I’ve decided to live by that motto over the last few years, and it has not steered me wrong as of yet! After spending a few days in Paris with friends, it was time to test this theory once again. I spent months researching affordable trips from France; finally I made the decision to visit Morocco. Naturally, my family and friends were worried. There were already three strikes against me: I would be traveling by myself, I’m a female, and I don’t speak the language. Rather than focus on the reasons NOT to go, I decided to focus on the main reasons TO travel to Morocco. Here are 10 tips I found essential while visiting this beautiful country.
1. Research, Research, Research: It’s important to do extensive research before traveling to Morocco. Focus on facts not just opinions. There are tons of negative experiences out there, read them, but don’t dwell on them. I made sure I packed modest yet stylish clothing. Cover your shoulders at all times and wear layers as the temperature drops at night. Carry a backpack to hold your goods from the market.
2. Learn the Culture- There are certain do’s and don’ts in Arabic culture. Avoid stereotypes and assumptions. I spent some time learning everyday Arabic phrases and words such as please –afak and thank you-shukran. Most Moroccans speak English and French which really helped. I noticed that many people appreciated me attempting to speak their language, even if I butchered the words. Just make the attempt!
3. Cash is King- While there are some places that accept credit cards, the market is cash only. I had Euros that I exchanged at the airport. Check the exchange rate; you might get a better rate at the bank. I recommend downloading an off-line currency exchange app. Make sure you travel with more than enough money so you don’t have to use the ATM. Unfortunately, I ran out of money which meant a trip to the ATM. As a female, I recommend going to an ATM machine in an open area, early in the day. Look around for anyone standing too close. Carry cash on your body. Avoid loose pockets or a large purse. Keep small bills handy.
4. Location is Key: Book hotel accommodations based on the experience you want to have. Due to the fact I made the decision to go to Morocco at the last minute, I literally booked my Airbnb as I was boarding my flight to Marrakesh. What can I say I like to live on the edge! I chose a riad, instead of a commercial hotel because I wanted an authentic experience. My first riad was located in old Marrakesh right outside the hustle and bustle of the souks. The second riad was in Gueliz, which is considered new Marrakesh because it’s upscale and modern. They even have a Starbucks !
5. Drink the Tea- Morocco is known for its hospitality. If someone offers you tea, accept the invitation. I fell in love with the fresh mint tea and the oblong cubes of sugar. There is something so simple yet impressive about the process.
6. Get Lost- When I arrived at my Airbnb it was around 8 pm. The host came out to meet me at the taxi. I was overwhelmed by the chaos in the streets. There were mopeds and bikes at every corner. The medina isn’t well lit in some areas; honestly, it felt like I was in a maze. At first, I thought I would never be able to find my way around by myself. My first morning I ventured out determined to look for landmarks and take mental pictures of my surroundings. I stumbled on the market, where I fell in love! Around 7 pm it was time to head back to my riad and I instantly panicked because I could not find any of the landmarks I saw earlier. The host of the riad was able to guide me back to the riad through Whatsapp’s video chat. From that day forward I learned the safest and quickest way to reach the medina without any assistance. Don’t let your initial impression scare you. Venture out early in the day, be aware of your surroundings and ask your host to teach you how to get around. Even if I didn’t know where I was going, I walked around looking confident, as though I did. If you are not adventurous, hire a guide for the day.gain, Bottom line, if a situation feels unsafe walk away.
7. The Market (Souk) – From day one, I could not get enough of the market! It’s a bargainers dream. Take some time out and become familiar with the souk. Try and ignore the catcalls and people asking you to step into their shop. Remember this is how they earn their living. When you are ready to purchase something ask for the price. Many vendors will ask you how much you want to pay. Be respectful when naming your price. Stand your ground, if you feel something is overpriced, be prepared to walk away.
8. Book an Experience- Airbnb offers quite a few options for excursions, cooking classes, and guided tours. I chose to visit the Atlas Mountains and ride a camel. It was an amazing experience that was reasonably priced, and it allowed me to meet other solo travelers. The riad also had some excursion options. Keep in mind those are generally cash only and they could possibly be associates of the host. Do some research ahead of time based on your schedule and budget.
9. Try the Food- As a pescetarian, I wondered if I would have a hard time finding a good meal; however, every meal I had in Marrakech was amazing. There were plenty of fish and vegetable options. Try the tajine, you will not be disappointed. I wanted to take home all the herbs and spices I tried while I was there. A glass of fresh squeezed orange juice is only 5-10 Dirham (1-2 dollars). Trust me you will increase your vitamin C intake while in Morocco! The orange juice was so satisfying, I did not miss having my typical glass of wine with dinner.
10. Stay in Touch- Let someone knows where you are going at all times. My riad host was diligent about making sure I was safe, from the moment I checked in. Morocco has an excellent wireless network. I was able to stay in contact with my family and friends the whole time I was there. All of my social media accounts worked just fine, so I was able to post pictures in real time!
There you have it my 10 tips for navigating Morocco. I loved every second of Morocco, and that might not be the case for the next person. Throughout my years of traveling, I’ve come to appreciate that each person’s experience is unique. The only way you will figure out if you love Morocco is if you Book a flight…It just might change your life!
Sarah Brown-Simmons secular history is that of a medical editor with a background in Human Service and Psychology. After living in Richmond, Virginia for 17 years she moved to New York City. Currently, she lives in Boerum Hill Brooklyn, New York. Sarah plays an active role in her community doing volunteer work which involves interaction with various groups of people from all walks of life. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, thrifting, and event planning with friends.