Knowing more about Morocco’s red city and what you can expect will help prepare you well for a memorable adventure in Marrakech.
Learning some top travel tips for Marrakech and knowing what to expect can make your visit to Morocco all the more enjoyable and remarkable. From one tourist season to the next, the former imperial city becomes an even more popular travel destination for its outstanding beauty and rich culture.
The booming city is full of wonders and adventures. From its bustling souks, maze-like medina, and view of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains to its beautiful architecture and Moroccan food with a European twist, Marrakech has it all.
Morocco’s red city might feel like a whole different world for new visitors, which can be overwhelming or intimidating. However, once you know what to expect, where to go, and how to act and dress, you will be able to enjoy the chaotic and lively energy of Marrakech, which only adds to its beauty. Preparing in advance will help you absorb the culture without worrying about confusion in your travel to Morocco.
As you get ready for your Moroccan adventure, reviewing these eight top Marrakech travel tips will help prepare you to rapidly adapt to the new environment and to enjoy your experience to the max.
Get ready for the loud atmosphere.
The moment you walk out of the Marrakech airport, you will notice how busy the city is with its line of taxis waiting to take you into the loud sounds of traffic. However, only when you will arrive in Jemaa El Fna square and walk around the souk will you truly experience the intensified sounds, smells, and emotions of a classic visit to Marrakech.
It is normal to feel apprehensive when you first experience a culture. Even I, as a Moroccan, still get overwhelmed when I visit the red city. Nonetheless, all the commotion adds to the adventure’s fun and makes for an unforgettable experience.
As you begin to embrace the hubbub, make sure to be alert and watch out for motorbikes, especially in the medina and souk where you will encounter them frequently. The vehicles can go too fast through alleys, which can be dangerous, especially in the evening. Keeping both an eye and an ear out for motorcycles is one of the key travel tips for anyone visiting Marrakech.
Prepare for seasonal weather in Marrakech.
Marrakech is a city that can be extremely hot in summer and cold in winter. The narrow, walled medina and souk only add to the city’s heat during summer, and the High Atlas mountains make it even colder in winter.
Your top Marrakech travel tips here are to always wear a hat that can provide shade against the sun in summertime (May-August), and pack warmer clothes and coats if traveling during winter (November-January).
Be ready to exchange your currency and use ATMs.
The official currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). Most local places in Marrakech require cash, with only a few that accept dollars or euros. These are generally higher-end establishments that attract tourists such as hotels, riads, and shops in the city. A dollar or euro translates to around MAD 10, more or less. Be sure to check exchange rates in advance as these change.
Getting cash should be your priority, so you will have to look for ATMs or exchange offices (bureaux de change). There are a few in the airport. While airport exchange rates are generally less favorable than those in the city, keep in mind that ATMs are somewhat hard to find in the ancient medina.
Exchanging your currency to dirhams will not only help with your shopping and consumption in the city. Having the right change will also help you negotiate and haggle better in the souk. Taking Moroccan currency out of Morocco is illegal, so if you still have some cash before your departure, find a shop nearby and spend it on some souvenirs or snacks.
Exercise caution with drinking water and try some delicious food.
Food in Marrakech is a whole experience on its own. You will find food everywhere, from the delicious delicacies in posh restaurants to mouth-watering grilled food in Jemaa el Fna stalls.
For a full experience, try different traditional Moroccan dishes in local restaurants and stop by one of the famous Jemaa el Fna night stalls for a fresh, cheaper, and more authentic meal. You will find a variety of food from tajine, couscous, and rfissa to bastilla, harira, and grilled meat (mechoui).
In the souk, you will also find shops with heaping piles of dates, olives, and various colorful spices, and other shops that sell sweet Moroccan pastries, like chebakia, almond briwat, and so many more. The assortments are beautiful, but the taste even surpasses the look.
Of course, you cannot travel to Morocco without trying Moroccan mint tea, a drink Moroccans consume almost religiously. Usually, the exquisite tea is served hot and very sweet, but you can order yours with less sugar.
One of the most important Marrakech travel tips is to avoid drinking tap water. Locals are accustomed to the water, but foreigners may have a much different reaction. To the unaccustomed stomach, it can cause severe gastrointestinal issues, so stick to bottled water.
