Marrakech Morocco

Morocco was my first country in Africa to visit and I went solo. I have done a lot of solo travel the last two years that led to this trip and it was fantastic. Prior to heading to Marrakech I had read a lot of blogs, talked with other travelers, cruised Pinterest for articles, and just did a lot of research (and I highly recommend you do this before any trip). I found quite the array of reviews that made me nervous, excited, second guessing my capabilities to travel alone, fearless, and every emotion you could possibly feel – just through the words of others.

Here is what I want to say upfront since it is the most asked question I get about Marrakech .. “Was it safe for women and did you feel safe as a solo traveler?”

YES! A thousand times yes. I never had any issues and felt safe the entire time, but do keep in mind, no two travel experiences are entirely the same and Marrakech is so much more than the pretty photos you see taking over Instagram.

Marrakech/Marrakesh – it is all the same.

Here are my top tips for visiting Marrakech Morocco:

  1. Currency: The Moroccan Dirham is the official currency. I did find places that took Euro in the Medina, but keep plenty of Dirham on you.
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    Moroccan Dirhams
    1. You can exchange in the airport for no fee and this is what I did. I made sure to have plenty of cash on me for my entire trip.
    2. A pretty good rule of thumb for the current exchange rate is: drop a zero at the end of the dirham to get the USD value. Example $200 dirhams is about $20 usd (not exactly but very close).
    3. Tipping: everyone wants a tip for everything, including giving you directions you didn’t ask to be escorted for. So keep that in mind when bringing cash out.
  2. Cash or credit cards?: Hotels, Riads, some attractions, and some restaurants do take credit cards. I would highly suggest keeping enough cash on you. Inside the Medina where the souks are, you will be hard pressed to find a vendor who takes credit cards.
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    Shopping in the Medina
    1. ATM’s aren’t very accessible either. I cannot stress enough to get cash at the airport or before your arrival.
      1. There are places outside the airport to get currency exchanged, I have just found it easier to do it before leaving.
  3. Language: nearly everyone I met spoke English in Marrakech. The official language is Arabic, but I also hear a lot of French and Berber as well.
  4. Best time to visit: I would argue all year is good to visit Marrakech, but in terms of weather, June – September can get pretty hot (nearing 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit) whereas the winter months can see temperatures as low as 30’s and high as 70’s.
    1. I spent the Thanksgiving holiday there and everyone said it was unseasonably warm. The weather was high 70-80’s Fahrenheit during the day but the chill came fast at night.
  5. Getting there, visas & passports: Flights to Marrakech are widely available throughout the world. The main airport is Menara Airport (RAK).
    1. One of the reasons I had not visited sooner was because I thought it would take a day to get there from where I live in Washington, D.C. – however, Royal Air Maroc opened direct flights in 2016 to Casablanca and that flight is only 7 hours and 5 minutes, which then you would take the 30 minute flight to Marrakech from there. That is a quick overnight flight and I landed in Marrakech at 11:30am ready to take on the day.
    2. As a US citizen, I did need a passport for entry but did not need a visa (nor did I get one on arrival) – this could change at anytime so make sure and check before booking
  6. Getting around: this is going to depend on your travel style. If you are staying in the Medina, you won’t need a car and I would suggest just getting a taxi or pick-up from the airport. You will have to walk from the entrance of the Medina to your Riad or wherever you are staying if you book a place to stay within those walls. If you stay outside the Medina in a resort or hotel, the will have parking there (most likely for a daily fee) but you will be able to drive at your leisure.
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    Cute car I found walking around
    1. I want to note that I did not rent a car and got around just fine. When I arrived in Marrakech my Riad arranged transportation from the airport to the Medina. Inside the Medina is all walking. Then I had transportation arranged through the Four Seasons to local places and a complimentary ride was provided back to the airport.
    2. I did not see Uber or Lyft nor can I find anything on it – so I think it is not currently available.
  7. Where to stay: this is a two part answer. I highly recommend staying in a Riad inside the Medina for at least 1 night. You have not truly experienced Marrakech if you are not within those walls. Staying at Riad will be completely different than staying with a large hotel or resort.
    1. Riads: these are traditional Moroccan homes that have an interior courtyard, some with pools, and they usually have less than 10 rooms. Each room will walk out into the courtyard and its a beautiful area to relax, eat , swim (if there is a pool), take photos, and a lot of them will provide you with a breakfast.

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      Moroccan Breakfast
    2. Hotels: I stayed at the Four Seasons which was about 15 minutes drive from the Medina and such a stunning property. I do believe having the best of both worlds here was ideal because I was able to experience the Medina and luxury travel outside of it.
      IMG_9116
      Pool at the Four Seasons
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      Lobby at the Four Seasons

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      Nook in the Upper Pavilion King Room
  8. Cost of food: inside the Medina and with food stall vendors, I found meals to be less than $5 USD. At hotels, resorts, and upscale restaurants – expect to pay American hotel food prices.
  9. Climate: Hottest temps are in the summer months (June-September) and then it fades into cooler weather until June arrives again.
    1. I went at the end of November and it was pretty warm during the day and got very cold at night – pack layers if you aren’t planning to visit during the summer.
  10. Clothing: Morocco is not like Western countries and the scantily clad women you see everywhere. They practice a more conservative culture and you should keep yourself covered. Shoulders, knees, cleavage, & excess skin should be covered out of respect for the culture.
  11. Religion: Islam is the largest religion in Morocco, with over 99% of the population practicing.
    1. Visiting Mosques: if you are not Muslim you are not allowed entry into the Mosques in Marrakech – however, if you are in Casablanca, you can visit Hassan ll Mosque.
  12. Drones: they are illegal in Morocco and can be confiscated at customs. Just take a great photo out the window of the plane for the same outcome

