I have travelled extensively in Morocco and in today’s blog I’m here to share all my thoughts about Morocco – the good, the bad and the ugly! The first time I went to Morocco was for a 6 week expedition with BSES (British Schools Exploring Society) and it really was a challenge including hikes and abseiling in the high Atlas Mountains! 10 years later I decided to return for a proper holiday to Morocco with my mom. She is a ‘culture-vulture’ just like me and it ended up being one of our all time favourite destinations.
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Morocco – Traditional Travel or All-Inclusive?
Morocco is a great place for a two or even three centred holiday with a combination of Marrakech and then a beach or mountain location for the second destination. It is well geared up for tourists and a good place to have a variety of experiences. We stayed at Riad Dar Zaman in Marrakech followed by Dar Rita in Ouarzazate (foot of the Atlas Mountains) and then ‘Surf and Chill’ hostel in Essouria (On the Coast).
I do usually travel independently. But hey, everyone needs a package holiday from time to time! There are some excellent all-inclusive deals including Marrakech, Agadir and Taghazout. But travel is also fairly easy in Morocco if you can stretch your budget to include a private driver, which is worth the investment of between £20-40 a day.
My Holiday to Morocco – The Good!
There are soooooo many good things to note about taking a holiday to Morocco. Excellent value food and accommodation, beautiful scenery of the High Atlas Mountains, beautiful Arabic architecture and stunning beaches are just a few of the reasons so many people see it as a top destination.
Excellent Value for Money
Morocco is a very cheap destination making it a cost effective choice for students and young families on a tight budget. Food and accommodation are particularly cheap – you can spend just £10 (or less) a night on budget accommodation if you are prepared to share a dorm room. Food is excellent value for money. You can get the following cheap direct flights from UK to Morocco:
- London Heathrow to Casablanca (Royal Air Maroc)
- London Gatwick to Marrakech (Easyjet)
- London Gatwick to Agadir (Easyjet)
- London Luton to Marrakech (Easyjet)
- London Luton to Agadir (Easyjet)
- Manchester to Agadir (Ryanair)
- Manchester to Marrakech (Ryanair)
Short Flight Time from UK
Morocco is easy to get to from the UK and makes for a culturally rich holiday without the need for a long haul flight. You can fly direct to Marrakech from London in approximately 4 hours. We flew direct to Marrakech from Manchester with Ryanair. It’s a North African destination but not too much further than Spain and Portugal!
Beaches of Morocco
The beaches of Agadir are clean and warm, making it a great option for families and couples looking for a relaxing beach holiday. If you want a spot of surfing then Essouira is an excellent option. The best thing about Moroccan beaches is that they are NOT too crowded. However, remember that it is a much more conservative country than UK and you may want to consider a less revealing swimsuit. Full swimming costumes (even ones which cover the shoulders and top of your legs) are ideal for women. Also take a kaftan to cover yourself up from the sea to your sun lounger. In many areas, locals are not used to seeing people with a lot of flesh on display.
Astonishing Arabic Architecture
The Arabic Architecture in Morocco is really phenomenal. You will find beautifully tiled and engraved Quaranic Schools, Tombs and Palaces. Some of the best places to see in Morocco include:
- Saardian Tombs – Marrakech
- Bahia Palace – Marrakech
- The Ben Youssef Madrasa – Marrakech
- Al Attarine Madrasa – Fez
- Bou Inania Medersa – Fez
- Royal Palace of Fez
- Royal Palace of Rabat
Shopping in the Souks of Fez and Marrakech
Many Moroccan markets (souks) are located inside the Medina – you will find old city walls surrounding the marketplace. These kinds of areas (particularly in Marrakech and Fez) can be difficult to navigate due to the little winding paths but it’s well worth exploring and allowing yourself to get lost a little! Remember that you can barter in the souks – the first price is not always the last price!
Rock the Kasbah!
In Morocco, the term “kasbah” is also used to denote a fortified residence and there are many old and abandoned Kasbah’s to explore. One of my favourites was Ait Benhaddou – the Kasbah used to film scenes in the ‘Game of Thrones’.
No trip to Morocco is complete without a trip through the Atlas Mountains. You will see some astonishing views and experience the generosity of the Berber people who will often invite you into their homes for a mint tea. Many people enjoy heading to Mount Toubkal from Marrakech to do a hike. Marrakech to Ouarzazate is another popular route across the Atlas Mountains via the Tisha Pass.
Gorgeous Traditional Moroccan Food
I love, love LOVE the food in Morocco! You will find a lot of fresh fish dishes along the coast. The traditional Moroccan Tagine is gorgeous – a chicken (or other meat) cooked with dates and vegetables inside a clay pot. Follow this link for some amazing Marrakech restaurants.
My Holiday to Morocco – The Bad
Before I launch into the bad and the ugly aspects of my Holiday to Morocco, let me just make this clear…my aim is not to put you off going, but simply for you to be made aware of the challenges and the risks. Morocco is one of my all time favourite destinations and quite often the challenges of travel there add to the exciting atmosphere and help you to embrace the culture of the country.
Hold on to your Mommy!
The craziness of the souks particularly in Marrakech is often a bit too much to handle! Motorbikes will zoom past you in the tiniest of streets which don’t even have curbs or pavements! One Moto whisked past me and my mom and and my poor mom – she jumped into the air and I thought that she was nearly going to take off! A Moroccan shouted from the nearest shop stall ‘you must hold on to your Mommy!’
