Morocco is one of the most intriguing and most visited destinations in Africa and the Middle East, and for good reason. The mix of Middle Eastern and French cultures makes Morocco truly unique. It’s a photographers dream and foody’s paradise. I’ll share my Travel Tips Morocco to make your trip more adventurous.
Travel Tips Morocco
When I arrived in Morocco, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get around to all the different sights and cities I wanted to visit in my ten days I had there. Turns out, the solution to my problem was right there in the airport. I accidentally discovered the best way to get around Morocco.
◊ Tip #1 – Rent a car! The cars are reliable and new, there are many to chose from in the airport, you don’t need to reserve in advance, and the price is negotiable. In fact, every price in Morocco is negotiable. When you step into the arrivals area, you will likely be approached by people asking if you would like to rent a car. You will have the power to negotiate because they will quote you a high price. Stick to your guns, shop around, and let them know you’re shopping around.
You might get lost and feel intimidated driving in the cities. Don’t worry. Rentals have ‘tourist’ plates and you’ll be approached by numerous people, even at red lights, who want to help you find your destination. If you’re lost, follow them. Yes, they want money for assisting you. Give them $5 or $10 USD. It will be worth it.
◊ Tip #2 – Take a train. Morocco has a surprisingly good train network, although compared to Europe, it is a bit limited. The trains hit all the high points and are efficient. I can’t explain the train network any better than this Africa Travel Expert. Click here to learn more about train travel in Morocco. Train Travel in Morocco
◊ Tip #3 – Use the network of buses. I saw them everywhere, including in some of the more remote destinations where trains don’t go. This website has great information about the three bus networks in Morocco. Bus Travel in Morocco
◊ Tip #4 – Take taxis, hire a car and driver, or book a tour. These will be the most expensive options, but if you prefer to let someone else handle the stress of driving or planning routes and transportation, all of these are great options. I recommend arranging these options beforehand, but using a Moroccan travel agent/tour company rather than one outside the country. You’ll get a better price and help the local economy more.
◊ Tip #5 – Take a camel. They are by far the most efficient means of travel in the Sahara.
◊ Tip #1 – Riad hotels. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard in the center, usually very private and uncovered. Many of these former private residences have become too expensive to maintain and have been converted to beautiful hotels. In Fez, I stayed at Riad al Pacha, pictured below. I looked at riads in other cities as well, wishing I hadn’t already made hotel reservations. You can find amazing riad hotels on airbnb.com. Another great, lesser known resource for riad hotels is Riads Morocco.
◊ Tip #2 – Find unique accommodation in the desert. No trip to Morocco is complete without seeing the Sahara desert. Options for accommodation are not limited. They range from tents to luxury hotels and everything in between, including some options you may not have considered. Auberges, also called gite, are simple, rural hotels, but don’t be fooled by ‘simple.’ They are a great value, beautiful, and comfortable. Kasbahs, which are former fortresses that have been converted into hotels, are another unique option. Here’s a great website for checking out the many great options for desert accommodation. Complete Morocco You can also find desert accommodation on airbnb.com
◊ Tip #3 – Go camping in the Sahara. The websites I mentioned in Tip #2 don’t list camping in a Berber camp as an option. But this is actually what I did, by accident, and it was a great experience. This website is the best I’ve found for camping in the Sahara in Morocco. Wild Morocco
◊ Tip #4 – Live in luxury, at least one night. I have to give a shout out here to what is one of my favorite hotels anywhere I’ve stayed in the world. It’s in the beach town of Essaouira. Absolutely stunning, great views, great breakfast, and comfortable rooms. I just loved it. Villa Maroc Essaouira
Sightseeing in Morocco
◊ Tip #1 – Visit the kasbahs, even the ones that look like they are crumbling. Kasbahs are former fortresses and many have been converted into hotels, but there are still some gems available to tour, like the Kasbah Amridil, which is near Skoura. It’s made of mud and you’ll wonder how it’s still standing. I paid 10 MAD (Morrocan dinar) to get in. I hired Reda to be my guide (50 MAD). Reda was great and a guide makes the visit so much more meaningful. The people working at Amridil are volunteers who basically work for tips. Reda was a student majoring in history.
