TRAVEL SOLO IN MOROCCO
Can we travel alone in Morocco? This is a question I received hundreds of times during my own four-week trip around the country. I had plenty of time to immerse myself in the culture, get out of the main tourist routes outside Fez, Meknes or Ouarzazate and push further south along the Atlas. I tested the train, the road trip, market in the cities alone by day and by night. So what about traveling alone to Morocco? False good idea or real experience to live? For my part, the answer is a big YES! However, taking into account a few rules to keep in mind. Here is the complete guide to know the codes and enjoy your solo trip to Morocco in complete freedom!
WHY DO I SAY YES TO TRAVEL SOLO IN MOROCCO?
But because the Moroccans are great and the country absolutely sublime, it’s as simple as that! Yes, clearly, I’m not hiding from you that traveling alone to Morocco requires a little bit of adaptation at the start. In this country as in many others (including ours), there are basic rules to respect to optimize its security to the maximum, and I will detail how later.
Don’t always listen to what you hear
But I would like to emphasize one point, which is my opinion and not necessarily shared by all: I find that Morocco suffers from a complicated reputation in terms of tourism, and sometimes wrongly. I had the chance to visit Marrakech 12 years ago with my parents. I was young and inexperienced and I confirm, this type of very touristy city brings together in itself the worst that one can find. Mass tourism stirs lusts. So you’ll find more people in big cities who are more interested in your wallet than you are. It’s a fact. It’s not fun, but it’s like that.
A crazy welcome!
However, when you dig a little deeper and meet other people, you quickly realize that the locals are extremely kind. I have personally met people that I will never forget. Like this “Moroccan dad” met on the hills of Fez, who so kindly told me that I had “a white heart”. I have been welcomed countless times in guest houses to break the Ramadan fast with the owners during the ftour, in Merzouga, Zagora or Rabat. I was invited to Chefchaouen to spend the evening for a crazy oriental make-up session! I went for a walk with three little girls in the Atlas countryside, busy braiding grass bracelets and making ricochets! And all this without ever having an ounce of insecurity, financial interest or any odd situation.
A balance sometimes complicated to find but …
Yes, it is possible, sometimes you just have to put yourself in the position of finding the right people. This is where the complexity of a trip to a destination like Morocco resides. We are often suspicious, sometimes rightly. But if you open up … it can sometimes lead to a great experience, a moment of frank fun and sharing. The difficulty comes from knowing where to place the cursor quickly according to the different configurations. I tell you: you will sometimes be wrong. It happened to me. It’s frustrating, we put ourselves in a delicate situation, we get fucked up and it’s not fun. But from my point of view, the moments of sharing were worth the few annoyances that I have experienced elsewhere. Enough blah blah, let’s get right to the heart of the matter: how to travel alone in Morocco and manage possible difficulties at best!
PROBLEMS YOU MAY HAVE TO TRAVEL SOLO IN MOROCCO AS A WOMAN
THE LOOK OF MEN
So yes, things are very clear, the men are going to look at you. Heavily, as discreetly as possible. I was not prepared and I
must say that during my first days in Rabat, I was shocked. Especially since I was wearing a long, loose dress and I was absolutely blind in my style. But it is a fact, you will attract attention. As much to prepare you immediately as to hide the trick from you, because you will quickly realize it by yourself, anyway!
Know one thing, 99% of men will just watch you. This means that the well-being of your stay is due to your ability to ignore these looks. It took me 3 days. Once taken for granted, when I arrived in Fez, I was totally in my bubble. I never meet people’s eyes, I look around, everywhere, I visit, I photograph, but I do not meet the eyes, or little. And suddenly, it goes much better.
Obviously, there are several levels of harassment. To be honest, I was expecting clouds of “oh the gazelle” and I really didn’t have one, much to my surprise. But hey, there will always be a few men who will tell you “I’m fine”, “where are you from”, blah blah blah.
If you do not respond, nothing will happen. It’s a code that we don’t have here. We will smile in an embarrassed manner, say “it’s ok” then move on. Bad idea. Just ignore it, even if you feel like you are mega rude. It’s the best way to keep quiet. It took me a long time to take responsibility for being so clear-cut in my behavior. But following recommendations from readers of Moroccan origin, I tested and I confirm, it works better than our embarrassed little smiles ^^
So, I assure you, there is not much chance that this will happen to you. No more than elsewhere anyway. Really ! Simply because the medina is full of plainclothes tourist police. And if a guy gets caught assaulting a westerner, he is liable to several years in prison, that calms down. However, there are always little c ** who believe themselves above the law, and I paid the price. I was accosted by a young man in Rabat, who knocked on the inlay for 1 hour and which I could not get rid of, for fear of being a little rough … Ok, let’s start again.
No half measures with this kind of behavior. As in many Muslim countries (not all, but some), Western women suffer from a reputation for frivolity and Mary lay there. Which arouses the opportunistic feeling in some. If a guy starts sticking to you too long and you feel the thing coming, tell him to go right away. Gently first, then firmly. I made the mistake of not imposing myself and this boy literally tried to kiss me by force in the middle of the street at the end. I screamed and he ran away. Suffice to say that this misadventure did not happen to me afterwards, even if I sympathized with other young people during the rest of my trip. It’s pretty rare, but stay tuned and don’t blink if you feel it’s better to be clear quickly.
THE SENSE OF INSECURITY IN THE MEDINAS
This time, there are a lot of people in the medinas, which always limits the real risk of aggression, it happens rather in the head. I am not a nervous person, and yet, I felt this feeling of vulnerability in Meknes, when I could not find my way in the medina despite my plan, and that arriving at night, it was even worse with the young people who prowled here and there.
