Traveling in Morocco is very different than traveling in the U.S. or Europe. Differences in the day to day life there are what make it an exotic and beautiful country, but I would suggest doing a little research before your trip so that you are not caught off guard by some of the different customs. After four trips to Morocco, I’ve compiled a list of travel tips and little tidbits that I wish I knew before my first trip there.
1. Visit Jemaa El Fna (Marrakech) at night but otherwise when the sun goes down in the Medina it’s best to go back to your hostel, especially when traveling alone.
2. The medina is not well lit. It’s important to find a hostel or Riad that is EASY to find. Make sure to read reviews before booking and look for any location tips.
3. All prices are negotiable when shopping. Bargaining is a way of life in Morocco and it’s expected.
4. If a local won’t leave you alone, saying “La” is a very firm way to tell them to get lost.
5. Look for the street stalls (food vendors in Jemaa el Fna) that have Trip Advisor signs on them. All street food is not created equal.
6. If you see a bottle of wine, buy it. Morocco is a dry country and they are not always easy to come by.
7. Be aware of the time of year you are going. I went during Ramadan and there are very important cultural differences that you need to be aware of and respect. i.e. not drinking or eating in public.
8. Morocco is hot but you have to be respectful of the culture and cover up. General rule of thumb is that your knees and shoulders should be covered.
9. Portions are generally huge. Hosts will continue to bring out food until you stop eating so don’t feel like you have to finish what’s on your plate.
10. Splurge on a nicer accommodation. After a long day of exploring the medina you’ll want to retreat in to a comfortable space. You can get a beautiful Riad for a very reasonable price. Trust me, it’s worth it.
11. When shopping:
a. Your first price should be about 50% of their original price
b. You each state 3 prices and should settle in the middle
c. Don’t be afraid to walk away. 9 out of 10 times they’ll chase after you and agree to your price
d. They’ll probably say that your offer is insulting. It’s fine, they don’t really think so
e. The item you’re looking at will be “very old”, “original”, “rare, they don’t make them anymore”- Take this all with a grain of salt. The next souk will have the same one.
f. Drink the mint tea. But if you do, expect to stay for a while.
g. Don’t shop with a guide. Your prices will automatically go up 20% because they’ll get a cut.
h. If you love it, buy it. (Click here to shop Moroccan goods!)
i. If you see a piece you like, decide in your mind how much you are willing to pay for it. This makes the haggling process easier if you are able to walk away.
j. It’s important that at the end of the sale, both the buyer and seller are happy. The seller will be vocal about this.
k. Sometimes the best deals are to be had in the morning. Moroccan merchants believe that the first sale of the day is good luck and you can usually get the price lower than usual.
l. Flirt. I would be lying if I told you that a little charm didn’t help me bargain.
12. Train travel is great! Spend the extra couple of $$ for a first class ticket.
13. Always accept an invitation.
14. Ride a camel.
15. Many times tips are expected from the locals. For instance, if you ask someone where your hostel street is they will be VERY kind and walk you straight to the door. Sometimes this can actually be worth it and also worth a couple of bucks. 100% of the time they will ask for money. If you don’t want to pay people, make sure you don’t let them walk you and don’t let them carry your bags.
16. If going to Fes, try to arrive on a Friday when the souks are closed because you can get a great lay of the land while it’s less crowded and crazy.
17: ATMS: the medina ATMS will suck your card in if you delay even the slightest bit so make sure you aren’t distracted when withdrawing money.
18: Cash is king.
19.Ask before taking pictures. Not all souk owners want to be photographed so even though it may be tempting to snap a pic, it’s always best to ask permission. Also, if you take pictures of the snake charmers or men with monkeys, they’ll expect a tip.
20. Soak it all in. Morocco can be sensory overload but if you can relax and celebrate the differences it is one of the most beautiful welcoming countries there is.
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