Marrakesh is easily one of the most Instagram-worthy cities in the world. Its vibrant colors and unique structures attract thousands of foreign visitors yearly. Marrakesh is the most popular tourist destination in Morocco. Its central location makes it an ideal take-off point to Casablanca, Medina, and Essaouira.
Marrakesh is an imperial city filled with beautiful riads clad in signature Morrocan tiles. When you see a photo of a swanky villa bright colors, a pool surrounded by pillars, and gardens sprawling of wild flowers, it is unmistakably Marrakesh. Morrocans have the aesthetics down to the tee and it contributes highly to how relaxing the ambiance is.
Apart from all of its beauty, there are a lot of things you should know before traveling to Marrakesh. These are the details you would rarely find on social media. Stuff that you really should take note of in order to have a positively memorable and safe trip.
Unlike most tourist destinations which has English translations of pretty much everything, in Marrakesh, everything is in Arabic. They have their own Arabic dialect called “Darija” which somewhat sounds French. However, feel free to ask directions from hotel staff and store vendors as majority are able to understand English.
Their currency is Morrocan Dirham (MAD, Dh) which is a closed currency. This means that it can only be traded within the country. It is important to remember to bring only what you think is necessary to cover for your trip.
When traveling to Marrakesh, it is best to bring cash on hand. Most establishments do not accept credit cards, except for the starred hotels and high-end restaurants. Modes of transportation definitely require cash payments. ATM machines, although they are easy to locate, are in French. There are ATM machines in the airport terminal which have English translations. It is best and safer to make your cash withdrawals before leaving the airport.
Best Time to Visit
Marrakesh is bustling with foreign visitors year-round. The best time to visit is in December to May to be greeted by the best weather conditions for touring. Even when the sun is high up, a cool breeze surrounds the atmosphere which makes the sightseeing much more enjoyable. At night, the temperature drops to give you chilly evenings that you can enjoy lounging in a hot tub. However, expect a heavier influx of tourists on the month of December as the holiday season vacationers come. It is also the period leading to the Marrakesh Grand Prix.
Passports of over 70 countries are permitted to enter Morroco without having to apply for a tourist visa. Some of these include Canada, Australia, United States, all member states of the European Union, and select Asian countries. This makes it even more convenient for travelers around to globe to visit this beautiful bustling city.
Flying to Marrakesh
Marrakesh has its own airport, which is the Marrakesh Menera Airport. It has flights easily connecting the city to Casablanca, Doha, and some European cities such as Amsterdam, Madrid, London, Barcelona, and Paris, to name a few.
Flight fares are, as always, higher for direct flights to Marrakesh. For those traveling on a budget, you may opt to fly in via Casablanca Airport. It is easy to take a train to Marrakesh from Casablanca, making it convenient for most backpackers to take this route to save a few bucks.
Locating The Medina
The Medina is the central area of Marrakesh where most of the accommodations are located. The area is pretty much like a huge red maze. It is easy to get lost in it especially if it is your first time visiting the city.
From the Marrakesh Menera Airport, you may take a bus or a taxi to the Medina. Buses are available every 30 minutes. However, expect for it to go on a slower pace. The bus makes a stop at the Koutoubia Mosque, near the Jemaa el Fina in Medina. If you prefer to go on a faster route, you may take a taxi but it definitely costs more. Drivers tend to charge an additional fee, although you can share a ride with other tourists.
If you are coming from Casablanca, you will be taking two trains to get to Marrakesh. Head to the airport train station and purchase two separate train tickets– one from the airport to Casa Voyageurs Station, and one from Casa Voyageurs to Marrakesh Station. It takes around four hours in total to get from Casablanca to Marrakesh via these two trains. Fares depend on the seat class that you opt for. Upon alighting at Marrakesh Station, you make take a cab to the Jemaa el Fina in Media which is very close to the station.
Marrakesh is a highly conservative city. If you are touring or are checking in around the Medina, make sure to dress modestly. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are not allowed in public areas. These types of clothing are deemed inappropriate so it is advisable to always bring around a scarf with you to cover your shoulders. Better yet, make it a point to pack up on sleeved clothes and pants.
Tipping in Marrakesh
Giving tips at restaurants is common practice in Marrakesh. Just as it is in other countries, 10% of the total bill is the usual amount that you can give. Some restaurants however, already charge a service fee of 10% as part of your bill. In this case, it is not necessary to give an additional tip, but if you are delighted by the service then you may go ahead and leave a little extra.
In hotels, when you ask a bellboy to carry your luggage, a tip of 10Dh will be greatly appreciated. Meanwhile, in taxis, fares are rounded up to the nearest 5. For example, if your metered fare says 27Dh, you may pay 30Dh.
Marrakesh is generally a safe city but unavoidably, some locals take advantage of the foreign travelers. Scams are rampant in this city, and it is best to know about these now to avoid falling victim to these. It is important to be extra vigilant and practice common sense.
There are faux tour guides who would offer to walk you to your destination and charge a hefty amount if you even try to speak with them. This is one of the most common scams that tourists fall into, so it is best to just ignore them. You can book your official tours online or through accredited travel agencies.
Taxi scams are pretty rampant even in some other cities in the world, and Marrakesh is no exception. Drivers would charge five times the actual fare if they feel that you have really no idea on the actual going rates. Most times, it is still ideal to take a bus or haggle first before riding a cab.
The same is similar in restaurants, as some of the local establishments would bloat your bill. Be weary of restaurants randomly serving you food that you did not order. They claim that the dishes are complimentary but bill you for everything in the end anyway.
Nonetheless, you should not be discouraged by these scams as Marrakesh is such a beautiful city to miss out on. Just be extra mindful of your belongings and who you speak with. You can make the most out of your trip by preparing an itinerary, arranging your accommodations, and booking your tours in advance.