I hadn’t really planned on going to Morocco. But I couldn’t stay in Europe the entire summer on my basic visa, and I wanted to cross Africa off my list anyway, so after Barcelona I booked a 36-hour-long ferry to Tangier – which in itself is a whole ‘nother ordeal that you should never put yourself through. Morocco was supposed to be a cheap little enclave in which I could kill some time. Then I left the country. I checked my bank account, and realized that just like the legion of trinket slingers lining the streets, the country as a whole was tricky as hell about how much it cost. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security because the money happens to have a favorable exchange rate.
Morocco uses the Dirham (MAD), and the exchange rates are as follows:
$1 USD = 9.73 MAD
$1 CAD = 7.31 MAD
$1 AUD = 6.82 MAD
€1 EUR = 10.87 MAD
£1 GBP = 14.72 MAD
As a rule of thumb, many merchants will peg it to an even 10 MAD = $1 USD. It’s tricky, because normally when you see this kind of exchange rate, it’s somewhere like Southeast Asia, and you could literally buy a bar with the shit that falls out of the hole in your pocket. When you have a large amount of currency on hand, it’s easy to think of it as being more disposable. This was my downfall. Don’t let it be yours.
I’m gonna set this budget guide in Rabat, the capitol city of Morocco. It lacks the bawdiness of Marrakech while still being typical enough of mainstream Morocco. It’s a good town. Make it a stop.
The Cheap Day
- Guys, if you’re deadset on staying in a hostel, that’s cool, I’m not gonna stop you. But if you’re really trying to do things cheaply, you’ve gotta try Couchsurfing. Of all the countries in which I tried it, Morocco gave me the most offers to host. They regularly searched for people visiting their cities and wanted to show them a good time. It truly is the best way to travel the country. A cheap hotel/hostel will run you 60-70 MAD, and bathrooms are shared between the entire floor. Seriously. Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing.
- Like Southeast Asia, some of the best food you can find is street food from the local markets up near the train station and the Medina. You’ll find fruits, smoked meats, ice cream, and more for 2-6 MAD. If you wanna fill up, spend around 10-15 MAD, bringing you to around 20-45 MAD/day for food, depending on how often you eat.
- Morocco has loads of fun, free things to do for the cheap day, so don’t even sweat pretending to be hungover just for an excuse to stay inside. We all know you didn’t buy any alcohol last night. Try the Medina and Kasbah, which is free, but watch out for the guys trying to give you a tour. They’ll show you around for two minutes and then demand a hefty tip. Also check out the Mausoleum of Mohammed V for more culture, or, if you come on the right dates, the Mawazine festival.
- Getting around the city can usually be done just by walking. It’s really not bad, and that’s in one of the biggest cities in the country. If you’re going far enough that you can’t bear the thought of walking, then give yourself a budget of at least 20 MAD for the trips.
You know what? That’s about all you’re going to do on a cheap day in Morocco. It’s a great city, but it’s easy enough to make it through the day without blowing your money on everything. The problem is that, because everything is so cheap, you’re not really going to want to have too many cheap days. That’ll come back to bite you.
Total: 90-130 MAD ($9.24-13.36 USD)
The Average Day
- Assuming you’re not couchsurfing – and again, why? – you’ll probably want a slightly better room than the terrible one you slept in the night before. The low-end hostels in Morocco are usually hot, dirty, ridden with bugs, and with bad water. You can upgrade to a private room in a low-end hotel, or a dorm room in a better hostel, for around 110 MAD/night.
- If you feel like having an actual breakfast (the street markets often don’t run early in the morning), then check out the literal hundreds of cafes everywhere. Seriously, Moroccans love to sit in cafes and drink tea. You will never have to walk further than a minute to find one. You can get a decent breakfast of eggs, toast, and even a milkshake for as little as 25 MAD at a place like Cafe 7éme. You can probably get it cheaper, but it will be less satisfying.
- If you’re going to explore even more of the city, assume you’ll take a taxi again, at least one way. It’s so easy to spoil yourself here. Again, make sure the taxi meters are on, and you shouldn’t spend more than 20 MAD in the course of the day.
- There’s probably more interesting free things in Rabat than there are paid attractions, but regardless, you may end up spending a minute somewhere that charges. The Mohammed VI Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, is Morocco’s first contemporary art museum and hugely worth the visit for the street art exhibit alone. It charges around 40 MAD for entry.
- You could go to another restaurant for dinner, but in my experience, the best way to enjoy food is to simply pass through the medina and buy more bites. You won’t know what the hell you’re eating sometimes, but it’s salty and cooked, and that’s good enough most of the time. Call it another 15 MAD for the evening.
Now, in most of my budget guides, I simply assume that you’re a raging alcoholic and that you’ll be going out most nights. Morocco turns that on its head, because as a predominantly Muslim country, alcohol isn’t allowed in most places. All those dudes you see sitting around at 2 am? They’re drinking tea and pretending. Of course, you could find it, but because of its scarcity, I really can’t justify including it here. I’m sorry for letting down my more rambunctious readers. Go to bed. Rest up for another country.
