Morocco Travel Tips
While discovering Morocco on a private tour, you may get the feeling that tipping is compulsory. Your driver will often tip local guides, parking guards, door men, cafe waiters, etc. That is mainly because a large part of the population earns the equivalent of 10 euros a day and less. Tipping is therefore largely appreciated. Some jobs, like waiters or taxi drivers rely greatly on tips for making a living since their income is hardly enough to cover their day to day expenses. If your expectations are exceeded, you are welcome to tip your driver- guide. Past tips have ranged from 1000 to 5000 dirhams for a multiple- day tour. Please do not give money to children, it motivates them to beg and miss school.
Most of the population in Morocco is Muslim and therefore the clothing code, albeit more formal than in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, is more restricted than in Europe or the US. T-shirts, dresses, knee level trousers are OK. You won't get fined for wearing shorts or miniskirts, but please respect the local culture and avoid that when possible.
Despite being in Africa, Morocco is a very tolerant and safe country. Pick pocketing and petty theft is very low and it is probably safer for your belongings to walk Jemaa El Fna square than the Ramblas in Barcelona. Moroccans are very willing to help and in general understand a few words in English, although if you can use French you are much better off. Although sharing borders with Algeria and Mauritania, there has never been any case of a foreigner being kidnapped.
Sadly, terrorist attacks have become an every- day reality in 2016 and they are likely to occur any place around the globe. Morocco has taken important measures against it, creating in 2015 the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation dubbed 'Morocco's FBI'. Security measures have been reinforced with scanning devices installed at every hotel and shopping mall and small groups of police forces patrolling the streets of the main cities.
There are two areas in Moroco where you can spend the night in the Sahara desert: Erg Chebbi dunes and Erg Chigaga dunes. Of the two, Erg Chigaga dunes are less frequented and more remote, but the dunes of Erg Chebbi are easier to include in an itinerary that would take in the imperial cities. Lately, a bus from Marrakech takes people up to Merzouga at the foot of Erg Chebbi dunes, which make them quite popular. However, worry not, the desert camp we offer is remote enough for you to immerse completely into Sahara's ambiance. Both sites are around 5 hours drive from Ouarzazate, Erg Chebbi to the east, Erg Chigaga to the south. From Marrakech to Ouarzazate, the trip lasts 4 hours. The tarmac road stops in Merzouga and M’hamid repspectively.
There is no best time of year to come to Morocco, despite what other people may tell you. It all depends what parts exactly of Morocco you want to visit. The Sahara desert in July/ August or trekking in the Atlas Mountains in January aren’t the best choices, but with careful planning almost everything is possible. You can read our blog article on this topic.
Ramadan is a particular time of year lasting 30 days. Most Moroccans observe it and therefore do not drink or eat from sunrise to sunset. A private tour of Morocco is still much worth doing during Ramadan but be aware that the waiter/ taxi driver/ shop seller/ guide/ hotel receptionist will not be at their 100 %. Most sites/ monuments/ activities will only be available in the morning with most of them coming to a still around 3- 4 PM. It is a particularly interesting time of year to visit Morocco during Ramadan to experience the amazing ambiance that sets in at night, with the breaking of the fast. Muslims observe their own calendar which retrocedes by 10- 11 days every Christian year. A detailed article can be found here.
Spending a few days in Spain before or after visiting Morocco and need a local agent on the ground to recommend or help you book inspiring accommodations, restaurants, guides and activities ? We know the best ones. Send us an enquiry and we'll be glad to put you in touch.
Our drivers are experts in the history and culture of the areas you will cover, the best spots for panoramic photos, the local hidden gems and will be glad to share all this with you in fluent English.
Flights to Morocco are becoming more and more available from all over the world. If you cannot find a direct flight, you can also use a connecting one. Very good connections are available from Paris, Barcelona, Madrid to Casablanca, Marrakech or Rabat. Royal Air Maroc flies directly from New York into Casablanca. Ryanair flies into Rabat and Marrakech from Seville and Madrid. Easy Jet also has numerous flights into Morocco from all over Europe. We advise avoiding flying on Royal Air Maroc for small distance flights. If you are not sure of finding the best connection or the best rates, please send us an email and we will gladly help you with that.
