In the western world, Morocco has this intriguing, mysterious and romantic reputation. It is often on travel bucket lists and a great backdrop to many Instagram-worthy photos. But what is the reality of travelling around Morocco? Do you listen to the negatives or the positives? And where is the middle ground? How do you figure out whether Morocco is right for you? I have been travelling around Morocco since I was three or four, with my parents, visiting friends, touring the country and experiencing its magic. Understandably, I am also aware of its annoyances. I travelled there again recently, on a road trip covering a lot of ground, revisiting places I knew already and discovering new ones.
To me, Morocco is a beguiling and diverse destination, with a rich culture and lovely people. To help you in your decision on whether this is the right destination for you, I would like to set the record straight and discuss 20 things you need to know before travelling around Morocco.
In this article, I have selected the best day trips from Marrakech.
Love it or Hate it
If you are planning a trip to Morocco in the future, you will probably come across some very contrasting opinions. The majority of travellers are very complimentary of Morocco and highlight its beauty and diversity. Indeed, Morocco is a very exotic travel destination and is certainly beguiling. However, some travellers have negative experiences… Negative travel experiences happen everywhere but, with a lifetime of travelling to Morocco, I am still very positive about it. Remember, the more exotic a destination is, the more polarising it can be. In my view, the right position to take on Morocco is to be prepared and to manage your own expectation. Either way, travelling around Morocco won’t leave you cold!
It’s a Muslim Country
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country and a number of travellers concerns are connected to this, especially for women. When travelling around Morocco, you will notice that the day is punctuated with prayer calls, some of them very early in the morning or late at night, and Fridays are a holiday. If you love your sleep, this is something to bear in mind! People also observe the month of Ramadan, which means that a lot of places are closed, which may be inconvenient at times.
The consumption of alcohol is disallowed in Islam and it can be hard to find. For restaurants, obtaining a license can be difficult so you may want to check beforehand. Having said that, Morocco does produce its own wine and has done so since Roman times… Wine is available in supermarkets and there is quite a large selection. In restaurants, the selection can be limited and you may need to ask for the wine list, but I’ve never felt a negative judgment on consuming alcohol. Look for brands such as Guerrouane, Epicuria and Volubilia. In principle, only licensed venues can allow you to bring your own wine but I have found this to be flexible.
The important thing to remember though is that Morocco is a conservative society. Men are dominant and women are in their place, so to speak. Generally, there is an expectation from tourists that they will respect the customs and Muslim identity of their country.
Due to its history, Morocco is quite a diverse country, and the languages
It Can Be Very Hot or Very Cold
From mountains to deserts and beaches, Morocco is characterised by a broad range of climates. As an example, Marrakech can get well over 40 degrees Celsius in summer and below 10 during winter nights. Generally, Morocco is quite sunny and has a mild winter, but the north gets quite a lot of rain in autumn. This is something to research before you go, depending on your itinerary: on my last trip, I started in chilly Tangier and spent a few hot days in Marrakech, before continuing to Chefchaouen and Tetouan so I was glad to have something for every occasion!
I wrote this packing list to help you decide what to wear in Morocco.
It’s a Cash Economy
Morocco is still very much a cash economy. Major hotels and restaurants may accept international credit cards but anything else will be cash. And you certainly can’t pay otherwise in the local markets. So, be prepared to carry cash, with lots of small denominations when you are travelling around Morocco. Tipping is expected in a lot of situations and sometimes, a tip is someone’s only income. The good news though, it that there are ATMs readily available in medium towns and large cities and airports. Personally, I preferred to use ATMs from French banks such as Credit Agricole (Credit du Maroc) or Societe Generale, or the main Moroccan bank: Attijariwafa. Also, there are plenty of money changers around.
4G is Pretty Good
Morocco is pretty well connected these days, and mobiles phones are everywhere. I bought a SIM card from the French mobile company Orange for 30 Dirhams and only required one recharge in three weeks. You can buy cheap SIM cards in phone shops and they will set it up for you. The only thing I found confusing initially was the fact that you need separate recharges for data and calls, and the instructions were in Arabic! Overall, the coverage was pretty good and the speed was very good.
