Last month I spent five incredible days in Morocco which included three in Marrakech and two in the Atlas Mountains. This trip was different from the moment I landed; it just seemed different to other trips I have been on. It was an incredible country, with beautiful markets, sensual gardens and an intriguing culture. There was certainly nothing subtle about this beautiful country, as it attacked your senses both through the eyes, ears, and mouth.
Morocco has grown to adapt to the tourism which is brings in every year, but it is still a devout Muslim country and they continue to push their traditions as the city evolves and changes. This mean there are certain things you need to know before travelling to Morocco. Here are my top tips to visiting Morocco and Marrakech.
- Be alert
You will be hassled, end of. But be prepared for it and don’t listen and acknowledge every person you come across. As Europeans or English looking people you will automatically become a target as you are walking money to the locals. Locals will be keen to get you to buy their good whether that is spices, tea or carpets. Walk through the souks and go on an exploration but expect to be hassled, simply be firm with declining if you’re not interested.
- It’s hot!
In the summer Marrakech reaches desert-like temperatures and the heat is increased by the pink walled buildings and narrow alleyways so ensure you are hydrated and you stay cool with loose clothing. Keep a bottle of water on you at all times!
- Dress appropriately
Morocco has come a long way over the last decade but they are also traditional Muslims and are keen to continue with their traditions and culture. Within this tourists must obey by the rules of their country and religion by dressing appropriately. That means for men; no vests, appropriate shorts/trousers, for women; dress with clothing that covers your shoulders and trousers or shorts that aren’t revealing.
- Choose the right accommodation
Marrakech is such a beautiful city, but it is also chaotic, loud and an attack on the senses. The best choice of accommodation for Marrakech would be a quiet and serene riad with space to relax after a long day in the city. Riads are the best place to stay to have a true Marrakech experience; they range from basic to the luxurious. Why not try Riad Les Yeux Bleus, I stayed here and it was incredible!
- Learn a little of the language
Marrakech has two predominant languages, Arabic and French, but many also speak a little English too. If you know a little French using that goes a long way too, but it might also be worth using these four phrases below.
- Thank you = “Choukran”
- “La Choukran” = “No Thank you”
- “Where is … ? “= “Feen … ?”
- “Hello” = “Salam Alikome”
- Take cash with you
You should take GBP cash to Morocco and once you land in the country change your money in to Moroccan dirham. But where possible try and keep cash at hand, cash machines aren’t easy to come by and most shops and places to eat much prefer cash to card transactions.
- Plan ahead
Grab a map and go old school. Dot out all of the points on the map you want to visit and even ask your hosts to help you plan out your day ahead. Then decide whether you are going to walk between spots or jump in a taxi. The more organised you are, the less likely you are to get lost or get yourself in to difficult situations.
- Catch taxis
As I mentioned above, even though Marrakech is a fairly small city it is still worth getting a taxi. The busses are busy and cramped and they don’t have a form of tram or tube so getting a taxi is the best option for any trips where walking may be a push. TOP TIP: Agree with your taxi driver the amount you’ll be paying before the journey begins.
- Food and drink!
It’s best to drink bottled water whilst you’re here to avoid any unwanted contamination and food will tend to be safe as long as you are careful with where and what you eat. As long as it’s hot and freshly cooked the food is usually fine to eat anywhere. Definitely try and eat local cuisine as it’s always going to be nicer and is likely to be the freshest items on the menu.
When you are exploring the markets you must haggle. The prices they offer you are often double the price of what they are happy to accept. Always go a lot lower and haggle up! You could get yourself a great deal. Don’t worry though, it’s all part of the experience and more than expected by the salesmen!
Have you been to Morocco? Let me know your top tips for visiting this beautiful country.