Top five tips for visiting Marrakech

For my birthday this year, we headed to Marrakech, Morocco, rated #1 in this year's Travellers' Choice Awards. (I'm not sure how, in all honesty.) If you're thinking of heading to this famous African city and seeing for yourself what all the fuss is about, read on for my top five tips:

1. When to go:
The time of year when you visit Marrakech is crucial. As I'm writing this, the temperature in Marrakech is a scorching 41°C, which will feel more like it's 50°C because of the dry nature of the heat. The sun is fierce, and it will catch you out!

I'd definitely avoid going May through to August, unless you want to sit in your hotel room, perched under the air conditioning, chugging down ice cold glasses of water. No amount of refreshing mint tea is going to cool you down in those temperatures! 

Also, check when Ramadan is as shops, restaurants and tourist attractions may be closed or have reduced opening hours.

2. How to get there:
We flew Saturday mid-afternoon with British Airways from London Gatwick to Marrakech's Menara Airport, and then flew back mid-morning on Wednesday with Easyjet. Flight time is roughly 3.5 hours, and there is no time difference between the UK and Morocco.

Prices vary, but our BA flight cost us £64 each, whilst our return Easyjet flight cost £56. It's always worth checking out single fares with different airlines to see if it works out cheaper than a return, but also because you can often get better flight times this way.

Be prepared to queue for at least an hour once you get off the plane and, whatever you do, make sure that you fill out your customs form properly - no spelling mistakes or errors, please! If there is, you will have trouble getting your visa stamp and getting out of passport control. We witnessed plenty of arguments between tourists and officials over those forms - yikes!

This also applies for when you leave Morocco. If you don't get your boarding card stamped at your airline check-in desk - you have to go there to get this stamp, even if you have no luggage to check in - you won't clear security. You have been warned!

3. Where to stay:
We stayed at MonRiad, which is about a five-ten minute walk from Jamaa el Fna, and about the same distance from Bahia Palace. Whilst we couldn't fault the location, the set-up of the riad (a guesthouse with rooms off an interior courtyard) meant that we got zero sleep the first two nights due to the other guests deciding that this courtyard was the perfect place to scream drunkenly until five o'clock in the morning... and then it was time for the call to prayer... and then the staff started preparing breakfast. o_O

We complained after the first night, and were given a really poor excuse - young people will be young people, apparently - and we complained again after the second night. The guests, thankfully, checked out then so our last two nights were spent in relative peace (see above re: breakfast). However, when we followed up our complaints, the riad denied we had ever complained... Shoddy.

Riads might look charming, but you will be at the mercy of the other guests and their conduct. I'm not a light sleeper, so do keep the noise-factor in mind when you're booking your accommodation in Marrakech. (Or take ear plugs.) If you're considering staying outside of the city, or want more than a plunge pool to relax by, do check out Manzil la Tortue.

4. Sorting out currency:
Don't bother picking up any currency whilst you are in the UK as you will get a rubbish rate. The rate at Gatwick when we left was 11DH:£1, whereas in Marrakech it was 15DH:£1. Say you wanted to change £200, you'll get an extra 800 dirhams if you do it in Marrakech - that's a stonking £53!

5. How to act:
Wear loose clothes to stay comfortable in the heat, and cover up your knees and shoulders to be respectful. And, remember, there's no such thing as free help in Marrakech - you have been warned!

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