Sickness and Diarrhoea
Sadly I did experience some travel sickness on my holiday to Morocco when travelling along the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. This is quite usual and so if you are taking this route I would say avoid the bus – take a taxi who will stop for loo breaks and food breaks when you want him to! Some people get a stomach upset in Morocco and suffer from diarrhoea so choose good mid range restaurants and drink bottled water to minimise the risk.
Avoid the Tanneries – It is Disgusting and it is NOT a free tour!
The other annoying scam in the big cities such as Fez and Marrakech is the ‘free tour’ of the tanneries. There are two problems with this. Firstly, the tanneries are quite disgusting – very smelly and horrible stench of making leather from animal skins in the sun. Secondly, they are never free. There is always an unannounced price at the end of the tour which is a total rip off and not expected. Avoid these – if you want to do any specific tours then you can book them online with Get Your Guide.
Queueing for Train Tickets can be a challenge!
Queueing for train tickets in Morocco can be challenging. Expect to have to push and shove and potentially to be pushed to the back by locals if you are not used to the Moroccan way of queueing! Many people pay young lads to do ticket runs for them, and some young people in Marrakech have made a business out of a ticket collection service. Sometimes, it’s worth the small price for this!
Shopping – Poor Quality Goods
Don’t be deceived by the rip off brands or pay over the odds for poor quality clothing and bags. Make sure that you take advice from locals before you buy leather, wood carvings and any other locally crafted souvenirs. Also note that some of the ‘designer’ brands are almost always fakes so don’t for one minute believe that you are getting a real Louis Viton Bag in the Souks of Fez!
My Holiday to Morocco – The Ugly
Let’s go all out here and talk about the two things I hated about Morocco! The first was the scorching and unbearable August sun. The second was the poor treatment on animals that we witnessed in Marrakech! The third was the taxi driver who tried to overcharge us and then nearly came off the dirt track on the way to Ait Benhaddou!
The Weather – Avoid the August Sun in the Sahara
Morocco is an excellent destination for summer sun, but good weather is not always guaranteed in low season (October through to April). What you should be aware of is avoiding the August sun in the dessert – it will dehydrate you. Book your trip for sometime between March and June for Morocco as August is way too hot. I have heard of people needing hydration sachets and injections in the Sahara desert because of this – it’s just not worth travelling at that time. Drink plenty of fluids and if you are on a dessert safari then you should wrap a wet cloth around your water bottle to keep your water cool. I recommend a SIGG water bottle (remember to ensure that it is empty when you go through airport security).
The Poor Treatment of Animals
There were a few times in Morocco that we witnessed animals being treated very poorly. There was one Donkey in the Souks of Marrakech that had been carrying heavy bricks. He looked so dehydrated that we literally thought he might pass out. Our instinct was to give him water, but of course, it’s not your donkey and so you cannot interfere. There are also some snake charmers and performing monkeys around Jemaa Al Fna (night market of Marrakech), and so avoid giving money to these performers if you are against it.
We would also recommend that if you are concerned about these issues, then you can donate to a charity that works with animals in Morocco such as SPANA (Society for the protection of animals abroad). The founders started working with the animals in Morocco and have expanded their projects worldwide.
Aggressive Boys and Men in the Souks!
It’s easy to get lost in the Souks of the big Moroccan cities as I have already mentioned. Sadly a few young men have cottoned on to this and decided to start offering to show tourists back to their hotel and then deciding to charge for it last minute. Of course, any paid fee should be discussed beforehand, but what is a little unethical about this is the way that some of them deliver you to the door of your destination and then announce an extortionate and unexpected fee. There have also been reports of young men escorting women to their Riads and when they arrive they don’t have the money for the unexpected ‘fee’ so they then take a kiss, grope or pinch on the arse as ‘payment’. Totally unacceptable behaviour, but be aware that it has happened.
Marked Up Taxis and Dangerous Drivers
The first thing to note is to book your own taxis in Morocco. It’s the same situation as in Tunisia – they are notorious for marking prices up to two or even three times the normal price. We had a quote for the Taxi at Dar Rita from Ouarzazate to Ait Benhaddou, which was more than double the local price. After asking around, they realised that we were not going to accept being ripped off, and the price quickly came down! It should be noted that this was a Moroccan employee from the Riad and not the owner.
Would I go on Holiday to Morocco again?
I would absolutely return to Morocco again – it’s one of my all time travel destinations! Despite the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ elements of my trip, the good drastically outweighs the negatives. I have plans to go for a beach holiday in Algier and also another separate trip to the North of Morocco to include Fez, Meknes and Chefchouhen (the blue city). What I would say is that it is high on the ‘culture vulture’ scale, so be prepared!
Are there any Alternatives to Morocco?
I did enjoy Morocco and would recommend it. Tunisia is also another alternative, but I have Morocco down as my personal preference.
Further Reading on taking a Holiday to Morocco
If you would like to read more about holidaying in Morocco then have a look at some of my other blogs….
- Is Morocco worth visiting?
- Best things to buy in Morocco
- What to pack for Morocco
- Camel Trekking in Morocco
- A good itinerary for 10 days in Morocco
- The ultimate 2 day Marrakech Itinerary
- Best Restaurants in Essaouira