Planning a trip to the Moroccan city of Marrakech? Prepare for your trip by making a note of these things to know before visiting Marrakech, and my tips for travelling in this vibrant city!
I must admit, I did very little research on the things to know before visiting Marrakech when booking, or even when arriving. Partly I was nervous I’d only come across the horror stories from people’s worst experiences, partly it was the kind of trip that really just crept up on me!
Despite my lack of preparation, my travel companion and I quickly learned a few things about what to expect in Marrakech. We did our research as we went along, adding to an ever-growing list of “To-Google” questions daily, if not hourly. This meant we developed our own set of tips for travelling in Marrakech, complete with which scams to avoid, a few of the city’s quirks, and our favourite spots around the city.
Here are just a few of the main things to know before visiting Marrakech before you visit, and what I wish I’d had the foresight to look up prior to my trip for the best tips for travelling in Marrakech!
The Plumbing System In Marrakech
Like many countries still working on their antiquated plumbing system, you can’t put toilet paper down the basin. Avoid causing blockages and further problems by remembering to put your waste paper in a bin, all toilets should have one! It might be a small and simple action, but makes a difference to ensuring responsible travel.
Waste Disposal In Marrakech
It’s safe to say that waste management is rather behind in Marrakech. With almost no public bins to be found, we ended up carrying our rubbish with us everywhere until we were back at our riad to dispose of it appropriately.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the streets are dirty, in fact it can often be quite the contrary. A good tip for travelling in Marrakech is to bring your own bags to keep waste in while walking around, or bring reusable utensils and bottles where possible (no one wants to hold an old water bottle for the whole day!).
Language Barriers In Morocco
It might sound obvious, but the complex mix of languages used in Marrakech (and Morocco) left us unsure if we could get by with our limited French, or would have to pick up a few local Arabic phrases. One of the best tips for travelling in Marrakech in found was the simple “choukran” – or thank you in Moroccan Arabic! You’d be amazed at the difference a simple local word can do. Even better, throw in “la choukran” for no thanks and you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of sellers a little more easily.
The Tourist Tax In Marrakech
When you’re an obvious tourist with less than savvy local knowledge, you’re likely to get a tourist price for pretty much everything! We found this to be particularly true when leaving Marrakech Menara Airport. The price to take two of us in the recognisable yellow cabs to the centre of the city (just outside the medina) was 200 dirham (about £16), which was a heck of a lot more than we would have expected for a short 15 minute ride!
If you’re a seasoned haggler, then by all means go for it. We made the careless mistake of hopping in the first cab without checking the price beforehand, we quickly learned to ask price as soon as possible in an interaction where prices are not shown. If negotiating prices isn’t your thing, then you will likely have to accept that your prices won’t be the same as a locals, or you’ll be shopping around for quite some time to get a cheaper deal. Take a look at my previous post on more tips for travelling in Marrakech to avoid a high taxi price!
Like many destinations around the world, the people of Marrakech like to do things at their own pace. From waiting for your food to arrive, to the speed at which locals walk – remind yourself that not everyone lives in the fast lane. A great tip for travelling in Marrakech is to allow a little extra time to compensate for overrunning or running late!
While it’s not necessarily a crucial thing to know before visiting Marrakech, it will help your trip go smoothly if you allow for a few delays here and there. Secondly, reminding yourself to take things slower means you’ll into the holiday spirit and simply enjoy your trip!
The Furry Locals Of Marrakech
Marrakech has a LOT of stray cats. Some look rather harmless and in fact quite well looked after, but it’s probably wise to avoid petting them anyway. They are pretty cute curled up in chairs or lazing out in the sun so we happily enjoyed admiring the furry friends, but do take care to watch where you walk as these little guys aren’t afraid to scamper around your feet – particularly the teeny kittens!
If you don’t like stray animals or have severe allergies, it’s an important thing to know before visiting Marrakech that you might need to bring some antihistamines or medication for dealing with these particular locals.
Drinking Alcohol In Marrakech
One of the key things to know before visiting Marrakech (and indeed Morocco), is that alcohol isn’t illegal to buy and consume. However, it is not found in every restaurant, and is rather less common than other destinations as it’s primarily sold for tourists. Being in a Muslim country, it’s important to respect the culture and not expect to find it easily available, or affordable. We were perfectly happy to spend our trip enjoying the fresh smoothies rather than seeking out drinks we can easily get at home, however, our riad did offer the chance to purchase beers for 30dh each (about £2.50).
For a tip on travelling in Marrakech if you are choosing to drink, make sure to be sensible and avoid becoming intoxicated, as this certainly won’t go down well with the locals. Drinking in public is highly frowned upon, and driving under the influence of any alcohol is illegal.
