Marrakech, the red city of Morocco, is a fabulous city, full of things to see and do, chaotic and crowded, noisy and totally enveloping, but due to its characteristics, it can sometimes be intimidatory for those who decide to visit it.
In this post I try to give you 10 tips for safe travel to Marrakech (and rest assured) so that, setting off prepared, you can get the best out of your trip.
Unfortunately, in fact, despite my trip was wonderful, some friends who have been there recently have come back let's face it, a little disappointed: the feeling of being scammed by everyone, the boredom that becomes exasperation with too insistent sellers and at the limit of tolerable , the verbal assaults they received left them very perplexed.
Please don't get me wrong: Most Moroccans are exceptional people with whom you will form a sincere friendship. Unfortunately, as happens in many parts of the world (I would dare to say in Worldwide) a few bad apples ruin our perception of what is an extremely kind and welcoming people.
Marrakech, and Morocco in general, it's a completely different world from ours, which fascinates but leaves you confused and which can often inspire fear: having an idea of what to expect, where to go, what to do, how to dress and how to manage certain situations can really make the difference between returning happy or disappointed and angry.
Here my tips for safe and peaceful travel to Marrakech (to study well before leaving)
Preliminary tips for safe travel to Marrakech
When you decide to travel to Marrakech, first of all keep in mind some of these quick tips:
Always take out travel insurance: I recommend Heymondo e if you book by clicking here you have a 10% discount for the readers of this blog!
Absolutely book the transfer from the airport to your hotel: you avoid wasting time, you avoid bargaining because the price is already right and especially in the evening it is much safer.
> CLICK HERE for the Airport - Hotel Transfer
Choose well the area where to stay in Marrakech: I wrote this guide on the best areas to sleep in Marrakech to help you orient yourself better. Choosing the right area is fundamental as well as for the safety also for avoid wasting time unnecessarily with the movements from one part of the city to another.
Getting lost in the medina and the souks is a snap. Consider a private tour to better orient yourself, but not only: with a tour you avoid insistent and aggressive sellers (too aggressive every now and then). Here you find what to see in the medina of Marrakech.
> CLICK HERE to see the recommended tour of Marrakech
Try to eat cooked stuff: if you are not very used to it, it is better to avoid raw foods that may not be fresh or in the case of vegetables, not properly washed.
Try to avoid public transport especially for long journeys. Better to opt for an organized tour. Here you find the best excursions from Marrakech.
Always carry with you un first aid kit it's a belt to hide money.
Make photocopies of the documents and leave your passport safely in the safe of the Riad.
After these quick tips we are ready to get to know the things you need to know to travel safely and comfortably in Marrakech!
1 - Do not trust anyone and take ONLY official guides
The medina is an intricate labyrinth of narrow winding alleys where getting lost is not ideal.
What if you haven't an official guide, you may be taken to a place you don't want to go.
If you get lost, walk into a shop or restaurant and ask for directions, the owner will be more than happy to help.
Google Maps it works discreetly and probably after taking the wrong road sometimes you will find the right way to your Riad. If someone offers to accompany you (after which they will probably want to get paid) a great way to dissuade them is to tell them that you know where you are, where you want to go and that you are just shooting to take pictures.
Before leaving your Riad ask for one map of the medina and point out where the hotel is located and the roads to take. Almost all hotels have free maps to provide to customers. Ask also a business card with the address, you can put it on google maps and it will help you find your way around.
Beware that when you ask for directions, some people may also tell you that a road is closed (fermé) or that there is nothing on that side that might interest you. They will offer to accompany you and you will probably end up in the souvenir or carpet shop of your cousin / friend / brother who will be hard to escape without buying anything!
Since finding your way around the medina is not easy, my personal advice is to take a guided tour on the morning of your first day. In this way you will learn to orient yourself better and you will know the main roads, you will be able to ask which areas are safe and which are not and the next time you leave the Riad you will be more peaceful.
Plus, with a guide or tour the sellers will be much less pushy, trust me!
There is an offer of great tours in Marrakech, but I would opt for one with an English guide. Here are the best you can find:
- Private tour of Marrakech (In ENGLISH and at a super price! My favorite because you have the guide dedicated only to you)
- Group tour of the medina of Marrakech
- Private tour of the souks of Marrakech (For those who love shopping, the scents and colors of local markets)
- Group tour of the souks of Marrakech
2 - Watch out for pickpockets
This is unfortunately another of the problems in Marrakech. Although violent crime is very unlikely, in crowded and touristy areas i petty thefts they are very common.
As mentioned, violent or serious crime is still rare in Morocco, however, there have been some cases of knife robberies. In the unfortunate eventuality it happens to you (don't worry, just avoid the uncrowded areas and don't go around alone at night) don't be a hero, deliver what you have.
