Marrakech is a real love it or hate it kind of place.
Many people are shocked when they touch down in Marrakech, for despite the glamorous images of Morocco that we often see on our Instagram feeds, Marrakech is not easy.
It doesn’t apologise for being what it is; rather, it cranks up the volume and forces you to listen to it.
If you want to have any chance of enjoying Marrakech, you’ve got to get with the programme pretty quickly, otherwise Marrakech will chew you up and spit you out quicker than you can say ‘yallah!’ (‘Let’s go’ in Arabic).
This all sounds like a lot of work, I can hear you thinking. Surely I’d be better off just going somewhere else.
Not so fast.
For all its ‘quirks,’ (and trust me, some of them are infuriating) Marrakech remains one of my favourite cities.
It is culturally rich, it is vibrant, it is beautiful, it is a parody of itself, it is colourful (in every sense of the word) and it is unapologetic.
It is at once frightfully authentic and painfully inauthentic.
It is wonderful.
I have visited Marrakech twice, the first time being for almost a month (I was volunteering there), and the second time for just a few days earlier this year.
I am one of the people who loves this chaotic city, and I hope that my Marrakech tips will help you to love it just as much.
Here are my tried and tested travel tips for Marrakech.
23 Marrakech Tips | Visiting Marrakech
Marrakech in a Nutshell
Dusty buildings and towering mosques, a bustling medina with a labyrinth of twisting alleyways, beautiful riads, opulent palaces and rooftop cafes serving steaming cups of sweet mint tea are just some of the delights to be found in Marrakech.
Here you will find stalls selling everything from handcrafted leather sandals to antique silver teapots, steaming glasses of sweet mint tea and yes, there are snake charmers (more on those later).
Morocco’s Pink City is an assault on the senses in the most magical way.
People shouting in Arabic, Berber and French punctuate the narrow streets of the medina, where smells of grilled meat, rich spices and donkey doo combine to create the unmistakeable smell that is Marrakech.
If you are even remotely intrigued by any of these things, then visiting Marrakech may just be for you.
However, there are lots of travel tips for Marrakech that you should keep in mind if you want to make the most of your experience.
23 Travel Tips for Marrakech
1. Brush up on your French
No, you don’t have to speak French, but if you can manage a little bit, you’ll definitely have an advantage.
While the official languages of Morocco are Modern Standard Arabic and Amazigh (Berber), many Moroccans speak French as well.
For the most part in Marrakech, people tend to speak good English, but if you plan to travel around the country or do any day trips, French may come in useful.
2. Carry cash
Marrakech is a place where cash is king, and it’s not wise to rely on your card.
I’ve seen articles state that it’s difficult to find ATM machines in the medina – that isn’t true, there are several dotted around the Jemaa al-Fnaa (main square) – but many places will only accept cash, especially if you plan to shop in the markets or eat street food.
You should also use dirhams whenever you can. While some places will accept USD or EUR, you will always get a terrible exchange rate.
You can withdraw Moroccan dirhams from the ATMs in the airport, or exchange your money there.
3. Arrange your airport taxi beforehand
I almost never arrange airport transportation beforehand, relying heavily on Google Maps and public transport when I travel.
However, when I flew to Marrakech, I arrived late and so I had to book a taxi.
The cost of a taxi from the airport to the city centre should be 70-80 dirhams (7-8 EUR) but the taxis that are actually at the airport will often not take anything less than 350 DH (35 EUR!), so be sure to arrange something in advance!
You can do this by asking your riad or hotel to arrange transport, or book yourself a private transfer. Booking a private transfer is often the cheapest option – this private transfer on GetYourGuide is only 8.50 EUR!
If you are arriving in the daytime, you can take the L19 Express bus from the airport to the city centre. The journey time is around 40 minutes and it will cost you 3 EUR (with a free return valid for two weeks.) Buses run from 6:00am until 11:30pm.
While we’re on the subject of taxis, NEVER get into a taxi without agreeing on a price beforehand, and also never pay the first amount the driver offers.
It isn’t uncommon for drivers to tell you that they’re minimum price is actually about four times more what you should be paying.
To help avoid being fooled by them, ask the staff at your guesthouse what a reasonable price is and refuse to pay much more than that.
