Morocco seems to be a country that people either love or hate. There is not much in between. I love it! But of course, there are some things that are very annoying, even to me.
Please don’t see this article as a way to put you off travelling to Morocco. Because that’s not what it is supposed to be. I would love for you to visit this amazing country, and there are many reasons to come here.
But, if are you not an experienced traveller, or you hate being stared at, or talk to strangers, then maybe this post will make you consider coming to Morocco with a group tour. Or at least with a few friends.
I have travelled Morocco solo, and I never had any problems. I’ve lived here for 2 years now and I do consider the country safe for solo female travellers. But you have to keep your eyes and ears open and use your bullshit radar and common sense constantly.
For some this might be exhausting, for others it is just part of the fun and adventure of travelling.
So, whether you end up hating or loving Morocco, I am sure these are the things that you will hate either way.
1. Harassment and catcalling by Moroccan men
This is sadly a very common occurrence, especially in the bigger cities. For some reason, the men think it is ok to whistle, cat call and sometimes even insult women on the street. Luckily, they hardly ever get physically aggressive towards foreign women. But it still can be very annoying to walk around sightseeing or shopping and being continually harassed.
Just to make it clear what I am talking about here. I think there is a big difference between harassment for shopping vs. sexual insinuated harassment. While you are in the medinas of especially Fes and Marrakech, every single shop owner will try to get you into his shop. I will get into this more below. And then there are the guys who catcall, call you pretty and just generally annoy you. They are almost always harmless. They are just bored, want to show off their limited English/Spanish/etc. skills and impress their friends. But they are everywhere in the major cities.
I personally never really had a big problem with this. I think this is mostly because I just ignore it and don’t even feel like they are talking to me most of the time. Also, I never smile when walking around and wear my sunglasses whenever possible.
But, I totally understand if this makes you really uncomfortable and you end up not enjoying your holiday in Morocco.
One way to at least reduce the attention is dressing appropriately. So, no shorts or short skirts, no spaghetti or crop tops. Cover up. With loose fitting clothes. And, if someone still bothers you, don’t be afraid to get loud. Yell at them! Cry for help! They will not like that attention.
If you are really worried about this being a problem, maybe you should consider taking a tour. But I have travelled to many places in Morocco on my own, and I was fine. I think a lot depends on your personality and how well you can ignore them. Maybe also your nationality plays a part, as Americans for example tend to smile a lot and really don’t want to be rude. While I as a German don’t smile when walking around anyways and I do not have a problem saying “no” and being rude and strict about them not leaving me alone.
To make sure I don’t only offer my view on this, as I said I’ve never been really bothered by this, here is what Hannah experienced during her trip to Morocco:
“Morocco, however, I had very different experiences with cat-calling. I felt like the intent behind was different depending on where I was. In Fes, I have no doubts that it was done to intimidate. Men leered and asked if we were looking for them, or laughing as they called us ‘beautiful’ in a way that was far from innocent. It felt sleazy and uncomfortable and I did clap back a couple of times, unwilling to let them think they had scared me.
In Marrakech, I felt like it was more ‘playful’. Not that it made it better, but it was used more as a ploy for our business. Guys working in restaurants and shops would call out names like ‘Shakira’ in the hopes of getting our attention- and our money. It was just as annoying, but I didn’t feel as personally targeted.”
Pickpocketing used to be a huge problem in the medinas of Marrakech and Fes. It has got better in the recent years, as after too many complaints and this becoming a thread to the tourism industry, the tourist police actually reacts better to reports and also patrols in plain clothes more and more.
These days, what I hear most, is that young guys drive by on a motorcycle on the street and grab your phone from your hand or rip your bag from your arm. So, to avoid this, make sure to always walk on the sidewalk close to the walls and carry a crossbody bag or backpack. While this won’t be 100% saving you from pickpocketing, it will increase the likelihood of them choosing a different victim.
And of course, as anywhere in the world, don’t visibly carry any valuables, like expensive jewellery. Don’t leave your camera lying around on the table at restaurants or cafés. And don’t talk too loudly about where you are staying, especially if it is a nice, expensive place.
Again, I personally haven’t had this experience, not here nor in any other country. So, either I am really lucky, or I don’t look like I have anything of value with me, I guess.
