5 Tips for Traveling in Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco is a country that I’ve always known I’d one day visit. My parents met there, and my childhood was filled with exotic souvenirs and stories of their adventures.
When my best friend and I booked our tickets to Marrakech, I couldn’t be more excited to experience the city’s infamous beauty, colours, and culture. A small part of me was worried that my expectations were too high, and I would find it to be an uninspiring tourist trap. What I found, however, was a place filled with more charm and mystery than I’ve ever encountered – full of contradictions, we found men in Djellabas scrolling through phones nicer than mine, camels grazing on the side of busy roundabouts, and snake charmers who called out to us in flawless English. Make no mistaking – Marrakech is by no means backwards.
Anyone with a sense of adventure must experience the feeling of getting lost in this maze of perfect chaos. It isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it is certainly worth the journey. Here are my top tips for traveling in Marrakech.
Don't worry about getting lost
If you’re wandering around the Medina, you’ll find that it’s almost impossible to navigate using a map, and there isn’t really signage to direct you. You will start to get your bearings, however, and as long as you have a general sense of where the main landmarks are, you can always find your way back to somewhere you recognise. If there’s somewhere specific you’d like to go, finding it may seem like an impossible task. Just keep asking locals and you will, remarkably, find your way. Most of the fun is wandering the streets, anyways.
Always have exact change
Don’t expect haggling to be easy, but it will be almost impossible if you don’t have exact change with you. If you get in a taxi and only have large change, you most likely won’t get any money back. If you’ve agreed to buy something at a certain price but don’t have exact change, the same could easily happen. In any situation where you’re paying for goods or a service, you will need to be prepared to avoid overpaying and spare you some awkwardness.
Beware of pickpockets
I’ve been to many major tourist destinations where pickpocketing is said to be bad, but I’ve never experienced such aggressive pickpocketing as I have in Marrakech. My backpack was unzipped several times as I was walking around – the streets are so crowded and chaotic that it is very easy to lose your bearings, and someone can get up close to you without you noticing anything unusual. Don’t take valuables around with you, and keep what you do have very safe (I’ve heard of the bottom of backpacks/handbags getting slashed). As a tourist, you will be a walking target.
Steer clear of the henna ladies
When walking around Jemaa el Fna, you will encounter various women trying to convince you to get your henna done (even if you’re male, but females are especially targeted). Do not interact with the henna ladies or agree to get your henna done. I repeat: do not interact with the henna ladies. You’ve been warned.
Embrace the chaos
After walking through crowded streets all day being hassled by the majority of people you pass, you will have moments where you feel incredibly overstimulated. Especially if you aren’t sure where you are, these moments can turn into mini panic attacks. As long as you’re prepared for this, just take a deep breath and remember that this is why you came! You’ll soon find your bearings again, and those are the times when you’ll encounter the best treasures or make the funniest memories. It doesn’t hurt to stay in a hotel that’s outside of the Medina, so that when you go home at night, you can take a sigh of relief that you’re back in relative calmness.
Let me know if you have any other questions about visiting Marrakech!