Ciao my fellow travelers,
One of Morocco’s main industries is tourism (25% of GDP), where it is expected to grow 3.5% next year. This means more and more people are heading to the alluring land on the Mediterranean.
1. Bargain Often
Be prepared to haggle. The Moroccans expect it and so they offer you a ridiculously high price for their items. Some people have an issue with bargaining because they believed it impacts the vendors’ livelihood. Remember, the vendors will not sell to you unless they are making a profit. The general rule is to take the given offer and divide by 3 for your starting price. Also, don’t get too attached and walk away if you need to.
2. Ask before You Snap a Photo
It is OK to take a general photo. But if you want to zoom in a specific person, ask before you just take a picture. Some people don’t like their photos taken. Others are OK with it, but you have to pay them. Negotiate on the price before taking a photo.
3. Be Clear with Your Cab Driver
So in general, you should negotiate everything before you get a service unless it is an established restaurant or convenience store. This includes getting a taxi ride. For 1-3 people for a 10 minute ride, it should be around a 20-30 MAD ride. If you have 4-5 people for a 10 minute ride, you should pay around 50 MAD. Male sure you are clear that you are paying for the group, because sometimes the driver will later say it was 20 MAD per person.
4. There is No Such Thing as Free
Sometimes you will see young men standing on the side of the street, trying to start a conversation with you. Then, they will say they will take you to a market and show you around. Please be careful. Often times, they are taking you to their friend’s stall and then you will feel pressured to buy.
5. Bring Toilet Paper
Some places have toilet paper like the nice hotels. Other places like a rest area on the highway might not have it. Even if they do have some rolls, sometimes they are really thing and won’t work properly (if you know what I mean. So just bring a couple of rolls just in case.
6. Learn these Helpful Words/ Phrases
I don’t know the Arabic alphabet, but I have the pronunciations written down. I can tell you they work, because I have used them first-hand.
- Can I have the check? (Ur-ri-do He-seb)
- Hello (A-sa-lam a-mo-ne-kom)
- Thank you (Shu-kran)
- No (La)
- Please stop (Sa-fi Ba-rra-ka)
- Bartering (Al-ma-kai-rrah)
- Little bit (Sch-weh-a sch-weh-a)
- You’re welcome (Al-fan)
- How much? (Sa-jeb)
7. Be Firm with Peddlers
The peddlers were relentless, especially in Fes’ medina. I would say they are harmless, but they will follow you even when you are out of the medina. First start, saying La Shukran. If that doesn’t work, go with Safi Barraka. The peddlers will act offended, but don’t feel bad. Sometimes, they will still come to sell you something. Lastly, just square your body to theirs, take your hand, and give them the stop gesture. That should work by then.
8. Make Sure You are Buying the Real Thing
Morocco is known for its saffron, Aragon oil, carpets (Fes), Leather (Fes) and silver. You will have many vendors, but not all of them legitimate. Here are some tests I know:
- Saffron: Ask the seller to do a water test. When mixed the water should stay yellow. If the color turns red, then that spice has some chemicals in it.
- Leather: First, ask the seller to put a flame onto the leather. It shouldn’t burn. Next, touch the material. If it is stiff, it is probably sheep leather which is the cheapest. The softer ones are goat and camel, and those will be the most expensive.
- Silver: Some sellers will say their silver is Berber silver to make it seem more exotic. There is no such thing. Silver is silver. Check for an engraved stamp with 925. That is how Morocco certifies it is real.
- Copper: Pick up the item. Copper should have some weight to it. Sometimes I found in a pile a mixture of real and fake copper.
9. Dress Conservatively
In the streets, you will see women and men dressed conservatively, meaning from wrist to ankles. You do see some tourists showing their forearm and shins. I think you will get stares but you will still be OK. However, if you are exposing your shoulders or wearing above-the-lnee, get ready for some harrassment, especially women. Pack a scarf, so you can cover up if needed.
10. Drinking is Allowed
In Islam, we typically think alcohol is prohibited. However, Morocco sells beer and wine here. Even our tour guides say they drink. Apparantly, some are more lax on alcohol as long as you aren’t drunk during prayer. If you want to try some beer, Casablanca is a good brand to try.
11. Exchange Your Cash to Dirham
For established businesses, they usually accept credit cards. However, you will see way more street vendors than established businesses. It is important to have some change, because sometimes vendors will say they don’t have change and then well… you’re stuck.
12. Watch for Pickpockets
Morocco is pretty safe. The worst thing that can happen to you is pickpockets. Our guide told us a common tactic is children begging for food and water near malls or markets. Then, of course, you will out your money so they will know where you store your cash. Always be mindful of your things, especially in the large crowds.
13. Don’t Rely on Crosswalks
Crosswalks (or as the locals call it, Zebra walk) are for decoration. Even if you think you have the right-of-way, a motor bike might be turning. I actually felt like it was easier to cross by J-walking, so that is an alternative for you. Otherwise, make sure the cars stop before you cross.
14. Ask a Police Officer
Remember, earlier I mentioned some people offer to show you a place for free and it isn’t really free? If you ever get lost, ask a police officer. There are plenty spread out throughout the city and they are trustworthy. They will walk you to your destination and they are genuinely helping you.
15. Be Respectful of Friday
Like how Sunday is a holy day for Christians, Friday is a holy day for Muslims. From what I heard, Muslims go to visit cemeteries and then go to the mosques to pray. This means on Fridays, you may find a lot of closed stores, especially in the morning. Stock up on food if you have to.
16. Tip the Waiter
For established restaurants, you should tip the waiter. The recommendation is 10% of your total bill. Food is cheap in Morocco, so you will mostly top 1-3 MAD for lower end places and 4-5 MAD for fairly priced ones.
17. Mind the Carpet in the Mosque
I didn’t get to go into a mosque, which I already accepted since I don’t practice Islam. However, if you find a mosque for tourist, make sure to take off your dirty street shoes, if required. The local guide said usually the Muslims switch to slippers before they step onto the carpet.
18. Skip the Fresh Vegetables and Juice
Pomegranate and oranges are abundant in Morocco, and vendors are selling them juiced for very cheap. However, to be on the safe side, skip those. Also, only eat cooked salads, not fresh. We did that and came out with happy stomachs.
19. Don’t Fret about the Visa
You don’t need a Visa to enter Morocco if you are there for 90 days or less. Also, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months pass your vacation dates.
20. Leave the Drone at Home
If you’re into capture those nice aerial shots, don’t bother bring your drone here. Morocco is really strict about letting them into the country. That is understandable, since some people don’t even like getting their portrait taken. Why would they then let you fly a machine around that could also invade their privacy?
21. Right Hand Only
Left-handed do exist in Morocco, and it is ok to write with your left-hand. However, the left hand is seen as dirty; If you shake a person’s hand or eat the Moroccan way, always use your right hand.
21 BIG tips for you all, so you have a great and memorable experience. I found most Moroccan people were kind, honorable and respectful, so please keep an open heart. These tips are here to help you with the giant culture shock and adjust quickly.
Pair this with my 8-Day Itinerary post and enjoy your trip. Comment here on which tip(s) helped you the most.