I had no idea what to expect when I visited Morocco. But from my first walk through the spice markets and my first sip of sweet mint tea, I was in love. Every single corner has something new – it’s a total sensory overload of vibrant patterns, colors, and textures.
That said, its beauty doesn’t translate quite right on social media. Morocco comes off like a boho wonderland of tranquil corners and sparkly lanterns, and that’s just… not accurate, lol. It’s one of the least tranquil places I’ve ever been (second only to Egypt) – chaotic, gritty, and in-your-face. Street harassment and scammers are a major issue.
But even though it’s loud, abrasive, and frustrating at times, weirdly enough the chaos is part of Morocco’s charm. The culture is truly unique, and visiting here will 100% be unlike any other trip you’ve taken. Plus it’s visually STUNNING and the food is outrageous.
Morocco definitely requires some advance research – but I guarantee if you go in with an open mind and a tough skin, you’ll fall in love with it too.
So to help prepare you, I’ve written a super in-depth travel guide with everything you need to know before planning a trip to Morocco. This post has alll the practical info and tips you’ll need to plan a trip!
PS: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you.
Cities to Visit & Top Things to Do
Morocco is a big country and you’ve got a lot of ground to cover between cities. This is not a 3-day-getaway kinda place. At a bare minimum I’d suggest spending a week here, and two would be better.
My favorite stop and a must-visit! It’s colorful and crazy, a beautiful mess of busy markets and amazing architecture. Explore all the souks filled with spices, lanterns, and ceramics, stay in a traditional riad, experience Moroccan cuisine (try tagine – a spiced stew cooked in a clay pot!) and sweet mint tea, visit the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square, and relax in a hammam spa.
How Long to Stay: 3+ days
Visiting Marrakech? | Check out all the most Instagrammable spots here!
The Sahara is pure magic — sunset in the dunes will 100% rank in the top 5 best moments of your life! Go glamping to enjoy an obnoxious luxury tent with plumbing and king-size beds, plus excursions like camel riding, Berber drum circles, and stargazing — it’s AMAZING (PS use code camp2019 for 10% off!). A cheaper option is to do an organised tour from Marrakech.
How Long to Stay: 3 days, 2 nights (10-hour drive from Marrakech each way)
»TIP: If your schedule’s tight, visit the Agafay Desert instead — only ~1 hr from Marrakech. This is a rock desert, not a sand desert, but it’s still beautiful and you can do all the same activities! You can go glamping there too 🙂
If you think you’ll get worn out by the literal chaos of Marrakech, plan a day in this seaside town. About a 2.5 hr taxi/3 hr bus ride from Marrakech, Essaouira is known for being laid back af. You can unwind at the beach, stroll through the medina, stop by the fish markets, and devour some fresh, delicious Moroccan seafood. You can also visit the Skala du Port, a GOT filming location!
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Home to Morocco’s
smelly famous tanneries, Fes is a must-do! Take the 1-hr flight from Marrakech, otherwise it’s a ~7-hr drive/train. Wander through the crazy maze of streets in the medina, try the famous camel burger at Cafe Clock, admire the architecture at the Al Attarine or Bou Inania madrasas, find cool doors (there are seriously so many) and visit the Chouara tannery to see locals soaking and dyeing leather.
How Long to Stay: 2+ days
Chefchaouen – Morocco’s Blue Pearl aka the cutest all-blue city – has made a huge name for itself on social media, but it’s a really small town. Many people visit as part of a day trip from Fes, which is about a 3-hr taxi/4-hr bus ride away. Spend your day wandering the adorable blue streets, explore the central square, or walk up to the Spanish Mosque for a great view of the city!
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Casablanca’s main attraction, the amazing Hassan II Mosque (the largest mosque in Africa!), is definitely worth a visit. But other than the mosque and the markets, there’s not much to see. If you need to cut a city from your itinerary, don’t sweat leaving Casablanca off your list. You could also make it a day trip from Marrakech, which is around a ~2.5hr train ride away.
