A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Morocco

Exploring Morocco a few times already, I thought I would share some important Morocco travel tips for travelers planning to visit this beautiful country. Full of stunning architecture, delicious food and friendly locals, Morocco is a place you don’t want to miss.

Driving up to the Sahara Desert where you will stay overnight in a desert camp!However, it’s good to have some information before departing for your travels. So I’m here to provide you with some important tips that will hopefully make your trip a memorable one!

Included in This Blog Post:

  • Is Morocco Safe?
  • Where to Stay & What is a Riad?
  • What Should You Eat?
  • What Should You Buy?
  • The Culture, Religion & Language
  • What to Pack
  • Camera Gear You Should Bring
  • Is Morocco Affordable
  • Visas & Vaccinations

Is Morocco Safe?


This is easily one of the most common questions I receive about Morocco and many countries in Africa or the Middle East.

The short answer, yes. Morocco is safe, however, that doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t be cautious.

The beautiful shades of blue in the small village of Chefchaouen, Morocco.

In Morocco you will experience many types of people. The majority of Moroccans are very friendly. Like, exceptionally friendly. However, you will most likely meet a few who will want to try and scam you for money. If you get lost in the Medina, be prepared to tip anyone who offers to show you the right way.

Only accept mint tea if you are serious about making a purchase in a shop. If you take a taxi and they offer to wait for you for free  they will most likely charge you for waiting even though they agreed not to.  Moroccans are in no way mean but they are pushy. To avoid falling into any traps or scams you must be firm with your “NO” and they will leave you alone.

There are so many wonderful places to shop in Morocco

The best way to prevent this from happening is to travel with a guide. Your guide will be able to speak in the native language and make sure the message of no is understood.


Where to Stay & What is a Raid?


A Riad is a traditional style Moroccan home with 2 or more floors. They call these homes Dar when used for local families and then changed to Riad for guesthouses. Since Morocco is a Muslim country it is important that the women are able to roam freely within their homes. This means that there are no outside facing windows.

The courtyard in the Riad opens up to the skyTherefore, each Riad has a central courtyard inside symbolizing the heart of the home. The interior opens up to the sky, allowing the sun to flood in, bringing light into the space. The word Riad literally translates to garden in the Arabian language. Filled with flourishing plant life, the Riad is a spectacular sight.

Many of the Riad's in Morocco have a central pool or fountain to symbolize the heart of the home

Each of these homes have a modest entryway, looking like your average door from the main roads. What makes them unique and special is what lies within. Inside there are many intricately carved details starting from the floor, snaking up through the archways and continuing throughout the entire home.

Each Riad is decorated differently but they all have similar elements and stunning interiors

The precise details are even evident/apparent in the decor. The handwoven rugs are brightly colored with unique designs. Iconic bronze lamps remain true to the Moroccan style with hand carved cutouts in numerous shapes.  Lining the floors are hand woven rugs depicting the traditional styles and colors of Morocco.


What is the Traditional Cuisine?


Moroccan cuisine is strongly influenced by Mediterranean food. They use a heavy blend of aromatic spices resulting in a strong flavor profile that is easily identifiable. The preparation of a Moroccan meal is slow and thoughtful, allowing all the flavors to meld together creating a feast for the tastebuds.

The most common option you’ll see on a menu is tangine. They prepare these slow cooked dishes in a traditional clay pot and then place them in the oven. The slender neck allows the steam to release slowly, making the meat and vegetables tender and delicious. Your meat options will either be chicken or lamb. However, you can make yours vegetarian as well.

The tangine dish is one of Morocco's most popular and traditional cuisines!

Couscous is another dish that you will see served on the menu. Made from a grain, couscous is the healthier alternative to rice. Moroccan’s will cook this dish with vegetables, spices and sometimes raisins.

The Moroccan style of cooking is very healthy, using only fresh ingredients and spices. Prior to your main dish you are typically served a variety of small plates to be eaten with the traditional bread. Called Khobz, this circular, fluffy loaf is cooked to perfection in a clay pot. Tear it apart with your hands and dip it in one of the dishes soaking up all the delicious flavors. These small plates include baba ghanoush, hummus, lentils and eggplant salad.

There are beautiful views of the mosque in Marrakesh everywhere you look!The mint tea is Morocco’s pride and joy. The locals will offer you a cup of this freshly made brew in many of the shops and cafes. It is a way of bringing people together to enjoy conversations and connections. The Moroccan’s place the tea, along with fresh mint leaves and a sugar cube, into a teapot. Then they very skillfully pour the hot mixture into your cup, usually doing so from a very high angle! It is almost an art form how they pour their tea!

