What to wear, how to negotiate with merchants, how to be safe? When you plan a trip to Morocco, there are a lot of questions that probably come into your mind – especially for first time and solo female travelers. I went to Marrakech for the first time and on my own and had the chance to experience one of the most vibrant cities I’ve been so far. The city was fascinating, but also very crowded. So if you don’t like the big mass of people, you should think twice about your next visit to Morocco. If you want to experience this special Moroccan way of lifestyle, go, see and feel the country with all your senses. There are only two extremes: either you like Morocco or you hate it. I for my part enjoyed it, but more than a week would be even for me a little bit too much.
All in all, I stayed for four days which is a good length to see something from the city and do a one-day trip somewhere. But there were some things I wished I knew before going to Morocco or things that are nice to know. Here I summed up my experiences and what I’ve learned on my trip, so that you can go more relaxed to the Arabic country – hopefully with fewer questions in mind.
Morocco is a Muslim country and a religious place, so you should dress accordingly. Better cover up your shoulders and knees and always take a scarf with you in case you visit a mosque or plan a trip to the Sahara. But not just women should be aware of the dressing code. Also men have some things to consider. In Morocco tank-tops are seen as undershirts and shorts as underpants. Make sure you wear pants and a linen shirt (which is good for hot days). I’ve seen lots of tourists wearing shorts and tops, which was no problem. But I just think it’s better to respect the Moroccan culture and to cover the mentioned parts. I felt much better that way.
While in the past tourists always had to fear pickpockets and small-time criminals, nowadays it’s much safer due to the police. The past is still in the heads of people, but the world has changed and so has Morocco. Of course, there are still pickpockets like everywhere in the world, but it’s safer than some years ago. I even brought my MacBook and nothing got stolen. You should still be careful about your things and avoid going to small side streets by night. But except the occasional annoying shop owners, the people are nice and friendly.
Morocco offers a lot of local fruits and vegetables, but still it is a very meat-heavy country. Luckily, I had no problem with the food, but the most likely sickness you can get is a stomach flu. If you had problems in the past, you should avoid tap water, uncooked vegetables and unwashed fruits. Also make sure you wash your hands often with soap and water. If you order a drink with ice, be aware it can be from the pipe. If you have all these things in mind, you should be fine.
4. Currency & Tips
In Morocco you pay with Moroccan Dirham (MAD). You can check here the current rate. Although you can pay with credit cards in most restaurants, hotels and supermarkets, you should always have some small change in your wallet. At touristic attractions and other public spots you have to pay someone to use the bathroom. So make sure you always have coins to give tips. 10 MAD (1€/1$) per person are enough. And also local small restaurants and shops usually don’t take cards. But you can find ATMs at the main square „Djemaa el Fna“ to get some extra cash.
5. Holy Day
Due to the Muslim holy day, on Friday many shops, museums and market stalls are closed in the afternoon. Also during Ramadan (usually in May/June), some restaurants are closed and shops remove alcohol from the shelves. But don’t worry! In the evening life is pulsing again. Just check the opening hours before or ask someone about it, so you won’t make the same mistake than me. I walked the long way to Jardin Majorelle until someone told me it’s closed during holy day.
6. Market Place & Dealers
In the Marrakech souks you have to get ready for one thing: bargain. It won’t just be expected, it’s actually required in the Arabic world. So don’t be too shy about bargaining and haggling with the dealers. It can be fun, quite entertaining and you save some money. But be careful about strangers who trick you into doing something or offer you a special service.
It’s not uncommon for people to expect a tip or a high price for this in return. And if you were dragged to something after all, but you are not going to buy anything, just say no and don’t except a mint tea. Otherwise you stay there forever. And please, never follow anyone somewhere – not even little boys or girls! They just want to rip you off.
The official language in Morocco is Arabic and French. Unfortunately, English is not very common at some places. So it’s always better to have a dictionary with you. The more you get out of the big cities the more Arabic the language will be. Anyway, it’s always good to know some useful phrases before going to Marrakech. Here you find a little list of the most important words:
Goodbye Ma’a ElSalama
Thank you Shokran
You’re welcome Ala ElRahib Wa ElSaa
Please Min Fadilak
I hope my summary helps you a little and makes your trip even better. Knowing about some things when flying in a different country can be worth a mint. But if you know Marrakech or have been in another city in Morocco, let me know what you have experienced. Or maybe you have anything to add? I would love to hear about it.