If the driver isn’t budging, don’t be afraid to walk away and find another taxi.
5. Be careful when taking photos
Moroccans don’t like random strangers taking pictures of them.
One Moroccan guy told me that this relates to a superstition whereby Moroccans believe their soul is captured if a picture is taken of them, but I’m sure even the people who aren’t superstitious don’t really enjoy people taking their photo without permission (especially women wearing hijab and men with beards).
If you really want to take a picture of somebody, be sure to ask first and offer them some money (10 DH) in return.
Also note that many store owners do not like you taking pictures of their stalls and will ask you for money if they catch you doing it.
Lastly, do not take pictures of the monkeys, snakes and other animals that you will see in the Jemaa el-Fnaa. I will go into the numerous issues with this in more detail later, but for now, just know that the men in charge of the animals will DEMAND money from you (often huge amounts like 200 DH) and they can get pretty nasty.
6. Drones are illegal
While we’re on the topic of photography, drones are illegal in the whole of Morocco.
When you are passing through airport security, your bags are scanned and there are signs everywhere saying that drones are not allowed into the country.
If you somehow manage to get your drone in, you may well get arrested, forced to pay a hefty fine and have your drone confiscated if you are caught using it.
I don’t care how much you want that aerial shot over the medina – it’s not worth it.
7. Get a safe henna tattoo
If you want to get a henna tattoo while visiting Marrakech, do not get one from one of the ladies on the Jemaa el-Fnaa.
These women are not licensed to be there, and what’s more, the black henna that they use often contains gasoline, which can cause severe burning.
You’ll also pay 10x the price for a less than stellar experience.
The best places to go for henna in Marrakech are Henna Art Cafe and Cafe Clock (you can enjoy a camel burger at the latter while you wait!).
8. Dress modestly
Although Marrakech is a very touristy city, Morocco is still very much a Muslim country and you want to be respectful of their culture (I hope!).
As a woman, I recommend covering your shoulders and knees (a maxi dress with a scarf over your shoulders or loose-fitting trousers with a t-shirt would be ideal), and for men, I suggest avoiding shorts and tank tops (vests/singlets).
9. Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa…briefly.
Naturally, you will want to go to Jemaa el-Fnaa during your Marrakech trip.
It’s one of the top things to do in Marrakech, and it also happens to be the biggest of its kind in North Africa, and one of the most famous in the Arab world!
The Jemaa el-Fnaa epitomises everything that people dislike about Marrakech while still drawing in the crowds every day and night.
Here you will find delicious fresh orange juice (do drink this), dodgy street food stands (made for tourists, locals don’t recommend these), monkeys dressed in human clothes, Gnawa dancing, souvenir stalls, mopeds, musicians, street kids, donkeys, scam artists. snake charmers and just about anything else you can imagine.
Walk around, enjoy the craziness, and leave.
Whether it’s food, souvenirs or henna ladies, don’t spend your money here.
Alternatively, check out this GetYourGuide evening medina tour of the medina and Jemaa el-Fnaa, to experience everything fully without fear or being scammed.
10. Do NOT believe anything anybody on the street tells you
This street is closed, the palace isn’t open for visitors today, it’s the last day of the Berber market and you can’t miss it!
Whatever, and I repeat, WHATEVER random men on the streets of Marrakech will tell you, DO NOT LISTEN.
I don’t care if he says he’s ‘not a tour guide’ or that he ‘doesn’t want money.’
I don’t care if he appears to be busy working and is just giving you a recommendation out of the goodness of his heart.
I don’t care if 500 people tell you that it’s the last day of the annual Berber Market and you simply have to go and see it.
THEY ARE LYING.
ALL OF THEM.
If you only take one of these travel tips for Marrakech seriously, make it this one.
Marrakech scams can take many forms, but all of them involve you parting with money at some point.
Maybe he ‘shows you the way’ somewhere and demands a tip at the end, or maybe he just happens to take you into his uncle’s shop, where you will be expected to buy something.
Sometimes these scammers are very sophisticated.
