What to know before you go to Morocco
Morocco is a unique and vibrant country located in Northern Africa. We were there for 5 weeks and it was a beautiful and intense experience in every possible way. You have to go there to really understand what we mean!
With its epic Atlas mountains, bustling markets, the Sahara desert, stunning architecture, and many other attractions, there’s something for everyone in this wonderful country.
Read more: What to do and see in Morocco?
But before you start exploring this magical place, it’s essential to understand the local culture and etiquette. That’s why, in order to be able to plan the perfect trip, we have collected our best travel tips (things to know before you go) and interesting or fun facts about Morocco in this article.
These Moroccan travel tips will help to make your journey memorable while being mindful of potential pitfalls! Read them carefully and we’re sure you’ll have a fantastic trip to Morocco!
(Fun) facts about Morocco
Tea is the national drink
Be prepared to drink a lot of mint tea, often referred to as ‘Berber Whiskey’. You get it when you arrive at your accommodation or in some shops. I love mint tea, but if it isn’t your thing, be careful to refuse it as that is considered rude. You can let them know if you want it sweet or not, though.
While we’re talking about tea, you’ll get to witness another fantastic Moroccan habit, which is to pour the tea really high! The higher someone pours it, the more important that person is. It’s also supposed to enhance the taste of the tea.
You can’t flush toilet paper in Morocco
No, that’s right. No toilet paper down the toilet. It goes into the bin next to you. It even is advisable to have some toilet paper with you as it sometimes isn’t offered in remote places.
Cats, cats, and more cats
Morocco is, without a doubt, the country of cats. You see them everywhere! Although there is not enough money to take them to a vet, the Moroccans do take care of them. They feed them, provide shelter, and give them love. One of the reasons for that is that the prophet Mohammed adored cats.
The highest ski resort in Africa is in Morocco
You might think Morocco is dry and mainly a desert. But that’s not true at all. The Moroccan landscape is very diverse. From the mountains to the sea, from green oases to the sand dunes of the deserts, you’ll find it all in this amazing country.
From December to April, it regularly snows in the high Atlas Mountains. There you can also find Oukaïmeden, the highest ski resort in Africa.
Morocco has a lot of rooftop terraces
One of the things we fell in love with in Morocco was the many rooftop terraces that you can find everywhere. They are perfect to watch the sunrise or sunset or get an amazing view over the medina or the surrounding landscapes.
In the bigger cities, they will often have the most amazing and cool restaurants on those rooftop terraces for you to enjoy a great dish and a mint tea while taking in the views.
Read more: What to do in Marrakech?
Many languages are spoken in Morocco
Arabic and Berber are the official languages of the country. However, also French, Spanish, and English is spoken.
Berber is more common in rural regions. French is widely spoken in Morocco and thought in schools, particularly in the more urban cities. Spanish is more used in the northern part of the country (eg. Chefchaouen), due to the many Spanish refugees that came here centuries ago.
Read more: Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of Morocco
English is starting to be more common, purely because Moroccans understand how important that is for the tourism industry. After all, it is the second biggest industry in the country.
The djellaba is the local dress code
When you walk the streets of Morocco, you’ll see many locals wearing a djellaba (often with a pointy hood). There are beautifully decorated ones for special occasions, simple ones for daily use, and warm ones for people living in the mountains.
Morocco is a tech-savvy country
Although some parts of Morocco can give you the feeling that time stood still, it is not a third-world country. Morocco is actually quite advanced when it comes to technology. Even in the medieval, small streets, you’ll find cellphone shops next to old craftsmen and artisans.
Best travel tips for Morocco
When visiting Morocco, be aware of clothing etiquette, as the country is a Muslim nation. Both men and women should dress modestly, avoiding clothes that are too revealing or tight-fitting.
There is no law that tells what you can or can’t wear. Morocco’s relaxed take on modesty means covering up doesn’t have to mean wearing traditional Arab or Islamic dress, but rather it should be respectful to the local culture and inoffensive. Try to keep your legs, arms, and chest covered as much as possible.
Are you wondering what to pack for Morocco? We wrote an entire article on what to wear in Morocco (and what NOT to wear), including a Morocco packing list.
Ask permission before taking pictures of locals
You’re going to take many pictures in Morocco. It’s one of the most photogenic places we’ve ever been. The colors, the light, the landscape, the souks, the cats, the people, … we loved it!
But, you have to be aware that Moroccan people don’t like it when people randomly take pictures of them (because of their Islamitic beliefs). So before you make that photo, kindly ask for permission. Some might also ask for some money in which case you can give them 5-10 dirhams.
Also, be aware that taking photographs of government buildings or military personnel in Morocco is strongly discouraged. Not only can it be seen as a breach of law, but also offensive to the local culture and politically charged.
