Original post written for The Urban Escapist
Morocco, the land of hand-poured mint tea, tasty tagines, beautiful architecture, the famed Sahara Desert and of course, the home that inspired the 1942 classic — Casablanca.
In Morocco, you will have the opportunity to take in the stunning views and learn more about the lives of the locals and their ways of life.
My first visit to Morocco was back in 2017. After spending some time in Paris, I wanted a change of scenery. I had always admired Moroccan architecture and was intrigued by a way of life I had never known.
So with an open heart and open mind, I booked the cheapest plane ticket out of Paris, which led me to Tangier, a city known for being an important port and trade centre of goods coming in and out of the country. Tangier sits on the Strait of Gibraltar with Spain as their neighbour to the North.
Morocco is definitely a safe country to visit as a solo female traveller, but like everywhere else in the world, conflict can be avoided when you do your research, use common sense and act according to the host country’s cultural and legal laws. It’s also important to remember to be respectful because after all, you are a visitor to the country.
Morocco was indeed the highlight of my travels despite the few hiccups, some of which could have been avoided entirely.
With that said, I thought I’d share some travel tips on exploring Morocco as a solo female traveller in Morocco. Hopefully, you can learn from some of my mistakes and find these travel tips helpful!
Here are 14 helpful travel tips at your disposal
1. Do Your Research
This one is pretty straightforward. Do the dang research!
Watch videos read about other traveller’s experiences, read travel books or blogs. Try to get a good sense of the culture and norms before you arrive. I did not do this and boy, was I regretting it on my very first day in Tangier, which unfortunately did not involve a lot of exploring.
So let’s start with a few things that hit me in the face when I first stepped foot in Tangier as a solo female traveller.
2. Be Prepared to Adapt
Your attitude and how you choose to react to situations will greatly affect how you accept new experiences and will set the tone of your trip.
Sometimes all it takes is a little mindset shift to put aside what you’re comfortable with to fully experience a new culture that is very different than your own.
Remember, you are just visiting and please keep in mind that each country has its own set of cultural norms. So, instead of “othering” a culture, use these differences to guide your curiosity so you can better understand the culture, even if you don’t agree with some aspects of it.
3. Cultural Norms & Gender Norms
Yes my friends, in Morocco there is an extremely obvious divide between men and women. You’ll notice that as you walk the streets and enter into cafes, you will find that these spaces will be dominated by men.
In some parts of the country, you’ll seldom see a woman out and about by herself and when you do, she’s most likely accompanied by another dude, however, as I understand, it might not be the case in bigger cities where I hear it’s a little more relaxed.
4. Know How to Dress
Don’t be an idiot like me and not do research on the dress code.
On my very first day in Tangier, I had only made it a few blocks out of the hotel where I realized that I had made the mistake of wearing a sleeveless knee-length dress (it was hot… it was the summertime…and it was a big mistake)
After getting harassed by men both young and old, I hurried back to the hotel and changed into a t-shirt (it was all I had) and jeans and went back out into the sweltering summer heat to experience yet again harassment (this time, it was probably because I was a solo female walking alone), but to a lesser degree.
So anyway, the lesson here is:
Just because you’re okay with wearing summer dresses, tank tops and shorts doesn’t mean that it’s going to fly in countries like Morocco. Although the dress code may be a little more relaxed for visitors, women in Morocco do follow more of a conservative dress code and tend to cover their arms and legs, even during the heatwaves.
Out of respect, try to adhere to the country’s dress code even during the hot summer months. Consider packing lighter and more breathable fabrics such as linen, cotton and any other lightweight blends.
I can’t guarantee that it’ll eliminate all the funny stares from locals, but it’ll definitely help!
5. Bikinis are O.K
So you probably get the gist that Morocco is a pretty conservative country.
However, in modern cities like Rabat and Agadir, you’ll see younger women at the beach with bikinis. My best piece of advice is to proceed with caution and use your best judgement.
My friends, I hate to break this to you but it’s probably best to leave your spring break micro-bikinis at home and opt for a regular bikini or a one-piece.
While there is nothing wrong with wearing a bikini at the beach, do know that you will get a lot more attention than if you were wearing a one-piece. There is absolutely no problem with sporting a bikini at a private pool or beach and whatever you do, don’t sunbathe topless.
6. Learn the Language(s)
Morocco’s culture is so rich and you’ll learn that it’s normal for most locals to speak more than one language.
While Moroccan Arabic is the spoken native vernacular, you can also expect to hear Berber, French and Spanish thrown in the mix.
As any good visitor, don’t be ignorant and just speak English; try to learn a few new words, even if you’re not great at it, the effort will speak volumes to locals.
7. Visiting During Ramadan
In Morocco, Ramadan is celebrated on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the holiest month; observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. Fasting begins from sunrise to sunset every day for a month as Muslims devote themselves to salat (prayer) and recitation of the Quran.
