Planning a trip to Morocco has become far easier lately with a number of cheap flights from European cities. The country is also oriented on expanding tourism and there is relevant infrastructure.
While planning the trip, many people suggested to be extremely careful. However, if you take all necessary precautions, as you would during any travels, you will be fine. Let me start with safety tips to ease your mind.
First of all, Moroccan cities are not as dangerous, as it is commonly discussed. You just need to be particularly careful, when visiting medinas. I would suggest to find your accommodation outside the medinas. The traditional houses, working as hostels and guesthouses are pretty popular and located inside the medinas, however, walking around at night in these areas is not very pleasant, particularly for females. Even though, we didn’t encounter any danger as such at night, we had some guys follow us for quite a while, offering to take us to the taxis. To avoid the unpleasant situations, it would be best to avoid these areas at night.
Other than that, as a female you will get weird stares from men, notwithstanding how you are dressed. This may be because you are a foreigner, as I didn’t see them staring at local women that much. This is quite unpleasant obviously, but there is no actual danger from them in most cases. Of course, be alert, as you would be anywhere else.
Scams are quite common in Morocco, particularly on the Jemaa-el-Fna in Marrakech. One of the scams is by using animals. It would be best to not go close to any monkeys, snakes or else. The owner may quickly put a monkey on your shoulder and demand money for it. Another common way to steal is by distracting you (they may push or a group may be offering different things to buy) and taking your possessions, while your attention is elsewhere. So be alert particularly in this place, as well as any other medinas.
When to Go
Summers are rather hot in most places around Morocco. Most people would suggest to go during autumn or spring. I personally preferred winter. During our trip around New year, the number of tourists were less, during the days we had 18-20 degrees C temperature. Although at night it was getting quite cold, we had the coats with and it was comfortable.
If you are planning to travel to the mountains, winter can be really cold and you better choose milder period for this.
How to Get There
As I mentioned there are a number of cheap flights from European cities to Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca, Tangier, etc. Ryanair is the cheapest in most cases. We travelled from London to Marrakech and left from Fez to London.
Upon landing, whether you already obtained a visa or don’t need one, you will need to fill the arrival card. They may give this to you on the plane or you can get them after you land at the airport. We always fill these forms, while standing in the queue for passport control.
What to Wear in Morocco
This is also related to safety. There is no set dress code, however, you would be more comfortable having your shoulders covered and wearing trousers. I did see some people wearing very short shorts and tank tops as well, but that was rare and you may prefer to blend in, particularly, if you travel solo. Travelling in winter also has its plusses in this sense, as you won’t be suffocated wearing more covered clothes. I was normally wearing a t-shirt, trousers and, when colder, a jacket. Baggy trousers aren’t necessary, you can wear the usual ones.
Moroccan currency dirham can only be obtained inside the country and you cannot take more than a small amount out of the country. You can exchange money at the banks or exchange offices, but keep in mind that there can be numerous different rates and you need to ask around to find the best rate. The exchange offices have better rates than the banks.
Cash is always preferred in most places around Morocco, so have it handy, while travelling.
Where to Stay
You have several options, while in Morocco. Many people like the traditional houses, riads, which serve as hostels and guesthouses. It’s a big courtyard and can be great for socializing. However, most of these are located inside the medinas. This last can have a couple of shortcomings. First of all, as I mentioned before, safety-wise walking around medinas at night is not that pleasant. Secondly, no transport can enter medinas, so you will have to walk around with your luggage to find your accommodation.
I suggest to book your hotel/hostel in the newer parts of the city. These are safer, have nightlife and you won’t have problems getting there. In every city, we stayed at the new parts within 15-30-minute walking distance to medinas. This definitely was the best decision for us.
Transport in Morocco
In my opinion, trains are the most convenient transportation between Moroccan cities, wherever available. You can travel by train between Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, etc.
The trains are the fastest mode of transportation, they are clean, and we didn’t experience any delays.
As far as I understand, as a foreigner, you still can’t buy train tickets online, it’s only possible by Moroccan bank card. We didn’t encounter any problem buying them on the day of travel, but it was winter, around the New Year time. I hear that during peak seasons it can be more complicated, and tickets may be sold out. As far as I know there is a surcharge of 10%, if you buy on the day. If you can buy at least a day in advance, it would be your best bet.
You have an option of buying second and first class tickets. The second-class ticket may not guarantee a seat for you, but the first class always does, as the seats are reserved. The difference in ticket prices is not huge. So maybe buy the first class ticket, when you can. We bought the second class tickets and they were quite all right. We travelled with no problems and found seats easily, but again, it was winter time.
You can’t get to some parts of Morocco by train. If you are travelling to Essaoura for instance, Chefchauen, Ourzazate, etc, you will have to take a bus. The buses are quite all right. They may not be as comfortable, as trains, but some are better than others. There are several companies, among them Supratours and CTM are the biggest.
Wherever you can, I suggest to buy VIP bus tickets. They are far more comfortable than normal buses and there is only a small difference in prices. But these buses have only specific times, which may not be convenient for you. For instance, from Marrakech to Essaoura and back we took the Supratours bus Comfort plus, which was really convenient and inexpensive. But this bus runs only at 9am to Essaoura and 5pm – back to Marrakech. When travelling to Casablanca, the VIP bus times were not convenient for us, so we travelled with a usual bus, and it was far more crammed, somewhat smelly and not very comfortable 😊.
The bus stations are usually closeby train stations, like the Supratours, as well as CTM bus station in Marrakech.
How to travel from Marrakech airport to the city center: There is a bus #19, which will bring you to Jemaa-el-Fna and also goes through the new parts of the city, where we stayed. This is quite expensive at 30 Df. Keep in mind that the rate you pay will get you a free return trip to the airport, if you are going back within two weeks. There apparently are the city buses going to the airport stop, such as #11, but they take longer. We can’t give opinions about them, as we didn’t use ourselves. Taxis should be about 60 Dh most. But it’s a hassle to get one, as the ones near the airport always quote far more than it should be. So if you manage to walk a bit away from the car park, you have better chance of finding taxis with better rates.
How to travel from Fes airport to the city center: Local bus 16 leaves from the airport to the train station, which is some 20 mins walk to medina and is in the newer and more convenient part of the city. However, the bus comes every hour. We didn’t manage to find out the exact timings of the bus, so had to opt for a taxi. Again, as in Marrakech, they will give you an exorbitant price and you need to negotiate.
Other Tips for Travelling Independently in Morocco
- Check prices of anything you want to buy in many spots to get the idea of what it may cost. Bargaining is part of the culture here, as in many other Arab countries. They will definitely give you inflated price and expect you to bargain. I am quite bad at this, so the main thing I was doing is offering the price I considered fair (after getting the general idea of prices for the items) and saying I would give this much and no more. A couple of times they said no, but seeing me walking away, they called me back.
- Carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer everywhere. You will find paper in some toilets, but in many cases, you will find none. You will often find buckets of water instead. This of course is not the case in the more tourist-oriented restaurants, etc, but if it’s a public toilet or toilets at the sightseeing spots, then you should be well-prepared.