    IMG_8771-3
    Flying into Marrakech from Casablanca
  13. Top Attractions: Medina, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Majorelle Garden, Saadian Tombs, El Badi Palace, souks, Le Jardin Secret, and definitely check out all the doors – no two are the same and they are all stunning.
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    Doors of the Medina
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    Majorelle Jardin
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    Spices in the souks
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    Rug shopping in the souk
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    Ben Youssef Madrasa
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    Le Jardin Secret
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    Souks

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    Majorelle Jardin
  14.  The Medina – this is a must do when visiting Marrakech. It is overwhelming on all the senses but I think it was my favorite day in the city. Some things to note: get a map but also know that not all the streets are marked and it is a winding maze of streets, be careful of people on motorcycles as they whiz by quickly and you don’t want to get hit, pick pockets do exist – so watch your stuff, you MUST negotiate with vendors in the souks – it is part of the culture, catcalling will happen – so if you are a woman get used to being called beautiful or being told you look like famous American women, definitely try food from the vendors, buy all the things, and make sure to bring an extra suitcase so you can bring all your Moroccan goodies home.
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    Souks in the Medina
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    Mule in the Medina

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    Fruits
  15. Phone and WiFi coverage: you can purchase a sim card in the airport and WiFi was not hard to come by. I travel with Skyroam and was able to get access all over the city. In addition, I had amazing WiFi at the Four Seasons.
  16. Safety: Overall, I felt extremely safe. But with anything, you should always practice safe measures:
    1. Be cautious of the neighborhoods you are in and time of day
    2. Let the local embassy know you are in town
    3. Let someone know where you are and when you expect to be back
    4. Set up a safety measure with someone back home to let them know all your plans and check in frequently
  17. Must try foods: the food on Marrakech is so good! My favorites that should not be missed: Moroccan crepe, mint tea, dates, tagine, olives, fig, couscous, pastries, corn on the cob, and tangerines.
    1. Is the water safe?: I was advised by locals and the hotels to drink bottled water only. The hotels and riads should provide you with 1-2 bottles per day, but otherwise it is very cheap to get.
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      Tangerines
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      Crepe
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      Tagine
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      Almonds and Mint Tea
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      Dates
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      Couscous

      If I missed anything or if you have any questions, just let me know ❤

 

23 thoughts

  1. Great tips Nicki! I’d love to go back and stay in a traditional Riad – that’s the one thing I didn’t get to do on my first trip

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    1. No problem – I like writing these articles because it is the things I look for prior to traveling and I have to look to various platforms and actually travel to know. This way when someone wants to know all the details in one place, I have them covered 🙂

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  2. Such great primer on visiting Marrakech. Visiting all those markets and enjoying the food is high on my must-do list. I love the idea of staying in a Riad. Thanks for taking us there with you.

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  3. 7 hours from DC to Morocco? Not bad at all. I would have thought longer, and with a handful of NYC to BKK flights under my belt, 7 hours is easy peasy. Good to know Nicole as my wife and I plan to visit Marrakech. As for the cash thing, I carry it wherever I go just because unless you are in a super developed land, cash is the preferred means of exchange.

    Excellent post, so in depth and helpful. Loving the pictures too.

    Ryan

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  4. Nicki, This was an awesome and complete review of your visit to Marrakech. This has always looked exotic and something I was not sure I could do. Now maybe it will go on the long list! Your tip about getting cash at the airport was something I would not have expected. I normally avoid airports for ATMs. I have never thought about checking in with the local Embassy! Staying in the Riad would be interesting but after seeing your pics of the Four Seasons, I will walk the 15 minutes. Thanks for sharing your great adventures! Linda

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  5. This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ll be in Marrakesh next month and have been a little anxious since I’m going alone, but these tips are super helpful. I’ll be sure to negotiate when I’m at the souks. I also really want to see Ben Youssef Madrasa and Majorelle Garden.

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  6. I love Marrakech, I’ve been twice but would happily visit again. Personally, I love staying in a riad the best, these beautifully restored buildings are so full of character and charm and I love being within the older parts of town too. And pootling about the medina is so much fun, I even love the haggling, but I am pretty good at it!

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  7. Oh it’s good to know that they don’t take Euros everywhere. So we’d definitely bring enough dirham when we visit Morocco! Hotel Four Seasons looks fantastic! We love their nooks and colorful furnitures! Food in Morocco is of course moutwatering! We’re both not fans of tagines and couscous, but olives, mint tea, figs and dates: yummy!!!

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  8. Wonderful photographs to go along with a detailed and thorough review. I enjoyed the variety and depths of your tips including how to convert roughly to USD without getting out a calculator! I’m pleased you felt safe to do a solo travel there and looks like you had such a memorable trip. Thanks for passing along your tips. They were really helpful.

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  9. Morocco has been on my list, but when I looked into travelling there (nearly 15 years ago), it wasn’t that safe for solo women travellers. I’m glad you felt safe and it has definitely reignited my desire to go. I like your tip about the Riad’s within the Medina – as that sounds like a perfect authentic accommodation experience. I bet all those spices made the place smell amazing! P.s. That’s a mule not a donkey you’ve photographed 😉 #crazydonkeylady

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  10. This is a very thorough, informative post. And it made me want to jump on a plane, but unfortunately, it will be a longer flight for me from Dallas than you had from Washington.

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