Morocco features on many solo female travelers’ bucket lists, and with good reason. An intoxicating mix of ancient cultures, vibrant medinas, and tantalizing spices, Morocco is the ultimate destination for adventurous travelers.
Traveling solo through Morocco as a woman is not without it challenges, though, and many female travelers are hesitant to take on this northern African country alone. If you have been tempted by the thought of a journey into the land of tagine and desert, but aren’t sure what to expect, here are a few things you should know before you go.
1. Let’s start with the biggest issue: Men will harass you
Sadly, this is unavoidable for women traveling in Morocco. It can feel oppressive, frustrating and even threatening. But it doesn’t have to define your trip, and there are lots of things you can do to fight through it: if you need to ask for directions, or help, approach a woman first. Dress conservatively (even though it can be infuriating, not to mention hot, covering up can save you a lot of pain).
Having said this, you will still get noticed in long sleeves and jeans, so tying your hair back and investing in a good pair of sunglasses to avoid eye contact can be a good idea. Your best defense, however, will be thick skin. Most of the time it will never go past the comments and catcalls, so do your best to hold your head high, brush it off, and focus on all the wonderful things Morocco has to offer.
2. You will take a lot of cat photos
They are everywhere. Sitting in doorways, lazing in the sun, begging for scraps outside the butcher’s shop, Moroccan cats are irresistibly photographable.
3. Hash is everywhere
You will be approached over and over by dodgy looking dealers (particularly in Chefchaouen, known for its marijuana plantations), each one of them offering the ‘best price.’ While it may be easy to get hold of, and you will most likely see other tourists smoking it liberally, bear in mind that hash is illegal and a Moroccan prison is probably not somewhere you want to be. Ever. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is an essential cultural experience. The safest course of action is to steer clear of it completely.
4. You will fail at haggling
Haggling is an impossible art, where you either bid too low and offend the merchant, his grandmother, and his dog or accept a price that’s too high and get scammed. Getting a grasp on the actual price of things is difficult at best. Try asking your hostel or hotel staff to get an idea of what things should cost, and try your hand at haggling with different merchants.
Often you will see the same or similar things in different places, so you can try to gauge what vendors are charging and if things aren’t going well in one place, just move on to the next. Be firm and assertive, but don’t lose sight of reason. If you end up arguing over a couple of dollars, just give in. Remember that 10 dirhams is only small change to you, whereas it can be the cost of a meal for Moroccans.
5. You will get lost in Marrakech
The medina is a seductive medieval maze of souks, food stalls, donkeys, and street entertainers. Don’t fight it, just jump in and surround yourself with the colorful, noisy chaos that is Marrakech. Locals will be more than happy to point you in the direction of Jmenaa el Fna, the main square and UNESCO world heritage site, when you want to escape the madness. Just be wary of anyone getting too close to you with monkeys: if you ever find one on you, you will have to pay to get it off. Oh, and hide your hands from the women peddling henna: the same deal applies if they manage to draw anything on you.
6. The Sahara desert is one of the most magical places you will ever see
Whisky around a campfire, Bedouin drumming and shooting stars before dossing down in a Berber tent. All of this will happen. Along with riding camels and climbing massive dunes to watch the sunset. Even though you will probably only brush the very edge of the Sahara (three-day tours from Marrakech all follow the same formula) the sight of sand stretching out into the distance will probably be one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see.
7. You will eat nothing but tagine and couscous for your entire trip
These dishes seem exotic and exciting at first, but after one week of eating them every day, you’ll be desperate for something different. The good news is, fresh fruit and vegetables are delicious in Morocco. Oranges, strawberries, and snap peas are all sold by the truckload, and make perfect snacks.
8. Chefchaouen is possibly the most photogenic town in the world
You won’t be able to resist taking a photo of every blue door, blue street, and cat (normal-colored) you see.
9. You will see goats in trees
It’s a thing. Don’t question it, just get your camera out and go with it.
10. Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is the national language
Note down a few key words before your trip: la shukran (no thank you) and balak (get out of my way or I will run you over with whatever I happen to be pushing in front of me) will definitely come in handy.
11. You will see lots of donkeys
They are almost as cute as the cats and seem to have endless strength. You can play ‘who can spot the donkey with the most amount of stuff on its back’ during long bus rides.
12. Hostels win over hotels
Even if it means sacrificing your privacy and, most of the time, your sleep, hostels will be your best choice for women traveling alone in Morocco. A great place to meet people, hostels will allow you to team up and explore/eat/travel with others. Even just walking around with one other person will make all of the harassment more bearable.
13. Nightlife is not a thing
According to some sources, the only local women spotted in bars or clubs are prostitutes. Basically, don’t go to Morocco expecting to get drunk and party (it is a Muslim country after all). Save that for Ibiza, and embrace calm evenings on rooftop terraces during your solo trip in Morocco.
14. You can’t get hammam-ed with your clothes on
A hammam is a kind of traditional bathhouse where Moroccans go each week to bathe. While a hammam is a unique and confronting local experience for solo female travelers in Morocco, know what you are getting yourself into.
Walk into a hammam expecting a relaxing bathhouse experience and you will inevitably walk out minus your money, dignity, and several layers of skin. Unless you are comfortable baring all in a steamy room full of strangers, skip it, or simply opt for a private experience.
15. You will want to buy a house just so you can decorate it with all of the cool things you see in the markets
Ottoman covers, tagine dishes, lamps with colored glass, brightly patterned carpets, you name it, and it’ll be sitting there winking at you, daring you to wade into a haggle-war for it.
16. Morocco can be cheap
Best enjoyed when coming directly from Paris, London, or another ridiculously expensive destination, Morocco is a little budget-friendly heaven. Three-course meal for five dollars? Well ok then. If you're not on a tight budget, you can enjoy some extra luxuries and still have an affordable holiday.
20 Things Every Solo Female Traveler Should Know Before Visiting #Morocco
17. You can go surfing
Taghazout is the coolest, cheapest spot to surf anywhere this close to Europe. Tamraght, just the next village over, is great for learner surfers and is still totally undiscovered!
18. You will realize that camels are not actually cute
They are revolting, sex-addicted animals. When a male camel is horny, an organ in its throat inflates and hangs out its mouth and looks very much like balls.
19. There is no heating anywhere in Morocco, apparently
If you are going during the winter months, the weather can be pleasantly warm and sunny during the day, and absolutely freezing at night. With no heating, and often open air central courtyards, hostels can be ridiculously cold.
Annoyingly, this means you have to take enough clothes to dress for almost every kind of temperature, or else face very chilly and uncomfortable nights.
20. You will fall in love with Morocco, but probably be glad to leave
Morocco is one of the most confusing places you’ll ever visit. On one hand, it’s stunning, fascinating, exciting and cheap. On the other, it is tiring, difficult and a constant struggle to travel.
Having your guard up at all times, and dealing with men ogling you, trying to catch your attention and sometimes even openly following you, is downright exhausting. Add haggling and dodgy taxi drivers to the mix and sometimes all you want to do is get out. Hang in there, though, it’s worth it.
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Images: author's own & The Lunar Surf House