Don’t be intimidated by Morocco or Moroccans
Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries we ever traveled through, and it is a very safe country! But it can feel intimidating from time to time. Not only are the cities (and traffic) very busy, some people might be a bit pushy trying to sell things or trying to earn money from you.
However, don’t let them ruin your vacation. You will be scammed and pay too much in certain situations, just because you are a tourist. But usually, this won’t cost you a lot of extra money and the scams are pretty harmless. Once you know their tricks, it becomes a lot easier to avoid them.
TIP: Don’t forget, almost all Moroccan people are very friendly and will welcome you with a big smile! Especially if you leave Marrakech and travel around the country, you’ll notice how amazing Moroccans are!
Book your accommodation in or near the medina
A medina is an old Moroccan city center, often surrounded by walls, usually car-free with small alleys, and the place to be for everything that is happening. All the big cities, such as Rabat, Casablanca, Fez, Tanger, Marrakech, Essaouira, and Chefchaouen have a medina.
When you are looking for accommodation in one of the cities of Morocco, try to book a riad or hotel in the medina or at least at the border of the medina. That way you’ll be close to all the action, the restaurants, the souks (shops), and most of the highlights.
If you are traveling around Morocco by car, you can easily park the car outside of the medina for a couple of euros/dollars per day.
Read more: The perfect 10 days Morocco itinerary
Don’t accept random strangers to show you the way and be your guide (touts)
This is one of the most common tricks. Locals see you trying to decide where to go (or even just approach you with no reason), come over to help you, show you the way, and ask for money afterward.
Just politely refuse their help and even ignore them if they keep asking or following you. Trying to avoid eye contact usually helps a lot. They won’t harm you and leave you alone after a while. But it still can be annoying.
TIP: if you want help to find the way or with anything else, go to a local store or restaurant and ask someone there. Don’t ask it to anyone on the street. If you do, agree on a price before accepting any help.
Be prepared to bargain
You are going to shop in Morocco, trust me. The souks (Moroccan markets) are filled with the most amazing products such as leather items, pottery, rugs, herbs, and so much more. We usually never buy a lot of souvenirs when we travel but in Morocco, we had to buy an extra suitcase to go home.
When you want to buy something, be prepared to bargain. Usually, you can start at 1/3 of the price they ask (or maybe a bit higher) and end up at half of the price. Don’t give up haggling too quickly, and always stay friendly and have a smile.
They usually will offer you tea, as well. It is all part of the bargaining process.
Stay hydrated by drinking bottled water
Tap water in Morocco may contain bacteria which can lead to illness. It’s best to avoid drinking tap water whenever possible, even when brushing your teeth.
Always drink bottled water and if you bring a refillable water bottle (as we always do), don’t fill it with tap water.
Don’t plan too much on Fridays
Friday is a holy day for Muslims, so many shops and restaurants are closed then. Sometimes in the evening, they will open up again (after the prayers). Take this into account when you plan your trip. Try not to schedule visiting a medina on a Friday, as you won’t be able to really experience the vibe.
Also, check the Muslim holidays before you leave. Most places will be closed on those holidays as well. During the months of March and April, it is Ramadan which means it will be harder to find food during the day.
Always agree on the price before you consume something
Another scam you can come across is paying way too much for something because you ordered it and the price wasn’t clearly shown. It’s hard to negotiate if you already ate or drank everything.
For example, we just ordered a mint tea and orange juice somewhere without seeing the menu in a remote place. After we had it, the guy asked about 3 times the normal price.
Therefore, if you go to a restaurant and they give you a menu without any prices on it, be sure to ask how much everything costs and agree on the price.
Same for cab drivers, or when people in the street want to help you. Always agree on the price before anything happens.
Don’t be afraid to get lost
When you walk in the medina of Fez, Marrakech, or any other city, you will get lost in the labyrinth of small streets and alleys. Sometimes even Google maps doesn’t know the way anymore.
But don’t be afraid, it’s part of the fun. Wonder around in the souks, get lost, and eventually, you will find your way back (or ask a local and pay a small fee). Just avoid getting lost in the night.
It can get really cold in Morocco
You might think it’s always warm in Morocco, but that’s not the case. Depending on the season and the place you travel to, Morocco can be cold.
During spring and autumn, temperatures are very pleasant but it can get colder in the evening, especially in the mountains and the desert. We had rain and cold days in the desert in September.
In the summertime, it will be hot almost everywhere but you’ll still need a sweater in the mountains. During winter you really need to bring a (rain)jacket or coat and a warm sweater.
Be aware of animal abuse
Moroccans love their cats and storks. But be aware that lots of animals are very badly treated.
For example, don’t pay money to the snake charmers or guys with monkeys in the Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech.
If you plan to do a camel ride in the desert of Morocco, make sure you choose a tour or accommodation that treats its camels well.
