Monday, 22 September 2014

6 Tips for travelling in Marrakech

This year I decide to take a short trip without the children.  It's the first holiday I spent away from little man and the longest holiday I've taken without the princess.  I decide to go without them for a couple of reasons, a little because it's nice to have a break now and again but more because the rising prices of travel and having to pay 3 almost full fair tickets means that for me, and many other parents in my situation, family travel is becoming more of a challenge.

I had traveled to Tangier on a day trip with friends and our little ones a few years back and that small taste of Morocco had ensured it was added to my 'must visit' list.  My friend and I booked a five day visit to Marrakech, a city I had heard lots of good things about.  We flew out on an evening flight and the landing was interesting to say the least, with the pilot skidding down the runway like he'd had a few too many to drink!

Tip number 1. Make sure you have a pen in your hand luggage, we were quick to get out the plane but we had to borrow a pen to fill out our landing cards as they don't hand them out on the plane or have them in the airport, that meant we were one of the last to get through.  Thankfully we still got through quickly, got our bags and jumped into our transfer.

We stayed in Hotel Tichka, which is rated as a 4 star hotel, the room we stayed in was nice and modern although on closer inspection we did discover stained mattresses, a smelly fridge and when my friend dropped off her bed she realized they don't seem to clean under the beds too often either.  That being said the cleaners came every day and gave the room a good tidy, we were a bit disappointed we didn't get any towel animals but we did have plenty of clean towels.

The majority of the staff at the hotel were very friendly but most spoke only a little English however if you are fluent in French then you are in luck as this is one of the main languages spoken in Morocco.

With my friend and I both having been busy with work we hadn't planned anything we wanted to do so on our first morning we ate breakfast (included in our half board stay) and took a taxi into the main square.

Tip 2.  Be sure to haggle with EVERYONE. The taxi driver initially quoted 60 dirhams but after a bit of back and fourth and walking off to get the bus for 4 dirhams (which works out about 40p if you change your money in the UK), he soon called us back and did the journey for 25 dirhams which brings me to the next tip.

Tip 3. Don't change your money in the UK, wait until you get over to Morocco, as it's a closed currency anyway the maximum you can change here is about 200 pounds.  In the UK you will only get about 10 dirhams to the pound, if you change your money over there in the airport you will get about 14 dirhams to the pound, meaning your money will go a lot further.

On arrival at the airport our holiday reps had given us a list of day trips we immediately looked at those of most interesting to us and ear marked them to see if we could arrange them cheaper elsewhere.

Tip 4. There is a travel agent (Best Sahara Tours) just off the main square that will do you great deals on some fantastic excursions if you have a bit of banter with them.  There are of course advantages to booking with your hotel such as meals included, but we found our trips with the agents to be good value for money, especially as it doesn't cost too much to eat out locally.

Although it can be a little intimidating walking among the locals the majority are happy to help and will guide you to places, making sure they pass their uncle's shop along the way, you are of course under no obligation to stop and buy anything and one of there favourite sayings seems to be, "No money, no honey, no funny." Which literally means hey I'm just being nice I'm not asking you for anything.  Some of them do however still expect a token of gratitude, we seldom gave anything and were not attacked for it so don't feel under pressure to give.  Do though be careful of some of the women in the square at night trying to pressure you to have henna done, some will even go as far as to grabbing your hand and starting it off then trying to charge you for it.

We spoke to a few British people out there who had been to Marrakech before and they were more than happy to let us know some of the must sees.  Our first trip happened to be one we stumbled upon by accident, El Badi Palace, a ruined palace that is at present home to a photography exhibition (10 contemporary Moroccan photographers) and the 12th century minbar from the Koutoubia Mosque.  The entrance fee was only 10 dirhams, 20 if you wanted access to the minbar.

The highlight of our trip has to be our visit to the Ouzoud waterfall.  This was an amazing experience from looking over the 330ft drop to climbing the narrow path all the way down to the canyon and eating lunch whilst listening to the gentle crashing of the water against the rocks, not to forget being so close to rainbows you could feel the magic.

Tip 5. Don't forget your imodium, although all the food out there tastes great you can never be to careful and by the end of the trip we were both wishing we had packed a good supply of the necessary medicines.

One of our days was spent visiting La Palmeraie de Marrekech for a spot of camel riding they can charge anything but again, do haggle we paid about 25 diraham's each for our camel ride, in which the guide took us for a short 10 minute ride, made us each a palm leaf camel as a welcome gift and took some photos for us using our phones.  They then expect you to tip the guides so in all we paid about 55/60 dirhams for the both of us.  

We then journeyed on to The Marjorelle Garden, a botanical garden designed by Louis Marjorelle and later owned by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, who's ashes were scattered there upon his death.  The gardens are a lovely place to relax and take photos, there is also an art gallery, a cafe and a book shop within the gardens.

The Saadian Tombs were our next stop we didn't have a guide for this but tagged along and listened to some of the guides who were already there, it is worth having a guide because the divulge some interesting history behind the use of the tombs.  

That evening after having spent a relaxing day walking around the gardens we decided a night out was in order.  For those of you who like raving Marrakech does not fall short and there are the popular clubs like 555 or Pacha or for a more mellow vibe you can do as we did and opt for Montecristo where there is a restaurant, club, bar and skylounge.  The skylounge has a roof that opens up so on a clear night you can see the stars whilst having a drink, watching belly dancers and smoking some shisha.  Be warned that there are many 'ballers' there and where there are 'ballers' there are 'rent girls'.

Our final excursion was a trip to Essaouira, a beach city 3 hours outside of Marrakech.  In Essaouira you can watch the fishermen creating nets and selling fish by the port, shop in the medina or walk along the long stretch of beach where there are activities such as kite surfing and horse riding taking place.  If you would like to do any of the activities there are always agents nearby to help you out.

We checked out of our hotel the next day taking with us fond memories of lovely people and places.

Tip 6. Remember that you may be charged a local tax, it is worth asking the hotel at the start of you stay how much this will be so that you can put the money aside and not get any nasty surprises.  Tax only worked out to about 23 dirhams per person per day, but it's still worth knowing in advance.

All in all we had a wonderful relaxed trip in Marrakech and I for one plan to return and do it all again.

I will be posting some more photographs on my Instagram so come follow me and keep updated.

(This is NOT a sponsored post and all opinions and photos are my own)

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