Surviving A Visit To The Souks Of Marrakech
If you are planning a visit to Marrakech, you’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to visit the souks of Marrakech.
The souks are a network of streets and alleyways in the heart of the old city- The Medina.
Here you will find people selling anything and everything from shoes to rugs, lanterns, oils, bags the list goes on.
Walking through a souk in Marrakesh is an experience for all of the senses. In this post, we will be recounting our experiences in the Souks of Marrakech and sharing key bargaining tips and how to avoid getting lost as you wonder about the network that is the souks.
These are our top tips for surviving a visit to the souks of Marrakech, Morocco.
These are tips that come from much of our research before we traveled, as well as reflections on our own experience.
Do Planty Of Research Before You Travel
Before we headed out to Marrakech, we made sure to do our research so we would be prepared for what to expect in Marrakech.
We were warned about the cat calling and racist abuse (towards people of color) that many before us had endured.
We were prepared.
Though we did not receive any abuse, we did fall victim to one of the rules we were warned about before our departure.
Everything we read and everyone we listened to advised against following strangers. Yet, that was the first thing that we did as we go out of the shuttle from our hotel.
Even though we didn’t follow the advice that we were given I’m glad that we did our research because we were prepared for many other situations we faced.
If you’re reading this, you’re on the right track. Keep reading to find out more tips for surviving the souks of Marrakech.
Do Not Follow Anyone Around
I repeat- DO NOT FOLLOW ANYONE. No matter how nice they seem and how helpful they appear.
If anyone offers to show you where something is, they are not doing so out of the kindness of their heart. It’s pretty safe to assume that they want money.
Here’s what happened to us:
We took a shuttle from our Hotel to the Medina. Upon arrival at the bus stop, we were met by a man who said he worked with the hotel and would show us to our destination. After about 5 minutes of following this man, we soon realized that he was leading us through certain stores where I am sure he has arranged some sort of commission if we were to buy anything.
Once we realized what was happening, we kindly asked him to take us back to the bus where we proceeded to find our own way around.
His otherwise friendly demeanor changed and he insisted that we pay him for his service. We did this to avoid getting into any trouble in an area that we were VERY unfamiliar with.
Don’t Visit The Souks Alone
Especially if you are a woman or unfamiliar with the medina.
Many of the hotels offer official tour guides for a fee, so this is an option that you can explore if you are interested in exploring the souks.
For instance, our hotel offered this guide for a cost of 250 DH (25 euros). Looking back, I wish we had taken this offer because we ended up paying someone to show us around anyway. Why not have an ‘official guide if that’s the case.
Use A Map To Get Around
The souks of Marrakech are an extensive network of stalls spanning the entire medina.
It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know where you’re going.
I would highly recommend using some sort of map during your visit to help you navigate the souks.
A favorite of mine is an app called Maps.me which is just an offline map that you can use to get around without incurring data roaming charges.
Remember to download a map of the area while you are in a wifi area. While it is not as easy to use as google maps, it definitely helped to keep us oriented while we explored the area on our own.
Be Prepared To Bargain…
Unless you want to be ripped off, be prepared to learn the art of bargaining.
Before going into the Souks, do some research so that you know exactly what you intend to buy. Once you know this, try to find out approximately how much it should cost and stick as close to that price as you can.
You have to realize that these salespeople are professionals- they haggle all day every day.
They also know the true worth of these items and the price they are willing to let them go for. They know all the tricks in the book, so if you intend to get a fair price, there is no point in being polite about this. You are going to have to learn some of those tricks too.
- Do some research to find out how much the items should cost
- Know how much you are willing to pay and stick to it
- When they tell you their price, insist on 50% of that price (try to stay under your budget)
- Go back and forth until you agree on a price that YOU are comfortable with.
… But Be Ready To Walk Away
I have found that the salespeople in the Souks are relentless and have an answer for everything.
If you tell them you don’t have enough money, they have a solution for that. They accept credit card payment (I would not advise you to do that 👀) and hotel delivery where you can pay the balance that you don’t have on you.
Do not give in though! If you are not getting anywhere with your haggling (you are not getting anywhere near the price that you are prepared to pay), be ready to walk away.
Politely and respectfully thank them for their time and walk away. If they really want that sale, they may even run after you with that lower price.
One thing that I found in the Souks is that you’ll find the EXACT same item in multiple different stores. Don’t think you’ve missed out on an opportunity because you walked away.
The hustle and bustle of the medina can certainly be a lot to handle.
Try to stay calm and avoid getting too frustrated.
When it comes to dealing with aggressive salespeople, try to remember this is their job. This is what they do all day to provide for their families.
Also, remember that you are in a foreign country where you do not want to make enemies. Do not be rude- if you find a situation that is starting to get you frustrated, just walk away.
The sights, sounds and smells of the souks are a lot to take in. While you browse through the shops, you have to be careful to avoid hitting other pedestrians, people on motorbikes, donkeys, stepping on cats etc.
Don’t expect anyone to stop or slow down for you. Be prepared to move quickly out of the way of incoming traffic. There is a lot for your senses to take in, so try to be alert.
Do not expect anyone to stop or slow down for you, so be prepared to move quickly out of the way of incoming traffic.
The business of the medina also makes it a great location for pickpockets. Make sure you keep your belongings close to you at all times.
A smile is a universal language understood by all. Crack some jokes with the locals, have fun- you are on holiday after all!
Are you planning a trip to the Souks of Marrakech? If so, I hope that you have found these tips useful.
If you have visited the souks of Marrakech, I would love to hear about your experiences and see if you have any additional tips for surviving the Souks.