Know Before You Go: Marrakech Guide.

By Posted in - Africa & Travel Blog on December 13th, 2011

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Marrackech is the kind of place where you can blow a three day holiday lost in a labyrinth of souks like Alice trapped in Wonderland.

By the time you finally catch your breath you’ll be on your flight home, still a bit dazed, wearing a mint tea stained t-shirt that says, “I went to Marrakech and all I got was this lousy shirt.” But with a little pre-trip knowledge, you can at least hit the ground running to get the most out of your cheap holidays to Marrakech.

Getting into and out of Marrakech

Air:

camels in marrakech sfb
*The airport in Marrakech is really quite beautiful as evidenced in the photo above. Just kidding! Actually it is really quite a stunning place (with amazing attention to detail) but I was not allowed to take a photo of it so instead I thought you might like to take a look at the other, cuter, side of Moroccan transport.-Beth*

 

The Menara Airport is located six kilometers southwest of the center. The recently expanded airport is clean, modern and easy to navigate, feeling more like a regional airport than an international hub. The airport has an information desk as well as currency exchange facilities.

Bus:

For long distance travel around Morocco there are only two bus companies you should consider: CTM and Supratours.

CTM’s Main Bus Station
Rue Abu Bakr Seddik (a block south of Ave Mohammed VI)
(P) 0524 43 44 02
(w) http://www.ctm.ma/

Supratours Main Station
Ave Hassan II (west of the new train station in the city’s old rail station)
(P) 0524 43 55 25
(W) http://www.supratours.ma/

CTM is considered the best and Supratours the second best. We used both and found them to be very similar; though, CTM did have a little more legroom. In addition to your ticket, both carriers also charge a small fee (2-8 dirham/per piece) for larger baggage that can’t be carried on with you.

Train:

The new train station is beautiful, clean and features several restaurants, including McDonalds, and a little convenience store for snacks, drinks, tobacco and magazines. The ATM (there may be more but all we saw was one) was out of service at the time.

Ave Hassan II & Blvd Mohammed VI
(P) 0890 20 30 40
(W) http://oncf.ma

Getting Around

Marrakech taxi driver sfb
*Randy and our outstanding cab driver Abdul. This guy was awesome and made our trip very memorable! -Beth*

 

Petit Taxis (small, beige hatchback beaters) are readily available from in front of the airport and train station. I’m sure they are also easy to catch from either bus station too, but I can’t say for sure since we didn’t go to the bus stations in Marrakech.

The petit taxis (not to be confused with grand taxis–Mercedes Benz sedans used for longer distances or for groups of four or more people) are suppose to be metered, but don’t assume it will be; negotiate your price before you get in. Technically, because you are negotiating the price beforehand you shouldn’t have to tip; however, dropping a few dirham never hurts.

We spent 100 dirham ($12) to get from the Albatros Resort to Riad Barraka in the Medina and then another 100 dirham to get from the Riad to the train station on the day we left. From everything I’ve read, we got ripped off. According to the 2011 Lonely Planet, a cab ride within the city should be between 20-40 dirham ($2.50 – $5); however, we spoke to another woman at the resort who paid 60 dirham ($7) to get to the Medina. Personally, I would shoot for somewhere between 20 and 50 dirham.

The Taxi Tour

When we had to transfer from Albatros Garden Hotel Marrakech to our riad in the Medina, Abdul, a local petit driver, got the call from the resort. On the way, he said he could take us on a three to four tour of the sights and city for 200 dirham ($25). So we agreed to take him up on the offer, and the next morning at 9 a.m. he was outside our riad waiting for us.

During our outing with Abdul, we hit two other must-see Marrakech sights–Badi Palace and Jardin Majorelle–as well as a Tannery (not our favorite stop), spice store (a must see stop!) and old palace in the King’s Garden. Abdul was a fantastic guide, always quick with facts and smiles, and we had a great time. In addition to the tour, Abdul also took us to the train station the next day. Without a doubt, he is one of the most gracious people we met on our travels in Marrakech and we highly recommend him if you are in town. If you need his contact info we can give it to you – just let us know.

Insider tip: Word on the street is that these taxi tour drivers get a kick back from the shops, and while I don’t know if that’s true or not, the only place that got a little annoying was the rug dealers shop at the Tannery, which you are led into under the guise that you are going to see the traditional process. Trust me, you are there so they can sell you a rug, no other reason. Like pretty much everything in Marrakech, if you don’t want to do it (buy a rug, give a tip or see a place) don’t do it. Like Nancy Regan said, “Just say no!”Β  We found one of the merchants most common tactics is to befriend you and then kill you with kindness–tea, food (playing the hospitality card) but honestly it’s, in my opinion, a ruse to then make you feel indebted so that you buy something.