Needless to say, if you can avoid arriving at night like me, it’s much better. I have already wandered around some Moroccan cities at night and have not felt more dangerous than that, but when you do not know the place the first time, I still do not recommend it. Then, if you really feel lost and stupid as it did me, the simplest thing is to ask a merchant for directions, or even to drive you back to your hotel. And I mean a trader! They’ll be more likely to get you home quickly (they have a job waiting for them), and they know everyone there, no reason for them to attack you. This is what I did in Meknes with a designer who brought me back to my ryad and he was adorable.
OTHER TYPES OF PROBLEMS, CONCERNING EVERYONE
Whether you are a man or a woman, you may have to face some annoying situations during a trip to Morocco. The false guides are really part of it, they made me goat in Fez in particular. The delirium ? A guy sees you lost in the medina with your suitcase, asks you for your hotel, takes your luggage and runs away with great strides to be sure that you are following. You always arrive safely, but you have to pay a bakchich at the exit. Me who is doing very well with my applications like Maps.me, it made me crazy to have my luggage taken hostage like that!
As much as you can, try to find the path you will have to follow before you start. I often took advantage of taxi, bus, or train journeys to remember my way to my hotel. And if I had a hole in progress, I looked at my phone as discreetly as possible in a business or restaurant. Otherwise, the false guides will spot you as easy prey and it’s over! Again, asking the souks’ traders for directions is the best way to find out quietly and reliably.
THE MERCHANTS TOO INSISTENT
“Come on, come into my store just to look, it’s free.” The most illogical sentence for a trader, but which still seems to be bearing fruit in Morocco, since many use it, mwouhaha!
Here again, the easiest way is to ignore your contact. If some are really insistent, you can answer a “choukrane” / “no thank you” in the face of incessant requests, and move on.
Well, again, this is a war lost in advance. But let’s say that forever try to limit the breakage. Whether in taxis, souks or in markets, know that by default, we will offer you 5 to 10 times the local price, “cheap, my friend” haha! It frustrated me for a long time, but I ended up taking my side.
After a few days, I started to know the prices of certain commodities (always tourist prices, but not the most disappointing). So, I systematically negotiated with my interlocutors by saying that I had paid this price in another city. I often had total scams in the markets, where I was offered a blow 2 bananas for 3 dirhams, then 2 bananas for 30 dirhams! If my interlocutor did not want to give in, I preferred to leave and buy elsewhere. When you leave, we can catch you to relaunch the negotiation. Then, you are free to accept a prize to save time … or to show that you are not completely stupid on the handling ^^
CHILDREN WHO DONATE
Very touchy subject, because yes… how to say no to little ones who ask for a few dirhams. Ah la la, I would not lecture you on this subject, because I do not have all the ins and outs of the thing. All I can tell you is that, after several trips, I have often heard that giving money to little ones often prevents them from going to school. Because yes, if they bring pennies home, why send them to study?
There are not any. Aside from saying no if you agree with my point, clench your fists in your pockets and go your way while waiting to cry a good knock behind a door out of sight … Personally, I do not do any better than that .
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FOCUS ON TRANSPORT
What about transportation then? For my part, I found Moroccan transport at the top! I took the daytime train and solo, I found nothing to complain about. The compartments are often eight cubicles. Choose compartments where several women are found, you will be quieter. Even if I have no comments to make when I have traveled with men in my compartment.
I also traveled by day by bus between Marrakech and Ouarzazate, nothing to say. The only thing I will clarify is that if you plan to buy your bus tickets directly at the bus station, try to go there during the day. Bus stations are always a bit bad (everywhere, huh). So I find it much better to go there during the day, it’s a friend’s advice;)
Finally, I also rented a car for my 15-day road trip in the Atlas, I talk more about it here. My feedback is that it was no problem being in a solo car. The roads in the south are cool and I didn’t feel any insecurity. By cons, I do not hide that I was stopped once on the road by a guy who said I was injured and needed to use my phone to be transported to the hospital… I did not open my doors. Big case of “I help or not” consciousness. Except that there were other people in the village from whom he could borrow a phone, I preferred to say no. It only happened to me once. Okay … you can lock your doors if you ever feel safer. I didn’t, everyone did their thing.
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TIPS FOR GOOD TRAVEL SOLO IN MOROCCO
Dress very soberly
We can never repeat it enough, but it is more than a must to dress soberly in Morocco. As in most Muslim countries, by the way. The rules are not the same as with us. The least you can do is respect them from my point of view. I’m not hiding from you that wearing a shawl at 40 ° C isn’t my cup of tea either (we could talk about broth here haha). But hey, if it can avoid being noticed, it’s better! ^^
Mention the tourist police
I told you above, there is a plainclothes police for the protection of tourists. If you ever have to deal with a first class heavyweight, mention immediately that you will call them. Incidentally, REALLY take their phone and the address of the station in the city where you are. It should discourage the most insistent.
And coming from me, the little girl who never dares not smile or say no, believe me that it is a feat. But precisely, to have experienced it, it is not a good technique. You don’t have to be “a ***” over with everyone. You have the right to be polite, smile, etc. But if you see that the technique of ignoring doesn’t work, plan B “no way” must be implemented immediately.
When you travel alone to Morocco, you also think of the flight option. So, for once, I didn’t have any concerns or feelings of insecurity at all. I traveled with a small, simple leather backpack and wandered around with my camera, often around my neck. No problem at this level. Obviously, I avoided having 12,000 pieces of jewelry on me (which is never the case anyway). I just had a banana belt under my pants for my tickets, and that was it.
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