Our ‘SOS’ guide to visiting Marrakech, a handy post of helpful information for travelling to the Red City.
Most airlines issue you a landing card before landing into Marrakech Menara Airport. If you get a chance fill it out on the plane so that it is ready to present at passport control on arrival. It will ask your name, date & place of birth, nationality, occupation, passport number & issue date, where you are travelling from/to which airport, for example Manchester to Marrakech. Address whilst in Morocco, so it is maybe worth looking up your accommodation address before you get on your flight, screen shot it so that it is in your photos for you to look up on flight if your phone is in airplane mode.
Sometimes passport control may also ask to see your boarding card so keep it handy, don’t throw it away. Passport control will check your passport and landing card. On your first entry into Morocco you will be given a number stamped into your passport, this number is unique to you and will always be the same every time you visit with the same passport. The stamped page will be checked by another security staff member before exiting into baggage reclaim.
In baggage reclaim you will find the currency exchanges. The rates are normally the same at all. It was around 12.11DHS to the £1 on our most recent visit. The medina exchanges are marginally better at around 12.30DHS. Be aware the airport exchanges will attempt to encourage you into getting a pre paid currency card. They will tell you it is a slightly better exchange rate, accepted at all restaurants and ATMs, safer etc etc. What they don’t tell you is they will charge you 300DHS around £25 to activate the card which obviously makes it worse when you calculate it. Always exchange money for money, tell them no to the exchange card. Money is entirely safe if it is looked after by you in your purse or wallet. I normally depending on how many days I am in Marrakech get around £200/300 changed into Moroccan Dirhams (DHS), Sam and I also use starling bank. We spoke with them at a travel show in Manchester a few years ago, they were a new online bank with a fresh approach to banking. Essentially it is an online bank operated by an app on your phone (apple/android) and it has zero fees for spending overseas. I transfer the majority of our holiday spending money from my regular 24/7 current account into my Starling bank account. I use my starling card to pay for restaurant meals, large payments and in places that accept Visa/Mastercard. Starling guarantees the best exchange rates on that particular day of spending, the app then sends you updates of your spending and the exchange rate which was used, very handy. You can top it up anytime with extra money if needed. Some people use Starling as their regular day to day current account, I just use it for holidays. Recommend taking look at them, there are also similar alternatives like Monzo.
When you exit baggage reclaim your cases and hand luggage are scanned by security, this is just added security measure and not an issue. If you have arranged a taxi or transfer the drivers are normally located outside of the terminal building and will either have your name written on a piece of A4 or will have the hotel or riad name. It costs around 150DHS each way for airport transfers, 300DHS total. You can attempt to use local yellow taxis and barter the price down to 80/100DHS but it is sometimes more hassle than its worth. It is better to arrange transfers prior to your visit. If you are looking to arrange a transfer please contact our friend Youssef Morocco Scorpion Tours
When you arrive at your accommodation hotel/riad they will ask you to fill out a carbonated form with you personal details, very much like the landing card, the dates you are staying in Marrakech, plus your unique number which was stamped into your passport on entry. This is normally done having been served a welcome mint tea with glazed nuts or Moroccan pastries.
A lot of the riads do not have safety deposit boxes. When asked they look at you strangely with a look of why do you need a safe? This is like your home everything is safe here. We normally have a backup of locking our things away in one of our cases, or keeping wallets with us in a smaller bag. I found a perfect bag on amazon which is great to carry around. It fits camera equipment, lotion, money, sunglasses and more.
All electricity outlets in Morocco run off 220-volt outlets. The european 2 prong adaptors is what you will need for your electric devices. Our riad had a handy multi piece adaptor in the room for your phone, tablet, camera etc
Climate is Marrakech is pleasant year round. It is very hot in the summer months from June-September, however we have just returned and we had temperatures of 40oC in May. July/August can see temperatures reach 50°C+. Winter in Marrakech is from November to March, the temperatures are still pleasant during the day around 20°C, but it gets cool at night so you need a jacket.
Marrakech is a safe city, well supervised by the police and especially by the tourist police who are often in plain clothes.
In you experience any trouble, its best to simply shout “POLICE”, they will arrive quickly and generally the perpetrator will depart.
As in any city, watch your cameras and look out for pickpockets, especially in the vicinity of Jemaâ El Fna Square.
Drones are prohibited in Morocco so it is best to leave your drone at home, or anything that could be considered drone like. It will be taken from you by Moroccan customs staff. It is also prohibited to take photos of military staff guarding palaces too. If they see you they will challenge you and ask that the photo is deleted.
Vaccinations for Morocco, please check your government website or with your doctor. They don’t suffer with malaria or yellow fever in Morocco. It is definitely worth bringing paracetamol, anti histamines, bite cream & diarrhoea tablets as a precaution like you would any other travels.
It is best to drink bottled water whilst in Morocco. Most accommodations will provide you with water in your room. We normally stock up with a pack of 6 large bottles. Luckily for us there is a small shop located close to our riad which sells water and soft drinks. Wine/alcohol can be purchased at supermarkets like Carrefour, which in most cases require a taxi ride. We usually buy a couple of bottles of wine and a bottle of spirits in duty free on our way out and get tonics & soft mixers from the shop near the riad.
Mobiles & connectivity
Mobile phone use in Morocco can be expensive so we always suggest turning mobile data and data roaming off. Sam forgot once and used 7mb in such a short period of time from the airport to the riad which resulted in a £45 charge appearing on our bill. Airplane mode allows you to still connect to hotel/riad wifi & turns mobile data and roaming off. However some networks offer a £5 per day charge to use your phone and allowances. But it can still work out expensive over a week. We use wifi and WhatsApp to text and call family. To make calls to Morocco with your phone, add +212 and dial the last nine digits of the number.
On our departure date we always get to the airport in good time to check in etc. When you ask any Moroccan’s they always say 2 hours before is enough, but we have experienced the airport both very busy and most recently unusually quieter. We are always early for most things so what ever makes you feel better. We always air on the side of caution so around between 2 and 3 hours before is our recommendation.
When you depart Marrakech you will need to check in for your flight at a check in desk, even if you have already checked in online. Once checked in at the desk your boarding card will be stamped. You will need to fill out a departure card, very much like your landing card. These can be found at stands prior to the security search areas for departures. Once past security you will go through passport control where they will check your passport and departure card. You will then enter the airport duty free and departures area. Most items in departures are priced in Euros, and you can pay with your bank card card at most outlets.
Once your flight is boarding you may be randomly selected to go have your hand luggage checked and swabbed. This is an added security measure and only takes a few minutes, do not worry or take it personally, it is usual airport procedure which is designed to reassure and deter not to be an inconvenience.
We hope these tips will help you whilst travelling to and from Marrakech, wishing you a very happy travels whilst in Morocco. If you need any more advice or have any questions, feel free to drop us an email or contact us on social media. Read my other posts about Morocco