Google Maps are Quite Reliable
I travelled to Morocco with my father, who carries a GPS with him. But with good a 4G network, I was able to rely on Google Maps and they worked out really well. Sometimes, a hotel may not be well located on Google Maps so it’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure you have the right directions.
Progress and Development
I first went to Morocco in the 70s, and I remember the lack of air conditioning, the dodgy tap water and the terrible roads… I’ve been back many times, but on my last trip, I noticed a clear improvement. For many years, the Moroccan authorities have been funding large development projects and it’s really paying off. The railway system is being upgraded, with the French-style TGV being built. The roads are also being upgraded everywhere and I found driving in Morocco a lot more comfortable than I initially expected. Some of the biggest issues I previously had in Morocco were the inefficiencies and waiting times when booking a train ticket or withdrawing money, however, I noticed improvements in that respect. Overall, travelling around Morocco is a lot easier than it was.
Hassles & Scams
The main reason why travellers may dislike Morocco is to do with the insistence of touts and fake guides in large tourist centres such as Marrakech or Fes. Sellers in the markets (or Medina) can also be quite pushy. I won’t lie, it can be tiring and it does require a certain resilience. Scams happen in every country and as a traveller, you have to have your wits about you and not rely too much on the “kindness of strangers”.
As for fake guides or people approaching you on the street for no other reason than to get some money out of you, my advice is to walk purposefully and know where you are headed. Moroccans respond quite well to firmness, so saying no clearly yet politely is usually enough. Thankfully, you don’t get so much pressure in smaller towns and I have had many opportunities to wander around unbothered. In large tourist cities, like Marrakech or Fes, the tourist police is there to ensure travellers are safe and enjoy their stay. In some cases, it is usually enough to mention your awareness of this police force to get some peace.
Finally, bear in mind that Morocco is still a relatively poor country. The combination of poverty and seemingly cash-rich tourists is sometimes tricky to navigate…
Moroccans are Lovely People
In spite of all the hassles and scams, and the possible language barriers, a trip to Morocco can bring some lovely encounters with genuine and gentle people. I have a lifetime of travelling around Morocco and I find Moroccans generally polite, helpful and kind.
They are truly appreciative of whatever compliment you may pay to their country and are quite happy to share a bit of conversation with you. However, genuine encounters are more likely to happen away from the main tourist attractions.
The dress code is sometimes a concern for travellers to Muslim countries, including Morocco. This is important, especially for women, as you don’t want to offend people around you. In Morocco, there is no pressure on foreign women to be veiled but it is better to dress modestly. Dressing as you would for the beach may attract unwanted attention. T-shirts with short sleeves and pants are fine. I prefer to avoid shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts.
I always wear long pants and a t-shirt and I get no trouble. Whilst this issue is more pressing for women, a dress code also applies to men. In Morocco, you will rarely see men wear shorts, and no man will be shirtless. So you need to bear that in mind and be respectful.
Almost Everything’s Negotiable
A more challenging part of visiting Morocco can be the fact that you have to negotiate the price of everything. There is a way of going about this and I will be writing about this in the future, however, there is plenty of things to buy in Morocco. This is daunting for a lot of people and it can be hard to shake the impression that’s you’re getting ripped off… However, it is very much part of the experience and it can be fun! Of course, some prices are set, usually in shops outside of the medina.
There is no figurative representation of humans in Islam and Moroccans can be quite camera shy. It can be difficult to get people to pose for you and you may upset people if you “steal” photos. This is also to do with the fact that tourists will photograph anything and anybody without permission. It is best to ask, as not everyone minds you taking their photo. If you are looking to do some street photography, I would recommend working out a “secret spot”, such as a car or a cafe terrace.
