Tips for Visiting Morocco
Morocco has been a top destination for adventurous travelers for centuries thanks to its striking landscapes, rich history and proximity to mainland Europe. Bordered by over a thousand miles of coastline, and the Rif and Atlas mountains to the east, the natural beauty of this uppermost corner of Africa is not to be missed.
- Although the political situation in north Africa has been tumultuous in the recent past, Morocco enjoys a fair degree of stability thanks to reforms by the popular King Mohammed VI. As always, it’s best to be cautious and respect other cultures when abroad, and to register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before you go.
- ONCF train tickets can only be booked from within the country at present. Although most trains don’t fill up entirely, it’s usually best to get first-class tickets for only a few dollars more to guarantee your seats.
- While Arabic is the official language, a few phrases in French should be enough to get by for native English speakers. On my recent trip I found my attempts to speak French and Arabic greeted with polite -- and fluent -- replies in English.
- Moroccans are almost universally talkative and very friendly. Don’t be surprised if chance encounters result in invitations to dinner, unexpected telephone introductions to family and friends, long goodbyes and invitations to share a pot of traditional mint tea.
- When shopping for goods in the souks of the medina, be prepared to haggle. If you’re skilled at negotiating you can often reduce the price of an item by more than 50% if you barter skillfully. While this long-standing tradition is expected (if not celebrated) in the souks, there are usually artist collectives that sell crafts at a fixed price for anyone who would rather pay the price on the price tag.
- Bring a compass. The narrow streets of the medina in most cities rarely go in a straight line and hardly ever follow predictable pattern. The best bet you have on reaching a given destination is by having a map (my iPhone’s map was extremely convenient) and an idea of what direction you’re going – and for that you’ll need a compass.
We’ll post more tips and trip ideas on Morocco over the weekend!