Since a lot of you are very interested to know more about my trip to Marrakech, Morocco, I decided to write a very simple post on it.
So where do I begin? To be honest, Morocco has always been on my list of countries to visit, but I have never thought I would visit it so soon! I kept thinking maybe when I'm older because I thought it’s very costly to travel there.
Then one morning, the moment I woke up, I told Jo lets plan a trip for Raya Holidays since its a long weekend! At first we thought of going to Italy but it’s so exp wtf and we needed to take more days off than we could afford because we will have to travel to many places in Italy. So we gave up on Italy and while we were brainstorming, I Googled “Where should I visit?” and guess what! Morocco was on the top of list so the next thing I know I bought tickets to Marrakech.
No, Malaysians can travel to Morocco visa free as of Dec 2017. Please double check this info.
We booked Qatar Airways from KL to Doha then to Marrakech. It was around RM3k per person. Why Qatar Airways? No reason, because it was the cheapest lol. I used Skyscanner to search for the best price for air tickets. Nonetheless, the flight was good, the seats were spacious and comfy, and most importantly, for all of our flights, we had the whole row to ourselves.
Budget & Currency
The most asked questions about my trip there! Im just like any of you, I always thought Morocco is expensive because of all the 5 star hotel images on Instagram and Pinterest. Well, actually I find it quite reasonable because we only spent RM6K per pax including flight! I know right!!!! But again, we didnt go out of Medina so we didn't take any tour packages to the desert or mountains, but I think that you can do it within RM6-7k because we spent maybe 2-3 days more than necessary in Marrakech, so our hotel/riad and lunch + dinner budget could very well have been spent on excursions.
Oh yeah, as for currency, Moroccan Dirhams/MAD (or DH as written in all signage/menus) is a closed currency, meaning it can only be bought and sold in the country. We brought Euros and changed them into DH in Marrakech airport after passing immigration. You can bring USD or GBP to change, but we brought Euros because most hotels accept Euros, so no need to lose in converting twice unless necessary. You still have to change to their local currency because most restaurants and stalls only accept DH. Remember to change your currency back to Euro/USD when you're leaving, before going through immigration, because you're not allowed to bring their currency out from their country and there are no more currency exchangers after that. Duty free zone will accept DH for drinks/food only. Duty free items all must be paid in foreign currency.
Remember to get small notes from the currency exchange or buy a drink from the airport first.
As of right now, 10 MAD = 4.21 MYR, but it's safer to use 0.45 as a conversion rate because you will be converting twice (MYR - EUR - MAD).
We didn't rent any pocket WiFi because most of the M'sian companies don't cover Morocco. We did a bit of a research on getting their local sim card but in the end we didn't use it because I don't want to spend too much time playing with my phone. I want to be in the moment instead. So for navigation, what we did was Jo downloaded the offline Google map section for Marrakech (You should do this ahead of time). As for my Insta stories? I recorded it using my phone then saved it and uploaded them when we are back in the hotel or restaurants 👍🏼 Most restaurants, cafes, hotels or riads have free wifi.
For this trip, we ONLY stayed in Marrakech and inside the medina (walled, old town) so everything is within walking distance. The weather was perfect, sunny but cool so we didn't have a problem walking. The furthest we walked was probably for 30 minutes. We booked an airport transfer online for around RM50/trip, and the reason why was because we didn't know what to expect, and did not want to waste time looking for transport to get to our accommodation and then trying to bargain with the driver, it's risky and tiring. As for our return we just took a taxi which cost us around 80dh. Their taxi fare ranges between 40dh - 100dh depending on where you go. The lowest we paid was 40dh for a 15 min ride. If you ever want to take a taxi to any tourist attractions please learn to bargain on price because the places are around 10- 15min drive away! On our trip, we had to travel to another riad but it was not possible by foot, so we paid around 50dh for a taxi because it was at the other side of the medina. The roads are not in the best conditions, narrow and it's usually crowd with people. The drivers will tell you the "standard tariff" to the airport is 100dh, but we managed to get it down to 80dh.
If you stay in a riad, it is usually located in narrow streets inside the medina, so your taxi/transport will not be able to enter. The streets are cobblestone / brick roads, so it is a bit tricky to move your luggage, so I suggest that you pack light, and only bring 1 roller luggage per person. If you cant carry your bags, there are porters with carts at most places/taxi stands. They will offer to carry your luggage and show you to your destination. Don't pay them more than 20-30 dh.
