Travel Tips for Morocco:

  1. Two full days is enough for Marrakech but too short to do much else. If you want to see more of Morocco, definitely give yourself more time. There are so many options from Marrakech that I wish we had time to do them all.
  2. Stay in a Riad. Preferably one with an airport shuttle because you don’t want to drive in Marrakech. Plus, no cars in the Medina mean you’ll be parking outside the old town anyway. There are hotels, but I think you’ll miss the hidden charms of the riads.
  3. As soon as you pass through customs in the Marrakech airport they offer free SIM cards, and you can buy data for either 5E or 10E (they rightfully think you won’t have Moroccan MAD yet). I bought 10E worth of gig, and had plenty for the 2.5 days.
  4. We didn’t see an ATM in the airport but there was a kiosk where you could withdraw money. Since you never, EVER exchange money at one of the stands in the airport, we were wary. Turns out, it was basically a bank and we had no reason to worry. We ended up finding an ATM instead, but we would have been fine getting money out of that stand as well. One thing to know – Moroccan MAD is a “closed” currency, which means you won’t be able to exchange it outside of Morocco. It makes budgeting a bit difficult – but there are plenty of spending opportunities if you get too much out.
  5. There are thousands of Riads – and all of them have good, even great reviews. I picked a smaller one, with only four rooms because Riads are homes, which means not much insulation inside and we like our quiet when we sleep! I did mess up though, because I booked a room that only had a curtain for a bathroom door…and we like our privacy! So, beware of that as well. The bathroom door is not an uncommon missing feature. (It’s Les Nuits de Marrakech…it’s a little pricier than some of the other Riads, but the extras and the owner more than made up for it!)
  6. You will not have good WiFi in the rooms. The Riads are solid cement, so unless there is an amazing router, you’re not going to have WiFi in the room. This was okay for us, though, because it did mean we enjoyed the common areas of the Riad more than we probably would have had we had WiFi in the room. Plus, as mentioned above, I had data on my phone which surprising worked great…so when I needed my Facebook or Instagram fix, I was covered.
  7. Marrakech’s Medina is a crazy, chaotic sensory overload mess. There’s lots of people, lots of scooters in places you wouldn’t think a scooter would fit and so much to look at in every direction. Prepare yourself to be overwhelmed and it won’t be so bad in reality. I was expecting to be on edge, but I had built it up so much in my head that when I got there, it actually wasn’t so bad.
  8. Do not take pictures of the monkeys or the snakes in the main square. The monkeys look badly treated and the snakes look drugged. Even if you think you are being stealth, these guys are watching you like a hawk, and will chase you down for money. It happened to me during the evening time when I was taking a video of the square and a guy playing an instrument thought I was taking a picture of him. Thankfully, we were with a guide who shooed him away, but it could have been awkward.
  9. I booked three tours, and in hindsight, we only needed two. The one the first night helped acclimate us to the Medina and the third one was mainly to transport us from the Marjorelle Garden to the Camel rides. Even with the guide being a jerk for the second one, we could have done it ourselves. We could have even probably gotten to the gardens via taxi – but after the Riad owner told us the taxis will rip us off unless we, “get in without making eye contact and tell him where we are going…” or something like that, I was glad we had a driver.
  10. If you want to be spontaneous, however, it’s more than possible in Morocco. Not knowing this, I had booked three tours, one Hammam and one dinner reservation. However, I cancelled the Hammam I booked because the Riad offered a better one for half the price. He also offered to book tours and restaurants, which I would have taken him up on had I not already paid. If you want to wait until you get there, it is more than possible.
  11. Morocco is a Muslim country. You aren’t going to find alcohol readily available, there will be a call to prayers five times a day and you should dress accordingly. We went in January, so the days were in the mid-to-high 60s but the nights were freezing! This meant we had no choice to layer up so modesty wasn’t a problem. But, if you go in the warm months – remember to be respectful. The one fun thing about traveling is learning about other cultures. Remember you are just a guest and adhere to their norms, not yours.
  12. Haggle, and then haggle some more. I really liked walking through the maze of souks, and even got the hang of haggling – which I am usually awful at! (A vendor in Florence even gave me money BACK when I didn’t haggle!) The souks are broken up by the goods that are sold – carpets in one area, clothes another, food items in another, etc – so you can haggle and even start to walk to another booth if they don’t match your price. They will either stop you or let you go. Either way, you’ll find the price you want. Always start with 75% of what they are offering and work from there. But don’t meet in the middle…the price is still somewhere between 50-60% of the price they give you.
  13. The warning that you will get lost in the souks is true…if you don’t keep your eye out for the signs that point to Jemaa el-Fnaa, it would be easy to get turned around. However, we were able to keep our bearings even as we took random turns in the souks. As long as I kept an eye out for the signs to the main square, I knew we weren’t lost.
  14. Beware of the scams. Along with avoiding the snakes and monkeys in the main square, also avoid the random ladies trying to grab your hand and draw a henna tattoo on it. Our Riad owner said to quickly pull our hand away because we’ll be charged a lot and the ink will be sub-par and not anything we would want our skin to be in contact with. Also, it only happened once to us, but apparently some locals will tell you that a street is closed, and then offer to show you another route to get where you are going. Once at said location, the “guides” will demand money. One person tried a half-hearted attempt at saying a road was closed to us, but right as he said it a scooter came from said road. So it didn’t work out so well for him. 🙂
  15. We were told that getting through customs could take hours at the Marrakech airport, but we were seated up front and were among the first that got off the plane, so by the time we reached customs, we only had a couple people in front of us. It only took about 30 minutes for us to get through (every visitor to Morocco gets a special travelers code that when we go back, we’d have assigned to us again!) Try to be seated up front, or walk quickly to customs. By the time the plane emptied, I’m sure the wait was longer. I will say, though, Morocco was ready because all the stations were open with people waiting.
  16. On the flip side, leaving from Marrakech took forever and it was a PROCESS! Our flight was at 0640, so we got to the airport around 0445. To even get into the airport, your bags and you go through a scanner. Then, after baggage check, you go to a different terminal. But on your way there, you walk by a kiosk with papers and a sign that would be easy to pass without a second glance. But don’t! You need to fill out another form to leave the country, and then will get in line just for the guard to check your form. Once you pass by him, form in hand, you go through another guard who checks your passport and your Moroccan traveler’s number. THEN you will get to security. It takes forever. So definitely build in a lot of time before your flight.

Marrakech wasn’t like anything I had experienced, but I liked it so much more than I thought and definitely want to go back. I feel much more prepared and knowing what to expect the next time around will definitely

 

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