Nov 29, 2017 traveling to Marrakech
Sometimes when traveling I come to a place and I think, “This is an authentic culture.”
These can be some of the best experiences while traveling, the feeling that you are experiencing something foreign from all your thoughts, ways, and beliefs. This is Morocco.
It was my second visit to Morocco but first time to Marrakech and surrounding area so I had an idea of what to expect in terms of the people and customs. Morocco is a trending travel destination, which it should be, but I don’t think people are accurately portraying what it is like to travel here.
Like ski slopes, not all runs are the same difficulty. There are easy travel destinations, and there are black diamond runs. This is Morocco. Worth a visit, but better for more experienced travelers.
If you’re wanting to explore Marrakech through a self-guided tour here are some tips based on my research and own experience. As a woman, I feel this advice would be even more essential for the female traveler and I would say DON’T go here alone!
You’re a Target 🎯
Biggest thing to remember, nothing in Morocco is free!
Friendliness quickly erodes. In a matter of seconds a helping hand becomes, a hand looking for charity, a hand demanding payment, to a hand trying to steal your phone. This was our first 5 minutes in Marrakech.
Don’t let locals “help” you. You have a target on your back. I lived by these basic rules: Know beforehand where you want to go, be confident, and don’t be afraid of giving an assertive NO.
Find your own cab. Don’t let cab drivers find you. If a cab driver approaches you.. just think target.
A metered 10 minute cab ride is about $1-$2. With tourists they try to not use the meter so they ask your destination and give you a figure. $10-$20. You’ll have to insist on the meter. They often say it’s broken or just refuse. Say thank you and walk to the next. At one point we went through 3 cabs before we found one that would agree to use the meter.
If you get in a cab without using the meter make sure a price has been decided beforehand. Make sure you have coins and small bills because they often pretend like they don’t have change.
Bartering is Morocco. So be prepared to haggle for prices over everything. (Outside of restaurants and grocery stores) Here’s a tip. Take their first price and cut it in half.. at least!
Now and again the ancient art of bartering is fun and invigorating. In Marrakech this is less of an art and is more of a war. In our limited experience of only a few days, shop keepers will yell at you, pressure you, guilt you, and even chase you down the street if you decide not to buy something.
Beware of driveby Henna Tattoos. We chose to get a Henna tattoo from one of the established cafes. There are women on the streets that will grab a hand and start inking without your consent.
This happened to my mom at an ATM. My mom stopped her but the lady still demanded payment. The ink started to burn so she ran to the nearest restaurant and washed it off. We found out later that these street henna artist will sometime dilute their ink with cheap chemicals that can cause major skin problems.
Like your Henna Tattoo. Go to an established restaurant. Even then, who knows what’s happening behind the scenes, but give yourself a fighting chance and spend the money you save with using metered taxis on better/safer food.
Hep A and B vaccinations are good in Morocco.
ALWAYS drink bottled water. Beware of food that would be prepared with tap water.
Traveling as a woman:
Lastly, if someone is making you uncomfortable you NEED to speak up! For women this is huge. I know it feels unfair that we have to take all these extra precautions but that’s how it is and pretending other wise creates dangerous situations. It’s not just for your safety but for the next traveler that is in your situation.
I was in a shop looking around and the sales man kept putting his hand on my waist. I thought, “This is not appropriate, and in the States I would never allow this.” Culturally for him it might be the norm or it could be something he is trying to get away with. All I knew is I didn’t like it is so I assertively said, “Please don’t touch me.” This was all I needed to say for him to stop. If enough of us take this stand, it may make things better for future travelers.
I didn’t do this post to make you feel concern or uneasy about visiting Marrakech. I want to give courage, assertiveness, and manage expectations. When I arrived in Marrakech I was an informed traveler. I knew I was visiting a place that I’d never want to live or spend more than a few days. It made me feel gratitude for my life and situation. It made me feel more charitable too.
If you’re looking for authentic, you’ll find it in Marrakech.