Morocco

Our Morocco Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

We all make mistakes, and when traveling to a new place, we tend to make a few more mistakes than usual—even travel bloggers! But that’s why I have my blog: so I can tell you my mistakes and you can do things better! Our trip to Morocco wasn’t a total bust, so I don’t want you to think I hated it or that you shouldn’t go. However, I do think when we right-size our expectations and learn as much as we can in advance, we generally have a better experience overall. So here’s the quick list of mistakes we made in Morocco and how to avoid them on your trip!

Morocco is definitely worth visiting!

Mistake #1: Flying within Morocco.

Morocco may look kind of small on the map, but those winding two-lane roads through four mountain ranges and beyond make for some mighty long road trips! Steve and I don’t like road trips, so we thought if flying was an option, it would be the better option for us. It was not.

Flying within Morocco is complicated! The small planes are not terribly clean, the a/c was not turned on before the plane took off (and maybe not afterward), and you have to go through passport control and security checks even flying within the country, even for connecting flights within Morocco! In fact, we would have saved time overall if we had taken the three hour train instead of the 50-minute flight from Casablanca to Marrakech!

Solution: Take the train, the bus, or hire a driver for the day. Plan to make some stops at smaller villages along the way if long bus and train rides don’t sound appealing.
Flying within Morocco is not so glamorous!
Read on: Flying Royal Air Maroc within Morocco

Mistake #2: Staying at La Mamounia.

Nice hotels should be… nice, right? And kindness is… nice, right? Not so at La Mamounia. Suffice it to say that we definitely were not welcome, despite our status as paying guests. You can read all about it in Why I Will Not Recommend La Mamounia. We were publicly scolded, purposely given incorrect information, and endured some of the dirtiest looks I’ve ever experienced.

Solution: Stay in one of Marrakech’s many beautiful riads or skip Marrakech altogether.
Definitely not worth the humiliation!
Read on: Why I Will Not Recommend La Mamounia

Mistake #3: Thinking all charter buses go from one station.

Not so! We accidentally took the Talmou bus instead of the CTM bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate. It was not great! We also took a Nejme Chamal bus from Chefchaouen to Tangier, which was even worse! The CTM buses are newer, air conditioned, and I daresay they’re safer. 

Solution: Make sure you are going to a CTM bus station.
These people are sitting on the bus steps next to the open door. They rode like that for hours.
Read on: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Getting Around Morocco

Mistake #4: Visiting the desert in September (and thinking A/C would always be available).

I really thought in September we would start feeling the downward swing of the temperatures. You know, 90s during the day and 70s at night. I was wrong! But even with higher than expected temperatures, I thought at the #1 luxury desert camp in the world (that touts its air conditioning) meant we would have air conditioning when we needed it. Also not true! The air conditioning went out at midnight and didn’t get fixed until after 7:00 am. And the next afternoon they turned off the a/c to the whole camp. Not only was a nap out of the question, I also worried a little about my contact solution and pepto bismol, which I don’t think are supposed to get that hot for so many hours in a row! 

Solution: Visit the desert November-April, and leave temperature-sensitive medications behind if possible!
The low in the desert at night in September was 90 degrees F (32 C)!
Read on: What to Know Before You Visit the Moroccan Sahara

Mistake #5: Assuming water would be included in our Luxury Desert Camp experience.

Juice was included, tea was included, all meals were included… we assumed that at least water would be included in our all-inclusive luxury desert experience. I mean, water should be priority #1 in the desert, right? But it was not! Water was available in 1.5 liter bottles for 30 MAD (approx. $3 USD), but we didn’t know that until the end when we were given a bill! It’s a good thing we brought some of our own with us and that we could afford the extra expense.

Solution: Bring at least some of your own if you drink a lot of water!
Camels can go for days without water in the desert. People cannot.
Bring water. You’re not a camel!
Read on: What to Eat in the Moroccan Sahara

Mistake #6: Only spending one night in Ouarzazate.

Ouarzazate was the unexpected delight of our trip! There is so much more to do there than we realized, and we wish we had more time to visit the nearby movie studios and other sites. In fact, we liked it so much that while we were there we started searching online for a way to get back in the future without having to take the bus from Marrakech!

Solution: Plan to spend at least two night here! It’s the Hollywood of Africa!
We missed out on this studio tour because we just didn’t have enough time!

Mistake #7: Assuming water would be included with our included breakfast. 

Again with the water! We just thought that if a meal was all-inclusive, water would be, too. Big mistake! Juice, tea, coffee, and milk were all included and available, but not water. 

Solution: Buy bottled water and always bring water with you. Always!
We had a lovely breakfast most mornings, but we were always thirsty afterward!

Mistake #8: Traveling from the Sahara to Fes in one day. 

Y’all, the Sahara is far. It’s a long drive each way from every major city in Morocco. But we thought, “We can do this. It’s just one day, and after the drive we’ll fly the rest of the way and it’ll be great!” But it just didn’t turn out well. The only flight out of Ouarzazate (after a 5.5 hour drive from the Sahara) doesn’t go every day, and it goes very late in the day (7:30 pm). We had to change planes in Casablanca, which was kind of a nightmare as stated in Mistake #1), and we didn’t get to Fes until almost 1:00am. Oh, and I hurled in the taxi enroute to the hotel (the first time I’d been sick like that in 10 years). Thank goodness I stole the airsick bag from one of the planes. That is not a day I want to relive.

Solution: Stay in Ouarzazate one more night or stop elsewhere along the way. You’ll be glad you took it easy!
It’s a mighty long journey…

Mistake #9: Taking the early bus from Chefchaouen to Tangier. 

It seemed like a great idea. The Nejme Chamal bus would leave earlier, the ride would take less time, and we’d have more time to spend in Tangier! Not so much. The bus ride took an hour longer than scheduled, we actually left the bus station half an hour late waiting for the bus to fill up, the a/c did not work, and there were people sitting in the aisles and standing on the steps by the bus door! Oh, and some guy got sick, another guy got kicked off the bus during a loud argument, and there was an interesting smell throughout the journey. It was not comfortable, but it was entertaining. 

Solution: Wait for the 3:00pm CTM bus or take a grand taxi.
We definitely could have stayed a few more hours in Chefchaouen!

Mistake #10: Waiting until the end of our trip to get a hammam and massage.

This was truly an unfortunate missed opportunity! I wanted to end my trip with the ultimate squeaky-clean experience and a relaxing massage after two weeks of backpacking around Morocco. But by the end of my trip I was getting sick regularly and didn’t want to take a chance of getting sick during either of those services! And the thought of someone pushing on me in any way was less than appealing. Next time, I’ll try to start out squeaky clean instead.

Solution: Check out your hammam options early!
Shower Time! Thank goodness we always had a private bathroom wherever we stayed.

What are some of your most interesting travel mistake stories? Tell me below!

For more tips, check out What to Know Before You Visit Morocco and my Morocco Page!

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