FAQs about Marrakech

Marrakech turreted walls, ramparts


Please scroll down for the answers.

Can I get alcohol in Marrakech?
Where can I smoke?
What languages are useful in Morocco?
How much should I tip in restaurants?
Should I tip a taxi driver?
What guidebook do you recommend?
Can I use my own mobile phone in Marrakech?
What is the best way to travel within Marrakech?
What is the best way to travel outside of Marrakech?
What is a shared taxi?
What’s the difference between a ‘petit’ and a ‘grand’ taxi?
How much do taxis cost?
Is it safe in the medina of Marrakech?
What if I’m approached by someone who says they work for the riad?
Will I get lost in the Medina?
I’d like to see more but I’m tired, what do I do?

Can I get alcohol in Marrakech?

Yes, alcohol is served in many restaurants, hotels and bars. There is no alcohol available in the cafés around the main square, but you will find more expensive restaurants that have an alcohol license and can serve alcohol.

In the new town of Guèliz there are several European style bars as well as a vibrant night club scene. Alcohol is also served indoors in some cafés like Café de La Poste.

Local Moroccan wines can be excellent and are much less expensive than those imported from France.

Where can I smoke?

Generally, restaurants and cafés all allow smoking. Some bars and restaurants may have smoking and non-smoking areas.

The only caveat is not to smoke in public during the month of Ramadan when the locals do not smoke during daylight hours.

In Riad Sapphire guests may smoke on the roof terrace. We ask guests to be respectful of the wishes of other guests.

How much should I tip in restaurants?

Tipping is common and expected for most services. A gratuity of 10% to 15% in restaurants is the norm for good service.

Should I tip a taxi driver?

If the driver has put on his meter, and it is say 9.80 dirhams, round up the fare to 10 dirhams. If he has not put on the meter, instead asking for a flat rate, there is no need to tip.

What guidebook do you recommend?

There are many excellent guides in print, amongst them:

guide – Morocco

Lonely Planet Marrakech Encounter

Sawday’s Special Places to Stay – Morocco

Time Out “Morocco – Perfect places to stay, eat & explore”

Footprint Africa “Marrakech, High Atlas & Essaouira” with popout map

Rough Guide – which has the best street map we’ve seen of the Marrakesh medina.

Another good one with street maps – not heavy to carry and with enough useful information is “Marrakesh Everyman CityMap Guides”.

Can I use my own mobile phone in Marrakesh?

You can use your own phone if it meets the following specs…

Uses GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, purchased abroad, etc.)world-capable (quad-band, or dual band international)”unlocked” to accept any sim card from any carrier.

For more information on this, please try this site: http://www.rangeroamer.com/countries/Morocco.aspx

Another solution is to purchase a local SIM card which is not expensive. To find out more, try this site: http://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=LSIM-MA01

Tip: The riad offers local pay-as-you-go cell phones to its guests so they can contact us if they need help. They are excellent for local calls. We charge a refundable deposit of 100dh for this service. Top-ups can be bought at any téléboutique for 20, 50 or 100 Dirhams. Téléboutiques are found all over the medina – they have blue and white signs so are easily recognizable.

What is the best way to travel within Marrakesh?

The best way of getting around Marrakech is on foot, especially in the Medina and the souks, where it is the only sensible option. However you will need transport to visit more distant Marrakech sights and to shuttle between the Medina and the new part of town. The best options are normally taxis, many of which can be shared.

taxis are plentiful, cheap and normally the most convenient way to visit Marrakech attractions outside the Medina.

What is the best way to travel outside of Marrakesh?

There are train connections to many cities in Morocco, e.g. Casablanca, Rabat, Tangiers. Where there is no rail connection, then SNCF (the state railway company) operates comfortable, air conditioned buses. This would apply to places like Essaouira and Agadir.

You can check the times of trains/buses on the website http://www.oncf.ma/ It is only in French and it is not currently possible to book online, but I think they’re working on it.

If you are travelling to small villages around Marrakech, then you have the option of private taxis, tour companies, shared taxis, local buses.

What is a shared taxi?

This is usually a grand old Mercedes with seating for 5 people. There are a couple of spots in Marrakech where they wait for passengers. Depending on the destination they are at:

Doukkala (for destinations outside of Marrakech including Asfi, Essaouira, Chechaoua, Al Jadida, Beni Mallal)

el Rab (also for destinations outside of Marrakech including Tahanoute, Imlil, Oukaimaiden, Moulay Ibrahim)

el M’aash towards the mellah, just south of the main square Jenaa el Fna’ (for within Marrakech).

The idea is for the driver to fill up his taxi and divide the fare amongst the 5 passengers. Once the taxi is full, you leave. If you don’t want to keep waiting, then you can pay for the remaining empty spots and off you go.

What’s a “petit” and a “grand” taxi?

