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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Morocco For Less Cash-o! 4.9.11

Sorry, that was a bad play-on-words, but still, don’t you want to go everywhere for less cash? Yeah, me too. While I don’t know that much about Morocco, other than it is desert-y, sells a lot of handmade carpets and is close to Spain, I know that it would be a lovely place to visit and is high up on my travel list. Sadly, there are a lot of people who have no idea where Morocco is or Marrakech…or that Marrakech is in Morocco. Well, if you’re one of those people, let me enlighten you: Morocco is located in the Northwest corner of Africa, about half of it is covered by the Sahara Desert and Marrakech, though it’s the most well-known, is not the capital or the largest city. Those go to Rabat and Casablanca, respectively.

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Other fun facts: Morocco is run by a constitutional monarchy (meaning they have a king and a prime minister), besides Moroccan Arabic, they also speak Berber, French and Spanish and Morocco is mainly mountainous, but even so, still has over 33 million inhabitants. It is separated from Spain and the rest of Europe by the very thin Strait of Gibraltar and is bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s especially great for travel, because, not only is it budget-friendly, it appeals to many and it has warm/hot dry summers and the winters are mild and cool, though rainy. You won’t have to pack a parka and 22 pairs of woolly socks, which is nice when traveling in the fall and winter and also for generally packing light.

So, besides these textbook facts, what else will you find in Morocco?

  • Great surfing. Does that surprise you? Peak surfing season runs from October through April and you can see waves as high as 18 feet high. There are plenty of different beaches to choose from for a variety surfing opportunities and experiences.

  • Amazing food! I’ve only been lucky enough to eat Moroccan food at local restaurants, but I know from just that small sampling that genuine Moroccan food will be awesome. There are so many different spices and cooking techniques. I love lamb and yogurt, which are staples. You are more likely to find inexpensive chicken and beef dishes and a plethora of couscous. 

  • Easy transportation. Whether you want to see several cities or stay in one city your entire trip, it’s super easy to get around within the country. Rent a car and get around to different cities and experience more on your own schedule, take the train between major cities and only worry about your bags or take the bus around town. You can even save money and time by taking shared taxis, if you don’t mind being squished in with strangers.

  • Astounding historical sites. Historic sites are often three things: Super cool, educational (often in a fun way) and budget friendly! Here is just a small percentage of the interesting places to see in Morocco:
Fes el Bali
The oldest and walled part of Fes has the oldest university in the world and is also the largest car-free urban area in the world.

Jardin Majorelle
For a small entrance fee, enjoy the rare and exotic plant life of Morocco, varieties of birds and a museum full of Muslim artwork.

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
The largest mosque in the world that took 6,000 artisans 5 years to complete. It has room for 100,000 worshippers. You gotta see that, right?

The Saadian Tombs
Beautiful tombs built by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour for himself and his family. Thought to have been destroyed, they were found sealed up and perfectly preserved in the early 1900s.

  • Markets, markets and more markets! Haggle away for fantastic handmade and unique items. Moroccan markets are great places to shop for spices, rugs, wool, silk, hookas, trinkets and more!

Want more deals and tips everyday? “Like” Shereen Travels Cheap on Facebook and follow me onTwitter. You never know what great deal will pop up! Keep up with current sales, new products and websites and get more awesome tips in between blog posts!

Budget tips to make the most of your trip

  • Get a metered taxi. There are non-metered taxis everywhere. If you do get in one, make sure you agree on a price before getting in or putting your bags in the trunk. A metered taxi is safer and will often save you money on your trip. While taxis aren’t too expensive in the country, drives will try to get the most they can out of a tourist whenever they can.
  • Share a bathroom. If you don’t care about having an en suite bathroom, you can get a lower rate by choosing a hotel that has rooms that share one. Of course, even if you get a private room, you will be looking at reasonable room rates. Many even include breakfast, which already helps take a bit of the edge off travel expenses.
  • Don’t book ahead. I know, this is against ALL my beliefs for getting good lodgings, but if you really want to save money on your hotel, wait until you arrive and look for hotels that are off the main roads. You can find budget-friendly hotels, called Riads (homes converted into hotels), that are just as good as ones you can book online, but may lack a few amenities. You can negotiate lower prices this way.
  • Eat on the street. Morocco is full of street vendors that serve food at very affordable prices. If you aren’t afraid of eating from a cart, which I think is pretty fun no matter where you are, then you can save a bundle right here by grabbing lunch and snacks on the go. You can burn more calories this way, too.
  • Visit in the Spring & Fall. Not only will you have cooler weather, but there will be fewer tourists and airfare will be cheaper than it is all year. (Hint: Do not buy airfare late Spring or during the early Summer when travel sites are trying to get people to travel during the most expensive time of the year. Buy in Fall, Winter or early Spring or wait until late Summer to get airfare deals. They don’t want you to see better prices for a different time of year, because you may change your plans. Example – I will be traveling to Hawaii in late September. I know that airfare can be as low as $300 per person for a round-trip flight. Because Summer is the biggest travel season, right now tickets are almost twice as much, even if I check for September/October travel dates. In late July or August the prices will drop dramatically, saving me $600+ on airfare for two of us.)
  • Haggle. If you want to try your hand at browsing the souks (markets) and making a purchase, you can try to talk your way down to a more reasonable price. Don’t forget to not low-ball the kind Moroccan people (just as I suggest everywhere else), as these people make their living by selling their goods at the markets. Do make sure you’ve done a bit of homework, so you know what things are worth and you don’t get taken to the cleaners. (see tips for taxis)
Did you know you can subscribe to the Shereen Travels Cheap blog on your Kindle? No? Well, you can! Take Shereen Travels Cheap everywhere you go, get real-time updates when new posts are published, so you can read and enjoy STC at home, at work, on the train, in FranceDon’t have a Kindle? You can still use that fancy Kindle reading app, which is FREE, by the way, to read on your other web-enabled devices (iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc.).

