The Who, What, When, Where, and Why’s of Morocco Planning

What better way to reign in year 27 than by visiting the motherland with your closest friends? I realize that this statement may be riddled in privilege, as this may not seem like an easy feat for some, and I always want to acknowledge that. That being said, I’ll break down my cost for the trip and the itinerary that I put together as I explored Morocco from top to bottom, visiting Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, and Chefchaouen.

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I planned this trip completely on my own, leveraging Facebook groups, Google, and other blogs to gather information, tips, and suggestions, but it wasn’t easy. Figuring out logistics, understanding cultural differences, learning what a riad is…..there was a lot to organize.

In November 2019, I and three of my friends journeyed to Morocco from November 8- November 17. Below is a screenshot of the loose agenda I put together and what was shared with my emergency contact.

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Let’s start with how we got there: flights, visas, and vaccinations

Flight Details: My friends and I found a great deal on roundtrip flights via Google fights for $500 from both NYC JFK and Boston Logan airports. We flew via Norwegian Airlines on an overnight flight and had an 8-hour layover in London, allowing us to briefly leave the airport to explore. After our stopover, our journey continued with EasyJet, British low-cost airline, on to Marrakesh, Morocco. On the way back, with a much longer layover, we were able to spend about 15 hours in London, staying overnight in the BLOC hotel and exploring the city in the morning before our flight.

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The only downside to using these low budget airlines is the additional costs for luggage, pre-selecting seats, and food/beverages. Even trying to be #teamcarryon came with its restrictions from the varying weight limits, a limit on total pieces, and size restrictions, we ended up just checking bags. We weren’t met with any surprises or additional costs as we read up on the terms ahead of time and prepared accordingly (easiest way to make the most of budget airlines- arming yourself with knowledge and being prepared).

There are no visa or vaccination requirements for U.S. citizens to visit Morocco, but for more information for non-U.S. citizens, please visit this website HERE.

Next, accommodations

We spent a total of 10 days on vacation and during this time stayed in five hotels between London and Morocco.  I booked all of our lodging via Expedia. I love their app as it’s so convenient to have all of my hotel bookings in one place and to be able to easily communicate with hotel staff to arrange transportation or even discuss late arrival. (Bonus, my loyalty to Expedia yields benefits such as earning points for stays to be able to apply for discounts on future stays, sometimes leading to free stays/rentals.)

In Morocco, we made it a point to stay in riads. A riad is a traditional type of Moroccan house or lodging with an interior garden or courtyard. I highly recommend that you stay at a Riad while in Morocco versus a traditional hotel for a truly immersed cultural experience.

Riad Lena & Spa, Marrakesh. The first hotel we stayed in, we were pleased with both the friendly staff and the charming rooms. We were met with a traditional welcome tea, which quickly became my favorite, and then given a tour of the Riad and a map of the medina and surrounding city. The Riad was in an ideal location with many food and shopping options within walking distance. The rooms were spacious, clean, and exactly as pictured online.

Riad Andalla & Spa, Marrakesh. From the extremely helpful and friendly staff, the welcome tea and cookies,  and the cute interior and equally cozy rooms, I really enjoyed this Riad. Centrally located, we were in walking distance of the souks and the square and despite the confusing, winding streets of the medina, we were able to easily navigate our way.

Lina Ryad & Spa, Chefchaeoun. This is the hotel that we stayed at on my actual birthday and I quite honestly wish we would have planned to spend more nights here. This hotel screamed luxury, without the luxury price tag. Chefchaeoun was a little more chilly and rainy than the other two cities but with the heated indoor pool, we were still able to enjoy ourselves. This Riad was more modern than the others and the rooms and common spaces were spacious and well decorated.

Chefchaeoun, also affectionately known as “The Blue City” or “Blue Pearl” is historical and extremely picturesque. Hire a photographer or grab your iPhone and go on your own!

Riad Tahra & Spa, Fes. No different than the other Riads we stayed in, our Fes Riad had extremely welcoming and friendly staff, quaint rooms, and an ideal location. We also took advantage of the spa services at the Riad Tahra & Spa receiving the traditional Hamman spa and a few other massage specials. If you’re visiting Morocco, get the Hamamn massage treatment!

BLOC Hotel, London. We opted to lodge closer to the airport, Gatwick, as our flight into London from Marrakesh, arrived around 11:30pm. The BLOC Hotel is located right inside the airport’s South terminal, and though convenient, I would not stay at this hotel again. Boasting sleek and efficient lodging, I was not clear on the fact that the toilet, shower, and sink would be in one small section, with no divider or separate space. So yes, you’re showering right by the toilet and if you use the toilet after you shower, you’re doing so in your shower water as it’s still draining. If this is not a big deal for you, and convenience is what you’re going for, then feel free to check it out and book HERE. I will say that my room experienced issues with the shower water draining and the hotel staff was more than accommodating with relocating me to a new room.

Lastly, excursions and activities

What to do in Morocco? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. City views, beach escape, desert? This country has pretty much all terrains.

My only regret from the trip is that we did not have time to do an overnight excursion to the Sahara Desert, I will definitely be making my way back for this activity alone, it came highly recommended. We did, however, take a guided tour through the historic and charming streets of Fes. If you’re in Fes, I definitely suggest this as unlike Marakkesh, there are two medinas and it’s easy to get lost.

