Advice on private tour Morocco

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Aug 23rd, 2017, 12:04 PM
  #1
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Advice on private tour Morocco

I was looking for some advice - My husband and I are active 60 year old Canadians planning to spend 3 weeks in Morocco (dates yet to be finalized, but tentatively between Mid October to late November We are hoping to get a private guide and driver to see/do the following:

1/ While we prefer less touristic places we are keen to experience Marakesh, despite that. In Marakesh we want to stay in a Riad, tour the market both day and night, tour the winding streets with a guide and perhaps do a food tour of the night market.
2/ Have an authentic Hamman experience somewhere in Morocco (we heard the public ones might be most authentic but???)
3/ Not too keen on Casablanca at all but if we have to be there briefly we would enjoy seeing the Mosque Hassan. Is this reasonable?
4/ if in the area, Volubilis interests us but not a must
5/ Chefchaouen seems like a must for us (I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer)
6/ Fez and the tanning beds
7/ A camel ride in the Sahara Desert and sleeping in a Berber tent.
8/ See the Argan trees with the goats in them wherever that is (important to me)
9/ A cooking class in Tagine somewhere
10/ Erfoud might be a nice stop for some date tasting
11/ Essaouria , and other coastal areas to watch surfers enjoy the beaches and swim (perhaps Sidi Kaouki, Agadir ???)
12/ Perhaps Erg Chigaga would be good as well as we heard it is interesting
13/ Some hiking for a few days in the mountains( guided and overnight with someone or donkey carrying our things)

My questions are:

1/ Do we have enough time set aside (we are retired, so are flexible on dates)
2/ Are we missing anything important with this plan?
3/ Which airport should we fly into?
4/ Any advice on reputable operators to seek for guides?
5/ We hike regularly here in the Canadian Rockies - 10 to 20 kms with ~600m of elevation gain, but they are only 7 to 8 thousand feet max - so we are leery about the altitudes for the High Atlas, so think the Riff Mountains or Mid Atlas might be better??? We struggle in Vail and Breckinridge with altitude sickness so don't want to experience that.
6/ We were thinking of tagging in a trip to Barcelona and Seville as well (more time we know) - we want the best time for Morocco and not quite as worried about the best time for Spain.
7) Any suggestions for private tour companies?
Thanks

Tanya Collins
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Aug 24th, 2017, 02:23 AM
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Hi, Tanya
I'm in the midst of planning a 2+ week trip in April, so you might find my experience thus far useful. You might also look at Trip Advisor, as there is a much more active board for Morocco there than here. Be aware, though, that some of the more regular travelers of Morocco will consider this trip too fast-paced and suggest that you eliminate some of your intended stops.

I'm also posting this thread, which you might find helpful; I posted my finalized itinerary toward the end of the thread, and there is interesting information available on it as well:
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uen-report.cfm

I, too, looked for a company to provide me with English-speaking driver and occasional guides; while many do self-drive, I decided to have a driver so that we can cover a wide range of locations without having to deal with 1) navigating and 2) parking and 3) driving in and out of cities, which can be stressful. I also wanted us both to be able to enjoy the trip and any views without having to deal with the actual driving. I'm now working with a company, Berber Space Morocco, that seems to be doing everything I need and is, comparatively speaking, moderately-priced.

As I have not yet been, I don't have the hands-on knowledge to speak to the actual experience, but will do the best to give you my sense of things from my research planning:

1 & 2 -- In 3 weeks, I think you'll be able to cover the highlights comfortably. One way to find out if you're "missing" anything is to look at the different companies list of tours and see whether there is anything on the various itineraries that seem important. At the end of this, I'll mention several companies that I looked at closely, and each of them have a wide range of itineraries and will also customize them to your preferences.

3- Airports -- I'll be flying into Casablanca and out of Marrakech. Casablanca is the major hub so has more frequent flights in and out. Fes may be an option and so is Tangier, especially if you go to Spain prior to or after your trip. I found the best combo, timewise, was Casablanca and Marrakech.

4 & 7-As you see, I've already chosen a company that I found on the net. I've contacted someone who did travel with this company -- essentially a one-person operation --who gave him stellar praise, so I'm taking a chance, but feel pretty comfortable with our interactions so far.