Ramadan presents a few challenges to tourists but it doesn’t mean all is lost, It can provide for an amazing learning and cultural experience that is different to replicate elsewhere. When planning a trip during Ramadan, do your research and take into account that some places may be closed for the month.
8. Tap Water Safety & Food Sensitivities
Moroccan cuisine is truly amazing and if you’re like me and love exploring foods beyond the tagine, make sure to pack some remedies for any chances of an upset stomach.
Depending on how sensitive your stomach is, take note of the tap water and how you use it and drink only if you think it’s safe to do so.
9. Finding Safe Accommodation
Whether if it’s an Airbnb, hotel, hostel or an authentic riad, make sure to read the reviews and take note of the surroundings of your accommodation. Ultimately what you choose is up to you and your comfort level.
In Tangier, I had a pleasant stay at the Kenzi Solazur Tanger Hotel right by the beach.
In Chefchaoen, I stayed at this amazing Airbnb conveniently located right in the heart of the town
During my stay at Chefchaoen, I met a solo female backpacker who was Couchsurfing and had to end her stay prematurely due to some tension between her and her host. In the case of my friend, always trust your gut, when something isn’t feeling right especially with Couchsurfing as there are far fewer rules and boundaries protecting you or the host.
It’s always better to save yourself the headache and prevent any potential conflicts in those situations.
If you’re aware of an unpleasant issue that a fellow traveller is facing, try to offer help (without jeopardizing your safety). Sometimes solo travelling can have its pitfalls and it’s our social responsibility to keep each other safe when we see someone else in a tough situation.
10. The Thing About Moroccan Men
As a solo female traveller, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. As a solo Asian female traveller such as myself, I stuck out even more.
Be prepared to have men flock at your feet who will profess “their deepest love”, ask for your hand in marriage or catcall you.
Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things that will happen regardless of how much you prepare yourself. As a solo female traveller wandering the streets, you’re going to stick out no matter what.
As I mentioned earlier, the streets and cafes are the man’s domain and most of my interactions out in the streets were with men. Although I was hoping to meet more female friends in Morocco, it was really hard to do so because of this.
If you receive unwanted attention, it’s best to keep walking and ignore it.
If you receive wanted attention, be on the lookout for the smooth talkers who talk a lot and seem a lot more persistent than they should be.
Since the cultural norm of communication between men and women in Morocco is limited and even more so in public, it’s normal that most men will give you space out of respect. Of course, not all chatty men are bad, I ended up befriending a few cool dudes on my trip so just trust your gut and be aware of those that might have different motives.
11. Be Aware of Scams
Do your Google search and try to take note of the common scams that occur in the area you’re visiting. A few common scams in Morocco include
The unofficial tour guide scam
If you’re travelling to a country that’s difficult to navigate and you fear getting lost within the winding medina roads, booking a tour guide can instantly change the tune of your trip. When choosing a guide, make sure that they have a license to practice, if you choose to hire an unofficial guide, you run the risk of receiving a subpar experience, getting ripped off, and penalties from the tourist police.
The Moroccan tea party
Store owners would invite you into their store to “just look” and enjoy a cup of mint tea. It isn’t really a scam as it is a strategy that preys on a westerner’s sense of obligation to pay.
Kif in the Rif
If you’re Canadian like me you’ll understand that marijuana use is normalized here in Canada and although it may seem harmless to us, other countries might not share the same sentiment.
Moroccan authorities are hard on drugs and you run the chance of being a target whether your dealer is an undercover officer or your dealer gets paid for the tip-off. So be warned! Your chances of running into a dealer are higher when you visit cities like Chefchaouen (the blue city) given the numerous cannabis plantations in the region.
12. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate Prices
Remember the Moroccan tea scam from above?
Well, I fell victim to that and got suckered into a rug shop in Chefchaoen.
The store owner and I ended up negotiating for a while and I haggled quite a bit and got him to reduce his prices down to almost a fifth of his initial asking price!
So don’t be afraid to get in there and haggle, it sucks but it’s a common practice to jack up the prices for tourists.
13. Know Your Rights
Another thing I found super helpful was going through the advice from my home government’s website to get a gist of where our two countries stand with each other.
Should anything go wrong, it’d be handy to know where you can seek help and what kind of help your country can offer.
Check the following websites and read your government recommendations:
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs
- Canadian Consular Services Bureau
- Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- US State Department
14. Trust Your Gut
If you took a shot every time I said “trust your gut” in this post, I’m sure you would be inebriated right now.
But to further establish on this point, as a solo traveller, most of your decision-making is going to rely a lot on our gut feelings and it may save you from dangerous decisions that you may not have seen coming.
SO. Have confidence in yourself when travelling alone, don’t be afraid to have fun and try new experiences but always listen to your gut when you feel that things might go awry.
Other General Travel Tips to take into Consideration
- Leave Valuables at your accommodations, don’t take all your cash with you
- Don’t wander at night alone
- Consider getting traveller’s insurance before you leave. It doesn’t hurt to check your Visa Card/MasterCard providers, any extended employee travel benefit or purchasing additional coverage from an insurance provider.