A Guide to Planning a Trip to Morocco (Part 1)
Morocco is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The entire country prides itself on the beauty of everything from its land to mundane things like a bathroom door. There is so much history there that it is basically like walking back in time, in certain places. I loved it all.
I went on a one-week vacation to Morocco with my girls a couple of weeks ago and had one of the best times of my life so far. While there, we visited Marrakesh (also spelled Marrakech) and Fez (also spelled Fes), and took so many pictures that my phone ran out of space and I had to delete some of my old pics to keep the party going. I kept everyone abreast of my adventures on Instagram the entire time via social media and I was so happy to see comments from people saying I’ve made them put Morocco on their travel bucket lists. Now, I want to guide you through planning your own trip to the beautiful country, located in the most western tip of Africa.
Booking your flight ticket
As with most international trips, the flight ticket is the most expensive thing about it. We happened to stumble upon a flight deal (not a glitch) that Iberia Airlines was having. We booked our flight from NYC (JFK Airport) to RAD (Marrakesh Airport). Going there, we had a 12 hour stop in Madrid, Spain (MAD). Coming back, we had a short stop in Madrid and then a 12 hour layover in London, England (LHR). So we’d be hitting 3 countries for the price of one. That price? $764. DASSIT. SO CHEAP!
How do you find flight deals? There’s a bunch of sites that keep you updated on that. TheFlightDeal.com | AirfareWatchdog.com | FareDealAlert.com. These will tell you what prices are looking like and then they’ll often send you to Priceline or Expedia to book. We booked our flights off Expedia.
The rule for any travel is book your flight first and worry about hotels later. The “where should I stay?” section comes in my part 2.
Do I need a visa?
If you are a United States citizen, you do not need a visa for a stay of less than 90 days. Just make sure that your passport will not be expiring within the next 6 months. If you are a citizen of other countries, check Morocco Visa requirements.
What language do they speak in Morocco?
Morocco is an Arabic country with a strong French influence. The two main languages are those, but English is more of a “need to use” basis. A good amount of people are mildly conversational in English but don’t expect fluency everywhere you go. Learn the basics in Arabic and be polite. “Shukran” is “thank you” and we used that a lot. “Shukran Jazilan” is “thanks a lot.”
A lot of restaurants have menus in French but they’ll offer you the English menu too. Still, it won’t hurt to download Google Translate to your phone before you go.
Where do I change my money?
When you are going to Morocco, bring your country’s cash with you in big bills. I took $500 of cash, in 5 $100 bills. That is better for conversion purposes than rolling with a bunch of $20 bills, no matter what country you go. When you land and get through customs (it’s a pretty simple process), there is a place where you can change your money to Moroccan Dirham (the currency used). When we were there (June 4-11, 2015), 1 dollar was 9.5 dirhams, and we got extra because we changed more than $300 each. Download the XE currency app to your phone, which stays up to date on conversion rates.
I also had my travel credit card, which has no foreign transaction fees. This means I can use it, get all my reward points and not get charged anything else extra. And I’d pay everything I spent in Morocco off in the same month. Alert your bank anytime you’re going out of the country so they will know that charges in a faraway land are legit.
My plan was to use the card anywhere that accepted it and use the cash at the market for shopping and for taxis. Hotels, restaurants, and any business outside of the market took cards. I did use my cash in some restaurants, though, just to make splitting the bill easier. I was out of cash by day 5 (because I shop too damb much), so I did have to go to the ATM once. I only got charged $1.50 at the ATM so that was no big deal.
Summary: bring big bills, change at the airport and have a travel credit card.
What’s the weather like?
Summer in Morocco begins around end of May, and goes through September. These are the hottest months of the year, so going in the beginning of June was perfect. It was hot but not on oppression levels yet. Although, the first day we were there, temperatures hit 105 degrees celsius and I felt like I was going to melt. That was the only day where it felt like we were standing in the mouth of a beast, because it cooled off by 20 degrees the other days. If it was that hot every day we were there, I would have certainly done less outdoor exploring.
Morocco’s temperature isn’t the same throughout the country, because if you go North or into the mountains, it’s cooler there. Marrakesh, which is south was warmer than Fez, which was in the 70s. Nighttime, it gets cooler too.
So depending on the time of year you go, you will need to check the weather so you know what to expect. No matter what, have clothes you can layer on or take off accordingly.
How do I dress?
When I was doing research before going to Morocco, I kept seeing things saying that we could not wear tank tops or shorts that come above our knees because the population of the country is 95% Muslim and they’re really conservative. I packed all pants (light, stretchy ones, a la the Golden Girls) and fitted tshirts that covered my shoulders and a couple of tank tops.
I also had my denim button up shirt to throw on. When we stepped out in Marrakesh the first morning we were there, we were in the middle of the medina, which is the local market. It was clear who were tourists and who were natives. Moroccan women were mostly in hijabs and ankle-length caftans. However, tourists were in everything from dresses to pants to shorts and no one much cared.
I would want to be respectful to their culture either way and not put on short shorts or tiny dresses. However, you can do dresses or shorts that expose your knees. You can also rock basic tank tops. Don’t have your boobs all out, though, or something backless. It will feel out of place. If you are a lover of linen and breathable fabrics (like I am), you will be set. The hot season is not the time to rock skinny jeans. Your thighs will cry. Literally. You will sweat buckets.
Again, it always helps to bring things you can layer. If you get slightly chilly at night, you want to have something light to cover your arms and shoulders with. If you don’t, buy a pashmina while there. No biggie. I ALWAYS travel with a long sleeve and some ankle socks for those times.
As for shoes, take a couple of pairs that you can walk comfortably in. You need some sneakers or flats of some sorts (I packed TOMS) and a pair of sandals. Let your toes breathe.
What are other things I should pack?
* Sunscreen – It is hot. The sun is not playing bald-headed games with you. Pack some sunscreen for your face and body and apply throughout the day.
* Extra underwear – Because this is just smart for trips in general. Throw some in you carry-on, in case you check in luggage and it gets lost and is delayed.
* International Adapter – You can’t just use the plugs you use in the United States there. You need a converter because they use the 2 circular prongs.
* Snacks – Because you should always travel with snacks.
Should I go alone?
Nah. I think everyone needs to take at least one solo trip in their lives (if not per year) but I don’t think a jaunt to Morocco is one that should be done alone. I did not feel unsafe at any point BUT I do think that having a travel buddy makes it easier to navigate.
Part of the fun of going to Morocco is getting lost in the Medinas, in the mazes surrounding it and losing your way as you explore the cities on foot. Doing it alone could go from adventurous to scary really quick as you realize that no one knows where you are because YOU don’t even know where you are.
Also, it’s so much fun to experience the beauty of Morocco with other people. I went with a great group of ladies and we had a blast for it.
Part 1 ends here. Part 2 of this guide is to come, and I’ll cover where to stay, what to do and SHOPPING! Oh I forgot to tell yall. I bought you stuff from Marrakesh. Yes, really. 2 of you will be winning gifts I picked up at the Medina for you cuz this love is real. More to come.
Disclaimer: This post does contain some affiliate links, because I like and use the companies I mention. I #minuswell get commission if you click them and buy something. As always, my opinions are ALL my own. I SAY WHAT I WANT.