Morocco

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Morocco Money-Saving Tips

Book your car rental once you arrive in Morocco

Internet bookings help you plan ahead, but you can usually bargain car rental prices down in person once you arrive in Morocco. There are a plethora of car rental companies – both big international agencies and local independent operators – in major Moroccan cities.

Learn some key French phrases

Moroccans in most major cities speak French in addition to their own Arabic dialect. English is not widely spoken outside of tourist areas, however. Having a French phrase book along with you will go a long way if you end up in a place where English isn’t understood.

Visas

U.S. passport holders do not need visas for travel in Morocco, and stays of up to 90 days are permitted. Before leaving for Morocco, however, ensure that your passport is valid for six months after the date of your arrival – otherwise you may not be permitted to enter the country.

Arriving in Morocco by ferry from Spain

Several ferry companies make the crossing from Algeciras, Spain, to Tangier, Morocco, with hourly departures and crossing times between 80 minutes and 2.5 hours, depending on whether you opt for a fast catamaran or the larger (and slower) vehicle ferry.

Have toilet paper handy

Outside of the major hotels in big cities, squat toilets with a bucket of water at the ready instead of toilet paper are the norm. Having a packet of tissues handy wherever you go is a good move.

Internet availability

You’ll pay exorbitant amounts for Internet connections in major hotels, but step outside and you’re sure to find an internet café or teleboutique for making calls home cheaply or getting online. From small villages to big cities, Morocco is a very wired country.

Tipping

Tipping is expected in Moroccan culture, and 10 percent is standard at restaurants. Service workers warranting a tip of a few dirhams include baggage porters, gas station attendants (who’ll pump your gas), and parking lot attendants. While you don’t have to go overboard, leaving nothing is considered rude.

Handle faux guides with finesse

Faux guides (false guides) who approach tourists with offers to show them the city’s sites abound in most Moroccan cities. Getting them to leave you alone can be difficult, but the best way to handle their persistence is with a friendly but firm, “No, Thank you” or “Non, merci.” Getting angry never works to disengage Moroccan suitors, and can incite aggression. If worse comes to worse, simply ignore them.

Eating Etiquette

Moroccan food is delicious, and varies from region to region. If you’re invited to dine in a family home, always use your right hand to eat (food is often eaten with the hand instead of utensils at home). Regional specialties to try include B’stilla (pigeon pie laced with cinnamon) in Fez and fish tajine with preserved lemons in Essaouira.

Visiting during Ramadan

The dates for Ramadan – the Muslim month of fasting - depend on lunar cycles and vary from year to year (in 2008 the holiday occurs throughout the month of September; in 2009 it takes place from August 21st to September 19th). If your visit coincides with Ramadan, follow local protocol by refraining from eating and drinking in public (except at tourist restaurants). As at all times of the year, conservative dress is appreciated.

How to dress

Morocco is a Muslim country, and while cities like Casablanca and Marrakesh are quite forward thinking, you’re still best off dressing conservatively to avoid offending anyone. There’s no need for women to cover their hair in Morocco, but stick to long pants and long- or short-sleeved shirts (tank-tops will attract unwanted attention outside of the major cities). When you’re in the old part of town (the medinas in Fez or Tangier, for example), conservative dress is particularly important.

Driving in Morocco

Outside of the major cities, vehicle traffic on Moroccan roads is light. But even highways can be extremely winding and covered with potholes and sand in parts, so be sure to use extreme caution. In the Rif region in Morocco’s north, it’s not advisable to stop on the side of the road as the region is famed for growing hashish and a stopped car indicates you might want to buy.

The Moroccan ritual of tea

Everywhere you go in Morocco, you’ll be invited to enjoy a mint tea – the national drink, also jokingly referred to as “Berber whiskey.” The ritual is meant to be savored slowly, and if you’re invited for tea you’ll be expected to linger for a while. Most tourists get offered their first glass in one of Morocco’s ubiquitous carpet shops, where tea pouring is part of the salesman’s pitch to snare you into buying a rug. If you don’t want a rug, consider politely declining the invitation to avoid an uncomfortable moment later. The ritual itself is something to see, with the tea poured from high above the glass.

Street food

From stalls piled with platters of couscous in Marrakesh’s Djemma el-Fna to small charcoal braziers set up in country villages where you can get kefta meat on kebab sticks or lamb tajine, street food is omnipresent in Morocco. Be sure to indulge – as long as you see it being cooked before your eyes, you don’t have to worry about getting sick from the food.

Beggars

While Morocco is one of Africa’s richest countries, there is still much poverty, and you’ll likely be approached by beggars during your trip. Moroccans are used to giving alms to help the poor, but it’s up to you if you want to keep a few dirhams handy to give to locals who ask for help. Curious children often approach tourists to ask for “bonbons” (candy) or “stylos” (pens). Again, it’s your call entirely.

Markets

One of the best ways to experience daily Moroccan life in full color (not to mention full odor) is by wandering through the markets. Permanent covered markets (called souks) are found in all cities. You’ll also likely happen upon specialty weekly markets that draw people from surrounding villages for animated livestock sales and neighborly gossip sessions.

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