If a trip to Marrakech, Morocco isn’t on your bucket list…it should be! Marrakech was such a fun trip, but it was also the most unique city I had visited all year. Morocco is in Africa (my first African country!) but it was a French colony for 44 year, so it has a lot of French influences. Read more about where you should stay, what you should do, and what you should see in my Marrakech travel guide here. Keep reading below for how to prepare for your trip and for some Morocco travel tips to know before you go.
*This post contains affiliate links; clicking on them does not cost you anything extra, but does allow Tried & Trouvailles to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate program.
Things to Do Before Your Trip to Marrakech
This was the first trip that I did more than just look at Pinterest and watch food shows on Netflix before leaving. I knew the busyness of the Medina and the souks would be different than most other cities I had been to, so I wanted to mentally prepare myself for what to expect. I watched the Chrissy Teigen Marrakech episode of David Chang’s new series on Netflix called Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, mostly on accident but also because I love Chrissy Teigen. It taught me how to say tagine properly and made me look forward to Moroccan breakfasts at our riad.
I also read The Saffron Gate by Linda Holeman. Timmer got me a kindle for Christmas, and it was the perfect book to read on the plane. Although the storyline was a bit predictable, I love how Holeman describes the colors, sounds, and smells of the Marrakech medina and the country of Morocco as a whole. She paints a vision of Marrakech so vividly and it was fascinating to read about the medina and then subsequently see it for myself.
However, my favorite thing that we did to prepare was listen to the Marrakech Riad Podcast on the way to the airport. There’s an episode on the first 24 hours in Marrakech that I found very insightful. There is also an episode on haggling. I found this to be the most helpful (and entertaining) while shopping around in the souks.
The Moroccan Dirham (MAD or dh) conversion to USD is simple: 10 MAD to 1 USD. So if your taxi costs 50 MAD, it’s just a $5 cab ride. You will definitely want to withdraw some cash for your trip to Morocco for taxi rides, shopping in the souks, tipping, etc. Your riad or hotel, most restaurants, and tour companies will most likely accept credit card, but the rest of your expenses will be in cash. Withdraw dirham on your way out of the airport. Get your bags, go through customs, and then to the right just before you exit the airport, there will be ATMs. Go there instead of an exchange. Another key thing to note: You can only withdraw 2,000 dh at a time, but you can do a withdrawal multiple times. The ATM will give you 200 and 100 bills, and you’ll want to break these into smaller coins when you can. Grab a coffee or a beer at a cafe to break these bills.
Tipping is huge in Morocco. Anytime someone does something for you – servers, hammam workers, baggage handlers, etc. – you should give them a tip, but only a few dh (which is why you should break your bigger bills ASAP). Check your restaurant bill before you pay to make sure a service charge isn’t already included. If someone gives you directions, or takes a picture for you, they’ll expect a tip, so be aware of that (more on that later).
At some restaurants, the wait staff will bring nuts, olives, veggies, etc., to your table. In the US and Europe, we would assume this to mean it is complementary, but usually in Marrakech it will silently be added to your bill. If you don’t want these snacks or sides, kindly say “no” and send it away, otherwise you’ll have to pay for it. Once you do get your bill at said restaurant, double check it to make sure they haven’t overcharged you, and as noted above, to see if they have already included a tip. Read this blog post on where to eat in Marrakech.
Men Offering Help
This will definitely happen at some point: boys or young men will offer to help you find your way. Or rather, they will tell you they will lead you to the square or to your riad, but you should firmly tell them ‘no.’ The most frustrating thing they will say is that the road is closed, or that the road is only for Moroccan families, to try to direct you somewhere else. If someone does end up directing you somewhere, they will expect you to pay them a tip and will stand there and wait until you do pay them.
Walk on the Sides of the Road
Marrakech is not the type of city where you should walk around looking at your phone, or walking three or four people wide. The roads are shared by pedestrians, horses and donkeys, bicycles and motorcycles, so walk in a narrow line and pay attention.
The souks are filled with beautiful stalls of lanterns, plates, purses, rugs, blankets, pillows, shoes, and much more. Bring an extra duffel bag because you are going to want to buy things to bring home. More importantly, make sure to haggle. You should never pay more than 50% of the first asking price. It is customary in Morocco to haggle for almost everything, for both tourists and locals.
Cover Your Shoulders and Watch Where You Drink
Morocco is an Islamic country, so make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when you’re out and about. While it’s not forbidden for tourists to show their shoulders while walking around, it’s respectful to cover up. Otherwise you’ll find yourself getting more attention, dirty looks, and cat calls than necessary. Similarly, don’t walk around drunk, and know that not everywhere serves alcohol. Read this post on where to drink in Marrakech, and make sure to double check with your riad before drinking on their terrace.
Most Moroccans can fluently speak Arabic and French, but we had no issues getting by with English.
They use the European plugs, so make sure to pack the adapters you need. These are my favorite because they have two US plus and two USB plugs.
The summers in Morocco can get super super hot, so most locals escape to the Atlas Mountains on the weekends. Plan accordingly, but don’t forget to cover your shoulders. We went in December and the weather was perfect. Warm enough to get a tan during the day, but very cool at night. Make sure to bring a jacket if you’re going in the winter!
Do you have any other Morocco travel tips to include? Leave them in the comments below!