- Don't listen to the people who are all worked up about what to wear in Morocco. Yes, it is a predominantly Muslim area, but they understand we are visitors.
- Ladies, the more skin you show, the more attention it will attract from men. I was very slobbily dressed, and still received an exasperating amount of attention. If you don't mind a continuous stream of suitors, then god's speed.
- Otherwise, long pants or a long skirt and a blouse is pretty standard. Head wear completely optional.
- Don't bother trying to blend in. They always know who the tourists are.
- Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. There are LOTS of men who will try to get you to come to their sahara tour. They will seek you out at bus stations, restaurants, in shops or even just walking in the street. They know all of the things to say to convince you, they have a book of photos.... If you are lucky, all they will do is charge you an exorbitant comission. The unlucky ones end up stranded in a crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere.
- Sadly, you can trust no one. No matter how nice they seem. They are good at what they do.
- If you are booking a trip of some kind, try to use an established company so you know you are getting the real deal.
- Get everthing in writing--a written agreement of the services that will be rendered and how much it will cost.
- Be wary of "deposits." This is the money they skim off and keep. I heard of some folks that arrived at their destination only to find that the company was requesting more money, because the agent took such a large portion. If you do pay a deposit, get a receipt.
- Be sure you ask all the right questions. Make sure your drivers and/or guides speak your language, check on the duration of transport, what sort of accomodation and food you will have, and how you will get to your next destination etc.
- Again, be sure to get all of this crystal clear up front so there are no surprises to hamper your experience.
- This for me, is a miserable process. It is a way of life there, everything--even taxi rides--have to be negotiated in advance, otherwise you will have an angry Moroccan demanding payment at the end. I hate this.
- NEVER TAKE THE FIRST PRICE. Shoot to pay no more than 50% of what they first said, preferrably about 25% of the original price. If they persist and don't lower the price, feign dissinterest and start to leave the shop. Generally they will call you back with a better offer. If they let you go, then they honestly can't go any lower.
- Every time you begin to look in a shop, they will ask where you are from; I avoid this line of questioning, and divert to some other topic. If they know you are from the US, UK or Germany, their prices will be much higher, while people from France, Spain and Australia get a lower start price.
- Learn some Arabic (or even French) phrases : Salaam Aleikum--Peace be with you/Hello, Shokram bezef--Thank you very much, Marhaba--Welcome/You are welcome, Ashnu shmitik--what is your name, Shmitik ____--My name is _____, N'Shala--god willing, Mekken fluus--I have no money, Counting to 10: wahed, djoodj, klehta, araba, hamsa, seta, seba, sh'hmenia, t'seha, ashara... All of these things provide a little more cultural currency
- The longer you stay in a shop, the more invested they become and they are more likely to try to make the sale. I managed to get something for 80 durham that they began at 300 because I was there for so long.
- Shopkeepers assume that if you ask about the price, that you are really beginning a bargaining process. Browsing or window shopping is a foreign concept. We had some men get angry at us when we just walked away after asking the price of something, so be sure you know what you are getting into.
- Directions: There is a huge business of leading travelers to thier destination and then upon arrival putting their hand out with a pitiful expression. The nice ones just try to make you feel guilty, but I have heard of others who start shouting at you. Even worse, sometimes they lead you astray. My biggest request, I will consider this a personal favor, do not pay anything! The more people that pay them, the more this exploitation will continue. To avoid this problem, I tried to ask people myself, rather than wait for someone to come up to me.
- Begging: There is more begging here than anywhere I have been. Not only are there the standard sickly people, but there are also many women with babies attached to their backs, old women, young children and any number of other bedraggled folks. What you must understand is that giving to the poor is one of hte major tenents of Islam, so on more than one occasion I saw a local give them something. Use your own discretion, but just be prepared to be inundated.