In Feb 2015, I traveled to Morocco with 2 friends for 3 weeks, we all enjoyed this wonderful country located in Northern Africa! Going to the Sahara Desert on camel caravans is in one of my bucket list, and it turned out to be an unforgettable part of the trip! However, Morocco has a lot more to offer! Before you decide to visit Morocco, you have to do some researches on how to navigate and be a smart traveler in this country. Here are some tips that I can share with you:
- Efficient train and bus system
Honestly I was very surprised by how organized the Moroccan train system is laid, you can check all the schedule and price online, very user-friendly.
Trains are quite frequent, usually it is not necessary to reserve a ticket. There is no allocated seat on your ticket, so you can just sit wherever you want. We found the trains very comfortable and clean, and the scenery in Moroccan countryside is amazingly green. But be prepared to buy some food before boarding, because a piece of bread and cheese costs 20 dirhams. The staff checks our tickets three times within our 8 hours ride, so there is no way to cheat.
Some places up in the High Atlas mountain are not connected with train network, and you could take buses instead, here is one of the major bus company CTM. Also you don’t need to book any bus tickets, just buy it a couple of hours before departure. If you find out the bus is full, there are always another bus company which offers the same service but you may have to change another bus on the way.
Buses charge 5-10 dirhams if you want to store your luggage in the luggage area.
- Moroccan food
You may find Moroccan food a little bit less surprising than other cuisines to be honest. Tajine is the most common dish you can find everywhere, it is just meat and vegetables being cooked in a doom-shaped utensil. A special Moroccan soup Harira is warm and delicious with mainly vegetable and grains. Don’t miss the Friday couscous, which is a traditional meal when family and friends gather for dinner on every Friday nights.
There are some Moroccan snacks, such as Pastilla which is a fried dumpling filled with whatever ingredients, chicken or fish with vegetables. Deep fried biscuit-like snack Chekbakia served with honey and sesame is appealing too.
Prices of Moroccan cuisine are quite reasonable in most places, if you could avoid those overly-priced tourist restaurants, a meal is usually under 40-50 dirhams (4-5 euros). Besides, I particularly love buying seasonal fruits, 7 dirhams per kilo of banana, very good deal!
- Sahara Odyssey
Spending a night or two in the Sahara desert is a must-do thing if you travel to Morocco, and I am sure it would be a once-a-lifetime experience. You can check for the price online, usually people take the 2 days 1 night to Zagora (which costs around 50 euros) or 3 days 2 nights to Merzouga (around 100 euros). Make sure you bargain the price and know exactly what is included before you pay.
Riding a camel is a fun experience but I don’t think I am going to do it again. The seat in the camel back is so uncomfortable that kept rubbing my ass. I still prefer riding a horse than a camel anyways, but sadly horses couldn’t survive in Sahara Desert.
- Never take pictures of people without asking permission
This rule applies to many places, but it is particularly obvious in Islamic countries, because they are very sensitive to any kind of recording or exposing their traditions to the global world. In most cases, if you didn’t ask for permission to take photo, people would ask you for money; while some more extreme ones would ask you to delete the photos.
When we kindly ask the shopkeepers or kids on the street, mostly they are quite happy to be your models.
- Never follow anybody who wants to show you direction
When I wandered around in the medina, there are quite a number of people who wanted to take advantage on me, it was understandable for those who wanted to sell stuff, but I was annoyed by “friendly people” who intended to show me directions. Usually those guides approach tourists who seem to be lost, and offer to show them the way. If you follow them, you are subjected to receiving their “service”, which they would ask you to pay when they finish their mission to bring you to the places you want to go.
If you want to avoid paying to those guides, simply tell them you only want to know the way, and you have no money to give him or her. Or I recommend you to ask shopkeepers or police for directions, rather than random people on the streets.
- Pay extra attention if you want to use Couchsurfing
I was astonished to discover there are almost 50% of the Couchsurfing hosts in Morocco have negative references, which is quite high to be honest. The 2 major aspects of negative experiences are always sexual harassment and money issues. I am not criticizing a particular country, but some people have bad intentions to host people in their home. Therefore, do read references before sending a Couch request. In Morocco, I had amazing experiences staying with host families, I felt like being a VIP guest in their home, and I got to know a lot about their traditions and cultures, which I would never experience that if I stayed in hostels. Their hospitality and friendliness are highly appreciated!
Morocco is a lovely country to travel when you want to have a little taste of Africa and Muslim cultures mixing under French colonization. I wish you will have a chance to pay a visit and have a good time there!!