Accessible Travel

Marrakesh has few accessible facilities, but the city is not necessarily out of bounds for travellers with a physical disability and a sense of adventure. Some factors to be aware of:

  • Narrow medina streets and rutted pavements can make mobility challenging.
  • Only a handful of top-end hotels have accessibly designed rooms.
  • Booking ground-floor rooms is essential as few hotels have lifts.
  • Vision- or hearing-impaired travellers are poorly catered for. Hearing loops, Braille signs and talking pedestrian crossings are nonexistent.

For more information, download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

Haggling can be great fun as long as you go into it with the right attitude. The most important note to remember is that both you and the seller are trying to reach a satisfactory agreement. The vendor is not going to sell an object for a loss; if you can’t reach a mutually beneficial price, simply walk away.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Don’t try out your bargaining skills when you’re tired and grumpy. You’re not likely to make a great deal, and it will be a thoroughly unenjoyable experience.
  • Do exchange pleasantries first with the shopkeeper. Don’t even think about kicking off negotiations without saying hello and asking how they are.
  • Do work out what you'd be willing to pay for something you like, before you ask the price.
  • Do always accept the mint tea if it's offered.

The Haggling Process

The initial price the vendor quotes may have nothing to do with the item’s actual value, so don’t rely on that figure for your counter offer. Depending on the vendor (and their perception of how much money you may have) their first quote may be exceedingly high or not far off the value of the item. This is why it’s important that you’ve already worked out what your maximum offering will be.

Counter with an offer that's about one-third of your maximum limit and let the negotiations begin. Keep it friendly. Bargaining should never get nasty. If you’re starting to feel pressured or you get a bad vibe from the seller, walk away.

Walking away when you can’t reach an agreement is fine. Offering a price you’re not willing to pay and then walking away is considered the height of bad manners. Make sure you actually want the item before starting to haggle.

Haggling Tips

  • You don’t haggle for groceries. If you’re buying fruit at the produce market, you’re being quoted the actual price.
  • Spend time perusing prices at fixed-price stores such as Ensemble Artisanal beforehand, to get an idea of costs.
  • Never shop with a guide if you want the best price. The shopkeeper has to add their commission onto your bill.

Dangers & Annoyances

Marrakesh is, in general, a safe city. Hustlers and touts though, are part and parcel of the medina experience; keep your wits about you and be prepared for a fair amount of hassle.

  • Pickpockets work on Djemaa El Fna and, to a lesser extent, around the medina. Carry only the minimum amount of cash necessary.
  • Be particularly vigilant if walking around the medina at night.
  • Hustlers and unofficial guides hang around the medina. They can be persistent and sometimes unpleasant. Maintain your good humour and be polite when declining offers of help.

Hustlers, Unofficial Guides & Touts

Marrakesh's tourist police have, in recent years, managed to stymie the worst of the city's hustler problem but not completely eliminate it.

  • Be aware that a hustler's main interest is usually gaining commission from the restaurant, hotel or shop that they have guided you to.
  • Try to look like you know where you're going; hustlers mostly try to latch on to new arrivals.
  • If you are lost in the medina and employ an unofficial guide to lead you out (usually to Djemaa El Fna), a few dirham will suffice.

Navigating the Medina

If you’re lost in the medina, ask a shopkeeper for directions. Often bored youths will point you in the wrong way on purpose.

Discount Cards

Marrakesh doesn't offer any tourist discount cards.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance150
Tourist Police (Brigade Touristique)0524384601
Police190

Entry & Exit Formalities

Visas

Holders of UK, EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand passports may remain in the country for 90 days on entry. Apply for a visa in advance if you have another passport.

Etiquette

  • Photography Ask before taking a photo of locals.
  • Alcohol Don’t drink alcohol on the street or in public spaces.
  • Attire Men and women should cover knees and shoulders when in the medina.
  • Ramadan Don’t eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours.
  • Language It's helpful to learn basic greetings. A few words in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) will delight your hosts.
  • Bargaining Don’t skip pleasantries. Always say hello before asking for help or prices.
  • Affection Don't overtly display affection to your partner in public. Hand-holding is fine; kissing is not.

Moroccan Social Graces

Many visitors are surprised at how quickly friendships can be formed in Marrakesh, and are often a little suspicious. True, carpet dealers aren’t after your friendship when they offer you mint tea, but notice how Moroccans behave with one another, and you’ll see that friendly overtures are more than a mere contrivance.

People you meet in passing are likely to remember you and greet you warmly the next day, and it’s considered polite to stop and ask how they’re doing. Greetings among friends can last 10 minutes as each person enquires after the other’s happiness, wellbeing and family. Moroccans are generous with their time and extend courtesies that might seem to you like impositions, from walking you to your next destination to inviting you home for lunch. To show your appreciation, stop by the next day to say hello and be sure to compliment the cook.

Insurance

It is highly recommended for all travellers visiting Marrakesh to purchase a travel insurance policy which covers theft, loss and, most importantly, medical problems and emergencies.

