As a solo female traveler, I was excited to explore the culture and diversity of Morocco. I’ve been intrigued by this country and its mystic beauty ever since I saw my first photo of the Marrakech Medina.
The scene was unlike anything I’d encountered before: vibrant colors, fabrics with mesmerizing patterns, and spiced couscous in bright clay pots. It was another world and I was enchanted by its exotic intrigue.
I’m guessing you can relate. Honestly, it’s hard not to be sucked in by the allure of Morocco. From fascinating historical sites to windy beaches and beautiful riads, this country has so much to offer the curious traveler!
I want to tell you upfront that I think Morocco is a beautiful country, and a place worthy of our curiosity and exploration. However, when doing my research, I came across many posts that were positive, upbeat, and nonchalant.
I left for my solo trip to Morocco feeling ready, confident, and prepared. But what I encountered during my visit was far from what I expected.
It wasn’t so much what I encountered, but how I felt while I was there. I may have been prepared for the trip in an academic sense, but I was not prepared for the emotional reality I faced.
That’s why I want to share my personal experience with solo female travel in Morocco. This post will help you decide whether or not solo travel to Morocco is right for you.
Here is a detailed look at the emotional difficulty you may face as a solo female traveler in Morocco.
Do I Recommend Solo Female Travel to Morocco?
In short, no, I don’t recommend solo female travel to Morocco. While I wasn’t concerned for my safety, I ultimately felt that the added challenges of traveling alone detracted from the joy of discovering this fascinating country.
All in all, I wish that I’d had a female friend to process things with. Experiencing culture shock on my own was not easy. Read on for an explanation of what I encountered and what I would do differently knowing what I know now.
My Solo Female Travel Experience
I consider myself a solo travel expert. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have things to learn. My solo trip to Morocco taught me that I’ve still got plenty of room to grow.
I’m not typically a cautious or fearful person. I have friends who worry about my solo adventures and family members convinced that a trip to a Mexican resort town will be the end of their life. My response? Eye roll into infinity.
The way I see safety in other countries is: there are millions of people going about their everyday lives in these countries some Westerners fear. Just because their way of life doesn’t look like ours or there are different things to watch out for, most places are no more dangerous than the States. (I mean, hello, gun violence.) As long as you’re aware of the dangerous parts of a city and steer clear, you’ll be fine. An open mind can go a long way!
I say this so that you know that my opinion is that of an experienced solo traveler. While others may have had vastly different experiences, I’m here to tell you mine.
The Challenges of Solo Female Travel in Morocco
The reality of solo female travel in Morocco is that there is great potential for you to be uncomfortable when out in public. Unwanted attention from local men is a big reason for this. From what I understand, it’s a real problem for Moroccan women as well.
Sexual harassment is a real possibility. I was constantly aware of male eyes on me, even though I’d made sure to dress conservatively. I had to ignore plenty of comments as I simply tried to sightsee. Most of them were harmless, flattering, even. I could understand their curiosity towards a foreigner. I was curious about them as well.
A number of times, a man walking beside me would strike up a seemingly friendly conversation. Hello, how are you, where are you from? I would smile and respond. It never took long for them to ask if I was married.
Suddenly, I saw the movie Borat in a whole new light. “You have husband?” was something I heard multiple times a day, throughout my whole trip. And it never stopped being weird. Eventually, it also became funny, but it never stopped being weird.
The Media & Minorities
It was my first time visiting a Muslim country and an African country, and even though Morocco is generally a safe country, I just wasn’t prepared for how out of my comfort zone I’d be pushed.
A sad reality I had to grapple with was the effects of American media and ingrained prejudice. Despite my open-mindedness and best intentions, scenes from shows set in the Middle East like Homeland would pop into my mind when I found myself feeling a bit uncomfortable.
This came as a surprise to me. I hesitate to share this side of my story, because I don’t intend to be prejudiced towards any groups for any reason, racial or religious. However, it was part of the reality I encountered in Morocco, and it has pushed me to be more cognizant of the media I consume and the bias I may not notice on an everyday basis.
While I’ve certainly considered and empathized with minority experiences, I didn’t have much firsthand experience actually being the minority until my trip to Morocco. This allowed me to empathize on a deeper level and reflect on the way I share my own travel experiences.
I hope to grow this blog post or include separate posts that shed light on other experiences of Morocco. I hope to provide inclusive resources for all destinations to better serve the wider travel community.
Resources for managing bias:
Navigating the Medinas alone
When you’re visiting Morocco, the Medinas are where you’ll spend most of your time. Filled with gorgeous textiles, exotic silver teapots, and stores brimming with dazzling hanging pendants, it’s a serious feast for the senses, but overstimulation can happen quickly.
