• Megan Kate

9 Things You Need To Know Before You Visit Marrakech | Travel Hacks

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Happy Friday folks! If you follow me on Instagram or are an avid reader of the blog, you will know that a few weeks ago I finally visited Morocco after years of pining over it. We spent just under a week exploring the city of Marrakech and fell completely in love; I won't bore you too much with the details but if you DO want to read a full write up of me gushing over how amazing it was, then click here for my full review and recommendation list.

While planning for our trip I had a couple of questions that I just could not find answers to, and I also found a few things while we were there that I wish I'd known about beforehand, too. I do feel like no amount of research can prepare you for the incredible chaos that is Marrakech, but a couple of pointers definitely wouldn't go amiss. And so, I thought I'd share them with you and maybe help answer any questions you may have been pondering:

There are motorbikes EVERYWHERE

I'd read a couple of blog posts that said motorbikes are common due to the fact that most of the Medina is inaccessible to cars, so had made a note to 'keep right' and keep my wits about me, but nothing prepared me for the sheer volume and speed of what we were met with. When I say they are everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. Small alleyways that barely fit a single file line of people down them? Tiny openings in the road next to a car, that you think isn't humanly possible to fit through? Market stalls full of crowds that should definitely be 100% pedestrianized? Yup, you'll find them in all of these places. Scooters carrying 3+ people will zip around tight corners with ease, and at pretty decent speeds too. Luckily every single person on them seemed to be crazily skilled at riding -easily weaving through crowds of people without even brushing up against them- but please just take extra care and be completely alert at all times when walking. On the plus side, you'll never fret about crossing that busy road back home ever again.

Negotiate taxi prices before getting in the car

Taxis are everywhere within both the Medina and the new town. Not only this, but all you need to do is stand by the side of the road and one will stop to give you a ride. They're all safe and well, but they WILL charge you more because they know you're a tourist. A ride around the Medina should cost around 30MAD during the day, and our hotel advised around 40MAD for a trip from the Medina out to Jardin Majorelle. It's up to you with what you're willing to settle on, but make sure you get a price before you get in as you can't really do much to argue once they've already given you the ride- We ended up paying 50MAD to Jardin Majorelle just purely because we didn't want to argue for the sake of 80p. We rode in the taxis a few times and didn't come to many problems, however after a nice meal in the new town one night we did allow the security on the door to hail our cab for us as it was pouring down. Stupidly we assumed that because a local had sorted it, all would be well, and so we just jumped in. We ended up being charged 150MAD for what had been a 13 minute walk on the way there, which is about 6 x what it should be- luckily I managed to pretend I only had 80 on me as I had it in exact notes, and so he rudely took the money and left without ripping us off TOO hard, but just goes to show you need to check before EVERY ride.

Also, the 'petit beige' taxis are the official taxis of the city, so make sure these are the ones you use.

You need to use varying degrees of politeness with locals

Again, I'd read a little bit about saying no to any harassment by stall holders in the souks and/or Jemaa El-Fna performers, but everyone had said 'keep your sense of humour', 'politely decline' and 'just say maybe tomorrow'. We didn't really experience much determination from stall holders, a simple smile and 'no thank you' did the trick just fine, but believe me you need to be WAY more forceful when on the square. We tried to keep it light at first, but within minutes David had an unwelcome snake around his neck and a woman was grabbing my hand to draw a line of henna, hoping to make sure I really did come back tomorrow. This really was a lot to take in on our first day in the city, and the snake charmer then refused to take the snake away until I threatened to approach the nearby policeman; the whole thing really put us off wanting to go through the square again at all. After having to cut through it a couple more times to get home, we found that the only way to avoid unwanted attention was to literally shout 'NO' and walk past with no eye contact. We felt SO rude at first but every time we at least apologized, they wouldn't take no for an answer. So yeah just be aware, there's no need to be rude to anyone who isn't rude to you first, but you really do need to be more forceful with the performers.

