What Not to Do in Marrakech: 15 Essential Tips

Marrakech, the vibrant city in Morocco, offers a mesmerizing mix of bustling souks, historical palaces, and rich culture. However, navigating this lively city can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. To help you make the most of your trip, here are 15 essential tips on what not to do in Marrakech.

1. Don’t Forget to Dress Modestly

Marrakech is a conservative city with deep-rooted cultural and religious values. While the weather can be quite hot, it’s important to dress modestly out of respect for the local customs. Avoid wearing revealing clothing such as shorts, tank tops, or mini-skirts. Opt for loose, breathable fabrics that cover your shoulders and knees. Not only will this help you blend in, but it will also protect you from the sun.

2. Don’t Ignore the Local Currency

The official currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). While some places might accept euros or dollars, it’s best to use the local currency to avoid unfavorable exchange rates. Don’t rely solely on credit cards, as many smaller shops and stalls prefer cash. ATMs are widely available, so withdrawing Dirhams upon arrival is a good idea. Additionally, always carry small denominations for easier transactions.

3. Don’t Wander Without a Map

The medina of Marrakech is a maze of narrow streets and alleys that can be confusing, even for seasoned travelers. Always have a map or a reliable GPS app on your phone. Getting lost is part of the experience, but having a navigation tool will help you find your way back to your riad or a familiar landmark. If you do get lost, don’t hesitate to ask a shopkeeper or local for directions, but be wary of unofficial guides who might ask for a fee.

4. Don’t Accept Offers Without Negotiating

Haggling is a common practice in Marrakech, especially in the souks. Never accept the first price offered, as it’s often inflated. Bargaining is expected and can be a fun part of the shopping experience. Start by offering a lower price than what you’re willing to pay and negotiate until you reach a mutually agreeable amount. Remember to be polite and friendly during the process.

5. Don’t Drink Tap Water

The tap water in Marrakech is not safe for drinking. Always opt for bottled water, which is readily available. Make sure the seal on the bottle is intact before purchasing. Also, avoid ice cubes in your drinks and be cautious with fresh salads and fruits that might have been washed with tap water. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially in the hot climate, so always carry a bottle of water with you.

6. Don’t Forget to Tip

Tipping is a customary practice in Morocco and is expected in many service situations. In restaurants, it’s customary to leave a tip of around 10% of the bill. For small services like porters, guides, or taxi drivers, a few dirhams is appreciated. Always carry some small change for tipping, as it’s a way to show gratitude for good service and support the local economy.

7. Don’t Photograph People Without Permission

Marrakech is a photographer’s paradise with its colorful markets, historic sites, and vibrant street scenes. However, it’s important to be respectful when taking photos of people, especially locals. Always ask for permission before taking someone’s picture. In some cases, people might ask for a small fee in exchange for a photo, especially street performers and artisans in the Jemaa el-Fnaa square.

8. Don’t Rely on Public Displays of Affection

Marrakech is a conservative city, and public displays of affection (PDA) are frowned upon. While holding hands is generally acceptable, kissing, hugging, or any other forms of PDA should be avoided. Respecting local customs and traditions will ensure a more pleasant experience for you and those around you.

9. Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Try Local Cuisine

Marrakech offers a rich culinary scene with a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes that you shouldn’t miss. From tagines and couscous to street food like kebabs and pastries, there’s something for every palate. Avoid sticking to international or familiar cuisines and be adventurous with your food choices. However, be cautious with street food hygiene and choose busy, reputable stalls to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

10. Don’t Overpack Your Itinerary

Marrakech is a city meant to be savored, not rushed. Don’t make the mistake of overpacking your itinerary with too many activities and sights. Allow yourself time to wander the streets, relax in a traditional hammam, or enjoy a leisurely mint tea at a local café. Take breaks to soak in the atmosphere and interact with the locals. This way, you’ll have a more authentic and memorable experience.

11. Don’t Visit Only the Tourist Spots

While famous landmarks like the Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, and Majorelle Garden are must-sees, don’t limit yourself to just the tourist spots. Explore the less-visited areas of Marrakech, such as the local neighborhoods and smaller, less-known markets. This will give you a deeper understanding of the city’s culture and everyday life.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Some Basic Moroccan Arabic or French

Although many people in Marrakech speak some English, knowing a few basic phrases in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) or French can go a long way. It shows respect for the local culture and can help in making connections with locals. Simple phrases like “hello,” “thank you,” and “please” are always appreciated and can enhance your travel experience.

13. Don’t Skip the Hammam Experience

A visit to a traditional Moroccan hammam (bathhouse) is a unique cultural experience that you shouldn’t miss. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after a day of exploring. There are public hammams, which are more traditional and budget-friendly, as well as private ones offering luxurious spa treatments. Whichever you choose, it’s an experience that will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.

14. Don’t Rely Solely on Taxis

While taxis are a convenient way to get around Marrakech, they can sometimes be expensive, especially for tourists. Consider using the city’s public transportation, such as buses, or even walking to explore the medina. If you do take a taxi, ensure the meter is running or agree on a fare before starting your journey to avoid any misunderstandings.

15. Don’t Ignore the Call to Prayer

The call to prayer, heard five times a day, is an integral part of life in Marrakech. While you’re not required to participate, it’s important to be respectful during these times. Avoid loud conversations and be mindful of your surroundings. Listening to the call to prayer can also be a beautiful cultural experience, adding to the ambiance of the city.

Marrakech is a city of contrasts, offering a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern vibrancy. By avoiding these common mistakes and following these tips on what not to do in Marrakech, you’ll navigate the city more smoothly and make the most of your visit. Respect the local customs, stay hydrated, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history that Marrakech has to offer. Safe travels!

If you are interested in Morocco you may want to read also:

Visiting Morocco in July: Top Destinations, Events, and Travel Tips


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