Hello and welcome to my latest trip to Morocco! This was my first time stepping onto the African continent so expect a lot of fun and crazy adventures in the next few post but for now I’m going to focus on what to expect when arriving in Marrakech – where I spent the week.
Everything about my Morocco trip was last minute, surprise holidays from work and not long to plan. I think I booked everything 3 days before flying out and it was super scary and exciting. Travelling, especially solo travel, is always a bit nerve wracking but this trip reminded me of how easy it actually is to just click and go!
I was only going for a week so only carry on luggage for this trip and to save on extra costs – I flew with Easyjet and they always charge around £25 extra if you want to stick something in the hold.
Something to arrange before you fly over is to book a taxi from the airport to your accommdation – nothing is more reassuring than seeing your name and being transported smoothly to your new home. I’ve been to Pakistan, and Morocco being a Muslim country had the same timeless vibe about it…as in nothing has really changed over the years. So don’t be surprised about the donkey, mule and horse carts mixed with bikes, scooters, cars and people sharing the same pathways. My hostel emailed me offering to book a taxi for me and then the hostel guy came to meet me as well so I was very well taken care of – which was great because my flight was delayed by 2 hours!
Morocco operates on Moroccan Dirham or Euros – Dirham is a closed currency meaning you can’t get it outside of the country, so once you make it past immigration there are currency exchange stands where you can stock up on cash. I would reccommend cash for Morocco because unless you’re at a cafe/restaurant, the markets are less likely to have card machines. In the markets 1 Euro = 10 Dirham so if you have some Euros lying around, the markets are a great place to get bargains!
In Morocco, people speak Arabic, French and English as well as various other European languages but for English speakers you’ll be fine but you might feel sad about your lack of language skills in comparison! Why didn’t I study more in High School French?!
After checking at my hostel (£35 for the week!) I headed out towards the Suuks or the miriade of markets in the Madina square. Marrakech is busy. There is a constant noise of people and animals going about their lives and since there’s so many tourists around, vendors are always calling out to you or trying to talk to you in order to get you to buy something or eat at their cafe.
Usually I’m a smiley person and open to conversation buuuut after 2 hours in the markets that changed haha. The vendors are experts at using anything to get your attention so it makes it hard to just browse because they are looking for any chance to make money. So top tip is to wear sunglasses and plain clothes. That worked for me and I stopped talking to people because what I found is that a lot of people will seem friendly but will ask you for ‘small money’ after they’ve talked to you or given you directions to places you didn’t ask to go. At first it’s pretty startling but be firm with them – you don’t need to give them money but have small coins on you for the persisent ones and they will leave you alone. For me the weirdest part was that people will follow you in the hopes for small money but they never invaded my personal space which is reassuring.
What is considered small money? Anything between 1-20 Dirham or 1-2 Euros – don’t feel pressured to give more than that. This holds true for people who offer to take picures of you or try to be in your photos. In Marrakech always assume people are looking for small money – it’s an unfortunate consequence of being a tourist hotspot and because a lot of people make their livelihoods here, you need to be careful of what’s in your photos. In Madina/the big square/square you’ll find snake charmers – lots of cobras, people who make monkeys dance, break dancers, mendhi (henna) artists, artists and musicians. So I was about to take a photo of the cobras but I decided against it but a guy approached me asking for money because he thought I had taken a picture of it. It was only after he looked through my photos and found no snake he grumbled off, so use this time to practice your ninja photo taking skills!
After taking some time to soak in all the hustle and bustle of the square, it’s time to get stuck into the many many many many many alleyways of market stalls to find your perfect gifts. In Marrakech I found I spent most of my days down various alleyways trying to unlock their secrets…or just find my way back to the square haha. However they all do reassuringly connect back there at some point. There aren’t really signs but there are the odd few hanging from the ceiling, so if in doubt look up!
The markets have everything. Intricate wooden animals, chess sets, jigsaws, all the t-shirts, traditional clothing known as Kaftans, wedding dresses, beautiful metal work – so if you’re in the mood for a fancy door you’re in luck! As well as a plethora of leather bags, belts and shoes made from sheep, cows, camels and even snake skin. There are markets that specialist in Argan Oil – a cosmetic oil from olives that’s apparently good for the skin and hair – or at least that’s what they told me and spices.
Another top tip is don’t let the vendors put anything on you, what I mean is that many vendors will put their scarves on you Moroccan style but since it’s physically on you there is an expectation that you will buy it. So if you’re looking for scarves don’t let them put it on you until you’re ready to buy so you can avoid any cranky vendors! There’s multiple stands of everything so you won’t be stuck for choice but you might be stuck for price so I’m going to share some haggling tips so you can get the most for your money!
Vendors all use the same lines:
“Seeing is free!” – Oh really? I had no idea, vendors say this to get you into the shop if they’ve seen you looking but just wave them off if you aren’t interested in anything.
“I’ll give you a good price my friend,” – Uh huh I’ve just hear 5 other people tell me that bruh.
“Take your time, no rush, no problem!” – Yes thank you for letting me browse whilst you hover my shoulder, yup no problem at all!
For me I would suggest walking around the markets just to see what’s what and if anything does take your fancy, locate a few more of the same stalls before asking for the price.
Then, I would set 2 prices in mind, the first price is your cheeky price – one that is so low that even you know you’re being ridiculous – but is a plus if you get it! The second is the settling price so when you’re both haggling and you’re sensing you can’t get nearer to the cheeky price you still settle on an amount that you’re happy to pay.
Third, be firm/ don’t be afraid to leave the stall – obviously the vendors want the best price for them so they’ll give you the oh this was hand made by my great uncle; that’s not a good price for me; you’ll have this forever- but they’re all designed to make you feel guilty and not get the price you want. So stick to your prices and leave if it isn’t working for you because usally once the vendor sees you leaving they happen to drop the price very quickly. I went to maybe 10 stalls before getting my touristy t-shirt at the price I wanted so it pays to be strategic!
If you’re one for postcards – haggle on those too! They’ll range from 1-5 Dirham but if you’re buying a few don’t be afraid to name your price – the worst is that they say no and you go somewhere else!
I booked a few activities before flying out such as Quad Biking and a Hot Air Balloon ride but in Morocco they have the Sahara Desert and you can book day/night trips out there! However I couldn’t find anything online on how to book but once I got there, there are so many excursion vendors offering all the nights in the desert you want! Again, just like markets, they offer all the same activities but it’s just finding the right price. Use the same tips as before but before settling on an excursion always check in at your accommodation to see what deals they have too! As I booked my 2 days 1 night day in the Sahara with my accommodation that meant I got picked up straight from the hostel doors!
Now if you’re interested in hearing about those activities and finding out more about how you can book your experiences watch out for my next Morocco post! Thank you so much for reading and if you have any questions, comments I’d love to hear them down below!