That said, stay calm and enjoy the medina and i souk di Marrakech which are among the most beautiful in the world. Attitude is fundamental, don't start with terror, on the contrary. If you go with peace of mind (but with common sense) you will enjoy the trip much more. There most of the locals are friendly and you will have no problem finding a helping hand.
Don't display things of value (smartphone) or wads of money.
One trick I use is to keep most of the money in one hidden belt like this one and put enough in my pocket for the thing I want to buy (or to pay for a taxi or tea).
So when I have to pay I pull the pennies out of my pocket without showing the malloppone!
3 - Dress appropriately
Morocco is a country very conservative, so dressing respectfully (covering your shoulders to your knees and all; long shirt that covers your butt, shirt not too tight, put your bra on most of all) helps to minimize unwanted attention and locals will appreciate it.
If you feel you are getting too much attention, throw a scarf over your hair and you will be treated more like a local, i.e. ignored or respected.
If you need some more advice read my post onrecommended clothing in Morocco.
4 - Do not drink tap water and beware of ice
Don't drink tap water in Marrakech and above all do not use it even to brush your teeth: always use the bottle (before buying it make sure it is closed with the film).
Our bodies (if you are a foreigner) are not used to the bacteria in the Moroccan water. Therefore, we have a high risk of getting a nice gastro-enteritis (it happened to me and I assure you it is not pleasant at all, I was terrible) with vomiting, diarrhea and high fever.
Water is very cheap in Marrakech and around the souks you can find it easily for around 50 cents. Make sure you have Moroccan Dirhams with you and in the exact amount.
Many times sellers do not accept large bills or euros when it comes to low-cost items also due to the difficulty of giving you change.
Also be careful when, especially in summer, you will be craving a nice iced juice: the ice is made with tap water! Ask for everything without ice, be careful.
5 - Ask before taking pictures
Photographing in Marrakech it's a nice mess, or rather: photographing monuments and street scenes often does not involve any problems, portraits are often not welcome.
Be careful because sometimes people can feel offended and they may take bad words at you. Other times they will ask you for money even if you are photographing something else and they pop up in a corner.
Don't give it a shot.
It has happened to me countless times: they know very well that you weren't photographing them, but they try to grab some change and if you don't give it to them they'll scold you again. Don't give in, smile, turn around and go away without arguing.
Remember that in any discussion they will always be right and can become objectionable if the discussion continues. Be nice, apologize and walk away.
The same thing also happens with street performers (musicians, snake charmers or kids in traditional costume in the square etc.): you will have to pay for the photo, this is their real business, even if they may be unfair. Sometimes they tell you to take a picture and then insist on the money later, so please be aware that this can happen and try to agree on the price first if you really care about taking that picture.
When you watch the busiest performances in the square, it's usually fine and you won't have to pay, but if you want a posed photo, then be prepared to open the purse strings.
6 - Do not wander alone in the Medina at night
Our riad was fabulous. It was away from the main hustle and bustle in a more residential area which meant it was a wonderful place to return to after a crazy day in the souks.
To me generally always like to try different restaurants and I hardly eat in the same hotel where I stay. However, this has a drawback: after dinner, upon returning to the hotel, there is pitch dark!
I don't just speak for myself when I travel alone. Even as a couple, we felt a little uncomfortable at times. For this, especially if you are a woman, avoid like the plague to return to the Medina alone at night!
If you want to go around in the evening (or at night) my advice here too is to take a tour.
There are some, this food tour that also takes you to dinner at Jeemael Fnaa square in my opinion it's gorgeous.
Among the other evening / night tours I recommend you take a look at these:
- Medina tour at night (super price! Highly recommended)
- MAGIC evening tour! (3 hours, private tour just for YOU)
- Street-food night tour (for street food fanatics ... like me)
7 - Watch out for scooters
Scooters are everywhere. O-V-U-N-Q-U-E.
They are on the street, whizzing through the alleys of the medina and they can be really dangerous. Strange, but when I travel I always think that the biggest dangers are public transport and crossing the street.
Not only is it dangerous, but it's also quite stressful having to walk around dodging all kinds of vehicles that come and go, a kind of terrible slalom. And they also make the air unbreathable.
Just walk knowing they will be there and be prepared to dodge them. In the evening there seem to be more.
8 - Pay in cash
Cash is vital in Marrakech, as only resorts, riads, a few restaurants, and a handful of shops accept credit cards.
Bring and pay in local currency not only will it make your life easier, but it will save you from unpleasant credit card adventures (and savings).