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Best Areas to Stay
Morocco has a ton of awesome, affordable options for accommodation. Stay at a riad for an authentic experience – these are large, traditional homes with absurdly pretty courtyards and decor. If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, Booking.com is your best bet. There are literally hundreds of options.
I stayed in the medina – the walled-off city centre – for easy walking access to main attractions, markets, and restaurants. It’s really busy during the day, but you shouldn’t walk around late at night. There are tons of beautiful hotels in other areas too, just keep in mind you’ll need to grab taxis to get around. I stayed at Riad BE (in the medina) and Es Saadi and both were amazing!
I went with Desert Luxury Camp for an outrageous, luxe glamping experience. But you can also keep it WAY cheaper and go with an organised tour – this 3-day group tour is the highest-rated on GetYourGuide. Both will provide you with transport to the desert from Marrakech (once again it’s a 10-hour drive EACH WAY so plan accordingly) and all accommodation.
The medina is the place to stay in Fes, just make sure not to walk around late at night. There are tons of beautiful, highly-rated riads and hotels here too. A couple of the best-recommended are Riad Fes Maya Suite & Spa (just LOOK at that architecture!!!) and Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda.
What to Pack & How to Dress
Morocco is a conservative Islamic country. Covering up isn’t mandatory here and you won’t get in trouble for dressing like Western Trash™, but you’ll stand out and get a lot of unwanted attention unless you dress conservatively. Dressing the way you see people dress on Instagram is definitely not culturally sensitive.
You might also like to read: What to Wear in Morocco: How to Dress + Outfit Inspiration
An easy shortcut for covering up is to bring a lightweight scarf with you. If you feel too exposed, just drape it around your shoulders.
As far as footwear, bring comfortable walking shoes – no heels! The streets can be really uneven and you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
If you want to visit the Sahara or head into the Atlas Mountains, make sure to pack a light sweater in the warmer months and winter wear in the cooler months – it can get really chilly.
Safety & Harassment
Morocco is generally safe. There’s petty crime (ie pickpocketing), and you shouldn’t walk around the medinas late at night, but violent crime is rare. If you use common sense and keep an eye on your valuables, you’ll be fine. I never felt unsafe.
But I did feel very uncomfortable sometimes. I usually encourage solo travel, but this is one country where I wouldn’t recommend going alone. You won’t have fun. As much as I loved Morocco, I got harassed constantly (alone or not) – harmless and not threatening, but still SUPER fucking annoying. Dressing more conservatively helps, but you will still get harassed some no matter what you do.
Harassment doesn’t just mean sexual harassment – Morocco can be annoying as hell for guys too. So many people are trying to sell you things aggressively, or rip you off, or trick you into giving them money. This can make parts of Morocco really unpleasant for men AND woman.
So it’s very, VERY IMPORTANT to go into Morocco with a thick skin. Know in advance that you’ll be dealing with a lot of pushy people who won’t take no for an answer. Try to remember that haggling, arguing, and just being plain blunt are part of Moroccan culture. This is how people communicate and conduct their business here so try not to get offended or upset.
Don’t let a small subset of the population ruin your experience and try to just brush off these incidents when they occur.
Unfortunately a huge part of planning a trip to Morocco is preparing for the infinite scammers (both pro and amateur) that will come your way. Although MOST of the Moroccan population is lovely, these guys are everywhere. Enough that you should treat anyone who approaches you with skepticism.
Never accept “helpful directions” from people on the street – they will demand money after.
No matter what anyone says, nothing is free. Do not accept “gifts”, do not take pictures with snakes in the main square, do not agree to a tea. When you’re ready to leave they will insist you pay them.
Always agree on a price with your taxi driver beforehand or they will rip you off. Carry small bills so that you can pay exactly the agreed amount. Drivers will often claim they “don’t have change” and you’ll get stuck paying extra.
If you’re doing literally anything that’s not a fixed price (ie. shopping, taxi), you’re probably getting ripped off – haggle like your life depends on it.
Don’t accept any unscheduled stops to shops or markets if you’re on a tour. These are sales pitches and your guide gets a cut. Firmly explain you are not interested.