Total: 210 MAD ($21.58 USD)
The Splurge Day
- Now let’s say you wake up in your decent room looking over a square and think, “hey, I’m a backpacker, but my money goes further here. Why not live a little and try to bring back a girl tonight?” Joke’s on you, because most hotels don’t give you a key. You have to be let back in every night by the owner, and he’s not going to let anybody in with you. But it’s too late. You’ve already booked a nice, private hotel room for 230 MAD/night.
- Here’s the thing about a splurge day in Morocco. Everything is so cheap that you don’t realize you’re even splurging until you finish. So you’ll look at that 35 MAD breakfast, thinking it’s only about $3.50 USD, and you’ll buy it without considering that that’s expensive by Moroccan standards.
- Though they are few and far between, Morocco does have the occasional expensive excursion. You could take a Grand Taxi to another town for the day, or you could pay a professional guide to take you through the Medina (actually very worth it, though they will occasionally bring you to their friends’ shops just to get you to buy things). A Hammam is an amazing experience, though those prices fluctuate a bit more depending on whether you go to a Tourist spot or a Local spot. These tours can run up 100-150 MAD, depending on where you go. If you fold in another 20-30 MAD for transportation, it starts to run up the bill.
- Even on a splurge day, you’ll probably want something relatively easy for lunch, so plan on spending around 15-25 MAD on something to tide you over. Dinner is another story. Morocco has amazing food, and you won’t forgive yourself if you never try a single decent restaurant. Especially considering for only around 70-150 MAD, you can get a meal that would cost upwards of $60 somewhere else.
- Now, I mentioned earlier that Morocco, as a Muslim country, isn’t exactly frothing at the lips to give you a place to make an ass of yourself. But if you’re really dedicated to getting drunk – and keep in mind this is the country that sued J-Lo for shaking her ass too much – then you can find expat bars like Upstairs or Le Deux Palais serving pints for 30 MAD. There are even Western-style clubs, but they happen to have Western-style prices, and a single drink can run as high as 100 MAD.
See, this is what I mean. On a splurge day like this, and granted they don’t happen often, you’ll have spent up to $90 USD. That’s the kind of money I spent in Europe. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, since you should be planning your budgets anyway. But if you go to Morocco on a whim like I did, don’t be shocked when your spending doesn’t decrease.
Total: 500-880 MAD ($51.38-90.44 USD)
Weekly & Monthly Budgeting
- Rent: 3000-7000 MAD/month at an apartment, 500-700/week at a hostel. Feel free to haggle a bit, especially if you’re booking a full week at a time. Some hostel owners, especially those that put their rates online, are less amenable to this process. If you have multiple people, it’s worth it to check out an AirBNB.
- Groceries: 200 MAD/week should be enough for food, though it depends on how fancy you’re getting. Moroccan food can be cheap to cook.
- Phone: 5-50 MAD/month depending on the plan you get.
- Travel: 500 MAD/month will get you multiple rides between cities and a few rides within them.
- Drinking: 500 MAD/month might be pushing it, since there are so few opportunities to really let loose. But if there’s at least three nights a month that you can get rowdy here, then 500 seems like a decent estimate.
- Restaurants: 1000 MAD/month would average to about 33 MAD a day, or roughly 1.5 decent meals. If you’re also buying some groceries, this is an okay estimate to run with.
- Tours: 1500 MAD/month gives you enough for one big tour (say, into the sand dunes of Merzouga) and a few little Hammams here and there.
- Assorted Buffer: Morocco’s a great country, but it’s the type of place to rip off tourists if you’re not careful – especially the taxis. Give yourself another 200 MAD/month minimum just in case.
Total: 6750 MAD/month mimimum ($693.73 USD)
Cost of Transportation
- Intracity Tram: There’s only a few lines, but they’re only 6 MAD for a ride, so if they’re going your
- Intracity Taxi: Taxis are a good option (make sure it’s a petite taxi and not a grand taxi), and usually cost between 6-25 MAD for a trip. Just make sure the meter is on and you’re not getting ripped off.
- Intercity Bus/Train: There are a few different ways to get between cities, but the buses and trains are probably the easiest. Schedules for both can be found at ONCF, and a basic one way ticket will probably cost between 80-130 MAD depending on where you’re going and what class ticket. Keep in mind that the basic ticket only gets you on the train… it doesn’t guarantee you a seat.
- Intercity Taxi: There are also Grand Taxis in Morocco – 30 year old cars with seating for 8 that run shorter intercity trips. These are more expensive, as they expect the cost to be split between 8 people. If you decide to take one, you’ll have to pay for whatever empty seats are left, and the trip in total can be up to $30 USD. Be cautious.