I visited another kasbah, this one famous, in Ouarzazate (war-zah-zaht) called Taourirt. Many movie scenes have been filmed here, including scenes from Lawrence of Arabia. It is the largest kasbah in Morocco, and the most well preserved. It’s really beautiful inside.
◊ Tip #2 – Visit the medinas without a map. Every city in Morocco has a medina, which is an old city with narrow, winding streets and no signs. It’s still a way of life there and it’s where the locals shop, live, and eat. The medinas are for the locals first, tourists second. Your best photo opportunities will be in the medinas as well. Don’t bother with a map. If you get lost while looking for something specific, ask someone. You’ll likely have to ask many someones, but just wander until you find it. Or get frustrated trying to find it, which I did while looking for the tannery in Fez medina. The tannery is famous and it’s the most photographed place in Morocco. A must see. Must experience. Must smell. The smell is fierce, but you’ll be distracted enough you might not notice. For a while…
Djemma el Fna is the most visited square in all of Morocco. It’s the heart of Marrakech and the medina and definitely the place to eat at night. Food stalls appear out of nowhere with grilled meats, fresh salads, fresh fruit, snails. It’s cheap and it’s an adventure. If you stop to admire any of the performers, they will expect a tip. Give a small tip, and they may ask for more. Give a large, very generous tip, and they definitely WILL ask for more. Just give a small tip and walk away without feeling guilty.
◊ Tip #3 – Visit the beaches. They are stunning white sand, spotless, and serene. Morocco has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, especially between Agadir and Essaouira. I was there in February, so it was not warm enough to swim, but a long walk on the beach in Essaouira was just what I needed before another day of driving.
◊ Tip #4 – Drive through the Todra and Dades gorges. Red rock and the villages in the gorge are stunning. Be sure to take your time because each gorge is several miles long with curving roads and very picturesque.
Eating, Drinking, and Dessert
◊ Tip #1 – Don’t rely on guidebooks for restaurants. Not that they steer you wrong, but they are just not necessary in Morocco. Good food is everywhere! Most hotels serve a French style breakfast included in your stay, but for lunch, I recommend finding a street stall or a cheap, local sit-down restaurant. Morocco is like anywhere else. If you see a lot of locals eating at a restaurant, it’s probably a good place to eat.
◊ Tip #2 – If you like spice, you will love Moroccan food! They use a unique blend of spices in savory dishes that includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and chili. You can buy spice mixes in the medinas and I highly recommend it. They will let you try them. You’ll never be able to recreate it yourself, so buy a lot!
◊ Tip #3 – Try tagine. All of them. Tagine is actually the name of the dish the meat and veg are cooked in. It’s round with a conical shaped lid, made of clay, and it is placed inside an oven or over hot coals and left to cook slowly. There are community ovens used to cook tagines in neighborhoods, and if you get a chance to see one, do it. They also cook bread in community ovens.
◊ Tip #4 – Alcohol is served in many restaurants and there are bars in most cities. However, the majority of Moroccans are Muslim and quite conservative when it comes to alcohol. You likely will see only tourists drinking. Some restaurants serve alcohol, but it is not on the menu. You can discreetly ask. Getting drunk if frowned upon and very disrespectful.
◊ Tip #5 – I’m no stranger to desserts when I travel and Morocco is no exception. Moroccan sweets like baklava are dripping in honey and filled with nuts. Typical Middle Eastern sweets are common, but don’t forget about the heavy French influence in Morocco. You’ll find gorgeous pastries, croissants, cakes, and tarts, all very French and very good. And don’t forget Moroccan mint tea. Sweet, minty, and refreshing any time of day. Mint tea will be offered many times during your travels through Morocco.
Moroccan mint tea is a perfect way to end this post. I hope you enjoy your trip to Morocco as much as I did. So much to see and experience.