How Many Days To Spend There?
You can probably cover Marrakech in 3 full days, but we decided to take it slow and easy. You should also book an excursion to Fez, the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara, Merzouga, or Essaouira. Expect to spend another 3-4 days.
When we were there, it was the end of Ramadan, and during Eid al Fitr (Aidilfitri) holidays (1-2 days), most shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions are closed, so we budgeted more time to accommodate this. We just spent Eid in our riad chilling as Riad BE includes breakfast and coffee/tea all day long.
Food & Entertainment
I love Moroccan food because it’s pretty well balanced, full of protein and it’s quite healthy. Their famous dishes are tagines, couscous, and grilled meats. If you don’t really like lamb or beef you can stick with chicken. I personally love their lamb because it’s really tender!
We planned ahead on which restaurants we wanted to go to and we made reservations before our trip to secure a rooftop table or a better view. I would advise you to book your table and screenshot ur booking confirmation or save it in your phone. Show it to them if they can’t find your booking.
There are the 4 restaurants that we visited which I can highly recommend! They are all owned by the same group! Nomad ($$$$), Cafe Des Epices ($$), Le Jardin ($$$), and Terrace Des Epices ($$$).
A normal entree costs from 100dh to 150dh. For Cafe Des Epices, their sandwiches or salads cost from 60dh only.
If you want to try their local restaurants by the side of the roads, they range from 10dh for an omelette to 50dh for a tagine. We only had one "cheaper" meal and Jo had a tummy ache afterwards so we stuck with better restaurants after that. A 500ml bottle of mineral water usually costs 15-20dh in restaurants (it's 6dh in markets).
So in conclusion, our bill per meal was usually around 300dh. If you want to cut down your budget on food and want to avoid street food, you can go to Cafe Des Epices cause they are the cheapest. Another tip is that riads and hotels usually serve breakfast. For Riad BE, they serve breakfast till 11 am, and they do a really great breakfast with fruits, granola, yoghurt, breads, cakes, eggs and avocado on request. Eat up and save money on lunch!
If you are going with a group of friends then you should really go out and party! There are a few bars in the medina like La Salama or you can try hotel lounges. Alcohol is only sold in higher end restaurants, hotels, riads, and bars.
Traveling with Kids
Obviously I don’t have kids so I won’t know what to advise you. Since some of you asked, I'll just share my point of view. Well, I have seen a few Westerners traveling with 2-3 toddlers in Marrakech and they seemed fine but from my personal point of view (don’t quote me on this) I tend to feel Westerners are more freestyle when it comes to parenting? They might not have such stringent routines as us. I don’t think Marrakech is a very child friendly place, there are no baby chairs in the restaurants, narrow cobblestone streets are very hard to push strollers on, not to mention you have to make way for motorbikes driving back and forth. It's very dusty when vehicles pass by. There are no baby or family rooms for diaper changing, and some riads don't allow children. Also, riads' stairs are very narrow and there are no elevators, so again, carrying children or strollers might be difficult.
Short story, if you're bringing kids, stay in a proper hotel outside the medina, and only book half day or full day tours of the medina. A guide will take you on a walking tour at your convenience.
Weather, Environment, Language, & Safety
Marrakech is really really sunny, there are hardly any clouds in the sky so bring your sunscreen because you can’t find it there.
I would avoid going in summer (July- Sep), it’s going to be hot! When we were there, the weather was prefect, the wind was cooling and very sunny! Me and Jo we don’t mind getting tanned and we love the sun so we have no problem walking far. If you're afraid of the sun and getting tanned, bring an umbrella or wear long sleeves. Morocco has very little rain so don’t worry about rain fall.
Check the temperature before planning your trip. It is hottest in the summer (July, Aug, Sep) but humidity is low so it's not as bad as Malaysia. When we were there in June, it is only hot when you are in direct sunlight. At night and mornings, it is quite cold at around 20-23 degrees C.
It can be very dusty! If you are sensitive to dust bring a mask with you.
I think Marrakech is quite a safe place to travel to. People there are friendly and helpful. They speak some English, but mostly French and Arabic. We, as Malaysians won't have a problem talking to the locals. We didn't really feel unsafe at any time.