I spent a month living in Marrakech and thought I knew what to avoid, but when I returned this year, I still ended up believing that there was a real Berber market (and ending up being taken into a leather shop instead). I very sternly told the man who had taken me there that I would not be giving him any money and refused to back down, even when three of his friends surrounded me and became angry. Luckily, I managed to walk away from the situation unharmed and with all of my money, but it just goes to show that you can be as careful as you want and still wind up falling into a trap at some point.
Pro tip – If you do get lost and need to ask for directions, NEVER ask somebody on the street. Always try and go inside a shop and ask the person working there.
11. Don’t go inside the mosques
Mosques in Marrakech are closed to non-Muslims, and no matter how keen you are to venture inside and get a photograph, you are not allowed.
Appreciate them from the outside, and don’t go wandering in.
12. Keep to the right
This is a very simple but very useful Marrakech tip.
When walking anywhere in Marrakech, especially in the medina, always keep to the right.
Mopeds will whizz by, donkeys amble lazily down alleyways and everyone seems to be in a rush, but if you keep to the right like the locals do, you won’t have to worry about any of these things.
13. Don’t drink the tap water
I tend to always drink tap water when I travel but tap water in Morocco is just not safe to drink for foreigners.
Bottled water is available to buy in the medina for around 50 cents, or you can use a water bottle with a filter like this one to make the tap water safe.
14. Don’t take part in animal tourism
When you wander through Jemaa el-Fnaa, you can’t fail to miss the monkeys and snakes.
The monkeys, often dressed in human clothes, are put onto tourist’s shoulders so that they can have a picture with a monkey.
A staggering number of people do this, paying no mind to the fact that the monkeys are kept on chains that cut into their skin and kicked and beaten by their owners.
Not only that, but the monkeys are stolen from the nearby mountains and brought to Marrakech to be used as playthings for tourists.
As for the snake charmers, of course they are not actually hypnotising the snakes. The snakes are doped up and have their mouths sewn shut to prevent them from biting anyone. They will die after only a day or two, and are immediately replaced with another poor soul.
I understand the novelty of seeing snake charmers and being able to pose with a monkey, but this is not ethical whatsoever, and the animals are truly mistreated. Please do not add to the demand for this by giving these men your money.
15. Don’t give money to street kids
I care deeply about human rights.
Few things make me sadder than seeing street kids with emaciated bodies and dirty faces, begging for money or selling packets of tissues on the streets.
Please, do not give them your money.
Many of Morocco’s street kids are addicted to drugs (specifically glue) and will spend the money you give them on their addictions.
Many more are under the control of street gangs that force them to beg and take their money (forced begging is one of the major forms of human trafficking in certain countries).
Even giving food to a street kid can be problematic, as the child can simply sell that food and give the money to their trafficker.
Alternatively, if a child’s parents see that sending their child out to beg for food and money every day actually does bring in food for the family, they are likely to continue to send their child out to beg, rather than sending them to school.
Sharing a small snack is fine, but anything more may not be as harmless as you think.
If you want to help, consider donating money to one of the many organisations that help street children.
16. Do stay in a riad, but choose wisely
Marrakech is famous for its beautiful riads, and you should definitely opt to stay in one of these rather than a fancy hotel in the ‘new town’ area.
A riad is a type of accommodation with an interior garden and they pretty much all look like palaces. Usually, riads are guesthouses, but my hostel in Marrakech was actually a riad as well, which was pretty sweet.
One word of advice – taxis cannot enter the medina so you will be dropped off outside and have to find your way to the riad with your bags. For this reason, and because the medina is incredibly easy to get lost in (even Google Maps doesn’t work properly inside the medina), I recommend choosing a riad close to Jemaa el-Fnaa so that you will easily be able to find your way in and out.
17. Manage your expectations
Marrakech is truly a beautiful city, but it isn’t all palaces and Insta-worthy doorways.
Many people go to Marrakech expecting it to be super glamorous and exactly like what they’ve seen on social media, but that just isn’t realistic.
Marrakech is dusty.
There are uneven paving stones, puddles, mud and a fair amount of donkey poo to boot. Piles of trash on the streets are not uncommon to see.
As long as you go in knowing this (and wearing covered shoes), you’ll be just fine.
18. Be prepared to haggle
Haggling is part and parcel of life in Marrakech, and if you don’t do it, you’re going to be paying well over the odds in the souks.
