how to visit Morocco in a local, safe & economical way?
The key is…
Public transport is not recommended, the bus schedule is not fixed and difficult to read the routes.
If you travel in a group like 3-4, it may be even cheaper to take Tuk-tuk/taxi with a meter, more flexible and comfortable.
Local price would be dh15 for riding 15 minutes. Even for the locals, they have to negotiate with the driver. That was so fun to see how they stand in front of the taxi and point at the taxi driver. You thought they gonna argue but in the next second, they would take the taxi hahaha. For foreigners, they will charge 2 times more than usual, even if you know French or Arabic. Take my Japanese friend Chihiro who study Arabic as her major study, she can speak fluent Arabic and have no problems to chit-chat with the local people. However, she never is able to negotiate to pay with the “local” price.
There are a few bus company and the most reliable operators are CDT. They have on-time schedule and more convenient seats relatively. My local friend Fouad said there are weak air-conditioners for some of the bus operators.
2. Temperature difference
Hot is the first impression of African countries. So I was surprised with the four seasons weather within a day in Morocco.
Around 11°c before 11 am, starts getting hot and reach about 26°c in the afternoon, feeling cool from 4 pm and drop to 12-13°c at night. I couldn’t understand what my Couchsurfing host Aouzal said when he reminded me that Marrakesh was cold at night and I shall bring more clothes. I was checking the weather report, which stated 23°c for the average temperature. I was reacted like “Come on, it’s a lot warmer than Germany”. A big mistake to bring 2 sets of T-shirt and a thin hoodie jacket because I was literally freezing to chat with my roommates on the rooftop at night.
The locals usually wear the t-shirt, sweater, and soft jacket as their “survival package”
3. Concern about solo travel
It’s exotic but somehow dangerous, people have high hospitality but like to overcharge everything. They always ask for tips even though you were asking for directions in tourist cities. If you have no preparation for spending those “extra” money, don’t answer them any questions, especially your destination. You could try pretending not knowing English (that’s how I do all the time when I’m doing solo travel) If you need helps, you shall pay them dh20-dh30 for tips. It is super rude to get pissed off and ask them to go away.
Often happened when
1. You cannot speak French or Arabic language
2. You look foreign
Staying in a hostel would definitely be a good way to meet new people, especially local people who are good at negotiation! In Marrakesh, hostels usually located in Jemaa El faa area and it’s like a puzzle. Google map is not worked so check the way by reading the instruction or youtube video of how to reach your hostel. I was brought by a local when we are asking for direction and paid 2€ for tips.
Couchsurfing is an alternative too. It is easy to find a host. However, verification and a good reference are not sufficient for finding hosts here. Taking me an example, I found a female host with verified but eventually didn’t show up. Another host with a few recommended references, he sounds creepy when we have conservation. Like “I’m much older older than you…” I mean WTF do you mean!!! Later, I found out that there is some not-recommended personal reference from female solo travelers. In fact, I get close with my host Aouzal who don’t have any reference before. I think it’s important to get to know more about your hosts before your arrival.
From my own perspective, I was a new user of Couchsurfing without any references at the time. How could I expect being hosted by somebody with a lot of references? They might concern about the safety of themselves too.
5. Airport on arrival/departure
The customs efficiency is really low that it’s strongly advised to arrive the airport 2 hours at least before the departure of your flight. Chihiro who studied in Morocco missed her flight even though she arrived at the airport 1.5 hours earlier. Taking Marrakech airport as the example, it was super cool design due to cop 22 in 2016, like using solar energy. But it took me around 1.5 hrs for ongoing check-in and customs process.
Even for cabin luggage, you have to validate your tickets in check-in counter. Arriving 30 minutes earlier may do so traveling within Europe, but not in Morocco.
6. Sim card
You could buy a local sim card at dh50 with 5GB of data. Make sure to purchase the card in a proper shop because you need the verification and passwords for the SIM card. Some might try to sell you a card in the street, don’t purchase one from them since it is possible to get an unverified card. You have to type the password of your SIM card every time when you restart or reboot your phone. Otherwise, your phone would be blocked.
What I learned from the trip
I have been trained to talk with somebody within 5 minutes here. Sometimes it feels unsecured to take a taxi alone, so I always meet new people and share the fees with them. Once I dropped off from the CDT bus terminal, I was deciding to walk back to the city center but it takes 40 minutes on foot. A guy with a big backpack and looks so “backpacker” was my target, (he is an Israeli and his name is Guy too! what a cool name), we were taking the taxi together. Although we were being overcharged slightly, I feel more “safe” of doing so.
I won’t recommended visiting Morocco alone because it is more economical and joyful with someone accompany with. Rarely I would say so but anyway it is glad to meet different people here.