If you plan on taking part in activities such as mountain biking, horse riding, ATV (quad bike) or motorbike/scooter tours, make sure that your policy covers these.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Most hotels, riads and many cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi.

USB modems can be bought from Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi mobile phone shops. One month's internet access costs around Dh100. You'll need to take your passport when purchasing.

Moroccan computers use French and Arabic (non-QWERTY) keyboards.

LGBT Travellers

Marrakesh is Morocco's most popular destination for gay travellers. Same-sex couples usually have no problem when requesting a double bed in midrange and luxury accommodation.

Despite this, be aware that homosexual acts (including kissing) are illegal in Morocco. If prosecuted and found guilty, jail terms of up to three years and/or a fine can be handed down. Historically, the Marrakesh authorities have turned a blind eye to the laws in regards to gay travellers; foreign same-sex couples are unlikely to encounter any hassle or problems when out and about, as long as they're discreet.

Unsurprisingly, there is no advertised 'gay' nightlife in the city. Many of the Ville Nouvelle's European-style bars and clubs are part of a very discreet local gay-scene, but as businesses can lose their alcohol licences if this becomes common knowledge, the scene can be very difficult to tap into.

Solo gay travellers should be aware that because of poverty, a distinctly unpleasant but very real element of the Marrakesh gay scene is the number of young male prostitutes in the city. This has led authorities to crack down on mixed foreigner-Moroccan gay couples in recent years. Solo gay travellers should also be very wary of using social media apps to attempt to tap into the local scene. There have been several cases of foreigners being robbed and physically assaulted after having used the apps to meet up.

Overall, for gay travellers discretion is key. Same-sex couples shouldn't show affection in public, and gay male travellers should be wary when approached by local men in bars or at the Djemaa El Fna.

Lesbian travellers are far less likely to encounter any problems.

Money

ATMs can be found around Djemaa El Fna in the medina and along Ave Mohammed V in the Ville Nouvelle.

ATMs

Virtually all ATMs (guichets automatiques) accept Visa, MasterCard, Electron, Cirrus, Maestro and InterBank cards.

Most ATMs will dispense no more than Dh2000 at a time.

On Sundays, ATMs on Rue Bab Agnaou (near Djemaa El Fna) and in Rahba Kedima often run out of cash. Try ATMs on Rue Fatima Zohra near Bab Ksour, or in the Ville Nouvelle.

Cash

The medina souqs are still very much a cash society. Only larger shops will accept credit and debit cards.

Many midrange and top-end accommodations accept payment in euros.

Changing Money

Most banks change cash. Private bureaux de change offer official exchange rates and are open longer hours. Hotel Ali, near Djemaa El Fna, nearly always offers fractionally better rates than anywhere else.

Euros, US dollars and British pounds are the most easily exchanged currencies.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards are usually accepted at midrange and top-end accommodation, as well as large tourist-oriented restaurants and shops, though they often incur a surcharge of around 5%.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1Dh6.83
CanadaC$1Dh7.16
Europe€1Dh10.88
Japan¥100Dh8.71
New ZealandNZ$1Dh6.5
UK£1Dh12.5
USAUS$1Dh9.57

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com

Tipping

Tipping is an integral part of Moroccan life; almost any service can warrant a tip. Although you shouldn't feel railroaded, the judicious distribution of a few dirham for a service willingly rendered can make your life a lot easier.

  • Restaurants 10% is standard.
  • Cafes Leave Dh2.
  • Museum guides Dh10; more for great service.
  • Bag porters Dh3 to Dh5 is standard.
  • Public toilet attendants Leave Dh1 to Dh2.
  • Car park attendants Dh3 to Dh5; Dh10 for overnight.

Opening Hours

Although Marrakesh follows the Monday to Friday working week for business purposes, in the medina souqs many workshops and stalls take Friday (the main prayer day) off while other businesses take an extended lunch break on Friday afternoon.

Banks 8.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday

Post offices 8.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday

Government offices 8.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants noon-3pm & 7-10pm

Bars 6pm until late

Shops 9am-12.30pm & 2.30-8pm Monday to Saturday

Post

Poste Maroc (www.poste.ma) has a fairly reliable service.

Public Holidays

Banks, post offices and most shops close on the main public holidays, but transport still runs.

New Year’s Day 1 January

Independence Manifesto (11 January) Commemorates the publication in Fez of the Moroccan nationalist manifesto for independence.

Labour Day (1 May)

Feast of the Throne (30 July) Commemorates King Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne.

Allegiance of Oued Eddahab (14 August) Celebrates the ‘return to the fatherland’ of the Oued Eddahab region in the far south.

Anniversary of the King’s and People’s Revolution (20 August) Commemorates the exile of Mohammed V by the French in 1953.

Young People’s Day (21 August) Celebrates the king’s birthday.

Anniversary of the Green March (6 November) Commemorates the Green March ‘reclaiming’ the Western Sahara on November 1975.