Even when uncovered, the Medina streets are narrow and compact, with towering walls all around you. In one moment, it was a breathtaking visual spectacle captivating me, and the next, a suffocating maze I was desperate to escape.
The Marrakech Medina
The Marrakech Medina is by far the most stressful in all of Morocco.
Here, motorbikes, cars, and pedestrians share much of the same space. You’ll be baffled by drivers trying to push their way through the crowds and street performers at Jemaa El-Fnaa Square. You may have to press yourself against one of the tall medina walls to let a car squeeze past. You’ll be on alert at all times, listening for the hum of a motorbike engine as it approaches, zipping around a corner or making a sharp turn.
Your taxi may halt abruptly as you stop to let unworried Moroccans cross busy streets, nonplussed by a steady stream of traffic. Marrakech can give New York City a run for its money.
If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know that 2 – 3 day is more than enough time in Marrakech. Afterward, the city starts to take a toll.
Shopping the Souks
Many of my public exchanges in the Souks were unabashedly transactional. Shopkeepers’ pushiness was almost comical, to the point where it felt more like playing an odd video game rather than conversing with another human being.
Please understand that it wasn’t like this with everyone. Overall, Moroccans are typically extremely kind-hearted and welcoming.
However, in the Souks, it’s almost as if they switch a flip becoming push and shameless salesmen. But once (or should I say if) they finally accept your refusal, they go right on back to their warm, hospitable selves.
What I came to understand is that haggling is an integral part of Moroccan culture. Shop owners are used to buyers who play hardball in order to get a good deal. The pushiness is all part of a common exchange. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who take advantage of how uncomfortable many Westerners are saying no.
Know that indicating interest or simply being friendly with shopkeepers can lead to quite persistent attention. This can be great if you really want to buy something, but if you’re just looking, stay distant.
Moroccan shopkeepers always seem to want to lead you somewhere. (Once, this actually worked out in my favor, and I discovered a marvelous hidden gem I’ll never forget.) But it’s safer to refuse or just walk away as I’ve come across a few stories where tourists are physically barred from leaving until they make a purchase.
Hiring a Local Guide for the Souks
I hired a private tour guide for my last day in Fez, thinking this would provide a little relief from the haggling and cat-calling in the old medina.
While there were definitely benefits to this approach, it ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. I spent the last hour and a half of the tour being shepherded to different co-ops where I was given a lovely demonstration before being pressured to buy various goods.
This was certainly a normal part of the tour I signed up for, with each visit tailored to my preferences. However, after a week of similar experiences, I felt immensely guilty leaving without a purchase. The shopkeepers told me how my purchase would support the local Berber family they’d bought antique cushions from. A sweet lady excitedly spread out the cloth she’d spent all day sewing, eager to show me its intricate details. Turning them down was heartbreaking.
The most difficult experience was at a three-story co-op filled with the most magnificent Moroccan rugs you’ve ever seen. After a demonstration where a talented craftswoman hand-wove a gorgeous tapestry that would take years to complete, I was offered a seat, given a warm cup of mint tea, and shown rugs of every style. The more rugs they unfurled, creating a swelling pile in front of me, the more I began to realize that the demonstration part of the visit was over.
The shopkeeper began insisting they would never pressure me to buy anything before, well, pressuring me to buy something. It was honestly one of the most perplexing exchanges I had in Morocco.
I firmly and clearly turned them down, yet they continued to retrieve and unroll rug after rug. At one point the shopkeeper sat down next to me and asked why I didn’t want to buy. Many people came to his shop without the intention to buy something, but then they found a piece that really spoke to them. Didn’t I want a souvenir from my trip? Oh, was I running out of luggage real estate? No problem. They folded up a large rug into an impressively small rectangle and showed me where they’d stitch it closed so it could fit snugly in my bag.
It went on for so long that I stopped giving any sort of polite response to his assurances there was no pressure. Finally, I realized the only way I was getting out of there was to stand up and walk out. I thanked them for their time and tried to offer 10 dirhams as a tip for the demonstration, but it was refused and I was assured they were simply providing good Moroccan hospitality.
It’s entirely possible that the fault here lies with me. Perhaps my continued presence was seen as intent to purchase rather than uncertainty on how to make a polite exit. Regardless, it was quite unpleasant.
Facing poverty in Morocco
The Morocco of Instagram and Pinterest is different from the Morocco of the real world. While the country is filled with stunning beauty unlike anything else on this planet, just out of frame sits a filthy mother and child begging for money.
Once you get closer to the sweet-looking cat across the street, you see that it’s missing an eye, a crusty white slit covering the socket where it used to be.
