After travelling Morocco for almost 3 months we have said our goodbyes for now. If you’re contemplating Morocco then our hints and tips for visiting are below. Any preconceived ideas you have of the country and its people will probably be wrong. We were warned several times either not to go or told we were brave, we can only now presume that the people that told us this had probably not experienced it for themselves.
The truth is we felt completely at ease there, we never once felt threatened or uncomfortable. Yes Moroccans will approach you in the street and some may have a ulterior motive to sell you something or show you around, but just remember they are only trying to earn a living at most or just simply being helpful and interested.
You will get stared at, especially where there are not many tourists. They are simply being inquisitive. You will constantly be waved at on your journeys through towns and countryside, really they are such a friendly and warm hearted nation. Just open your heart to them and they will do the same to you, we were even invited to a locals house for tea which was a highlight of our trip.
Travelling there by motorhome is not difficult and the immigration process was simple, although you need to be patient as our 1pm return ferry didn’t leave until 4pm. Here’s our blog on how the process works https://followourmotorhome.co.uk/2019/12/09/morocco-here-we-come-the-ferry-entry/There are plenty of campsites, most of them are rustic, so don’t go expecting Europe
an standards. We liked the fact that there are no rules and the times you could arrive or depart and no issues having charcoal BBQ’s or a campfire. There are also opportunities to wild camp although there may be a guardian that you pay a small fee to for doing so. You really don’t need to go in convoy or as part of a tour. We never once felt nervous leaving our motorhome or our bikes.
Morocco has some of the most breath-taking scenery of anywhere we’ve travelled. It also has lots of changing faces, so you can experience mountains and gorges, cities, deserts and the coast all in one country.
And of course there is the weather, we’ve had almost constant blue skies and sunshine and temps up to 29 degrees. It can be cold at night though, but that gives you an excuse to sit round a campfire.
Roads, Sat Nav and Driving
Before you come to Morocco ensure you do two things, 1: buy a paper map (the newest edition you can find). We bought the Michelin 742 from Amazon. It’s not great for small detail in towns and cities, but has definitely been needed for route planning and to ensure our GPS mapping sends us on the right route. 2: download the Maps.me app and the Morocco map before travelling, once downloaded this is an offline mapping system so it’s a good way of routing once here. A lot of sat navs don’t offer Morocco as an option, our Aguri doesn’t, although we were able to download the maps.me app on to our sat nav and use it for navigation. The downside of maps.me is that it that there isn’t an option to enter vehicle size hence following the route on a paper map is always a good option.
The roads here vary immensely, generally roads shown as red and yellow on the map are ok to travel on, those shown as white are not as they are mainly unpaved (this is not cast in stone though as we have travelled on some white roads without issue). The weather can have a massive impact on road quality though, as we found out, often washing away the road surface leaving huge pot holes behind. They seem to be working on the roads constantly, so most journeys will involve a detour or a stretch of unpaved road to navigate. Don’t forget to forward plan journeys by also checking the weather forecast as in winter Morocco can get heavy snow in the mountains. Drivers here generally ignore solid white lines and so can overtake at anytime including on blind bends and hills. You just kind of get used to it, even though it makes you clench your butt every time. We haven’t used tolls much during our stay although when we have they very good and not expensive, experiencing the small towns makes for a better adventure.
You need to keep your wits about you when driving here though, in towns you will have people step out in front of you, donkeys alongside you, cars stop or pull out without prior indication and truck do U turns without warning, on market day you will also have to weave your way through stalls and crowds, but it’s all part of the fun and it’s where you see real life taking place. We’d advise anyone to avoid travelling anywhere in the dark as it’s easy to hit a pothole without seeing it.
Police checkpoints are commonplace especially on entering and exiting towns. Signs indicate you should slow down or stop, and although lots of locals were stopped we were always waved through. We met several people who had been stopped and fined by the police either for speeding or crossing a solid white line (even though the locals do it!). We were lucky and managed to stay fine free this time. Speed limits are 60 KPH in towns and across bridges (in a couple of towns we’ve see 40 KPH) then 80 – 100 KPH outside of towns and 120 on tolls. A lot of the roads aren’t in great condition so we tended to drive carefully as it wasn’t sensible to do anything else.
Roundabouts seem to have different rules depending on where you are in the country, some work as you would expect, others you will find cars giving way whilst on the roundabout if you are waiting to pull onto it. We never did suss it out completely, so our best advice is approach with caution every time!
Fuel stations are pretty commonplace near major towns and routes. Just ensure you fill at every opportunity if you’re doing a long drive especially into less built up areas. The fuel here is cheap the lowest price we have seen was 8.94 MAD (€0.89) and the most expensive 10.04 MAD (€1.04) per litre. The fuel stations all seem to have attendants and so have some small change for a tip. A couple of dirhams is the going rate. If you want to pay by card, most large fuel stations take them, we found if we asked they told us “No” and that the machine was broken, however if we filled up then presented the card we were never refused!