3. There is rubbish everywhere
One thing that really annoys me is the rubbish that is lying around everywhere. Maybe as a German, I am spoiled with our waste management and recycling. Here in Morocco, many people just drop their rubbish on the street, right where they are going. In the cities, that of course, leads to jobs, for people who clean the streets. But outside, in the country, that rubbish piles up in ditches, fields, rivers, beaches and even the sand dunes of Merzouga.
Last year I saw the first clean up initiatives, on the beach in Essaouira, in Paradise Valley, and just a couple of months ago also here in Merzouga. So, the Moroccans are starting to realize, that for tourism, they need to clean up their country.
If you want to set a good example while being in the country, here are some ideas: bring a reusable water bottle with a filter system, bring a couple of reusable shopping bags and say no to plastic ones, refuse straws in drinks, don’t use the tiny shampoo containers in hotels and instead bring your own reusable ones.
4. Traffic is crazy
The traffic in the cities, especially around Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes, is bad. And it might influence your trip even if you are not driving yourself. But even just taking a taxi from the airport in Marrakech and getting into the medina can take almost an hour. And it really isn’t far. One time I was stuck in traffic while on the Supratours bus and we arrived over an hour late into Marrakech, despite being a bit early coming out of the Atlas Mountains.
While there isn’t much traffic in the more rural areas, drivers can be rather crazy. It is totally normal here to tailgate or pass even though you cannot see what’s coming up ahead. I think in part that is because driving school here can be skipped if you just pay money to the right person. Also, unless you want to be a tourist driver, you don’t need to get your eyes checked, so half the people drive half blind. It can be scary at times, especially when in a shared taxi with no seat belts.
If you decide to drive yourself, just stay patient. Do what you feel is right. If you want to go slow, go slow. And if you want to pass someone, make sure to honk before, so they know you are coming, as mirrors seem to be mostly decorative.
5. Being seen as a walking wallet
Another thing that really annoys me, but is rather harmless, is that Moroccans assume all travellers to their country are rich. And yes, of course people who can afford to travel to Morocco probably have more money than most of the people here. But what they don’t understand is, that most people still have to save to travel. And actually work hard for that money. There is no tree in Europe or the US that grows money and people can just pick as much as they like.
But being seen as a walking wallet makes everyone try to get their share of your money. Everyone wants you to visit their shop, of course just to look, no need to buy. But once you are in there, it will be really hard to leave without buying anything, especially if to you saying “no” feels like being rude. But you have to change your perspective on that. The rude one is the one that tricks you into his shop and then pressures you to buy something. So, you don’t have to worry about being rude too. They started it.
Also be aware of the usual scams about showing you the way. As soon as you enter the medina with your luggage, there will be the crowd of “helpful” guys asking where you are staying and offering to take you there. But be aware, they will bring you somewhere completely different, the riad of a friend or their uncle, and try to convince you that your riad is closed or really bad. Do not fall for this! Make sure you know the way or ask your riad to send someone to pick you up. Ask for their name and maybe even a photo. And don’t tell anyone at the meeting point where you are staying. Ask which hotel they are picking up for until you find the right one.
When you are out sightseeing and you are unsure about the way, don’t rely on people helping you. They will bring you wherever they get commission if you buy something. So even though you wanted to go to the madrasa, you’ll end up at the tanneries and pressured to buy.
If you actually want to buy something, make sure to bargain. Aim for 30-40 % of the original offer. And don’t buy at places a guide took you to. The guides get paid commissions that can make up half of what you pay. The bargaining can be exhausting, but it really is necessary. In part because it ruins the prices. If everyone pays that much, they will start asking for much more, until locals cannot afford things anymore. Similar to the AirBnB problems in cities like Barcelona.
One of the biggest challenges for me personally is the inefficiency of this country. I used to be an efficiency consultant for hospitals, and it drives me crazy every single day. But it is also a great learning and growing experience and I accept that I chose to move here and that this is something that just comes with that decision. And it will not have a very big impact on you as a tourist.
I hope this post will help you prepare mentally for your trip to Morocco and avoid the biggest scams. And that you will love Morocco in the end, just as much as I do! If you have any questions, please get in touch.
For more general information on Morocco, also check out these posts:
For your trip planning, also look at these posts:
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