19 Tips for Visiting Marrakech

It’s historic, colorful, brimming with culture, and probably a lot different from your hometown. Marrakech was once an imperial city, leaving it filled with stunning mosques, gardens, and palaces. It’s a medieval city, protected by an aging wall, and keeping to its roots with bustling souk culture. Marrakech is a dream for those who love art, shopping, photography, and history. If you’re planning a trip, here are 19 tips for visiting Marrakech. Keep these in mind for a holiday that’s all smooth sailing.

Keep Plenty of The Local Currency With You

The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham and it is what you must use when making purchases. While a few places will accept Euros now and then, make the Dirham a priority in your wallet. Before leaving the airport, you can exchange your currency with no fee. The vendors in the souks typically only take cash, and the hotels and medinas are cash heavy too. Plus, many of the locals will ask for tips after providing services, so having cash on hand is useful. And, since ATMs are scarce, make sure to take out large amounts of cash when you do find one.

Try Staying in a Riad Within The Medina Walls

People who have visited Marrakech say that no trip is complete without this authentic experience. Even if you prefer hotels, it’s recommended to try a Riad for a night. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan home with its own interior courtyard. Many of them come with swimming pools, sunny terraces, and a complimentary breakfast.

Marrakech

Dress Modestly

While Morocco can get extremely hot during the summer, do your best to dress modestly, especially if you are a woman. This is part of the country’s culture and religion, and as a guest, you should do your best to respect their customs. Showing off shoulders, cleavage, and knees could be offensive to the locals, so try to keep covered up when possible. This is especially important to keep in mind when visiting religious sites.

See The Tanneries  

The tanneries are some of the most visually stunning, colorful, and interesting sights in the city. You’ll find them in the northeast of the medina, and there are sure to be locals who offer to bring you to them. You can stand on one of the terraces and watch the locals hard at work below as they dip cloths into colorful pools of water. This will give you a chance to see how many of the items in the markets are made. The tanneries are especially a treat for photographers who can easily get amazing shots.

tannery

Be Aware Of Taxi Scams 

Taxi scams are big business in Marrakech and you don’t want to fall prey to one. Make sure to ask someone at the airport for the normal rates. Tourists should expect to pay more, but many of the taxis inflate their prices to preposterous amounts. Some taxis will claim that you won’t find a cheaper option. But, if they don’t come down in price, just be prepared to walk away. And, try to make sure you solidly negotiate a price before getting in. If you can arrange a taxi through the airport, this is much easier than trying to get one on your own.

Get Prepared to be Lost but Learn to be OK With That

Getting lost in Marrakech is to be expected. If you’re the kind of person who gets frustrated and upset when you can’t find your way, try to go into it with an open mind. The narrow streets and busy souks are easy places to lose your way. But, you’ll end up finding some true gems while you try and get back on track. Many tourists say that the signs are hard to read or aren’t correct. however, you’ll usually come across a large tourist attraction that will help you navigate. And, you can easily find a taxi to take you back to your hotel.

marrakech market

Haggle in The Markets

Between the souks and the colorful souvenirs, you’ll probably want to do some shopping in Marrakech. If you do, be prepared to haggle. The vendors will quote you outrageous prices, mostly because you are a tourist. Haggling is also a common practice in the culture, so prices start high as vendors expect you to make counter offers. If you can’t agree on a price, just walk away. It’s highly likely that the vendor will give you what you ask for instead of losing the sale altogether. And don’t forget, keep things polite. You don’t want to insult the locals.

Don’t Drink The Tap Water

The water in Marrakech isn’t all that safe to drink, especially if you aren’t used to it. Avoid tap water and ice made from tap water as much as possible. Buy bottled water and make sure to keep some on hand as you are wandering around the city.

 moroccan man

Try Speaking The Local Language

You can certainly get by on English, but many of the locals speak French and Arabic. If you can learn a few words in the local language, you may get more respect and better prices. If Arabic is too much of a challenge, try to brush up on your French. It will get you a whole lot further.

Watch Out For Pickpockets

Like any bustling city, there are pickpockets lurking in the crowds. Make sure to wear a money belt under your clothes or to keep your backpack on your front. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a backup credit card and extra cash in your hotel room. Be especially alert while in the markets, wandering around the medina or at busy tourist attractions. As long as you take precautions and pay attention to what’s going on around you, you shouldn’t have any problems.

marrakech medina

Be Careful in The Medina at Night

This is especially true for women, but everyone should take precaution. While the area is not inherently dangerous, it is a place where locals may prey on tourists. There is a lot of poverty going on in Marrakech, which makes tourists with money look like appealing targets. Travel in numbers, stick to crowded areas, and avoid the Medina if you are alone.