As for dressing, better to avoid wearing something too revealing when you’re out in the streets. Morocco is a Muslim country just like Malaysia after all, so if you don’t want to get uncomfortable stares then cover up your shoulders and chest. They won’t touch or disturb you but it’s good to respect their religion. So, what I did was I brought along a scarf or jacket with me. When I’m walking in the souks (market) or the streets I cover up. When I’m in the tourist areas it’s OK cox most of them are tourists / Westerners. Bikinis and swimsuits are fine in hotels and riads so only wear them when you're in there.
Locals Wanting To Lead The Way
I feel I to need share this because I was quite scared on the first day. A lot of their young adult males want to approach you to lead you to the square or whatever places he thinks you’re going. Their main purpose is to earn a bit of tips la. We depended a lot on offline Google maps but sometimes when we are inside the market it’s quite difficult because all the streets look so similar and the GPS is not that sensitive in close distances! Just wander around and if you get lost, don't worry. Just make a u-turn and try again. Jo is very good at navigating and memorising the streets so we had few problems but we did get lost once or twice. Anyway, if they approach you just say, "no thank you" and ignore them. They will leave you alone.
There was once we couldn’t find our riad so we had no choice but to ask a local for help. Show them the address then they will lead you to the doorstep, just tip them 20-30dh.
If you’re travelling alone, avoid going out too late at night because most of the restaurants are also hidden in those small alleys! When all the shops are closed, it’s dark and you might not feel safe. You might bump into locals wanting to lead the way again and they will keep following you, so I did find it intimidating when it’s dark.
Riad or Hotel?
We stayed in 3 different riads because each of them have different themes and designs.
Riad Soundouss, Riad BE Marrakech, and Riad & Spa Demeure Bois Precieux.
We booked them all through hotel booking sites. Most of them come with breakfast included, but keep in mind their breakfast are not those American or Continental breakfast or buffet ya. It’s their local Moroccan breakfast which is bread and fruits only. If you want hot soup or some filling breakfast, bring cup noodles lol. Or just stay in a hotel.
As for the location of the riads they are all walking distance to Jemaa al Fna Square and many restaurants inside the medina so the location doesn't matter that much.
All the riads don’t allow non-guests to visit or randomly walk in to take pictures. For example Riad BE that we stayed in wanted to charge a couple 80 Euros to take pictures at their pool without staying a night. So be wise when choosing your hotel. Don’t save on your accommodation if you want pretty pictures.
You need to pay entrance fees for most of the tourist attractions, the museum, the palace or etc. Their tickets range from 10-30dh, so it’s not too expensive. The most expensive place that we visited was the YSL Museum and also the Majorelle Gardens, it was 180dh for a combined ticket, for 1 pax.
Musee de YSL and Le Jardin Majorelle (proper names in French) is a MUST visit because it’s very well maintained and super pretty. If you plan to visit these places, make sure you get there early to avoid long ticket queues and hoards of tourists. The gardens open an hour earlier than the YSL Museum, so head there first! It opens at 8am (9am during Ramadan), but do double check and do your homework beforehand. Head to their official website to check opening hours.
We didn’t get to visit two of the attractions that are famous in Marrakech, the Ben Youssef Mederasa is closed for 2 years for renovations and the El Badii Palace ruins were also closed when we visited.
And again, most of the sites are walking distance so just walk but if it's too hot or you're too tired on the way back, just take a taxi.
Day Pass At 5 Star Hotels
After I posted a picture of the most famous pool on Instagram or Pinterest in La Mamounia, a lot of you asked me if I stayed there. The answer is no, I was so close to booking a night there just for the pool but then I saw that they offer Day Passes! It’s way cheaper than staying there so we bought them! The day pass starts at 9am - 8pm, it’s 60 Euro per adult, and please book in advance. You get to enjoy all the facilities in the hotel if you buy the day pass. You cant just walk in and take pictures because they have a lot security walking around making sure non-guests are not allowed in. They even locked the famous corridor in La Mamounia (the above pic) so that you cant sneak or walk in to take pics hahaha. If you want pictures, you pay. We bought the day pass for our last day because we had to check out of our riad at 12pm then our flight is at 7pm. By using the day pass, we get to chill at the pool and take a hot shower before our flight! The timing was super perfect!
Day passes are available for most expensive hotels like La Mamounia or La Sultana.
I guess that’s pretty much about Marrakech! I can’t think of anything else already but if you have any more questions, leave your questions at the comments section and I will try to reply.
Check out my Instagram for more pretty pictures that we took in Marakech!