Since Morocco is a Muslim country, alcohol is traditionally not allowed for the locals. However, visitors can easily find plenty of beer and wine options should they choose to drink on their holiday.


What Should You Buy?


Ah, quite possibly the most difficult question! This might be the biggest challenge when visiting Morocco, unless you’ve checked a large suitcase and have lots of leftover room! Morocco is well known for having some of the most beautiful items and you’ll definitely struggle with deciding what to bring home with you.

In each of the Moroccan cities you will find large Souks selling beautiful items at an inexpensive price!

In each city you’ll find the traditional markets or souks where you can purchase many of these items. Keep in mind that it is common practice to haggle in Morocco as long as it is done respectfully. It is almost like a game. They will tell you a price, you then offer a lower price, then they counter back, you lower it again and voila! You finally end up settling on a price that both of you are happy with.

» Rugs «

One of the most popular places to visit in Morocco is the rug shops. Many of these places are family run and display beautiful handwoven rugs available for purchase. The rugs come in many sizes, designs and colors making it easy to find one to fit your needs. They even roll up the rugs so small that its actually quite impressive.

The many rug shops around Morocco where you can buy handwoven rugs for a great price

» Lamps «

Lamps in Morocco are just as prevalent as the rugs. Many of them are hand carved in uniquely intricate designs. This allows the light to shine through, creating gorgeous patterns on the walls at night. The lamps come in all shapes and sizes. Many of the shops do offer delivery options should you decide to purchase one that won’t fit in your luggage. I purchased my lamps at the Ensemble Artisanal Craft Complex in Marrakech.

The lamps in Morocco are so beautiful and reflect stunning patterns on the walls.

» Leather «

The leather in Morocco is sold in many different forms. The most common leather goods include shoes, jackets and purses. There is also an abundance of Moroccan poufs which you can find in a multitude of colors and sizes. If you are visiting Fez you can view some of the tanneries and watch the process of dying the leather.

Morocco has a ton of beautiful hand dyed leather goods for sale in all of the markets.

» Spices «

The fragrant spices can be smelled all throughout Morocco. You’re never sure if the aromatic scents are coming from the spice markets or wafting through the air from the local restaurants. The most common spices to purchase when visiting are cinnamon, curry, turmeric and their own blend called Ras-El-Hanout.

The spices in Morocco have such an aromatic smell that wafts through the streets.


Understanding the Culture, Religion and Language


Morocco is a Muslim country located in Northwest Africa. Their culture has influences from the Berber and Arab cultures. Their main languages are Arabic and Berber, however, many of the locals speak english. This will make it easy for you to communicate with the Moroccan people during your visit.

The people in Morocco are kind and very family oriented.

The people are easy-going, friendly and very family oriented. Most of the families live in a single home together and share responsibilities of the household. Typically, the men will go out and work while the women stay home to raise the children and care for the home.

Our guide Said in one of the homes of the Nomadic Berbers in Morocco

Since Morocco is a Muslim country, you will see many Mosques around each of the cities. However, unless you are Muslim, you cannot enter any of the Mosques in Morocco. So please keep that in mind and be sure to respect their religion. Remember, you are a visitor in their country.


What to pack?


Packing for a trip to Morocco will depend entirely on your plans for the duration of your stay. Some key things to remember is that the weather can range depending on where you are in the country. For instance, in the major cities the temperatures are quite warm while out in the desert the air can become chilly during the night.

Camel trekking in the Sahara Desert. Be sure that you are choosing a reputable company that treats these animals well.

Some main things to remember to pack would be loose pants and lightweight shirts that can cover your shoulders. Morocco is a predominately Muslim country so it is important to respect the religion and dress appropriately. You should also pack a scarf which will come in handy if you are visiting some of the religious sites in the cities or to protect your face from the sand in the desert.

Your footwear should be first and foremost, comfortable. You will no doubt get sand everywhere if you visit the desert so I wouldn’t recommend bringing your brand new pair of trainers. My go to travel shoe when visiting countries with dry, desert climate is Toms. They are lightweight, comfortable and super easy to wash.


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Wear loose fitting clothing and cover your shoulders while in Morocco.

