I visited Morocco in 2016 after having it on my bucket list for a while and finally managed to grab a good bargain with Ryanair, off to Marrakech a few weeks later. This was in Spring of 2016.
Normally I focus on my own observations and travel experiences but often I get asked how I manage to see places with two mini me’s by my side. So this is my only dedicated “Traveling with Kids” post, which can also be found on TripAdvisor. Please bare in mind, while reading, that A) I have a tendency of writing loooong sentences (patient reader alert) and B) it’s been two years since we visited Morocco and as such, some recommendations need checking to ensure they’re still current before committing or expecting.
If you’re thinking about traveling to Morocco with children but you’re hesitant and might worry about health, safety, provisions etc. don’t be. When traveling to Morocco the same cautions apply as with any other country and Morocco is a great experience for adults and children alike. Marrakech can be the base for you to discover near by towns and villages which is a handy way to discover parts of Morocco without having to check in and out of different hotels or riads.
If you’re getting a transfer from the airport to your accommodation and you’re wondering about car seats, there is no strict regulation and the only condition is that children (like adults) have to use their seatbelt at all times but a special car seat is not required for the little ones. This might be different for babies but children 3 years and older can travel without a car seat.
Marrakech has a wealth of accommodation options. Hotels outside the Medina are just as suitable as a Riad inside the Medina. Life outside the Medina is less hectic and seems less chaotic and it really depends on your preferences. Riads are authentic and are a calm, relaxing place in the middle of a buzzing place. They cater just as well for children as Hotels do and often offer transfers and authorised excursions which means you don’t need to worry how to get around. Most Riads also have family rooms to give plenty of space. They also have inside courtyards which means you can sit with your children outside under orange trees without seeing or hearing the outside buzzing Medina life – and relax. Riads tend to cost less than hotels which most parents with two or more children will appreciate and it’s only a short drive away from the airport which just adds to a smooth experience every parent wants.
There are tonnes of information available online about the Medina in Marrakech but not so many for parents traveling with young kids (anyone under 10). If you’re hesitant to stay or visit the Medina, it is totally understandable. If you’ve never been in a Medina before, chances are the first impression will be overwhelming and intimidating even for people without children. As parents you always carry your worry hat with you and it’s important that you stay alert at all times but as stated above, this applies to every country. The difference in the Medina is the small and narrow roads, filled with people, some rushing through – others taking their time shopping and scooters with quite some speed, donkeys pulling loaded carts through etc. Don’t let go of your child’s hand and be aware of your surroundings. Walk on one side instead of in the middle of the alleys which saves you constantly jumping to your left or right. Once you get used to the buzzing energy in the Medina, your family will embrace it.
Marrakech has a huge range of restaurants, traditional ones as well as international cuisine, for all budgets. Most restaurants offer small meals for children at a fraction of an adult meal but you might have to ask specifically for a children’s “menu”. If the restaurant you’re visiting doesn’t offer this, ask for a small plate to share what you’re having. Most dishes come out in quite large portions. If you’re traveling with two or three children, you could also order one adult dish between them. You will see they get fed well. Also, in and outside the Medina you will find lots of small shops selling snacks and drinks. This might be ok if you’re only staying for two or three days but if you’re planning to stay longer and travel around, ask for the nearest supermarket. In Gueliz for example you will find a Carrefour supermarket that has everything (similar products) you’d get at home (fruits, variety of breads, drinks, baby food etc.).
You will find lots of options to bring your family on tours and excursions around Marrakech and Morocco in general. There are options for every budget, personal preference etc. You probably already seen lots of offers online but again, most do not specifically mention family tours and are aimed at larger groups or two adults. Don’t worry though. If you’ve seen something of interest online prior to your departure, send the tour provider an email and ask. Moroccans are very child friendly and accommodating. You can take shared tours which means it’s very likely to be in a group of 10 or more people or you have the option of a private tour for your family which has the advantage that the driver stops when you ask him to stop for breaks, photo opportunities etc. You can also – to a certain degree – control the itinerary of your tour based on what you know your kids will enjoy as much as the parents. The Berber village for example has farm animals and some Berber families offer tea breaks. Your tour provider will bring you to one they know which means you can relax and just enjoy your time. Don’t forget most people are looking for a small contribution for their services so if you choose a tea break, tip the lady preparing it for you. They don’t charge you, there is no fixed fee and so they depend on your budget/ what you’re willing to give as a tip.
Other things to bare in mind
As you experience Marrakech, you will find that especially in the Medina, there are young men offering to show you the way. No matter how lost you are, do not engage with them. Even if you half listen and wave them off, they will see it as their “services” being accepted. Have a strict “la shukran” and “go away”, be stern and walk your way. You have your children to look after and the last thing you’d want is to have an altercation with these young men because they got the impression off you that you needed help even if you feel, you didn’t. They can get aggressive and intimidating which is not a situation you want to be in especially when traveling with your kids. Also sometimes they just walk with you without saying anything but as said before be aware of your surroundings and the minute you feel someone is “silently” trying to “guide” you, tell them to go away. You will get an unfriendly reaction but they will leave you alone. This is not just the case in Marrakech by the way so same principles apply when you travel around in Morocco.
