Go Ahead staffer Amanda explored the vibrant, intricate streets of Morocco on her tour of Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Along the way, she picked up these valuable Morocco travel tips—read on to see how you can prepare for a visit to this intriguing country.
1. Keep covered
As the generations have changed, so have the views on traditional clothing. Grandmothers will often still be found in full robes and mothers are generally wearing scarves, but the younger generations dress in the same clothes as you would see in the U.S. You’ll feel comfortable wearing your regular clothes, but know that you will need to cover your knees and shoulders to enter certain religious sites (like the mosque in Casablanca). Plan to have a more conservative outfit like that packed in your suitcase.
2. Expect crowds
Each city you visit will have new and old sections. The old section is referred to as the “medina” and is where you’ll find the narrow, maze-like streets you might picture when thinking of Morocco. Be prepared for tight quarters and lots of people—when the market is in full swing it seems like the whole town is there!
3. Be prepared to walk a fair amount
The medina’s streets are so small, only bikes and carts can make it through. In order to experience these vibrant parts of the city, you will be walking along a few miles of uneven streets and hills over the course of a couple hours each day.
4. Keep money on hand
The currency in Morocco is the dirham (MAD). It’s easy to convert in your head, as 10 dirham (MAD) is roughly 1 USD/CAD. So if something costs 200 MAD, that is the equivalent of about 20 USD. I found that it’s best to get your spending money at the ATMs in your hotels, then use rest stops to buy small snacks and break large bills to create some small denominations and coins.
5. Practice your negotiating
When you are shopping in the market, the price of the same item can vary from stall to stall. Price is not determined by size but by the time of day, quality of the piece and the personal preference of the stall owner. If you find something you like, ask the owner to give you a number to start the negotiations. Never feel like you have to buy a piece if the price is too high. Sometimes the act of saying no and walking away will get the shop owner to lower the price. If you see something you like while walking around or in a specific stall, try to have fun with the negotiation process. Every stall owner I encountered was very nice and I was able to pay just what I wanted for my souvenirs.
6. Ignore persistent shopkeepers
Bartering is the way business is done in the street and markets of the medinas, and salesmen can be very persistent. If anyone comes up to you with goods while you are walking down the street the best course of action is to say nothing at all, just ignore them. No one will think you are being rude! On the contrary, if you say “no, thank you” that will be interpreted as you being interested in the goods and the shopkeepers will continue to encourage you to buy.
7. Prepare your nose for the tannery
On your tour you will visit a tannery, which is a place where leather goods are produced. You will be able to tour a working tannery and see a shop of the finished products. Upon entering a tannery you will be given a sprig of mint to keep under your nose as the skins and chemicals and dyes combine to make a very pungent smell.
8. Stick to bottled water
You shouldn’t drink the tap water in Morocco, or even use it to brush your teeth. At each hotel, ask the front desk for bottles of water and pick some up at your rest stop visits during each transfer. At restaurants, you’ll be able to order bottled water as well.
9. Embrace new experiences
Morocco is a very different culture than most North Americans are used to. Embrace the differences and new experiences!
Do you have travel tips for a Morocco trip? Share your thoughts in the comments!