Our approximate rates for tours across Morocco are available with each tour as in the example:
http://www.sun-trails.com/tours/land-of-the-setting-sun.html#accommodation-and-rates. As per the example above, 1145 euros per person is our low season rate and excludes entrance fees and drinks. If you travel with us in December, January ( before or after the winter holidays), February, July and August, you will be offered our minimum rates. The rates of the tours can vary widely depending on the accommodation, extras and time of year.
As mentioned in the above paragraph ‘ERG CHIGAGA VS ERG CHEBBI’ there are two main sites where visitors can enjoy a night out in the dunes in Morocco: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. The tarmac road stops a few kilometers before in Merzouga and M’hamid respectively. The desert camps there belong to guest houses mostly located in these two locations. In general, when reaching the guest house in Merzouga or M’hamid, you will get the chance to freshen up/ have a shower and/ or leave some of the luggage there, if you are using the basic camp ( Dreamers). From there, you will continue the trip to the desert camp by camel. With Privilege and Divine, the shower and toilets are en- suite. In the case of Erg Chigaga, the dunes are a 2 hours’ drive away from Mhamid. The dunes at Erg Lihoudi, next to Mhamid are easier to reach and make for a good alternative should you not have the time to reach Erg Chigaga.
As we only do private and tailor made 4x4 tours, a lot of customizing is needed and sometimes we exchange dozens of emails before putting together the definitive itinerary. If you want to save you time or go over all the details once and for all, you can reach us by phone at + 212 638 636 719 or Skype at sun_trails_morocco. In that case, you can either contact us yourselves or leave a mobile phone number/ Skype address and the best time to contact you. We will then be in touch.
In general, we offer a basic tent option with our Dreamers package while Privilege/ Divine accommodation option entitles you to a luxury tent. The basic option offers a Spartan tent which is mainly occupied by a double bed ( twin beds) with toilets and showers outside. The water pressure is intermittent and the food option is basic Moroccan. With the luxury tent are offered a generous size white canvas tent with en- suite bathroom and shower, quality sheets and mattress.
In general with our Morocco tours we offer a tailor made itinerary where breakfast and dinner are included in the rate. We love to offer our guests the freedom to choose their own venue for dinners but: 1) in most cases you will arrive late afternoon/ evening at your accommodation for the night. In general, you will be too tired to go out looking for places to eat. Outside the big cities, such options don’t even exist; 2) The accommodations we work with have been hand-picked by us based on their décor, service and comfort but also on the level of their cuisine. For lunch, we like to leave the decision to you. The driver will always be there to assist you, should you need it. You can choose the ‘only breakfast’ option if you prefer. For details on our accommodation options, please click here .
When three persons travelling together, they can either be accommodated in a large suite or 2 separate rooms. There are even suites that can accommodate 4 persons although we discourage such option, unless there are children in the party. At the moment of the enquiry, if the party is larger than 2 please let us know how you would like to be accommodated.
Morocco is a bargaining culture. Bargaining is part of every day's life and should be perceived as such. NEVER pay the first price you are asked and remember that a joke always helps in the process. The final rate may vary between half the price and a fifth of the price initially asked. That depends on the seller and the item. Bargaining applies only to shopping items in the souks ( markets) or souvenirs, such as carpets, lamps, dishes, etc. and not to restaurants or grocery stores. To avoid any misunderstandings, your driver/ guide can help you with general tips on where best to shop but he will not be able to help you with the bargaining process.
Our itineraries are carefully balanced so that you should spend no more than an average of 4-5 hours a day inside the vehicle. The rest of the time is spent visiting sites/ monuments or undertaking activities available along the route. A lot of time and effort goes into finding the best Riads, Kasbahs and lodges across Morocco and regularly testing them. Most of these accommodations feature amazing facilities and on site activities. It would be a shame arriving too late or leaving too early and not enjoy them.