Covering up in Marrakech
Being a modest country with strong religious views, it’s common to see a lot of women covering their shoulders, knees, and midriffs. While there are some tourists who deviate from this norm to bare more skin, they’re usually accompanied by men on their travels (as far as I could tell). while it’s entirely your own prerogative to wear what makes you feel most comfortable, I would recommend remaining respectful of the local culture and doing your best to adhere to their standards of dress.
It’s not as uptight as it might sound, though. Covering up is mostly suggested for the medina and souks where the crowds are larger and there are more locals around. We felt more comfortable in a sleeveless top while in the confines of the city’s gardens, especially in the heat of the day. This was partially due to the higher concentration of tourists, and partly due to a smaller crowd in general. Similarly, your riad may have a rooftop terrace where it might be acceptable to expose more skin. Do check with the staff at your accommodation if you’re concerned on if this is ok, though.
As it’s a rather warm place, loose and light clothing is ideal to ensure you remain as cool as possible while also covered up, plus who doesn’t love a flowy outfit?! We opted for wide trousers that allowed for comfort plus a breeze, and layers of sleeveless tops and loose shirts or kimonos.
Activity Prices In Marrakech
Another thing to know before visiting Marrakech, is that prices for entry to places of interest can be more than you might expect. There are typically two prices for entry to the gardens, palaces, and historical monuments: locals and tourists. This seems perfectly fair, and the typical price we encountered for an adult tourist entry fee was 70dh (around £6). It’s not terribly high, but if you added up all the attractions to visit and each cost this amount, it’s worth remembering that some are smaller than others so your value for money varies.
There are, however, concession prices quite available to many places such as Le Jardin Secret, Le Jardin Majorelle, and more. The concession prices are for students or under 24s in some places, so be sure to keep ID with you to save a few dirham here and there – usually no more than 20dh but every little helps!
Shopping In The Souks Of Marrakech
The souks of Marrakech are famous for their lively atmosphere and a vast array of trinkets, textiles, and tasty treats. We generally found that the closer to the main square and central hub of the souks you are, the pushier the seller and the higher the price. Of course, there are a couple of exceptions to this. One ceramics seller right in the square was wonderfully polite, allowed us to browse at will, and was pretty good on the haggling – so we bought something!
We realised after much wandering through the alleyways that by heading further into the souks you’ll come across smaller sellers that seem more willing to offer a reasonable price. Better yet, are the stalls where there are fixed prices so you can really understand what an item is worth.
It’s fair to say that haggling is part and parcel of being in almost any market across the world, and the souks are no different. However, if a seller is displaying fixed prices don’t try to negotiate. That’s pretty rude in any case, and you’ll likely walk away red-faced from trying.
Handling Heckling In Marrakech
When bustling markets are involved, you’re bound to face your fair share of heckling. We found we came across two particular types of comments from (mostly men) in the souks and on the street:
Comments From Sellers In Marrakech
This often came in the strange form of Cockney-accented locals. Yes you read that right. The “‘Ello there!”‘s were a surprise at first, but became quite humorous after a while. You’ve got to wonder where they picked that up from, and why they think it’ll work in enticing you to their stall!
These types of comments are the easiest to ignore. I found it best to simply look away and continue walking onwards, and avoid speaking too loudly in English. This last tip for travelling in Marrakech was my favourite, because once the Cockney didn’t work, the odd French of German phrase was thrown out in an attempt to capture our attention, by which time I knew we’d won!
When they were persistent enough to follow you across the square, you might do well to simply reply with a “maybe later” and quicken your speed. Generally speaking, we found if weren’t going to be interested in the various foods, souvenirs, clothing, henna, or animals (I’m terrified of snakes!) then we would avoid looking in the first place, and walking by.
One of the best tips for travelling in Marrakech we were recommended was to wear sunglasses as much as possible, so even if you are sneakily eyeing up that bowl you can peruse at your leisure, at least at first!
Comments From Men In Marrakech
The touchier comments received were inevitably about being a woman. Calls of marriage proposals, comments about beauty, eyes, body size (“so skinny!” seems to be an attempted compliment?!) follow you throughout the souks. But much like the sales calls, it’s not to be feared and is easy to overcome.
Much like the sellers, we would walk by at speed and simply not pay these comments any attention. We might have a small giggle to ourselves or assertively say something in response, but mostly it’s a matter of continuing on as normal. They’ll soon find another person to target!
While this topic is definitely an important thing to know before visiting Marrakech, it by no means dampened our experience nor did it prevent us from venturing out and enjoying all the city had to offer.
So there we have 10 things to know before visiting Marrakech. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but it’ll get you started and help you out with familiarising yourself with this fascinating and exciting city!
What are your best tips for travelling in Marrakech? Are there any other things to know before you visit?
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