Readers often ask us, is Marrakech safe to visit? In general, it is, but it does come with a degree of hassle and harassment. Here are some tips to avoid any trouble.
Is Marrakech safe? It’s a question we are often asked by readers thinking about heading to the red city – one of the most popular places in Morocco. News of terror attacks, crimes against western tourists or anecdotes of being hassled in exotic souks, quickly make their way across both social and traditional media.
But the short answer is, yes, Marrakech is safe. Compared with the United States – for example – you are less likely to be a victim of violent crime and much less likely to be assaulted.
But Marrakech does have its challenges. It’s very likely that you will be verbally hassled by locals, particularly in the heart of the medina. They may try to direct you to places you don’t want to go, to sell you stuff you don’t want, or act as ‘faux’ guides who can be difficult to shake. They are annoying, without being helpful.
So, the challenge of travelling to Marrakech is not that it’s unsafe, but that it can, at times, be frustrating.
However, this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a few days in Marrakech. Just come armed with some helpful strategies, and you will quickly learn that beneath the hard sell, Marrakech is a fascinating and beautiful city.
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COVID REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL TO MOROCCO
On February 7, 2022, Morocco re-opened borders for international tourism. You must be fully vaccinated to enter Morocco with two doses of an approved vaccine administered at least two weeks before your trip. A passenger health form must also be submitted.
Rapid antigen tests will be conducted on arrival for selected groups of passengers. Additionally a PCR test may be requested for random passengers which must be taken after 48 hours of arrival.
At the time of writing, masks are mandatory in most indoor venues and temperature checks are taken on arrival.
As the situation changes regularly, check the foreign travel advice from your home country before your trip.
TERRORIST ATTACKS & SERIOUS CRIME
In 2011, a bomb left in a bag in a café in the main square of Marrakech killed 17 people, many of whom were tourists. The Moroccan government responded by quickly tightening security. Tragic events like these make worldwide news and are often all we hear of Middle Eastern and African countries. It can build a false picture of the dangers of visiting these places.
There have been no major issues in Marrakech since 2011. However, over this time, cities that many consider safe (such as London & Paris) have had their own terrorist attacks, in some cases, far more serious than the Marrakech incident.
The truth is Marrakech rarely has violent crimes and when it does happen, these cases almost never target tourists. You can walk around the city with good peace of mind knowing that the chances of getting attacked or mugged are very small. Over 2 million people come here every year and almost all return home trouble-free. As a result, International SOS rate Morocco low risk for travel security, the same level as continental Europe and North America.
But as in any place in the world, the chances of incurring serious trouble are greatly increased in less populated areas and if you are on your own at night. So stay central and if you are heading out to a quiet area in the evening and don’t feel comfortable, your accommodation will happily organise someone to escort you to and from your dinner joint.
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – AVOIDING SERIOUS CRIME
1 – Don’t walk through less populated suburbs
2 – Don’t walk along empty streets in the medina at night
In all cities of the world, you need to be aware of petty crime when walking around. But in particular, the medieval medinas of Morocco present opportunities for light-fingered thieves.
The Marrakech medina is a maze of alleyways that are tightly packed with street sellers, donkeys pulling carts and motorcycles winding in and out of tourists. Where the lanes narrow, you can be up close and personal with your fellow travellers. It’s part of what makes the medina such an exotic and interesting place to explore. However, it’s also a prime destination for pickpockets, handbag grabbers and drive-by bag-snatchers.
So, it’s important to have your wits about you on busy thoroughfares in the medina and take some sensible precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings and don’t have any valuables on display – the medina isn’t the place to sport flashy jewellery. Keep the cash you carry to a minimum. If an area is particularly crowded, carry your backpack rather than have it on your back.
Finally, be conscious of your belongings if someone is trying to distract you or talk to you. Working as a team is a common and effective way to steal from unsuspecting tourists. By all means, have a chat, but keep your hand on your wallet while you do so.
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – AVOIDING PETTY CRIME
1 – Keep an eye on your belongings
2 – Carry bags that are not easily snatched or opened
3 – Don’t have valuables on display
4 – Be aware of your belongings if someone is distracting you
VENDORS AND TOUTS
While violent crime is highly unlikely and petty crime possible but still rare, the chances of being verbally hassled by locals is high. We’d say the likelihood is around 100%.
As you walk around the souks and squares of the medina, young men will be lining the streets telling you that some attractions are closed or that you are headed in the wrong direction. Whether they know where you are going or not, seems irrelevant. They will then offer to help.
Some will take you to their shop or café and try to sell you stuff. Others will offer to guide you to a specific attraction. If you accept these ‘guides’, whatever you pay them will not be enough. If you decline, they can at times get a bit pushy.
We’re always keen to chat to locals and make friends in a new city, but the alleyways of Marrakech medina is not the place to do it. We recommend that you respond to all requests, saying ‘no thanks’ firmly but politely and walking on. If you can do so looking confident in where you’re going, even better. If you are really lost and need some help, ask another tourist, the police, or go into a larger store and ask someone behind a counter.