Tipping

donkey in marrakech sfb
*You may be wondering why I decided to use this picture for the tipping category. Well the answer is pretty simple – see this guy’s angry expression? I spotted this little donkey caravan from the back of the taxi and took a picture through the window (which is why the donkey looks half zebra). This guy saw me and immediately wanted money for the photo. Fortunately for me taxis are faster than donkeys and we drove off. Even if they don’t have anything to sell – they will try to sell you something, even a passing photo. The other guy looks pretty happy to have his photo taken and now he’s on his way to becoming an internet sensation! -Beth*

 

Everybody’s trying to sell you something even if they don’t have something to sell. For example,Β  after getting out of our cab in the Medina,Β  a 10-year-old boy latched on to us and said he’d show us to our place. Luckily, we took his help, because it probably would have taken us a while to find the Riad on our own.

So then when I handed him a 20 dirham tip ( about $2.50 and my average tip when I delivered pizzas in San Diego), he took it and then said disapprovingly with confidence, “What is this? Five Euros. I require five Euros.”

“Seriously?” I said smirking.

“Yes, this is nothing,” he said shaking his head. “C’mon five Euros.” We knew the routine and he wasn’t getting another dime after his rude behavior.

Finally, after realizing, he wasn’t getting anything else he left.

The lesson here, which I read about in Lonely Planet, is that no matter how much you give it’s more than likely you will get the disapproving look. Don’t fall for it; instead, fire back your look that says “Yeah, I know the game and your not getting a dirham more from me.”

As a rule of thumb tipping 10 percent on your bill is a good amount if you choose to leave a tip at dinner.

From what I’ve read and my experience, tipping is a big part of the culture (at least from visiting tourists anyways) the key is not to get taken, so that Marrakech doesn’t ruin your future cheap holidays. Arm yourself with one to five dirham coins and use those for tips. We found that getting small change is difficult, generally you will get five, 10 (coins and bills) or higher. So if you want small change take your 10 dirham into a small market and buy some gum for a dirham. Not only will they have to break your 10, giving you smaller change– one and two dirham–you will also have a few sticks of gum to use for trading.

Trading

*Fancy yourself a teapot? The souks are full of beautiful wares. Think about bringing other small items to trade in order to help you get the best deal! -Beth*

 

We discovered that when you haggle for an item it works best if you can also throw a little something in as a trade. It could be anything. We happened upon this little tip totally by accident when a woman wanted more than we had for a small bracelet. As Beth started emptying out her pockets to show her she had no more change the lady spied a stick of gum and requested that to seal the deal. Done.

After we discovered this tactic we used it whenever we could. We traded everything from gum to a small flashlight. Not only does it get the seller excited (yes, even gum) but it helps get you a really great deal. It also breaks the ice and gets people smiling and laughing. It’s a win, win so if you’re planning to do some shopping in Marrakech be sure to bring some small items to trade with you while you are there. The very small key chain flashlight was a hot item and we wished we had more with us.

Bring the items from home if you can. It is hard to find small items to trade in Marrakech (we tried) – that’s the reason the sellers are so interested!

The Native Tongue

*Trying to read this menu can be tough but don’t feel intimidated most likely the chef can answer your questions. -Beth*

 

Classical Arabic may be theΒ  official language of Morocco, but French is pretty common too, so much so that its the city’s main unofficial language, spoken by seemingly every merchant, taxi driver and kid in Marrakech. Of course, English as well as many other popular languages are also spoken in the African city too. And the Moroccan’s proficiency for languages is something that deserves a tip of the hat.

Most anyone there can communicate with you in at least 3-4 languages so if you’re worried about the language barrier you don’t need to be at all! Marrakech is a CRAZY city and unlike anything we have every seen. If you get the chance to go you definitely should.

Have you been to Marrakech? If so, we’d love to hear any additional tips and advice you have to share in the comments below!

*This story was part of our collaboration with Low Cost Holidays.

 

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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(30) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Erin -

    December 13, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Great detailed guide. I’ll be referring back to this when we visit Marrakech.

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      @Erin, Thanks Erin! If you have any questions about visiting Marrakech just let us know. Jodi of Legal Nomads also has a lot of good information about visiting Marrakech and Morocco on her site.

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic -

    December 13, 2011 at 7:06 am

    I LOVE the tip about bringing small items to trade with when haggling. So random, but so brilliant!

