In November I went to Marrakesh with some girlfriends to celebrate my 40th Birthday. We stayed in a traditional Riad in the old town just off of the Medina. I am sharing some tips for visiting Marrakesh as before we went our destination raised a few eyebrows. I think this is partly because of the unknown and perhaps a sigma attached around the safety of the city. Lets start by saying now that it’s perfectly safe if you are sensible and although we had great fun. I would not be taking the boys at their current ages. There are some things that you can do before you make your journey to ensure the experience is as good as it can be..
Tips for Visiting Marrakesh
If you can I would recommend staying in a Riad. Not only does this give you the authentic experience but many of them are located centrally. Meaning that they are within easy reach as many of the main tourist attractions. I have visited before with my husband and we stayed in a hotel just on the outskirts of the city. Many of the luxurious hotels are even further out. We met a couple when we did the cooking class on their honeymoon. They were having to get taxis everywhere and were not in the position to pop back to freshen up. Which in the hotter months you will probably want to do .
It is a Muslim country and therefore we should respectful of this. Although there were some tourists that did not stick to the policy of nothing above the knee and, if you are a woman your shoulders covered at all time. I did notice that many people were covered up.
I arranged our airport transfers with the Riad. Many will offer them as will the hotels. If you are staying in a Riad then I would encourage you to arrange an airport transfer through them. As many of the Riads in the old town are down little alleyways. Therefore it is easy to get lost when you first arrive or abe taken to the wrong location. We also used the transfer service that our Riad offered when travelling around the city to go to restaurants. We preferred to use this than the taxis. Although getting a taxi is not difficult as there are plenty around we just wanted to know how much it would be before we start the journey.
The Dihna is a closed currency which means that you cannot purchase it before you arrive in Morocco. It is possible to get Dihna at the airport when you arrive. Although there was quite long queues as the kiosk. As we didn’t need any cash initially we decided to use the cash points in the city itself. Many places will also take euro and certain bills (such as the Riad) were even quoted in euros. We also found a currency exchange just of the media where it is possible to change dollars, euros and gbp into Dihna. Although I am not sure if the interest rate was particularly good. Many places also take plastic, the only place we had any trouble with was actually the sight seeing bus which demanded we pay in cash.
I always like to book activities ahead of any short break. When we visited Marrakech we did the same booking our activities prior to arrival. This included a private yoga instructor, a cooking class and a specific Michelln stared restaurant we went to visit. Most of it we managed to do online with minimal hassle. Our cooking class was with the clock café. I would highly recommend this if you’re looking to visit. Not only did it give us a chance to explore the flavours of Morocco. But we also met some like-minded travellers and got a chance to chat about travels over a wonderful meal.
If you plan to visit some of the tourist sights then it’s worth noting that they all cost 70 Dh per person. We visited the palace, the tombs and the YSL garden. Many other places don’t take card although the YSL Gardens did which means that you need to have the money ready available in cash. When we visited the palace as we didn’t have small notes we struggled to get in without the right change.
If you are limited on time or funds and only really want to see one of them, I would recommend the gardens. As we found the other two are slightly disappointing. In comparison you get a lot more for your money in the YSL Gardens. If you do decide to visit then go early. We arrived late morning and the queue was really long! Thankfully around lunchtime it dissipated a lot so we decided to join the queue. It took us around fifteen minutes. You can book tickets in advance and I would do this if time is short.
Our first port of call was the souks at the back of the Medina. We found that they were more expensive when compared to some of the smaller ones in the city. I think this is because they attract the most tourists and are the most well know. For example a stuffed camel cost 150 Dh in the souk, this was the starting price without negotiation but would not consider dropping to 100Dh. However we managed to find the same camel and purchase two with a little haggling for 140 Dh in one of the tourist shops.
We found that certain things had fixed prices, such as fridge magnets and smaller items across all the outlets. Meaning that there was no negotiation. Our experience in the souks was a good one, we were early approached or hassled in anyway. When when we were we found a firm no was enough for them to leave us alone. Be aware that many of the little shops to not allow photography. I’m sure this changes if you pay for something. When walking around the biggest issue with the souks was the mopeds. We found that even in the most crowded alleyways mopeds were used to move around. In a slightly wider roads there was a lot of them and they go quite fast. This is the reason why I do you not feel Marrakesh is a suitable destination for young family. Keeping an eye on a toddler would have been a nightmare in that situation. Even as an adult you need to be aware as we saw several incidents doing a short stay.
Food and drink
We food to be well priced, a two course meal for four, including a sharing starter without wine cost around £80. However you will pay a premium for alcohol. We found that many of the restaurants will serve beer and wine with food. Our Riad also had an alcohol license. Some of the larger hotels also had a bar however you will need to check to see if it is for hotel residents only. If you are looking for a more traditional bar they do exist but they tend to be higher up and will not be visible from the street.
We had a great time in Marrakech and I hope these tips will help with your trip. Please let me know if there is anything I have missed in the comments below.
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Tips for visiting Marrakesh Tips for visiting Marrakesh