Be Careful When Taking Photos

This is probably not that obvious to most visitors, but taking photos is kind of a big deal in Marrakech. It’s considered rude to take photos of the locals without their permission. In Morocco, they believe that photos capture their soul. So, it could be quite devastating to someone to have their photo taken if they aren’t expecting it. Also, avoid taking pictures of animal performers or snake charmers in the main square. The owners of these operations may demand a hefty fee from you for the privilege of taking photos. And, be inconspicuous when taking photos of shops or stores. Many of the owners may ask you to give them money or buy something for using their shop as your photo subject.

 taking photo

Don’t Trust The Advice of The Locals In All Situations

There are plenty of nice, generous, and helpful locals in Marrakech, however, there are some malicious ones too. If someone offers you advice without you asking for it, just be wary. You may encounter men in the street who will tell you that your hotel is closed. Then, they may try to lead you to an alternative, most likely their family’s hotel or Riad. This can happen with restaurants and shops too. Other times, someone will tell you that a street is closed and offer to direct you another way. However, they may aggressively demand a tip for being your guide afterwards.

Try The Food in The Markets/ Night Markets

The food in the markets is generally safe to eat and is much cheaper than in the restaurants. Try the snail soup which has a well-spiced and very flavorful broth. The snails are usually very tender as well. Enjoy a B’stilla, which is savory pie with flaky layers. It usually has some kind of fish or pigeon inside. It also has eggs and almonds, and is a treat that is both savory and sweet. Chebakia is a fried sesame cookie that is shaped like a flower and covered in syrup or honey. Ma’gooda are potato balls that are deep fried and often covered in a spicy harissa sauce. And Harira is a traditional soup that is served throughout the year. It features noodles, lentils, chickpeas, and sometimes has meat.

Marrakech Medina Food

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings at all Times

The streets of Marrakech are busy and crowded, leaving you vulnerable to a lot of danger. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sounds and sights, but stay alert, especially to the traffic. There will be taxis, motorbikes, carts, and donkeys that could easily knock you over if you aren’t paying attention. And, since the city tends to be crowded and busy, make sure that you and your travel partner have a way to contact each other if you get seperated.

Get Ready For Heat If Visiting in The Summer

It’s sunny and hot most of the year, but especially in summer. Make sure to prepare for the high temperatures by bringing a water bottle with you and wearing loose, light clothing. Opting for a Riad with a pool is a great idea if you want to retreat from the heat during your stay. Despite the hot weather, remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so women should not show too much skin, you can find out more about what to wear here.

pool marrakech

Experience The Jemaa el-Fna 

This is one of the most famous public squares in the city. It’s a place that really captures the culture and feel of Marrakech. You’ll stumble upon snake charmers, entertainers, henna tattoo artists, and stalls full of street food. It can be found within the medina and is usually brimming with locals and tourists. This is one of the best spots for people watching and sampling the local cuisine. While a visit during the day is eventful, it’s in the evening when this square truly comes to life. You’ll come across magicians, storytellers, dancers, and even more food stalls offering treats and unusual snacks. It’s a Marrakech experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Visit The Jardin Majorelle

Created by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, this is one of the top attractions in Marrakech. Over 40 years he infused this garden with art and creativity to make it what it is today. There are more than 300 species of plants and a maze of small streams, tiny alleyways, and beautiful trees. It really is a magical place with an intriguing history. The entire place is two and half acres and it has been bringing in visitors since the 1920s. It used to be the home of Majorelle and his wife until they divorced. Then, it was taken over by fashion designers who restored its beauty and continued to allow public entry. There are a few museums on site as well so you can make a day out of it.

Jardin Majorelle

Try a Hammon 

A Hammon is a traditional bathhouse and a great way to experience the local culture. It can be a bit intimidating for visitors as the custom is to strip down with a group of strangers. However, if you can gather up the courage to try one, there are a ton of health benefits. Males and females are separated and before you can enter, there will be someone to wash you. These facilities tend to overcharge tourists so be careful about which one you choose. Locals typically pay 50 to 100 dirhams so try not to pay much more than that.

Marrakech is brimming with colorful sights, sounds, culture, history, and natural beauty. As a travel destination, it really has it all. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s likely that you’ll find it in Marrakech. Travel in Marrakech has its challenges, but so do most places in the world. So, arm yourself with these tips, and enjoy your travels.