Things i wish i knew before going to Morocco
Let’s say you are going to Morocco and you are quite excited about it. And you should be! The country is beautiful, the food is amazing, the landscapes can be awesome, but…there are things you should really know before going there. I’ve visited Morocco in April and unfortunately, my trip was a real failure. You will be able to hear all about it here.
- Tour guides in Morocco
- Rent a car/parking and transport in general
- Possible scams
- Drinks and food/food poisoning
Shall you take a tour guide?
This is a very important question and you should decide this before going to Morocco.
I still rather travel without the tour guide but in destinations such as Morocco, it might be better to have a tour guide. I must admit that I regret not having it.
Not because it’s a dangerous country but because it’s quite easy to make a wrong step, fail to see the right places and ruin your vacation. Now I am gonna explain why.
Basically, if you are visiting more than one place and you aren’t well informed about all the important things in Morocco, you should think twice. Paying a tour guide a bit more in order for you to get a safe and pleasant journey can be a good idea.
Let me explain, you can get guides who are considered as tour guides through your whole journey. They usually pick you up at the airport, give you a ride to the accommodation, arrange food (or guide you to the restaurants). They arrange the whole travel plan and send you in advance – your accommodation, what should be visited, for how long and they also arrange a trip to the desert.
Long story short – you pay and they take care of everything. From one perspective that sounds awesome, right? You don’t have to worry about any single thing. And what is also important – you don’t have to worry if you are safe, if you will be overcharged, scammed or have bad food quality. I am mentioning these examples because unfortunately, I had all of these situations in Morocco.
You will hear everything in the next part.
However, from another perspective – you get kinda “fake” Morocco impression. You know what I mean – it’s similar when going to e.g. Egypt in an all-inclusive hotel. No much experience about the country but quite an enjoyable journey. Which is completely fine! And that brings us again to the question: What type of tourist are you? Do you want to explore on your own and take risks or not to overthink on your vacation and be guided by someone? Think about it.
By the way, when taking a tour guide, make sure he is trustful. Don’t take random guys you find online or in some suspicious places. You are usually able to book a guide online and in advance. I know about some of the guides which my friend recommended me, however, I didn’t use their services so I would rather skip mentioning them. Try to find them on google and also, try to bargain in order to make a better deal. Don’t worry, more about bargaining you can find below.
Now when you know all these things, make the best decision for you.
Rent a car or use a public transport?
People say public transport is good enough but my friends and I rented a car anyway. We visited Agadir, Paradise Valley, Taghazout, Essaouira, and Marrakesh meaning that we stayed one day in each place. Naturally, a car sounded like a better option than adjusting our plans to a transport every day. We rented it through Ryanair website knowing it’s a bit more expensive (although they had a big discount at the time). However, it looked safer, easier and faster than renting it from random people in Morocco.
The renting company and the car were alright, but this car brought me more stress than joy. In almost every city we stayed in a hotel which, while booking had a note: parking. Unfortunately, when coming to the spot, there was no parking (except in Agadir). Scam.
In all of these cities, you can park your car in some parking guarded by some locals. The price in Taghazout was 1 euro per day, in Essaouira 5 euros and in Marrakesh they charged us 10 euros! While booking, it was written the parking is available and will cost up to 5 euros. When we were complaining in the hotel they said: We can’t do anything, they are street mafia.
Another important thing: The driving in Morocco is nothing like driving in Europe. Locals claim that many drivers or even taxi drivers don’t even have the driving license. And once you get there that is anyway quite obvious. I will just add that it was a real experience surviving in these streets. You should also expect people will stop you on traffic lights, go around the car, knock on the window and ask for the money. Or whatever. Our doors were usually locked but that didn’t make us feel safe.
Now when you know all these things, decide if the rent a car is worth all the troubles you might encounter.
Accommodation and its “elegance”
We booked hotels in each place on booking.com. Well, “hotels”. This term is slightly different there because some hotels were more like hostels. E.g. from two rooms, there is no window in the second room. Also, there was a bad lighting or no door between rooms (just a curtain), difficult to adjust a hot water, no proper shower spot (just tiles) no heating (sometimes was needed). No promised parking. And so on.
Anyway, one night there was from 10 euros to 15 euros per person, depending on the city. In some of them, the breakfast was included. Of course, I shouldn’t complain too much cause the accommodation was cheap. However, it wasn’t the cheapest of the offered ones.
That is why we didn’t suspect much – the reviews were good, the pictures were good so we went for it. And then we got our little party going on. In Essaouira, the map couldn’t navigate us to the hotel. The hotel had been moved from the address we had in our booking. Some locals were guiding us through suspicious streets and I must admit, we felt quite scared. We read about scam, robbery, we already felt it a bit on our skin and we thought we’ll experience the same thing again.
It was impossible to find the hotel, we were lost in this maze-like streets. Who would move a hotel and don’t change the address for their customers?! Well, luckily, they would. I say luckily because in the end these locals were correct and we arrived at the place safely. I was relieved but, unfortunately, not for a long time.
Later I got food poisoned and the next day we experienced another scam. But I will get to this part later.
