Marrakesh is a beautiful, thriving and visceral city with a host of amazing things to see, smell, taste and do. But, it’s not without its foibles.  There is a darker side to this ancient metropolis for which every would-be traveller needs to be prepared. In this article, I’ll explore how you can do just that.

Marrakesh Medina at might

Photo credit: Mowgli’s Adventure


I stepped out from the sanctity of my cool, air-conditioned lodgings and into the dense, hot atmosphere that filled the narrow street below. The air was thick with the smell of burning incense & ethnic spices. I could hear the calls of a thousand competing market sellers drifting on the wind like smoke.

A kaleidoscope of colour, sound and smells engulfed me as I took my first steps along the narrow streets of the Souk and deep into this mystical, ancient city. “Ahhh, Marrakesh”, I thought to myself.

I was heading for the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, edging my way through a seemingly endless network of ever shrinking, dark alleyways. Suddenly, I notice that the atmosphere had changed. I felt eyes on me everywhere. Turning my head left and right it suddenly hit me. I was completely lost.

“You need help, sir?” a voice starts from an open door. “Urhhh…” I started, “I’m fine thank you” (my ingrained Britishness ensuring that I never concede the fact I need help). A small boy emerged seemingly out of nowhere, “I can take you to square – not money. Free! Free!”. Somehow, I doubted that.

I pushed passed him, quickening my pace. The walls seemed call out to me in short, harsh voices: “You look here, no like no pay!”, “Come, come, see my shop”, “You! Sir! I have very nice things”. I felt arms tugging at my sleeve as men surrounded me competing for my attention. Seemingly out of nowhere, a large, overweight monkey is placed on my head followed by an abrupt demand for 25 dirham.

“What is this place!” I thought as my anxiety increased and I started to sweat, all notions of a relaxing afternoon fading rapidly away into the haze. Breaking free, I headed back the way I came. I hadn’t got far and reached the hotel quickly. It was five minutes before I realised my watch was missing and that the monkey had done something rather undesirable down the back of my shirt.

“Well”, I thought, “I’m going to need a different approach to this!”.


OK, so my little story may admittedly be a little over dramatised, but the message remains true. Marrakesh, in my view, is not what I’d call a “relaxing” city. It’s hot, claustrophobic and dusty. Petty crime is relatively common and the locals take a less than passive approach to sales.

Marrakesh is not somewhere for the faint-hearted.

On the other hand, however, it’s utterly breathtaking. I can honestly say I’ve never been in an environment that’s transported me into another century quite like the narrow streets of the Marrakesh Souk. Nor have I experienced Tagine quite like it anywhere else in the world (but I suppose that’s to be expected). It’s a thriving, visceral city and the perfect adventurers’ playground.

Marrakesh Souk market - stay safe in MarrakeshPin this image on Pinterest

The streets of Marrakesh

But, before you attempt to explore what this amazing city has to offer, there are some things to consider to help any budding adventurer stay safe in Marrakesh. Below, are my top tips and advice for travelling to Marrakesh (and Morocco in general) that will keep you safe, and sane!



You’d think this would be an obvious one, but honestly, I learned this the hard way. Marrakesh, on the whole, is not a dangerous place. You’re unlikely to run into any real danger as a tourist. That said, you are a nice target for petty crime. If you do silly things, like when I tried to walk through the Souk alone at night rather than take a taxi, you are just asking for trouble. I ended up losing all my cash to a few kids who held me up at knife-point. Learn from my mistakes and stay in well lit, populated areas and take a taxi if you need to get around after dark.


Again, showing off your expensive jewellery or your Rolex around will get you noticed. Reduce the risk and leave everything you don’t need in your hotel, or better yet, back home. If ‘would-be’ thieves can’t see anything to steal it’s highly unlikely you’ll run into trouble.


This applies to most countries, but there’s no need to take additional risks when the risks are already heightened. Only take what you need day-to-day and avoid stashing £50+ worth of currency in your back pocket. Pick-pocketing is common and there’s a good chance you won’t see it again should wondering fingers find their way into your stash.


