As I mentioned in my previous post, once you land in Marrakech it feels like you’re playing a big game of trying not to get had. Marrakech is one of the most visited cities in Morocco, so you can’t blame the locals for trying to see how many tourists that can get over. Don’t get me wrong Marrakech is a place where I felt safe, there are just a lot of little scams that you have to navigate during your trip. After understanding how things work and a few conversations with locals, here are some handy practical tips that I learned during my last trip that will help you navigate the city with a breeze.
If you speak French, you can easily get away with speaking French and even English. But it is always helpful to know basic words in Arabic. Here are a few survival phrases:
Hello: Asalam Alekum
How are you: La bas?
Thank You: Shukran
No, Thank you: La Shukran
Goodbye: Ma’a Salama
You can do a lot by foot in Marrakech, but you may need to take a taxi to get around. Make sure to always negotiate the price in advance. Don’t fall for the meter isn’t working trick (it works).
In and around Marrakech you shouldn’t pay more than 50DHs to get from point A to B, ideally the best price you can pay would be 20-30 DH. Always make sure to have exact change and give them the amount you want to pay, leave the taxi and they will accept it.
Here are the prices I paid when taking a taxi…
I never paid more than 20DHs in the city.
Djemaa El Fna square to the airport- 60DH
Only some places will take cards so it is helpful to have cash. The easiest option is to withdraw money from an ATM, just check with your bank the fees that apply.
Or if you have cash already in your currency ( ex. euros or dollars), the best places to exchange money for the best rate and no fees in Marrakech are:
Hotel Ali– It’s a hotel right off Djemaa El Fna square that is open pretty much all day until 2am. No commission fees, and they have the best rates.
Banks– Exchanging money at banks is a secure option with no commission fees and they often provide a rate close to the daily exchange rate.
Embrace new Nicknames
I feel like all the locals in the city have a strong tourist radar and they try to pinpoint where you’re from. Don’t be surprised when people start yelling out random names to you to try and get your attention when you walking in the souks or around the large medina square.
By the end of the trip I lost count of all the random names people called me. Here are a few of best ones: Jamaica Jamaica, Chocolat Gazelle, Lady Gaga, Senegal, Spice Girls, Obama’s friend, Beyonce….
Be prepared to get Lost
It’s impossible not to get lost in Marrakech. There are too many small side streets that rarely have street signs so don’t be afraid to stop and ask someone for directions. It’s always helpful to have the exact address of where you want to go, instead of just the name, because the name of a place may be called something different in your native language compared to Arabic.
Don’t get me wrong, people in Marrakech are very helpful and friendly. However, you have to distinguish between the people that come out of nowhere and offer to walk you somewhere, or to help you carry your bags. These types of kind offers are sweet, but they come at a price. Don’t be surprised if they ask you for money, it’s all a part of the game.
Marrakech is one of the most photogenic places for street photography and taking portraits of people. But, in reality it so hard to get these sort of captures. People really don’t like to have their pictures taken and aren’t afraid to tell you.
Here are a few techniques worth trying to get some good captures:
Ask permission– You can ask permission to take photos of people’s things in a shop or of them, but they will still most likely say no. You may get lucky and have a few people say yes, but they may ask you for money.
Stand in one spot– Another trick I found for taking candid shots is standing in one spot and wait for people to pass. People are less bothered by the camera and don’t think they are the subject of your shot, and you can get some cool photos that way.
Shoot at your own risk– If you see something that catches your eye go for it, and be ready to accept whatever consequences come with it.
Sometimes you can’t help but laugh once you realized someone just tried to scam you. For example, my friend and I just left La Mamounia hotel, and a guy comes up to us and says…
“Hey you remember me, I just got off work from the hotel (points to his clothes I just changed clothes), where are you going?”
My friend and I looked at each other and both didn’t recognize him and just kept walking. Less than two minutes later we are walking down the same street and some other random guys says…
“Hello, remember me from the hotel, I just got off work… Where are you going and tries to give us directions (mind you we didn’t need help and knew where we were going).”
My friend and I bust out laughing, and realized they were scamming us. You can’t help but laugh, and be curious what were they really expected to get out of us.In the end these sort of scams are harmless and are actually quite funny when you encounter them.
Not everyone is out to get you
Despite the overwhelming aspects of the city. Still try to be open and embrace interacting with people. Not everyone is out to get you, and the locals are genuinely really friendly and helpful. I often had people who could tell I was lost and took the time to help me to find my destination, or talked to a taxi driver for me to make sure they wouldn’t rip me off, and just left afterwards and didn’t want anything in return.
There you have it! Don’t forget to check out our Marrakech City guide with tons of suggestions of things to DO/SEE/EAT!