Morocco can seem quite intimidating when you first arrive. Before you are even out of the airport, you get thoroughly scanned to make sure you are not carrying any drones (which are strictly forbidden!) and then you come out to the chaos of taxi drivers looking for passengers and offering prices that sometimes would make even the London cabbies blush.
However, there is no need to go to Morocco blind. Throughout our week there I found that some of the information that I read online prior to our trip was outdated and no longer true. This made me think about writing an updated, more comprehensive list.
The things you need to know:
- Haggling is the way of life here, you cannot avoid it. You will rarely see prices on things so you will have to ask the price if something catches your eye. If it seems outrageous, it probably is. Just start walking away from them and they will soon start shouting about a “special price just for you”. Best way about it is to offer them a quarter of the first offered price. You can also gauge by their reactions how far they are willing to go. It is fun but sometimes it can be exhausting. If they are too aggressive, don’t buy from them.
- Speaking of haggling, DO NOT let them corner you in their shop (sometimes just a nook by the street) as it is really difficult to get out unless you agree to buy whatever it is they are trying to sell you. You can keep saying you are not interested, they will just repeat “how much you want to pay” like a broken record and not let you leave.
- Changing money – it can only be done once you are in the country. As far as we saw, the exchange rate did not change much so no need to shop around. 10 MAD is around €1 or £0.80. Cash points are scarce in Medinas but of course there are some and the rate seems to be the same as when changing cash. Caution – some cash points charge a fee to withdraw money (Fes – societe generale by the Blue gate)
- Always have small change with you, it helps with haggling and it is very useful for tipping. I found it useful having smaller ones in a different pocket to the bigger ones – much easier to pick the right amount for the beggars (something that is encouraged in Islam). You can give them 1 or 2 MAD, it is enough to help them buy bread.
- Souks – I found Marrakech souks much busier than the ones in Fes. There they also use bicycles and scooters in the narrow streets of the souks so you need to be alert. Best not to have headphones in. Fes souks had less people and the only transport used were carts and mules.
Some souk photos
- Tipping – always tip, it is the part of the culture. It does not need to be much, 5 MAD when having a meal for example is acceptable (this is about 40 pence)
- Photos of people – probably no need to say, but always ask if you can take a photo of someone, especially artisans. It is also nice to give them a bit of a tip afterwards as well. Beware, I had issues with Moroccan Water men deliberately walking into my shot and then demanding money for the photo taken.
- Hookah pipes – we ran into several tourists who came to Morocco and expected to have nargila bars on every corner. One of them was quite disappointed to find it is not so. There might be a bar or two with the Hookah pipes, but we have not found this to be a common practice in Morocco. If you want to go somewhere where you can smoke shisha all day long, give Romania a try 🙂
- Olives and bread – everywhere I looked online and in the guide books before the trip, it was said that once they put olives and bread on your table, whether you eat them or not, you will be charged. This made us ask for the price of it to make sure we were not going to go over our budget. In each and every restaurant we sat down, they put some olives in front of us and sometimes bread. In each and every one of the restaurants it was free!
Last but not least, I need to touch upon the “dress code” for women. There is no dress code it is just to make you feel more comfortable and not be constantly started at when you walk down the street. I saw a lot of articles mentioning long sleeves and long skirts/trousers. I was quite comfortable in knee length leggings under denim shorts and a tank top with wide straps. However, I was travelling with my husband so I had “an appropriate chaperone”. The only time I got more catcalls and looks was when I was wearing my long summer dress with an open back and took the pashmina off my shoulders to get some sun.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with things to know, check out things that you should avoid while travelling. If you have missed the missed the first part of my ultimate guide to Morocco, you can find it here.