How to arrange a trip to Marrakech
Marrakech is truly a must-see destination, and without a doubt, one of the most charming cities in the whole of Africa. Every year, the so-called “Red City”, given the red sandstone walls surrounding the Medina and the red colour of its buildings, attracts a couple of million tourists from all over the world ready to immerse themselves in its winding streets and experience the Moroccan culture.
Cheerful and lively, dusty and strange, smelly and colourful, with interesting architecture, bustling souks, beautiful attractions, fiery sunsets, and the muezzin song that echoes in the air throughout the city, Marrakech left us speechless.
That said, not all the people who visited Marrakech were left so amazed. The city is chaotic, and it could feel overwhelming and stressful. Unlike other Moroccan cities, Marrakech vendors and “business touts” can be very pushy and annoying, always ready to make a buck from tourists even with scams. Nonetheless, we’ve visited Marrakech twice, and we can’t wait to spend a few days there once again immersed between its labyrinthine souks and the crazy Jemaa el Fna square!
BEST TIME TO VISIT MARRAKECH
It’s possible to visit Marrakech all year round, but the best seasons are winter, spring, and autumn to avoid the summer’s intense heat and enjoy the beautiful city without stewing. We visited Marrakech in September (it was still too hot) and December, when the weather was perfect. The average temperature during the day was about 25° C, only a bit chilly early morning and night.
Before booking the flight, you must check if you are entitled to a Visa exemption, a Visa on arrival or if you need to apply in person at the Moroccan Embassy/Consulate in your country.
HOW TO REACH MARRAKECH
1. By flight
The main hub in Morocco is Casablanca, but several low-cost companies serve Marrakech from European countries, so it’s effortless to find good deals to spend a weekend there. Marrakech is also served by domestic and some international flights mainly operated by the Royal Air Maroc.
- Marrakech Menara International airport
The Marrakech Menara International airport (RAK) is located only 5 km from the Medina and features two terminals. Terminal 1 and terminal 3 host international and regional flights, and they offer currency exchange shops and ATMs, food, drink and retail stores and free wi-fi connections.
- How to reach your accommodation from the airport
The easiest and effortless way to reach your accommodation from the airport is to book in advance a private transfer using the web platforms GetYourGuide, Viator (where you can find many deals and companies) or the company Navette Casablanca.
Alternatively, you can take a local taxi (petit taxi – up to 3 people – or Grand taxi – up to 6 people). The fare should be fixed (70 – 80 MAD for Petite taxi and 100 MAD for Grand taxi), but probably the driver will try to ask you more. Therefore remember always to haggle the price before entering the cab. You’ll also find non-official taxis at the terminal, skip them, and always take the official one. The same consideration can be done if you need to take a taxi to move through the city. Most taxi drivers will try to rip you off. Therefore, do not pay the first price they quote but haggle with them before entering the cab.
The cheapest option is to catch the airport express bus service (line 19) that operates from 6.30 am to 11.30 pm and leaves every 20 minutes from outside the terminal building. It costs 30 MAD and directly goes to the major tourists quarters like Jemaa el Fna square, Gueliz and Hivernage. Tickets are sold onboard to the driver.
If you are travelling on a budget, you can reach the city centre also catching the local buses nr.11, 12, 18, 20 and 33. The ticket costs 4 MAD, and the buses depart along Avenue Guemassa.
The last option is to rent a car if you plan to visit not only Marrakech. You’ll find the car rental companies in the Arrivals Hall of both terminals. Click here to check fares and look for your car with Tripadvisor.
2. By train or bus if you are already in Morocco
If you are already in Morocco or land in Casablanca, you can reach Marrakech by bus, train or a domestic flight (from all the major cities). From Casablanca, the bus ride takes 3/4 hours, and the train ride takes about 2 hours and a half. Despite all, the best way to enjoy the country without wasting time with local transportation is to book a private car with a driver through a local tour operator.
LOCAL TOUR OPERATORS
If you plan a trip to visit the top attractions of Morocco, we suggest contacting Tizi Trekking and Atlas Discovery. During our 2 trips through the country, we arranged a car with a driver with them, and our review was excellent for both.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN MARRAKECH
If you visit Marrakech for the first time, the labyrinthine old Medina, especially around Jemaa el Fna square, is undoubtedly the best choice. It offers accommodations for any budget and allows you to reach all the attractions on foot and experience the real Moroccan culture. A good choice for backpackers and all those who travel on a budget is Kennaria, a small neighbourhood within the Medina wall that features hostels and cheap Riad, all within walking distance of the Marrakech top attractions. If you want to avoid the chaotic Medina, an excellent choice is the Gueliz quarter, also known as the “European quarter”, where you find high-end shops and fancy restaurants, or the Hivernage quarter with its high-class hotel, elegant restaurants, and trendy bars. Both neighbourhoods are close to Marrakech Railway Station and a very few kilometres from Jemaa el Fna Square.
You can look for your accommodation by clicking here or using the booking.com engine below.
