Morocco cultural tips from our experts

Where to go in Morocco
Meryem Benkhati, is one of several female tour guides with our leading supplier of cultural vacations in Morocco, Intrepid Travel:

Where to go in Morocco

“The cultural site closest to my heart would be Marrakech Medina. It’s the place I go to when I want to get lost and fill my heart with vibrant colours, charming sights, unforgettable scents, and a thousand different sounds… from calls to prayer (Adhan), Gnaoua music and storytellers to sellers competing to get your attention. Second is Tangier’s Kasbah, because its relaxed and melancholic atmosphere is every bohemian’s heaven and third is Aït Benhaddou because it’s one of the few sites on the planet that has stayed authentic since centuries ago.”
Cultural advice

Cultural advice

Meryem Benkhati, from our supplier Intrepid Travel:
“For couples, be careful how you publicly display affection as it might shock locals, especially in non-Westernised regions. When visiting souks and shops keep your patience and practise your haggling skills. And please don’t expect to see Moroccans riding camels to work and wearing kamises and jellabas everywhere; our country has kept its authenticity, we love our traditions but we also like to follow international clothing trends.”
Mike McHugo, owner of Kasbah du Toubkal:
“Dress codes do differ in the mountains from Marrakech. In Marrakech it’s not unusual to see women in shorts, skirts above the knee, and scant or see-through tops. While it’s still not appropriate in Marrakech it’s much more shocking for people in villages — many of whose homes and front doors you’ll be walking past on a hike.”
Food tips

Food tips

Anthony Horrobin from our supplier, Encounters Travel:
“In Marrakech go out to eat early, around 5pm, so that you can secure a balcony seat in one of the restaurants. From there you can watch the sunset and the square fill up. I highly recommend the restaurant Dar es Salaam. It isn’t really touristy, it has traditional musicians and the food is amazing.”
On the road

On the road

Rachel Blech is co-founder of our supplier, SheherazadVentures:
“If you are touring, make sure to pack bottled water, snacks and loo paper. You can go a long way without passing a shop or clean loo. Ensure that your tour operator allows for daily car/bus times that are not too excessive, and with plenty of stops. Morocco is a vast country – many companies offer tours that promise to take you from e.g. Marrakech to the Sahara and back in three days, but be warned that these are massive daily drives of around nine or 10 hours. Check travel times carefully and do not believe what Google Maps tells you!”
Packing tips

Packing tips

Rachel Blech is co-founder of our supplier, SheherazadVentures:
“Pack lots of light and loose layers as temperatures can vary a lot between night and day. The weather is usually warm, but it can be very unpredictable between November and April.”
Responsible tourism in Morocco

Responsible tourism in Morocco

Meryem Benkhati, a tour guide with our leading of supplier cultural vacations in Morocco, Intrepid Travel:
“Something that bothers me is when visitors are expecting infrastructure and amenities to be as evolved here as in their home countries and then being rude about it to locals. Morocco is still a developing country and has a long way to go but I am sure we will get there.”
Shopping advice

Shopping advice

Simon Clifford, the Morocco expert at our leading supplier, Exodus:
“Avoid getting taken into a shop, carpet or otherwise. It’s much harder to leave without buying from inside! Be firm with shopkeepers and stallholders. You don’t have to buy anything! And don’t be put off by street food, as it’s fine. Really tasty, with huge portions for what you pay. Try and get small denominations of Dirhams, locals struggle to change large notes. Leather goods in Morocco are good, but never buy them on the outer stalls of the souk. Go as deep as you can as they’ll be at least half the price.”
Andrew Appleyard, Exodus:
“Word of warning: don’t buy a large tagine cooking pot. They don’t fit in any conventional European cooker!”

Our top Morocco Culture Vacation

Morocco cultural tour

Morocco cultural tour

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Health & safety in Morocco

HEALTH

There are no required vaccinations for travel to Morocco, but always check NHS site Fit for Travel for more details. Always travel with a basic medical kit and ensure to bring your own prescription medicines as you may go into remote areas in the Atlas Mountains or Sahara. Take out comprehensive travel insurance before departure, which includes emergency evacuation and repatriation, as well as any high risk activities you are planning to take part in. The biggest health tip for Morocco is to drink a lot of water. That and protect yourself from the sun with all possible methods. If you do get dehydrated through illness or heat, the 1 tsp salt/8 tsp sugar/1 litre of water ratio combo works a treat. If you are driving in the sand dunes, motion sickness can be an issue. If you are affected by this, bring bring sea sickness tablets to the desert in case. The water sellers in the souks did serve a real purpose in the past, but now they are mainly there to be photographed. The water they dispense does not have a good record in terms of cleanliness. Rabies does exist in Morocco and there are a lot of stray cats and dogs. So best not to stroke them just in case. Don’t drink tap water, avoid ice in drinks and only eat unpeeled fruit if you are able to rinse it in clean water first. You may want to bring some stomach medication just to be on the safe side.

