I loved visiting Morocco for a week last year in Taghazout; experiencing the friendly nature of the people, the food and of course the surf; check out last year’s posts as a little reminder. What was great this year, was being able to visit new cities and towns during my time there, and so I’ve pulled together a few Morocco travel tips.
Given Morocco has an incredibly diverse landscape with lakes, mountains and of course the desert, I’ve only really just scratched the surface with my travel there. So let’s call this the beginners guide to travelling alone in Morocco – giving you a little insight into the food, culture, transport and of course the curious characters you’ll likely meet along the way.
Arriving in Morocco
There’s loads of ways to fly into Morocco, Agadir, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tangier have many international flights and they’re often super cheap. I got my return flights London Gatwick to Agadir for £60 but I met people who had paid around €10 to fly into Fez from other European starting points! I made sure that I had transport organised when I arrived late into new cities, so I could get the best price and didn’t have to negotiate late at night with taxi drivers.
Getting around Morocco
Flight, bus, train – there’s so many options to get between cities. Once you’re out in the desert however cars and camels are a preferred mode of transport (safe to stay I’ve been near camels on the beach recently and they’re fucking terrifying, I thought horses were bad but ahh camels are next level. Not sure what I’ll do when I visit there…)
Flights are probably the most expensive way to get between cities but this choice will depend on a) the time you have away, b) your budget and c) where you want to go. I flew Agadir to Fez to reduce the travel time and it was about £50 so not excessive – however wait until you see bus prices…
Buses operate through a number of companies includes CTM (which is what I took). CTM is the nicest and not expensive and I took two journeys with them, each ticket no more than £8. Fez to Chefchaouen 750 MAD, 5ish hours and then Chefchaouen to Tangier 450 MAD, 3ish hours. There are other companies with lower prices and different timetables so there’s plenty of options.
Trains are also a good mode of transport however I can’t talk about these from personal experience. Did take a look online with a French hostel roommate one day and they were about half the time of a bus so could be another good option for those with less time to get around!
Taxis are also relatively cheap. Petit taxis operate around the cities (each city has a different colour) and Grand taxis tend to do longer journeys and will do car shares to places too; they’ll wait until the car is full and then drive to one common destination. A great option if you’re going to a more remote spot which doesn’t have a major bus route. It’s also possible to flag down taxis that have a current passenger, as often the driver will pick you up, complete that original journey and then take you.
Dirhams are the main currency in Morocco and you can only get hold of them once you’re there. They typically operate at a 10 MAD : 1€ exchange rate which makes it easy for brits to work things out too given the strength of the pound 🙄. You might find some Moroccans will want to charge you in Euros but that’s mostly likely because they’ll get more dirhams when they exchange it themselves – you can always pay in dirhams.
The cost of living is a lot lower so some examples of food prices include 45 MAD for a nice burger but just 25 MAD for a chicken skewer with rice and chips! Some cakes are just 1 – 10 MAD, but imported items are a lot more, I paid 25 MAD for a large tub of Pringles at the bus station one day – OUTRAGEOUS!
(this section is likely to be graphic hahah)
Having met fellow travellers during my trip who had visited different places across the country, there was varying experiences of “moroccan belly”, which can manifest itself most likely with a sore tummy and a variety of shit situations. In Taghazout where I surfed, I’ll pre-warn you, it’s a hot spot for getting ill, no-one seems to be able to pin it down exactly; sea water, food, general bacteria – the chances are relatively high. DO NOT let this put you off, I’ve met many who avoided the lurgy , so it’s all very personal in terms of what you do, eat and your own body. Avoid tap water for sure, and carry your fave medication with you just in case.
Moroccans are really friendly and I’ve met a lot of awesome people during my time there. Strangers will often introduce themselves to you in the street, which is sometimes really handy as they’re great at giving local advice. The non touristy hammam I visited was through a recommendation from a guy in a restaurant just around the corner – myself and Filip just popped in there and asked about it. You might find that some locals will take it upon themselves to guide you to places, if you accept then they usually expect a tip afterwards, a couple of a dirham will do, but you’re also welcome to politely decline the guided tour too.
