Things I wish I’d known before travelling to Morocco



The stinkiest place I've ever been.  I spent £25 on leather slippers just so I could leave - Tannery, Fes 

So heres a distillation of what I know about Morocco, I'll hopefully do longer write-ups on various bits soon.  

Where to go - we did 2 nights Fes --> 1 night Desert --> 2 nights Marrakech --> 1 night Essouria --> 2 nights Marrakech.  I think the ideal trip would have been 2 nights Marrakech --> 2 nights desert --> 2 nights Marrakech. Fes was grim and overpriced, everything it has, Marrakech has.  Most of the sites are only for Muslims so you just trek around the media and shop because you can't go in anywhere.  Pointless.

 Why does it look like this was taken with an iPhone 3G? - Medina, Fes (aka the only bit you can't find in Marrakech) 

Getting to/from the airport - try to arrange a transfer with your riad.  Not all taxi drivers will know where your riad is.  You'll pay a little extra, but it's worth it for the convenience.  Going back to the airport doesn't matter as much.  You can get a local taxi and ask him to put the meter on OR agree a price before you get in the car.

The Giant Market in Marrakesh 

Shopping - NEVER pay what they first ask for, even if it sounds reasonable. Start at 25%, walk away if it gets to 50%.  If they don't call you back, use the price you left at as your starting point at the next stall.  Trust me, if one place has it, another will.  That said, if your shopkeeper is nice and you don't mind, then go ahead, pay a bit more.  It's really all up to you.  Below is a short list of fair prices to pay for souvenirs in Morocco. Lower end of reasonable prices: Earrings: 10dh Perfume: 10dh Little gifts: 10dh (like keyrings, tiny camels etc.) Postcards: 3 - 5dh Scarves: 10dh for a plain one, 50dh for a fancy one Fez: 50dh (but in Fes they are 20) Henna: 50dh per hand for the real stuff, as low as 10dh for the fake stuff (all of the stuff I saw in the square in Marrakech was fake) Dress: 100dh Men's shirt: 100dh Plain leather slippers: 60dh - we got these down from 260, the guy didn't seem happy.
 
Don't like haggling? Head to Ensemble Artisanal, about a 5 min walk from the main square in Marrakech.  The prices are labeled, no-one pressures you and they have most of the goods that the Souks have.  You may be able to get things cheaper in the markets but I'm happy to pay a little more not to be cheated!

When you're trying to take a fake candid but you actually get distracted - Ensemble Artisanal, Marrakech
What to wear - I dressed conservatively during this trip.  No knees, no tummy, no shoulders and I STILL got creepy comments.  I found that the best way to keep cool was to wear culottes and a sleeveless top but throw a scarf around my shoulders.  It worked well!

Exchanging money - generally, when I travel, I prefer to just get cash out of a local ATM as this means that I get close to the interbank rate using either Monzo or Revolute.  My boyfriend managed to get a MUCH better rate at one of the exchange desks at Fes airport.  He claims to have got 15MAD for 1GBP.  I was getting 12! This seems crazy as they must be losing money...that or they really needed pounds.  Weird.  Many hotels/tour companies will let you pay in Euros.  They normally covert it at a rate of 11MAD to 1EUR.  However, they also sometimes give a worse rate.  The shitty hotel we stayed in had us pay in Euros and then shortchanged us in MAD.  Refused to rectify it.  Just another scam.

Early Morning Camels in the Sahara Desert

Desert tour - this is so so so so so worth it.  Either do Marrakech --> Desert --> Marrakech or Marrakech --> Desert --> Fes.  DO NOT START FROM FES.  It's CONSIDERABLY more expensive and you don't get many of the good stops, even if the stops are in the photos when you book.  This is because those stops are done on the way there.  This doesn't apply to private tours, then you can request your stops but you will be paying for the privilege.  A 2 day tour from Marrakech should cost EUR 80-100.  From Fes EUR 120 is reasonable but DON'T DO IT.

Outfit: They tell you to wear a jacket/long trousers etc.  Maybe bring one in your bag but you can really wear whatever will look good on Instagram.  We know thats one of the reasons you're going anyway.

What to bring: Bottled water, lots of it!  Our camp didn't have any drinking water and neither did the camps of the people we spoke to.  You should also bring a portable charger as there aren't any plug sockets.

SIM card - definitely get one of these, it means you can find your way around the tiny streets so you won't end up being scammed by 'helpful' locals who tell you that you're going in the wrong direction/that way is closed/theres a site this way etc. etc. etc. There are 3 main providers, all are cheap compared to the uk.   It ended up being about 10dh per GB onto of the cost of the sim (anywhere from 30-50dh).  Apparently these are sold at the airport but the little shops that cell water/cigarettes/snacks will do them too.

Excursions - Ideally get a recommendation from someone.  We went with Morocco Attraction and I'd feel comfortable recommending them to you.  Their prices aren't the lowest but they're fair.  Most importantly though, they won't leave you high and dry and they're VERY responsive to messages (ask for their WhatsApp).  They're flexible and will help you out when they can.  I can't stress how much this is worth in Morocco where plenty of people are happy to take your money and then bugger off.
Say that Vicki sent you.  I don't know if it helps, but I said I'd recommend them so I'd like them to know that I followed through.  Here's their website.

On our excursion to Essouira, the first day was so windy that we could hardly stand!


Food - Tagines, tangines and more tagines.   They're really yummy!  If you get bored of bread get one with couscous instead.  They're also much of a muchness, a 30dh one won't be much different to a 90dh one.  There are some restaurants which are highly rated on tripadvisor but we found these to be overpriced and too westernised.  A lot of stuff is VERY VERY sweet.

Drink - I'd highly recommend the avocado, milk and date drink.  Couldn't get enough of it! The fresh juices are great too, if you want to be sure that you're getting it freshly squeezed, ask for a kinda weird combination.  They all seem to use orange juice as a base though.

Where to stay - no matter which city you are in, I'd recommend staying in a Riad in the Medina. They tend to be off side streets so you don't need to worry about noise.  Service is generally much better in Morocco than it is in Europe so you should have a great experience wherever you go.  Also, they are almost all gorgeous!

Only £33per night inc a lovely breakfast! - Riad Lhena, Marrakech

IMPORTANT: you may be tempted to prepay but I would NOT recommend this.  We only did this twice during our holiday and BOTH times the Riad gave our room to someone who wanted to extend their stay.  BOTH times the staff were very rude and unhelpful.  Unluckily for us we had booked through hotels.com (aka Expedia) who were of no assistance whatsoever.  They said that they had to confirm with the hotel that the booking was cancelled (even through the hotel had used their system to inform us that it was).  After 2 hours of wasting money calling them (they'll only discuss things over the phone) we gave up and simply booked another place.  We're still waiting for a refund. If this happens to you the best thing to do is book another place asap.  During the 2 hours in which we waited for hotels.com to do something all the nice places disappeared and we got stuck in a hideous hotel for a last night.

Right, that's all I can think of for now.  I'll update later if anything comes to me.  Comment if you'd like anymore info and I should reply!  

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