Driving is Easier than it Used to Be
I have many memories of travelling around Morocco in uncomfortable trips in cars with no air-conditioning and pot-holed roads… And I have left driving to others on my previous trips. However, this time, I took a road trip and did most of the driving. I was pleasantly surprised by the state of the roads. You still have many roads in bad condition but the building of infrastructure in Morocco has brought some new roads everywhere and some of them are really beautiful.
I would describe driving as fairly competitive but certainly not as crazy as it was before. Road rules are enforced and better understood by people these days. Vehicles are in better condition and on some thoroughfares, animal-drawn carriages have been banned as a security measure.
Strong Police Presence
When travelling around Morocco, you will notice a strong police presence. The police, the “Gendarmerie Royale” and in some places, the army, are quite visible on the road. They tend to hang out at large intersections and roundabouts. It is quite common for Moroccans to be stopped, asked for licence details and to even have their cars searched, as there is a strong focus on drug running and illegal migration in Morocco. However, this is unlikely to happen to foreigners, I was always waved through when coming to a police roadblock. Tourism is a very important part of the Moroccan economy, and the authorities are there to make sure that no unnecessary hassle comes their way. There is a clear effort on enforcing road safety rules, so make sure you drive safely.
Shop Till You Drop
Morocco is a dizzying shopping experience! Compared to other countries in North Africa, Morocco has maintained a strong tradition of traditional manufacturing and there is an incredible selection of things to buy, ranging from spices, leather bags and shoes, ceramics, clothes, rugs, antiques, souvenirs, cosmetics, homewares and many more. In order to shop smart, it is worth researching what you can shop for, what quality to expect and how to haggle. Bringing a spare bag to carry your purchases is the first step to take when travelling around Morocco!
A Fantastic Food Experience
Morocco has very refined food and you should definitely make that aspect part of your experience. A lot of small and local restaurants have a limited menu but the quality tends to equal that of a home-cooked meal. In larger tourist centres, such as a Marrakech, you can find more upmarket restaurants and experience fusion and fine dining.
Moroccan food is rich in tradition, made with care and based on the freshest ingredients. Spices are essential and mixing sweet and sour is quite common. In Morocco, you are guaranteed to challenge your taste buds and discover new flavours!
Sensory & Visual Experiences
My earliest memories of Morocco, at the age of three or four, combine the Atlas Mountains around Marrakech, the intoxicating smell of orange blossoms in the garden and leather manufacturing in the medina, and the taste of homemade honey crepes… So look out for those sensory experiences… Morocco is a beautiful and diverse country, with beautiful and diverse landscapes. Travelling through Morocco, with its exotic scenery, rich culture and ancient history will definitely give you a sense of adventure.
Something for Everyone
Ever since I have been travelling around Morocco, I have seen many different types of travellers discover and enjoy this beautiful country. From single millennial travellers to active retirees and families, there is something for everyone. Travellers have been coming to Morocco for several generations and there is a strong tradition of hospitality. There are accommodation, food and touring options for all budgets and interests, so with a bit of research, you are guaranteed to find something to suit your needs.
You Will Make Unforgettable Memories in Morocco
Because I have been travelling around Morocco for so long, always in the context of visiting lifelong friends, this country occupies a large place in my memory. I even suspect that my memory tells me I have been there more times than I’ve actually been… There is a reason for that: Morocco is a striking experience. A visit to Morocco can be challenging and will very likely take you out of your comfort zone, but it will leave a strong mark on your memory.
The experience of Morocco is complex: it involves discovering a diverse and beautiful country, learning about a foreign culture and language, connecting with people, tasting new foods and generally having a travel experience you can only have there… Putting Morocco on your travel bucket list requires preparation and setting some of your fears aside.
Driving in Morocco
Reasons to Travel to Morocco
Morocco Shopping Guide
Have you been to Morocco? I would love you to share your experience in the comments below.
Save these tips to help prepare your Morocco trip on Pinterest!
44 thoughts on “20 Things You Need to Know Before Travelling Around Morocco”
So informative! Will definitely re-visit this post when traveling!
