21 Days Away: That One Time HotelTonight Rescued Me In Marrakech

Problems are not stopsigns, they are guidelines.
— Robert H. Schuller

When I had first purchased my flight to Athens I knew two things. I had to go back to Paris and I had to make it to Morocco.  Even after spending 40 days in Europe last year, due to the cost, I was not able to go.  While searching through Google Flights I knew that my arrival in Marrakech would be around €100 but a return fare to Paris would be a mere €28.  I had never been to Africa yet and was overjoyed with the thought of being able to drop a pin on the continent.  I had heard stories of how people cried the first time they visited and felt an overwhelming welcome. Unfortunately, that is not my story.

The Drama

After spending six glorious days in Budapest, I was officially one week into my twenty-one day solo journey abroad.  I had purchased a one-way flight from Budapest to Marrakech with a layover in Brussels in between. I was thrilled to be saying I was en route to Africa and continent number 4.  Unfortunately, the descent while approaching Brussels airport was absolutely horrid and I almost had a full blown anxiety attack.  I thought that I was going to pass out with the bumps and shakes from the plane. I never until that day had felt my back hurt due to being thrown around but we made it and I had to suck my nerves up and get back on a plane two hours later to head to Marrakech.  

I had to keep reminding myself that the journey was not always pretty, but the destination would be. I had seen countless photos of Morocco and was even in a Facebook group dedicated exclusively to individuals planning to travel to the country within the calendar year. I had a premonition that when I landed things would be a bit chaotic so for the first time ever I hired a driver to transport me from the airport to my riad (a traditional Moroccan inn). As pretentious as it sounded, I was excited to imagine walking outside and having a nice gentleman holding my name and take some of the weight (i.e. my duffel bag) off of me.

Going through customs was an interesting deal and I saw a glimpse into how certain men treated [black] women.  It was almost as if I was not even standing in front of the government agent as he and another gentleman ignored me, shared jokes, and spoke about me in French (which I understood).  My thoughts were focused on just getting out of the airport and to the riad as quickly as possible. There was no need for me to be detained because I wanted to cuss out some rude people.

Thankfully enough, I was through after the same agent then proceeded to flirt with me, and I was on my way to the exit. It was beginning to drizzle outside but I was focused on finding my driver.  There were quite a few taxis and drivers from hotels and riads with family names standing and calling out, seeking to get our attention. I walked around, at least in a circle twice, but did not see my name anywhere. I was due to have a pick up at 5pm sharp but after I had completed that second lap I saw that it was nearing 5:30. My phone was quickly dying and I was unable to charge my battery port on the plane and my nerves were starting to kick back in. I needed some power, wifi, and to see what was going on with my driver.

I went back inside the airport and searched for an outlet which ended up with me having to sit atop of my duffel bag on the floor. I emailed the owner of the airport transfer company to alert him that I did not see my driver and would be calling the number provided.  After finding a heaven sent airport employee, he agreed to dial the numbers the company provided but no one picked up. I had been given FOUR numbers but there was absolutely zero response and my Jersey was starting to kick in… badly.  I was tired, hot, and stressed.  This was exactly the opposite entrance I wanted to have in Morocco and to make matters worse, when the company’s owner finally emailed me back he insulted my intelligence as if I had not followed the directions he gave me. He insisted that had I called the proper numbers, a driver would have picked up. I felt defeated and wished there was a way I could have just teleported back to Budapest where things had been a whole lot easier for me.

Related Post: 21 Days Away: My Apology to the City of Budapest, My New Favorite

My Saving Grace

In an attempt to do some quick thinking, I remembered that I had booked my riad through HotelTonight.  HotelTonight is "a mobile travel app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows devices that allows users to find discounted hotel accommodations up to seven days in advance throughout the Americas, Europe and Australia". Because I had been using HotelTonight quite a bit over the last year, I was officially on Level 2 of their perks program.  What did that mean? It meant that anytime I placed a hotel booking through their app, I would receive a 24/7 concierge.  In the past I had used that service to request specific rooms or extra toiletries, but this time I needed to be rescued before Morocco saw a side of me it did not need to see.

With the little bit of battery power I had, I started a chat to let them know that I was stranded in the airport with no transportation and it was officially past 6pm. I had found the same airport agent to call the airport transfer numbers again, but of course, no one picked up and felt like I had been scammed. The concierge let me know that they would call the riad to see if there would be an available driver to take me to the riad and by the grace of God, there was. The only problem was that while my driver I initially booked was €9, I would have to pay more than double at €20 to get to the riad. At that point though, I was desperate and simply wanted to get in a bed.

The HotelTonight concierge coordinated my transfer for me with the riad and when I made it back outside, I saw the driver with the name of my riad. While it was not my name, I trusted the sight of the riad enough to tell him where I was going. He quickly grabbed my bags from me and I literally and figuratively felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Almost two hours later, I was finally in the Medina and in my riad. The employee on staff made me some delicious mint tea and I was grateful that this entire ordeal was over.

The view from my riad. 

My Overall Sentiments

It was unfortunate that the excitement I had to finally be in Africa and to have a driver had to be spoiled by some misfortune.  I was appreciative of the staff of HotelTonight coming to rescue me and handle the quick logistics for me to get me to my destination.  I am sometimes leary of cabs when I am traveling and had no idea what the rate could have been but the most important part was that I made it to the riad.  It was calming to know that they care about their customers and even checked on me later just so see how I was settling in.  Customer service is huge to me and reaffirmed that they are one of my favorite apps to use while traveling. Their 24/7 concierge once again came through for me in the clutch and reminded me why I am a loyal customer.

By the way, the owner of the airport transfer company did eventually email me with an apology. In a rare slip-up, he admitted that the driver made a mistake and certainly had not been at the airport looking for me. He assured me that I would receive a refund as well as an extra convenience fee to apologize for the frustration and trouble I went through. I have yet to receive that money and will be taking it up with PayPal.

For more information about HotelTonight works, read my post discussing my favorite travel apps here.

If you’d like to receive a $25 off of your first booking, use my promo code CCROSSJOHNSON.

Do you have a similar airport experience? Have you used HotelTonight before? Let’s chat!

P.S. If you want to keep reading about my Moroccan travels, check out my second post about Marrakech and my two nights in Essaouira