Columbia Sportswear Men's Bora Bora Booney, Natural/Black, One SizeBring a hat, as the desert sun can be quite brutal if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outside. It’ll protect your head from the sun and shield your eyes. You can find nice looking, packable ones (meaning you can crush them in your luggage with no issues) at REI, Columbia, ExOfficio and more outdoor stores. You’re bound to find something that will suit you.

Supergoop! Organic Double, SPF 30, UVA/UVB for Face and Body (1.6oz)On the same note, bring lots of sunscreen (or bring some and buy more there). You don’t want your vacation ruined on the first day – or any day – by broiling like a lobster and then being ouchy for the whole rest of your trip. This happened to me on our trip to Cancun. Luckily, it was the next to last day, but then I had to wear normal clothes on my way back home and everything hurt when it touched my burnt skin. Longest. Plane ride. Ever.

If you put on sunscreen, but then forgot to reapply, like I obviously did on the beach in Cancun, get yourself a fancy set of these UV SunSense Wristbands. They are easy to use and 100% recyclable. You put on a wristband, apply your sunscreen (to the wristband, too) and go outside. You will notice that once sunscreen is applied, you wristband will change color to purple. When the color fades, it’s time to reapply. When the color is totally gone, it’s time to go inside! Pretty easy and saves you from a nasty burn.

You’re gonna want to bring home some fabulous finds from your trip, aren’t you? Anticipating this is the first step to not stressing about packing your bags to go home. The Travelon Pack-Flat Back-Up Carry-On Bag is your solution! Get one of these back-up bags before you go, toss it in your travel bag (makes a nice flat surface between layers of clothing to make packing a bit easier, too) where it takes up little space, then when you are coming home with all your goodies, unzip it and create a full-size carry-on bag that is durable and will fit right under the airplane seat. I love mine and tell everyone to get one. It fits a ton of stuff, is lightweight and you can toss your purse and snacks in it and use if for your “personal item”. We packed, like, 50 lbs of purchases in ours on our last trip and the handles are still firmly attached, so it’s pretty durable. Lesser bags would have cracked under the pressure and just fallen apart, literally. I’ve bought a lot of those when I’ve overestimated my available bag space (or completely disregarded it as a problem).

I am entered into a competition to win $500 for the most liked blog on the site BlogSynergy. If you could take a moment to go THERE and click the “like” button, I would be forever grateful. I’ll thank you in advance, because I know you guys are awesome! (You don’t have to be a member of the BlogSynergy site, but you do have to be a member of Facebook. If you don’t already like me there, too, just pop on over and do it now…then you can get back to reading.)

Let’s make it to 50 readers on this blog!
Shereen Travels Cheap has several fantastic and fun prizes to give away, but I’d like to make them goal-oriented. I know there are a lot of readers that come by each week to read the new content here, which is great! What would be even better is if you guys would also subscribe to the blog – either on Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs – so I know how many of you are repeat customers. Once the total between the two reaches 50 readers, I’ll be giving away some great wine-related travel products. Being able to ship back or bring back your favorite wines from your travels in your checked luggage make a nice souvenir for yourself and others that weren’t lucky enough to go on your trip with you. This giveaway will be a perfect solution to that! The faster we get to 50, the faster we can start giving away prizes! We will do another one at 100, 150 and so on.

iGo goes everywhere you go.
You all know how much I love my iGo. It even has accessories! I’ve done away with all my wall adapters when I travel. I take my iGo and all my corresponding tips in a small bag and leave all the others at home, except for my netbook charger. I have a splitter to charge two devices at once and a USB plug to charge something while playing on my computer.
You want to get your very own, don’t you? Free would be even better, too, so listen up. Go to my Facebook page to enter to win one of three sets. These sets will get you on your way to being a more space-saving and efficient traveler and packer. Each set includes a wall adapter, a car adapter (for road trips and rental cars) and 3 tips – mini USB, micro USB and Apple for your iPod, iPhone, etc. – to get you started. If you have other electronic devices that you take with you, like your Nintendo DS, Kindle and other mobile phone, you can purchase additional tips for those. You can purchase at your local Radio Shack or you can search Amazon for tips. I find they have many more available at sale prices on Amazon, and it’s the only place you can buy the tip for Kindle. This giveaway ends on April 14 and the winners will be chosen on April 15 and given 48 hours to respond before I pick someone else.

Come over to the Frugal Living Community and join in money-saving discussions with me and my other frugal friends. You can join other discussions, too, and learn how to save money on fashion, groceries, travel and more! Blog Frog is a fantastic site that is comprised of bloggers and blog readers who share the same interests. In addition to joining different communities (Frugal Living is NOT the only one, just the one where I am a community leader and share most of my money-saving ideas), you can find other blogs that interest you, interact with other bloggers/readers and make new friends.

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