In this Marrakech Travel Guide, you can expect to find Marrakech tips, as well as several advices, and even suggestions of what to visit. It´s like a pocket guide with everything we consider important to know before landing here.
While arriving at this beautiful city dominated by chaos, you are likely to feel somewhat intimidated…. by the constant traffic of motorbikes in the crowded streets, by the excessive persistence of the sellers, by everything that happens simultaneously . It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in the first few minutes. You might even ask yourself…. is this safe? Yes, it is, and this is all part of Marrakech charm.
Marrakech Travel Guide:
Our experience, Tips, Advices & What to Visit
1. Arriving in Marrakech
We arrived in Marrakech late in the night. Despite the hours, the city was still as vibrant and agitated as if the night had just started. Everything was alive, our bodies full of adrenaline and our hearts beating to the frenetic rhythm of a city that never sleeps.
If you want to have a nice arrival in Marrakech, you should request the transfer service that your hotel offers you.
Dear reader, if you want that your arrival in Marrakech goes smooth and laid back, this is one most pertinent advice you´ll read. Especially if this is your first time in Marrakech, don´t even think twice.
Why should you order this service?
#1 Taking a taxi doesn´t mean that it will be a cheaper option
The transfer service that the vast majority of hotels/riads offers costs on average 10€-15€. It may be a little more expensive than taking a taxi or a public transport, but believe me it will save you some other major headaches.
When we got the taxi back to the airport, we paid 100 Dirhams (which is roughly equivalent to € 10) in the evening. Depending on your negotiation skills and the time of day, you may find it to be cheaper but also more expensive.
If you opt for the taxi, you should have with you a note of 100 Dirhams or smaller. If you give them a big note, you might not get the right change. To avoid unpleasant surprises, you should always ask or negotiate the price before getting into the taxi.
According to blogger Amanda Mouttaki from MarocMama blog, the fixed and fair price of a taxi from the airport to the medina is around 70 Dirhams (+/- € 7).
#2 When requesting the transfer service, you know that someone you can trust will take you to the door of your hotel/riad
The main reason why we don´t recommend getting a taxi as soon as you arrive in Marrakech is related to the peculiar architecture of the city. The medina, where your riad is most likely to be located, is an endless labyrinth. Although you can spot motorcycles driving through these narrow residential streets, it is impossible for taxis and other vehicles to circulate in them.
So at any given moment, you will have to leave the comfort of the taxi, and be on your own in the streets of the medina. You´ll soon become an easy target and it won´t take long until someone approaches you offering “help” to guide you to your hotel.
Let me just warn you, that the probability of getting this help out of pure generosity is practically zero! When someone offers to show you the way, be aware.
When we returned to Marrakech after our road trip through Morocco, we still had another 4 days to enjoy this city. As we arrived in Marrakech during broad daylight, we believed that we would easily arrive at our riad without having to pay for the transfer service that Riad Cherihane offered us for € 13. Needless to say it didn´t go as we had imagined.
A friendly and smiling young man saw us with our backpacks and approached us offering his help. He said he knew where our riad was. He seemed genuinely friendly and even offered to carry our bags. In fact, our riad was just around the corner. He didn´t have to accompany us for more than 4 minutes.
When we arrived at our riad door, his sympathy simply faded away and he asked us for money to pay for his “help”. Valter handed 20 Dirhams (2 €) to him. Not happy with the amount, he still asked for more. He demanded that we gave him at least 10 €. We dived into our pockets and Valter gave him another 20 Dirhams. He goes on and insists that this is not a fair amount. He says that 40 Dirhams (4€) is nothing to him. At this moment, our pockets are already empty, we tell him the truth, that we don´t have more money with us. He left, cursing and muttering, but he did leave. And we breathe a sigh of relief!
With this and other experiences we had in Marrakech, we realized that this city also has a less friendly facet. This facet is as present in the DNA of the city as all the other positive aspects, they are all part of the complex soul and essence of Marrakech.
Returning to Marrakech was a bittersweet experience. After this not so warm welcome, as soon as we arrived at our room at Riad Cherihane we started worrying about how we would leave the riad and return at night without getting lost in these labyrinthine streets.
After we settled in Riad Cherihane, we took a half-hour nap, refreshed ourselves with a shower, left the passports and other documents of greater value in the hotel, and we left, confident, looking for the Jemaa el-Fna square.
We decided to no longer accept anyone’s directions. We were always with the utmost attention, trying to memorize each step so that we could return late at night without problems. We returned to our riad, around 2 am, with all our belongings, as happy as we could be.