Take some time to shop at the local souks, and don’t forget to negotiate for everything. There is sometimes a feeling of guilt when negotiating in markets like a souk, for fear of undercutting a local shop owner, but it is widely known that prices are marked up sometimes as much as 200%. Don’t forget to eat some street food while you’re there!

Take a cooking class, Morocco is known for its tajine and couscous, why not learn the secret behind it? Tour a ceramics shop or a rug factory and see how some of Morocco’s highly coveted housewares are made, we did this in Fes and even bought a few items to bring home. (Tip- the shops will wrap your items to help with transport back to your home, or if you’re purchasing enough, you can have it shipped back to your home for a small fee). Morocco is well known for its spices and it’s textiles,  grab a rug or a sachet of deeply discounted saffron before you go!

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In Marrakesh, the YSL museum and Jardin Majorelle garden are not to be missed!

You can ask your hotel/riad for suggestions for cooking classes or the best shops/souks in your area. Additionally, leverage AirBNB experiences for suggestions and classes!

We used Morocco Daily Tours when looking for a guide to drive us from Marrakesh through Casablanca, Fes, Chefchaeoun, and back. The total cost of the tour for four was 770 Euros and this just included transportation. The tour company recommended riads for us to stay in, but booking and paying for the rooms was still up to us. Our guide through Morocco Daily Tours also suggested restaurants, connected us with our Fes tour guide, and personally walked us around Chefchaoeun. By the end of the trip, he became a great friend.

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Other tips and suggestions

Typically, when planning a trip to Morocco with the intention of visiting multiple cities, it is suggested to book flights into one end of the country and out of the other, first starting in the north in Chefchaoeun, hitting the Sahara or Fes (or both), and ending in Marrakesh. Because of the flight deal we caught, we flew in and out of Marrakesh, so this added a few complexities to our trip, but it was worth it to save so much on our flight.

Being a largely Islamic nation, alcohol was not sold abundantly in the country, specifically within the Medina (old city).

Our guide was extremely helpful, and though a guide is not absolutely necessary, if you plan to do excursions such as a Sahara tour or anything that would require travel through multiple cities, I highly recommend one. As mentioned, we used Morocco Daily Tour, and Said, our tour guide, really helped to make our trip a success.

We were slightly confused at what the most widely used currency was before arriving at the country as some blogs stated the US dollar was traded, our tour guide asked for payment in Euros, and other travelers mentioned the Moroccan Dirham. We ended up converting most of our money to Dirhams while at the airport and just utilized ATMs around the city when we needed more cash. We did not end up converting any money to Euros. See below for the Moroccan dirham.

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Tipping. US culture is almost centered around tipping, so this is something that I always look to understand before traveling as I don’t want to accidentally offend anyone, either way. We did tip while in Morocco, our tour guide, other drivers, and in restaurants, mainly. Rule of thumb, tip anyone who provides a service. The standard seemed to be 10%, but for anyone who went above and beyond, we’d tip more.

Weather. Be sure to check the forecast before your trip. It is nearly sunny all year round in Morocco, but the mild winters can bring downpours of rain. Experts say that the best time to visit Morocco is either during the spring (mid-March-May) or fall (Sept-Oct). Weather can also vary depending on what part of the country you are in.

Visit my Instagram (@fitflyflournoy) and check my saved stories for more pictures and videos, including a tour of our riads and a closer look at the souks.

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And finally, the breakdown of the trip cost (per person/my personal spending)

Cost Activity/Event/Etc
 $         500.00 Roundtrip Flight
 $         231.80 Riad Lena & Spa
 $           54.77 Riad Tahra & Spa
 $           83.48 Lina Ryad & Spa
 $           56.72 Riad Andalla & Spa
 $           50.94 Bloc Hotel
 $         192.50 Morocco Daily Tour
 $         150.00 Food & Drinks
 $         150.00 Other Spending (Tours,Gifts, paintings, clothes, etc)
 $      1,470.20 TOTAL

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Morocco and suggest that travelers who also want to explore this beautiful country do so and visit multiple cities! The number of days allowed us to roam through the country at a steady pace that did not wear us out, but if you’re also looking to add time to do the Sahara overnight tour, I would either skip one of the cities that we visited or add more time to your total trip.  Flying into one country and out of the other can also help logistically!

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3 thoughts on “The Who, What, When, Where, and Why’s of Morocco Planning

  1. I really regret not staying in a riad when my hubby and I went to Marrakesh for our honeymoon, and seeing the pictures of your lovely riads really makes me jealous! And wow you managed to find such good deals when you were over there!

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    1. We were hesitant at first of staying in the riads after a bad Airbnb experience in France, but I’m really glad we did. If you ever manage to go back , definitely try to do so! They are so charming. And yes, we really did find great deals! I try to travel on a budget but still experience some sorts of luxury haha! Thank you for reading 🙂

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  2. It’s a little over my budget but I would have to deduct a few things especially flying from the UK and the amount of spas. I’m one of those people who enjoy walking around a new country. But thanks for this!

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