The general rule is to offer half of whatever the vendor asks for something, and bargain from there.
I personally tend to not budge much past the halfway mark, but if you’re a less confident haggler, just have an exact figure of what you’re willing to pay in mind before you ask the price of something.
Of course, this rule only applies to shopping in the markets.
If the thought of venturing into the souks makes you feel nervous, check out this 3-hour colourful souks tour on GetYourGuide for an immersive and authentic experience.
Don’t walk into a grocery store and start haggling over a can of Sprite!
19. Turn that frown upside down
Many tourists report having negative experiences with store owners and various people they meet on the street of Marrakech.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel as though shop owners become aggressive very quickly after being told ‘no.’
Here’s the thing.
Moroccan people will mirror you facial expression and attitude.
If you’ve been growing frustrated and end up becoming snappy, dismissive or downright rude, you will see that attitude mirrored back at you.
It definitely is annoying when the hundredth store owner of the day asks if you want to buy some mint tea or curry powder, but the moment you show a negative reaction, that’s when they’ll turn.
I tend to be very smiley but firm, often making a joke out of it.
I’m a backpacker, I have no money! Come on dude, you asked me twice already, did you forget me? No thanks, I’m saving my money for tagine! Nope, don’t even try it – it’s a no!
As long as you keep smiling, you can call them out in a playful way and they won’t mind.
Trust me – this is one of the most useful travel tips for Marrakech out there!
20. Do get out of the city
There are tonnes of things to do in Marrakech, but getting out of the city and exploring some of the wonderful surroundings is definitely something I recommend.
I went out into the Atlas Mountains to spend the night at a Berber family home and learn how to make tagine, as well as taking a trip to Ouzoud Falls for a boat ride and walk in the mountains.
If you’ve got more time, you can even spend a couple of nights in the Sahara desert!
21. Keep an eye on your belongings
Pickpocketing is not uncommon in Marrakech, particularly in the souks and narrow streets of the medina.
Keep a close eye on your things and make sure your gear is insured, just in case.
22. Don’t travel without insurance
While we’re on the topic of travel insurance, I really don’t recommend visiting Morocco without it.
A guy in my hostel was bitten by a stray dog in Essaouira, another person I know got pickpocketed in Marrakech, and I’m pretty sure somebody has fallen off the back of a camel at some point in time.
Morocco is generally safe, even for solo female travellers, but travelling without insurance is an accident waiting to happen.
I always recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing for their extensive cover.
Some activities that World Nomads cover that you may end up doing in Morocco include hiking, horse riding, camping (in the Sahara), camel riding (!), surfing, windsurfing and more.
23. Do eat street food!
Although there is no shortage of fancy restaurants serving up Moroccan delights, you should also try some street food in Marrakech, particularly if you are on a budget.
Although the street food stands in the main square are not recommended, it isn’t difficult to find tiny stalls in the medina selling tasty food at rock bottom prices.
All you need to do is follow your nose, or head to the stands where you see young Moroccan men crowding around.
For a sandwich like this, with lamb kefta, salad and a variety of sauces, don’t pay more than 5 or 10 dirham (50 cents to 1 EUR).
The seller may try and charge you 20 dirham, but this is too much.
If you want to sample everything and learn about Moroccan food and culture while you do it, this evening street food tour is just the thing.
Travel Tips for Marrakech | Final Thoughts
I hope that these Marrakech tips have left you a bit more prepared for your first visit to Marrakech.
It may seem like a lot, and I may well have made Marrakech seem like the most stressful and intimidating place out there, but trust me, it really isn’t.
Marrakech is a wonderful city with tonnes of things to see and do, great food, and some of the best shopping in the world.
You do need to be vigilant about protecting your belongings and staying mindful of scams, but as long as you use your street smarts and aren’t too trusting, you’ll be absolutely fine in Marrakech.
Got any questions?
Please let me know in the comments section below!
Until next time,
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I absolutely loved this article, it’s so interesting and informative. Whilst some people may be put off visiting it’s better than spending lots of money getting there and completely hating it. To me it looks and sounds like an incredible place with a vibe that is totally unique.