As I've just returned from a week's holiday to the city, I wanted to share some tips for travelling to Marrakech. These are some of the things I wished I'd realised before I went there. I read all the usual travelling tips but I didn't realise just how useful it would have been if I'd paid them more attention - more so for Marrakech than for every other city I've visited. So, here are nine tips for travelling to Marrakech - and trust me, you'll need them!
1. It's Chaotic
Seems like an obvious one on a list of tips for travelling to Marrakech - obvious for any city, in fact. Well, imagine the busiest city you can think of - I was comparing it to London, New York, Bangkok - and times it by ten. It's absolute pandemonium. That's part of it's charm, of course, but expect driving with no rules, mopeds on the streets and honking/shouting at all times of the day and night. Choose a place to stay that is calm and removed from the chaos - you will need it.
2. You Will Get Lost
New place, you've never been before, you might expect to get lost, right? We had a map, smartphones, handwritten directions from the owner of our riad - and we still got hopelessly lost. We spent one day walking around for FOUR hours before we found where we were meant to be going. The tiny streets are a maze of dead ends and it all looks very similar, so expect to get lost and make sure you have a torch if you're going out at night.
3. Think about What You Want
We wanted to experience traditional Marrakech, so we stayed in the Medina - within the city walls. The Medina was like stepping back in time; outside is much more modern (and more expensive). So it depends what you want, but give it some thought because it'll define your holiday. Personally, next time I would stay outside of the Medina and visit it during the day. I found it too overwhelming, but that's just me.
4. You'll Get Ripped off
I don't want to sound like I'm criticising the city or it's people, because I'm not - but we found that we, as tourists, were charged a much higher price for everything; sometimes more than five times the actual price. We tried to haggle but we soon found that - especially with taxis - you pay what they're asking or you don't get what you want. That was my experience - yours might be different, but keep this in mind.
5. Be Aware
We were offered tours of the city countless times but these either end in a shop where you're pressed to purchase things you might not want, or you'll get charged more than you want to pay. It's sad but we had to realise that if someone was offering to show us the way or give us a tour, most of time they weren't doing it out of the kindness of their hearts - they may expect payment.
6. Glorious Sunshine
If you're purely looking for a relaxing sun break during October sort of time, this is perfect. The weather was beautiful when we went and you can stay at amazing hotels for a fraction of the price of other winter sun destinations.
7. The Atlas Mountains
If you do any day trips, make sure you do one here. The mountains are wonderful and it's an excellent day out - use TripAdvisor to find the package that comes most highly recommended.
8. Les Bains De Marrakech
We spent a morning at this spa and I can't recommend it highly enough. It was a total oasis and the prices are brilliantly cheap compared to spa prices at home. I had a traditional hamman, a body mask, body scrub and an excellent hour-long massage, all for £41/$65.
9. Local Food
The best meals I had whilst I was there were street food from the night market and dinners cooked in our riad. Unless you've chosen somewhere specifically because it has excellent reviews online, I would avoid the more expensive restaurants and go by your riad owner's recommendations. Often the best food can be found in your riad, anyway.
Marrakech is a fascinating, vibrant city and I would encourage everyone to experience it. What I've written above are my personal experiences - I want to state again here that I'm not criticising the city in any way, I'm just sharing the things I wished I had been more aware of. Do you have any tips I've forgotten?