I looked at a lot of companies and contacted 4; their prices ranged significantly. Do know that all of these companies will provide what you want -- however, they also work with their own riads and hotels and, in most cases, will not book outside of "their" accommodations that they work with. In general, those accommodations are all well-regarded, so it's only if you have preferred places that you want to stay in which might be an issue. I've been able to work flexibly with Berber Space, but I believe that it's not his usual way of working.

He will be providing guides for Fes and Marrakech; I don't know who they will be; I've just indicated that I don't want to be given the 'hard sell' for rug places, and am hoping for the best, but realize that this is a crap shoot! I've been to India so I've seen a range of types of guides!

The 4 companies I looked closely at were:
1) Berber Space Morocco - http://www.berber-space-morocco.com/
2) Morocco Expert Tours - http://www.moroccoexpertours.com/
3) Desert Majesty - http://www.desertmajesty.com/
4) Journey Beyond travel - https://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/

They were all responsive, and all have had good reviews both on Fodors and on Trip Advisor. The most immediately responsive was Morocco Expert Tours, who were very quick to get back to me and very eager with suggestions. I would've had no problem choosing them or Desert Majesty, and their prices seemed relatively close for the time frame I was looking at.

Journey Beyond Travel is a much higher end operation, definitely geared to the luxury traveler. The rates were so much higher than the others, but they also provided a very high end product. I wasn't looking for that, but their material certainly gave me ideas that I hadn't considered.

I'm not a hiker, and have some difficulty with extensive walking, so am not planning any hikes, but from the reading I've done, my sense is that you'd be fine with the hiking. Of course, you will get better answers from the agencies and from more experienced travelers -- Tim Cullis, who posts on this and other forums, would be able to answer those questions more accurately.

I hope that this helps in your own planning -- if you're going in the fall, then you'll have to come back and report what you found. I will be going next April and would love to read about how the trip turned out!
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Aug 24th, 2017, 12:09 PM
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Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I really appreciate it and will review the various suggestions. Good luck with your planning as well
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Aug 24th, 2017, 04:10 PM
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I hope you find it helpful!

I also want to clarify what I wrote earlier when I wrote about looking for companies for a driver and guide - when I write, "while many do self-drive", I'm referring to travelers who rent a car and tour independently. I thought it was a little confusing and sounded like I was referring to the companies I was researching.
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Aug 25th, 2017, 05:47 AM
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Thank you. I did understand what you meant but appreciate you clarifying it for me.
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Aug 27th, 2017, 03:47 PM
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Wow, WAY too many questions. But here's what I'll say. If you both are active and in reasonably good shape, and you have international travel experience, you do not need a tour to visit Morocco. And you should be able to see a great deal of the country in that time. We all travel differently, but I can't think of a greater hell on earth than to be cooped up with a tour for 3 weeks, telling me where to go, what to do and what time to finish up, day after day after day...

Morocco is a very easy country to navigate, albeit time consuming depending on your destinations. I had 15 nights and saw just about everything I wanted to see except the desert. Just buy a couple of guidebooks, highlight what interests you, map out a preliminary route and post it back here. You will get plenty of constructive feedback that you can use to refine your route further. That way, you end up with the trip that YOU want, not what one of the many generic travel agencies tell you that you want.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 10:48 AM
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I agree with MinnBeef, but let's face it, there are some people that need hand holding esp in an environment they perceive to be different or exotic.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 02:29 PM
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Come on Bedar, no need for snarkiness. I also had some reservations about Morocco before I went. I am thrilled that those small concerns were mostly unfounded. But it had nothing to do with Morocco being "exotic" and everything to do with it being me, a Westerner in a country that is nearly 100% Muslim in this day and age. Unless you are a Westerner that has lived with the almost daily barrage of carnage directed at Westerners, oftentimes within their own country, it's almost impossible to appreciate the concern that a Westerner might have traveling on their own to a country like Morocco.

I will say that I am soooo glad I visited Morocco and felt supremely comfortable and welcomed doing it on my own.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 02:30 PM
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AND I would go back.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 04:43 PM
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Unless I missed something, the OP was not enquiring about a group tour where she might be "be cooped up with a tour for 3 weeks, telling me where to go, what to do and what time to finish up, day after day after day..."

