Money in Morocco
The Moroccan dirham is used as the local currency, and its ISO 4217 symbol is MAD ( also sometimes abbreviated as Dh, Dhs, DH, or درهم, or دراهم, the plural of Dhm). It is split up into 100 cents (c).
There are coins in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1, 2, 5, as well as 10 dirhams, but those smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Banknotes are in denominations of 20, 50, 100, and 200 MAD.
While the dirham is the only currency officially accepted in Morocco, some hotels also unofficially accept your euros and US dollars.
Important note: Dirhams are generally not allowed to be exported or imported. At the time of writing, a tolerance of MAD 1000 applies to tourists; see the Moroccan Customs website for more information.
Money exchange: It is illegal to take more than 1,000 MAD of local currency out of the country, so you cannot buy dirhams outside Morocco. By law, exchange rates should be the same at all banks and official exchange offices. Make a note of the exact rates before you leave to make sure you get a fair deal.
In larger cities, there are often ATMs near the main gates, but you won’t find many banks in the souks and medinas. You may also meet “helpful” people who will exchange US dollars or euros for dirhams. Unofficial money exchange on the streets outside the souqs or medinas does not seem to exist.
Besides banks and special exchange offices, the large post offices also offer exchange and work until late in the evening. There are several exchange offices at Casablanca airport. Make sure you keep all receipts, as this will make it much easier to exchange leftover dirhams into your own currency before you leave – official exchange offices will not exchange money without a receipt, even if you originally withdrew the money from an ATM.
ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern shopping districts of the Ville Nouvelle. Make sure the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before inserting your card. Also note that they are not replenished at weekends in smaller towns, so get enough cash for the weekend on Friday or Saturday morning.
Try to have as much small change as possible and hide larger notes separately.
What to buy in Morocco?
In addition to the classic tourist souvenirs such as postcards and trinkets, there are some things from this region that are hard to find or even unique elsewhere:
- Leather goods: Morocco has a really big production of leather goods. The markets are full of mediocre models and designer shops are hard to find.
- Argan oil and products made from it, such as soap and cosmetics.
- Tagines: Classic Moroccan clay cooked dishes enhance the oil/water based dishes you prepare when you want to bring Morocco into your home kitchen.
- Birad: Classic Moroccan teapots.
- Djellabah: Classic Moroccan designer bathrobe with hood. Often in intricate designs and some are suitable for warm weather, while other heavier models are for the cold.
- Rugs: Genuine handmade Berber rugs can be bought directly from the artisans who weave them. If you travel to smaller settlements like Anzal in the Province of Ouarzazate, you will be able to visit the weavers, and see them at work, they will offer you tea and show you their products.
If you are looking for T-shirts, consider designer pieces from Kawibi – they look much more inspiring than boring traditional motif sets. They are available in duty-free shops, at the Atlas Airport Hotel near Casablanca and other places.
What you should not buy in Morocco
- Geodes: Pink and purple coloured quartz are common, along with fake galena geodes, often called “cobalt geodes”.
- Trilobite fossils: If you are not an expert, you will most likely buy a fake.
Haggling in Morocco
Remember that haggling is expected in the souks. It’s not really possible to give an exact indication of what price to start haggling at, but a general idea would be to aim for around 50% off. Prices are set daily or even hourly, depending on how much has been sold on a given day (or in a given period of time), and at the same time reflect the seller’s personal assessment of the potential customer. Souks often reflect the basic economic principles of supply and demand, especially on the demand side. If a particular trader has sold a lot of goods, he may raise the price and refuse to sell any more goods for the rest of the day (or days), if the price is not substantially a lot higher than normal. When there are many tourists around, prices go up and it becomes very difficult to bargain even small amounts off the asking price. In addition, the seller will usually inspect the client, whose clothes and possessions (especially if the potential client owns an expensive Swiss watch, camera, etc.) are usually the main indicator of how high the price can be set above the usual. But the attitude of the potential client is also taken into account.
Taking all these and other factors into account (such as time of day, day of the week, season, etc.), The initial price can be up to 50 times higher than the regular price, particularly for high value items like carpets. Nevertheless, carpet is a quite special item which requires you to have at least a general knowledge of their production process and their quality. If possible, the ability to distinguish between handmade and machine-made carpets, hand dyeing and the like is helpful to avoid being completely ripped off.
Haggling is a pleasant experience for most salespeople and they prefer customers who do not seem rushed and are willing to take the time to negotiate. Most of the time it is actually necessary to give reasons why you think the price should be lower. The reasons you can give are only limited by your imagination and often lead to very entertaining discussions. Common reasons can be: the price of the item elsewhere, the item is not exactly what you are looking for, the fact that you have already bought other items from the stall/shop, that you have built up a relationship with the seller after discussing football and so on. On the other hand, if after some time there is little movement in the price, the best advice is to leave. This often has the result of getting the bidding going again, and if not, it is likely that the dealer is actually unwilling to go further below a given price, however absurd.
It is also important to show a genuine interest in the workmanship of the product for sale, no matter how disinterested you actually are in what you are buying. However, this does not mean that you should appear overly enthusiastic, as this will encourage the seller to maintain their price. Rather, it is important to show a critical appreciation for each item/object. Any defects are either unacceptable or another opportunity to bargain down the price.
You should make sure that you never start bidding for unwanted items or give the seller a price that you are not willing or able to pay (with cash on hand). Try to avoid paying by credit card at all costs. If you do pay by credit card, never let it out of your sight and ask for as many receipts as possible. There is usually a credit card swipe and an official shop receipt.
Never tell a salesperson where you are and never tell him or her how much you have paid for other purchases. Just say that you got a good price and that you want a good price from him or her too. And above all: never be afraid to say “no”.
It must also be said that, as with buyers, not all sellers are actually very good at what they do. A seller who is completely uninterested or even aggressive is unlikely to offer a good price. Continue.
Not least if you spend your entire holiday in one place, especially in smaller, touristy towns: Vendors deal with tourists all the time. Most tourists buy souvenirs just before flying home, most tourists try the “walk out” trick as part of their bargaining strategy. It is not uncommon for tourists to haggle over a carpet on a Friday, walk out and when they come back the next day expecting a lower offer, the price actually goes up. The seller knows that you are likely to catch a flight the same day and that your second visit is actually your last chance to buy the carpet….