image Tips for Tricks for all travelers in Morocco, and specific advice for Solo Travelers

 

  1. If you are planning to rent a car, get a ‘Duster’ or a 4-wheel drive car. They are more expensive, but the roads up to Chefchaouen & Akchour are pretty steep and a smaller car just wouldn’t make it. Most of the cars are stick-shift so make sure you are well adept to this before going. Lane lines are just a suggestion, and don’t get angry, just think of driving there like directing an inner-tube down a fast moving river (aka: they don’t drive, they just avoid accidents).
  2. Common signals when driving: flashing brights is the nice way to ask you to move to the slower lane, flashing your hazards twice is a nice way to say sorry to the person behind you if you are stupid and didn’t mean to be stupid when driving– if they see it and forgive you they will flash their brights at you. Pedestrians there don’t pay attention, so you have to, if you get in an accident, there are always those who will call the cops/play it up to the police/invite friends over to take their side and you likely will be in a losing battle– so be careful when driving.
  3. You have to be brave to cross the street, it may look like a car is going to hit you, but they are good at breaking, as long as you are paying attention. If you do end up getting hit by a car, realize the medical system there is NOT like the USA, so just avoid this all together.
  4. Most cars there are GPS tracked, so don’t lie about where you are going or keep the car longer than necessary because they can turn it off remotely & then you are stranded. AKA: Be Honest and take care of the car like its your own, and DON’T SPEED! They can actually see if you are speeding.
  5. There are tolls on the road, so have change with you, they don’t take cards…….anywhere….
  6. Bring cash with you and have enough to cover hotel, car etc…. people here don’t use cards that much because there is a fear of fraud with using cards too much (same as in the US)
  7. The smaller cities are more conservative, so don’t ‘bare all’ when there (unless you want to get cat called and stared at- help the poor guys out and cover yo’self), the ocean is cold and you will need to find a wet suit unless its the middle of the summer and you are super hot. (PS- Imsouane Surfing is the best, near Essouira)
  8. Bottled water is very cheap, don’t drink tap water directly
  9. When traveling in the smaller cities they are typically taught by the local mosques so that means they will mostly speak Arabic. English is getting more popular amongst the younger people because it is so good in running a business. Just remember they will have accents and will pronounce the words as they appear on paper or as rappers say them in music— so its like a bit of a puzzle piece when trying to understand them. If you speak French, you will be just fine in the bigger cities, and a good majority speak English in the bigger cities as well.
  10. When parking, if you can’t find a spot, honk and the guy in the bright yellow blazer will let you know if there is a spot. He will even help you park the car if you think its too tight… and trust me, if there is a will there is a way & they will find it. Tipping the parking person is expected, but no more than 5-10 Dirham (cash), if they are really nice, or you ask them to wash the car, please be kind and give them 100 Dirham (cash)
  11. Shukran is Thank you in Arabic, Water is La Mae — both very important words, and La- is no in Arabic, and Nam is yes in Arabic.
  12. Be KIND, and don’t take adavantage of the people around you, they are very hospitable & will treat you amazingly, but don’t just take take take, contribute where you can and when you can.
  13. The people trying to sell necklaces or do henna for you, its very hard to find work in Morocco, so who cares if they are trying to earn money! Don’t treat them bad, may be the only provider for 10 people in their home– Morocco is cheap to travel, you have enough to be generous….plus it makes you feel good when you do 🙂
  14. Hotels are great but expensive to stay in ($60-$80 per night), but you can find apartments or B&B’s for relatively cheap in the bigger cities ($30-$40)– you may need a local to help you with this, and most people are very willing to rent out a separate apartment in their building/family building. These apartments are VERY nice typically, and you will have your own kitchen/couch/bed/shower etc…. Make sure a hot shower is available. Prices can typically only be bargained down about 100 dirham per night, so be fair. In the smaller cities the apartments are much much better, and are typically only ($20-$25 per night). See next item on getting apartments in smaller cities.
  15. When coming into smaller cities like Chefchaouen or Essiouria, there will be men on the side of the road that will step out and shake keys at you. This is your ticket, they may not speak English but will get charades of holding up a finger of # of people needing an apartment. This is their job, and will likely get in your back seat to show you the way. Don’t panic, this is normal, and the ones that I experienced in several cities are not creepers like you would find in the USA. Because this is their job, they are paid by their clients to rent out the different apartments, if they do something bad– they lose their business, reputation and will likely have to move out of the city in order to find work. That being said, be safe and let them lead the way– keep doors open and don’t stay too long in any place. Make sure to lock your car and hide valuables when you leave the car.
  16. If you rent an apartment from a family, make sure to bring your own toilet paper, towel, soap etc…
  17. Most places you go in the cities will have soap, smaller cities DO NOT, so if you are a germ freak, you may need to get over that rather quickly or carry around a lot of hand sanitizer.
