Morocco became a pretty popular destination, there are a lot of cheap tickets from Europe. But, many people still consider this place as dangerous. Except for people wanting money from you or pickpocketers, don’t worry about being safe in Morocco. Of course, talking about more touristic places. Yet still, before going there, you have to prepare that it’s different. And to enjoy Morocco for 100%, you have to be very open-minded. Different is just different. But that’s the beauty of traveling, isn’t it?
Expect chaos on the roads in Marrakech (but also everywhere else in Morocco)
If you find there some semaphores or zebras, you are a lucky person. Usually, you can cross everywhere you want. Cars there are stopping, but only when you are already on the road, so don’t wait, just go. There are no rules of driving there (at least it seems like that), so the first time it might be shocking. But you will get used to it after a while. The same with walking on the pedestrian part: there is actually no place you can call “pedestrian”. Motorbikes and even cars are going everywhere. Usually, they signalize before coming and try to go round you, but still, watch out.
Say “no” to any help in case you want to feel safe in Morocco (well, almost)
80% of Moroccan people are working illegally. There are huge poorness and unemployment. You cannot hate people for that, but you have to be careful with accepting something on the streets. We heard a lot of stories when someone offered to guide people somewhere. They brought them to the wrong place and asked for money to bring them back. The same rule was in shops: if you touch something – you pay. It was very confusing for us because sometimes Morrocans were very polite and nice.
We also met some “guides” who wanted to help us with “no money”, so definitely never use these kinds of services. Even small children can catch you on your way to accommodation and try to help (without you asking them). We’ve got one annoying boy who was going with us up until the end. He first showed us the wrong doors (we already knew where we need to go). And after closing doors, he was still knocking and praying for dirhams.
One pro-tip we used during our stay: if you really need to ask something, try to ask girls. That kind of “guiding” counts as work for many Moroccans. Unofficial, of course. And since in their culture still, many girls are not working, there is a bigger chance that they will help you. Without asking money for it.
Prepare for dirt and smell in Morocco
Unfortunately, Morocco is a very dirty country. We saw a lot of trash in many European countries, but in Morocco, it felt like too much. We also were comparing markets in Istanbul and Jerusalem with markets in Morocco. And we simply didn’t feel safe to buy some things from there. Because the hygiene didn’t look promising, unlike in other places. Yet we found the Agadir market pretty clean.
One interesting fact: from 2016 in Morocco is officially not allowed to use plastic bags. And it is really visible, on markets they pack everything in a cute eco-friendly bags.
People here sell everything you can only imagine. Napkins, cookies, pictures with monkeys, taming snakes, T-shirts, useless toys and etc. Marrakech square Jama El f’na is one of the most popular places for it. Every time when somebody was coming to us, Robo was very angry and always was screaming: “NO, NO, WE DON’T WANT!”. But, once he replied like that, the guy told him: “Maybe, tomorrow”. We laughed about that at first, but then we decided to try that magic combination of words once someone was trying to sell us something. And it worked! Every time we said it, people were smiling and letting us go. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I recommend you to try this. At least, in my opinion, most of those people were pretty nice when you polite decline their offers.
Always have cash with you, even in Marrakech
We are not huge fans of cash and almost always trying to pay by card. We even don’t bring cash to change it, we usually take it from ATMs, since I can take money from any ATM for free. In Morocco, there are still a few places where you can pay by card. So prepare cash in advance. In big cities, there is no problem to find an ATM but forget about it in villages. Also, a lot of ATMs had their own chargings for taking cash. For me, Banque Populaire (with a horse on the label) didn’t credit any charge.
Better follow some touristic groups, if being in nature around Marrakech
Once we wanted to go for a day trip from Marrakesh to Ourika Valley Waterfalls. We grab a shared taxi, which works almost like public transport, but a bit more private. You come to their square and ask where you need to go. Usually, it was impossible to bargain about the price, since they had it fixed for everyone, but you can give it a try. Still, it was around 2.8 euros per person which is a great deal. Then you sit in the car and wait until it will get full (6 people + driver). Well, that was the easiest part of it.
Once we got to that sort of village, from where hiking should start, we had no clue where to go. There are no signs of waterfalls, no map, nothing. Just a lot of “guides” providing their help to find the way. They don’t make signs to it by purpose. We were almost about to go back to Marrakesh when we saw one touristic group arrived. Following them was a great idea. We had to pass through one restaurant and then some stairs have started to appear. The “entrance to hiking” was that much hidden that you would never imagine it to be there. So the following advice: if you don’t know where to go – go with some tourists who have their own guide. But don’t be too obvious that you are following then, of course.
Transportation between the cities of Morocco is pretty good
2 main bus companies: CTM and Supratours could take you through all the biggest cities in Morocco. The buses are comfortable, with our experience departing on time, no big delays in arrivals. If you are traveling in the North of Morocco, I heard that trains are also a good go. The highways are surprisingly very pleasant as well. So if you are not a fan of driving a car, you will survive with public transportation.
(Almost) forget about alcohol or usual groceries in Morocco
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, so most people there don’t drink. Yet it is not forbidden by any rules. You can find alcohol in some tourist bars, but since they have to pay quite high taxes for it, count on the price. When it comes to groceries, usually you will not find something we used to in city centers. Only small random shops, selling the same things and you never know the price there.
We’ve found few Carrefours out of the city centers. But the prices there were almost the same high as in Bratislava, Also there were mostly tourists. In those shops, you are able to find alcohol, yet it is located in a different room from the rest of the shop. So better bring your own alcohol or enjoy Moroccan mint tea (which is called “Moroccan whiskey”)
Choose carefully places to eat and sleep in Morocco
Since I’ve mentioned a lot about dirt and hygiene, this is pretty important for preparation. Before going to Morocco I tried my best to research good restaurants using my own guide for it. Not only because I like to be prepared, but also because I don’t want to be surprised after. But it was not easy to find some places in advance, because there was not much information on the internet.
If you are heading to Marrakech, I definitely recommend you to try the lunch menu at Amal Center. It is a nonprofit organization that helps disadvantaged women through restaurant training and job placement. It looks very cozy and they definitely cook very tasty meals.
Another choice in Marrakesh would be La Cantine des Gazelles, a cute small pink restaurant located in the medina. They offered us a welcome smoothie drink and gave traditional Moroccan pastry to try.
When it comes to accommodation, we usually book it through Airbnb and never had any concerns. I gave a tip for a lovely accommodation in Marrakech in my previous blog post where you can have a tasty breakfast for 2.6 euros. Yet this time we found the worst hostel on the beach near the city Essaouira. Unfortunately in the reviews, nobody wrote how bad it actually is, and on the pictures, it looked completely different. So the last pro-tip: when booking on Airbnb, check ratings for all the points there, especially for cleanliness!
So, is it safe in Morocco or no?
Well, as usual, it depends on your behavior. If you respect some general rules, you can feel pretty much safe in Morocco. Morocco has a big warm heart and it definitely worth visiting. It can shock at some point, but it will definitely teach you a lot of lessons. And will make you realize and value a lot of things.