Morocco was our first flirt with Arabic countries and the first country on the African continent that we ever visited. There are loads of posts and guides out there to help you prepare yourself for what is coming, but I do not think words can ever prepare you for something so different from any European country I have been to (this includes the Balkans). Nevertheless, I will try and sum up what I believe are the important things to keep in mind while planning to go to Morocco. This is my ultimate guide that should give you a good overview of important things about Morocco.
When to go and where:
We have chosen February to travel, the only reason for this being that we found flights dirt cheap for this period. However, I believe we have picked the best time! The temperature during the day was 20-26°C and it dropped down to 10 during the night. Even when we visited the Atlas mountains, we had clear blue skies and 25 degrees. The guide informed us the weather was unusually warm and that the mountains should be under snow in February. The change in the weather was reflected on the surrounding rivers that looked little more than a brook. But sure, climate change is a myth.
If you want to visit in the summer, prepare yourself for scorching weather and a much busier tourist season – both Medinas (Marrakech & Fes) had plenty of tourists during our trip but we did not feel overwhelmed by them.
As far as where to go, there are two main cities most tourists aim for – Marrakech and Fes. We have been to both and 2-3 full days is more than enough to stay in each of them, unless you will use them as a base for further exploration. You can take day trips to the mountains, Essaouira, Agadir, Chefchauen, Meknes etc. There are many day trips you can take as the country is vast.
Most of the tourists also want to see the desert, but few of them realise how far the “real” desert is, you know, the sandy one with the dunes – Sahara. If you want to go see the desert, there are a couple of options open to you:
- Full day or half day visit to Agafay from Marrakech (no dunes, it is more of a rocky desert). This can be done on camels or quads
- Two day trip to Merzouga from Fes or Marrakech (7 hours one way)
- Three day desert trip that will take you from Marrakech to Fes (or the other way around) through the desert (Merzouga)- this is the one I would have done if we had two extra days of holiday
In Morocco you have 2 types of taxis – petit or small taxi for up to 4 people and the grand taxi for up to 6 or 7 I believe. ALWAYS agree on a rate before getting in a taxi! There are of course the public buses which are not too bad of an option either. We have used the bus 15 to get to the Majorelle Gardens from Jemaa El Fna in Marrakech and for 4 MAD each got there in about 10 mins.
As for the airports; Marrakech one is pretty close to the Medina unlike the one in Fes but of course both have buses going to and fro so the transport you choose will be up to what you want to experience, how much money you want to spend and also how much time you have. Buses will of course be slower than taxis and they have a schedule. As this was our first time in Morocco, we prebooked a taxi online with Suntransfers.com for just under 10 pounds total. You can of course get a taxi as soon as you land but chances are you will have to haggle for your rate – you should not be paying more than 70 or 80 MAD I am told. Bus (number 19) should be about 30 MAD per person, but did not check this out (the ticket for the one in Fes is mentioned as 4 MAD!). As Fes is further away, taxis are pricier. Grand taxi should not charge you more than 150 MAD
One piece of advice we were given – do not use the buses during rush hour when they are full of people due to higher risk of pickpockets.