My Top 10 Tips for a First-Timer in Morocco

If you have considered making Morocco you next travel destination, don’t think – just book. I have fallen in love with this African country, with all of its colour, mystery and beautiful people. Many people believe that it is a third-world country, but would be surprised with how fresh and modern many of the cities, such as Agadir, really are. In my mind, there is no reason not to see this country before it becomes over-run with tourism. So, for those of you taking the leap, here are my top 10 tips for travelling in Morocco!

1. There is a closed currency

Something you must understand before arriving or departing Morocco is that it has a closed currency. What does this mean? You cannot take money in and out of Morocco. You cannot get money changed before arriving, or swap any left-over funds into your home currency after entering the airport terminal for departure. Credit and debit cards are completely fine to use at ATMs when you are there, plus all major hotels will do a currency exchange at their reception desks for a good rate. Make sure you either pre-arrange at shuttle, or grab some currency in the airport before you are completely outside the terminal, as you won’t be able to pay for a cab without Dirham.
Just be aware not to change too much before you head home, even the airport duty free (once through gates) in Marrakesh doesn’t accept your spare Dirham!

2. Go in groups

If you have read my Morocco blogs before, you will know how much fun I had on my group tour with Travel Talk. Not only is it great price for a package deal (accommodation, transport, most meals and guide) but you also have added safety. It was great to walk around in small groups, look out for each other and share the experience. For women in particular, I highly recommend travelling with a group, especially in Marrakesh. You need to be assured that you have someone that knows where you are and keep a second eye out on your belongings while you snap beautiful photos!

3. Covering up

This is a common misconception about going to Morocco. It is true that in the cities of Marrakesh and Fez, women must cover their shoulders and knees (nothing low cut, no mid drifts etc) – however as you reach the seaside towns of Agadir and Essaouira, the lifestyle is more laid back. Pack for the weather (it can get very hot, so don’t be afraid of wearing shorts), but also bring yourself appropriate clothing for when you need it!

4. No swearing

Any well-travelled person knows it is just simply not cool to swear in public. This, in Morocco, is an absolute no-no, but sometimes you might slip up. Walking through the souks of Marrakesh, I was grabbed and harassed by a seller – where I may or may not have yelled back something mildly offensive. Just to get an idea of how bad it got – I was pushed, taunted and followed for about 10 minutes, called absurdly offensive names and had every single man within a 50-metre radius scream at me for being a ‘foul devil lady’. Just don’t do it.

4. Charcoal or imodium tablets

In many countries, in particular Asia and Central or Northern Africa, I always recommend you take charcoal or imodium tablets each and every day with breakfast. Our western bellies don’t do well under stresses of pollutants and germs, so avoid a serious case of Morocco belly before it happens, by taking these. If you do get struck down, double up a dose and drink LOTS of water… unfortunately it is very common.

5. Drinking water

Tap water is undrinkable in Morocco. Make sure you always have at least 1L bottled with you, especially before heading into the desert. A bottle costs less than $1.00 and readily available. This includes using bottled water for brushing your teeth, try not to use the tap water as it may effect your belly.

6. Toilet paper and small coins

Much like most of Asia and Europe, using toilets in Morocco is rarely free (especially ones with toilet seats!). Always bring a spare roll or tissue pack with you in your back pack, as you may need more than they give out (usually only 4 squares). The standard amount to give is 1 – 5 Dirham (10c – 50c), but don’t expect change.

7. Local guides and language helps

Something I found so memorable and special about my time in Morocco was the guides that were there for me every step of the way. Not only was our tour guide the most amazing person EVER, but he gave us absolutely essential and accurate information about the culture, from the perspective of someone who has lived there his whole life. This goes for all the staff that we met, from the camp owners to the drivers, we were surrounded by local people, who really understand Morocco and all it has to offer.

8. Paying to take photos of people

Our wonderful Travel Talk Guide, Abdoul, gave us a tip to live by… “Your smile is the best communication tool, always smile if you want to ask permission to take a picture, if they don’t smile back, it is a no.” Of course, this is for passing by people – don’t be afraid to ask shop sellers, but it is common courtesy to pay them for a photo (they will ask you to as well), 50 Dirham is standard.

9. Taxis

Don’t be afraid to get local taxis, they are usually very reasonable and safe. Do however, check they have a license on their dashboard, and ALWAYS decide/bargain on a price before you get in. Always.

10. Safety in numbers

Morocco is a very safe country. As I mentioned earlier – group tours are a great way of staying safe and having someone to help you in any time of need. There is always safety in numbers (and it is more fun!).

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