03 Jan Things to know when travelling to Marrakech
So I did one of those “ask me anything” about my trip to Marrakech things on Instagram (@Travelgirlboss) and got a bunch of really great questions and requests for information on things like how to get to Marrakech, visas etc. So here’s TGB’s version of Things to know about travelling to Marrakech. I hope some of my answers help 😉
Pre- travel…flights and visas
South African’s have to get visa’s to travel to Morocco. The cost of a visa is R327 for a single entry visa (this was in 2018). If you are like me and total frugal, and opt to do your visa application yourself, here are some things you need to know…
- The Moroccan Embassy in Pretoria is only open to process your applications from 9am to 11am and is closed on Fridays.
- You can only pay cash.
- Make sure that you have all the paper work and supporting documents you require. They really do scrutinise everything… And ask you about your bank statements etc, travel arrangements etc. I honestly found this visa application as intense as applying for a Schengen Visa.
- Make sure to keep the little slip where they hand write when you need to collect and your reference number details on. It is literally the only “receipt” or proof that exists that you paid and applied for a visa. I almost had a mini hernia, when I realised that the slip of paper they gave me was stuck in my car at the panelbeater. The embassy made me arrive on the day of collection with an affidavit to confirm that I was indeed in a car accident and that is why I didn’t have the slip with me.
- Passport collection for visas is only between between 14:30 and 15:00 at the embassy
- If you are apply for more than one person, not everyone needs to be there to supply the documentation, so you can send one of your friends to go for example with everyone’s documentation.
If you aren’t frugal like me and value your time (me, next time I travel to Morocco), use a company to apply for your visa for you. You pay a little bit more, and probably have to do it a little bit ahead of time, but you save yourself the up and down trip to Pretoria.
As far as I know (by doing a quick Google search), you can’t fly directly to Marrakech. We flew from Lisbon and the flight was about an hour and a half.
Most popular flight from SA is the Royal Maroc flight which has a stop in Doha.
Where to stay
With this being our first time visiting Marrakech, we really wanted to be able to access the most “authentic” experience we could. So whilst hotels like La Mamounia and Royal Mansour are still definitely experiences I want to have, opting to stay in the riads we stayed in, was a magical experience, I can’t really describe.
– Riad BE Marrakech
– Riad Ksar Kasbah
– Riad Yasmine
Interactions with local people? How locals treated you? Experience any racial discrimination? Was it safe for you?
These questions were asked separately, but I felt like I needed to clump them together in order to answer honestly.
Even though, my itinerary planning for Morocco wasn’t well planned, I did spend a lot of time prior to my trip reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos of other people’s experiences of Morocco and the things I took away from everything I read was that:
- Morocco is an Islamic nation. Therefore, if I wanted to avoid negative attention, I needed to, as a woman, cover up. To be honest, I think because I adhered to this dress code, I felt much safer and less like I was attracting negative attention.
- People do not really want to be photographed without their permission.
- Pick-pocketing is a real thing
- I should say no to all types of unsolicited help, even help being offered up by little children.
I also read some blog posts from black travellers regarding racial complexities. I never really experienced any of that whilst I was in Marrakech, although I will say I walked into the city / country with that chip on my shoulder, but it quickly disappeared.
Every Moroccan I had the privilege of talking to (not getting scammed by) was friendly, open and interesting to learn from.
What to pack / wear?
As a female travelling to an Islamic nation, I made sure to have a wardrobe with items that covered my shoulders, arms and knees. I didn’t necessarily cover my head, but I was very conscious to dress modestly.
Where to eat / drink ? And what to eat/ drink?
- Nomad for the view… just note that they do not serve alcohol.
- Dar Zellij for an elevated Moroccan dinner experience… try the Moroccan wine. Read more about the experience in my Marrakech Travel Diary.
- Le Salama for happy hour, a view, a welcome reprieve from exploring the souks and Jemaa el-Fnaa, as well as surprisingly good tagines.
- Cafe Des Espices for a great view and easy going Moroccan lunch.
- Riad BE Marrakech and Riad Ksar Kasbah for their delicious breakfasts and amazing mint tea with Moroccan biscuits
Places to see and visit
- Le Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent Museum and 33 Rue Majorelle can all be explored on one day in one go as they are all a few feet away from each other.
- As chaotic as it is, I would still recommend checking out Jemaa el-Fnaa…
- Book a Hammam experience
- Explore the souks… I particularly enjoyed walking through Souk de Tapis
- As you are walking around, look out for land marks like Bab Agnaou and Koutoubia Mosque
Other places that were recommended by other travel blogs, but I didn’t make it to:
- Ben Youssef Madrasa
- The Bahia Palace
- Le Jardin Secret
- Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech
Getting around & other tips…
- If you are staying in a riad. Notify your riad when you are arriving and get them to send someone from the riad to help you with your luggage. Riads are normally located within the Medina, so most times vehicles can’t drive right up to the front door and you need to meander through narrow alleyways to get there. When you first arrive you might not be able to easily navigate those alleyways and streets, so you will probably need someone to show you where your riad is.
- Use this cab service: Mustapha’s Taxi – 06 99 94 39 35 / 002126 99 943935… Super reliable and they didn’t try scam us.
- Download Maps.me App. It really does work better than Google Maps in the alleyways of the medina.
- Walk on the right to avoid getting run over by scooters and the like…
- Draw money at the airport before you leave and try to make sure you have smaller bills. It is far easier to negotiate and keep to the price you want to pay if you aren’t asking for change when purchasing something in the souks. Also, atms in the medina are hard to come by.