Hi Leah, thank you for dropping by, I’m very pleased you liked my post. I do hope you get a chance to visit Morocco sometime, it’s a very interesting country!
I would love to travelling there. Morocco is such a beautiful country <3
Love your blog. Would you walking back to my blog too? So many thanks <3
Hello Adriana, Morocco is very beautiful indeed and should be on everyone’s bucket list. It needs some preparation to ensure a safe and pleasant journey. I will be writing more about my experiences in Morocco, stay tuned!
What a lovely outline of Morocco and great photography. It is on my bucket list and after reading this has risen up the list somewhat. My daughter has just returned from a hike and tour in Morocco. Her impression is that it is safer than so many people say it is – she felt she would have been fine traveling alone.
Hi Joanne, thank you for your compliments. Morocco seems to be a fairly polarising destination, some people love it and some people have very negative views. I think the latter is very much based on people’s expectations, as if they are not prepared to be out of their comfort zone when they travel. There is also a lot of pre-conceived ideas around the fact that it’s a Muslim country and therefore a dangerous place to be. But this element doesn’t affect travellers too much, and it is part of appreciating another culture. I’m glad your daughter had a good experience there, a lot of solo female travellers enjoy themselves in Morocco, and I think that’s to do with the attitude they start with. I will be writing a lot more about Morocco very soon, stay tuned!
We are leaving for Morocco on February 2nd, and will be there for 12 days. We’re traveling with a small group of alumni from my alma mater. This is our first tour of any kind, but I think it will alleviate some of the concerns we might have if we were trying to do this on our own. Thanks for a wonderful post—and gorgeous photography!
Dear Karen, thank you for your message. Doing an organised tour for your first time in Morocco is a very good idea! I hope you will have a great time and see some beautiful things! I am going to write a lot more about Morocco, my next blog is about the shopping, a very important part of the experience! Enjoy your trip and make some beautiful memories…
Really enjoyed this post. We are headed to Morocco in June, so your practical tips will definitely come in handy.
Dear Catherine, thank you for dropping by, I’m very pleased that you like my travel tips for Morocco. I have a new post coming on shopping in Morocco, I’m sure it’ll be an important part of your trip!
Hi, I am enjoying reading your blog. I am heading to Morocco at the end of april. Do you have any advice about spending a few nights in the dessert/dunes? I am traveling alone but need to get a tour for the dessert aspect. Not sure If i will be driving down or taking a bus/grand taxi. I dont want to take on too much but i would like the freedom of driving to some areas.
Hello Heidi. April is a great time of year for Morocco, you’re going to have a great time! I think doing a bus tour to the Sahara Desert is a great idea, probably better than trying to get there on your own. Depending on where you start from, the drive can be quite long so you will enjoy it more if you are on a good quality tour. It’s a long time since I’ve been to the desert but I remember staying in Zagora, a very interesting little town. I do recommend doing a self-drive in Morocco, however, I wrote a blog post about it.
Lovely & Great Entry Mdm!
Your web really attracting my fond memories of my 5-year stay there.
I studied in Morocco for the degree in human sc in Casablanca (1st & 2nd year) & Rabat (3rd & 4th year) between 1989-1994. The then, at the age 18 coming from south-east asian nations brought me to explore the real life of cultural diversity in there.
I flew back to Maroc in March 2009 (after left it almost 15 years in 1994) for a week stay during Autumn Term, from Manchester England (the place I did my PhD that time) to Gibraltar.
Soon arriving Gibraltar, I took a coach to Tariffa which then I bought a ferry Ticket from Tariffa to Tangers by only 45-minute cruising. Those days in late 80’s & 90’s, we used Port of Algeciras of Spain to ship to & fro to Maroc/Europe via Tangeirs, but now Tariffa plays a vital roles for carrying passengers crossing Gibraltar Straits.
I would definitely travel back to Maroc in next couple of years. Thanks for your precious advice here. Keep up with good posting!
