(Copyright Aussies In Morocco Tours).
We have first-hand experience and have read hundreds of reviews on Tripadvisor to ascertain the biggest complaints of travellers on returning from a holiday in Morocco. We concentrated in particular on reviews by Australians.
This exercise confirmed that some people will always see the glass as half empty, and that you can never please them because it is their mindset to be negative. One complained: “We saw lots of camel pooh during our camel trek over the dunes.” Ha ha.
It also highlighted how some holidaymakers really don’t exercise basic sound judgement and thus put themselves at risk. A case in point: another complainant who had stayed at an ecolodge at Ouarzazate mentioned that a waiter had offered to give her a massage but that later in her room he was “inappropriate”. In response the clearly distressed owner of the accommodation tried, in his broken English, to question why you would ask a waiter back to your room to give you a massage when the lodge offered a proper Hammam with lady masseuses.
Most travellers however do genuinely want to have a good time and are sensible. We nonetheless and naturally bring our own paradigms to an assessment of a situation. Sometimes we are “on the money” and sometimes there is a massive mis-communication issue.
In a nutshell: whenever doubtful or desirous please, please, please ask a relevant person and do so ASAP and certainly prior to taking concrete steps.
In the meantime, let’s go through the main concerns.
1 – Driving driving driving
People come to Morocco for say 10 days, purchase a tour that requires traversing large parts of an entire country and then complain about all the driving.
If you want less driving as a proportion of your total time in Morocco, then options include choosing a smaller part of the country to explore, opting for more time in particular locales and choosing a longer holiday time. You can always come back too, on your next trip to Europe. Morocco is only 14km from Gibraltar after all. How many of us travel more than that each day to get to work?
Also consider flying certain legs. We would suggest the Desert (Errachidia) – Fez leg is flyable as for us the one-two day drive doesn’t really add so much to the trip (unlike the Desert- Marrakech leg). Less money for us by the way, but that is fine.
(You might also like to check out our tours page here for maps of each of our tours with distance keys, together with tour descriptions that list the approximate driving time for each day of each tour.).
2 – Quick pit stops to see the views without an opportunity to explore
Also, if you want to explore somewhere en route, let your driver know the day before, so he can plan around that. If it makes his day longer, you might consider giving him an extra tip that day rather than waiting until the conclusion of the tour to pay him the usual, of about 10 euros for each day. You also need to be rather moderate with these requests because you paid for a particular tour and it was priced accordingly. Also the driver may feel he doesn’t have the liberty to adjust the tour like you ask, either. He has his “particular” job to do and there might be a certain lack of flexibility there, on his part. If you want to be sure, best to mention to us any variations when booking, so we can line up the dominoes for you ahead of your arrival.
3 – Lunch stop choices seem somehow dodgy
This is a surprisingly common concern.
The driver takes people on the same routes all the time. Naturally, he will become familiar with particular cafes and restaurants and be greeted warmly by their staff and management. Yes he will probably get a commission for taking you there. That is just the way it is; no minimum wage regulation in Morocco like we have in Australia. Also, they choose places where food is served promptly and where there are clean, western-style toilets.
We read one review where a woman complained because her driver took her and her friend to his family’s mud brick home for lunch. They were perplexed and wondered if they were expected to pay. Honestly, the driver wouldn’t knock it back if you offered some money for it. But why not? You have to pay for lunch anyway and these people are poor and what is the harm? It is not going to break the bank and is nice for him and for his family. But if you really want more control over lunch location – speak up and do so well before before lunch.
4 – Asked to pay for things you thought were covered & asked to pay a strangely large sum, for say, a bottle of water
When in doubt check with your driver or with us. There are rogues out there, but you may have also misunderstood something.
5 – Driver doesn’t seem to know much about the geography and history
These guys are Amazigh who grew up in the desert. They usually don’t have a university degree in tourism. They are drivers, not guides. You are asking them questions in their fifth language, in our Australian accent, while the wind from the car window is blowing, as they negotiate difficult corners and crazy Moroccan taxi drivers. Use Google. Wifi is pretty good in Morocco. By the way local city guides are certified and knowledgeable.
Meanwhile your drivers know the roads, the customs, the rules and the local languages and are good guys – anyone dodgy soon loses work and these guys can’t afford that. Plus they want that tip at the end of the tour, too.
6 – Tips
Yes, we Australians often have a snake in our pocket when it comes to tipping, because we have a different culture about it. Get used to the difference. We had to – we are Australian too. We’ll give you a tipping guide for your wallet.
