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> Morocco Travel Tips from a Local Expert, Gyl Johnson's Tips for Morocco
gyl.johnson
post Nov 6 2007, 02:52 PM
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Hi, my name is Gyl and I am based in Montpellier, France however, I spend six months out of every year in Marrakesh. I wanted to be local expert for both countries because, well, I love them both and I think sharing a bit of my experience about both cultures could enhance the travel experience. So below I have my"Five Things You Should Know Before Coming to Morocco"




1. Some Basics

Respecting the Culture of Morocco is the best way to avoid unpleasant situations and misunderstandings. I’d like to call this piece “For best results…"

Tipping in Morocco is expected for just about any service rendered. As a rule of thumb leave 10% in restaurants however for other services such carrying your bags, five to ten dirham is sufficient. A special note, if you plan to take photos of the locals, you should definitely ask first. And it is possible that you will be asked for a tip as well.

While Alcohol is mostly easily attainable; don’t assume that all bars and restaurants will serve it. As Islam forbids alcohol consumption, there is a certain level of restriction. The best places to look are supermarkets where you can buy beer and wine as well as expensive restaurants or those catering to foreigners.

Ramadan is a month long period where from dusk to dawn, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex. Every year the dates change as Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In the evenings, families get together and have a big feast. How this affects you is restaurants open for meals/drinks may be hard to come by during this period.

Women Travelers should plan to cover up especially if traveling without a man. Bear in mind that legs and shoulders are considered private body parts in Morocco and really both men and women should keep these areas covered. Long sleeved tops that don’t show cleavage and pants or long skirts will help you a great deal. Yes, of course while you can wear whatever you want, know that you will receive a lot of unwanted attention. You will be treated how you are dressed, therefore if you would like to be treated with respect, dress modestly. When approached with unwanted advances/ offers always politely decline. While I suggest you be assertive and mean it, using profane language or yelling will only make the situation worse.

Mosques and holy places are forbidden to non Muslims. The exceptions are Hassan II in Casablanca, Mohammed V Mausoleum in Rabat and the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum in Meknes.

2. Shopping in the Souks

Often I come across travelers who are experiencing, what I call, misunderstandings, when shopping in the souks and I think this often comes from ignorance of culture on both sides. Yes, that of the traveler as well as that of the native. First and foremost, even amongst each other, Moroccans haggle, or rather, negotiate for all most everything they need or want. Therefore it is only natural that they will expect you to do the same. Before buying anything, have a look around, find out what others spent on a particular item and then give it a shot. Know the absolute most you are prepared to spend and be prepared to leave if you’re not happy with the final price. Do accept mint tea in the spirit in which it is given and discuss price with a light heart. If the shopkeeper lets you walk away without lowering his offer, he was most likely giving you a fair price.

No matter which souks in the country you visit, I would suggest you go without a guide even in Fes which is considered to be one of the more intricate souks. It really does add to the experience. However, understand that by wandering around guideless, you will attract many kindhearted Moroccans offering you their services as a guide. My best advice to minimize this is to get there early at about 9 am. Not all shops will be open so you’ll have an easier time orienting yourself as well as few guides and would be guides are out yet. Also when asked, if you need a guide, mention that you have been in the city of choice for two or three days and you already had a guide. If you find yourself hopelessly lost and are ready to get out of the labyrinth, you can always get a young person to show you the way out for a small fee.


3. Recommended Places to Visit

Where you decide to go depends on the type of experience you are looking for. However, I would suggest for the first time visitor to Morocco/North Africa, to visit some if not all of the Imperial cities which include Marrakesh, Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes and Fes. While it is most likely that if you arrive by plane you will arrive in Casablanca, I don’t think you should stay there too long. Unlike the other cities I have mentioned, Casablanca is not an artisan center, therefore many cultural aspects are lost to the visitor who is staying for just a visit as well as there are few remnants of traditional Morocco. That said, if you do happen to find yourself there even for only the afternoon, I suggest you visit Hassan II Mosque, the world’s third largest mosque.

As for the other four cities I mentioned, each provides a different atmosphere and are good introductions to the country for the newcomer and are mostly set up to receive foreign visitors. Each offers specialty crafts unique to the region as well as they are good bases for off the beaten path travel. Every city has its specialties; Rabat, for its embroidery and carpets, Meknes, for its wood carvings, metal inlay and mosaics, Fez, most famous for its leatherwork and famous blue pottery and Marrakesh for its leatherwork as well as spices and Berber carpets. And I have barely scratched the surface of what can be found.


4. Getting Around

One of the best choices for getting around Morocco is by train. It’s inexpensive and mostly comfortable. The only real difference between first class and second is that sometimes second class has no air-con. You can view accurate train schedules at www.oncf.ma

Even less expensive than the train is bus travel which is well connected but for longer journeys you risk a high level of discomfort as there is often not much legroom. You can also opt for taking a Grand Taxi from one city to the next but know that unless you’re a big group willing to pay for the entire taxi, you wait until the driver fills the taxi with six people. And also, the taxi does not necessarily leave you in the center of town; it’s usually on the outskirts.


5. Expenses and Safety

ATMS are plentiful and secure in large and medium/small cities. Now there are even bank machines that will except banknotes in dollars, euros and sterling and return the conversion equivalent to you in dirham in a matter of minutes.

