What to pack + 12 useful tips to know before travelling to Marrakech in January
Here are some useful packing tips and travel notes I picked up on my first trip to Marrakech in January 2019. A good reminder for myself and to help first-timers get a rough idea of what to expect!
Dress in Layers
The daily weather extremities in January were as dramatic as my hormonal mood swings. At dawn or dusk, it was freezing cold- calling for all my winter gear. By mid morning, it was chilly, perfect for a light spring jacket. Oh but by afternoon, it was so hot we had to strip to our t-shirts. It felt a bit like a strip show going through the day. I recommend bringing a winter jacket, a spring jacket, and comfortable, lightweight tops.
Bring a scarf or gloves
Scarves are really wonderful, versatile accessories that can keep you warm against the morning chill without having to drag along a heavyweight winter jacket!
Useful against the lethal sun, especially if you're as vampiric as me!
Pack loose, modest clothing
Morocco is a conservative Muslim country. Tight or clingy clothing would draw uncomfortable attention and stares especially if you're a girl, exploring the Medina. My tall friend was in a nude-coloured, slightly clingy dress (nothing scandalous), but it drew quite a bit of uncomfortable male attention. Plus, loose clothing is so much more comfortable to explore in in that afternoon heat!
Your black clothes will have a grey makeover.
It was very, VERY dusty in Morocco. My black jeans and shoes were all greyish-brown by the end of the trip. So don't pack things that would be hard to wash!
MOISTURISER & SUN SCREEN!!!
I made a terrible mistake of forgetting to pack lotion. It was EXTREMELY DRY in Morocco. And if it weren't for my smarter friends, well Ouch. The dryness was no joke.
The Moroccan Dirham is a closed currency.
I exchanged my cash upon arrival at the airport, but you can do so
at the ATMs around the Djemaa el Fna as well to skip the tourist queues.
Try to finish using most of your cash before going to the airport,
but save some for the taxi!
You're actually not allowed to bring the Dirham out of the country,
so you'll have to exchange it at the airport before departure.
Most things in the airport can be paid with card.
Always have some cash on hand
You'll need it when shopping in the souks!
Getting Around Marrakech
Beware of pickpockets!
Unsolicited help offers
Many locals, even children, approached us constantly, asking if we needed directions or a guide, but with a fee (and occasionally, hash). We politely declined all these offers but if they got too persistent, we would just ignore them and hustle on.
Refrain from bringing big cameras into the Medina
The locals do not like to be photographed. Most would politely ask you not to do so, but once, at the junction of Souk Laksour, I was trying to photograph a cart when a couple of very angry locals approached me and threatened to take away my camera. So if you want to photograph the narrow corridors of the Medina, I'd recommend using a phone, or do so discreetly with a camera when there is less people around.
Visit popular tourist attractions early
It's a lot easier to photograph places without photo bombers early in the morning. Especially places like the Bab Agnaou which was at a busy junction.
Carry a water bottle around
Even though tap water was chlorinated, it was recommended for visitors to drink bottled water. A water bottle was really useful to keep us going- especially in the hot afternoons.
Be aware of taxi scams!
Taxis ordered by hotels were fine, but when I first arrived at the airport, already, a couple of taxi drivers approached me, claiming that they were the best and cheapest. Plus, I was just a tad paranoid after my friend warned me of her taxi-driver horror stories. We found this helpful taxi guide that got us through this.
The Medina at night was very, very dark.
We got carried away with our candlelit dinner at Nomad. Then we had to venture the extremely dark Medina (so dark we could not even see our fingers) and scared ourselves out of our wits. It's helpful to note this, I guess, if you have a bad sense of direction like I do.
The Local mains come in really big portions.
Just about every restaurant would have Moroccan food options but beware: order couscous and you'll get a literal mountain of it. So my friends and I tended to share our mains and fill up instead with a variety of starters, of which Morocco has a vibrant selection of!
Mint tea and milk juices tend to come with a LOT of sugar
Unless you specify!
Hope this helps!