Morocco had been on my list for a long time before I finally made the trip there this past April. Before I went, so many people warned me that I wouldn’t be safe traveling there solo. I’m so happy that I decided to experience the country for myself and to ignore the negative comments from others. This country was truly unlike anywhere I’ve ever been yet and I had a great time there!
Here are my tips for visiting Morocco:
A traditional Riad in Morocco is a home which has multiple stories, that centers around an open-air courtyard that contains a fountain. For my visit to Marrakesh, I chose to stay in Rodamon Riad Marrakech Hostel.
I chose to stay in a private room in this riad because of the location, the design, and of course, the price. Can you believe this place was affordable? The location was perfect – located directly in the Medina, which meant almost everything in the city was within walking distance.
Staying in a Riad vs. a traditional hotel, not only gives you the opportunity to experience the culture a little bit more, but it can also connect you with other fellow solo travelers. Most riads also have a great guide book or list of activities and tours that you can sign up for, directly through your accommodations, which makes planning your trip a breeze.
From everything that I had read prior to my trip, I really thought this was going to be the hardest part for me, but honestly it wasn’t. The simplest way to pack while being both comfortable in the climate and respectful to the culture: Bring lots of lightweight layers.
I traveled to Marrakesh in April so the mornings/evenings were quite chilly (around 40 – 45 degrees F or 4-7 degrees C), so bringing extra layers to bundle up in the mornings helped keep me warm. By the afternoon it warmed up a lot (70 – 75 degrees F or 21 – 23 C degrees C), so to make the transition easiest, I wore simple maxi dresses under my light weight jackets or kimonos. To be culturally sensitive, women keep their shoulders and knees covered, so the lightweight layers help to serve both functions. Also – since I did a lot of walking while bargin hunting in the medina (shop til you drop, am I right?), I highly recommend wearing your comfiest sneakers, that you don’t mind getting a little bit dirty.
The Medina is massive and you will find a wide range of goods for sale inside it ranging from handmade items such as lanterns, rugs, and shoes, to exotic spices, hair/skin care remedies, and market fresh foods. It can be both overwhelming and extremely easy to get lost in.
Here are some of my best tips to navigating the medina on your own:
Download an offline map of the entire area on Google maps prior to your trip: This is a lifesaver because navigating the narrow passage ways can be VERY challenging, even for those of us with a great sense of direction.
Know the negotiation tactics: Most vendors will first offer you a price about 70% higher than they are actually willing to sell an item for. Haggling is part of the culture here, so don’t give up when negotiating a better price. Also don’t settle for the first lantern or rug that you see if you aren’t in love with the price – there will be another just like it just down the street at the next vendor.
Don’t be intimidated by the aggressive salesmen: The vendors in the medina are more determined than any used car salesman you’ve ever met. Most speak 4+ languages and they will try to shout out to you in each of them to get your attention and convince you to buy their goods as you walk by. Don’t let this scare you off – if you’re not interested in looking, just keep on walking and ignore them. If you respond (even just a friendly “No thank you”) they will continue to try to get you to come in until you are out of sight.
Bring Cash (as much as if not more than you think you could possibly need): Most of the vendors in the medina don’t take credit cards, and if they do, they require a purchase of at least $10-20 to run the card, which could mean you would end up paying a lot more than you should. The vendors prefer the local Moroccan Dirham, but they do also accept USD and Euros as other forms of currency. ATM’s are an extremely rare sight, so we suggest pulling out cash and exchanging currency at the airport as soon as you land.
Think you might get lost trying to navigate the souks on your own? Sign up for a tour guided by a local! Not only will you be able to find your way back, but you might also get to see some pretty awesome “behind the scenes” action for some of the amazing hand made goods, but you might even get some better discounts than if you were on your own. I took a tour I booked through Airbnb called “Shopping Hidden Souks of Marrakech”.
Not only did I get to see some artisans at work, but we got to learn a little bit more about the history of the goods they make as well as the history of some of the vendors. This was an awesome tour for anyone who looks shopping or learning about the local culture and history – I would definitely recommend it!
One of my favorite places we visited on the tour was Herboriste la Segesse. The women working there were extremely knowledgeable and explained every supplement, powder, herbal remedy, etc. that you can find in Morocco and what each was for. I went a little spend-crazy here, but apparently so does everyone that visits, including celebrities like Salma Hayek (her photo was hanging on the wall in the photo with all of the dyes!).
Looking for another type of adventure? There are plenty of exciting things to do in Morocco outside of shopping the souks. I chose to do a tour which included a camel ride and sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert through the company Marrakech by Air. This was probably the coolest tour I’ve ever been on! The hot air balloon ride at sunset was surreal and the views were breathtaking. Our conductor was also hilarious and had everyone laughing the entire flight! Before we got to go for a camel ride, we were served a traditional Berber breakfast in the desert at the balloon launch sight. The Moroccan tea was amazing and probably the best thing I tried through out the entire trip. All of this was included in the price, along with transportation directly from my riad, which made the tour 100% worth the price!
One of my favorite things that I did while in Marrakesh was the day I spent just wondering the city, taking in the most beautiful decor, architecture, and secret gardens that I could find by foot. I wandered through hotels, temples, a palace, and more. Anything that caught my eye, I decided to explore.
See the google map at the end of this post which includes all the places I explored during my trip!
During my day of exploring, I made a stop at the Henna Art Cafe , where I was lucky enough to have one of the artist there draw this gorgeous piece of art on my hand. The henna stains the skin and lasts about 1 – 2 weeks, as long as you follow the care instructions carefully. This was had entire binder filled with more than 100+ designs to choose from. This is a must do when wandering the streets of the medina!
I couldn’t be happier that I decided to go despite so many people telling me that I wouldn’t be safe there. One of my favorite things that I did while in Marrakesh was the day I spent just wondering the city, taking in the most beautiful decor, architecture, and secret gardens that I could find by foot.
After viewing all this beauty, how could anyone not want to explore this amazing city?
My suggestion: Go see it for yourself. Get lost. Wander further. Take it all in. It can be overwhelming at first, but it’s 100% worth it.