Concerning safety as compared to many other countries where I have traveled, I see Morocco as relatively safe country as long as one uses some common sense. For example, outside of the main squares and populated areas don’t walk alone at night. Always keep the majority of your money/credit cards under your clothing in the form of a money belt and when in especially crowded areas pay extra attention to your belongings, such as a camera etc.

Always avoid people offering to take you to a hotel, shop or restaurant. They usually are getting a kickback for bringing you there so you will be charged more than if you showed up on your own. As well as offers for a city tour especially if you don’t know where they intend to take you. As a rule of thumb, either tell people that this is your second visit to Morocco or that you have been in the said city for several days already so you know your way around.

With all this said I find Morocco to be both a fascinating but culturally demanding country for the visitor. Therefore, to allow yourself to enjoy Morocco to its fullest, I strongly suggest you bend to the demands of this country’s customs and consider the points I have given as “For best results…”


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manfredifra
post Nov 30 2007, 07:40 AM
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I'm planning a travel by bicicle from Marrakesh to Agadir. How can I find accomodation in that region?
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gyl.johnson
post Dec 8 2007, 10:19 AM
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I am going to assume you want to pass through Taroudant and Ouarzazate before arriving to Agadir. You should be able to find accomodations in those two towns. The longest stretch is between Marrakesh and Ouarzazate on route P31. Its about 200 km. The only place where there might be lodging is in Taddert, which is between the two. I would suggest researching Route P31.

While I don't think you'll find too much on the net for hotels in this area, that doesn't mean there isnt lodging, it's just that these areas aren't yet marketing on the web. When you arrive in Marrakesh you can do further research as there are travel agencies that can help you.


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sigmastarstate
post Feb 23 2008, 02:03 PM
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I really enjoyed reading this. I went to Morocco two years ago and I, too, fell in love with the country, especially Fes. I did have a guide while I was there, we were on a bus tour of the country, and I agree that the experience would have been more enjoyable without. I would add to your comments that the people of Morocco are some of the most diverse and charming people I have ever met. There were a few situations in which I was not comfortable, I am a woman who was traveling alone which led some street sellers and performers, especially in Marrakesh, to be quite aggressive. All told though I had a lovely time. The people are friendly and hospitable to a fault. Wonderful country!
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hostelqueen
post Jul 12 2009, 10:30 PM
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Great advice. I would only add that Chefchouen is one of the great places to go. And Ouzoud is a neat little stop if you have the time.
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tricky75
post Aug 24 2009, 06:03 AM
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As a first time visitor to Morocco I'm struggling to find the best way to get from Marrakech to Mirleft.. Please HELP!
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pointenoirexpat
post Feb 19 2010, 03:25 AM
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Hi there, I love what you've written and am intrigued. I had a few more questions that I was hoping you could answer. I just received a job offer in Marrakesh and I was wondering if you could tell me about the cost of living. How much is a litre of milk? How much is a beer? Are there local fresh veggies and produce markets or stands? Is it easy to get around (by bus or taxi) to things like movies, markets, sites of interest with kids? How's the air quality and do they have a system for picking up trash?
I know that I am asking a lot, I would love your feedback.
Thanks
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jill050562
post Apr 27 2010, 04:21 AM
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Good tips. Are you able to give me any information on where I can get a map before I leave the UK so that I can plan my tour. Also, I want to go on a camel to the desert and to the Atlas Mountains. Where do I travel too and what transport do I use to do this? I am presuming I can get an excursion when I get to the nearest village?

All I've arranged so far is my flight which is in and out of Marrakech.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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adrar4travel
post Apr 10 2011, 06:09 PM
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QUOTE(global_tours @ Oct 9 2010, 02:21 PM) *

Your cooments make me proud atleast many that comes accross your message learn something.
Regards

www.adrar4travel.com


QUOTE(jill050562 @ Apr 27 2010, 04:21 AM) *

Good tips. Are you able to give me any information on where I can get a map before I leave the UK so that I can plan my tour. Also, I want to go on a camel to the desert and to the Atlas Mountains. Where do I travel too and what transport do I use to do this? I am presuming I can get an excursion when I get to the nearest village?

All I've arranged so far is my flight which is in and out of Marrakech.

Thanks in advance for your help.


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moroccofamily
post Mar 9 2012, 05:28 PM
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Hi,

We are a family group of five, two kids, 12 and 9, and three adults. We are planning to take the ferry from Almeria to Melilla and drive through Fez, Meknes and then up towards Tangiers where we will get the ferry to Algeciras. We are looking at 10 days in total.

We are planning to camp, do you think this is safe with kids? Do you think our planned route is good? Is there anything we should/shouldn't miss?

Thanks.

B Family
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maroctours2012
post Mar 28 2012, 05:42 PM
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www.maroc-itinerrance.fr you can also helpe me to get poblicite pls


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merzougadesert
post May 20 2012, 04:49 AM
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Hi all!

Seeking two companions for a trip to Morocco
we want to go with oulfakirtours.page4.me good travel agency in morocco 4x4 camels
We will be in Marrakech on May 8 and we want to route 3 days / 2 nights in the desert of Merzouga, on the route will be 11,12,13.

Somebody is going on that date?

oulfakirtours @hotmail.fr
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kevinengland
post May 17 2013, 08:59 AM
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Ten days is enough to see the most worth being seen places. In regards to the itinerary's question, I would provide you with a website of a company we booked our tour with. Have a glace at their tours. It could be helpful to organize your tour. www.tickettomorocco.com
Kev
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