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Things you need to know before traveling to Morocco

Marrakech yoga retreat

Morocco is an inspiring holiday destination. Whether you come on a Yoga break or decide to explore and travel around the country, Morocco has it all – sunshine, authentic food, lively markets, colors, old heritage, old Medina’s, mountains, desert, sea, culture and amazing rooftop restaurants. To make it easy for you to gather quick information about Morocco, I have made a guide/FAQ for you to help you prepare for your trip. Here are the things you need to know before traveling to Morocco:

Do I get hassled?

Some Moroccans like to come up with a few words two. You will often see shopkeepers in the Medina who try to sell you things or want you to enter their shop. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying your day out. There are so many beautiful things to explore and Morocco is a real paradise for shopping unique gifts, lamps, rugs, tea glasses, trays and much more. You will often experience young boys who try to “help you” if you get lost or look for a certain street. Don’t let anyone on the street help you as they expect you to tip/pay them. They might follow you and annoy you but don’t reply, just walk and ignore. If you need help, ask a shopkeeper for direction. If you wear revealing clothes, show legs, etc you will get attention and comments on the way. Dress modestly and show respect to avoid unwanted attention.

Where do we do Yoga when I book my Yoga Holiday?

Yoga classes always take place in the Riad we stay in. In the early mornings when it’s nice and cool, Yoga will be on the rooftop. If it’s too hot we will be in the lovely courtyard. Don’t expect a Yoga hall or a Yoga Shala, it doesn’t exist in the venues in Marrakech or Essaouria. Be open to an authentic experience where you’ll enjoy Yoga in peaceful and authentic surroundings.

How about alcohol?

Marrakech and other big cities have some lounge bars and rooftop restaurants that serve alcohol. In the old town, Medina Marrakech you will also find a few bars/lounge restaurants thats serve wine, drinks, beer and alcohol. In Essaouira you’ll find some restaurants which serve wine, etc too.

What is the local currency? Can I use Euro in Morocco? And what about credit cards?

The local currency in Morocco is Dirham. 10 dirham is about 1 Euro/1 Dollar. You can exchange money on nearly every corner in Morocco, so don’t worry if you don’t have Dirhams on you right away. In the old town of Marrakech (the Medina), and most other Medinas in Morocco you’ll find exchange boots.

How do I pay?

Cash! It is very rare to use credit cards in Morocco, so remember always to have cash on you. Big clothing stores accept credit cards, but local shops local food stalls and cafe’s don’t. So bring cash! Euros are also welcomed in the souks but not small amounts (coins). If you don’t have enough Dirham on you when you shop at the souk’s and you see no ATM around, don’t worry – you can pay in Euro’s. However, you can’t use Euro in local cafe’s, restaurants, food corners, etc.

Things you need to know before traveling to Morocco is to be aware that even Hotels and Riads prefer cash payment after you’ve booked via booking.com! It is always better to pay cash to avoid that your credit card is being charged twice. CASH is the way forward in Morocco!

What about tipping? And how much?

It’s nice to give a tip. Why not tip a nice and honest cab driver? Many of them work long hours and earn very little as their “big boss” is collecting the money at the end of the day. Their salary is tiny at the end of the month. If your taxi drive is 40 dirham (4 euro), you can give the driver 10 dirham. Tip according to your budget and wish. When you use local taxi’s, they will usually put their meter on. If they don’t then ask the driver to put it on. If you book a private driver and go for long drives, there’s always a fixed fee. It is usually nice to give your driver a tip. But it is a personal choice. In cafes and restaurants it’s your choice too. I personally always tip (10-20%) in cafes and restaurants. 

Public toilets

It is common to pay 1 dirham for the use of public toilets in Morocco. Make sure you have coins when you travel. You will always see someone sitting by a table outside the public toilets waiting to be paid. Everyone (Moroccan and tourists) pay 1 dirham for the use of public toilets in Morocco.

What about the water, food and fruits?

I don’t recommend to drink the tap water in Morocco. You can get bottled water everywhere, so no worries. Morocco has lots of local and natural produce, which makes it such a perfect Yoga Retreat Destination. Fresh Moroccan salads are yummy and fruit juices are wonderful too. Just tell the seller not to add sugar in your juice and you’ll be fine. The tourist places know not to use ice cubes from tap water. If you’re eating street food, you are taking chances. However, I have never had any problems with street food and eat out often in local places. But you know what is best for you and your body. In Morocco food is always cooked fresh and from scratch. Authentic food is the best, and it’s a shame not to try local dishes when you visit Morocco. Fancy French restaurants and hip cafes are usually the places that serve the worst food (in my opinion). The ambience might be nicer but often the food is a great disappointment. Go with your own flow and listen to your intuition and what suits your tummy and mood.

What if I am vegan or vegetarian?

This is not a problem. If you eat out you have non meat options (vegetable tagjine, vegetable couscous, zaalouk, Moroccan avocado sandwiches, and much more. If you don’t want any diary in your diet this will not be a problem either. However, if you travel to smaller villages it can be tricky as most locals enjoy meat and will cook meals with for example chicken or lamb. Moroccans also love milk and yoghurt and it’s common that Riads and Hotels usually serve yoghurt, eggs and cheese for breakfast. You can ask for a fruit salad and Moroccan bread, honey  or pancakes. If you prefer to eat wholegrain muesli or oats in the morning like I do, let me know, and I will make sure you have oats or porridge for your breakfast if that’s what you prefer.