Hello Enn, thank you so much for your long comment, I am so pleased to meet someone who had such a good experience in Morocco. I once travelled from Portugal to Morocco with a large 4WD, with my parents. I was quite young so I don’t remember the ferry from Algeciras and Tangier but I have fond memories of the Rif Mountains. I returned to Tangier last year and absolutely loved it, it’s amazing that you can see Spain from the coast… I have so much more to write about Morocco so stay tuned!
What a great post about such a great country -I spent 6 weeks in Morocco last year with my Berber husband and I definitely have the bug!
I love that you remind us that the dress code also applies to men. So many blogs focus on how women should/shouldn’t dress, but it definitely goes both ways! Remembering that we are guest in this magestic kingdom is key.
And you are so right about the improvements to the roads/infrastructure – it’s fabulous and makes for wonderful road trips. My husband hadn’t been home in 5 years and couldn’t believe the changes.
We, unlike yourself, were stopped constantly by the Gendarme, but usually out of curiousity (me being a Canadian woman traveling alone with a Moroccan man) and usually sent quickly on our way after flashing the wedding bands!
I encourage anyone with an open mind and adventurous spirit to visit Morocco and experience the richness of this safe, friendly, progressive yet historicly rich and timeless country!
Hi Shawna, thank you for your comprehensive comment. The dress code is a big thing for western tourists because a lot of them don’t see their own demeanour as potentially disrespectful… And they obsess about how women should dress because supposedly they should be fully covered… The best guide in that regard is to look around. You won’t see any men in shorts or singlets in Morocco so it shouldn’t apply to tourists…
Your experience with the Gendarmerie Royale is interesting, they must be checking for adultery couples, it is a conservative society after all! As for the roads, it’s a great improvement, I can’t wait to get back out there!
Wonderful goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to
and you’re just too excellent. I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like
what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and
you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far
more from you. This is really a great site.
Hi there, thank you for your nice comment. Morocco is a great destination and it’s always good to meet a fellow traveller!
Thanks for bringing me here from the FB. Your posts about travelling in Morocco really open up my mind and give me some ideas on what to do and what to expect there.
My wife and I will be there in a fortnight for a week trying to cover at least 3 cities namely Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes.
I realised that a few times ypu pointed out that Morocco is a Muslim country and the dos and don’ts are somewhat similar to our home in Malaysia.
Will definitely keep referring to your blog posts to guide us on our trip there.
Thank you very much Delphine.
Hi Noor, thank you for your interest in my articles. I am very pleased that you find them useful. Morocco is much more approachable than a lot of people think. Even some Moroccans can be very hard on their own country. Marrakech and Fes are fantastic destinations to visit for your first time in Morocco. Casablanca is a big city so I wouldn’t spend too much time there. If you have time though, I highly recommend Chefchaouen, the blue city. It is gorgeous and doesn’t take too much time to visit. Enjoy your trip and let me know if you have any questions!
These are fantastic tips. Thank you!
thank you, I’m pleased you like these tips about travelling to Morocco.
Hello. Delphine iam married to a maroccain man and lived there in Tanger in the 1970s. I have been back twice. Tanger has grown so much sometimes I didn’t know where I was. Thank you for your positive input about all of your positive experiences. Morocco is a beautiful country with beautiful people. You write truthfully and compassionately. Thank you. God bless you always.
Hi Barbara, thank you for your kind message. I too went to Tangier many years ago but I didn’t remember much, which is why I decided to go back and I was very pleasantly surprised. I’m really pleased you enjoy my writing!
Thanks for your post about my country!
We are proud of our culture and variety of landscapes. Everyone is welcome to visit Morocco!
Hi Abdul, thank you for visiting LesterLost. I certainly look forward to my next trip to Morocco!
Such interesting things to know! I had no idea if could get so cold, I would have not packed according to those tempatures. And knowing that cash is king is so important!
Hi Sam, I think because there is desert in Morocco, people assume it’s always hot, but there is a real winter… And when darkness falls, it can get pretty cold, even in summer. But you get amazing skies!
This is a super helpful post! I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco. I’m glad to hear that google maps is actually reliable here. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been to a city and the map was off.