Morocco uses the 220V voltage and the plug type C or E. These are the same as Europe so if you pack a universal travel adaptor you should be covered. Also, keep in mind that electrical outlets are not always a guarantee if you stay overnight in the desert. Therefore, charge up all your batteries beforehand and bring a power bank as a back up. My personal favorite is the Mophie Powerstation XXL.

Freshly laundered clothes hang outside of the blue painted walls in Chefchaouen, Morocco

Ideally you’ll want to pack light. For the majority of my travels I use my small  Base Camp duffel from The North Face. This duffel is carry on size, durable and can seriously hold a ton of stuff. With the large top opening I am able to easily fit all of my belongings including camera gear. To organize your clothes I highly recommend investing in a few packing cubes. These things are serious game changers when it comes to packing efficiently.

The small villages that you see along the way to the desert from Marrakesh

My Fjallraven Kanken backpack has been with me since early 2013. Its large opening, washable material and sturdy design is what makes it one of my most highly recommended backpacks. Plus it comes in so many beautiful colors and sizes that you’ll be sure to find the perfect one for your travels!


Camera Gear


Do not go to Morocco without a camera. I repeat, do not travel to Morocco without having some device that can capture photographic evidence of all the gorgeous places you will visit. Choosing the right camera for travel isn’t easy. There are many factors including quality, cost and size.

Watching the sunset in the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakesh. For the purpose of keeping this short I will just list the camera equipment I use. Currently in my camera bag is the Sony A7III Mirrorless, Full Frame camera. I pair this with the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens and the 24-240mm f/3.5 kit lens. I also use the Canon 6D DSLR, full frame camera with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

Additionally I used the Go Pro Hero 6 Black to create my videos in Morocco. And please be advised that Drones are strictly prohibited in Morocco so be sure to leave yours at home!


Is Morocco Affordable?


Absolutely! Now, this all depends on the type of traveler you are. Morocco is a country that appeals to all kinds of travelers, from luxury to budget/backpackers. For our trips to Morocco we found ourselves somewhere in the middle and it was very affordable. We spent about $600 each for 5 days (including the tour, hotels, food and souvenirs). This also included flights out of Venice, Italy so your cost may vary depending on your departure location.

The beautiful oasis in Morocco that you will see as you drive towards the desert!

Where you will see the most fluctuation in cost will be with the hotels or Riads. Like everywhere, the fancier the Riad the more expensive it will be. However, there are plenty of places available in the mid-price range that are incredibly beautiful and offer all of the same amenities.

» Tipping «

Tipping for services in Morocco is customary and it is important that you always have dirhams and centimes on you. Besides tipping your guide or at restaurants, it is very common to have to pay to use a restroom or other unexpected things along the way. For your tour guides I recommend to tip at least 10%.

Morocco has some beautiful structures all over the city. Such a great place to explore!


Vaccinations


Due to Morocco’s location in Africa there are quite a few recommendations for vaccinations. Additionally, it is always wise to pack extra travel meds just in case. The main vaccinations that you will need prior to visiting Morocco is Hepatitis A and Typhoid. You should also already have your routine vaccinations to include MMR, tetanus, polio and chickenpox.

Morocco is such a beautiful country to explore.Keep in mind that some vaccinations require a wait period after getting the shot. Of course it is always important to check with the CDC before traveling and taking the necessary precautions. It is also advisable to read through any limitations or restrictions to taking these medications or vaccinations. Some of these could be age related, health related or just not a good mix with any current medication.

View of Fez from the balcony at our Riad.

In additional to getting vaccinations it is important to bring some medications with you. Whether these be OTC or prescription, they may come in handy during your travels.

I highly recommend getting a prescription from your doctor for Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat travelers diarrhea. I always pack Zofran, an anti-nausea/vomiting prescription just in case. Some OTC medications that could come in handy would be Immodium, Tylenol, Excedrin, and Benadryl. I’d also recommend packing some bandaids and antibiotic ointment or a small first aid kit to be overly prepared.


Visas


The Visa requirements will vary depending on which country you are from. Currently, passport holders from the UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA do not need a visa to visit. Unless you are planning to stay over 90 days. Research if Morocco requires a visa for your country of origin and arrange it prior to your arrival.

The best part about visiting Morocco is getting to explore all the beautiful places within the country.

I hope that you found this guide helpful in preparing for your trip to Morocco!

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Planning a trip to Morocco? This guide will provide you with all the information you need to know before your trip!

 

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