7 – It’s fake, or somehow of less quality than is otherwise available
Do your research beforehand. We have a good range of trustworthy contacts to help you too. And so much information in our welcome pack, in our blog posts and in our facts sheets for clients only, to guide you to quality purchases. (Also, unless feeling particularly trustful, avoid giving your credit card details and don’t rely on promises to ship whatever you have bought, to you back home).
8 – The riad room was small, dark or caught a lot of noise, making sleep difficult
Riad accommodation has lots of pros, chief among them being authenticity. However they were originally designed for a hot climate, a communal lifestyle, for families and are old. This means rooms are often small, can be rather dark (for coolness) and will usually face inwards to the internal courtyard through which people pass, day and night. We suggest you request a suite and a quieter or more private room before we book, if you think these might be issues for you.
Also you might like to read our blog post about the pros and cons of various accommodation options here and specify any particular accommodation options to us at the time of booking. Be aware that our default position is to book riads where possible.
9 – Dodgy taxis and taxi bookings
If you are arranging a taxi yourself you could use the app that we refer to in our technology blog post here. If you are catching one on the street, agree on a price before you get in (having checked beforehand with your riad about the approximate cost for such a journey). Alternatively, agree with the driver that they will turn on the meter and charge you accordingly. However also remember you may well be arguing about “chicken feed” as my father used to say. Ask yourself whether it is worth spending half an hour of your holiday cross-examining a range of taxi drivers to find a taxi that falls into line 100%, over what may be a cost differential of the equivalent of a couple of Australian dollars. Most importantly: Keep it lighthearted!
There are many complaints on Tripadvisor about taxis booked by Riad staff for departing customers. They say the price is double what it “should” have been, the taxi was late, or they were asked to share with customers of other riads. Honestly I would say that sometimes a staff member at a riad might try to do a favour for his family member or friend and that it might also involve some personal kick-back to him, that is not sanctioned by the Riad. This is actually a bit of a difficult one. I think expatriate-owned Riads might be less tolerant of their staff behaving like this and perhaps long-term and senior staff are more reliable too.
Also though, westerners have to appreciate that if you book a taxi for 4am in the morning, during Ramadan, there are inevitably going to be issues concerning timing and availability of taxis that arise from the circumstances and not from poor service. There are many complaints on Tripadvisor that arise from a mere clash between western expectations and the Moroccan “way” as well as a lack of communication at the relevant time; possibly due to language barriers or urgency.
In the end, you may have to put it down to part of the “colour” of your adventure and keep it in perspective in terms of your overall experience in Morocco.
10 – Food is repetitive – our beef (ha ha)
We didn’t see this complaint much at all in the reviews, but it is something we notice.
You may well feel tagined-out by the end of your holiday. Because you are served them a lot, interspersed with brochettes (grilled meat, usually chicken, on skewers) and chips; whilst in Morocco. Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating another tagine-cooked meal. The dining ennui is exacerbated by the heat too and perhaps by the extra water you drink.
What’s the solution to “dining ground hog day”?
In the desert the cuisine remains simple. It is the ambiances that you can experience there that will give you variety in your dining: in a mud brick home in the village, with the nomads, under the stars as well as at your riad, perhaps at a local artists’ cafe. You may well need to suggest a change of venue and ask your driver or riad staff to take you there.
In the cities however there are some great tasting tours. If you do them early enough during your stay in a particular locale, you can garner for yourself some good ideas as to where it is worth eating in that particular town. We make some suggestions about where you can taste the best French cuisine in Marrakech in another blog post here.
Remember too that Fez is the foodie capital of Morocco and there are a wide variety of wonderful restaurants there. Ask us for dining suggestions for here, in Casablanca and in Marrakech.
If food is a big priority for you, choose an itinerary that involves visiting the cities sooner, when you are feeling at your freshest and most enthusiastic and can be bothered to make the extra effort for new food experiences, rather than later.
On the other side of the coin, or at the other end of the anatomy without getting too indelicate about it hopefully, ask our advice about limiting the risk of “Morocco belly”.
For further, publicly available insights see our blog posts on “Who are you?” here and “See, Slow down to explore, Ask” here. See also our “What to Expect” page on our website, here. Sorry if we repeat ourselves slightly again in this blog post, but it seems worthwhile to pull it all together under the topic of common complaints. We also have additional information available for clients only.
At the end of the day you are in another country, immersed in another culture and a little bit of “go with the flow” is required. It’s a balance between going with the flow and if it is important, asking the relevant question of the relevant people, first. No one gets it 100% right because we are human and life is sometimes more of a Pollock than Calculus! Richness of experience and all that.
Finalement ~ Bienvenue a tous!
Updated October 2021