The sparkle filling the eyes of young servers who tells you that going to America is their dream is touching, but at the same time, heartbreaking.
My day trip to Chefchaouen left me with a sense of disappointment. Beneath the town’s beautiful blue façade, lies a truth that’s hard to swallow.
Unlike other destinations Insta-famous locations that have had to restrict tourism, Chefchaouen has actively welcomed visitors since it gained fame. As a result, locals have only ramped up the painting efforts to draw in more crowds. Despite the picturesque setting, I couldn’t shake the guilt that came with knowing I was part of the problem.
Did I come to discover the rich cultural and historical significance of Chefchaouen? Or did I come for the perfect backdrop like everyone else?
The town felt like a fabricated set and my heart ached for the locals who’d transformed their heritage into a transactional experience.
Difficulty meeting other travelers in Morocco
Though I typically meet many new people when traveling solo, Morocco was an exception. I only encountered one other solo traveler on my trip, and rarely saw other female tourists alone. found that most foreigners were more guarded here as compared to Europe and Latin America.
This newfound cultural experience, though intriguing, occasionally left me feeling isolated, and I longed for the company of others to share and navigate through it together. The limited opportunities to connect with fellow travelers in Morocco added an extra layer of challenge to my exploration.
Potential for food poisoning
Getting food poisoning when vising Morocco is a common experience. Like any foreign destination, there’s risk of consuming contaminated food or water, particularly for travelers with sensitive stomachs.
This poses an extra security risk to solo travel in Morocco. Thankfully I didn’t get sick while I was in Morocco, but if I had, I can’t say I’d have known what to do.
If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables, drinking tap water, and avoid eating street food. You should also bring medication in case things take a turn for the worse.
Travel insurance may offer some peace of mind
Try World Nomads Travel Insurance to protect against emergency medical and hospital expenses.
Common Scams in Morocco
As a solo female traveler in Morocco, it’s important to be aware of common scams and take precautions to ensure your safety. Some common scams to watch out for include:
- Faux guides: Individuals posing as official guides may approach you, offering their services and leading you to tourist attractions. They may demand excessive fees or take you to shops where they receive a commission for your purchases. It’s best to hire licensed guides or rely on recommendations from trusted sources.
- Unofficial helpers: Strangers offering unsolicited assistance, such as giving directions, finding you a cab, or carrying your bags may expect payment afterward. Politely decline their help if you’re not comfortable, or establish the terms beforehand.
- Fez Tanneries: Be on the lookout here. There are many local boys who will tell you you’re going in the wrong direction or the shops you’re headed to are closed. Don’t follow them as they’ll lead you somewhere else and try to get money from you.
What to Wear as a Solo Female Traveler in Morocco
This is a big question since the style of dress in Morocco is quite different from Western cultures. While many Moroccan natives dress according to Islam, you’ll find that each city is different. In fact, different neighborhoods within each city will be different in terms of how conservative dress may be. Check out my destination guides for specifics about Marrakech, Fez and more.
In general, women may want to dress a bit more conservatively. I felt more comfortable wearing long skirts and staying covered. As a woman and a foreigner, you will likely receive enough attention as it is.
I didn’t want to “give” anyone a reason to think I was inviting more of it. (While I do not personally believe it is a woman’s responsibility to mitigate a man’s behavior, I wanted to exercise caution while in another country.)
Maxi dresses and silk scarves will be your best friend. To be on the safe side, cover your shoulders or have a silk scarf handy in case you want to convert a tank dress. (They’re also great for keeping you cool!)
Plan the ultimate solo female travel adventure with guides to nearby areas:
Tips for Solo Female Travel Morocco
When embarking on a solo adventure in Morocco as a female traveler, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and take certain precautions. These tips will help ensure a positive and secure journey:
- Start your first day in each new city with a guided walking tour to get familiar with the area and learn which areas to avoid.
- Stick to the main tourist areas in the major cities.
- If you travel outside the bigger cities, like to the Atlas Mountains or Sahara Desert, a group tour may be your best option.
- When exploring, take toilet paper with you as public restrooms don’t keep any in supply. Sometimes there will be ladies nearby who will sell some to you for 1-2 dirhams.
- Women will likely be subjected to some catcalling by Moroccan men. The best thing to do is ignore them.
- A few times, I was warned not to tell people I was from the United States due to the fact that it would make me a target for price gauging. This applies to many other Western countries.
- Know where the closest embassy is in each location you visit.
- Register your travel with the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program in advance. You’ll also receive helpful updates should anything happen while you’re abroad.
- Be mindful of cultural sensitivities when taking photographs, especially of military or government workers and buildings, and always ask permission first.
- Consider bringing cash in Moroccan Dirham (MAD) since many smaller shops and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.
