Morocco - Things To Know Before You Go
Morocco is a beautiful country full of lovely friendly people. We spent 10 days there and compiled a few things we thought would be important to know before heading over.
1. Moroccan people are multilingual
As a rule of thumb locals speak French, Arabic, Berber but very often they will know English as well as German.
Here are some useful phrases:
- Hello (Peace Be With You): Salam Alikome (salaam a eleikum)
- Thank You: Choukran (shokran)
- No Thank You: La Choukran (la shokran).
2. What to wear
Moroccan people are very liberal and you can wear whatever you want but the more revealing your outfit is the more attention you will get. If you are visiting religious sites bring a scarf to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect.
3. Never pay the asking price
When you shop at markets where prices are not listed expect to be given a very inflated price at first. In my experience, shop vendors start negotiating at 3-4 times the true price, so depending on your haggling and negotiating skills you could bring it all the way down. It's usually a long process reminiscent of a dance where you exchange stories and jokes until a truce and agreeable price is reached on both sides. Have no shame to insist on what you think it's a good price and don't feel bad about walking away. In fact, if they don't stop you when you walk away, then you know the price is good.
Tip: When I was buying carpets in Marrakech the first shops were giving me way inflated prices and weren't reducing the prices much. Once I bought a small rug, though, everything changed. The other rug vendors saw that I was carrying a wrapped rug and immediately started negotiating at lower prices, since they knew I had already negotiated one rug. The difference was astounding - they were starting at prices about 2-3 times lower than just an hour ago.
A good strategy would be to start with smaller purchases and carry them around as a "Hurry give me a good price because I almost spent all my money" message OR bring a dummy bundle from your hotel to fake a shopping spree. 😁
Our first few days we were giving really big tips because we didn't know what was customary and what was not. The cost of living for locals in Morocco is very low, so don't be embarrassed to tip based on their cost of living amount. Something around 10-15% is about right for the tip amount. Also, try to carry loose change for tipping.
5. Be wary of local guide and people showing you the way
It's definitely great to hire a guide to show you around and tell you the history of the places you are visiting, but be careful. A lot of the guides have relationships with local shops and will casually offer to take you to these "special" places where you can see how clothing, goods or carpets are made. These places are most often no different than other shops except that they are overpriced and pay the guides a commission for bringing business in. Basically, if you find yourself in a shop that is only filled with tourists and guides, it's most likely overpriced and a 'tourist trap'.
Also when you stop to look at your map or read a street sign you most likely will be approached by someone who will offer to take you to your destination. They will insist that it's free of charge and will be very friendly but most times they will ask you for a tip when you get to where you are going. They might try to guilt you into paying or shout at you to embarrass you into paying. So just use your best judgement on this.
6. Have cash
You can find ATMs but not everywhere. It's always a good idea to have cash to avoid wasting time. Ask your hotel/riad about the best place to withdraw money or ask them to exchange them for you.
7. Moroccan fruits are amazing
I don't know what it is but every piece of fruit we had in Morocco was delicious, juicy, and so flavorful! Make sure to eat some when you visit.
8. Ask before taking photos
It's customary to ask before taking someone's photo and you may be asked for a small tip after you do.
9. Bring toilet paper with you
Don't expect bathrooms to have toilet paper. Be prepared with your own and also have some hand sanitizer available. Some public restrooms also have restroom attendants that ask for tips. For me, it was unclear if these were official restroom attendants or just clever beggars placing themselves at the right place. So feel free to use your own judgement whether or not to tip these restroom attendants. For me, if the locals were tipping them, I did also.
Generally Morocco is a very safe country and except for shop vendors trying to overcharge you, you probably won't have any other issues while traveling.