Cash is King
Other than large supermarkets and some fuel stations everywhere else in Morocco you will need cash (including on campsites). You may have to visit several ATM’s to get cash out as they don’t always carry enough cash. We requested 2000 MAD (€200) from a couple and only got 1000 (€100). Maps.me will show you where ATM’s are located which is very handy just either use the search function or select ATM in categories. We have a card from starling bank which gives us a really good exchange rate.
TOP TIP Use Poste Maroc cash points where possible as they do not charge for taking out cash.
There are known to be a couple of refillable gas plants in Morocco (one near Marrakesh and one near Meknes) although we haven’t tried these, there is also a French owned campsite called Camping Takat south of Agadir (GPS 30.253232 -9.585417) that does refills if you stay for one night. Instead of refilling we have purchased a local gas bottle and adjustable regulator (ensure it’s propane not butane as the butane can be dirty) and have connected this to our external gas BBQ point to back feed our system. These can be bought in all towns from small grocery stores (you will see them outside). Just check the quality of the bottles as some have been very well used. We paid 100 MAD (€10) for a 11kg bottle. The stores will give you a price for the bottle and a price for the gas, so ensure you ask for a full one (complet).
Supermarkets & Shopping
Shopping in Morocco is a joy. The souks in conjunction with the small grocery stores have just about everything you will need. Fresh produce at the markets is wonderful, you just fill a bowl with your entire pick of fruit and veg and they will weigh it and tell you the price (some will raise it as your a tourist though so watch out). There are also butchers at the markets and in shops where you will see the meat hanging, again it’s very cheap, we paid 70 MAD (€7) for a kilo of lamb and around 40 MAD a kilo for turkey or chicken. You will also see livestock such as rabbits, chickens and pigeons that they will slaughter for you and prepare. We did buy a chicken like this at a souk but it was a disaster as the meat was really tough, so we think it must have been an old bird! You will also see bread being sold everywhere, it’s also very cheap just 2 MAD (€0.20) for the large size.
When by the sea, keep a look out for local fishermen bringing in their catch of the day as they are more than happy to sell to you. We did barter the price down on the fresh fish as felt it was a little high and it was an easy negotiation which tells us that they were perhaps trying it on a little (who can blame them). We paid 50 MAD €5 for two large sea bass. We also bought sardines which are only 70 MAD €0.70 per kilo!
There are large supermarkets here too in the bigger towns namely Marjane and Carrefour which are very well stocked and although it’s perhaps necessary to visit for some staples, it’s certainly less fun than at the souks.
If you are buying goods other than food, always, always, always barter. If they don’t meet the price you want to pay then walk away. If they can meet the price they will soon come after you and let you know. In the mountains and desert you can also barter with goods. When we stopped at the side of a mountain road to take pics a man selling fossils was soon at our door. He had a stunning amethyst which we purchased giving him part cash, part clothes and even a box of wine!
You will also get sellers and service providers knocking on the door of your motorhome selling anything from honey and argan oil to custom made covers. Moroccans are one of the most industrious nations we have come across so they will mend almost anything mechanical or otherwise and at a fraction of the cost in Europe.
Top Tip Take and empty egg carton with you as eggs are sold loose in Morocco.
Top Tip If you are buying a tagine, buy one that is unglazed and has the metal plate on the bottom (this can then be used on your gas cooker at home). We made the hole in the lid a little larger in ours which helps the steaming process. Before using it needs to be soaked in water for 24 hours then oiled inside. We also purchased a little brazier so we could cook our tagines on charcoal. We paid 50 MAD for our tagine and 20 MAD for our brazier (€5 and €2 respectively)
Wild camping and campsites
There are some options for wild camping in Morocco although a lot of these will still have a guardian who takes a small fee from you, we have spoken to several people who have been moved on although we haven’t been, but the majority of the time we used campsites.
The campsites are cheap but can vary in quality. On average we paid around 80 MAD (€8) per night including electricity. Some have hot showers, some don’t, but as we are self contained this doesn’t really matter to us. The electric supply can be a little temperamental, but we are in Africa so this is something we expected. Don’t expect European standards though as you will be disappointed. We liked the rustic sites and in fact when we went to a French owned site near Sidi Bibi it felt to uniformed. The sites here don’t have rules on what time you can arrive and leave like they do in the UK. They are very relaxed and we have had numerous charcoal BBQ’s and campfires. Both charcoal and wood are easily sourced, if you don’t see it in a store just ask at the campsite and they will bring it to you.
Some sites also have restaurants and offer either a laundry service or a washing machine although our washing has piled up at times as we’ve gone weeks in between finding sites with washing facilities. The average price for getting washing done there is around 40 MAD (€4).
Near big cities there is often also an option to use guardian parking, which is generally just a car park with a guy who minds your vehicle. There are no services, but it does mean your vehicle is safe. These tend to be cheaper than sites at around 40-50 MAD (€4-5).
If you simply pull up in a town at the side of the road, there will often be a guy appear from nearby who will watch your vehicle for a small fee of just a couple of dirhams. It’s a good investment to keep your vehicle safe. We always pay them when we return to the vehicle, that way we know they will hang around.
Water & Waste
Water is available at campsites and is considered safe to drink (although we have opted for bottled, but before our next visit will look at the option of installing a water filter). Buying bottled water here though is not cheap by Moroccan standards as it’s on average €1 for 5 litres.