What to Eat (and What Not to Eat)
Morocco has some SERIOUSLY delicious food, and they don’t know the meaning of delicate portions… bring loose pants, is all I’m saying.
As a general rule, don’t eat anything uncooked (salad, raw veggies, non-bottled-water, etc.) – they contain bacteria that our bodies aren’t used to and there’s a very good chance you’ll get sick. If you have a sensitive stomach you might struggle here, because the food is rich and heavily spiced. I seriously have an iron stomach and even I felt a little queasy a couple days.
Other than that, go nuts!! Some of my favorite Moroccan foods:
- Tagine: A slow-cooked, spiced stew of lamb, chicken, or beef, cooked in a traditional clay pot.
- Olives: The best I’ve ever eaten – brined to perfection and dusted with cumin and other spices.
- Couscous: Usually served in a HUGE bowl and piled with vegetables, plus chicken, lamb, or beef.
- MINT TEA: Super sweet, and really fragrant. Your host will make a show of serving it – they pour it from like, a foot above your cup, and don’t spill a drop!
- Baked eggs: Baked with spices like cumin and turmeric & served with bread. LIFE-CHANGING.
- Chicken with preserved lemon & olive: Bright and briny — it’s so, so good. Typically eaten over couscous or Moroccan bread.
Budgeting: Currency, Cash, & Typical Costs
Morocco is seriously affordable — $1 USD is about 9.71 Moroccan dirhams as of June 2019! I would say the average traveler planning a trip to Morocco should budget between $50-70 USD/day (but you could easily spend less – or more – depending on your travel style).
A room at an affordable riad will cost you around $30-50 USD/night (and they usually serve a bomb rooftop breakfast for free!). You’ll pay ~$3-5 USD for a taxi ride within cities. Basic meals at local restaurants will cost you around $3-5 USD, and meals at nicer or more touristy restaurants will run you about $15 USD.
CASH IS KING here so don’t expect to be able to use your credit card anywhere other than high-end hotels and restaurants. Carry cash everywhere you go.
English is super common and you even in smaller villages you’ll find people who speak enough to do things like buy water at the store or order food. You won’t have ANY problems in this country speaking only English, especially if you are only sticking to big cities.
Otherwise Moroccans speak a dialect of Arabic called Moroccan Arabic. There is also a large French influence, so if you speak French you’ll be able to get by. Learning a couple words of the local language is always a good idea – “shukran” is thank you, and “merhaba” is hello!
Thanks for making it through this monster of a post!!! Hope you found it helpful 🙂 Don’t forget to PIN it or drop a comment below if you have any other questions!
Ann Kelly says
Love this article! I’ve just returned from Morocco and I love how you put “Morocco comes off like a boho wonderland of tranquil corners and sparkly lanterns, and that’s just… not accurate” could not agree with you more on this one! I was totally expecting this magical land of sparkly lanterns and perfect Instagram spots, which there are but….everything else kind of gets left out on social media!
Thank you!! 🙂 YES I agree! I would hate for someone to go to Morocco thinking it would be like, a peaceful holiday destination lol
I loved Morocco too, but it’s not a destination for rookie travelers. It can be really demanding (especially if -like me- you go during Ramadan), so a guide like this is really handy! Keep up the great work! ❤️
Thank you so much, Coni 🙂 Brave of you to go during Ramadan, well done!! Morocco definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s an amazing experience, right?
Gianluca Fiore says
That’s a great post Jaleh! Thanks for collecting all these infos.
One more thing I would suggest: don’t eat anything from street vendors, even if cooked. I had to pay the price during my staying in Casablanca. Only proper restaurants and of course not raw food of any sorts.
Thank you 🙂 Sorry to hear that happened!! I didn’t eat at any street vendors so I wouldn’t know, but that’s a great tip, I’ll add it to the post. Thanks!
Thanke you so much for info ablut Morocco
You’re very welcome! 🙂 Hope to return to your beautiful country again soon!
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