10 Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting Marrakech
There are 10 travel tips I believe every person needs to know before visiting Marrakech, Morocco. To avoid being disappointed, getting sick, or being taking advantage of follow these top recommendations and tips. Although I went to Marrakech without knowing all of this; our trip would have gone a bit smoother if we had done the research. So from one traveler to another, here is my best advice if you plan to visit this beautifully chaotic city.
1.) Don't Drink the Water
Don't drink the tap water in Marrakech. Our bodies (if you're a foreigner) are not accustomed to the bacteria in the water in Morocco. Thus, we have a high risk of getting sick or reacting poorly to the water. I took it to a whole new level and didn't even brush my teeth with the tap water. I used bottled water for everything except taking a shower.
Water is very cheap in Marrakech and around the souks you can easily find it for about 50 cents. Make sure you have Moroccan Durham on you in exact change. Many times the owners won't take large bills or Euros when it comes to small priced items.
Also, it's really hot in Marrakech during the majority of the year -- so stay hydrated!
2.) Ask Before You Take a Photo
For the most part, it's extremely rude to take a photograph of someone without asking. Okay, that's probably true in most cultures, but I noticed it more in Marrakech. If you plan to take a photo of someone, ask them kindly and offer to pay them $1 or 10 Dirham.
We asked an older man if we could take his photo and at first he was not happy with us. I believe partly he didn't understand we were willing to pay him. However, once his friend explained that we'd pay, he happily posed for the photo. In the souks my husband tried taking a photo of the hanging meats and the owner of the shop flipped out and whaled his arms back and forth. My husband wasn't trying to take a photo of the person, just the meat, but they still weren't having it.
Walking around the souks and Marrakech you will see a lot of people with their cameras out. So, definitely don't be shy about capturing some great moments and shots. Simply be aware of the people around you and try not to make them uncomfortable.
Just like traveling anywhere, be respectful.
3.) Don't Take Help from Strangers on the Street
This might seem like a no brainer, but it's harder than it sounds. You're going to get lost in Marrakech. I promise. And in the moment you're lost, someone is going to approach you and ask to show you the way. Seems totally harmless, right? Nope.
If you accept someone's help they expect you to pay them for that help. In some cases, maybe even harass you if you don't pay them enough (or what they perceive as enough).
While I was on my flight back to Germany from Marrakech I sat next to another couple that just spent a few days there as well. They told me that one man "kindly" helped them back to their hotel. However, when they didn't offer to pay him enough he threatened them and held the door closed to the hotel. In that moment, they felt they had no choice but to give him more money.
Granted, I like to believe that's a rare situation. Nonetheless, it happened. Luckily for us, our hotel warned us of this. When we desperately needed help we walked into a restaurant or asked someone sitting behind a counter for directions. Always make sure you ask someone for help that isn't mobile or able to leave. This way they can only point you in the right direction and you aren't obliged to pay them for walking you to your destination.
4.) Dress Appropriately
With Marrakech being mostly Muslim, they have strict guidelines on how both men and women dress. Granted, the city has a very rich tourist economy and they are used to foreigners dressing differently. However, I still believe it's extremely important to be respectful of their culture and dress modestly.
Even if for your own unwanted attention, I wouldn't recommend wearing a mini skirt and swim top. Yes, the temperatures are hot in the summer, but wearing loose clothing will be just fine. Most days I wore dresses that fit loosely and hit my knees. However, I didn't go as far as making sure my shoulders and ankles were fully covered. During my time I didn't get any rude comments or anything about my looks. I do believe if you're blonde hair & blue eyed, that might be a different story...
Some museums and restaurants might require you wear certain clothing or have your shoulders covered, but for the most part you should be fine. When we were at the airport in the Netherlands waiting for our flight, a local Moroccan told us that Marrakech is really relaxed and we can wear whatever we want. That was just one person's opinion, but it did make us feel better about not being fully covered head to toe.
Sure enough, when we arrived there was such a diverse mix of the way people were dressed. Obviously, you could tell who the tourist where with their shorts and tank tops. But it seemed to all fit together and didn't seem disrespectful.
5.) Take Cash Out at the Airport & Exchange Currencies
To be honest, I was a little annoyed because some guy at the airport told us we wouldn't need Moroccan Dirham -- only Euros. So we took his advice and barely took out any Moroccan Dirham. Which left us unable to buy snacks in the souks, pay taxi drivers, and tip our hotel staff properly.
Yes, you can get by on Euros, Pounds, and US Dollars, but it'll limit you. There are ATMS in the city, but they aren't found so easily and often. I recommend that you exchange your currency for Dirhams. It'll make paying for things easier and you'll get the best exchange rate this way.
