Visiting a new country can be daunting. Here are our top tips for travellers venturing to Marrakesh, or Morocco, for the first time.
1. Bring a pen
I guess this tip is for travel in general as its normal to have to complete a form when you arrive at the airport. However you’ll also need to complete one as you leave at the end of your trip. Saves you having to ask people in the line to borrow theirs.
2. Bring small change
There is a huge tipping culture in Morocco and it can be awkward when you arrive and only have 100 Moroccan dirham notes on you. Luckily, taxi drivers, porters and loo attendants are all happy to accept Euros and Dollars so bring a few with you.
3. What to wear
I think Jamie was a bit gutted when he’d packed just trousers and our guide said people in Marrakesh were fine with people wearing shorts and a lot more accepting of western clothing than other parts of the country.
As it’s a Muslim country, just make sure you dress a bit more conservatively than you would in say Spain (maybe leave the mini dress at home). But seriously, as long as your shoulders are covered and your shorts or skirts are on the knee, you will be fine. If you’re visiting the Atlas Mountains, bring a fleece as it can be a lot colder up the top.
4. Get lost
Be prepared to get lost in the winding streets of the medina. It’s part of the fun of the trip. If you’re nervous about getting lost in a place you don’t know, it’s worth hiring a guide. Make sure you organise it beforehand through either a guide on TripAdvisor or Viator or through the hotel. That way you can be sure you’re getting a licensed guide.
Never accept the first price you’re told while shopping in the souks. Walk away if you feel too pressured to buy. Also when getting a taxi, the driver might be vague about the price. Put your foot down if you think it’s too much. Our taxi driver originally told us our return journey would be 400 dirhams (it cost 200 on the way there). We said no and just paid the 200.
6. Watch out for scams
We heard stories of people being told they couldn’t go certain ways, invited to a friends for tea or other unwanted help, all of which will end in people asking for money. Just be wary and seek out a guard if you are unsure. Our guide told us if people get caught scamming tourists, or being a forced guide, they could spend 3 day in jail. If you’re nervous, consider hiring a guide (see 4).
7. Mint tea
A blend of green tea and fresh mint is usually served sweet. It reminded us of soft mints or spearmint polos. You might be invited into shops for some “Moroccan hospitality” AKA mint tea. If you don’t buy anything after your tea, you will be expected to leave a small tip.
8. Visiting during Ramadan
Our trip to Morocco was during the Holy Month and we didn’t find it affected our trip at all. During the month, Muslims fast from water and food from sunrise to sunset. As a visitor though, you are not expected to do this and most of the restaurants and cafes remain open. Do be aware though that many places alter their opening times, opening for less time during the month.
9. Get to the airport early on your return flight
Even though you’ve checked in for your flight online and have only bought hand luggage, you have to go to the check in desks to have your boarding pass validated. Oh yes, they also don’t accept mobile boarding passes, so if like us, you fly with Ryanair, check in online and ask the hotel reception to print your passes for you.
10. Brush up on your French
The majority of people in Marrakesh speak French so it’s worth digging out that phrasebook for a few pointers. Bon voyage!