Morocco – Guest post by @thirdeyetraveller
If you’re travelling to Morocco, prepare for one of your wildest adventures yet!
Morocco may look like it’s just popped straight out of your Pinterest board but believe me, behind all those pretty lanterns and luxurious riads there’s pickpocketing, scams and danger afoot if you don’t keep your wits about you.
A lot of travellers head to Morocco with high hopes for an amazing vacay, but then leave hating it, feeling unsafe and never wanting to return.
You may have heard other travellers tell you to avoid Morocco all together. Many advise it isn’t safe to travel there and some of those reasons are totally valid. I mean you just have to read the media, right? But, I believe that it is a safe country to visit if you prepare yourself and keep your wits about you.
I have visited Morocco twice. The first time I was a backpacker and landed in the crazy city of Marrakesh, wound my way up to the Atlas mountains and finished on the beach of Essaouira. The second was two years later, I had a bit more budget and went to the even more chaotic Fes and Chefchaouen, the blue pearl.
Both times I had little bother, mainly catcalling. I had one scary incident where a guy stalked me up to the Merinid tombs. But, as soon as I alerted the tourist police, all was well. Although it was a small thing, it did leave me a little shaken.
So, I’ve prepared a list of common mistakes people make when travelling to Morocco and how to avoid them. Having visited twice now and made some of these mistakes myself, I would like to pass this knowledge onto you;
1) Packing inappropriate outfits to wear in Morocco
Morocco is an Islamic country ergo it’s a conservative one. So wearing short skirts, revealing dresses or having your cleavage on the show is a big no, no ladies! Even for men, you’ll notice that locals don’t wear shorts.
I don’t like being covered up any more than you do in that heat, but leaving too much of your body on the show is a sure-fire way to attract unwanted attention.
Pack lot’s of layers and light breathable clothing that covers you up. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean looking frumpy either. There are so many fashionable jumpsuits, maxi dresses and pretty trousers so you can find something that looks stylish and respectful.
2) Not being assertive enough with unwanted attention
Catcalling is a given ladies, granted it will be less if you’re with a man, but it is happening! You’ll be proposed to around five times a day in the market, asked where you’re from, told you’re beautiful, have comments made about you, asked for your number and social media.
You may like what they’re saying, that’s cool. But if not, don’t feel obligated to talk to anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable. If someone touches you inappropriately, call that stuff out. Make a scene, go loco and make an example of them. If someone follows you, alert the tourist police!
For me, the most effective way was just to ignore the catcalling. It’s hard, especially when you’re being yelled at down the street. But rise above it. Don’t let them rent space in your head.
3) Avoid researching the local culture in Morocco
As tourists visiting a foreign country, we often get a free pass. But, it is important to do your research to avoid any taboos and make sure we’re being respectful. Remember, you’re not here to change a country, you’re here to embrace it!
We’ve already touched on Morocco being an Islamic country, so dress respectfully. Remember to cover your head when entering a mosque and take off your shoes. Don’t point your finger or swear at men. Give money with your right hand. Don’t show public displays of affection. Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
All of these things, although not always necessary, are appreciated and should avoid any trouble.
4) Not researching official guides and tours before booking
A big problem in Morocco is the rise of unofficial tour guides. You may be approached on the street and offered a ‘free tour’ to show you around their city or a ‘special non-touristy tour’. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t go off with people you’ve just met on the street.
Make sure you research companies before you book in with them. Read reviews across a variety of platforms (did you know that 1 of 3 TripAdvisor reviews in Morocco are fake?!). Look for themes, does something positive or negative come up often? Have other travellers in your hotel or hostel taken the tour? What did they think?
Your guesthouse or hotel will always be paired with a company to push tours for commission. But, look around and travel with a company that’s safe and reliable. If you’re a woman travelling alone opt for a group tour.
5) Being lax with their bags
Pickpocketing and robbery are common in Morocco. Getting lost in the souks, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb here. Always make sure you have your bags in clear sight. I personally put a luggage lock on my bags for safe keeping and keep it on my front so that nothing happens to it.
Keep an eye while using an ATM to ensure your PIN is private, always put your valuables and passport in a safe at your hotel if provided, don’t leave your bags unattended even in a restaurant. Better to be safe than sorry.
6) Not being vigilant for scams
Scams are commonplace in Morocco and a scam will be tried on you at least once.
Maybe you’ll be told a great price to enter a shop, and then they’ll bump up the price. It could be the nice guy that tells you the place you were heading is closed and offers to show you around the tanneries, but expects a massive tip. A woman who spilt Henna on you may then proceeds to give you a ‘free’ tattoo. You could buy a fake bottle of Argon Oil, or get in a taxi and the driver doesn’t turn on the meter.
Remain vigilant at all times and be wary of anyone that approaches you in the street.
7) Going out late at night to drink in Morocco
If you’re heading to Morocco for a party, I’ve got some disappointing news for you. Morocco is a predominantly Islamic country with a strict drinking policy. Most locals don’t drink as it’s frowned upon in their religion.
You may find that some tourist restaurants and riad’s serve alcohol and that’s not a problem to indulge there. But, if you’re offered beer in the street, or are seen to be out or drinking late at night in public, it won’t be greeted kindly and people may take advantage.
But, there is one exception; Berber whisky! Don’t worry, that’s a nickname for (non-alcoholic) Mint Tea!
8) Thinking all the locals are not safe
Now, it may seem like I’ve given the Moroccan people a pretty bad rap here. But actually, not everyone in Morocco is out to get you. As much as there are people there that you need to be wary of, there are also many people that are warm, kind and hospitable to people who visit.
Morocco is an incredible country, with the promise of an adventure. The mystery of the Sahara, the colours and smells of the souks, the heights of the Atlas mountains and the waves crashing on its shores. You will be bedazzled by the culture and it would be a shame to be on edge all the time and worry about anyone you meet there.
Play it safe, be wary, but come with an open mind and heart. You will have the journey of your life here, don’t miss out on the jewel that is Morocco!
About the author:
Sophie Pearce is a solo female travel blogger from the UK and the founder of Third Eye Traveller.
Always having itchy feet and a restless soul seeking adventure, she has now travelled to over 30+ countries, many of them solo.
Leaving her heart in India, which gifted her a “Third Eye”, she felt inspired to share her travel stories in the hope of encouraging others to explore this big beautiful world of ours.