Today’s post is going to be all about what I learned in Morocco. There are always lots of questions about traveling to Morocco. I’ll try and keep this short and sweet for you guys But if you are planning to travel to Morocco any time soon hopefully these five tips will be helpful.
In case you’re wondering, this is my first time doing a trip to Africa and it was a totally different experience from my past travels but tons and tons of fun and I highly recommend it to anyone. I traveled there with just myself and my friend and we were there for a long weekend, so it was a 4 days total. We were traveling between Casablanca and Marrakesh. Unfortunately we did not get to see all of Morocco but we took away what we could in the four days that we were there. So here are the 5 tips I have for you before you jump in the airplane to the country of setting sun.
My tip number one is use the currency exchange booths in the airport right as you land. I was coming with euros and transfer that into dirhams right away. First of all, it’s just efficient. You get it done right off the bat. You don’t have to worry about it later. The second reason is because we found it pretty hard to find ATMs around. It’s definitely not impossible; I know they’re around but they’re also very busy because they’re not as frequent as maybe you would see them in North America and Europe. There were always big lineups at ATM, so it just saves you the hassle.
Another note on that would be to take out more cash than maybe you’re planning on originally. We made the decision to only use cash for our weekend and it was definitely a good call. Most places don’t really want to use credit cards unless you are staying in a really high touristy area. Most of the time, people would prefer just cash. It just kept it easy for us as well.
This is referencing when we were staying in Marrakesh. Prior to going there, we did a lot of research into where we were going to stay over our time in the city and we ended up settling on a Riad. We stayed at the Riad Star, which is located inside the Medina and I cannot say enough good things about staying in a Riad. We played with the idea of staying in a hotel but decided that a Riad would be a little bit more authentic to our Marrakesh experience and it definitely was. If you have the opportunity to stay in Riad, I highly recommend it.
Some really great things about a Riad is it is right in the Medina, so that means you have the souk and the main square and everything very, very close to you. You don’t need to worry about traveling at any great lengths. We actually only had like a two-minute walk until we were in the middle of the souks. That was super fun and a super unique experience that you definitely wouldn’t get if you were staying at a large chain hotel.
Another extremely unique experience about staying at this Riad is there is a rooftop terrace and we were able to hear the prayers from the roof, which was very cool. You can hear there are lots of places around inside the Medina but just being able to hear it in your accommodation where you’re staying was something we’ve never experienced before. I actually went up to the roof and we’re listening and we took photos and videos of the prayer call echoing around us.
On top of the Riad giving you a completely unique experience and being in an amazing location, the customer service of the Riad Star was above and beyond. We felt like we had someone there to help us 24/7 and that was amazing. We got served mint tea whenever you like it. It’s available 24/7! The staff were incredibly friendly. We actually sat down with the manager upon our arrival and he made us feel extremely at home.
On top of this, they will also provide you with a cell phone or find a way to get in touch with you via WhatsApp or whatever service you use. You can text them if you ever feel lost while you are in the souk or Medina, which can totally happen if you are a first-time traveler there because it’s a little bit hard to orient yourself. That was actually very helpful because on our very first day there we arrived almost in the evening and we ended up not knowing our way back to Riad. We just sent them a quick text and within four minutes we had someone picking us up and escorting us back to the Riad.
About the Souks
The souks are a very unique and authentic experience to Marrakesh and I highly, highly recommend going to and exploring the souks. If you aren’t there, the souk is where you’re gonna do lots of shopping. You’re gonna get a real mix of tourists as well as locals in those souks. That’s very cool to see and can be a little bit of hectic there. The streets are very, very narrow and can get very crowded. You will have streets with donkeys pulling carriages and trucks trying to pass and little children riding mopeds and scooters down the street. All this mixture of locals and tourists doing the daily hustle of just walking up and down but it is tons and tons of fun. I definitely recommend it.
One thing to note is the souks can definitely be a little bit intimidating in terms of navigation if you are new there. The roads or paths do get a little bit confusing. Just be prepared that you’re gonna get lost and just be okay with it because they’re gonna get you out eventually. If that makes you totally uncomfortable, it’s good to just kind of get your grounding and kind of have a starting point and you can decide that you’re gonna walk straight one way and then straight back another way.
Still, everyone who we spoke to at our Riad said it’s much more fun if you just decide you’re gonna get lost and go down those little alleyways because you’ll see a lot more. It’s definitely more fun to go a little bit deeper into the souks. That’s also where you’re gonna find a lot better deals because you’re a little bit further from that main tourist strip.
In the souks, we are able to bargain or haggle a little bit with all the different shops. That’s something to keep in mind. If you’re not planning on buying anything, don’t put too much effort into doing a big debate because that can rattle people. That was one tip we were given and we found that very, very helpful. Don’t put in the effort of bargaining down to a price, taking up a lot of the store owner’s time if you have no
intention of actually buying that item.
Another thing about the souks is you definitely are going to want to try some traditional Moroccan food. There are tons and tons of restaurants and cafes. Some of them are more geared towards locals and some are more geared towards tourists. We did a bit of both and we had some amazing food. We have lots of tagine, which was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend trying multiple tagines from multiple locations because it’s the best.
Another thing I should mention about the souk and when you’re walking around it is to be aware of what you are wearing. You want to be dressing conservatively in the souks. It’s not the best place to be wearing tank tops and short shorts. Of course, you can wear anything you’d like but in terms of avoiding potentially unwanted attention I highly recommend wearing clothing that covers far below your shoulders and far below your knees. That’s what we did throughout our days there and we found this to be the most helpful.
You will potentially get lots of attention in the souk. We definitely got lots of attention and lots of people trying to engage in a conversation with us. You would get people telling you that you were going the wrong way often and people telling you that the main square is the opposite direction that you’re walking or sort of little side comments. The best option is just to completely ignore it. It’s one of those things you can do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
About Day Trips and Excursions
I don’t have an ample amount of experience with this. We did end up booking a trip to do a camel ride and fortunately we did not have time to go to the Sahara Desert and do the full-blown experience. We decided that since we were in Morocco, we still wanted to get the camel ride experience. So we just did like a quick little day trip not too far from Marrakesh. It was cute; it was fun; it was quick and it was a good way to still get the camel ride experience if you don’t have time to do the whole actual desert tour. So, whether you’re here with kids or by yourself and you just want to get like a little hint of the experience, I definitely recommend it.
About the Trains
We traveled from Casablanca to Marrakesh by train. What I have to note about the trains is number one: the trains are always late and I don’t mean like necessarily just 10 minutes late. They can be like up to two hours late! So if you have a specific time that you want to get to your destination, definitely take an earlier train than you were originally planning on getting.
Another note on the trains is I highly recommend booking first-class especially if you are there in tourist season. Second class would be totally fine if there was more space but we were there at a very, very busy time and because the trains don’t leave super frequently, they are extremely overcrowded. We learned this the hard way because we did not pre-book our tickets. Unfortunately, first classes booked from the morning all the way into the evening and we didn’t have a choice because we had to get to our destination. So, we traveled in second class and it was just very, very crammed. On one of our trips, we were standing and obviously that’s not ideal because it is quite a trip from Marrakech to Casablanca. It is about a three and a half hour train ride. So, I highly recommend pre-booking those train tickets and getting them ahead of time and booking first-class
That concludes my five tips of what I learned in Morocco. I hope you guys enjoyed and learned something from this post. Let me know what you think about it and see you in the next post!