Marrakech, Morocco is a city that I enjoyed visiting. It is definitely a city full of contrast, friendly people, and beautiful sights. I was excited to explore and learn about it in the little bit of time that I was there. So here are some things to know before you go!
Currency – If you want Moroccan Dirhams before you head there I would suggest getting them from your bank. I tried to get a little from the airport before we left, but they didn’t have any. In fact, the guy almost gave us UAE dirhams, so if they do say they have dirhams make sure they are for the right country. I was able to exchange money at the airport once there. Also, keep in mind that places don’t accept the American Express Credit Card. You can use AMEX for traveling to and from Marrakech but when in once you’ve landed in the airport, no other currency is accepted, unless it’s being exchanged of course. The approximate exchange rate is about 10 dirhams for every US dollar, but that can vary depending on what time of year you travel in and what the economic state of both countries looks like.
Language- The languages spoken are French, Arabic, and English. I had no issues talking to the majority of people in English. There were only a few people who only spoke French and I had to bust out my rusty rendition of it to communicate. I also tried to throw some Arabic phrases out there, but French and English seemed to be the top 2 languages.
Water- Pretty plain and simple on this one. Don’t drink it. Stick to bottled water unless you have one of those bottles that can turn any water into drinkable water.
Food – The food was really good. Just be careful eating salads and fruit as they do wash it with their water. I only had 2 strawberries and ended up with a stomach ache and diarrhea. Also be careful with eating local sauces. My friend was given hot sauce in a little plastic bag and she put it all over her food. We realized it was the hot sauce when she was the only one who was sick. She was throwing up and had diarrhea for about 2 days.
Stay at a Riad- Riads are authentic Moroccan guesthouses. There are tons all over and they are so pretty! They have courtyards in the middle and many have pools or at the very least plunge pools. You won’t be able to spot one from outside all too often. They don’t look like much till you walk inside! They are also affordable!
Bring Medicine- It is almost inevitable that someone may get sick. I anticipated this and brought all types and I am glad I did. If you don’t no worries, they do have pharmacies although much of the stuff is in French.
Cell Phone Service- This is one of those places where buying a sim would come in handy. U.S carries have no deals with Morocco and therefore using your global plan how you would elsewhere isn’t going to work. You could end up with a hefty phone bill when you get back. Yes, even those of you with T-Mobile. So if you aren’t for the sim keep the phone on airplane mode and use Wi-Fi like we did.
Haggling- Be prepared to haggle. When shopping don’t take the first price you get. Be prepared to come back with another price. Don’t be afraid to walk away. There are tons of people selling the same items. I didn’t have to take any taxis, but I heard the drivers will haggle with you as well.
Pick Pockets- Be mindful of your stuff. Even the guy who worked at our hotel told us to be careful with our phones and cameras. Even with him walking around with us he told me to take my photos and then put the camera away and not to keep it out. People whiz by on motor bikes and can easily take it out of your hands and keep going.
Friday Closures- Morocco is a Muslim country. Their holy day is on Friday. Many things were closed, but there were also a good amount of things still open. Just be mindful.
Clothing- Although they are used to tourists it is important to stay mindful of the culture. Cover up your shoulders and don’t wear anything provocative. If you want to wear shorts make sure they are by your knees. As long as you are conservative you are good. We all wore jeans and lose fitting shirts.
Weather- I have heard that it can get terribly hot in Marrakech. We went in the winter time. It was really nice out, but a jacket or sweater does come in handy as it is chilly. Especially at night when it becomes much colder. You will be happy for a sweater and jacket.
Getting Lost- It is inevitable that walking around, especially in the Medina, you will at some point get lost. Not a matter of IF, but more like WHEN. We had a guide from our hotel so thankfully we didn’t have this issue. I know if we didn’t have him we would have definitely gotten lost. In fact the hotel knows people get lost and provided us with a phone to call them when we did. Then they could either give directions back or send someone to come get us.
The People- They are extremely nice and very friendly. However if you get lost don’t ask anyone for directions unless you plan to pay them. Also be mindful when taking photos of snake charmers and such. That will cost you as well. The hustle is real, stay alert.
Mint Tea- They are known for their mint tea. I drank tons of it. I love tea and this was some delicious tea. I even bought some to bring back with me to make at home.
I am sure there are tons of other things to know, but these are some great basics to start with. From my experiences and what I had been told these seem to be the major tips to guide you in the right direction when visiting Marrakech.
Have you been to Marrakech, Morocco?