It’s this hassling culture that gives Marrakech a bad name, particularly in places like Jemaa el Fna. Just remember, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get into serious trouble. After a few times of saying ‘no thanks’ it will become effortless. If, however you continue to find the hassle annoying, don’t let it ruin your holiday. Hire a professional guide and let them take the strain.
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – RESPONDING TO HASSLING
1 – Be firm and say ‘no’ to unsolicited help
2 – Don’t head down empty alleyways alone
ROAD SAFETY IN MARRAKECH
Morocco has a poor road safety record. The road fatality rate is approximately 9 times higher than in the UK. Fortunately, Marrakech is a very compact city, so there is no need to hire a car. Almost all sights are centrally located and easily walked to.
If you stay centrally (in or on the edge of Marrakesh medina) a taxi ride to and from the airport is pretty much all you will need. As with most cities, it’s important to use licensed taxis and either agree the fare upfront or make sure they have an operational meter. It’s a good idea to book a taxi through your accommodation who will hook you up with someone reliable.
We’ve had excellent road trips in Morocco, so if you intend on travelling further afield read through our advice on driving in Morocco with tips for staying safe on the roads.
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – STAYING SAFE ON THE ROADS
1 – Stay in a central location in Marrakech
2 – Use licensed cabs and agree on the cab fare upfront
SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLERS IN MARRAKECH
In terms of the most common safety concern in Marrakech – being hassled unnecessarily – there is little to discriminate between different types of travellers. As two guys travelling together, we were regularly hassled. Married couples we’ve spoken to often report the same thing.
Portia Jones from the travel blog Pip and the City says that the specific concern for solo female travellers is unwanted attention and comments from locals. “In some cases, this can potentially lead to aggression and harassment, which is pretty scary if you are travelling alone.”
As a female traveller, minimising risk by understanding the local culture is important. Morocco is a very conservative country, so Portia’s advice is to “observe the local customs and dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention.”
It’s also important to plan ahead to minimise any potential risk in Marrakech. The central medina is a busy bustling hub of excitement that every traveller will want to experience. But some practical planning will help keep you safe. Portia’s advice for female travellers is to plan ahead: “choose well-located hotels and riads and hire local, certified guides; ask your hotel to book your transport.”
Using official guides was a common tactic to minimise the risk of getting hassled in Marrakech from a number of female travellers we spoke to. Laura from Ladies What Travel organised a licensed guide to tour the souks of Marrakech which she felt took the stress out of the situation and enhanced her travel experience. “I think being with a Moroccan man definitely helped as we weren’t harassed at all, everyone was very polite and smiley.”
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – FEMALE TRAVELLERS
1 – Dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention
2 – Always used licenced guides
HEALTH IN MARRAKECH
Staying safe in Marrakech means protecting your health. While you’ll see the locals drink the tap water, they have been getting used to it for years. As a tourist, it’s much safer to drink bottled water or take a filter bottle with you.
Temperatures in Marrakech can be scorching and the sun strong. Make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat and ensure you are constantly hydrated and re-energised. A sugary mint tea in a town square is always a good option.
For travel to Marrakech, it’s also a good idea to check your immunisations. In particular, you should confirm your Hepatitis A and tetanus vaccines are up to date.
But the most important step in safeguarding your health is to have comprehensive medical insurance. Being hospitalised can be expensive and you’ll want access to good quality health care. If you have a medical situation while in Marrakech, check with your insurance company for where you should go for help. Most will send you to the Clinique Internationale Marrakech.
For EU citizens, remember that although Marrakech is included in the network of cheap European flights, Morocco is not in the EU. Therefore, you are not entitled to free medical help. So, if you usually travel within the EU and don’t have a comprehensive medical policy, you’ll need to get one.
MARRAKECH SAFETY TIPS – HEATH
1 – Check your required vaccines are up to date
2 – Don’t drink the tap water
3 – Take out good medical insurance
IS MARRAKECH SAFE?
The Marrakech medina is a fascinating and unique place. It’s exciting, energising and a great way to experience a very different culture to what you might be used to in the west.
Cultural differences, plus the media’s over-representation of rare events, can sometimes make places feel like they are more dangerous than they actually are. Marrakech is no exception.
But, don’t let fears of safety put you off spending a few days in Marrakech. It has almost no violent crime, petty crime can be avoided and you’ll soon get used to managing the hassle. As one of the safest countries in the Middle East and Africa, it provides an excellent destination for exploring a completely different culture.
If you need any encouragement, read our guide on the most captivating things to do in Marrakech.
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MORE READING FOR MOROCCO TRIP
Although only a short flight from Europe, Morocco is a different world. Explore medieval medinas, bustling souks, and stunning scenery with more of our Morocco guides.
The best things to do in Marrakech
Our walking tour of the Fez medina
3-day Marrakech itinerary
Stunning places to visit in Morocco
Desert vibes in cool Ouarzazate
Scenic circular hike through Todra Gorge
Driving in Morocco – all our useful tips
Our 10-day Morocco itinerary
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