You do not need a guide for the souks

So many reviews of Souk Semmarine make it out to be this all-consuming, never-ending maze of markets and mayhem but we honestly thought it was fine. There are some fab guided tours on offer which are great for if you want to know a little more about the history of the souks or see specific stalls, but if you're just going for a wander or to get some gifts then it's 100% possible to do it by yourself (plus the guides definitely take you to specific stalls for commission). If you are booking a guide, make sure you do it through a reputable tour company or online in advance. Do not go with people who stand outside the Souks claiming to be local tour guides- there are lots of stories of them taking you to a really remote corner of the market and extorting money out of you, which is an extra stress that you definitely don't need. Haggling without a guide is also easy enough, a lot of the stalls on the smaller markets and side streets have pre-priced goods that you can browse first to get a ball park figure and then work down from there.

Most traditional Moroccan restaurants in the Medina don't sell booze

The food in the Medina is incredible, we found SO many lovely restaurants that sold African or Moroccan food for both vegetarians and meat eaters at a great price, but there was no booze on offer at all. If you don't mind this then please do eat in the Medina, we had some of the best food we've ever eaten and were then able to buy beer and wine back at our hotel. Western bars and restaurants are different; we found a really nice pizza place called Kosy Bar near Bahia Palace that had fab cocktails and a great view from the roof terrace, and we could also have fancy cocktails at the restaurant we visited in the new town, both of which I would recommend. But if it's traditional Moroccan cuisine you want in a little terrace cafe, be prepared to have a soft drink with your meal.

Data plans do not cover Morocco

British mobile plans won't cover charges in Marrakech even if you use travel add-ons or pay extra per day for usage. You can still use your phone abroad, but you will pay the per minute/MB charge for the country, which quickly gets VERY expensive. You CAN however purchase a sim card from a range of companies (including Orange) when you arrive into Menara airport. You're looking at about £10 for a Sim Card with 10MB data and some international call time, which I would definitely recommend purely for map usage- we paid £20 for 20MB and used this for the other phone to hotspot off.

If you're attempting to go without data, WiFi while out and about isn't as common as you'd probably like, so make sure you download the city onto the Maps.Me app or using the Google Offline function.

Do not take photos/ videos of people unless you're willing to pay for it

Even taking a generic video of the square at night got us caught in a debate about whether we should have to pay the man whose band had featured in the far distance of the footage by pure accident. If you stop to film or photograph any of the acts on the square, or any of the market stalls in the souks, be prepared to hand over a few Dirham for the privilege. We found that if you do purchase something from a stall you can politely ask to take a photo before you leave, and the stall holders are more than happy to allow it, but don't just snap away without asking unless you want to pay and/or get into a heated argument.

Dress modestly but the no shoulders/ knees rule is an exaggeration

I was quite concerned about fashion choices for our trip as I'd heard lots of different versions of what was 'acceptable' from various different people. I ended up wearing maxi dresses or T-shirts with midi skirts just to be safe and luckily (although it's still lovely and warm in January) I wasn't completely melting. A summer trip may be slightly harder to pack for but we did see quite a few people with strappy vest tops on, or with dresses that didn't quite meet the knee, and nobody seemed to kick up a fuss about it. My advice would be just to not dress completely scantily clad; as long as you're not showing tonnes of chest or wearing something scarily short you should be fine! It's more of a respect thing than anything overly serious anyway: showing too much skin is seen as a lack of self respect so you may get the odd comment from the men there, but it's nothing to be too scared of.

Do not get a black henna tattoo

This is probably a point that you've seen around most advice blogs when it comes to Marrakech safety tips but I just want to reiterate it on here too- do not get black henna tattoos! Black henna paste contains PPD which can cause chemical burns and lead to serious allergic reactions, henna paste should always be a deep warm brown colour and then leave quite a bright orange design behind when you first pick off the excess. Black henna will be more common with non-licensed artists such as on Jemaa El-Fna, but there are some really lovely places you can get your henna done both safely and inexpensively within the Medina (I can personally recommend Henna Art Cafe, read more here). If you do suspect that you've been given the wrong henna anywhere then wash it off IMMEDIATELY and seek further medical advice if your skin becomes irritated.

And that's all I have for now! Hopefully some of these tips will help you when doing your research into visiting Morocco. Please don't let the odd restriction put you off your trip either- the country is beautiful and so full of life. You really don't feel restricted at all once you get there, it's just good to know a few things beforehand to help make the most of your experience.

Do you have any words of advice for when visiting Marrakech? Or anywhere else for that fact? I'd love to know them!

Meg x


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