Five Things First Time Travellers To Morocco Should Know
- Exchange your money whenever you get a chance. ATMs run out of money all the time and there have been problems where money isn't dispensed, but it's still charged for. You also won't be able to cash traveller's checks anywhere in Morocco.
- Keep coins on you for taxi rides. Cab drivers in Morocco are notorious for never having change on them. To avoid overpaying for your trip, keep some coins on you and make sure you've spent them all before leaving the country.
- Morocco does have a tipping culture. The general rule of thumb is to tip MAD 1 at local restaurants and MAD 3-5 at upmarket places. Of course, if you want to tip more, it's always appreciated.
- Stay on the safe side and drink bottled water. It's recommended not to brush your teeth with the tap water and to avoid having ice in your drinks. But if you want to save money, pack a water purification bottle with you.
- You can't go into mosques unless you're Muslim. In fact, the only one that non-muslims are allowed to enter is the massive Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. The upside is that they are still beautiful to admire from the outside.
Best Time To Visit Morocco
With something to see and do every month of the year, the best time to visit Morocco depends on what you'd like to do.
From June to September, the weather is hot, and Marrakech and Fes are at their most uncomfortable. But it's the best time of year to head to the coast and enjoy the coastal breezes of Rabat and Essaouira. As this period coincides with the European summer holidays, expect the beaches to be crowded and high hotel rates.
With temperatures dropping to -3°C during winter, Morocco sees a dusting of snow. If you're a winter sports enthusiast, head to the Atlas Mountains from November to February and tackle some of the country's best slopes. Down on the coast, temperatures are higher, and the Atlantic breakers attract surfers from all over the world.
Book your trip from April to May or September to October if you want to go trekking in the Atlas Mountains. The temperatures are milder this time of year, and there is little chance of rain which makes the trails easier to climb. Early spring is also an ideal time for a trip into the Sahara Desert. Just remember to pack some warm layers for the cold nights.
Another thing to keep in mind when planning your trip is Ramadan. During this period, logistics are tricky, but if you plan your trip for the end of the month, you can take part in all of the festivities.
Marrakesh is one of Morocco's most popular destinations. Over recent years, travellers have flocked here in droves to experience the city's culture and discover its history.
Marrakesh is famous for its buzzing markets, a maze of alleys and aromatic spices in the air. Top attractions include the Saadian Tombs, El Badi Palace and staying in a traditional Riad.
The city of Fes was the capital of Morocco for more than 400 years. Today, it's an important cultural and religious centre that is steeped in history.
Its two ancient medinas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the whole city features spectacular examples of Islamic architecture. Make sure you visit the Merenid Tombs, the Chouara Tanneries and Dar el-Makhzen.
Located in the heart of the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is famous for its striking blue houses and mountain scenery. Its old quarter is accented with Islamic and Andalusian architecture, and charming cafes. From its red-tiled roofs to the keyhole-shaped doorways, it's easy to spend hours wandering through the picture-perfect streets.
Although it's growing in popularity, Chefchaouen is still one of the best places to experience an unspoilt side of Morocco.
Top Attractions in Morocco
Hassan II Mosque
The Hassan II Mosque is Casablanca's iconic landmark. Completed in 1993, it took 10,000 artisans to complete the intricately carved marble pieces and vibrant mosaics. The mosque is one of the world's largest and most high-tech, featuring heated floors and a retractable roof.
But what makes this mosque unique for travellers, is that it's the only one in the country that non-muslims are allowed to enter. It's recommended to take the guided one hour tour of the interior, especially if you have an interest in architecture.
Visitors will need to be dressed respectfully. That means your shoulders must be covered as well as your legs with either long trousers or a skirt.
Located in the Sahara Desert, the orange Erg Chebbi dunes attract intrepid travellers from around the world. Towering as high as 150 metres over the arid landscape, it's a top destination for dune surfing, camel trekking and dune bashing.
To get here from Marrakech or Fes, you can either join a guided tour, hire a car or take the bus to the nearest town of Merzouga. But as Erg Chebbi is 10 hours away, you'll need to give yourself at least three days for a round trip.
While tours run all year round, most companies don't offer the trip during Ramadan, due to the guides not being able to eat. If you're planning on going, you'll have to arrange your visit independently.
Djemaa el Fna
A visit to Djemaa El-Fna deserves a spot on any Morocco bucket list. Once a place for public executions, the medina is now a UNESCO listed site. Located in Marrakech, it's full of snake charmers, storytellers, peddlers of traditional medicines and seemingly endless list of stalls.
As evening descends, the food stalls are packed, and Djemaa El-Fna comes alive with the buzz of hungry locals and travellers. With a maze of alleyways, it's easy to get lost. Try to use landmarks to remember your way out, and be aware of pickpockets in the thick crowds.
If you need to escape the crowds of Marrakesh, head to Dades Valley. Located near the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains, it boasts some of Morocco's best scenery.
Explore the red cliffs that are home to traditional kasbahs and the Skoura palm grove. Created in 12th-century, it's where Morocco's best dates, orchards and figs are grown.
Hikers can also choose from a range of trails, which lead to Berber villages and the Dades Gorge. But make sure you are prepared, as the longest one that goes through the canyons takes five hours to complete. The area also boasts plenty of rock climbing routes and even an opportunity for rafting.
For history lovers, Volubilis is a treasure trove. Once a thriving Roman city that exported grain and olive oil, its ruins are now Morocco's best archaeological site.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, it's one of the top day trips from Fes or Meknes. Its most famous feature is its intricate mosaics that decorate the ruins depicting ancient Roman life.
The best time to visit Volubilis is early in the morning before the crowds arrive or at dusk when the rays of light create a beautiful ambience over the site.
Major International Airports in Morocco
- Mohammed V International Airport
- Marrakesh Menara Airport
- Agadir–Al Massira Airport
- Fes–Sais Airport
- Rabat–Sale Airport