WHERE TO EAT IN MARRAKECH
We are street food lovers, and, for us, the best place to eat is Jemaa el Fna with its hundreds of stalls cooking delicious food. Among the stalls, you’ll find everything you wish, from fish and seafood to meat skewers, kebab, goat, mutton, chicken, soups, vegetables and fruit.
If you are not into street food, you’ll also find several cheap restaurants in Jemaa el Fna square and its alleyways, especially along with Rue Bani Marine and Passage Prince Moulay Rachid. The best option for those looking for something more elegant or international restaurants is Gueliz and Hivernage neighbourhoods.
- Click here to find out the best restaurants in Marrakech and the customers’ reviews.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE and METHOD OF PAYMENT
The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). 10 Dh is roughly USD 1 (August 2020). Don’t change your currency at the airport (just the indispensable) and go to the many currency exchange shops around Jemaa el Fna square. Here, you’ll also find several ATMs to withdraw from. We found an excellent rate at the currency exchange shop next to Ali Hotel. Cash is widely used and is the preferred and often the only method of payment.
TRAVELLERS’ SAFETY AND TRAVELLERS’ HEALTH
In general, Marrakech is a safe destination, but, so as in all the cities that attract millions of tourists, there are pushy and annoying sellers, pickpockets, petty theft, bag snatching and scams. Be careful when you walk around or cross the streets because the traffic is terrible, and the vehicles can be speedy. Even though in the last years Marrakech and Morocco, in general, are quite safe and the government has taken measures for the safety of the tourists, there’s even the threat of terrorism to contend with in this city. Not to forget is the bomb attack in a Cafè of Jemaa el Fna square occurred in 2011. Remember that security conditions change every day worldwide; always do your research through the official websites and contact the embassy of your country in Morocco.
Tip: the official religion of Morocco is Islam and, even though the locals are welcoming and are used to see thousands and thousands of tourists every day, it’s recommended to dress respectfully. For women, in particular, it would be advisable to cover the knees and shoulders not to draw any unwanted attention or cause any offence, especially when visiting any religious places.
There aren’t actual health threats in Marrakech, and the health situation is, on the whole, satisfactory. The only precaution you need to take is to drink bottled water and avoid ice in your drinks to prevent gastrointestinal disorders often accompanied by diarrhoea and fever. Despite all, health services/public hospitals are not on par with western standards, and if you need medical attention, it’s better to call on a private hospital/clinic.
It’s always recommended to take out travel insurance during a trip, even if you’re only going for a few days. Especially to cover the medical expenses because they could be very high in case you need them. We always do our travel insurance with Worldnomad.com. Remember to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs. Getting an estimate from World Nomads.com is simple; click on the banner “Get a Quote” below and fill out the necessary info!
LOCAL SIM CARD AND WIFI
Even though you’ll find wifi in the hotels, and many cafes and restaurants, getting a Moroccan SIM card will make your stay a lot easier. At the Arrival level in Menara International airport, you’ll find the main providers Maroc Telecom and Orange, that offer a package of calls plus data. You can also buy the SIM card at any tobacco stands in the city. We bought a Maroc Telecom SIM card for 50 MAD (about 5 USD), which gave us 5GB of data valid for 1 month.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN MARRAKECH
How long to stay in Marrakech?
The most interesting attractions in Marrakech are all within walkable distance from Jemaa el Fna Square. Starting early in the morning, it’s possible to enjoy most of them in only a day, but the best option is to split the tour into 2 days without rushing. Our favourite attractions are Jemaa el Fna, a real open theatre, chaotic, dusty, noisy and charming at once, and the Madrasa Ben Youssef, one of the largest Koranic schools in the whole Maghreb, all adorned with carved wood, marble and fantastic decorations.
3 days or more in Marrakech
Marrakech is also a perfect base to explore the surrounding area and its beautiful attractions as it lies near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert and the windy Atlantic coast. Spending more days in Marrakech, you can arrange beautiful hiking and nature walks, visit Essaouira and other charming coastal towns, an overnight in the desert, and many other activities.
- Click here to find out the best tours from Marrakech.
City tours, day tours and activities in Marrakech
If you are looking for an alternative and easy way to discover the city and its surroundings, check Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com. On these reliable online platforms, you’ll find many activities and tours offered and managed by local tour agencies. Booking your tour is very easy; click on the image below or the web platforms’ name, and you’ll find out all the tours in town and surroundings. After booking, you’ll get an email with all the information you need and the voucher to show to your tour guide.
DRONES IN MOROCCO
We are drones’ lovers, and when it’s possible, we really like taking pics or videos with our DJI Mavic Mini. Unfortunately, at the moment, Morocco has a strict NO drone policy for safety reasons. We were told that if you get caught flying, there’s a fine of about 120 USD and the drone’s confiscation. The best thing is to leave your flying camera at home. Anyway, you can contact the competent aviation authority or ask the Moroccan embassy-consulate in your country for further information about the regulations.
Have you visited Marrakech and its surroundings? Did you like it, and you want to share your experience or suggest more tips? Are you arranging the trip, and you have any questions? Leave us a comment below!