Morocco is undoubtedly a mix of languages, religions, cultures, modern sensibilities and ancient traditions. The country conjures up images of tagine and mint tea, pungent spice stalls and labyrinthine medinas as well as minarets and date plantations. That explains why notable figures such as Winston Churchill, Jack Kerouac, and Jimi Hendrix were drawn to this alluring North African nation. Today, the country continues to pique interests of curious minds.
Rainbows of color, urban orchestra of sounds and spice-market characterize Morocco. The country can be overwhelming for first time visitors.
In the 15 or so years I’ve been exploring morocco, the mint tea is what has been grounding me to the country. I’ve visited the country as a leader of a tour group (my friends), as a student backpacker, and with my parents. I never seem to get bored of the traditional pouring and re-pouring from the silver teapots. The iridescent leaves feature an impossible sweetness that could be cloying any other place in the world. I honestly believe that there’s plenty to discover about Morocco.
Whether you’re a first time or regular visitor, here’s an effective guide that I think will be handy at exploring the country to the latter. Actually, this guide, coupled with a vacation itinerary template I discovered online was quite helpful in ensuring my trip was stress free. Read on …
Money & Costs
Dirham (MAD) is the Moroccan currency. 1 USD is equivalent to 9.33 MAD. If you are a card kind of person like myself, ATMS are widely spread across different locations. Most top-end restaurants and midrange hotels accept credit cards.
During my visits, I usually spend around 60 – 100 USD. However, for your case, it can be lower or higher depending on your lifestyle while in the country.
One of the money saving tip that has always been handy during my visits is eating from the street stalls. Secondly, I negotiate my cab fare. To save money during my trip in the country, I avoid faux guides. Is it advisable to drink while exploring Morocco? I don’t think so! Many residents frown upon drinking. That means that alcohol is scarce and thus tends to be overpriced. Take it from someone who has visited the country many times; avoid drinking since it’s expensive. It’ll not only help you save money but will also align you closer to the local norms.
When it comes to accommodation, averagely, dorm rooms are between 80-100 MAD each night in major cities such as Fez and Marrakesh. On the outskirts, accommodation costs are about 50 MAD. Budget hotels start at around 150 MAD each night for double rooms. In Fez and Marrakesh, accommodation tends to be pricier since they’re the main cities.
What about food costs? I love this country because eating is pocket friendly. For instance, a pot of my favorite mint tea goes for around 8-10 MAD. For about 35 MAD, you can take local food such as vegetable dish, meat, and tagine. Other dishes such as pizza and sandwiches range between 30-50 MAD. If you’re into Western restaurants and more expensive touristy, you’re looking at spending around 150 MAD.
Train is the comfortable, easiest, and affordable mode of travel in Morocco. Trains reach most of the main cities alongside the central line. 2nd class train tickets cost roughly 30 MAD/hour and 45 MAD/hour for 1st class. If you opt to use a bus, they cost around 4 MAD. Their main drawback is that they’re usually overcrowded. Taxis are also available. While they cost more, they’re more reliable and faster.
One thing i’ve always loved about Morocco is the fact that border formalities are fairly straightforward and quick. Regardless of your point of entry, the validity of your passport shouldn’t be less than six months from date of entry.
Exporting or importing dirham is forbidden. However, since checks tend to be rare, you shouldn’t worry about having some loose change at the end of your drink. Some of the forbidden items consist of ‘immoral items that can cause breach of peace’ like ‘video cassettes, printed matter, and books’
The following are some of the duty-free allowances:
150 ml of perfume
1 L of alcoholic drink
Up to 250g of tobacco, 25 cigars or 200 cigarettes
Souvenirs or presents worth up to Dh 2000
You don’t need a visa if you intend to stay less than 90 days.
Click here for more information on Morocco visa requirements.
One thing I’ve always done before traveling to Morocco is take certain vaccinations. Always remember that prevention is better than cure. The CDC recommends one take the following vaccines before traveling:
Hepatitis A and B
Things to do and see in Morocco
There are plenty of things to do and see in Morocco. Here are some of the must visit attractions and activities to take part while in the country:
The first thing I did when I landed in Morocco is head straight to the Djemaa el-Fna, which simply means ‘Assembly of the Dead’. Here, you can find exotic street performers of different talents including chefs, musicians, tattoo artists, monkey owners, and snake charmers.
How about sleeping in the Sahara Desert?
Just like the Sahara is portrayed in the movies, it’s absolutely spectacular, empty, and vast. You can explore it with a 4 by 4 camel and a guided tour. Spending the night in a tent inside the dunes is one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
Trek the Atlas Mountains
Trekking the beautiful and rugged is a must while in Morocco. They stretch more than 1500 miles. While you can hike round the year, the ideal time is between April and May.
Relax inside a conventional ‘hammam’
Hamman is a highly popular steam bath in North Africa. Public ones’ cost 10 MAD while private ones charge around 300 MAD.
Lose yourself in the medinas
The medinas refer to the historic hearts of every city in the country. They’re part food market, part shopping center, and part residential area. In the medinas, you’ll find streets where homes, markets, restaurants and shops all line the streets along buildings seemingly too nearby together.
Morocco is fragrant, colorful, and chaotic. It’s a sensory overload that tourists either hate or love. In my countless visits to the country, I learnt to be ‘’comfortable being uncomfortable.’’ From the coasts to the desert to the high Atlas Mountains, the North African country will certainly hit all your senses as a traveler. Whether you hate or love Morocco, one thing I can promise you is that you’ll leave a better traveler than you went.
My above guide is handy to not only help you avoid common pitfalls but also save money and plan your trip.