Most campsites do not have anywhere to empty grey waste so generally this can be emptied into buckets and then onto plants or a drain, some sites just tell you to empty it on to pitch (after all pitches here are generally just patches of dirt anyway). Black or toilet waste is catered for on sites.
Almost all of the toilets we have used when out and about have been a hole in the floor type. A number of campsites we have visited also only have this style of toilet, in this case we just use our own. None of the toilets including on sites have toilet paper or soap so make sure you carry hand sanitiser and tissues always.
Eating out in Morocco is a delight and it’s generally inexpensive to do so. If’s there’s no menu always check the price first, otherwise you may just have a surprise at the end, and however delicious the meal is this can leave a nasty taste. We tend to look for places where lots of locals are eating as you really can’t go wrong. We also checked the price when we sat down for a coffee or juice after being overcharged in Ouzazate once when we forgot to ask. We were given a tip by our friend Jan who’s a real foodie to only eat cous cous out on Fridays. Cous Cous in Morocco is cooked with 7 different vegetables and meat so it takes hours to prepare and is traditionally eaten on a Friday (the holy day) when they have time to prepare it. If you eat it any other day of the week it’s probably going to be leftovers.
Wifi is available in some cafe’s and on a lot of campsites. Signal strength on sites can vary and mostly can only be used around reception. It’s best to get a local sim as well as back up. You can either install this in a mifi device or a mobile phone. We brought a spare mobile with us so that we can both hotspot from it. That way we still have our English numbers active on our phones in case we need to be contacted from the UK. The best coverage is with Maroc Telecom. You will need to go into a Maroc telecom store (these are orange and blue) to buy your sim. We paid 20 MAD €2 for our sim card and 100 MAD (€10) for 10gb of data which lasts one month. When you need to top up you can either do this at any general store that displays the Maroc Telecom sign, go back to a Marco Telecom store or on line at recharge.com for a small fee. If you download the Maroc Telecom app you can then track how much data you have left (this is also handy when you buy new data as you can see whether it’s been added), once downloaded you need to set up an account by registering on line first, you cannot do this via the app.
Alcohol If you drink it is better to buy your alcohol in Spain and take it with you as it’s much cheaper and more available. You can find it in Morocco though at larger Carrefours (it tends to be in a separate room) or there are some specialist alcohol shops. Expect to pay around £4-£6 for a 1.5 ltire bottle of basic wine and around £1 for small tins of beer. You will also be asked lots for alcohol by locals (this surprised us), but as we’d read about this beforehand we took a few cheapo 1 litre boxes of wine with us that we used for giving away/trading.
What to Wear Don’t take your best outfits to Morocco as you won’t be dressing to impress. It is generally very grubby and dusty so if you have old shoes take them as they will get filthy. Ladies don’t take your best white knickers as once they’ve been washed in Morocco a few times they are more likely to be a shade of grey, there’s no such thing as colour separation (we took colour catchers and asked anyone that did washing for us to use them). On campsites you are fine to sit around in shorts and T shirts, but when going out, it’s advisable to dress respectfully, in long or 3/4 length trousers and with arms and shoulders covered. Men can get away with a little more and are ok to wear cropped trousers or long shorts out and about.
Language In Morocco the two main languages are either Arabic or Berber, their 2nd language is French, so it certainly helps to know some especially when bartering. At very least download the offline version of google translate in Arabic and French to use if you get stuck.
Items to take with you Before leaving the UK we asked around friends to donate any items of children’s or men’s clothing that they would otherwise have taken to a charity shop.Thanks to the generous donations from my running club we went away with quite a collection. I cannot express enough how gratefully received this was. Away from the main tourist hotspots the majority of Moroccans live in extreme poverty and to see the joy on their faces when they were given something they could use with no ask of anything in return was so heart warming. We even got invited for tea at a locals house in Tafraroute when we gave them a couple of items for their daughter. We also took pens for the children who go to school and some old electronic items together with shoes and wine that we used to trade for goods. The kids ask for bonbons (sweets) all the time, but we didn’t feel it was good practice to encourage this so decided against taking sweets.
A tyre pressure monitor and pump would come in very handy here mainly due to the condition of the roads. You can’t always avoid hitting potholes!
Electricity on sites can be unpredictable and we had to throw away the contents of our small freezer box when it defrosted. A lot of long termers take transformers with them to overcome this, we just removed our freezer box and bought fresh to avoid it happening again. We even had an electrical fire at one campsite so tread carfully.
The Moroccan People
The Moroccans are a warm, friendly, helpful and industrious race. Mostly they will talk and welcome you without ulterior motive. They are one of the most industrious nations we have come across on our travels and certainly know how to make do and mend. It can be very tough here to make a living and so some will befriend you with making money in mind, so you have to be firm if you are not interested as they can be very persistent. If you need anything the locals will be able to get it for you, just make sure you negotiate the price first.
If you want an adventure go to Morocco, it is proper travelling and for us we had the luxury of being able to do it in our motorhome with all our home comforts. We have definitely fallen for this magical country and plan to go back again to explore further.
Andi and Paul x