The square – Jemaa el Fna. This is the place where you and your children might be fascinated by snake charmers, baby turtles being sold and monkeys ready for entertainment. (It didn’t impress me but just to highlight it, this stuff happens there). You can stop with your children and look but expect someone very quickly standing beside you asking to get paid. I’ve sign too many tourists caught by surprise. If you don’t want to constantly fork out money, look at them while walking, don’t stop and tell your children before you visit the square that you won’t stop so they understand.
Marrakech comes to life at night time. Could you experience the Medina and particularly Jemaa el Fna after sunset with children? Probably. Would I personally recommend it? No. If you feel intimidated or slightly uneasy with the narrow streets during the day being full of people, it’s nothing compared to the late afternoon/ evening. In my view, this is solely an adult experience and not something for children. I have my indoor rule, before sunset.
Places to see and things to do
We used the Morocco Inspiring Tours excursions as offered by our Riad and we can highly recommend the tours with Ismail and Abdul especially if you travel with young kids. Both drivers spoke excellent English, were very friendly, attentive and committed to giving us a good time. The cars were very clean, spacious people carriers. When people say, you can get the tours cheaper – yes, you can but it depends on your travel preferences. If you travel alone and don’t mind sharing the bus with 20+ others to get straight from A to B, you will get it half the price down the road. In our case, I felt we got great value for money. The Marrakech Sightseeing Tour for example, cost us in total €45 and it was a personalised experience i.e. just us in the car with the driver (Ismail) who was funny, knew lots about Marrakech, took the kids into consideration and stopped whenever we wanted, to jump out for photos or have a look at places and he showed us so many beautiful places like the Bahia Palace or Majorelle Garden. His brother Abdul who drove the other two tours did the same. We enjoyed both days with him and had a great experience. Abdul was also the one who picked us up from the airport, organised through the Riad, even with a flight delay – he waited for us and welcomed us to Morocco in the middle of the night with a smile. I travelled to many places in the world, experienced various excursions and the ones offered here were very good. We did three in total and highly recommend the Marrakech Sightseeing Tour and the Ourika Valley Tour (Trip to and through the Atlas Mountains, through Berber villages and hiking up beside impressive waterfalls). You get a combination of guided and independent touring which allows for many photo opportunities, getting to know the area and meeting locals as well as knowing you’re being looked after. We were each time picked up in the Medina near where we stayed which was an added bonus and made us feel very safe. Overall we had an amazing trip. We saw so much and learned even more.
The Riad Experience
We had the pleasure of staying in this little gem of a Riad named Riad Misria in the middle of the Medina in Marrakech and our first time in Morocco. The Riad has a wealth of history which is displayed in pictures throughout the place.
The Riad offers airport pick-up which is very handy when you travel with two young kids. Our flight was delayed by an hour but Abdul, the driver was waiting for us with a big smile and sincere welcome. He brought us into the Medina as far as he could and then Yucef, who manages the Riad, picked us up and walked the last five minutes with us to the Riad. We arrived at night time and it was quite daunting walking through the Medina that seemed at first very loud, chaotic and confusing. You do get used to it and eventually get a sense of direction, however it takes some time. And then we stepped through the Riad doors and a complete different side to the Medina opened up: calm, peaceful, tranquillity, absolute stunning architecture and it really gives you that home away from home feeling – just Moroccan style. Yucef checked us in over tea and sesame biscuits, he showed us our room which was on the 2nd floor and consisted of two bedrooms (double and twin) and a private small courtyard. Again the beauty of the place alone was worth visiting, see photos. We stayed a whole week here and had a great time. Breakfast consisted of Moroccan bread, jams, pancakes and home baked cakes, fresh orange juice, coffee/ tea, Moroccan yoghurt and if you wished made-to-order eggs by Abdul (not the driver). I loved the fig jam and juice every morning, although I would have loved to see fresh fruits instead of three choices of bread/cakes but this is just my personal preference. On two occasions we availed of their dinner options, both times the food was delicious and our personal favourite was the Zalook, Kofta tagine with Cinnamon couscous and Orange slices with sweet syrup (totally underrated, it’s so good!) – all freshly prepared that day. The kids couldn’t eat fast enough, they loved everything on their plates and so did I. Fatima the chef is a really good cook and very friendly. Again, it’s this home away from home feeling which we appreciated.
We also used the excursions offered by the Riad staff and this is how I was introduced to the above mentioned tour provider. By the way if you stay less than 3 or 4 days, always pay in cash. Due to ongoing phone line problems in the Medina, you will run into issues paying with CC. There is also an additional small CC charge.
*Please note, none of the above mentioned companies sponsored me in any way to write or publish my travel reports. Everything you read is genuine and unbiased (as in not sponsored) and is based on what I booked, traveled and experienced independently.