She asked, both on the subject line and in her question, specifically for a private tour. In that case, she'll presumably have a lot more input into where to go, how long to be there, etc.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 04:51 PM
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Yes, you may well be correct.
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Aug 28th, 2017, 05:18 PM
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CaliNurse, thanks for the comment - I was also thinking the same thing. The OP asked about a private tour, not a group tour -- there's a world of difference between the 2.

A private tour, at least in the way I'm approaching it, is having a small company that I'm working with who provides a driver and helps arrange accommodations and is available to make adjustments if we feel the need to suddenly make a change.

Given my own limited time and the desire to cover a fair amount of territory, it works out well for us to have someone drive us. It was the way we traveled in India and it allowed us a great deal of flexibility.
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Aug 29th, 2017, 09:42 AM
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There is no comparison between travel in Morocco vs India. A car & driver in India is often a good solution but Morocco is infinitely easier and when I realized early on how easy public transport can be - a much smaller country, a fraction of the population, information readily available, I found taking the train or one of the very nice coaches, I ceased using drivers in many locations and enjoyed it more. I particularly dislike the insulation of using a driver in Morocco. Best get one's information from those who have actually been there and make decisions based on that.

The problem with this thread is, as MinnBeef said, "Way too many questions".
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Aug 29th, 2017, 12:39 PM
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I was not comparing traveling in India to Morocco, but simply using it as an example to describe how I'm working with a small company to provide a driver and to help in organizing some of the aspects of the trip that I don't have time to do. I work full time in a stressful job and have 2 weeks for a vacation - it's nice to have help in the planning!

I'm sure if there is unlimited time, taking trains and buses would be fine, but I don't have that kind of time-- I want to cover a fair amount of distance and numerous locations so having a car makes sense. I did a fair amount of research and have a sense of the transportation options between places, so I'm making a choice that will work for us.

I considered renting a car, but don't want to be dealing with driving in and out of cities and finding parking. We've done that plenty and would rather not have to deal with it on this trip. Maybe you don't like having a driver, MmePerdu, but I've read enough reports by people who do appreciate the flexibility of a car and driver.

I don't think this thread is a "problem" - it seems to be helpful to the OP. Maybe even others who aren't comfortable writing here. I've shared my research with someone who I thought might appreciate the information I discovered as I'm in the midst of planning my own trip and have read a lot. I've read a lot of trip reports, forums and other online information and even guidebooks! And the OP asked about a private tour, so I was able to share that information. Maybe that's not the way all of you travel, but the OP was asking and I shared what I found.
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Aug 29th, 2017, 12:51 PM
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Alright then, you girls carry on.
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Aug 29th, 2017, 02:00 PM
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Snarky, Beefy ? No, I lived in Morocco for five years a long time ago, and that's the way people have always been, not just in "this day and age" but perhaps more so now. Hey, I wouldn't mind cruising around Morocco with a driver, if I had that kind of money, why not ? What one usually finds with Morocco is that people who go on a tour, group or private, will love it and feel confident enough having already been there to return on their own.
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Aug 30th, 2017, 11:37 PM
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Don't have the time to respond to all the questions, but here's some pointers.

The Test and Tichka passes in the High Atlas are 2100m and 2260m respectively, so height would only be a problem if you then went trekking. To convert metres to feet, multiply by three and add 10%.

You shouldn't use a guide all the time as this insulates you from the experience and you will learn less. I always self drive in Morocco.

Goats only climb Argan trees when they are in fruit. The main area for Argan trees is the western side of the country around Tafraoute and Essaouira.

Argan oil is the modern snake oil, so beware of scams. Best place to buy argan oil or dates is a supermarket.

Authentic hammams are local, great experience, unisex.

Chefchaouen is way out on a limb and there are equally photogenic places all over Morocco. Tafraoute and the Ameln Valley are amazing.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 09:16 AM
  #18
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Thanks for the help. I did not expect anyone to answer every question but felt listing them all leaves them open to various tidbits from different people. I apologize if this offended anyone.
Thanks for all the advice. I really appreciate it.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 09:18 AM
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By the way, Mme Perdu , we are planning to trek and the altitude I am very familiar with. I get very ill going much higher than that altitude so have ejected to do some trekking at the base and out of Imlil in the valley.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 10:30 AM
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I know nothing about trekking in Morocco and don't believe I mentioned altitude. Maybe TimCullis, above?
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