Hi Krystianna, Google maps are pretty good in Morocco but not perfect. It does get tricky in some places but getting lost is part of the travel fun!
Having been to Morocco in the summer of 2018, I would completely agree with every one of your tips. Have an open mind, realize things happen everywhere, respect the customs and you’ll be fine. One thing I didn’t notice was the presence of police everywhere. However, I’m not known for being the best “noticer” either. The food is incredible especially the freshly-squeezed OJ!
Hi Heather, I’m very pleased you enjoyed Morocco, it’s a beautiful country. And the food is amazing, I look forward to going back soon!
We had been planning to go to Morocco for a while now, but have yet to make it. That love it or hate it feels reminds me of India but many of the other points feel like Pakistan, minus the scams! A couple of other differences of course, like no French but English, food is more rice-based than Tagine, strong police and army presence as well, but looks like the people are equally lovely. This post is reviving our eagerness to go to Morocco now!
Hi Patricia, I had that feeling of love or hate in India and I much prefer Morocco. Some people don’t like it but I’m really used to it, I’ve been going for so long!
I have read many posts on Morocco, but this one has been the most interesting as you have more insight. I was amazed that you have been visiting this country since the 70s and have seen its growth. I have heard so many conflicting experiences from travelers but one thing I took a note from your post is that tourism is very important, so a lot is being done to keep travelers safe and comfortable.
Hi Candy, thank you for your kind comment, I really appreciate it. Morocco has changed a lot since my early days there, some things are better, some things not so much. But the better infrastructure makes it so much easier to travel. There is still a sense of adventure though, which I hope never ends!
Really good tips and advice Delphine. I loved our visit to Morocco, my first and my wife’s second. We were there a month and as journalists spent a lot of time interviewing locals and expat about customs and such. Marrakesh I can do without. Fes was great, but you have to know your way around and know to stay out of certain areas. The Atlas mountains and areas around magnificent. The Sahara desert, incredible. Outside of the bigger towns and cities, English will do you little good. So often and I do mean more than 50 percent of the time, if Therese was not relatively conversant in French, we would have been hands and footing it through conversation. Which is fine becasue as you noted, the Moroccan people are for the most part lovely and super friendly and helpful. One bit of advice I would add is that you NEVER take a photograph of a woman, EVER, without first asking. And even then, most often they will say fine, but no photos of the face.
Hi Michael, I still love Marrakech but I agree it’s become quite touristy. I enjoyed Fes less… I found it claustrophobic and it’s easy to get lost and end up in the bad areas… I am hoping to go back to Morocco soon…
Thank you for this in-depth guide, Delphine. Love the video! I am heading to Morocco for the first time this spring and trying to plan my time there. This helps a lot, along with your other posts on Morocco. Great resources. By the way, I love how you have been travelling to Morocco since you were a young child.
Hi Alison, Morocco is a beautiful childhood memory which takes many forms. I remember the tastes and fragrances and it’s lovely to go back from time to time. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time when you visit!
I always wanted to visit Morocco! The souks look so amazing, with all their wares and goods. And the food in Morocco looks amazing too. I heard that they have really good mint tea.
Hi Astrid, the mint tea is a classic of Moroccan hospitality. They used to serve it very sweet but now they serve the sugar on the side so you can dose it yourself! One of the best things in Morocco!
This post is making me so nostalgic for Morocco! I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of mentioning the good without sugar-coating the not so good. The food, the scenery, and the cultural aspects of visiting Morocco are unparalleled. However, I did get wrapped up with one of the “free tour guides” in Marrakech. I didn’t have another incident like it the rest of the trip but did find all the scammers hanging around the Medina to be utterly relentless. I think first-time visitors should just know not to feel bad forcefully saying no to unsolicited offers for help or directions, and they’ll be able to enjoy all the amazing things Morocco has to offer.
Hi Kevin, it’s true that the touts and fake guides can be a pain in Morocco. In order not to get caught up in this, you have to be very firm and hopefully they’ll go away.