Yes, in Marrakesh, we were scammed again. The room we booked appeared to be outside of the hotel which was presented on our booking. They took the money and tried to make our stay in a room few streets from the hotel. The room was in a narrow street, hidden, not safe, not clean and quite scary. They were convincing us that we booked the room separate from the hotel. They were also saying that they have guards there 24/7, however, at the time we went to this room, there was no any.
The hotel wouldn’t offer any room in the hotel itself and they wouldn’t even refund us the money although they gave us something we didn’t book! Again, the scam, and this was a really big one. After a huge discussion with them, we decided to find another place on our own. In the end, we complained to booking.com and got the refund from them (woohoo), but the hotel never admitted the fault.
Almost 2 hours spent on this scam which ruined my morning and Marrakesh experience. This is one of the situations why I would have rather had the tour guide with us.
Food and drinks and its issue: food poisoning
If you are going to Morocco from Europe, you should be prepared for the possible issues related to food or drinks. And by this, I don’t mean Morocco is dirty. Basically, the bacterias you have, you gained from your country and your area/continent. These bacterias are different than the ones people who live on other continents, including Africa, have.
So, what are the steps you have to take in order to stay “healthy” all the time there?
I mean, one of the reasons you are going to Morocco was to try their food, tea, and juices, right? Well, there’s no guarantee you are going to be ok.
- To be safer, while eating outside, always search for Trip Advisor places.
- Always ask waiters to boil the water before giving you a tea.
- And always make sure how the food is made – did they use the tap water or not.
- This applies not only to tea but to fresh fruit and salads – it might be harmful if you eat that as well.
And now I have bad news for you.
I was following all these advises and tried not to put myself in an unpleasant situation, but, no luck. Unfortunately, I was food poisoned, had the strongest flu ever, a huge fever and was unable to even stand or talk the first day. I struggled a lot for the last two days and that affected my whole journey until I went back home.
Two of my friends there had similar issues at the same time, just not that strong consequences as I did. Luckily, after all the tests I did back in Europe, it wasn’t anything serious.
The point is that you have to be prepared for this things. Unfortunately, it happens to many people.
Locals and other things you should know: A big yes to Taghazout and a huge no for Marrakesh
There is a pure hospitality in Taghazout. Locals are friendly, helpful and kind of proud that you chose to visit their village. The people, the beach, restaurants and the view from the oceanside were amazing. And the food was delicious. Workers in the restaurants will also do anything to make your stay there better. Of course, they are the happiest because tourists brought them more money than they used to earn. And they appreciate it unlikely the locals in Marrakesh did.
Taghazout is usually visited by tourists who spend there few months or a year and all of them say the same thing. They went there to find themselves. Their pure self, existence, meaning. To understand the life. And to surf. 🙂
- Before going there, you should know that sometimes there is no electricity.
- And no asphalt (there is just around the ocean or down in the village).
- And there is no legal place where you can buy alcohol.
Expect the whole city to do public prayers, every night at the same hour. Every music or noise stops and the sound of prayer you hear is the only thing you should focus on. This is actually common in all the places we visited.
Unfortunately, while going to Morocco you can expect scam as well.
The fact is that people will try to fool or overcharge you in most of the places. They will stop you on the street and follow you saying they want to give you a hand with, for example, finding a hotel. Or help you with anything. No matter how many times you say no, they will just not give up. When you stop paying attention to them, they will still follow you and in the end, ask for the money.
It happened to us. In Marrakesh. Of course, we were scared they might find us later or rob us so we always gave them something.
In Marrakesh, they guy asked for 20 euros because “he showed us the hotel”. And the hotel was in front of the parking which we found ourselves on Google maps. I would say, a scam. The whole one hour he was following us and insisting on the money. That happened actually a minute after they took 10 euros for parking. In the end, my friend gave the guy who “showed us the hotel” 5 euros for the sake of peace.
Something similar happened even with the Police. We were stopped and asked for the documents. They said we were driving too fast although my friend had a control over it. The police said they will write a fine, but my friend asked if he can agree with them and give some money instead of getting a fine. They accepted this offer very gladly.
A tip: Be sure you know how to handle these situations and at the same time stay calm, relaxed and safe.
Don’t forget to bargain
Locals will usually try to take advantage of you being a tourist. They will offer you sunglasses, fruits, clothes and many other things on the street. They will overcharge you for parking as well.
Usually, you are able to lower the price a lot. For example, the owner of the hotel we went to in Marrakesh offered us the room in one price. After we asked for a lower price, he immediately accepted. The same happened with a trip to Sahara. The guy said 100 euros and my friend said: Well I already have an offer for 70 euros. And the guy immediately said ok, I will do it for 70 euros as well.
An overview of everything
I don’t claim Morocco is unsafe country. I don’t think the people are bad, in general. Actually, there’s no such a thing as bad people in general. I don’t claim it’s not worth visiting either. However, I probably wouldn’t choose to visit Marrakesh again.
My experience, unfortunately, wasn’t pleasant and at the end, I couldn’t wait to go home. Which doesn’t mean you are going to have the same issues I did. I shared all the situations we had cause it can help you to get a wider perspective of the trip you’re planning to take.
If you’ve visited the country, write me in comments your thoughts. I am looking forward to hearing about your experience as well.