Marrakech is literally a place fit for a princess. When you’re flying into Marrakech you’ll see a red city sitting amongst a red desert. Exotic buildings, amazing history and some of the most colourful souks in the world. Having said that it is well known that Marrakech has often been targeted as an unsafe tourist destination, particularly for women, and a destination that is not tourist friendly. Whilst I disagree with this to a certain extent as I had a very enjoyable experience in Marrakech, I would still highly recommend doing your research before you go as it’ll really make your trip to this beautiful city easier! Here’s a list of 10 things I wish I knew before my trip to Marrakech!
1. places closed for renovation
Check opening times and renovation dates for all the places you want to visit, in particular, areas of old architecture. When we went back in 2019 Ben Youssef Madrasah was closed for renovation until 2020 – this was definitely my no.1 must visit place so if you’re planning on going do check the opening dates online.
2. THE SOUKS ARE VERY TRADITIONAL
When planning your trip to Marrakech you’ll often hear the term “souks”. Souks are essentially another word for an Arabic bazaar or marketplace. Having been to Istanbul, I was under the impression they would be similar to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul – the souks in the Medina are nothing like the Istanbul Grand Bazaar. They are very very authentic and traditional and it may come as a culture shock to many. Whilst most shopkeepers are friendly, some are not.
3. lack of free wifi
There is literally no Free WiFi in the Medina (the souks) and it’s pretty easy to get lost in the winding maze of the Medina. For someone like me who heavily relies on the internet during holidays, this made the trip slightly difficult and I ended up using my data a lot – now anyone who knows about data charges in Morocco will know this is a bad bad idea!
4. beware of shopkeepers asking for money
Some shop owners will ask for money if you take photos of their shops. As a photo enthusiast I’m very keen on taking authentic photos of a place and, following from my experience in Istanbul, I learnt that bazaars are the perfect place to capture the culture of a country. I soon realised that some shop owners not only ask for money, they can even get aggressive when they see you’re taking photos of them and their shops.
5. Google maps are a no go!
Google Maps do not work at all in the Medina – you think you’re on the right path and then BAM! you’ve hit a dead end. When I go travelling I heavily rely on Google Maps and in Marrakech this was a problem. Some of the places are also not named on Google Maps so you have to rely on other people to show you the way at times.
6. do not drink tap water
So I actually knew this one from before so we only drank bottled water. Many Riads have a filter tap for guests to use and most do not suffer any ill effects from drinking filtered tap water. I also read in a forum that cafes often sell tap water as bottled water. Whilst this may be a stretch, it’s something to keep in mind and possibly stick to only consuming bottled water bought from supermarkets.
7. atm’s can run out of money
Did you know ATM’s can run out of money? Cash is important in Marrakech as a lot of places refuse to take card so when one of the closest ATM’s ran out of money it was a bit of a problem. Honestly though I doubt this a problem many people will face – it was definitely a one off for myself too but certainly something to keep in mind for future trips!
8. pack imodium
Pack some Imodium. Like seriously, I thought my stomach was strong but after the first 2-3 days I started feeling ill. I had to search for a pharmacy in Marrakech. Diarrhoea is one of the most common health problems you may have to deal with on a trip to Marrakech so it’s best to prepare for it in advance. Drinking tap water is ofcourse one of the main causes of this.
9. toilet paper and hand sanitiser
Since it’s 2020, everyone is probably carrying hand sanitiser anyways (well you should be if you already aren’t!). Ofcourse, you won’t require toilet paper in your hotel but for when you need to use public toilets – if you have absolutely no other option – it’s important to carry toilet paper with you. So yes bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer (I knew this from before but if you didn’t here you go).
In Marrakech there are three types of taxis: private, petit and and grand taxis. Petit are standard taxis which, by law, can only take 3 people! As a family of four we had to keep looking for grand taxis (which can seat a maximum of 6 people) but unfortunately are not as common as the petit ones. Eventually, we took the number of one of the grand taxis and use the same taxi for the whole trip.
And with that I conclude my list of 10 things I wish I knew before travelling to Marrakech. This by no means suggests I had an unpleasant trip, in fact it was quite the contrary. I found Marrakech a fascinating city to visit with every corner offering a new and often delicious experience!
I will remember the imodium stuff. Good tip! Haha I hope I can go there after all this pandemic chaos!
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Hahah! I really hope you can! I miss travelling so much too!
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