When planning for a trip to Morocco, it’s easy to focus on labyrinthine souks, exotic scenery and mouth-watering cuisine. However, a little studying up on the local currency will ensure that you are knowledgeable about exchange rates and that you can easily access cash so that you can enjoy your tours in Morocco to the fullest.
The dirham (pronounced “DEER-hem”) is the currency of Morocco. The plural form in standard Arabic is dirahim (pronounced “dih-RA-him”), although it’s common to use the word “dirhams” in English and French. Dirham is commonly abbreviated as “dh.” One santim (pronounced “san-TEEM”), which comes from the French word centime, is worth 1/100 of a dirham and is abbreviated c. It is rare to see a coin smaller than 20c these days, however, you will come across 50c, as well as 1dh, 2dh, and 10dh coins. Paper notes come in denominations of 20dh, 50dh, 100dh and 200dh respectively.
In small shops or markets, you may be quoted a price in francs. This can be a little confusing, since the some Moroccans may use franc to stand for the equivalent of a dirham when speaking French, while the traditional usage of franc typically refers to 1/10 of a dirham.
Exchange, Banks, & ATMs
The dirham is officially designated as a closed currency, which means that it can only be legally traded within Morocco. Despite this regulation, small amounts of dirhams are usually available for exchange at larger travel agencies and at a few major airports (notably in the UK and France). While it is technically against the law to take dirhams outside of Morocco, the import and export of the currency is tolerated up to a limit of 1000dh.
If dirhams are not available to you in your home country, don’t panic. All international airports in Morocco have a currency exchange counter. Exchange rates are fixed by law and charging high commissions is forbidden, which means that there are very small differences in fees between banks and exchange counters.
In larger cities, banks abound. Remember to bring your passport and always ask for a receipt following a transaction. Note that many banks close during lunchtime and that during Ramadan and summertime, many banks are only open until 2pm or 3pm. The most convenient and best option for travelers is to withdrawal funds using a debit card at one of the many ATM machines (commonly called a guichet automatique) located throughout the country. While ATMs tend to thin out in rural areas, they are plentiful in the cities, with more than twenty ATMs in the vicinity of the medina in Marrakesh alone. You can search for ATMs all over the world here for Cirrus/Maestro and here for Plus. Check with your bank to ensure that your PIN will work and to find out about any fees or commissions. Save all exchange and ATM receipts in order to facilitate the exchange of any leftover dirhams back into your local currency.
Credit cards are accepted in modern shopping centers, fancier restaurants and large hotels. Contact your bank before you leave to find out about any exchange rate fees. Traveler’s checks are not recommended for use in Morocco and are becoming less useful; banks often charge high fees to exchange them.
Tipping & Common Costs
Tipping is customary in Morocco. Guides, chauffeurs, as well as hiking and trekking guides are typically tipped between 100dh and 200dh per day. At larger restaurants, check the bill to see if a service charge has been added. If not, 10% of the bill is a nice tip to reward good service, although Moroccans generally tip slightly less. In a smaller restaurant or cafe, anywhere between 2dh and 5dh is fine. Parking lot attendants should be paid 2dh to 5dh (more in heavily trafficked areas) and are usually tipped an extra dirham or two on top of the parking fees. Gas station attendants are usually tipped a few dirhams as well after they have pumped your gas. Taxi drivers are generally only tipped for helping with baggage. Porters at hotels are usually tipped between 10dh and 20dh, depending on the amount, size and weight of the luggage. Hotel cleaning staff members are not tipped as a rule, but tips are always appreciated.
The prices of some services in Morocco are much lower than in North America and Western Europe. A short taxi ride within city limits in a small taxi (called a petit taxi), for example, will cost around 5-7dh. You can purchase a cup of coffee or soft drink for around 5dh. A glass of orange juice from a stall in the main square of Marrakesh, known as the Djemaa el Fna, will run you 3dh. A regular djellabah, the traditional garment worn by men and women, can be had for between 180-300dh. Keep in mind that in the souks and smaller shops, bargaining is absolutely expected.
With just a little advance planning, you won’t find yourself short of cash while scouring the markets for the carpet, tea set or babouches of your dreams!
Photos by Paul Carrington on Flickr
Journey Beyond Travel has a variety of unique itineraries that allow you to experience the real Morocco. Our Eclectic Tour gives you an overview of the country’s highlights in both culture and landscape, while our Imperial Cities Tour takes you to the most inspiring locations including museums, UNESCO sights, and more. We also have various trips to the Sahara Desert of Morocco. Enjoy our website, quality articles, and feel free to join us on Facebook and Twitter.