During our Morocco trip, there were definitely some things that we learned and looking back we wish we had done differently.
1. Don’t book a medina tour in Fes or accept the help or guidance of anyone you’re not willing to pay
The touts in Fes are absolutely relentless. Anyone who is offering to help show you where <insert Fes attraction here> is located is expecting you to pay. Yes, even if they state clearly otherwise. Yes, even the 7 year old boy. Yes, they will lie to you and tell you you’re going the wrong way even when you aren’t. Don’t fall for it.
Plus, getting lost and exploring is all part of the fun. Remember, you’ll always be able to find your way if you follow tip number two.
2. Don’t book hotels in advance
There are so many hotels, riads, B&B’s and hostels in Morocco that it feels impossible to select just a few for your trip. We reserved 2 of our 4 stays in advance and secured the others after arrival. By calling the hotel directly the day of and in country, we were able to secure much better rates than those we found online. I would suggest using TripAdvisor to pinpoint 5 or so places in each city and then calling to negotiate a better rate upon arrival in Morocco. We did this at Riad El Ma in Meknes which was our favorite riad during our trip.
3. Don’t set out in your rental car without first confirming your route with a local. Similarly, don’t attempt to drive at night.
I’ve never cried more in my life than on the death defying drive between Fes and Chefchaouen. After dodging donkeys, street carts and fearless pedestrians while learning to drive a manual transmission in downtown Fes, we thought we were in the clear. That was until Google maps led us astray and took us over 100 miles on a gravel boulder & pothole filled ‘road’ through the Riff Mountains at night. Needless to say, this leg of our trip was a disaster that could have easily been avoided.
However, don’t let this scare you away from renting a car in Morocco. We learned our lesson and confirmed our next route with our riad in Chefchaouen and loved the day drive between Chefchaouen and Tangier. Fes to Merzouga would also make a wonderful and safe DIY Moroccan road trip.
4. Don’t take the 2nd class train on a long journey
After flying into Malaga, Spain, busing to Algeciras and disembarking the ferry in Tangier, we immediately took a taxi to the train station to catch the train to Fes. For starters, this was MUCH too long of a journey for one day. Our 5 hour train journey ended up taking more like 7 hours due to delays at various stations all along the way. By about an hour in, the 2nd class car we were traveling in (1st was sold out) was standing room only. By the third hour, I had 2 children sitting in my lap and their mother leaning against my seat. Not exactly my vision of a comfortable ride.
Looking back, I wish we had stayed in Tangier for a night rather than rushing onto our riad in Fes. Then we could have secured a 1st class ticket and a much more leisurely ride.
On short journeys however, I wouldn’t hesitate to book 2nd class..
5. Don’t buy leather goods at the tanneries – unless you want to grossly overpay!
The tanneries (best visited first thing in the morning in order to avoid the horrible stench) are great for a quick history lesson and photo op but don’t make the mistake of even looking at the items in their shop. Moroccans are the most incredible salesmen and you’ll be hard pressed to walk out empty handed.