Like most humans, I hate to worry about money.
Other than crossing your fingers and sending out positive vibes into the universe, there are indeed magical steps you can take to make Morocco freaking awesome! We’re going to do this post cheat-sheet style. There are so many tips that if I narrate them, I’ll lose all my fingers and followers.
[If you haven’t read my post on need-to-knows about Morocco, I’d advise you to skim that over before reading the rest of this post. This will be easier to follow if you get the general gist of the society.]
Let’s hop to it! 🐰
#1 – 💵=🤴 (Cash is King)
- Credit cards (CCs) are widely accepted in the newer cities/major business hubs (read: Casablanca, Rabat)
- If you’re planning on going for the urban experience, CCs can be sufficient as long as you have enough cash for taxis; if you’re planning on going for traditional culture/venturing into rural areas, CCs are useless
- Some restaurants in tourist areas also now accept CCs, but cash (Dirhams – MAD) is still the major method of payment (e.g. entrance fees for tourist destinations are still cash-only)
- MAD is a closed currency
- You’ll get a horrible exchange rate outside of Morocco since it technically isn’t supposed to circulate outside the country
- Moroccan currency exchange in any major city > Moroccan airport exchange > Home airport exchange ≈ Home currency exchange
#2 Hacking Currency Exchange – 6 Steps to Getting Bang for Your Buck
- Ask your riad/hotel to pick you up at your point of entry, so you won’t need to pay for a taxi ride
- Bring any strong major currency (e.g. EUR/GBP/USD/CAD/AUS). New bills only. Old bills will not be accepted at any currency exchange
- Ask your riad host/hotel front desk to hook you up with the best place to exchange currency. They know the best desks!
- At the currency exchange, you should receive a receipt stating the amount you exchanged. Keep it. You’ll need that to exchange MAD back to your currency of choice when you leave
- Chances are, you’ll receive a ton of 200 and 100 bills, a few 50 bills, maybe one or two 20 bills, and a tiny bit of spare change. This is the complete opposite of your desired situation
- Break large bills (200 and 100 MAD) in major establishments/restaurants. The goal is to have as many small bills (50 and 20 MAD) and coins as possible, as they’re more convenient
- You will be less susceptible to scams
- If you do the desert circuit, you’ll need to pay for bathrooms on the road to Merzouga. They cost 1 or 2 dirhams, so having a 200 bill will not do you any good.
#3 – Credit Cards
- Can be used in urban establishments
- May be finicky: some places can only accept Moroccan credit cards, despite the universal VISA/Mastercard designation (e.g. ONCF – the train company – website)
- Use your CC if it gives you favourable exchange rates and transaction fees that don’t add up to cost a kidney on the black market
- If you don’t have this and are feeling iffy about bringing a lot of cash, look into some pre-paid debit cards
- If you live in the UK or EU, there are some awesome prepaid cards with which I’ve had first-hand experience
#4 – ATMs…
- Are available as long as it’s a city large enough to have a bank
- Can be a nightmare
- Three machines from different banks all couldn’t recognize my two debit cards as foreign and seeking an exchange transaction. My cards got declined for not having any MAD in the accounts, even though the machines were clearly marked with the universal VISA/Mastercard sign
- A girl I briefly travelled with had her card eaten by a machine on a Sunday, when banks are all closed. According to our tour guide, the machine will eat your card if you attempt to make two transactions, as a theft-prevention mechanism. The machine automatically assumes your card has been stolen and the thief is drawing out your savings
- Remember: always select, “no conversion” when prompted
- Takeaways: bring extra cards, and bring cash assuming the worst (thank god I had some spare CAD, USD, and GBP tucked away. The guy working the exchange counter was flabbergasted when I tried to exchange 4 USD. Desperate times.)
#5 – People will try to convince you to pay in Euros
- This may be accompanied with the declaration that 10MAD/EUR (10 MAD = 1 EUR)
- EUR is typically a little stronger than this. Know the prevailing rate and be smart about it.
#6 – Bargain like you’re broke
The first price is never the real price. It helps if you have some bargaining tactics up your sleeve. I’ll do a post soon with some strategies.
#7 – Things are hella cheap!
We went all out for our last meal in Morocco, and it totalled 180 MAD each, roughly 16 EUR per person. We’re talking about multiple courses here. And every dessert on the menu.
To make the most out of your trip, stop converting prices back to your home currency. No matter how you do the math, the prices won’t be that bad. The first quoted price may not seem crazy high in terms of EUR or GBP, but the real question is, what are the locals paying? That should be your standard.
Okie dokies, I hope this helps ’cause I’m out.
Holla at me in the comments section if you’re curious/confused and want a longer explanation about the closed currency, the exchange receipt, ATMs, or anything else. Just lemme know and I’ll be happy to help!