What about gluten-free foods?

Local Moroccan food and bread is not known for being gluten-free. Moroccan bread is delicious, fresh and always homemade. However, there is no gluten-free options in the local Medina’s, bakeries and souk’s. Lunch and dinner – you can enjoy different local meals and just avoid the bread that is served with it. There is no gluten in the main meals. It’s usually the bread, pancakes and pastry you want to avoid if you are gluten intolerant.

I love to take photos, is it okay to photograph shops and local people?

Enjoy the use of your camera/phone. You can take photos but always ask, don’t just click. Many shopkeepers in the Medina (old town) are tired of random tourists passing by daily clicking their shops, items, etc. This is understandable. Imagine you had a shop and every person who passed by would start clicking all your items but never buy anything from you. Not fun on the long run! The same goes for taking photos of the locals. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were met by tourists every single day every hour of the day who would take photos of you or your kids and family? Think a bit, ask, respect, accept and enjoy your holiday! Be mindful and look out at the world with your eyes too!

What language do they speak in Morocco?

Moroccans speak several languages but you come along way with French in Morocco. The local language is Darija (Moroccan Arabic), Amazigh (Berber), and Classical Arabic. In the main cities like Marrakech, Rabat, Casablanca most people speak English. In the Souk’s (the markets in the medina), most shopkeepers speak English, French, and often shout out in many other languages to grab your attention.

How should I dress?

Morocco doesn’t have any strict laws of how a woman should dress. You will see women wearing headscarfs and women who don’t. However, an important thing to know before traveling to Morocco is to dress modestly. After all, Morocco is a Muslim country and it’s not common to wear small tiny shorts, although  you can. If you are based in the old town or visit local villages in the outskirts, dress modestly. There’s no reason to provoke and wear tight mini-shorts and low cut tops revealing your cleavage, as it will attract unwanted attention. However, in Gueliz (the new town in Marrakech) you will see Moroccan women wearing Western clothes such as tight jeans, tops, etc. The same goes for Casablanca and Rabat. In Essouria it’s common to wear summer clothes too. Wear, whatever makes you happy and comfortable. 

Do I need a visa?

All countries in Europe require no Visa to enter Morocco. When you enter the country you get a 90 day stamp in your passport.

How about power converter in Morocco?

It is the same like in all European countries. If you travel from England or the US, you will need a power converter.

What about WIFI?

All Riads and Hotels in Marrakech and the main tourist towns have free Wifi. Cafes and restaurants have free Wifi too.

How is the weather in Morocco?

It depends where you go and when. Marrakech has warm and sunny weather all year round. However, the hot months are June, July and August but there are many days that are bearable with temperatures. August can be extremely hot in Marrakech. Some days reach higher temperatures (45-55 degrees). In the Medina all the Riads are lovely and cool and all rooftop cafe’s in the Medina are covered from the sun. If you go on day trips to the mountains or the coast, the temperatures are much milder and cooler. Essaouira has very cool summers, and it gets windy. You need a warm jumper and a light scarf in the evenings (during the summer months) in Essaouira as the wind can be very cool between June-August. The spring and fall season are lovely all over Morocco. From November-March it is much cooler and it can get cold at night. You would need a warm sweater, socks and a nice warm jacket in December, January, February and March as mornings and evenings get much colder. During the day it’s sunny and lovely with temperatures around 20 degrees but the nights cool down.  Every year changes and with the global warming it is impossible to predict the weather. If you want to go the Atlas mountains or the desert during the winter it gets very cold in the night, and here you need to pack warm.

What if I travel to Morocco during Ramadan?

Don’t worry. Actually the month of Ramadan is so peaceful and Marrakech is less busy and crazy which is amazing. Things continue as normal and Hotels and Riads are open througout Ramadan. You will also find cafes and restaurants in the old town, Medina of Marrakech that are open. The new town, Gueliz is much more calm during the day. There are 3 big cafes that are open during Ramadan in Gueliz. I personally don’t walk around eating or drinking water in front of people out of respect. But you can easily go and eat and satisfy your thirst in the cafes and restaurants that are open all day in the Medina of Marrakech or the few cafes in the new town, Gueliz. After 8pm most things are alive until late at night as everyone is breaking the fast, enjoying and going out. 

What’s the price for airport transfers 

A pick up/drop from the airport to Marrakech Medina or the new town is usually between 250-300 dirham (25-30 euro). It depends on time of the day, what car you prefer, etc. The driver will wait for you at the arrival hall, and take you straight to your venue.

What if I want to do a day trip out from Marrakech

If you are in Marrakech and want to enjoy a lovely day out, I always recommend a day out to Essaouria or Ourika or Imlil. If you have a week in Marrakech I recommend to do 2-3 day trips. It’s a nice way to see Morocco. You can arrange a day trip out once you are here. The driver picks you up at the venue and collects other people too. The day trips usually cost around 35 euro (350 dirham) pr trip for minimum of 6-10 people. If you are 2 people who wish to have a private driver, private guide, etc the price goes up to around 95-150€ per person, depending on the service and your destination (Atlas Mountains, the coast, etc). Please note that the trip to Essaouria is 2.5-3 hours each way. There is a fixed fee to travel with private driver/taxi from Marrakech to Essaouria. There will be coffee/toilet stops on the way. 

Enjoy your travels, Yoga holiday or Retreat and don’t forget to smile!

Sally

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