Clothing: Know what to wear.
Morocco is a Muslim country, so most people are conservative and dress accordingly. Since Marrakech is a huge tourist destination, the locals are used to people dressing however they want. Even Moroccans, to some extent, don’t necessarily take “covering up” to the extreme.
Having said that, it is essential to remember that you are in a different environment with a different value system. Out of respect for the local culture and religion, it is better to dress conservatively. Avoid clothes that are too revealing, like tank tops for men and miniskirts for women. This will also help you avoid any unwanted and unpleasant attention, which is, unfortunately, a major issue for women in Morocco.
This can also be an opportunity to explore different fashions and try out different colorful, traditional clothes, from casual kaftan dresses to customized djellabas. Another of the top Marrakech travel tips –– local garments are a great fit for local weather. Try to wear comfortable shoes, too, because you will be doing a lot of walking in the medina and souks.
Get ready to haggle.
Some shopkeepers in Marrakech souks will tell you that haggling is a national sport in Morocco, and it will certainly feel like it. You will have to bargain on every single item you want to buy in the souk. The initial prices merchants tell you will be ridiculously high, and sometimes you can lower the cost from MAD 500 ($55) to MAD 100 ($11).
You might feel uncomfortable or shy about negotiating the prices at first. Still, moving from one shop to the other, you will quickly learn how to haggle and to offer the prices you think are fair. Do not worry about coming off as rude or disrespectful to the products sold. Bargaining is part of the Moroccan culture, and everyone does it here with no problem.
One of the top travel tips to remember while shopping in Marrakech’s souks is never accept the seller’s first offer. Know the price you want to pay and negotiate with it in mind.
If a merchant doesn’t accept your offer, you can politely say no and walk away. Some shopkeepers will even call you back to make you a better deal or accept your offer. If they do not, you can always find another shop that will make you a better one.
The same goes for taxis. Some will ask for a ridiculous fee. You can ask staff at your hotel or riad about the usual taxi fee from the site to your destination and then negotiate with your driver before getting in. If you get in and close the door before settling on a price, you may also be closing the door on negotiations.
Expect to get lost or to hire a guide.
One important thing to accept before your travel to Marrakech is you will get lost, likely not just once, and perhaps even not just twice. However, don’t worry—it is all part of the fun Marrakech experience.
The narrow alleys of the medina and the similar-looking shops around the souk might be confusing. It is easy to lose your way, especially when you are busy contemplating the beauty of the art around you. Still, you might also discover other spots that were not on your radar.
However, if you definitely want to avoid getting lost, you can hire a guide. You can do so by asking staff at the hotel or riad where you are staying. They will recommend a trusty licensed guide that can accompany you during your trip and help you navigate around the maze-like medina while teaching you about the history and the culture.
You might try Google Maps, but it is not always helpful. If you want to try this approach but don’t have a Moroccan SIM card, be sure to download the Marrakech map to your phone when you are connected to wifi. You can also try and remember specific attractions or landmarks so that you can recognize your way back. The best people to ask for directions are the shopkeepers, because they will point you to where you need to go without asking for anything in return.
Learn a few Arabic words.
We can’t talk about Marrakech travel tips without offering some advice on communicating. Morocco’s official languages are both Arabic and Amazigh (Berber), with French being the second official language. Most Moroccans speak up to four languages (Arabic, Amazigh, French, and English). Some in the northern region also speak Spanish.
However, not everyone is fluent in French and English. This can pose an obstacle in communication, especially in small villages, or, when you are in Marrakech, the medina. This is where it can be useful to learn a few words in Arabic, specifically in Darija, the Moroccan dialect. Some of the most important words you can learn are:
Hello = Salam Alikome (which means peace be with you and is used in greeting)
Where is? = Fiin?
Please = Affak
How much is this? = Chehal hada?
Yes = Eh
No = Laa
Thank you = shoukran (You can also use “laa shoukran,” or “no, thank you” if you don’t want to buy something.)
Learning about a different country’s culture and way of living is responsible and hugely beneficial if you are planning to visit said country.
These eight top Marrakech travel tips will help you navigate where to go, how to dress, and what to do in certain situations. This should help your travel to Morocco go smoothly and comfortably without much confusion or misunderstanding.