Morocco is really a pretty safe place for a woman on her own, as well as being a fairly easy place to get around. The buses between cities (supratours and ctm) are a darn-sight better than anything you’d find in the UK, the people in hotels and riads are really helpful and full of advice on where to go and what to do, and it can be really easy to meet other travellers, particularly if you book on a tour or stay in one of the hostels/budget riads (I loved Riad Fantasia in Marrakech and the 3 day group desert tour was brilliant for meeting people).
However, let’s not kid ourselves. There is sadly a bit of a stereotype about Western women which does not do us any favours when it comes to travelling in North Africa and the Middle East. You are female, on holiday, and therefore some men will think it is totally legitimate to persistently try their luck. Therefore, you’re likely to get some attention.
Now, when balanced against the amazing landscapes, great food and incredible value for money, having people regularly approaching you to buy stuff / chat you up might not seem like such a big deal. However, while I should probably have a thicker skin by now, there were times when I did find this attention pretty annoying. Luckily, there are a few simply steps you can take which will help to minimise the attention you get, so you can walk down a street without feeling on your guard and get on with having a wonderful time.
1) Dress like you live here
Now, I’m not saying you need to don a kaftan. To be honest you’d probably look a bit silly if you did and may actually end up getting even more attention than you bargained for. But I am saying leave the ‘holiday wardrobe’ at home. Those little summer dresses and tube tops might work wonders on the beach, but will turn you into a moving target in the medinas. Jeans / over knee skirts and long sleeved tops / shirts are your best bet; and although t-shirts are broadly ok, I noticed a significant increase in cat calls on the days I didn’t have my arms covered.
You might also want to try out a headscarf. It’s by no means obligatory and many Moroccan women don’t wear them, but it does send a signal that you’re a woman giving (and deserving of) respect, as well as being a fairly useful way of keeping the sun off your head. I got very little chat on the days I bothered wearing one.
2) If you don’t feel like laughing it off, accessorise
If you can just find it all a bit amusing, then you’re onto a winner. However, for those moments when it gets a bit much, try the following (not necessarily at the same time) : dark sun glasses, ear phones, pretending to talk on your mobile. All of these things send a signal that you’re otherwise engaged and not open to every invitation. Obviously they are not always practical – you’ll look a bit silly wearing your Ray Bans at 10pm – but all can be useful to have on hand if you feel the need to get from A to B hassle free.
3) Walk with confidence
Being confident and walking with purpose makes people think that you know the city/town well and you have somewhere to be. They can therefore deduce that perhaps you might not be in the mood to peruse ceramics. However, if you don’t know where you’re going it can also be a sure-fire way of getting lost, quickly, so use with caution.
4) Respond or not to respond
Really this one’s your call. A lot of people will say you should just ignore any advances and keep walking, which works perfectly ok, but to me it just felt a little rude and made me feel even more on guard as the calls of ‘hello, excuse me, how are you?’ followed me down the street in every language known to man.
I found it was better to simply say hello back, to keep on walking, and just say ‘maybe tomorrow’ to whatever request might be presented to me. It felt less rude and sometimes led to some mildly amusing exchanges.
And last but not least…
5) Go out at night; but stick to the well lit areas
Not so much to do with hassle this one, but really just a note to say you do not need to hole yourself up in your riad at night time just because you’re travelling alone. The main square in Marrakech was as bustling at night as in day time and I felt perfectly fine having dinner on my own in one of its restaurants/street food stalls after dark.
However, I did find it was incredibly easy to meet people in Morocco, whether from your riad or on a tour, so finding a group to go out with was never much of an issue. Plus, most riads will provide an amazing dinner for you, so you don’t need to run the gauntlet if you don’t feel like it.
Don’t listen to those people who might warn you off travelling on your own to Morocco. With a bit of preparation and decent a sense of humour, you’ll have a fine old time.
Photo Credit: DavidDennis on Flickr
10 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips for Travelling Solo in Morocco”
Great information! Really help me
Thanks Peter, pleased to hear it!
The View from Fez ( http://riadzany.blogspot.com/) likes this article and would like to post it on our site. We are the major English language site in Morocco and are syndicated on Lonely Planet and many other sites.
Please email and let us know if that is okay We would (naturally) post a link to your site.
Sandy @The View from Fez
Hi Sandy – you’re most welcome to post the article on your site; good to hear you like it.
Your post about how to travel solo in Morocco is spot on, I have traveled twice in the past 10 years all around Morocco and only had one negative experience. Overall I find if you respect the people and the culture they respect you.
My favorite city (thus far) is Essaouira, what is yours?
Wow – 2 x in 10 yrs from DC; you must love North Africa as much as I do!
Was a big fan of Essaouira – loved the artsy vibe and the beach was just brilliant.
I heard Fez was definitely worth a visit; better than Marrakech which to be honest I was relatively luke warm about. Def going back to Fez next time – have you been?
I do love Morocco, something about the country and the people make me feel at home because I have been welcomed into peoples home each time without question and treated like a local.
I could live in Essaouira or Fez easily for half of the year, in fact my husband and I are going to Essaouira next year for our belated honeymoon during the Gnaoua Music Festival, he has never been there and is a windsurfer = perfection!
Fez is definitely worth a visit or 2, the old city is the oldest in Morocco (if I remember correctly), the souk is a true maze more so than in Marrakesh.
I agree with you about Marrakech, I will not go out of my way to return, it has become too touristy and it is just not as welcoming and quaint as Fez, Agadir, Essaouira and even Tetouan.
My profile picture below was taken in Essaouira.
You are living my dream of traveling all over, and I assume most is for work? Enjoy!
Nicole that is awesome – I can’t imagine a better time to be in Essaouira than for that music festival, it is definitely on my hit list! And your husband is a windsurfer? He is going to be right at home, you guys are going to have such an incredible time!
If you haven’t sorted accommodation yet, I’d definitely recommend the Les Maison Bleu – a really beautiful riad building but with an artsy/beachy feel about it – best place I stayed in my whole trip.
As for whether I travel with work or for play, it is usually the latter! Every time I get a week or two free I try to head off to somewhere new. Having said that, from your comments, it sounds like I’m going to have to go back to Morocco to see Fez after all 🙂
Nice post. In fact, I really like the idea behind your whole blog 🙂
I went to Morocco with another female friend and while we did get hassled a bit, it was nothing we couldn’t handle. I agree it’s best to acknowledge the people who bother you and then to walk away like you’re late for something. I’ve actually met other women who decided not to go because they thought they needed to be in a big tour group for safety! Such a shame.
Thanks so much for commenting Beyo; pleased you like the blog 🙂
It makes me a bit sad when people start avoiding certain countries because of this kind of thing. I’m not saying it didn’t get my back up; it did. But there’s always a way to handle it. You’re right; the ‘Sorry I’m on my way to…’ response is a winner 😉