Things to know before Traveling to Morocco

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Things to know about Marrakesh, Morocco

When Morocco comes to mind, likely mesmerizing images of captivating architecture, colorful and eye catching decor and that really popular hair oil come to mind. You’ve seen Casablanca. But what is Morocco really like? Here are some important things to know before traveling to Marrakesh.

Several brightly colored spice barrels at a spice shop in the shopping Medina in Morocco
Spice Shop at the Medina in Morocco

What time of year should you visit?

The best times to visit Morocco is from March to May and September to November. These time frames will provide the most favorable weather and affordable hotel rates.

SPRING: Spring is considered to be one of the best times to visit Morocco, the weather is warm but pleasant.

SUMMER: Prepare for scorching heat. July is their hottest month of the year. The further you are staying away from the coast, the more extreme the temperatures become.

FALL: Fall is considered to be the ‘other’ best time to visit Morocco. I traveled there during October and the weather was perfect. It was tepid and cool, but not cold and still sunny. Also, a great climate for doing outdoorsy things.

WINTER: Although this is the cheapest time to travel to Morocco, the average daily climate will be about 46 to 63 °F. In addition, you should anticipate rainy days, while certain regions occasionally dip below freezing and the mountainous areas often receive snow. January is the coldest month in Morocco. Therefore, Morocco during the winter is a good idea if you’re seeking a winter landscape and the least crowded time of year to visit.

Staying in a Riad

Important Things to Know BEFORE Traveling to Morocco

The lovely Rooftop Dinner at our Riad Dar Akal
The lovely Rooftop Dinner at our Riad Dar Akal

Choosing your lodging accommodations will always depend on the usual factors: budget, centrality, safety, value, travel style, comfort and service expectations and amenity preferences. There are many reputable luxury hotels in Marrakesh, as well as budget travel options. A lodging choice that can really enhance your Moroccan experience is staying in a Riad.

What is a Riad?

A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace that boasts an interior garden or courtyard; typically with a fountain. Basically, they kind of feel like mini mansions converted into hotels. Depending on the Riad you choose, your Riad Manager can act as a most excellent host and local travel resource and advisor. The excellent and centrally located ones will book up quickly, so when you finally commit to your travel dates, I encourage you to book a Riad immediately.

Whichever Riad you decide to book, I recommend choosing one that offers shuttle services, breakfast and dinner options (even if it is for extra fees). Having these services available to you are always an enormous convenience, but it is even more than usual here, due to the labyrinth-like streets and corridors you must navigate to come and go.

Important things to know before traveling to Morocco 

The labyrinth like maze to get to our Riad
The labyrinth we walked through to get to our Riad

Is it Marrakech or Marrakesh?

Have you wondered if you’re spelling the city’s name correctly? So which one is it? The answer is both. Marrakesh is the English spelling and Marrakech is the French spelling, which is also widely used.

Customs and Culture

The Custom of Moroccan Mint Tea

One of the things at the heart of Moroccan culture is drinking Mint Tea. Mint Tea has a very important place in the life and social relations of Moroccans. For the locals, tea represents generosity, hospitality and tradition. In fact, Moroccans are well known for their hospitality. It is Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to any visitors that may stop by. Due to this, you will likely find yourself being offered tea everywhere you go. We were welcomed with Moroccan Mint Tea at our Riad. We were warmly greeted in many shops and offered Mint Tea. Something to keep in mind due to the cultural significance of this practice, is that refusing the tea that is offered to you is considered both impolite and rude.

Very near the entrance of our Riad was the living room. On the dining table was a beautiful gold set of Tea and biscuits to enjoy
Greeted with Moroccan Mint Tea upon arrival to our Riad

What to wear?

One of the most important things to know before traveling to Morocco is what to wear. Morocco is a Muslim country and Islam is the religion of the state. In relation to your apparel, this means that modest attire is appropriate. Avoid strapless, sleeveless, short and skin baring attire. Pack or purchase tunics, long dresses or skirts, pants or wraps made with light weight fabrics. Generally, covering your shoulders and knees is sufficient. If you are ever unsure about your clothing, you can always buy clothing from the local merchants.

Exploring the Old City Medina of Marrakesh

Encompassed by a 5.5 mile long wall, is the ‘Old City’ which was built in … 1027! The Medina of Marrakesh is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. What can you find within these walls? A better question is … what can’t you find? The Medina feels like journeying back in time. Inside awaits a vibrant, dizzying maze of shops. You’ll see delicate decor, oil lamps, handmade shoes and sandals, harem pants, carpets, jewelry and a plethora of leather goods.

A shop in the Medina of the old city of Marrakesh. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling are countless beautiful gold and brass tea pots and other kitchen items.
A merchant selling Tea Pots in the Old City Marrakesh Medina

If you are interested in doing some shopping, allow ample time to explore the Medina. In addition, keep in mind the Medina is a place where bargaining or negotiating the price is not only expected, but welcomed.

Dining in the Old City Medina of Marrakesh

Before dining anywhere in the Medina, always clarify the price and the currency the price is in. A nice meal in a pretty good restaurant should only set you back 100 – 200 Dirhams or $10 – $15 USD per person.

A place worth checking out is Kafe Merstan. Here, you can dine on the rooftop, sit on giant cushions amongst dozens of colorful, plush pillows while listening to the Islamic ‘Call to Prayer.’ This restaurant offers great value, combining great food at a good price with a memorable ambiance.

Things to know before traveling to Morocco   

Meal at Kafe Merstan in the Old Medina of Marrakesh
Lunch at Kafe Merstan in the Old Medina of Marrakesh

Jemaa el Fna

Snake Charmers? Fortune Tellers? Delicious street food? Welcome to an evening at Jemaa el Fna. A large, historical public square that is often associated with its abundance of merchants, hawkers and entertainers. While you can visit Jemaa el Fna furing the day, spending time here at night takes on a much different, mystical ambiance. As the darkness sets in, atmospheric lanterns light up, smoke from the grills fill the air. Crowds pour in, live music enchants locals and tourists alike. Here, you can listen to storytellers recant the heritage of ancient Berber tribes while munching on local delicacies.

After walking around a bit, we enjoyed the rest of our evening here by enjoying some Moroccan Mint Tea at a Cafe overlooking the entire area. As you can imagine, this is a place where incredible people watching can be had.

Personal Safety

We felt very safe during our time in Morocco. But I was warned before arriving and by our Riad host of a scam that is common in Marrakesh. We experienced this scam being attempted several times first hand, so take precaution. Boys or men will provide unsolicited advice to tourists. They’ll Inform you that you are “going the wrong way” or “headed down a dead end” or “will get terribly lost if you continue down the path you’re on.”

Unfortunately, if you engage them, they will “help you find your way” only to actually get you horribly lost. They aren’t out to harm you. This is about money! At that point, they will charge you a large sum of money to safely lead you back to where you want to be.

Desert Camel Caravaning

Brady riding a camel though the Sahara desert during sunset.
Brady venturing through the desert during our 3 day camping caravan adventure

While you are in Morocco, you must experience the magic of a camel caravan through the desert, on your way to go camp under the stars. There are tours available ranging from 2 – 4 days, depending on your time constraints. This is truly something you would not want to miss experiencing while in Marrakesh. You can read about our exuberant camel and camping adventure here.

Marrakesh, Morocco is a vibrant city, full of color, culture and excitement. Keep in mind the things you need to know before traveling to Morocco. Oh, and make sure you don’t leave the country without trying tagine! Have you tried it? Let me know what you thought about it below!

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