Noble Journeys' Morocco Travel TipsEnticing articles on travel to Morocco appear more and more often in travel sections of newspapers, magazines, internet sites – and surprised and excited travelers return home from this exotic destination with tales of incredible hospitality, great food and stunning sites. A "Thousand and One Nights" exotic, with marble and mosaic palaces, wafting silk curtain at windows of restaurants and hotel rooms, charming small desert hotels.
Excellent accommodations are available for any budget, from backpacker hostels to 5 star palaces. Private rental car, chauffeured-car or public transportation – the choice is yours.
Yes, it entices, but many people are hesitant to travel there. It is, of course, a Muslim country, but one without the fundamentalism of Iran or parts of Indonesia. The young king has made it clear that no entity will threaten Morocco's religious unity. A recent news article tells us that the country has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, saying its Embassy is trying "to alter the religious fundamentals of the kingdom". Foreigners are welcome. The hospitality includes visitors from every nation.
So – now that you want to go, what do you need to know?
I have traveled to Morocco for over 15 years, as a woman alone and in mixed groups, and have always been treated with courtesy and respect.
Respect is a key word in travel anywhere. Always dress conservatively in Morocco, as you are a guest in their country, so no low-cut tight T-shirts, shorts or short skirts for women, and men should not wear short shorts. You will see Europeans wearing just such garb and wonder why as an American you shouldn't dress like them. Moroccans dress conservatively, and appreciate those who also do so. We should always respect the customs of the countries we visit and the people who live there, and not call attention to our clothing. Many Moroccan women wear western-style clothes, while others prefer to wear the headscarf and long caftan; there is no law here dictating what they should wear, it is a matter of choice. No scarves or shawls are needed to cover heads or shoulders.
Although the majority of Muslims do not drink, some do so. Alcohol is available in hotels and some restaurants in the cities. You can also purchase your own wine or hard liquor from the airport duty-free shop before you come, or from a shop in a Moroccan city, and keep it in your room. Ice would be available from the bar in your hotel, though that leads me to another point:
Always drink bottled water, available from local shops or the bar in your hotel. Use it also to brush your teeth. Filtered water is used in ice cubes in better hotels and restaurants, but beware of asking for ice in sidewalk cafes, as you risk a stomach upset or worse.
Delicious food is available everywhere, but only eat hot food cooked in front of you at the markets, and do not eat raw fruits or vegetables you haven't washed and cut up yourself (with bottled water). Salads are safe in good restaurants.
Do carry any prescription meds in your carry-on case, in their original containers, and bring along enough for your trip plus a couple of days, in case of delay. Take along a list of your meds in case of emergency. Always bring over the counter meds for stomach ailments, cuts and scrapes, band aids, etc.; there are excellent pharmacies which can help you should the need arise.
ATMs are available in all the cities and some small towns. However, it is recommended to bring cash with you when going off the beaten track. Always carry at least $100 in local currency, called "Dirham", pronounced "deer'ham". There are many banks, but the lines are often long. Your hotel can usually cash American dollars. Travelers' checks are not recommended, as there have been several cases of counterfeiting and some banks won't change them.
A much-loved practice here, and very much a part of the culture! A carpet or bracelet catches your eye and the shopkeeper immediately recognizes your interest, inviting you into the shop to begin the process. Americans are not comfortable with bargaining but after a few encounters, become quite adept. The key is not to engage in the practice if you are really not interested. You can ask a price just to get an idea, but once you engage in offering a lower price, the game is on. Always be patient, do not be angry and enjoy the ubiquitous mint tea that is offered, and counter with half the asking price – only if you are really interested in purchasing. Be prepared to pay somewhere in the middle. Do not bargain just to see how low a price you can get and then walk away, as that is a great insult. You may of course say "no thanks, I am not interested" and end it there. Be aware that this may encourage the shopkeeper to lower the price! And be aware that no one will sell anything if there is not some profit to be made.
Travel, medical and emergency evacuation insurance is essential. As the latter, in particular, can cost $50,000 or more, it is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance to cover trip cancellation, medical expenses, emergency evacuation, etc. Purchase a policy covering the entire cost of your trip (land and air) and ask about pre-existing conditions. Noble Journeys recommends, but is not responsible for, policies through Travel Insured Interntional at www.travelinsured.com or (800) 243-3174. Our agency # is 46716.
I will be posting more tips in the future but do consider traveling to this wonderfully unique country, filled with artisans and poets, artists and chefs, ancient markets filled with brass, rugs, tribal jewelry, mounds of dried figs and apricots, preserved lemons and olives of every color. Truly a feast for the senses.
Joan Noble, Director
Contact us or visit our Morocco main page for more information about an exciting Moroccan vacation.