There are two types of Marrakech taxis. Grand taxis are usually old Mercedes cars carrying up to six people for a fixed fare on specific routes and are allowed to go beyond the city limits. Many grand taxis start from Marrakech bus station, the Place Jemaa el Fna’ and the post office in the new town.

taxis can be hailed down, are smaller and can take up to 3 passengers.

Private taxis can be hired for city tours and excursions but would be more expensive.

How much do taxis cost?

Taxi drivers are supposed to put on their meters. Sometimes they don’t and just ask for a flat rate, 20 dirhams. Again, some have got lucky in the past, such that they sometimes increase this amount to 40 dirhams or even more, whatever they can get away with.

Taxis can charge 50% more at night.

If they have not put their meter on, then you can ask them to. Either they will do that (fares start at 1.70 dirhams during the day and 2.50 dirhams at night), or they will state simply that it does not work. At that point you have a choice to either agree on a fare or get another taxi—depends on if you’re in a hurry and if there are plenty of other empty taxis around and perhaps how hot you are!

Another tactic is to let the taxi driver take you to your destination, get out of the taxi and give him what you think is the correct fare. You need to have a fairly good idea of taxi fares to do this confidently. As a guideline, the taxi fare from the Medina to Guéliz is between 10 dirhams and 15 dirhams during the day. Add on 50% more at night. Compared to European taxi fares Moroccan taxis are really good value, so there is no need to haggle over 5 dirhams.

Around noon and late afternoon it is harder to find a taxi because either they are changing shift and are not interested in taking new fares, or because they are really busy. If you’re standing by the side of the road trying to flag down a taxi, they may stop and ask where you’re headed – if it’s in a direction they don’t want to go, they will say they can’t do it – especially if they already have a passenger in the car going somewhere else. So if they don’t stop, it’s not because they are being picky or don’t like tourists – in general they do, because they pay more! It’s because they are heading somewhere else or are going off shift.

Remember that, at the end of the day, a taxi driver may take home between 50 and 100 dirhams, as he has to pay the holder of the license, and the owner of the taxi if he doesn’t own it, and most don’t seem to own their own taxis. In addition, he has to pay for gas and repairs.

It is not required to tip taxi drivers, but if you’re paying according to the meter, it is nice to round up the amount.

If you take a taxi for a day’s excursion, again it is not really required to pay a tip in addition to the rate for the day. It’s entirely up to you.

Is it safe in the medina of Marrakech?

The medina (old city) is generally very safe, probably safer than many European cities. As the small alleyways can be confusing, we recommend that you ask our gardien to accompany you until you know the way yourself—one time is usually enough for you to orient yourself.

From the Place (main square Jemaa al Fna’) at night, we recommend that you get a taxi back and then you have just a short walk back to the riad.

To prevent problems the City of Marrakech has a Brigade touristique with a main office in the square, Jemaa el Fna’.

What if I’m approached by someone saying they work for you?

We would not allow anyone to do this – so you can be sure if it happens that it is not true. It is a ploy to get you to go with them and thereby earn some money. Good idea to take a photo of them if you have a camera on you, so we can identify them and take action.

Will I get lost in the medina?

Very probably, but that is part of the fun. Everyone finds their way back. The best way to orient yourself is to have a map – we provide you with a city map upon your arrival and give you a small orientation session – and then you memorize where one area is in relation to another. There is no point in trying to follow street names – there are too many, often they are not signed and if they are, they may be in Arabic only, not even the locals know all the street names.

For instance, if you are going to the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’, you will see that it is south of us, so you keep going in a southerly direction. There will be a couple of zig-zags along the way because of the lay of the buildings, but you resume your southerly path and you eventually come to the square. I would warn you though that your attention will be constantly diverted with all the wares on offer in the small stores.

If you think you’re lost, a good rule-of-thumb is to follow where most people are going as they will likely be searching for a main thoroughfare. Once you get there, you can re-orient yourself.

If you need to ask directions, we always advise guests to ask either a lady or a shopkeeper as they will unlikely be inclined to follow you and ask for some ‘tip’ for having shown the way. It’s not always a great idea to stand in the middle of the street studying a street map because you will be quickly met with several offers to ‘help’ you.

Pedestrians generally use the right-hand side of the small street, so that bikes, mopeds use the centre.

If you have time, and you’re on holiday so hopefully you do, then just wander – that’s part of the charm of the medina.

I’d like to see more but I’m tired, what do I do?

You can take a tour by horse and carriage, known by the French word ‘calèche’. It’s a great way to leisurely look at the surroundings without getting tired. You can tell the driver where you would like to go – the ramparts (recommended), the various parks (jardins), the Menara garden [the driver will wait for you as you go to look at the summer house and the gardens], the new town of Guèliz, even the Palmeraie.

You can find the calèches at the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’, or near big hotels in the new town, outside the Majorelle gardens and various other places around the square and Guèliz.