Updated August 22, 2020.
Marrakech, Morocco, has become a hot spot for tourism in recent years, and it’s just as chaotic, colorful, and old world charming as you might expect! The city has played host to world leaders, royalty, the rich, and the famous over the years, but there are a few things every visitor should know before they go!
Make Sure the Taxi’s Meter is On
One of the scams we heard about most before our trip involved getting over charged by taxi drivers. The fare from the Marrakech Airport (RAK) to the Medina should be around 70 MAD ($7.25 USD). If there is not a meter or if your taxi driver refuses to turn it on, agree on a price before you get into the taxi.
More here: How to Avoid Scams in Morocco
Ask the Right People for Recommendations and Directions
A stranger on the street or a “kind” person offering “help” are not the right people to ask for directions or recommendations. They will likely offer to lead you there and expect payment in return, or they will take you to their cousin’s brother’s nephew’s shop whether they sell what you’re looking for or not, and you will be expected to buy something.
Instead, ask the front desk attendant or concierge at your accommodation for recommendations, reasonable prices to pay for the things you want, or directions to the places you want to go. Another person to ask is a shopkeeper. They can’t leave their stores to lead you astray, and they are usually friendly and helpful—after all, you might come back to buy something from them!
Keep reading: Our Morocco Mistakes (and How You Can Avoid Them)
Know about the Henna Scam
Jemaa el Fna can get crazy and crowded and out of hand, and scammers take advantage of that. Women will walk around with their henna pens, and when you’re not paying attention, they will intentionally bump into you and leave a mark on your hand or arm. Then they offer to “fix” it and charge you when they’re done, whether you like it or not. You are under no obligation to pay for this! Just refuse if you don’t want it, or if you’d like a henna tattoo (it is not permanent!), pay what you think it’s worth. My plan was to wipe the henna off on the person who marked me, but no one tried this with us!
NOTE: If the “artist” is using black ink instead of brown, it could contain toxic chemicals. If the ink is black, rub it off immediately (using something other than your hand), and tell person to leave. We did not have a problem with this or see this happen to anyone, but we read about this scam in several other blogs before we went, so we felt it warranted mentioning here!
Read on: Safety and Avoiding Scams in Morocco
Beware the Snake and Monkey Handlers
Those cute snakes and monkeys you see at Jemaa el Fna? Don’t pay any attention to them or their handlers. The men with snakes will try to put the snake on you and then make you pay them to take it off. Avoid them. Not only is this a cruel trick to play on tourists, it is cruel to the snakes as well. I read on a local’s blog that handlers will often sew the snake’s mouth shut so it will not bite. The snake dies after just one day, and it’s replaced with a new one—with its mouth sewn shut.
The men with monkeys will want you to pet the monkey or put it on your shoulder for a picture, then demand money. Avoid them, too. These Barbary monkeys are trapped and taken from the Atlas Mountains and then kept on chains to take pictures with tourists. It’s not cute and it’s not kind.
Essential Info: 7 Travel Rules You Don’t Know Until Someone Tells You
You Will Get Lost
Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry. Don’t panic. Stop into a shop or nearby hotel or riad for directions and be on your way! Don’t let someone lead you out because then you’ll never get out!
Read on: How to Embrace Cultural Differences
Sit on the Terrace or Upstairs at Restaurants
Not only will you get better views than if you eat on the ground floor, you will also avoid beggars on the street. We ate breakfast at a restaurant on Jemaa El-Fna square and chose to sit outside on the ground floor because it seemed like a nice place to eat. Beggars and sellers (selling t-shirts, sunglasses, etc.) kept coming up to us and reaching across to sell us things or beg from us. It was super uncomfortable. Always choose the terrace.
More here: What to Eat in Morocco
Don’t Bother Splurging on La Mamounia
We had the worst hotel experience of our lives at La Mamounia, which was the #1 hotel in the world in 2018. We were treated very rudely and repeatedly mistaken for non-guests. We were looking so forward to our stay there since this was such a special trip for us, and they single-handedly ruined what should have been a wonderful experience.
Read the Whole Terrible Tale:
Why I Will Not Recommend La Mamounia
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