  18. Some smaller cities only have holes in the floor for their bathroom, so get good at aiming and I hope you can squat well. There are no rest stops when you are on the road, so if you have to go, do it like you would if you were camping. Find a bush, bury your $#!*, and use dirt and water to wash off and chase it with hand sanitizer or whatever you want to do. I am a Physician Assistant, and didn’t have hand sanitizer with me- I just used dirt and water, and rinsed as much as a could where I could. Ate with my hands in most places (ie/wipe with left hand, eat with right hand– which is pretty standard everywhere in Africa)– and I didn’t get sick once. Only had a little traveler but for a few days after I drank some Mint tea in the mountains that they used water from the river.
  19. Don’t go outside after dark, unless you notice that during the daytime there are a lot of police patrolling the area. If there are no police there during the day, make it a rule to not go out at night in that particular neighborhood.
  20. The big cities will have beggars that come up to you and ask for money, give them 1-2 Dirham to make them leave. If you don’t have it, pat your pockets and gesture as if you have nothing, and say La Shukran.
  21. When going into the bigger markets like in Marrakech and Fez, it is VERY easy to get turned around and lost. I would recommend a guide in these areas, just to help you find what you need and the best places to get it, and to have them help you bargain the price down to the ‘Moroccan Prices’. Typically the craftsmen are in the side allies, and sell it to the distributor/shop keeper who jacks the prices up to make himself a profit. So wander into those side allies, and they will literally be so much cheaper and make the items just the way you like them, or know all the other craftsmen in the area & will be able to find what you want. Its pretty cool to see and also very humbling to watch them work, and see how simple and happy their life is— just to make you happy. They all really really take pride in their work and making these things, because that is what their father did, and his father before him, and their craft is their life and their heritage— which most Moroccans are deeply proud of.
  22. When in the bigger markets, there are pickpockets, so make sure to actually clutch your bag to your chest like you are holding a stuffed animal; but not to the point that you look like you are going to be attacked at any second.
  23. The Market in Marrakech is called Jamma El-Fna, and changes from day to night so be sure to visit at both times. But if you visit at night, be wary of those dancing men with the twirling tassels on their hats, they will try and place it on your head and if they do & every time they do– you lose about 20-30 dirham & they are very persistent if you don’t pay them. Again, this is how they make money. The best way to observe and watch the festivities is from the top of the surrounding buildings where you can sit and enjoy the view and dancing from above– you have to purchase something to sit there, but it is well worth it. If you visit during the day, this is when you will find all the shops open, locals and tourists alike buying souvenirs and day to day needs. The spice shops are my favorite, and Saffron and El-ras-hanout (the spice they put in all their food) are the best stuff to get because it is soooo cheap there compared to the US.
  24. There are a lot of Syrian refugee families and their children begging for money, help those you would like to, they really are there because they don’t have anywhere else to go– and classical Arabic is different than Moroccan Arabic– so its prob hard to find work when people don’t understand you when you start speaking classical Arabic.
  25. If you like to drink alcohol, this is something frowned upon in the Muslim religion so there aren’t a lot of places that actually sell bottles to you. There are a lot of French who visit, so most big cities will have mixed drinks at local sports bars/restaurants and such. You can occasionally find a store that sells bottles of wine or a weird looking green sign above a shop that will sell cigarettes and wine. I myself don’t drink, so I’m not much help in aiding you in this aspect.
  26. If you stare at men they will think you are flirting, so walk with a purpose. If you stare at women, they will give you the ‘look’ that you will know says ‘wtf you looking at, mind your own buisness’ — and if you start taking pictures of people without asking, they are going to be upset with you. Especially in the smaller cities, so if you want a photo, get somewhere with a vantage point and take it sniper style; or just ask if you could take a photo.
  27. Very traditional men, will look at you once and then not look at you again, or look at the floor — this is not because they have a problem with you, its because it is considered respectful in this culture. So don’t get offended.
  28. When Moroccans greet you, or really mean something they will pat their heart. So if they shake your hand in greeting and pat their heart, its because they are truly welcoming you, not wiping your touch off of their hands.
  29. Also be aware that both men and women hold hands here, and it is normal to do this with very good friends. They also will kiss the cheeks of those who are good friends, typically this is only done between same sex, don’t do this if you are greeting a male friend unless he initiates it.
  30. Jalaba’s are the best (the gowns both women and men wear over the PJ’s with the pointy hats), sandals, ceramics, tagines, tea pots, spices, olive oil, Aragan Oil/honey/butter, and Cactus oil, Berber rugs, and especially leather in Fez are some of the best things you can get while there because everything is hand crafted, hand grown, hand ground.  Make sure to go to the fish markets in Essouira and try the prawns and fresh fish, or in Imsouane– pretty amazing there too.
  31. Last but not least, people in Morocco are very hospitable and kind, and really have no problem with Americans. I felt very safe while traveling there, you just have to be smart and aware of your surroundings, have a good working GPS and/or a phone that has a local SIM card (which are cheap), a hotel with wifi, or access to the internet in case of times of getting really lost. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you can stop anywhere and talk to anyone about advice on anything by saying, ‘Salam’ or ‘Safi, Salam’ — and they will help you.
  32. Should you run into problems or have questions contact me at gypsysouladventure@gmail.com — or through Facebook Messenger @gypsysouladvntr and I will try and help you all that I can as I have some contacts over there. Happy travels, now get out there break through those stigmas, boundaries, barriers and conquer your fears.
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