I have written two posts about the trip I took in late 2015 to Marrakech, Morocco and if you have read them you would know that it was my very first time to the African continent and obviously, to Morocco. I knew Morocco is a popular tourist destination but it is still a foreign land and compared to European cities, Marrakech (Moroccan city that I visited) is less-advanced and more traditional. So I did an extensive research before I departed to Marrakech but experience is still the best teacher.
If it’s your first time in Marrakech, planning the trip could be a little overwhelming, so I hope these tips from me which I got from my own experience could help you plan a more seamless and enjoyable trip to Marrakech.
1.) Research the weather
I guess it is a common misconception that since Morocco is located in Africa, the weather would be dry and hot unlike in the Europe. Well, it is not entirely wrong, but it is not correct either. Even though it’s a part of African continents, Morocco is located up north and quite close to the European continent. It took me less than 4 hours flight from London to Marrakech, so it is not too far.
So it is important to research the weather before you go because it is not always hot in Marrakech. For instance, when I went there it was December and it was winter in the European countries. Although obviously, the weather in Marrakech was still much warmer than in Europe it was not as warm as the weather in tropical countries like say, Indonesia.Especially after the sun set I would need an extra layer since it can get a bit chilly at night. Not to mention if you plan on joining an excursion to the Sahara Desert and spend a night in the middle of the desert like a Nomad, you will definitely need more layers on your outfit.
I’m not saying you need to dress like you’re preparing for European winter, just extra layer would be helpful. Trust the girl who only brought a leather jacket to sleep in a tent in the middle of the desert and had to wrap 3 layers of blanket to be able to sleep without waking up in the middle of the night because of the coldness. Yep, she’s yours truly.
2.) Dress conservatively
Despite being a popular travel destination for Western travellers, Marrakech is a part of Islamic country that still hold tight their culture, belief, and norm. As a visitor it would be better if us tourist/traveller, to put an effort to respect their way of life. Here, women are expected to dress conservatively, so it would be nice for us women traveller to conform with this norm.
You don’t have to cover yourself from head to toe. Just covered shoulders and knees would have been nice. But it should not compromise your comfort. If you are travelling in the hottest month of the year, which is July, it would present as a challenge. Thin scarves, loose top, or lightweight t-shirt could be your savior. Not only it is lightweight, it is also comfy, stylish and modest. Everyone’s happy!
Dressing conservatively may also give you a sense of safety if you are a solo female traveller so you don’t really stand out of the crown which may brought you unwated attention from some agressive men out in the Marrakech street.
3.) Visit The Sahara Desert
I personally think this is a mandatory if you ever in any part of Morocco because this magnificent desert is definitely worth the visit. The most common way to go to the Sahara is by joining an excursion, it could be an overnight excursion or a two-nights tour. I chose the latter.
As you can see from my previous post, riding the camel and spending the night in the Sahara Desert were wonderful experiences! If it’s not on your bucket-list yet, you better add it. I believe everyone should try this once in their lifetime. Such an adventure!
But, you have to be cautious on selecting the tour as there are a lot of people offering Sahara excursion out in the street of Marrakech and you should not forget that Morocco, especially Marrakech is known for their scammers. I would recommend you to ask your hotel or hostel for a reliable tour that you could join. Hotel and hostel usually offer their own tour and I guess it’s best if you join that rather than looking for one on the streets.
4.) Beware of scammers
As I have said above, there are a lot of scammers in Marrakech so you have to be very vigilant and do not easily buy the kindness of strangers. It doesn’t mean you have to be rude and turn down every help or ignore the people completely. It’s just safer if you stay friendly but keep being cautious.
The scams could take various forms. The most common one is people “helping” you with the directions. As a tourist, we can get easily confused with the little alleys of Marrakech and usually it shows on your face. It could make us easy targets for the scammers. They would offer to take you to the place you are going and then demand for money. So, turn them down politely and find another direction. Even better if you could put up an act and say that you have been there before. Hide your confused face!
5.) Getting Around
In Marrakech, especially in the Old Medina, the best way to get around is by walking. I know those little alleys in the Jmaa Al-fna could be a little confusing but afraid not, from my experience the Google Maps worked well even when I’m in the deepest of the souks so there is little chance of you getting lost.
Getting around by walking also gives you the opportunity to see every beautiful corner and the red alley which Marrakech is known for. Getting a bit lost may even expose you to other exotic parts of Moroccan souks. And the walking is bearable too because every attraction in Old Medina is in relatively close proximity.
If you really need to take a vehicle, taxi is your only choice. But you have to be prepared to haggle. Agreed on the fare beforehand if you don’t want to be ripped off!
The official currency of Morocco is Moroccan Dirham and this currency is not traded outside of Morocco, meaning you can’t get it outside of Morocco. So prior departure, I suggest you exchange your money to Euro (if you don’t have it yet) as it will be easier to be exchanged once you arrived. Also, the majority of vendors in Marrakech accept Euro as a mean of payment and usually charge you 1 Euro for 10 Moroccan Dirham. Of course, you could get a better rate if you exchange your Euros at a foreign exchange. US Dollar and GBP are also easy to be exchanged although they are not accepted by the vendors.
Since you can not exchange your Moroccan Dirham into any other currency outside of Morocco do not exchange more than you need. 150-200 Dirham usually cover the expense for a whole day. Make sure you exchange enough but not too much.
7.) Female Traveller
A lot of people ask me if it’s safe to visit Marrakech if you are a solo female traveller or a group of female travellers with no male companion. My answer is yes. In my first two days in Marrakech there were only me and a female friend and we got around Marrakech just fine. Of course, we have to deal with abundant cat-callers but nothing worse than that. So it will be just fine if it’s just you and your female friends or even if you are alone. Marrakech is quite safe. The 6 tips I mentioned above would be a great help, especially number 2 and 6.
I hope all those tips help you to plan your next vacation to Marrakech. Do not let your worries stand in the way of you enjoying the vibrant and exotic Marrakech. Do you have your own tips of visiting Marrakech and Morocco in general? I would love to hear it! Leave your comment down below, please 🙂