You’ll find a range of Moroccan gifts in every city or town you visit. Bargaining is part and parcel of Moroccan, during my time in Tangier I sat cross legged with a Berbere man bargaining over a pile of things I wanted to buy, got him down a lot with some clear boundaries of my price.
Food & Drink
Moroccan food has taken influence from all the cultural interactions they’ve had over the years, Berber, Arabic, Andalusian and Mediterranean. There’s a whole host of spices that are used in their dishes, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, saffron, turmeric and the famous Moroccan spice mix “ras el hanout” which translates as “head of the shop”, combines 27 different spices! Typical dishes include cous cous, tagine, pastelle (which is like pastry with meat and fruit inside), aubergine salad and a lot of bread. Lamb, beef, chicken and fish are commonly used in these dishes. Other favourite things of mine was a “rghaif”, a pancake served savoury or sweet (my fave was with goats cheese and sometimes honey too), also a cake called “Milokha” which I had a few times, one day in Tangier I had two for breakfast (I fully admit I felt a bit sick after haha they’re so sweet and I can’t handle too much sugar).
The most common drink is mint tea, which is served with a heavy addition of sugar (I literally had to stop people spooning it in there for fear of my teeth falling out), the pouring of the tea is done though a long spout, and it poured from a considerable height to ensure foam or bubbles in their cup. Orange juice is also easily found and very cheap – beats the pricey freshly squeezed juices here in the UK. As (according to my online research), over 90% of Moroccans are Muslim, alcohol isn’t easily come by in day to day life. There are bars and booze shops in the newer areas of major cities, and usually found in more upmarket hotels, however places like Taghazout for example are ‘dry’. It’s honestly a great place to visit if you’re looking for a bit of booze detox, you’ll likely just up your sugar intake by replacing an even beer with sugary mint tea haha.
The main languages in Morocco are Arabic (both Moroccan and Hassaniya Arabic), Berbere and then depending which part of the country you’re in, French and Spanish. Was so fascinating the more I travelled hearing the different languages. In Taghazout as it’s pretty international and touristy, most people speak English, but as soon as you hit the cities people speak to tourists in French as a priority and some English. In Chefchaouen I had a confused French and Spanish interaction with a man whilst I tried to get more data for my SIM card and by the time I got as far north as Tangier, Spanish was prevalent everywhere!
Orange often give our SIM cards for free at the airport, which you can top up with data which is so cheap. I found this SO helpful for using google maps etc whilst I was out and about, and just feeling a bit more connected when I was alone. You can expect to pay 10 MAD (1€) for 1GB of data and 4G is prevalent across the country – I even used my data on a long bus journey one time which went all through the countryside, with MUCH less disruption than a train or car journey in the UK!
Internet is readily available at hostels, hotels and restaurants throughout Morocco so you’ll feel well connected. Can’t speak for the desert but I can imagine it’s not quite so accessible as the rest of the country haha, I could be wrong though!
As ever, when you’re travelling alone you’ve got to be mindful of your safety. Your average city advice would say, “don’t go down dark alleys alone”, but once you’re 15 alleys deep inside a Medina this advice is totally impractical in Morocco. Of course be aware of your surroundings, the people around you etc etc.
As a solo FEMALE traveller, here’s some special travel tips as you’ll likely have a slightly different experience to guys as some Moroccan men are intrigued by international ladies. Be vigilant when sharing information with new people you meet (I mean this is just general travel advice really isn’t it); I had a friendly waiter “come and find me on a hill at sunset. I’m totally sure he was harmless and there were a lot of other people around, but it got me thinking about what I had said to him in passing over lunch which had inspired his trip to “find me”. I politely declined his offer to spend more time together and headed back to my hostel with two other traveller friends.
Hopefully these Morocco travel tips give you a handy insight into life as a solo visitor to Morocco. There’s lots of tour companies that do trips, surf camps along the coast and all the locals are more than happy to give you travel tips themselves along the way, plus here’s the online Government travel adviceand a handy google guide I found.
Have you been to Morocco? Would you visit?