Watch out for the local lads in the Medina who try to befriend you,ask where you are going,and then tell you that the place that you want to go is closed or not open until later.This is a way for them to show you somewhere else,and expect a substantial tip in the process.If you really can't shake them off threaten to call the tourist policy.That works!
It is not too difficult finding your way around the Medina.If you get lost ask a shopkeeper,who won't give you any hassle.
I've lived in the Marrakech Medina for nearly a year and really love it. My wife and I, in our late forties, walk everywhere and rarely feel threatened. We live in a traditional part of the Medina just off the main tourist routes. When we go out of the Medina we use small beige coloured taxis - they are all metered and no negotiation is necessary, except for the airport. Just get in the cab and say "BissMillah" (In the name of God) and state your destination. The meter will go straight on.
If you get approached by "guides" or sellers, just say "La, shockeran!" (No, thank you) and continue on your way. If you need directions ask in a shop, not the young men on the street. If you get lost or feel unsure about walking back to your hotel, call reception and ask them to come and get you. Most Riads and hotels will offer this service.
Just remember that you are fabulously wealthy compared to most of the locals you will meet. So be discreet - you're in Africa, with all it's sensuality and vibrancy. Relax into the experience and you will have a fantastic holiday.
For at least the past 10 years there have been plain clothed tourist police in the major cities around Morocco - and Marrakech also.
You will often see driving past along the city streets, or stationed in positions around the central city area and elsewhere around Marrakech such as along the main roads coming from the Gueliz/new part of town where many visitors also stay, large white vans with a red and green insignia and words on the van Nationale Securite.
These are police vans and if any sign of unrest or trouble arises you will no doubt see how fast there is a response from whoever is inside these vans. Rest assured if you were to scream or call out (and weren't unfortunately in a position right next to some great noise such as the Gnaoua castanets or drums of the entertainers in the main square) you would no doubt receive some fast attention. Be aware of that as your first line response if anything happens - Moroccans are deadset scared of their Moroccan jails and the police!!
If you are wondering how safe Morocco or any of the cities are - think about the fact that there is an enormous amount of control here and an enormous number of police. Assigning tourist police for the regular visitors and the push in tourist numbers has been part of that security plan for a long time now.
Unfortunately in 2011 a bomb went off in at Argana café which was one of the cafes popular for people-watching and sunset views over the main square. A number of foreign tourists and local Moroccans were killed but as with the previous devastating bomb blast in Casablanca in 2003, the authoritories are VERY active in working in these cases to find the culprits and anyone involved.
To give you an example we were in Morocco during the month after - there were road checks on all the roads in and out Marrakech, when we got to Azilal there was a roadcheck and we were told they were looking for a particular person that had been involved in the blast. When we were coming into Agadir on our way to the airport there were new roadchecks on the roads in and out.
I have noticed this behaviour during all my years in Morocco - you can tell when the police are doing extra checks and mustbe on the look out for someone.
Do not stay at Hotel Ichbilia in the medina of Marakesh. I was robbed there last year by the staff. I guess they thought I would not miss 20USD since it was next to much larger US bills in my wallet. I had foolishly left it in the room. For some strange reason, the maid or someone stole two sets of my contact lens cases. When I complained the man at the desk claimed it didnt happen. Terrible place.
I was just in Marrakesh in Feb 2013. Here is a warning. Everyone wants your money. Everything is negotiable. Do not accept anything from anyone until you pre-negotiate a price. The negotiating and sales pitches can be very aggressive but you need to be firm and strong. I was not really offended once I got the feel for it.
1. Taxis - Find out from a local how much a taxi should cost from a trusted person and then negotiate that with the driver. They will usually ask for more and then at the end ask for more.
2. At the food stalls they will try to give you samples. Often they will expect you to pay for what they give you. Beware.
3. Guides - If you pull out a map or ask directions some friendly local will give you directions or drag you somewhere and then ask for a tip. Sometimes a ridiculous amount. Do not let this happen unless you make a deal... Say 10 duram ($1.25) to take you to your destination.
4. Henna - The scam is they want you to sit down to look at there book of henna patterns and then they grab your hand and start and then demand a large amount of money. Do NOT let them start unless you negotiate a price.
5. Snakes, Monkeys, artists all expect a tip if you watch or take pictures.
6. Kids asking for money or selling junk.... I suspect adults are forcing these kids to do this. I carried a bunch of hershey miniatures and gave these to the kids. It made them happy and they went away. Beware that they may ask for more or send their friends over. As a "rich" American I can afford to make some kids happy.
7. A good way to get people to leave you alone is to claim you have no money or to say maybe later. When negotiating a price and they ask you what is the least you will pay.... Say that you bought the same thing the other day from another vendor for $xx and that is the most you will pay. I bought a few things this way. Remember, if you pay $1 extra for an item rather than negotiating too hard, does it really matter.
We recently visited Marrakesh and since found this website and only wish we had before, so the taxis I would advise that you book via the hotel before you leave, it is so much cheaper.