To secure a booking we require a 30 % deposit, which can either be paid by bank transfer or PayPal. Should you cancel less than a month before arrival, we will keep the deposit. For more details please click here .
One of the main advantages of being on a private tour is being able to decide on the pace of the journey. The driver will accommodate as many stops as you wish and can even make detours, where possible. The only restraint is making it in time for dinner at your accommodation for the night. Suppose that you are not bothered about visiting a ksour (fortified village) and would rather arrive earlier at your desert camp for the night. It suffices mentioning it to your English fluent driver and he will adapt things accordingly.
Alcohol licenses for restaurants and hotels are hard to get in Morocco and therefore not all hotels or restaurants can offer wine, beer or other spirits. Most of the guest houses we work with offer these beverages on site and if they don’t, they are OK with guests bringing their own alcohol. That being said, Moroccan wine has improved immensely in the last few decades with some brands being exported to Canada or South Africa. Local beer is also more than decent. A word of advice: to respect local culture and customs, alcohol should not be consumed outside restaurants/ hotels.
There are four imperial cities in Morocco: Marrakech, Meknes, Rabat and Fez. They are called ‘imperial’ since at some point or another in the history of Morocco they served as the capital of a kingdom. However, sometimes you may be limited by time and perhaps cannot afford to visit them all. If you only have time for two of them we would recommend Marrakech and Fez. If you only have time for one of them, we recommend Fez. Fez is the best preserved when it comes to monuments: mosques, koranic schools, palaces and markets. An excellent article on Fez can be found here . What makes Marrakech unique is being the melting pot of Morocco besides the world famous Jemaa El Fna square and its treasure- filled boutiques.
Camel riding is very popular in Morocco and is available almost everywhere. We can arrange for a camel ride in Marrakech, on the way to the Atlas Mountains or before reaching the Sahara dunes. Riding a camel is quite easy, there is no previous practice needed. With booking a tour that takes in one night in the Sahara dunes, a camel ride is normally included and takes between 30 and 60 minutes. Anything longer would leave your muscles sore.
Morocco is above all, a culture shock. And there is no better way to portray this than witnessing the reaction of visitors arriving for the first time on Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech at night. With a different culture comes a different etiquette. Moroccans are most welcoming to foreigners and most of them speak a few words of English but a few simple phrases in Moroccan Arabic make all the difference:
Salamu alaykum: Peace be upon you.
Metshrfin: Nice to meet you.
La, shukran : No, thank you.
Moumkin souera ? : Can I take your photo ?
Rali bzzaf: Very expensive.
Shi taman mzyan: It's the right price.
Wesh l'kontor hrdam ?: Is the meter working ?
Mashi mushkil: It's not a problem.
Bismillah: In the name of God ( said when you begin eating).
B'slama: Good bye.
Kulshi beher: Everything is fine.
Although Moroccans are used to tourists going around and taking photos of places and people, some of them don't like their photo taken, especially up close. Most of them, however, are likely to agree to having their photo taken, if you ask them kindly. See also ' COMMON EXPRESSIONS IN MOROCCAN ARABIC'.
Meat still holds a very important place in Moroccan culture. When receving guests, it would be considered shameful for the host to serve a meal without a beef/ lamb/ chicken dish. Hence, most restaurants in Morocco do not offer comprehensive vegetarian menus. We have had quite a few vegetarian guests on our private Morocco tours and we were always able to arrange for vegetarian dinners throughout the properties offered on tour. However, what we can not guarantee is a different 3-course vegetarian meal every evening. In larger cities like Marrakech, Casablanca and Rabat, there are outside restaurants that serve a diversity of vegetarian dishes.
That being said, Morocco is a heaven for vegetarians, since the sunny climate favors all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Any given time of year, there are always fruits/ vegetables in season - just ask your driver/ guide for advice.