2. How safe is Marrakech at night?
Marrakech is a vibrant and tumultuous city during the day, but when the night falls, it gains a whole new dimension of hustle and bustle.
We went out every night to have dinner at Jemaa el-Fna square or near. And every night we returned to our riad late. As long as you know by heart how to return to your riad, we don´t consider that returning at night to be dangerous at all.
Of course common sense and caution are principles that apply here and elsewhere in the world.
3. Where to stay?
During our 4 nights in Marrakech we stayed in 3 different riads.
What´s a riad? You might ask. A riad is a typical Moroccan house built around a central courtyard. In Morocco, the name “riad” is often used to designate hotels/guest houses that have this traditional architecture.
What did we like the most in each of the riads we stayed at?
Riad Marraplace – We loved the fantastic location. It´s only a 5-minute walk from the iconic Jemaa el-Fna square. Also, incredible value for money. We paid 37 €/night for a double room with bathroom and breakfast included. Book this riad here.
Riad Cherihane – Exotic and cosy decoration, combined with a great price. By comparison, with the other riads where we stayed, this one enjoys a less privileged location. It’s a 25-minute walk to Jemaa el-Fna Square, not a big deal, but since we’re comparing it to the other riads, this was the path we least enjoyed doing at night. We paid 27 €/ night for a double room with bathroom and breakfast. They made us a free upgrade to a larger room. Book this riad here.
Riad Goloboy – This was the most expensive, but also our favourite. We loved not only our suite, but also all the common spaces, the pool and the terrace where breakfast is served are our utmost favourites. Riad Goloboy has earned our hearts with its exceptional attention to detail and elegant decor and by their fabulous staff. It´s located about 15-20 minutes away from Jemaa el-Fna square, but the way to get there is easy. We paid 160€ for 2 nights of accommodation at Suite Tatus with breakfast included. Depending on the dates, it is possible to find double rooms for as low as 50€/night. Book this riad here .
All of these accommodations have air conditioning. Something very important to know beforehand if you are planning to visit Marrakech in the summer.
The accommodation options in Marrakech are more than many. There are so many beautiful and affordable riads that the difficult thing is to choose just one.
4. Jemaa el-Fna Square
Did you know that this square was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO?
The Jemaa el-Fna square was a mandatory stop every night during our stay in Marrakech. Fearing that someone asked us for an unreasonable amount of money for any human interaction, we did our best to ignore most of the approaches.
Thinking now more properly, we could have spent some of our Dirhams to help these street performers win their day. After all, this is how they make a living.
Truth to be told, the constant persistence of all, the gentlemen who insists that you can take his photo, but that you already know in advance that he will charge you for such, the henna ladies, the snake charmers and all the guys from the restaurants that give their best to persuade you to choose their establishment in the detriment of others is a sharp contrast to those who are used to circulate freely in the streets.
João Leitão, who is an expert in Morocco, has a great article in his blog about the Jemaa el-Fna square that deserves your reading. Unfortunately, we only discovered this article when we returned to Portugal. He even mentions how much you should pay if you´re interested in taking pictures of the dozens of characters that fill the square with life.
On one of the nights, we chose to dine at one of the itinerant stalls of Jemaa el-Fna Square.
The guys from each stall persistently try to convince everyone and their mothers that their establishment is the best. We didn´t pass by more than 3 stalls, till a persevering, but also a funny guy, dragged us to their stall with his great humour. He sat us at a table and assured us that their food wouldn´t cause us diarrhea.
The food wasn´t anything extraordinary. I chose a mix of fried fish and Valter a mix of kebabs. What we will store in our memories from this dinner won´t be the food, but their technique of making us pay double for Valter’s dish, just because they added two tiny lamb ribs to his plate. Valter doesn´t even like lamb ribs, I was the one who had to eat them. This dinner with two main courses, one small bottle of water and bread, costed us about 240MAD (23 €). It´s far from being a fortune, but it turned out to be more expensive than the average of the restaurants we ate throughout our days in Morocco.
5. Always count your change before you leave
Of course, this easy way to get an extra profit from tourists is not exclusive to Marrakech. However, it took us less than some hours in Marrakech to soon realize that if we didn´t pay close attention to the change, we would be constantly cheated.
The art of stealing wallets is old and not exclusive to Marrakech. But this bustling city with its constant turmoil has all the characteristics to be a paradise for those who practice this not so noble profession.
