Solo Female Travel in Morocco (2016)
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Hey guys, my name is Tessa. I made it back.
I spent a whole week in as a solo female traveler in Morocco.
Three cities and a desert trip. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and not nearly as scary as people seem to think it is.
It was, however, a major culture shock, even intimidating at times. I neglected to do as much research as I should have before leaving. If you are interested in solo female travel in Morocco, I’m here so you don’t repeat my mistakes.
Here’s the sexy overview of my trip.
Solo Female Travel in Morocco – What I did
I managed to fit in three cities: Marrakech, Fes, and Tangier, along with a mini Sahara adventure in between. Marrakech was by far the most touristy of the three, Fes felt the most authentic (straight up Arabian Nights), and Tangier the most expensive (due to high taxi prices from the airport and me accidentally splurging on a 200 Moroccan dirham [$20 USD] per night hotel).
While the cities were amazing, I highly recommend budgeting in a Sahara adventure, whether it’s a day trip or traveling between cities. The landscape is absolutely stunning (photographers paradise), and it provided me a much-needed break from medina life.
What to Wear
I’m sure we’ve all read this somewhere, but be respectful with your clothing. Some of the cities are more used to tourists, and you will see female travelers with their shoulders or knees uncovered, but a little modesty goes a long way.
Not only are you being more respectful of the culture you’re visiting, but having yourself covered can stave off a bit of the extra attention you’re getting.
Travelers are easy for locals to spot, but if you want to blend in a little more, don’t have a bright streak of green in your hair like I do – merchants and promoters will remember you.
I did Morocco on 468 dirham ($46 USD) a day.
Let me explain. Traveling in Morocco is not normally $46/day, but I opted for a 3 day road trip from Fes to Marrakech, which included a large detour into the Sahara desert (book this kind of trip through your hostel to be safe). That adventure totaled 1900 dirham ($193 USD) and included all breakfasts and dinners, gas, pay for the driver and guides, and the camel rides.
The grand total for my week in Morocco was 3276 dirham ($330 USD).
Without that excursion, I spent a total of 1352 dirham ($136 USD) over 5 days, or 270 dirham ($27 USD) per day.
Fes cost me 146 dirham ($15 USD) per day, Marrakech 126 dirham ($13 USD) per day, and Tangier ran me 425 dirham ($43 USD) for one day.
The bulk of my money was spent on lodging, and most of the rest on food. Visiting mosques and museums aren’t very costly (I spent 10 dirham to visit the Bahia Palace in Marrakech), but there’s so much to see in the medina that you will likely be more than satisfied simply wandering around.
Traveling between cities in Morocco can be very cheap. A 7-hour train from Tangier to Fes is only 111 dirham ($11 USD).
Trains and buses to Marrakech cost about the same, around 148 dirham ($15 USD) for a 7.5 hour or 9.5 hour trip, respectively. These routes take you past Meknes, Rabat, and Casablanca, so if you have time you should plan to stop over in those cities for a day or two.
Except for getting to and from airports or train/bus stations, there’s no need to use any public transportation within the cities. I spent a grand total of 200 dirham on taxis, 150 of that on the taxi from Tangier airport. And if you do take a train, be careful of the Morocco Train Scam (more on this later).
Medina Survival 101
As defined by Wikipedia, a medina is a narrow, walled, distinct section of many North African cities. That, and they are absolute insanity.
Breakfasts were included at all my hostels and hotel. Standard fare – bread, jam, maybe some fruit. Except the hotel in Tangier – there I got a full breakfast of OJ, coffee, a hard-boiled egg, rice and herb soup, a cornmeal muffin, honey, and a chocolate-filled croissant. So maybe worth the 200 dirham.
I didn’t buy groceries at all since it was so cheap to eat at food stalls. Plus, whatever you order they will give you a decent amount of bread as well. (I’ve read about a scam where places charge you for bread even though it appears complimentary, but I never had to pay more than the posted price.) Per usual, if you’re traveling for a long period of time, definitely take advantage of your hostel’s kitchen.
I ate best on the Sahara trek, sharing huge tagines of couscous, vegetables, and chicken while sipping on overly sweet mint tea. I got decently-sized meals in Fes for 20 dirham, usually a lamb kofta sandwich with fries, or a soup with lots of bread.
I splurged a little in Marrakech, going for 15 dirham fresh-squeezed orange juice at Cafe des Epices, which is supposed to be crazy good. I found out later it costs 5 dirham for the same at stalls in the main square, which means I missed out on thrice the Vitamin C for the amount I paid. Thrice!