My wife was mugged by 2 young lads on a moped, she had stolen a gold cross and chain, if we knew we would not have taken any jewellry, however reading back on here the advice was clear. The ripped it off her and her top and were gone.
Beware people offering advice or directions thay want paying, we had an instance where he wanted 300 dirhams to tell us where the Centrum was. The walk ahead and dissappear, only to reappear and ask if we are ok? This is a ploy to get money from you. Beware pick pockets in the Market Square and taking photographs of he animals, snakes, monkeys and acts performing.
I am not trying to frighten people, however make them aware, most people are poor and will do anything to get money from our experience.
Also my daughter (aged 19) was hit on all the time right in front of us, she found this quite distressing the way the young men behaved, and made her scared of the situations.
Again thank you in hind sight we would have had a better time, if we really knew what we walked in to. I wish that you learn from our errors, mistakes, or plain stupidity when you visit, which is or can be a great place.
This is a tourist town and the locals probably invent new scans daily. Everyone wants to see the snake charmers but be aware these guys are not out here for the hell of it. They are here to make a buck or two or.......so they can provide for their families or habits? I shot this one from afar but if they catch to sneaking a pic close buy they will approach you for a few bucks.....
In the evening a group of young acrobats will show up and put on a show in front of the restaurants in El Fna. They will expect a few bucks from you if they catch you snapping shots as well.
Best thing to do is to enjoy it with a few glances or while they are performing across the but don't make eye contact with them if you are cheap like me.
Morocco is a country of crooks and thieves. Be VERY careful. Never take anybody for granted no matter how 'friendly' they may be. In fact friendliness (and help and support) are traps set up especially for tourists.
Marrakesh is cultural city not many things to do.
MY tip is do not stay there for more than 2 days you can cover all attractions in 1 day.If you wake up early and be active.
you can always take the train to meknes,Rabbat Casablanca city is cheap and worth a visit and you will see you will have peace of mind since there (Rabbat and Casa)no body will chase you and try to sell you stuff spiel you.
2 females walking back to riad in medina in Marrakech jumped from behind. Guy tried to get handbag, dragging friend down alley, fight pursued he ended up running off empty handed, about 10:30 pm. We both suffered head injuries and bruising.
Ok so this is not a city for the faint-hearted. However, as a female traveller (travelling with one other female) I didn't have the negative experiences described by many below. Yes the city is busy, noisy and sometimes overwhelming. But use your common sense, study your guidebook BEFORE getting lost and keep money well hidden and you'll have no problems.
When buying from souks make sure you know before entering any discussion how much you are willing to spend and if you cannot haggle down - politely walk away! I had no problems buying from souks sonlong as I kept a friendly, open (yet streetwise) approach.
Walking around the city is hard work - lots of narrow winding streets. Best to plan routs in advance. If you do get lost - ask a woman for directions! This will still cost you but the women of marakesh tended to be more honest and helpful. know in advance the "going rate" for receiving help from a stranger. Bear in mind many poor people in Marakesh earn no more than 80d a day - so 20/50 is more than fair for an adult and 10/20 for a child. You will encounter beggars - it's a poor country - be reasonable, don't feel obliged to help everyone but remember that a 5d is no more than a few pence to you - but bread and water to an elderly morrcan!
Men can sometimes be intimidating I'd you walk alone at night hut no more than any other city in the world do ling as you are sensible. If you need to travel in early morning or latecat night use a guide/driver from your riad to guide you. If you are reapply concerned there are many europen owned riads (expensive!) that will offer drivers and guides too... Although all the morrocans we met were polite, religious, and very welcoming. I was very Ill while traveling in marakesh and was superbly looked after at all of the riads we visited and even by a lovely cabby who bought me water and biscuits!!!
In short this is NOT a city of nightmares. But know why you are visiting - marakesh is not a relaxing city - it's vibrancy is part of it's charm, however all good things come at a price and you will encounter a few people who will want your money (not all!) - remember this is largely part of the "show" put on for tourists. Behind it's exotic exterior marakesh is as friendly or as dangerous ad you make it. Just be sensible and you will be safe! Xx
. When I decided that I would travel across North Africa I made sure that I got the neccesary travel insurance.Travelling in this part of the world is not without its dangers and my immediate thought was medical insurance. Depending on where you travel there is always the possibilityof an accident .Also some parts of the world are more geared up with modern Hospital technology than others and this is where it is important to have the neccesary travel insurance for your particular needs. Hospital care anywhere is expensive with hospital stays along with doctors or surgeons fees can be catastrophic. The simplest of accidents can throw your travel plans into chaos. Although I travel budget I always make sure that travel insurance is one of the first things that I put in place when making preparations for my journey..