Having exact change on you will make things a lot easier, too. Especially when it comes to negotiating in the souks. If you tell someone you can only pay "x" amount for something, but then you pull out triple from your wallet, they'll haggle you more. Also, I heard that sometimes people will say they don't have change for you and you end up paying more for an item than you anticipated.
6.) Book a Day Trip from Marrakech
Getting out of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech is well worth it. We were only in Marrakech for 4 days, but took one of the days to see something different. After reading reviews on TripAdvisor, we booked an amazing day trip with Arib Voyages.
There are lots of trips to choose from, but do your research and book in advance. This way you'll get the best price and availability.
Our trip was a day driving through the Agafay Desert, a camel ride, and eating lunch in the Atlas Mountains with a Berber family. It was the highlight of our whole trip to Marrakech. You can read more about our day trip here.
7.) Be Prepared to be HAGGLED/HARASSED
This was such a hate/love part of the trip. The souks are beautiful and so interesting to see, but when you're being haggled 24/7 it ruins it. I knew to expect people trying to sell us things. But I didn't know it would be at this level. We couldn't walk out the door of our Riad without being pushed to buy something in a matter of minutes.
The souks and square is where it was definitely the worst. If you even turn your shoulder to glimpse at a rug, a man will come chasing after you asking how much you will pay for it. They will give you crazy high prices and when you try to low ball them, they get extremely mad.
It's honestly a really annoying process and feels way too intense. We had a few guys that were a little more relaxed about the selling process. However, for the most part we just felt completely harassed and bombarded while in the souks.
One night we went to the city square to explore. Every 5 seconds someone would beg us to come eat at their restaurant. When we kept saying, "no", over and over, they would get up in our faces and show us their menu. This was probably the worst it got. At one point a man yelled to us, "You're too skinny, you need to eat here!!". After that note, we never went back to the center around dinner time. I am wondering who these selling tactics have worked on? Obviously someone...
On our first day, we politely said, "no, thank you", and smiled to everyone bothering us. Then we learned that wasn't working. We were being way too nice. By the second day, we straight up ignored people. Made zero eye contact and just kept walking the other way. This was the best tactic and helped making walking through the souks more enjoyable. I know it sounds horrible and rude, but we really felt like we had no other option.
8.) Watch out for the Scooters
The scooters are everywhere. Everywhere.
We decided that if we could change two things about Marrakech it would be the haggling and the fact that the scooters are allowed to fly through the souks. It not only felt dangerous, but also causes a lot of pollution and stress while you are walking. It felt like at every moment we were dodging scooters and motorcycles that were flying through the streets.
After a full day in the souks it was so nice to get away from the engines, pollution, and stress that comes with thinking a scooter is going to run you over. I know it sounds like I am being a little dramatic, but it really was so frustrating. I didn't read anywhere anyone talking about this issue -- so maybe I'm the only one annoyed?
Just go in knowing they'll be there and be prepared to dodge them. In the evening they seem to be out more, so I recommend going to the souks in the morning and day time. The scooters and motorcycles are still there, just not has much.
9.) Bargain & Low ball
Never ever accept the first offer given to you. Whether it's a taxi or a souk -- always negotiate. I have to laugh at myself because I took it to the next level and tried negotiating in an electronic store and the guy laughed at me and was like, "This isn't the souks, Mrs., the price is the price." I figured it was worth a try...
Okay, so don't try to negotiate in Marrakech at the grocery store or electronic shop, but most other places -- why not! In most cases were able to get 50% off the initial price given. For example, Michael was swooning over this leather weekender and they asked us to pay $60 initially. Which honestly, for a beautiful authentic leather bag that's not too shabby. We said we wouldn't pay more than $20. After some back and forth arguing and walking away from the store, they chased us down and said they would take $25.
I tell you this so that you're not afraid to low ball and stick to your guns.
Side note: in American we have so many idioms that have to deal with guns... none of my German friends understand when I say things like, "Stick to your guns". Food for thought.
Anyways, stand firm in your price and don't let them sway you. They desperately want to sell these goods and if you aren't afraid to walk away, you'll get a better price.
10.) Stay in a Riad
Riad's are the most beautiful spaces I've ever seen. No lie. Upon walking into any Riad, you'll be hit with divine aromas, gracious people, mint tea being offered to you every moment, and an open rooftop terrace that'll you want to spend hours on relaxing.
We stayed at Bliss Riad near the souks and Marrakech center. It was a small, 10 room space and the staff was amazing. I think to truly embrace the Moroccan culture, you have to stay in a Riad. Believe me, you'll love sipping your tea in the courtyard and walking through the garden.
Pin it for later: