’t for the faint at heart — Morocco travel tips
We decided to do a road trip around Morocco. As incredible as it was visiting other places, I’m lucky that my partner was the one behind the wheel! We came across many bad and chaotic drivers, especially when in the cities. Pay 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.
“However, taxis in Fes do have meters, so you can rest assured you’re not being scammed.”
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6. Keep eye contact to a minimum
Whenever I’m in a new city (and even at home), I always pretend I know where I’m going. It makes no difference that inside I’m silently shaking and quietly freaking out. Pretending you know where you are, or where you’re going, is a sign of confidence, and one I use often.
Whether walking in the Old Medina or driving in the car, I advise keeping eye contact to a minimum. We’d a few incidences with young Moroccan guys who were quite aggressive in wanting to be our guide.
If you’re prepared to pay for such services, clearly you need to make eye contact. For us, we didn’t want anything from them, and began feeling overwhelmed by the constant repetitive questions.
Of course, there are times when you can’t help but make eye contact. In Fes, 3 aggressive men, acting as the parking ‘guide’ (who also asked for more money), wouldn’t leave us alone. We were also sworn at by 2 young boys because we didn’t want their help.
7. Morocco travel tips — don’t open your window when driving, or stop for anyone other than police
This might sound like another odd tip, but it’s based on an incident we had on the way to Merzouga. We’d 1 occasion in the car where we came to stop at a junction. 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 to take his route. When he realized we weren’t buying his story, he then asked if we could take his friend to Merzouga!
Needless to say, we didn’t take him up on his offer.
8. Hitchhiking is common — Morocco travel tips
The above point makes perfect sense upon finding 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.
9. Alcohol isn’t easily available
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 shops selling alcohol, only chain supermarkets like Carrefour. If you want to drink in Morocco, make a stop and stock up.
10. Morocco travel tips — allow enough time upon departure
If you depart 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.
“If a riad, hotel or restaurant is in view of a mosque, there’s a high chance they won’t sell alcohol.”
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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.
Bonus Morocco travel tip
Have you been to Morocco? Are there any other you’d add to the list?
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…