We’ve been talking about our Morocco travels a lot lately, reminiscing about all the fun things we did there including quad biking through the desert and relaxing in the cacti covered gardens and riads. A riad would be pretty perfect right now during this summer quarantine! I’ve wanted to publish a post all about our top tips for Marrakech and Morocco for a while, because I wish I’d heard some of these things before we went! If you’re planning a trip to Morocco feel free to save, bookmark or pin this post to refer back to for when you’re planning, packing and exploring. Let’s get into it!
Morocco’s currency is Moroccan Dirham, which is almost ten times the pound in the exchange rate. For instance, 100 Moroccan Dirham is around £8.50, so once you get your head around that x10 rule it’s not too hard to work out when away. There are a few rules about taking Moroccan Dirham into the country. Firstly, each traveller can only take up to 2,000 Dirham (/MAD) into the country – if you are travelling in a group of two you must each take your share rather than pool them together with one person. If you are caught at customs with more than 2,000; even if you are sharing with someone else, they are allowed to take the money off you.
We also found most currency exchange booths did not actively have MAD in stock. Whilst they can sometimes order this in, we decided to get it at the airport instead. In hindsight, we would have just withdrawn money in Morocco. You pay soo much more than the exchange rate at the airport and there are a good amount of places to withdraw money in Marrakech – plus, most places there accept card payments which will also get you a better exchange rate. Whilst you could convert £30 worth or so to make sure you’ve got the initial airport taxi covered, we wouldn’t recommend getting more.
What should girls wear in Morocco?
Have a look at my video above where I show a bunch of the outfits I wore in Morocco. There are so many different opinions on the internet about what women should wear in Morocco, and I’d say from experience there are definitely different locations that call for different things. Overall, women (and men on the whole, but the rules are far more aimed at women,) should not show skin. Floaty clothes covering shoulders, cleavage and legs are the general rule. (In more recent years jeans seem to be fine for girls to wear.) They do have a level of tolerance to the outfits tourists wear here, but even if the rules don’t quite sit with you, it makes sense to be respectful.
Even when we visited Morocco in January, the weather was clear and warm the entire time and actually longer floaty clothes were best suited to the climate. I tended to wear slightly baggy trousers, long skirts and dresses past my knees. My shoulders were always covered and I made sure to also bring a light scarf with me to drape over my shoulders and hair when needed. The main place we felt the rules were strict was the city centre and souks especially. From our experience, restaurants, bars, riads, and the desert were all far more relaxed on clothes.
Men shouldn’t take tops off, but other than that the rules seemed to be minimal. As with most Muslim countries, women have more to be aware of and more rules to follow (sad – I wish the rules were equal), but it’s not too hard to adhere to everything. I also felt especially at ease being with Jack in the more strict areas.
Escape the souks
I’d guess that you want to visit the souks in Morocco, looking at all the alleys, bustle, beautiful stalls, colours and vibrancy. You really should! There is so much to see here that it can feel a little overwhelming, so a top tip of ours would be to suss out a few chilled spots in between the markets if you need a break. Our favourite little gem we bumped into was Le Jardin Secret which is a riad filled with cacti, places to lounge and relax and a cafe. It was the perfect spot to stop everything for an hour between the markets. (Check out our things to do in Morocco post for a full list!)
Where to eat for dietary requirements
Some of the food in Morocco is seriously gorgeous, they use the perfect blends of spices and definitely don’t shy away from flavour! With this being said, it can be awkward for those of us with dietary requirements in places like this, where sometimes being a vegetarian, vegan, gluten free (etc,) is unheard of. You shouldn’t have to miss out on trying the delicacies across new places, and in Morocco you do not have to! We found usually, the more expensive sit down restaurants would offer the most choice for different diets. A great rule of thumb here is to check out Tripadvisor first. Tripadvisor is rated from tourists around the world, and it’ll be set to your country code so most reviews should show in English. You can have a read of reviews to see if people commented on the veggie/vegan food, but we found so long as the restuarant was highly rated on Tripadvisor, it would have enough options for us. Our favourite meal from the holiday was at the restaurant Entrepotes.
There are tons of cheaper places to eat to save money – including street food and fast food chains. (Do be aware of some street food though – read the section below!) We ate at these places for some of our trip to save more money for excursions and activities. Something to note is a lot of these cheaper places can lead to people coming up to your tables and asking for money or food, if the doors are not manned. Obviously this doesn’t lead to the most chilled of experiences so just consider that aspect when you choose where to eat. We tended to pick up breakfast to eat in the hotel, and then ate in a variety of places. More touristy areas (like the restaurants near the Menara Gardens) are all manned and a really zen place to sit and have a meal.
Safety and Scamming
There’s a lot of information about scammers and staying vigilant in Morocco online, and it can seem overwhelming! It’s a really good idea to have a little read before you go just to be aware of the things to look out for, as it will definitely make your trip more enjoyable. The most that seems to happen is scamming and pickpocketers, and rarely anything more happens here to tourists. Make sure you’re staying in a good hotel in a safe area, and then be aware of certain areas. As I visited with Jack, I think it helped keep bothering to a minimum. (He’s a big guy and it definitely helped me feel as safe as possible – I would be much more alert if I was visiting with other female friends and to be honest I wouldn’t personally choose to go alone or without Jack.)
So, one thing to be aware of is taking pictures. You should never take pictures of people here without asking, including their shops, animals or anything else they own. They will often ask you to pay for this and it is seen as disrespectful to do without asking. Some people will put props (such as snakes) on you and demand money for taking pictures. We didn’t personally experience any of this but it has happened to friends of ours.
Always negotiate taxi prices before getting inside, as particularly tourists will be charged much more than necessary/normal. A great tip for travelling in the day would be to buy a hop on hop off bus pass. It costs under £5 for a days worth and you can use it as many times as you need. The route is generally all very safe areas too so it’s a good spectrum to go off. (They do not run at night so you will need other transport when travelling around later.)
Some of the street food can upset your tummy (like, a lot) so make sure you do research on where to eat first, and don’t just buy things on the spot regarding food. It gets super hot and has often been sat out for a while, so while delicious make sure you know where you’re eating. The water here is a strong no go too – bottles are your best friend and there are tons of supermarkets and corner shops with fixed prices for this. We also bought packaged food for snacks and breakfasts.
We wouldn’t recommend driving here without experience in the area – the etiquette is non existent and whilst fun to watch, would be terrifying to drive in without knowing all the rules! That hop on hop off bus really was our best friend and we couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s also a fab way to see more of the city.
There are “tour guides” within the central city who promise “no money” to give you information, and then will demand money from you. We would recommend planning your routes beforehand and only asking for advice at established attractions like the riads and gardens. On the other hand, you should only visit the desert on a tour to make sure you are in the safe areas and you have a guide. Our desert quad bike tour was our favourite part of Marrakech and we can’t recommend it enough! Check out our things to do in Morocco post for more information and must-see things!
I’ve talked about the Moroccan animals in our what to do in Morocco post, so I won’t get into it in too much detail here – but still wanted to mention it. Be aware in Morocco that a lot of the animals are not treated nicely. We would never recommend going on a camel ride of putting money into activities including animals; like the horse drawn carriages. They often lead really sad lives and are mistreated and malnourished. There is a charity called Spana (UK run) who work to educate people in different countries of the importance of treating their animals well, how to look after them and give them the happiest lives. They also take in animals in need of care and rehoming and have vets in different sites across the world for people to use for free. They’re really special to me and are on Amazon Smile (you should list them as your charity if this is something you care about,) and welcome donations on their website.
Let me know if you have any tips to add to this post and check out the other posts in our Morocco series!