Morocco: What you need to know before traveling?
In Morocco, they use dirhams and you can only get their currency in Morocco. You can’t get Moroccan Dirhams at your local money changer. The best place to get your currency sorted out is at the airport once you landed and clear the immigration.
We changed our currency at Casablanca Airport and the money changer there suggested us to use a currency card, just like a debit card.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about theft as your cash are all stored in the card.
Con: You need to find an ATM whenever you need cash.
We decided not to go for the currency card as we don’t want the hassle to find an ATM when we need some cash. Do note that if you are planning to do a road trip, not all towns have ATM. There was an instance when we were going back from Sahara Desert, there was this couple in our tour group who need to withdraw cash from an ATM. Thankfully, our driver knows where to find an ATM. If not you have to ask around and probably walk a few distance before finding an ATM machine.
Cash is definitely king in Morocco as almost all of the transactions are in cash only.
2. Sim Cards & Data Plans
There are 2 major telcos in Morocco and you can get your sim card and data plan right at the airport. They are located near to the money changer after your collect your luggage.
We got our sim card from Orange, one of Morocco’s telco and the connection throughout our trip was pretty good (except when you are at Sahara Desert – you shouldn’t be connected because you are supposed to enjoy the desert). We got our sim card for 100 dirhams which gave us 10GB of data for a month and that is more than enough for our entire trip in Morocco. The staff at the airport will assist to activate your sim card immediately. Just to be on the safe side (kiasu), do try to browse the internet to make sure you are well connected.
3. Domestic Transport
If you are planning to use public transport to travel around Morocco, you can only purchase the tickets in Morocco itself. This includes trains, buses, and trams. Be sure to add additional travelling time to your itinerary as trains and buses may have unexpected halt along the journey.
Our train from Fez to Casablanca stopped twice in the middle of nowhere for approximately 2 hours due to another train broke down on the other track and some of the passengers wanted to board our train to go back to the nearest station, rather than being stranded in the middle of nowhere. It took the passengers a while before they could convince the conductor to let them board.
I remember watching a vlog where the vlogger missed their flight due to train delay. So it is important to add additional hours to your trip just to be on the safe side.
On a side note, if you have a detailed itinerary, it would be better for you to purchase all your ONCF train tickets at once. You can either use the kiosk to purchase all your tickets or queue at the ticketing counter to get an assistance from their friendly staff to assist you with the purchasing.
Shopping in Morocco is all about bargain bargain and bargain! This doesn’t apply to shopping malls (there aren’t alot of malls). Most of the shops are by the street and they usually mark-up their prices for tourists.
We went to a shop to look around and randomly asked for the price of their black soap. They quoted us 200 dirhams and obviously we weren’t interested. So while walking out, they reduced their prices to 150 dirhams and 100 dirhams. I’m still not keen and after a few offers, they eventually asked me to name a price. I gave my lowest amount I’m willing to pay for it, which is 20 dirhams, thinking that they will try to stop selling it to me. They tried to sell it higher than my desired price but I insist on 20 dirhams. Eventually they agreed. I’m sure they still make money from it but look at the price they initially quoted. From 200 dirhams to 20 dirhams, that is a 90% mark-up and I’m sure they can still go lower than 20 dirhams!
The best way to fly to Morocco from Singapore is via Casablanca. There are other major airports such as Marrakech, but to fly from Singapore to Marrakech, it will be a longer journey. So in our opinion, it is best that you fly from Singapore to Casablanca and take a train from Casablanca to Marrakech. The train station is located right at the airport and the signages is crystal clear to guide you to the train station.
Do your own research on flight details. As for us, we took Oman Air and it flew from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Oman to Casablanca. It is the cheapest choice at the time of booking. Even though there are multiple transits, it is still the shortest travelling time to Casablanca, Morocco.
It is our first time flying with Oman Air and it is not as bad as we thought it would be. However, a few days before we were supposed to fly back to Singapore, I received an email from Oman Air stating that our flight will be delayed for a few days. We were upset as our departing city will be from Casablanca and there isn’t anything much to do there, so we decided to write-in to them (giving reasons that we have to start work and cannot anticipate the delay), and surprisingly they managed to get us on a flight with Qatar Airways. Now that is more like it!
There isn’t many activities to do in Morocco other than visiting places of interest such as their old buildings, mosques, madrasah, and other heritage sites. The only activities we did was glamping at Sahara Desert, which includes camel ride and 4-wheels drive at the desert sand dunes.
They also have hot-air balloon rides at the desert but we didn’t opt for it since we did it before in Capadocia, Turkey. If you are planning to ride the hot-air balloon, it is ideal to do it during sunset as the view of the Sahara Desert will be magnificent.
7. Riads (Hotels)
Morocco have alot of riads and they may not look fantastic on the exterior but once you stepped inside, you’ll be amazed by the interior.
The price for a riad depends on the facilities and ambience. It is worth it to pay a little more for the ultimate Morocco experience.
8. Food & Beverages
Morocco is a Muslim country and all the food is halal. Morocco is famous for their tagine – be it Beef, Lamb, Chicken, or Egg Tagine. We tried all at different part of Morocco and we love them all! Our favourite is definitely lamb tagine since the fats make it succulent. Egg Tagine is also nice especially for breakfast. Tagine is served with breads and you are suppose to dip it with the gravy. The best tagine we tried was at Marrakech – Dar Cherifa
We find the serving portion is huge too for 1 person so most of the time we would share. This save us some money for other activities too! As for their drink, they are famous for their mint tea. Our vote for the best mint tea will definitely be at Cafe Hafa in Tangier. It is the oldest cafe in Tangier and have an open concept drinking area overlooking the sea on a cliff top.
If you are looking for fresh seafood right from the ocean, do visit Essaouira. It is the seafood paradise of Morocco. They have small pushcart along the fishery port where you can eat any seafoods such as oysters on the spot. For bigger items like crabs, fishes and lobsters, you can purchase them from one of the fisherman and bring it to a nearby stall to have it grilled or BBQ. You can’t get any seafood fresher than this.
Do note that the fishery port is a wet area, so don’t wear your expensive shoe if you plan to visit it.
9. Is Morocco Safe?
Generally, Morocco is safe if you travel with a man. There are alot of ailse and you’ll probably get lost. It is like a maze and every turn lead to another adventure. There are people, usually men standing at the side of the ailse and if you are a woman, you won’t feel comfortable or safe walking along the ailse at night, especially at areas that is not well lit.
Other than that, it is safe and the people are friendly. If you ever get lost, just ask around and it you asked the “wrong person”, they will personally escort you to your destination for a small fee. They usually asked for notes or what they would call “paper money”. But you can just give them coins and walk away.