Independence Day (18 November) Commemorates independence from France.

Smoking

  • Smoking Prolific in Marrakesh. Smoke-free sections in restaurants are becoming more common, particularly in Gueliz, but they are definitely not the norm. Luckily, many restaurants and cafes do have outdoor seating. Many riads and a few top-end hotels have nonsmoking policies in their rooms.

Taxes & Refunds

A city tax (Dh20 to Dh25 per person per night) is added onto hotel rooms. Many hotels include this in their quoted rates.

It is possible for visitors to claim a 20% VAT refund on some purchased goods (minimum spend of Dh2000) on departure.

Telephone

To call a Marrakesh landline from inside Morocco, always dial Marrakesh's four-digit area code (0524) even when in Marrakesh.

To call Marrakesh from overseas dial your international access code + 212 + 524

Moroccan landlines begin with 05; mobile numbers start with 06.

Mobile Phones

Purchasing a SIM Card

If you have an unlocked mobile phone, you can buy a prepaid Moroccan mobile SIM card. Morocco's three GSM network providers are Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi, available at the airport on arrival, at any of the mobile network provider stores and also off roving vendors (wearing the branded clothing of the mobile network) who hang out near the network stores and on the Rue Bab Agnaou entry to Djemaa El Fna. Take your passport when purchasing.

Prepaid packages vary; for Dh100 you can get 200 call minutes plus 10GB data. Many packages do not offer international SMS. Data coverage in Marrakesh is reliable and reasonably fast.

Scratch cards to top up your credit can be bought at téléboutiques (private phone offices) and newsstands.

Toilets

Public toilets are scattered throughout the medina. Most are decently clean. Look for the 'WC' signs. Otherwise, head to a cafe.

Public toilets and toilets in cafes and restaurants often have no toilet paper, so keep a supply with you.

Don’t throw the paper into the toilet as the plumbing is often dodgy; instead discard it in the bin provided.

Tourist Information

Most hotels and riads can provide free maps of the city. Office National Marocain du Tourisme offers pamphlets but little in the way of actual information.

Travel with Children

The mutual admiration between kids and Marrakesh is obvious. Children will gaze in wonderment at fairy-tale souq scenes, herbalists trading concoctions straight out of Harry Potter, cupboard-sized shops chock-a-block with spangled Cinderella-style slippers, and the chaotic, thrumming spectacle of Djemaa El Fna lit up at night. That said, for families with toddlers and babies the city can be overwhelming and logistically challenging. Careful planning takes the stress out of visiting Marrakesh with younger children

Free Entertainment

Marrakesh museums are a poor substitute for the live theatre of the souqs and the Djemaa El Fna.

  • Early mornings are quieter in the souqs, meaning less hassle and a better view of craftspeople at work.
  • Early evenings (6pm to 8pm) are best for Djemaa dance troupes and musicians, and offer chance encounters with Moroccan families also doing the rounds.

Head Out Of The City

  • Beldi Country Club

A 15-hectare country retreat designed with families in mind; includes a children’s pool and child-focused activities ranging from bread baking to horse riding.

  • Terres d’Amanar

Adrenaline-packed Terres d’Amanar to balance out all that souq strolling. This outdoor centre, 36km south of Marrakesh, offers zip lines, a forest adventure course, mountain biking and horse riding.

  • Oasiria

Beat the heat with nine pools, a kamikaze slide and a pirate lagoon, all tucked within lush gardens.

Marrakshi Culture

Let the kids dig a bit deeper into Marrakshi culture.

  • They'll be souq-ready with Cafe Clock's 'Kech Download', a 90-minute crash course in Moroccan culture and common phrases.
  • For family-friendly activities such as a task-filled medina hunt and henna-art workshops, try Creative Interactions.

Alternative Sightseeing

  • Calèche rides

When kids' legs and parents' backs start to give out, do what Moroccan parents do: hire a horse carriage in the Djemaa El Fna and take a grand tour.

  • Dromedary rides

Head out to the Palmeraie (palm grove), where dromedaries await in the parking lot of the Café le Palmier d'Or. About Dh50 to Dh70 should cover a 15- to 30-minute guided ride (bargaining required).

  • Horse riding

For professional lessons and horse treks in the Palmeraie and Atlas Mountains, look no further than the stables at Les Cavaliers de L'Atlas.

  • Biking

Explore Marrakesh or the Atlas Mountains beyond, on a family-friendly bike tour with AXS.

Need to Know

  • Admission The majority of museums have reduced rates for under-12s.
  • Challenges Strollers are impractical in the medina, baby-changing facilities scarce and restaurants make few dietary concessions.
  • Accommodation The key to a successful trip is child-friendly accommodation. Riad plunge pools and steep stairs aren’t exactly childproof, and sound reverberates through riad courtyards. Most riad owners and staff, however, dote on babies and will provide cots and high chairs, and prepare special meals on request.

Women Travellers