- Avoid public displays of affection, as it is not culturally appropriate in Morocco.
- While rewarding and full of adventure, Morocco can also be a challenging place for Westerners, especially women, to visit. Personally, I don’t recommend solo female travel to Morocco. Consider booking a group trip, especially if this is your first visit to an Islamic country.
- Check visa requirements before you go and make sure your passport is valid for at least six months.
PS: Did you know that the Spanish region of Andalusia is filled with some of the same Moorish architecture you’ll find in Morocco?
You have to know where to look, but if you’re interested in exploring the connection between these two regions, I highly recommend Seville solo travel where you can see La Giralda, the twin of Marrakech’s Koutoubia Tower!
Personal Experience with Solo Female Travel in Morocco
There are a few other things I want to mention just to give you an idea of some of the things you may encounter as a solo female traveler.
Navigating Airport Security
On my domestic flight from Marrakech to Fez, I succeeded in holding up a long security line. (And still have no idea exactly why.)
Though the gate agent spoke English, she never answered me when I asked what exactly the issue was.
Instead, she took apart my (very tightly) packed bags and went through my various belongings, holding up different objects to ask what they were. My steamer, my tripod, my phone stabilizer, my pack of international electrical converters.
While I was only one of a small handful of tourists, surely I couldn’t have been the first gadget-heavy American to come through.
Honestly, the most bizarre thing about it all was that I was allowed to bring a full water bottle and soda through security! I’m just glad I didn’t bring my drone, because they had a large sign asking for all drones to be declared and I don’t want to know what sort of inspection would have come with that.
Lackluster Group Tours
I’ve taken a lot of tours from different providers in a number of countries. Though I booked a few great ones, in Morocco, I found I had more disappointing experiences than I’m used to.
First, I had booked a small group day trip from Fez to Chefchaouen. I’ve taken these before. Usually, you’ll join six or so other travelers in a van where you chat with your tour guide and spend the day getting to know one another and your new location.
However, I was instead taken to a large bus filled with other tourists. About a third of the group spoke English, but many spoke only Italian or French so a translator accompanied us on the journey.
Halfway through our 3.5-hour drive, the tour guide came to my seat and told me they’d be refunding me (in cash) the price difference between the small and large group tours.
I found it odd that they didn’t offer an explanation or notify me beforehand. I heard her approach a few others and say the same thing so I knew it wasn’t underbooked. I had to wonder how often that happened.
As a solo traveler, the tour change was pretty disappointing. I book small group tours so I have a better chance of connecting with others.
On a separate day tour from Marrakech to Essaouira, we stopped at not one, but two separate tourist traps. First, an argan oil co-op that they ran like a well-oiled sales machine. Then, a stop along the highway at the “goat tree” where locals asking for money claimed that goats naturally climbed these argan trees.
While goats may occasionally climb these trees to get nuts, there was nothing natural about this spot or the number of goats in the tree. Most importantly, I saw a goat straight up fall out of the tree.
Not only did I feel bad for the goats, but I also was not thrilled that we’d wasted at least an hour in an already 3.5-hour-long journey to Essaouira.
These experiences are a good reminder to be careful about which tours you book.
Solo Female Travel Morocco FAQs
Do you have any questions that I didn’t answer? Feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
Is it safe for a female to travel to Morocco alone?
Traveling to Morocco alone as a female can be safe, but it’s important to take precautions and be aware of the local customs and potential challenges.
Like any destination, there are risks associated with solo travel, such as petty theft and harassment. However, by staying informed, respecting local norms, using common sense, and taking necessary safety measures, many women have had positive and rewarding experiences exploring Morocco alone.
It is advisable to research the specific areas you plan to visit, stay in reputable accommodations, and consider joining organized tours or hiring trusted guides for added security and support.
Is there alcohol in Morocco?
The short answer? Yes, there’s alcohol in Morocco, but only in certain places. While alcohol is generally available for tourists in certain restaurants, hotels and groceries, it’s true that not every establishment will carry liquor, beer or wine.
As the majority of Moroccans are Muslims, they are forbidden to drink by the Koran. While a few may dabble, it generally remains a taboo. Cities like Marrakech and Agadir are known for their nightlife, but elsewhere, licensed bars may not have windows to protect the privacy of their clients.
If you’re looking for a drink, many restaurants in the medina will have some. Gueliz is also a good spot. To purchase alcohol to take back to your hotel, you can purchase from the supermarket but will need to ask for help as the alcohol section is usually in a separate room. If you do pick up a 6-pack or bottle of wine, make sure to carry them in an opaque bag. Alcohol should never be shown in public and you’ll want to err on the side of caution.