Morocco is one of my favourite travel destinations. From the hustle and bustle of Marrakech to the relaxing beaches of Agadir, there is something for everyone in Morocco. However, it’s not a country without its travel challenges, and there are some dos and don’t for travellers to consider. I’ve already written extensively on things to do in Morocco, today’s article is all about what not to do in Morocco.
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First of all, it’s worth saying that Morocco is not really the place for the first time solo traveller. Although the big cities such as Marrakech and Fes have great attractions, there are touts and scammers to look out for and busy streets to navigate. It’s a good idea to go to Morocco with a friend or family member, or maybe check out a few countries in Europe before you launch into a solo four day break in Marrakech. Sometimes though, you just need to get used to it and ‘go with the flow’ in Morocco and it does get easier to deal with and you get in the rhythm of Morocco, so to speak.
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What not to do in Morocco
There are some key things that you should not do in Morocco. Some are illegal and some are just not advised due to culture differences or avoiding scams in the busy Medinas.
Do not take a Bible translated in Arabic
Moroccans are generally tolerant of other faiths, and there are Churches in Morocco. It is allowed for Christians to practice their religion. However, what is not allowed is conversion to any religion other than Islam. Therefore, if you carry a Bible in Arabic, it will be presumed that you are trying to convert people to Christianity and this is against the Moroccan criminal code.
Do not have sexual relations outside of marriage
It is forbidden to have sexual relations with anyone who you are not married to. If you are sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex, technically they can request your marriage certificate. This has never happened to any of the travellers that I know, as it is presumed that if a man is travelling with a woman that he is her husband. However, you might want to take a copy of your marriage certificate, just in case.
Don’t flaunt your sexuality or relationship
You should definitely avoid any public displays of affection in Morocco – that means no kissing or hand holding in public (even if you are married). You should also be aware that Morocco is sadly not LGBT friendly. In fact, the Penal Code of Morocco criminalises “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex”, therefore same-sex sexual activity is illegal. If you are travelling with your same-sex sexual partner then you should not admit this in Morocco, claim to be best friends or something!
Do not Discuss Politics
It is advisable to avoid discussions about religion and politics. You do not need to disclose and religious or political views, just be respectful. For example, getting into debates about Israel and Palestine are not a good idea (most Moroccans are pro-Palestine). You don’t want to say the wrong thing, so it’s best just to nod and understand their view, then change the conversation, rather than get in a debate about it.
Do not Disrespect Islam
Morocco is 99% Muslim and it is important to respect their religion. This includes not drinking alcohol or eating big meals in front of people who are fasting, and also not walking directly in front of someone during prayer. Never insult the Qu’ran (their Holy book) or disrespect Allah (God). It is unlikely that you will be able to enter Mosques in Morocco as a non-Muslim. However, the Mosque in Casablanca (Hassan II Mosque) does welcome non-Muslim visitors, and for this you should dress conservatively. Show minimal flesh (cover shoulders and legs) and also women should be prepared to cover their head.
Do not Listen to men or boys who tell you ‘it’s closed!’
Don’t listen to boys who tell you ‘it’s closed’ in Marrakech and Fes when you want to go to the main square or key sites – it isn’t closed, they are just saying that to offer to help you. They will then attempt to be your illegal guide, and for a hefty fee! The ‘its closed’ guys are very common in Marrakech and Fez. Just tell them ‘it’s not closed’ and continue on your way. In the unlikely event that it is closed, what would be the worst to happen? You would just need to walk back past them again, and give a small smile or laugh to acknowledge your embarrassment!
Do not Drink Alcohol in Public
Although most Muslims avoid alcohol, there are bars that allow people to drink, and it is not forbidden to drink alcohol in Morocco. However, it is illegal to be caught drinking alcohol on the street, and you should avoid appearing drunk in public. Buy and consume alcohol in moderation and in licensed pubs, bars and tourist resorts only, of you must have a drink or two. Personally, I tend to avoid drinking alcohol in Morocco other than one or two cocktails in my hotel or a sky bar the day before I travel home.
Don’t take directions from random people on the street
Do not take directions from boys or men on the street. Sometimes they lie to you and say ‘it’s not that way!’ so that they can guide you, but as they are fake guides it will end up with them getting you even more lost and then expecting to be paid money to get you back out of there. The best thing to do if you are lost is to go into a shop or cafe and ask them to help you with directions. They want a good reputation so that you will go back to buy things, and also shop owners cannot run away, and so they are unlikely to scam you on directions.
Do not take the first price – It is always negotiable!
Do not take the first price that you are offered, especially in the souks! Bartering is a normal way of life. It is a good idea to find out the price that a local would pay or recommend for an item, before you start expressing an interest in it. The shop keeper will probably go in much higher, and you can go in much lower, until you eventually meet in the middle at what is a reasonable price for both parties!
Do not get run over in the Medina!
It may sound silly, but you will need to always walk at the side of the ride so that you don’t get run over by bikes or tuk-tuks in the Medina! The medina and souks are usually very busy places with lots of motorbikes, and they drive scarily close to people and each other. Keep an eye on them and be prepared to duck inside a shop, or swerve a little, if you need to!
Don’t forget to tip!
Whilst tipping is not mandatory in Morocco, it is nice to tip those who help you and tips in Morocco are greatly appreciated. 10% is a good tip for nice restaurant owners who have particularly looked after you, and 20 Moroccan Dirhams is a good tip for bell boys and baggage helpers (the ones with the little trolley carts who help you with bags when you get out of taxis to get to your Riad in the Medina!)
Don’t fall for the Taxi Touts
Taxi touts are everywhere in Morocco, and its a skill that travellers need for every country in general, and not just Morocco. The key is that when you see the line of touts at the taxi ranks, walk past or around them, cross over a main road and flag one down on the street. Learn the price of taxis in advance so that you know what to pay. For example, you shouldn’t be paying more than about 25 Dirham for a ride within Marrakech Medina. There are also set fees for airport transfers and you should learn them. For example, 300 Dirhams for a taxi from Casablanca airport to downtown Casablanca or 70 Dirhams (day time) or 100 Dirhams (night time) from Marrakech airport to Riads within Marrakech Medina.
Don’t get bitten by Mosquitos!
The mozzies in Morocco aren’t the deadly disease carrying kind – there are no malaria or dengue mosquitos here. But still nonetheless, it is unpleasant to get bitten – their bites are itchy and annoying so you want to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos if possible. Always close your mosquito screen and don’t leave doors open (especially at night). Consider using an insect repellant with DEET such as Jungle Formula or tiger balm to scare them away (they hate the smell of it!) You can also light a citronella candle to repel them.
If you do get bitten by mosquitos then use an antiseptic cream on them or even a hydrocortisone cream if it is prescribed or recommended by your doctor.
Avoid Walking around in Casablanca on your own at night
Casablanca was truly hyped up by the 1942 movie! In reality, Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, is a challenging city to travel around. There are pick pockets and you should avoid walking round in the city at night, particularly avoid dark alleys and areas that are not well-lit.
Further Reading on Morocco
I hope that you have found this blog on what not to do in Morocco useful. If you are travelling in Morocco or planning a trip, you might also find these blogs helpful…
- Visiting Marrakech in December
- Is Morocco worth visiting?
- Things to do in Marrakech
- Is Casablanca worth visiting?