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      @Christy @ Technosyncratic, Yeah, it made the haggling even more fun. I just wish we would have had more little trinkets to barter with.

  • Fiona -

    December 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Great guide. Tipping can be troublesome. And bargaining takes a few trials before you get the hang of it. I found half the asking price of an item and bargain from there was a good guide when buying in the markets.

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      @Fiona, Couldn’t agree more about cutting the asking price in half. The manager at our Riad told us something similar when we checked in.

  • Vera Marie Badertscher -

    December 13, 2011 at 10:16 am

    This is a fantastic guide to Morocco. It answers so many of the questions that seem intimidating about visiting there. I SO want to go, and this has just been one more nudge. So practical! Never would have thought about throwing in a stick of gum to the bargaining!

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      @Vera Marie Badertscher, Thanks Vera! Yeah, not only was it a fun bargaining tool, buying the gum was also the best way to get the seemingly elusive 1 and 2 dirham coins, which are perfect for tipping.

  • Roy Marvelous -

    December 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Wow, Randy. This post is gold! But using gum to barter?? Is it expensive over there?

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      @Roy Marvelous, Thanks Roy! You can buy individual pieces of gum for about 1 or 2 dirhams, where as a bottle of water in the same shop cost about 6 dirham. While not ridiculously expensive, I think gum is a nice little treat for some people who wouldn’t normally buy it.

  • Amanda -

    December 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Not that I plan to visit Morocco anytime soon, but, if I was planning to, this guide would definitely come in handy! Great job!!

    • Randy -

      December 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      @Amanda, Thanks Amanda! Glad you liked it. πŸ™‚

  • Sam -

    December 14, 2011 at 4:22 am

    When bargaining in the main souks (next to the main square) a rough guide on the price is that you should never pay more than one quarter of their first asking price. I initially found it hard to come back with a price that seemed so far from their original price, but after a bit of practise I was fine. If tThey say it is 100 dirhams, then you should come back with 25 and stick too it. Walk away if you need too, they will follow you if they want the sale, we never paid anything about than the ‘one quarter’ rule.

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Thanks for that tip Sam. I am so bad at bargaining but the next time we head there I will try it out for sure! @Sam,

  • Andrew Graeme Gould -

    December 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    A really interesting introduction to this destination. Great photos, too!

  • jenjenk -

    December 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Love that tip of trading goods!!! thanks – will definitely file that away for my trip!

  • Greg @ Volunteer in Africa -

    December 15, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    That some crazy donkey driver lol Wanting a tip for taking pictures inside the cab, seriously? Love your adventure Beth, thanks!

  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians -

    December 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    This makes me even more excited for our upcoming visit! Thanks so much for all of the helpful information. I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and enchanted by that menu : )

  • Tiffany -

    December 20, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Wow what a detailed guide! So did you buy a rug? The “trying to sell even if they don’t have anything to sell” doesn’t sound good. I usually give tip or pay more than the price but only if they are kind, helpful and not demanding for it.

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

      No, we didn’t buy a rug. We almost did but I had only $40 USD and they wanted $50. So that was it. But at least we all ended as friends… the guy kept saying the whole time ‘we’re friends, friends. you buy that’s good, you don’t buy – no problem, still friends” hahaha… I’m not sure what kind of friendship we had though… πŸ™‚@Tiffany,

  • Rebecca -

    December 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Great, useful guide! Morocco has been on my must-see list for some time now and info like this is very helpful for when I finally do get there!

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Rebecca – definitely bring some small things to trade – it really helps! @Rebecca,

  • Karenmarybutterfly -

    February 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Love your guide! Honeymooned in Tunisa. Had to laugh at your “tip” section. Reminded me of the guy that stuck a live falcon on my head. Claws cutting into my scalp. Not to mention my total fear fo birds…and of course…I was suppoed to pay him for that. πŸ™‚

  • Gina -

    October 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Afternoon! Thank you for all the helpful information about Marrakesh. I’m going over at the end of November to visit a friend. She lives in Rabat and will not be able to accompany me to Marrakesh. I’d love more information about Abdul – I will only have 2 days in the city and would love to have someone trustworthy to show me the main sites. Thanks for any guidance you can provide!!

  • Brian Whelan -

    January 7, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    What items should I bring to marrakesh to barter with. What U.S. items are hard to get there?

  • Monica Hoeffel-Murphy -

    December 19, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Hi,
    do you still have Abdul”s info, I am going to Marrakesh next week. Thanks