As an Englishman, it can go against my nature to be in-polite. But it’s important to understand that being polite is not a pre-requisite in Marrakesh. Be respectful, yes. But polite…polite won’t get you where you need to be. Barking an abrupt “No!” at someone or waving people off with your arms may feel strange to most of us, but it’s often all you can do to prevent yourself being swept away into one shop or other and preyed upon like a newborn deer. Just say no, shortly and sharply to market traders, beggars and particularly the monkey people (unless you want to have to change your shirt!). Better yet, disengaging and walking away will generally grant you your freedom (eventually).


The age-old saying applies here: “If it sounds too good to be true, it is”. Free tour around the Marrakech Kasbah Mosque? Think again. High quality, real cashmere shawls? No chance. Moroccans are hard sales-people that thrive of reciprocity, guilt and wearing you down. Don’t let anyone forcibly lead you into their shop for tea for an “obligation-free” gander over their carpets/scarves/paintings/oils/spices. It’s just a ruse to get you through the door and wear you down until you finally give in, which you probably will, especially if you’re English.

Most importantly, don’t let anyone put a monkey on your shoulder, and if they do, definitely don’t start taking selfies with it or you’ll be forced to pay an outrageously large tip (and in my case, buy a new shirt!). The same goes for people who will just start covering your hand in Henna, or wrap scarves around your neck. Remember point number 4 – just say no to stay safe in Marrakesh.


This is generally good travel practice, but in Morocco in particular, it’s always a good idea to carry your own bottle of water with you at all times. Needless to say, you can’t drink from the tap, so having something on hand can be lifesaving. You can buy cold, fresh water from shops and restaurants but is generally overpriced. Stock up in the mornings at your hotel/hostel where the water is cheaper to avoid getting sick & spending too much on water.


As I’ve mentioned, Morocco is not known for its clean water. Drinking only bottled water is one thing, but I’ve seen people on more than one occasion get caught out by the ice. Unless you can be 100% certain the ice in your drink has been made using bottled or purified water, don’t touch it – no matter how much more refreshing it makes you coca-cola!


The same goes for salad, fruit and any other vegetables which you may eat raw. All these veggies get washed before they arrive on your plate. If they’re washed in tap water there’s a good chance you could get sick, so be cautious, you do not want to end up with diarrhoea. There is a really good, in-depth article by fellow travel blogger Bren on the Road on how to avoid getting diarrhoea while abroad – read it and you should be fine!


Marrakesh can be a daunting place and it often helps to have some local know-how to make sense of it. You’ll get pestered a lot by locals claiming to be guides. Ignore them, it’s a scam and illegal in Morocco. You can easily hire an official guide for a good price (about £15-25 per day). This can usually be arranged by your hotel or hostel. When I was in Marrakesh, I hired an official local guide that was organised by the hotel. I found it to be a tremendous advantage on almost every level.

Not only do you learn a lot more about the city but you are not pestered nearly as much. Furthermore, you can ensure that you only eat in safe places, to translate and have someone on hand to make sure you’re not getting ripped off. For me, it was worth it and I would recommend looking into it.


Marrakesh has a large Muslim population. Therefore, it’s important to remember to dress conservatively when our in public, particularly for women. It’s important to be aware that shorts, skirts and dresses should fall below the knee and shoulders should always be covered to avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself. While drinking alcohol is allowed, it’s not something you should do openly in public. Just be conscious of your surroundings in order to avoid offending anyone and you’ll be sure to stay safe in Marrakesh.

stay safe in Marrakesh souk medina

The bustling Medina


Marrakesh is an incredible city. It’s a city full to the brim with culture and history. It’s streets and medinas assault the senses in ways that you just can’t experience anywhere else. Please don’t be put off! I would highly recommend that you add this thriving city to your bucket list.

The list above is good practice for any foreign city. That being said, travellers need to take extra precautions to stay safe in Marrakesh that that may not be necessary in other, similar cities.

Quite honestly, there were aspects of the city I disliked and at times I felt cheated, anxious and even a little frightened. I was travelling with a buddy of mine, not part of a tour group, which didn’t help much as we spent a lot more time doing things we probably shouldn’t have. That said, I find it hard to recommend travelling there solo – particularly as a woman.

If I was to visit the city again, I think I would feel more comfortable going as part of a group. There are loads of highly recommended tour companies in Marrakesh. I’ve listed a few below:

That’s it! I hope that this article has proved useful. If it has put you off, please don’t be. It’s a wonderful city and you’ll have an incredible time. So long as you heed the tips and advice above, you will stay safe in Marrakesh with no trouble at all. Good luck!

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