Marrakesh, where East meets West in an assault on the senses that will leave you totally spellbound by its Moroccan magic. Here are my top 10 tips for enjoying Marrakesh to the max.
1. Getting around 🚗 🐪 🚶
From the airport, take the No19 bus into central Marrakesh or jump in a taxi. Be sure to agree the fare with one of the hoard of drivers swarming around the exit before you start your journey. To get to the Medina pay around 70 Dirham. An organised transfer is likely to be around double the cost.
Travelling around the Medina: When you first arrive finding your Riad can be a challenge. Locals will happily help – for a price. Set your price and don’t be a pushover 😉 If all you need are directions, then I found market stall owners to be very happy to steer you the right way.
Stay in a Riad! 🏠
Staying in a Riad in the centre of Marrakesh is more like a home than a hotel. Outside the front door its all hustle and bustle but inside you’re enveloped by an oasis of tranquility and calm.
Riads are a traditional Moroccan house centred around a courtyard. Originally home to the Medina’s wealthiest residents, today they’re provide comfortable and classy accommodation for the likes of you and I.
They’re easy to book online ahead of your trip with sites like Booking.com. Or just rock up and knock on some rather ornate doors to find yourself a room.
3. Get lost 😳 🗺
At some point as you meander through the Medina, you’ll realise you’re completely and utterly lost. Don’t panic, it’s part of the experience! Just remember you’re never far from the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) or a helpful local to point you in the right direction. The Medina is full of others like you and I – tourists desperately trying to look like locals yet failing miserably…all part of the fun! 😆
4. Know your price 💰
Exploring the souks, the labyrinth of market stalls in the Medina, is a must. From carpets to camels, you’d be amazed what’s on offer for sale, but you’ll have to barter hard for everything!
Three top tips are: Know the conversion rate, what you’re willing to pay and be prepared to walk away. If there’s profit in it for the stallholder they won’t let you, trust me. Don’t feel embarrassed to go in at 10% of the asking price – they can be very brazen.
5. Don’t fold under pressure ✌️
We all like a bargain but, don’t feel as though you must buy something. Be respectful of locals’ time and upfront with your intentions. Good manners cost nothing. Just be polite.
‘Just looking’, ‘no more money’, ‘the suitcase is full’… you get the idea.
6. Feeling hot, hot hot 🐪 ☀️
Marrakesh is sweltering in the heat of the day so its best to explore early morning and later in the evening. Suncream is an absolute must. A hat and sunglasses are also a good idea. Donning these will also deter at least a few of the mobile salesmen from trying to flog you ‘genuine’ Gucci glasses and a Rolex to match. 😉 😎
7. What to wear 👖 👚 👟
Western dress is widely accepted but do respect the muslim culture. Female tourists, don’t need to cover their hair and you can dress casually including jeans. Be sure to cover your legs, midriff and cleavage though if you want to visit the many mosques or museums.
More generally, loose clothing will help with the heat and don’t be too flashy. Dressing modestly is a smart idea when it comes to bartering for a bargain. 💪 You’ll be navigating tiny alleyways and uneven streets so I’d also recommend flip flops, sandals or trainers, you get the gist.
8. Pap with permission 📷 💥
Every turn offers a perfect photo op in Marrakesh, but make sure you know the rules. Everything is a transaction and if you want photos of locals and their merchandise, it’s likely they’ll want money for the privilege. In my experience, buying something first keeps everyone happy.
Performers are more than happy to pose but will rightly ask for a couple of Dirham (dh) in their hat – remember this is their main source of income!
9. Beware of pickpockets 👀
It’s easy to be mesmerised by the sights and sounds of a bustling backstreet. Always be aware of your belongings. Open pockets, mobile phones and expensive sunglasses are an easy target.
10. Tipping 🤝 💵
Having asked a number of locals on my trips, I’ve come to a rough guideline on tipping:
- Waiters in cafes/restaurants – 5dh
- Upmarket restaurants – 10-15%
- Porters – 20 dh
- Taxi drivers – feel free to top up the agreed price as an extra thank you!
BONUS TIP: smile 😁
Moroccans have a fantastic sense of humour, are warm and friendly and are always happy to help. If you are not interested in what they’re offering a smile and a “non merci” goes a long way (even if you have to say it 5 times 😉).
Speak to the locals, engage with them and ask for their advice. At the eating places and Riads I’ve visited and stayed in, the best advice has always come from the insiders…the locals!
HAVE A FAB TRIP!!