10 Tips for Visiting Morocco

Rabat – Morocco welcomed one million tourists every month in 2018, and that number has only grown in 2019. For prospective tourists, there are plenty of detailed travel guides out there and experts who are eager to share their knowledge of Morocco. But one list can’t include everything, so here are ten more tips for visiting Morocco. It’s colder than you thinkWeather forecasts for Morocco usually don’t give you an accurate idea of how hot or cold you will actually feel. It will usually be hotter or colder than you expect.  Winter inland travelers should be well aware of the frigid temperatures. But if you’re traveling to Morocco’s Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts between November and April, you may want to reconsider your packing list. Daytime temperatures in Morocco’s coastal cities seldom drop below 50 F (10 C). If you’re living in a cold part of the world, you might think these are pretty nice winter conditions. Don’t let the numbers fool you. You will be cold. Not every building has functioning heating systems, the air along the coast is very wet, and winds are strong. Each of these factors can make you feel colder than expected. Winter is also Morocco’s rainy season, so be prepared. I suggest bringing a winter coat, rain boots, and warm pants, especially if you plan on going out and about at night.Moroccan city of Ifrane, 70 kilometers south of Fez Show up earlyTaking the train is a great, inexpensive way to get around Morocco. However, trains can be unreliable. To ensure you don’t run into any problems, you should plan to arrive at your destination about an hour later than the time posted on your ticket or the ONCF schedule, especially if you have to switch trains at some point. Delays can set you back up to three hours for no apparent reason. Sometimes they can be even worse—I once took a train from Rabat to Tangier that was delayed for seven hours due to high winds. If you’re trying to make a flight or check-in to accommodation, be sure to allow enough time for any train delays.   Don’t fear the street foodMorocco’s street food gets a lot of flack, and I totally understand why. I’ve had my fair share of food poisoning during my time here. But I don’t think it’s right to limit yourself to hotel breakfasts and dinners at fancy restaurants just because you’re worried about upsetting your stomach.The best way to avoid a severe bout of food poisoning is to steer clear of uncooked vegetables, even in sandwiches. Don’t get anything that contains lettuce. It’s also important to not overdo it. Don’t eat street meat more than once a day as this might be pushing your stomach’s limits. However, desserts and bread should be fine in any quantity.It’s entirely possible for one meal to ruin the rest of your day, so if you do decide to take a chance on street meat, save it for the evening.  Above all, trust your judgment. If a place looks totally empty, extremely dirty, or the employees seem uninterested in serving you, look for another spot to eat. If you don’t have a Moroccan family that is willing to share their meals with you, street food is the next best thing. Moroccan chicken brochette Fear the tap waterThe tap water is a different story. You don’t gain anything from taking a chance on some questionable water. There are no amazing flavors to be experienced or memories to be had from tap water. Risking your bowels is just not worth it. Do not drink any water that you have not seen come directly from a sealed bottle or filtration system. This includes the water jugs at casual dining spots and the glasses of water served with beverages at cafes. That water comes from the sink. Don’t drink it. Bring your own bottle of water wherever you go. If you don’t have a personal filter, you can easily find bottled water at small stores or supermarkets. I have an especially sensitive stomach, so some bottled water can still make me uneasy. I only buy brands with labels that feature a small picture of a baby and the accompanying phrase “idéal pour les bébés.” This ensures that I won’t have any problems. Some areas in Morocco have tap water that won’t upset your stomach, but it’s best to play it safe.You should only be paying around 3 MAD ($0.30) per liter of bottled water. I once paid 15 MAD for two liters of Sidi Ali. Don’t be like me. Tap water in Morocco Try the juiceYou will, without a doubt, see many standalone juice vendors while traveling in Morocco. All of this juice is fantastic and you need to try it at least once.Juice varieties include orange, strawberry, ginger lemonade, pomegranate, hibiscus, and sugar cane, to name a few. You’ll find even more options at restaurants and cafes. My all-time favorite Moroccan street juice is sugar cane and lime; however, limes are usually hard to come by in Morocco, so most vendors use lemon. You can add ginger to this blend as well.                           Be warned: some vendors do not use filtered water in their concoctions, and it’s hard to tell when they do. Fortunately, most juice blends don’t actually include water. You can ask the vendor for clarification on this matter. Additionally, despite my dramatic warnings, a minor amount of tap water won’t do much damage to most people. Healthy adults will probably only feel slightly nauseous. Exercise caution with children, though. Orange juice street vendors in Morocco Keep medicine with you at all timesLife is too short to not sample the delicious meats, juices, and desserts offered by Moroccan street vendors. However, I fully understand that there is always a risk associated with consuming things that your body is not used to. And you can never be sure of the sanitary standards of restaurants, cafes, or food stalls. This is why it is important to always carry medicine for any stomach issues that may arise. Although pharmacies are commonplace and tend to be well-stocked, you don’t want to take any chances or risk miscommunication. It’s important to bring Imodium or Pepto-Bismol while traveling anywhere, so don’t forget to take these medicines with you to Morocco.  Dried figs are your best friendIf you’re prone to experiencing stomach discomfort while traveling, invest in a bundle of dried figs. A kilo should cost you around 30 MAD, or $3. If you’re anything like me, this will be the best purchase of your trip.  Whenever you’re feeling blocked up, have a handful for a snack. You should feel relief in less than 20 minutes.Dried Figs  Cafe restrooms are open to the publicUnlike the US, most Moroccan cafes (and some restaurants) don’t require you to buy anything before using their restrooms. There are very few public bathrooms in most Moroccan cities, so don’t hesitate to go to a cafe and ask where the toilet is. The word “toilet” is easily recognizable, so there is no need to worry about not being understood.   Carry toilet paper and hand sanitizerThat being said, some restrooms in cafes, restaurants, and train stations do not have toilet paper or hand soap. In some places, you may be obliged to pay a woman a dirham for a piece of toilet paper. To avoid any confusion or discomfort, you should always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you.  Don’t be friendlyShopping in traditional Moroccan marketplaces, or souks can be both an exciting and intimidating experience. Kindness in foreigners is sometimes mistaken for weakness. When shopping in Morocco, you need to forget your manners and sense of etiquette and learn to ignore or reject offers from salespeople. Although many tourists have pleasant experiences, some have reported experiencing aggression from sellers in busy tourist areas, namely Marrakech.Shopkeepers may relentlessly pressure you to buy something from them. Men wielding hawks, snakes, and monkeys may thrust the animals in your face against your will. Even the ladies offering henna may grab you without your consent.In some big cities, people might give you unsolicited help with directions or forcefully carry your luggage and then demand a tip for their unwanted services. Female tourists may be asked out on dates by men in the street.  In each of these situations, it’s important to be firm and say no if you don’t want whatever is being offered to you, or simply ignore them. You will not hurt anyone’s feelings, I promise. They will move on quickly. Morocco is a top tourist destination, and this industry is only further developing. With plenty of good reasons to visit and dozens of reputable travel agencies, Morocco will be the trip of a lifetime for families, friends, couples, and solo adventurists.

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