I cash machine they can be hard to find in the Medina (much easier in the new city), so your best bet is to exchange money at the airport (this can be done for free), at the bank, or by asking at your hotel.
Try, especially in shops, never to pay with your credit card, they could clone it and it is not difficult for that to happen!
Sometimes the card is cloned to you even when you rent a car. To feel comfortable ask the hotel for a safe and reliable car rental, not all of them are.
However, if you want to pay by card, consider using a reloadable debit card.
However, be aware that these cards are often not accepted for car rental.
9 - Beware of the most common scams (and which ones they are)
I've already told you about others scams like that of fake guides who, instead of visiting places of interest, take you to the shops of the "cuggggino".
These scams generally carry no risk as they are exclusively aimed at drawing money from you.
Unfortunately, however, they can become really unpleasant because they can lead to verbal aggression and this risks making your trip to Marrakech much less pleasant.
The best way to avoid them is to know them FIRST, so that you can identify them immediately and not risk getting fooled.
Below you will find others 3 very popular scams which unfortunately with many unsuspecting tourists are still successful.
1 - Truffa dell'henne a Jeema El Fnaa
Imagine this scenario: you are on the main square of Marrakech when suddenly you feel something warm on your hand. You turn around and see a lady with henna in her hand apologizing and kindly offering to correct the mistake by giving you a complete and free tattoo.
Now here's the trick; as soon as the tattoo is finished (and there is no guarantee it will be beautiful) she will ask you for one hundred to two hundred Dirhams for the few minutes it took her to get the design on your hand. It doesn't matter if you like the end result or not. He is also likely to harass and follow you if you refuse to pay.
Attention that even if you agree on a price first it is not certain that the lady in question will honor the agreement and you should have to discuss.
They told me (but I don't know if that's true) that another reason to avoid henna tattoos on the streets of Morocco is that most of these scammers will use ink that isn't real henna. It is an ink that stains the skin black rather than brown and is really dangerous because it contains hair dye.
When applied to the skin, it may look like a real tattoo, but it could cause you an allergic reaction on the skin.
If you want a real Henna tattoo the best thing is to get advice from the hotel where you are staying!
2 - The scam of the tanneries
Morocco is famous for the sue concerie. Although those in Fez are much more interesting, those in Marrakech are also quite popular. Unfortunately, even here the "false guides" wallow in us, making a lot of money at our expense.
When you walk near these tanneries, you are approached by overly friendly "guides". They assure you that if you visit the tanneries by walking through the main entrance, you will have to pay a very high price. They then guide you through a different entrance where they assure you that you won't have to pay for a ticket.
The problem is that once you are in the tanneries, they start asking for money, and usually a lot more than what you would have paid if you had bought the ticket. Some travelers have reported being harshly pressured to pay for that "exclusive tour"!
Some after the visit also force you to go to yet another leather shop (where if you buy they earn a commission): I don't tell you not to buy, but negotiate the price. If you don't buy you will be incredibly pressed until you buy something, more to be able to escape than because that object really interests you.
Avoiding getting ripped off is easy - if you want a tour of the tanneries, it's best to go to the main entrance. If you want to get closer to the workers, agree on a price in advance and insist that you won't pay more. It is always best to ask the hotel or hostel staff a professional tour guide.
3 - hashish scam
This is probably the worst and worst of all the scams in this article. The way it works is quite simple and that makes it even scarier.
A hash merchant will sell you a large amount and even smoke some with you. Once you are fully upset, a cop (who works alongside the dealer) will show up and ask you to pay a huge bribe to cover the crime. You will end up paying twice, and if not, you could end up in a Moroccan prison.
Never buy drugs in Morocco. If caught, you will face a serious jail term and there will be no way around it.
This sometimes happens with alcohol too. Since it is not easy to find in the Medina, surely someone will approach you to invite you to an alcoholic party at home.
You will go to him and after drinking like a sponge you will be asked for a payment. This situation is very difficult as you are closed in to the house of people you do not know and very aggressive.
A traveling friend of mine experienced it firsthand. They generally look for male, young and solo travelers. If you are one of these, be careful and don't accept invitations to anyone's home.
If you really want a beer, keep in mind that in the new city you can find it as well as in most hotels: in Morocco you need a permit to sell alcohol.
Alternatively, ask your hotel where you can find it or if they can get it for you.
10 - Get travel insurance
Last tip and most important of all. Always take out travel insurance, it is very important.
Ti recommend Heymondo e if you book by clicking here you have a 10% discount for the readers of this blog!
I hope in this article I have given you some interesting and reflective insights to travel safely in Marrakech. If you ask me it is a dangerous city? My answer is no, but have common sense. If you know any other tips that are missing here leave them to me in the comments!