I put the appropriate travel insurance conditions in place for what I need , where I am going ,and for how long. All these factors determine the cost of your insurance policy. I always have cover for accident and medical, Hospital stays, theft and loss of funds, and most important is repatriation just in case of the unthinkable.These things are hard to contemplate when you are going on a vacation or a journey but anything can happen anytime. Lately it seems mother Nature is playing a role as well, with floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes..as they say: DONT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
I have been to Marrakesh about 25 times since the 1980's and so I have had many many experiences that I could share....but I will give you the skinny: 1) Most importantly, I would never advise a nubbie to Marrakesh to move about the city without a "certified national guide" (can be acquired at your hotel). The cost is well worth the price, real protection and vacation enjoyment. 2) Some people love the Medina and Jamaa El Fna experience but it can be very unsafe and unpleasant there. It is a hangout for a lot of rip-off artists...even the locals are afraid and very wary there. Poor young men who have nothing are willing to risk it all to rip you off if they can, because by the fact that you are there you prove that you have money to spare them. 3) Most Moroccans pride themselves at being "sharp" and aware of their surroundings....it is a survival instinct honed over the centuries. It is hard for a lazy, tired tourist to be as sharp. So sooner or later you will be scammed, believe me...it still happens to me too. Live and learn, and try not to be bitter or loose too much, but "learn" . 3) Never stay out too late...An old Moroccan saying goes, "When the mosque doors close for the last prayer of the day (Isha) the gates of hell open. Morocco is not a place to be out wandering around at night and even the locals know this. 4) In general, the police are not there to protect you. They protect the king. Try to deal with them as least as possible. 4) There is a lot of bluff and bravado by thieves (and the police)...If you can manage, don't back down...most Moroccans will yell a lot but back down in the end (unless their pride is wounded). They face huge court sentences if caught stealing from tourists. They are more afraid of getting caught, then you are afraid of them. 5) The common Moroccan people are the most kind, hospitable and religious people in the world...they would bend over backward for you and invite you into their homes as well as feed you costly meals...BUT ..you wont find these wonderful people hanging around Jamaa El Fna.
We spent most of our time in Marrakech feeling stressed, unsafe and uncomfortable. Our first day there we foolishly followed a local creep to the tanneries, i.e. the middle of nowhere, and when we made it clear we weren’t paying him, he turned from nice to nasty in a heartbeat and started threatening me before reaching for something in his inside pocket which I assume was a knife. Luckily we jumped on two passing fellow tourists and he ran off with a 200 dirham note I gave him after a lot of arguing. This left me shaken for the rest of the trip. Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES accept help from or ask directions from any locals, they will tell you where you want to go is closed, or they will try to take you in a completely different direction. They’re also hard to shake, some will walk just ahead of you even if you’re essentially leading the way and then demand money for helping you. Make no eye contact and just say no and walk away from them.
Three days in I then had £40 stolen from my wallet, which had been left in our room of what was an accredited, well-respected riad. We were the only guests so it had to have been the housekeeper, a thief from outside would have ransacked the place. This just shows my point that in Marrakech, all the locals want is money, no matter how they get it. Staying in the medina means you get a more authentic feel for the place, but it also means you will be aggressively targeted and hassled to view peoples souk stalls. Numerous occasions we were followed down the street or hissed at to buy haschisch, my female friend was called a whore (she was dressed quite conservatively!) and even had a group of young boys put their hands up her skirt, you have to dodge fast motorbikes going down the tightest of alleys, and you find it impossible to admire or look at anything because if you do, you’ll be accosted, so the only option is to power walk from A to B without making eye contact with anyone.
The same thing with Place Jamaa El Fna the main square, anything interesting such as snake charmers you are expected to pay to look at, the sellers and taxi drivers rip you off, our server when we ate at one of the food stalls literally stood over us until we gave him a tip, and if youre foolish enough to stop for a while or sit outside a restaurant or cafe, all you get is beggars wandering up to you, including several children not much older than 5 trying to sell tissues and toys. We also saw monkeys visibly distressed on chains, and dogs being randomly attacked for the “fun” of it.
I have no idea where this glamorous, diamond-in-the-rough Marrakech we hear about online and in the press was. It was dirty, smelly, dangerous, stressful and if you want a relaxing fun holiday, go somewhere else.
we spent three days at a riad in the medina where we also spent the majority of time walking the souks and square, and all I can say is that if you want to waste your money holidaying in a place that is smelly, dirty, dangerous and filled with conmen who view tourists as mere targets, then please--by all means, go to Marrakech. During our time there, we were purposely lied to by given false directions then "helped" back to our riad where we were cornered for money. When we handed over some cash, the guy "helping" us threw it on the groud and yelled that it was for a baby and we were wasting his time. When I tried to walk away, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back--so my husband gave him more money and we rushed off as he cursed us out.
We were also cornered by men and pressured to buy things we did not want, in addition to being constantly hassled for money by beggars who ranged in age from 5 yrs to 85yrs old. We had to walk through a food market to get to our riad which was so dirty and unhygienic that it put me off meat for days.
Everytime we stepped out of our riad, the stress of being in Marrakech and having to constantly watch our backs was exhausting. We left our holiday aching to get back home. Of all the places in the world to go to, why waste time among thieves who hate you? Skip Marrakech-- it is not the bright, beautiful, magical place some people claim it to be.