The night market at Jemaa el-Fnaa was vibrant and smelled amazing, jam-packed with food stalls. Portions are small but cheap, and of course come with bread – I got a Moroccan salad and sauteed aubergine for 15 dirham.
The medina is a world unto itself. It seems like everyone in the city is there – merchants haggling with tourists and locals alike, bicycles and motorbikes making their way through narrow corridors packed with people, worshippers making their way to the nearest mosque.
As someone who likes to wander around by myself, half-lost and just wanting to take in everything and see where every road goes, the hustle and bustle was a lot to get used to. It was absolutely impossible to walk around any city or medina without being hassled by somebody.
Everyone (well, every male) wants to sell to you, or get you to see the tannery, or tell you if you’re going “the wrong way” (usually they’re trying to redirect you to their business). Men will attempt to be your guide around the medina – it’s always very friendly, but they are definitely looking to be tipped for their troubles.
They are very persistent, so you need to be very firm if you don’t want them guiding you. And if you do take up someone’s offer, be sure to have small bills on you to pay them. About 20 dirham ($2 USD) is good, but they are not afraid to argue with you for more.
When you stop to look at shops, the merchants always go for the hard sell. If you’re a lone female, it’s very difficult to get them to let up. When I walked around with a guy from my hostel, the attention almost disappeared. But if you get a group of girls together with one guy, I guarantee that at least one Moroccan man will ask that guy if he can have one of us.
If you do want to make some purchases, know that a merchant will never sell to you if they’re not making a profit off of the sale, but you can start off with a much lower price than you think. Like around a quarter of what they are asking. I bought a necklace and a pair of earrings for 460 dirham ($46 USD) when his asking price was 2200 dirham ($225 USD)!
One thing to keep in mind is that these merchants don’t make an hourly wage – everything they bring home is based off commission. So you will never get an item as low as its actual worth, but you are helping to feed a family with those extra dollars. I never would’ve spent almost $50 on jewelry back home, but that amount of money goes a lot further for a Moroccan than it does for me.
Everyone you talk to in Morocco is genuinely nice, but remember – they are after your money. Not like they’re going to rob you, but there are scams galore, and they are all much easier to pull on the lone female traveler.
I got halfway pulled into the Morocco train scam before I got clued in (although I did manage to get the better end of the deal). That’s a story in and of itself, which you can read in detail here. TL;DR Charismatic men on trains take advantage of the naivety of travelers, trying to part them with their money.
There are a handful of other scams that you will be bombarded with, like the animal trainers, the “nice guys” wanting to guide you, or the fake rugs or ceramics at astronomical prices, to name a few.
Solo female travel in Morocco advice: be very, very firm when trying to brush scammers off. More than you think is appropriate. Otherwise you may end up with an unwanted henna design on your arm and the artist telling you to “f%#k your mother” when you don’t pay her.
My design turned out to be made with low-quality henna and disappeared overnight, so don’t feel bad for not giving her the 300 dirham she demands.
Despite how uncomfortable and draining it is to be constantly bombarded by merchants and street performers and random passers-by, I never felt physically in danger. I did have sexual comments made toward me a handful of times, but those are easy to shut down or ignore. Most of the time they’ll be in Arabic, Berber, or French, so you probably won’t even understand them.
I also had a group of young boys follow me around singing, which was annoying, and another try to throw things at me that were on fire, which was a little more annoying.
I love food. NomadsNation loves food. Let’s talk food.
The food in Morocco is hands down some of the best food I have ever eaten. There are farms everywhere in Morocco, so produce is super fresh, and the spices they use for their lamb and beef are absolutely delicious. And I never thought bread could be so good.
Finding cheap accommodation is super easy, but don’t rely on the guidebooks.
I spent 200 dirham on one night at Hotel Medina in Tangier when my book said it was 80 dirham. Turns out they’d updated the hotel since then and jacked their prices. I had no way of finding another hostel without wifi, and I wasn’t keen on wandering around by myself, so I stayed there for one night.
Outside of that, 3 days/2 nights in Fes cost me 98 dirham, and the same cost me 173 dirham in Marrakech.
And that pesky train scam again – don’t let someone convince you that your hostel is in a bad area. If you search online and find a place that has good reviews and it looks central, you’re fine.
Solo female travel in Morocco is safe and amazing. As crazy as it can seem, don’t let that deter you from seeing a wildly different side of life than you’re used to. Getting this far out of my comfort zone was definitely stressful at times, but it gave me a great appreciation for Middle Eastern culture and a wider perspective on my own life.