SAFETY

Most visits are trouble free. Morocco has, thankfully, not suffered at the hands of terrorists’ activities recently, the last bomb attacks being in 2003 and 2011 in Casablanca and Marrakesh respectively. However, tourists are asked to be vigilant as Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) sympathisers are known to have been operating in the country. Consequently, the Moroccan government established the Bureau Central d'Investigation Judiciaire (BCJI) in 2015 to combat such threats. Always get up to date information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advisory department before traveling to Morocco. In the event of an emergency, call 15 for an ambulance, and 19 for police. There can be dangerous currents along the Atlantic coast in particular, so do be wary about surfing or swimming. Surfers are always good safety monitors and know their rips, so if there are no lifeguards check with them. Morocco has a poor road safety record, so drive carefully and don’t take any unnecessary risks. The Western Sahara region is a disputed territory with a history of conflict. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to most of this region, not only because of potential conflict, but also because there are territories known for land mines. Read more on the FCO website. Con artists and tricksters, or downright thieves, are sadly a feature of Morocco, so be very careful whose story you are listening to. Gay travelers need to be wary of hook up websites in Morocco, as they have gained a reputation for criminal activity and robberies. And although homosexuality is illegal in Morocco it still has a well known underground gay scene, but same sex couples should act discretely in public.

Morocco cultural tips from our vacation reviews

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Morocco cultural tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
It’s freezing in the Sahara at night, so take the blankets they offer and any clothes that you have.
- Emma Langridge on our ‘Staying with a Berber family’ vacation
“Go with an open mind, a sense of humour and a relaxed attitude. You will be thrilled by what you do and see…It would be impossible to run a rigid itinerary or to maintain a star rating for comfort and amenity. These things varied enormously but that's just 'off the beaten track' Morocco. We were well fed, we slept comfortably - sometimes in luxury - sometimes not, we experienced the real Morocco, we were warmly welcomed wherever we went and most importantly – we had loads of fun.” - Marilyn Wane
“Don't bother booking a single supplement room. I have shared rooms with unknown females often and have yet to really not get on with my room/cabin mates. Save the money for souvenirs etc ! I have made a couple of good friends too.” – Elizabeth Wingate
“It’s freezing in the Sahara at night, so take the blankets they offer and any clothes that you have. You'll need the vocab sheet they send you beforehand as you'll need to communicate! They are really very friendly, join in with things they do to get the most from it. However, they don't do much in the day, it’s just their way of life - chill out and enjoy the scenery.” – Emma Langridge on our ‘Staying with a Berber family’ vacation
“You need a basic level of fitness to cope with the heat and pace of the vacation. Travel light as there are opportunities to wash clothes and buy anything you find you need. Be open to every opportunity and be willing to adapt when there are changes - it is all part of the cultural experience. When changing money on arrival, ask for lots of small notes (20/50 MAD notes) - you will need them for tips and buying bottles of water.” – Graham Jackson on our Morocco cultural tour
“Morocco can be cold [in winter] and there is little indoor heating, so remember to bring your long johns and woolly underwear! A pack of cards for something to do at night might also be a good idea.” – Ragnhild Waage
The most memorable part of the trip was the night in the Sahara desert. We slept under the stars, had ice on the sleeping bags but watched a glorious sunrise.
- Bela Hermanek
“Make sure (if you go in the Winter) that you take something to cover your eyes from the dust (Ski goggles might be useful and also a nice warm sleeping bag).” – Christopher Duxbury on a vacation in The Sahara
“If you plan to go for a local hamman, do buy your own set of "gloves" and olive oil soap and bring them along. Be sensitive to local customs and wear long sleeve tops especially when you're in the mountains and when visiting local homes. Be prepared to bargain when you are in the Medina. Make sure that you check (and agree with) the prices before you go into a taxi or cafe/restaurant. In general, meals are prepared only when you have placed the order, so be prepared to wait a while.” – Ligek Kwekk
“The rooms in the Kasbah and the Lodge have a fridge - so if you like to have a cool beer - bring some with you.” – Joan Regan on a Kasbah vacation in the Atlas Mountains
“Take lots of cash because you will want to shop, but many places don't take cards. Also don't buy at the first shop, you will see the same things along the way, and it's really worth getting prices from a few places before you start the inevitable haggling process!” – Charles Redfern
“Do not underestimate how cold it will be if you go during November/December! Forget any "glam" clothes and concentrate on the thermals! Take lots of antiseptic hand gel and use it all the time.” – Stephanie Edwards
“Do as much research as possible on the places visited because it is very intense and too much to absorb during the trip.” – Angela Petardi
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Wei Pan] [Marrakech Market : Ben Kucinski ] [Cultural advice: Tomasz Dunn] [Food tips: www.twin-loc.fr] [On the road: Anders Fongen ] [Packing tips: Paulo Philippidis ] [Responsible tourism in Morocco: Heather Cowper] [Shopping advice: Michael Camilleri ] [Health & Safety: Jason Rogers ] [Sahara Sunset: Ignacio Ceballos] [Freezing in sahara: Cait] [Sahara stars : Richard Allaway ]
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