What about alcohol
Even though Morocco has some wineries (surprisingly enough), alcohol is rare in this Muslim country. Muslims don’t drink alcohol and if you go out for lunch or dinner, you normally won’t see alcohol on the menu.
Only in some (more expensive) riads, bars, or western stores, you might find some.
A trip to Morocco is the perfect moment to drink no alcohol for a while and enjoy the many other (non-alcoholic) drinks you can find everywhere such as their mint tea (Berber whiskey) or ginger lemonades.
Don’t be afraid to rent a car and do a road trip through Morocco
Although driving in Morocco might seem daunting to some, it is a fantastic country to rent a car and do a road trip. It will allow you to choose your own itinerary and give you more freedom to explore.
The scenery in Morocco is breathtaking, from the high Atlas mountains, Todra Gorge, and the desert in the South to the Rif mountains in the North. You’ll be blown away by all its beauty!
You’re probably wondering if it’s safe to drive in Morocco. And in our opinion, it totally is. You just need to be aware that unexpected things can happen, such as crossing goats or kids.
We heard many stories about the police being corrupt, and randomly giving tickets, but we didn’t experience that. But, you don’t want to speed. The police have speed traps everywhere, and they will definitely give you a ticket for that (as well as not wearing your safety belt).
Buy juice from one of the street vendors
In Morocco, they have some of the best freshly squeezed juice we’ve ever tasted! And they are s cheap as well! the perfect refreshment on hot days!
Don’t be afraid to order them from one of the street vendors! They squeeze it right in front of you. On the Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, there are many stalls where you can buy all kinds of tastes.
Non-Muslims can’t enter a mosque (usually)
Mosques are usually beautifully decorated and amazing to visit. Unfortunately, as a non-Muslim, you are not allowed to enter a mosque. You can still see some of the fantastic architecture and decorations from the outside though.
The only exception is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the 5th largest mosque in the world. This mosque is open to all kinds of visitors and is worth seeing (although it has fewer decorations than some others).
Another alternative is visiting the Madresas in Fez or in Marrakech, as some of them used to be mosques in the past.
Other general travel advice for Morocco
Drones are not allowed
As a foreigner, you can’t fly a drone in Morocco. You are even not allowed to bring it into the country. If you enter Morocco by car from Spain (by ferry) they might not notice that you have a drone with you.
However, if you fly into Morocco, they will definitely confiscate it at the airport. So leave your drone at home!
Read more: Our travel photography gear
Learn some basic Moroccan phrases
Learning some basic Moroccan phrases can instantly help you make connections with locals in Morocco. Spending a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the language will open doors and create unforgettable experiences.
Here are some of the phrases or words you will most definitely hear or need while you are in Morocco.
- Hello – Salaam Alaykum / Hi – Salam
- Yes – Wah / No – La
- Thank you – Shokran / No thank you – La Shokran
- Good morning – Sbah el kheyr / Goodbye – Beslama
- Nice to meet you – Tasharafna
- Please – Afak
- You’re welcome – Al ‘afw
- Inshallah – If God wills
- Look out – Balak (important to recognize this one when they shout it to you in the busy streets)
Buy a SIM card
We always make sure we have internet wherever we go in order to find the way with Google maps or any other app, look up good restaurants, … Especially if you want to avoid touts trying to show you the way for money, having connection helps a lot.
That’s why we always buy a local SIM card and also use this as a hotspot for our laptops.
Usually, you can buy them at the airport, but they sometimes are more expensive there. If you don’t buy it at the airport, it’s best to go to a shop of a provider instead of buying it on the street.
Exchange money at banks and carry some cash
A lot of places let you pay by card, but for the smaller shops or public transport, you definitely need to have cash. Check upfront which ATMs charge the lowest commission.
Money exchange is available in many places while traveling in Morocco. Most banks offer to pay services at competitive rates, which is much more convenient than seeking out small exchange bureaus.
It is also possible to pay in Euro or dollars in Marrakech or other very touristy areas.
TIP: Morocco doesn’t have a tipping culture like the USA. So tipping is not expected. But, if you really enjoy the service, they will definitely appreciate if you leave 10 or 20 dirhams extra.
It’s easy to get around Morocco by bus or train
If you don’t have the budget to rent a car or just don’t feel like driving in Morocco, it’s very easy to get around by public transport. At least in the more visited and populated areas. If you want to go more remotely, it can be a bit harder. Make sure to bring cash to buy your tickets.
Trains in Morocco are very cheap and good. The only downside is that they can be a bit slow (except for the high-speed trains between Rabat, Tanger, and Casablanca). On the ONCF website, you can find all the information.
Busses are also great to get around Morocco. One of the best-known companies is CTM, but also Supratours is great.
That’s all for this article about fun facts and travel tips you need to know before you go to Morocco. Any questions or remarks? Let us know in the comments!