Always be vigilant! Don´t keep your money or important documents in places of easy access.
7. Shopping in the souks (markets)
The souks are also one of the vital arteries that keep Marrakech´s heart pumping with all the fervor.
Going to Marrakesh and not getting lost in the souks is like going to Paris and not even see the Eiffel Tower. Shopping in the souks can be both fascinating and exhausting. Especially for those who are not used to the constant process of price negotiation.
In the souks, as in any and every part of life, there are friendly people who make us want to buy everything from them. And, then, there are those whose persistence touches insolence and makes us uncomfortable.
Don´t be intimidated by the persistence of the sellers. It´s a normal trait of personality of a nation with such a mercantile past. After all, Marrakech was the stopping point for the commercial caravans traveling through the Desert to the North.
Marrakech is also one of the four imperial cities of Morocco. The other three are Meknes, Fez and Rabat. All of them were, at some point in history, the country’s capital. At the moment, Rabat is the one holding the title.
8. Majorelle Gardens
Majorelle Gardens are TripAdvisor top recommended activity in Marrakech. With all the due respect to the painter Jacques Majorelle who dedicated 40 years to create this oasis of peace in the middle of the city, we have to say that our expectations about Majorelle Gardens were a bit defrauded and we left somewhat disappointed.
It took us 45 minutes to walk there… and it was hot, EXTREMELY HOT. After that long walk, we hoped to find something that would surprise us, but that was not the case. Maybe our expectations were too high.
The garden is, indeed, beautiful and in perfect condition. But we expected to find more variety of plants, more walking trails where we could lose ourselves.
It is beautiful because it has the characteristic charm of Moroccan decoration and architecture. But, this charm, you can also find it in many of the exceptional riads/hotels spread around Marrakech.
If you like to pose with blue walls and cactus, then this may be your heaven.
The price to enter the gardens is around 7€/person.
9. Bahia Palace
Although the interior of the palace is empty, it is still interesting to contemplate one of the most important architectural marvels of the city.
Believe it or not, a visit to this palace will cost you only € 1, a real bargain.
10. Koutobia Mosque
This emblematic mosque and its minaret, characterize the city of Marrakech like no other building. Unfortunately, like all other mosques in Morocco, non-Muslims are not allowed to visit it.
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the only mosque in Morocco that allows tourists in the inside. Both Muslim and non-Muslim, can contemplate it´s interior.
11. Madrassa Ben Youssef
During the year 2018 is closed due to renovation works. For this reason we didn´t have the privilege of visiting this landmark in the history of Marrakesh.
This madrassa was for centuries a Quranic school that received more than 900 students.
12. Driving in Marrakech
Rumours about driving in Marrakech are true. Driving in this city is an adventure by itself. Motorbikes appear everywhere, overtakes on continuous white lines happen all the time.
After landing in Marrakech. On our way from the airport to the hotel, we witnessed how crazy driving in Marrakech can be. We panicked a little, since the next day, we would be driving the car we rented for 5 days towards the Sahara desert.
If you are thinking of doing the same or similar journey, don´t panic, driving in Marrakech is a lot crazier than driving the rest of the country.
The vast majority of hotels/riads have internet. But if you’re interested in having internet all the time, go to an Orange store and buy a local SIM card.
We paid about € 7 for both the card and 5GB of internet.
Of course, this will only work if your phone is unlocked to all networks.
14. How long should you stay?
We think that 2-3 days is enough to capture the essence of Marrakech and its chaos. Although, Marrakech is a quintessential city in the history of Morocco, the country has much more to offer its visitors.
15. Take some cash with you to exchange
Whenever we travelled to other countries we never bothered to take money to exchange and we never had problems.
However, in Morocco, we faced some complications when we arrived in Marrakech and were unable to withdraw more than 50€. We tried lots of ATM’s and none allowed us to withdraw more cash. Eventually, on the following days, we managed to get more money. This situation was particularly stressful because the next day we had to pay the car rental in cash.
We spoke with our bank and they assured us that nothing was wrong with our cards and that the limit outside Europe is 200 €/day.
You can easily avoid this inconvenience by taking some money with you. Especially, if you already know that you will have a bigger expense on arrival, like renting a car.
Morocco is a safe and charming country, you´ll see police everywhere. We think it´s important to get ready for the hustle and bustle, you´re going to live on the streets so that you can enjoy your time in Marrakech. The truth is that there are many unpleasant situations that can be easily avoided with a minimum of precaution. That´s why knowing beforehand what you will find is important.