April 24



By Bewildered in Morocco

April 24, 2014

Guidebooks are among my favorite types of books. They give you insight into the local culture, habits, traditions, language, do’s and don’ts. However, they rarely provide you with details on how to handle things, how to interact with the locals, where to eat etc. Here is my subjective guide to Morocco.

Tip #1 The dirtier the better!
Yes, I do mean it. Hole-in-the-wall places rock! Stay away from tourist places and hit the local spots. Why? You will pay at least four times less, plus it’s gonna taste like homemade, grandma’s food. No irrelevant additions, decorations, forks etc. If you see a dirty bar on the corner, crowds of hungry people standing in a messy line, pieces of paper cut in irregular squares to replace napkins and cockroaches proudly parading at the entrance- know that this is the best place to eat! Forget your sense of aesthetics and perfectionist mindset, do as the locals do and enjoy the real Moroccan food.


Tip #2 Expect the unexpected
In every sense of the word. First, people here are quite direct, they won’t find it disturbing to tell you some honest remark or a piece of advice (even if you don’t ask for). I once was shopping in a big market and an elderly lady came to me and said “you’re very beautiful but you have to get rid of that belly” ;). Second, beggars are quite nasty and it’s hard to distinguish who is really in need and who is just a lazy ass. It is nice to help the needy but you should also remember that you can’t take responsibility for the lives of others. Some kids are so smart that they will cry and hug you to give them money. They have mastered the art of begging! Third, driving is quite disorganized in Morocco. If you have already visited African or Asian countries- you know what I’m talking about. More about Moroccan driving and tips on how to deal with it here.

Tip #3 Dig deeper!
An average tourist books all-inclusive holidays at a five-star hotel. And spends all days sipping free cocktails 100m from his high-standard hotel room. A quite advanced one browses the Internet prior to his trip and decides to go sightseeing. A traveler goes off road and sees the places which tourists don’t see. People usually decide to hit Marrakesh, because it is the best known city in the country; Casablanca, because it is so romantic (bullshit!); Agadir because it has a nice beach. Many tend to forget that the real pearls are hidden in the shells:)
Try to research the places which are not advertised and plan your trip ahead. Sometimes it is enough to move 50km from a big city to experience something totally different! It will not only enrich your personality, boost your experiences, let you meet more sincere people but also be pocketfriendly. Remember, where the tourists go, the prices are higher.



Tip #4 Master the art of bargaining
Bargaining is an integral part of Moroccan culture and I bet you know that from the guidebooks. The thing is: you should know the limits! Many tourists tend to go extreme: either overpay or underpay. You should also be aware that in tourist places such as Marrakesh, the prices will be much higher and showing off your haggling skills will be much harder than in cities where tourists don’t go. Here is your “Bargaining handbook“!

Old medina, Casablanca.

Tip #5 Get a local sim card!
If you’re a frequent traveler you know what I am talking about. If you’re a newbie, listen to my advice:) Why should you get a local sim card? First of all, it is much cheaper to keep in touch with friends, call emergency, book hostels etc. A Moroccan sim card (Inwi, Maroc Telecom or Meditel) costs 30 dirhams (which equals 3 euros) and is available in all shops labeled “teleboutique“. My Polish number doesn’t work properly in Morocco. I can receive calls and messages but I can’t send any (even though I have roaming!). Second, having a local number is not a big expense and will always make you feel safer. I don’t have to remind you that your phone should be unblocked:) – no sim lock.

Tip #6 Pick up darija basics
As you may have read in the guidebooks, French is widely spoken in Morocco. In tourist places you will be understood if you speak English, Spanish and many other languages. However, speaking a little bit of the local language gives you more self confidence and is like magic: people will be happy and enormously friendly if they see you showing some effort to learn their crazy language. Click here to check my Essential Phrasebook and here to learn some more “advanced” things :)

Tip #7 Be wise with your money, docs and goods
I think this one is universal for all countries: if you look exotic you draw attention and you are a potential piece of meat for a bunch on hyenas. I got this safety obsession and I always keep my documents at home, I have only the needed amount of money on me. My flatmate used to carry all her credit cards and documents with her. I advised her not to. A day after she lost her wallet. Luckily, she had taken my advice to heart and had left her ID and cards at home;)
Remember that if you lose your credit card abroad it is a much bigger problem than when you lose it in your country. You won’t get a new one until you go back to your country. Imagine what if all your money was on your bank account and you have just started your trip;)? That’s an epic fail!

More tips will be gradually added! Stay tuned!

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