Marrakech has quickly become a popular holiday destination among brits. Not only for its mesmerising culture but mainly because it’s so cheap! When looking for places to stay in Marrakech it can be a tough decision to make when deciding whether to stay in a hotel just outside of town or a traditional Moroccan riad.
We first visited Marrakech 4 years ago and stayed in a hotel just outside the city. It was a big modern five star hotel about 10 minute drive from the main center of town. Although it only cost us about £200 for 5 nights, if you chose to stay in a riad it can be a lot cheaper and you’ll have a really traditional experience. Not to mention most of them are stunning!
However if you’ve never stayed in the Medina before (the old town where most of the riads are located), here are few things to know or bear in mind before staying in a Marrakech riad.
1. Book a transfer with the riad
Taxi’s to the main part of town from the airport can cost you around 130dh. However, our riad offered a transfer service for 220dh and I can honestly say I heavily regret not booking it! Wandering around the Medina with your suitcase in the midday sun not knowing exactly where you’re going whilst everyone is trying to hassle you, is not fun. Luckily, a transfer service means someone from the riad will come and meet you at the airport and lead you straight to your hotel through the labyrinth. I dread to think how stressful it would have been to find our way to the riad in the dark!
2. Find the nearest road location
You’ll very quickly realise that most riads are not accessible by roads. A lot of them are tucked away down the end of an alleyway in the depths of the Medina. To make it easier to find your way home, make sure whenever you leave your riad you can pin point a key location on a nearby road. For us it was a mosque so every time we got in a taxi we told him the location of the mosque and then we’d walk the rest of the way.
3. Don’t always trust Google maps
Do you go anywhere these days without using google maps on your phone? I know I don’t! However as great as Google is, it’s not always right with it’s pin points, especially in the Medina. Most of the roads and alleyways within the Medina show up on Google maps, however, there is a lot of smaller side streets missing on there which can make it hard to find riads. The best thing to do is make your way to the pin point then pop your head into a nearby riad or shop to ask for directions. They’ll be able to direct you to where you’re looking for.
Top tip: Don’t ask a random person on the street because they’ll try to charge you lots of money for what’s normally useless directions. If you ask someone in a shop or a riad, they won’t be able to leave so won’t try and take your money.
4. Choose a riad with a 24 hour reception
Most riads are owned and run by local families, which means they are super friendly and always happy to help if you have any issues. Choosing a riad with a 24 hour reception means you can check in whenever you arrive and if you have any problems finding your way back to the hotel you can give them a call and they’ll direct you to the right place or even come and find you. It’s completely normal to get lost in the Medina so they’re used to it! Make sure you keep the reception phone number on you if you go out.
One of the best perks of having a 24 hour reception was that every time we arrived back at the riad at night and rummaged around in the bag to get our front door keys, there was someone there to unlock the door for you making getting back home just that little bit easier.
5. Get a safety deposit box
It can be daunting wandering the labyrinth that is the Medina and sometimes it cannot feel very safe. However most riads are extremely safe, and so is Marrakech! To enter the riad we had our own front door key and by the front door there were lots of CCTV cameras so if you’re not meant to be there, it’ll be hard to get in. Just for piece of mind however, it’s always best practice to put all your valuables in a safety deposit box whilst staying at the riad.
6. Breakfast will be limited
Most riads only have a handful of rooms, so when it comes to catering you’ll probably find it is quite limited. The breakfast in our riad was traditional and so yummy! However if you’re expecting a full blown English breakfast buffet with extra toast, staying in a riad is probably not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, there was lots to eat for breakfast, sometimes even too much, but it can be rather basic compared to the catering you get in the big hotels.