I’ve always hated tours. Generally, they are overly regimented and you end up doing very little of what you actually want to do. But when we went to Morocco, we felt there was almost no other option that would allow us to vacation there, and as it turns out, we were absolutely right. Here are some of the reasons we anticipated, and some we didn’t, that make taking a guided tour of Morocco the best possible option for touring the city.
First, is guaranteed reliable transportation within cities and around the country. After doing a little bit of research, I chose Experience It! Tours since they specialize in the northern Africa region. Their tour was private, which meant we wouldn’t have to be filing in and out of a bus full of strangers for an entire week, and the itinerary was a dream. But I’ll get to that. Whereas in most cities, you can easily get around on foot and public transportation, some of the most interesting cities of Morocco are not easily accessible by a high-speed train. So after arriving by air to Casablanca, you need a driver. Our tour included a private driver for our party and after experiencing a flight delay that put us at the airport a few hours late, he was still standing there holding up a sign, waiting for us. Our driver picked us up every morning for our full day of activities and dropped us off at night. He drove us from Casablanca to Fes, through the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh and back to Casablanca over the course of our trip. He was even kind enough to wait outside for us when dinner ran long. This man worked tirelessly to get us where we needed to be. We trusted him and he was our guide to his beautiful country. That kind of experience you really can’t get when you plan your own vacation.
Aside from transportation, our tour and guide provided another very important thing: safety. That’s not to say that Morocco is inherently unsafe. We found out we could get by on our own when we ventured on our own to the bars of Casablanca one night. But as people completely foreign to the culture and cities, it was imperative to have someone guide us through the tiny winding streets of the Medina in Fes and Marrakech. A person can get lost in there for weeks if they don’t know where they’re going. We knew before being unleashed on the streets who we should trust and who we shouldn’t and that if we got into trouble, we had our guide waiting for us. There’s a lot of be said for that kind of peace of mind.
The tour was also fully customizable, which meant we actually did get to experience the things we wanted, devoting more time to what was important and less to what we didn’t care as much about. Frankly, we didn’t have to do much tweaking to the itinerary which was awesome to begin with. But when things come up that required changes, our agents with the tour company were able to get that done with little to no hassle at all. For instance, a week before the trip, I found out that our airline, Alitalia, had changed our returning flight without notifying us. We had to return a day earlier and spend a night in Rome. Without a tour, we would have had to cancel a hotel or rebook a hotel last minute in Casablanca and rearrange our pre-existing transportation. With our tour, they cut our trip short one night and our return drive to Casablanca was pushed up without a problem. It’s nice to have someone else take care of all those logistical details.
Another thing that was totally worthwhile about the tour of Morocco was that it gave us access to experiences I would have no idea how to go about finding on my own. One of my favorite experiences on the trip, and one of the best experiences I’ve had on any vacation was our night in the Sahara. We were driven out to the edge of the desert where we had a delicious lunch of Berber pizza in a Tuareg village, where I also got myself a kick ass rug. Then we took a 4-wheeler deeper into the sand dunes where we relaxed and had drinks while they prepared our camels. We took off into the dunes in the afternoon atop our respective camels to a beautiful campsite made almost entirely of rugs and textiles. We watched the sun set over the sand dunes and had dinner and sang songs. And we went to sleep under the brightest sky you can imagine because in the middle of the desert, the only light for hundreds of miles is from the moon and the stars. Look, if I could arrange an experience like that, I would. But I couldn’t have done it without that tour.
The tour was also fairly cost-effective. Depending on the kinds of hotels you want to stay and the number of people, the price is very adjustable. We decided to stay in 3-star riads, which are traditional guest houses. And let me tell you, 3-star Moroccan riads knock the pants off some of our 4-star hotel chains. The places are all beautiful and the owners are welcoming and kind. You are always greeted with a warm cup of mint tea and a warmer smile. The hotels are all vetted by the company so you can be sure that they’re quality places. No taking chances with the guest reviews on Hotels.com. Many of your meals are also included which saves money but is also advantageous because in a country where you can’t Yelp restaurants, you want to have a guide take you places that are good and won’t get you sick. You’ll also benefit from getting really unique dining recommendations. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Berber pizza.