Morocco has become an increasingly popular destination among tourists from around the world. The monkey and snake charmers at the Jemaa el-Fna square, henna tattooists, the sprawling souks filled with small treasures from ancient times… Here is our ultimate backpacking guide to exploring this North African country.
The scene in Morocco for backpackers is broad and relaxed. You will most certainly see backpackers in cities like Marrakesh, Essaouira, Taghazout and Tangier, most usually in small, cozy cafés pouring over a map or city guide. If you’re visiting English-speaking places, you’ll definitely meet lots of other travelers and backpackers, most of them excited to meet other people visiting the country.
You will find the most buzzing nightlife in Casablanca, the biggest city of the Kingdom, though it is one of the more expensive cities. Going out in Morocco can be quite pricey if you want to drink alcohol in a bar or nightclub, with prices going up to $10 for a single shot.
Practice your language skills
Moroccans speak a variety of languages, from French and Spanish to English, German and sometimes even Russian! This is the perfect opportunity to practice your foreign language skills, whether to greet your B&B hosts or to order a cup of coffee.
Buy as many souvenirs as you can
Souvenirs are a great way to remember a special trip, and they make ideal gifts for loved ones. Morocco is full of souks and markets, where you’ll find an abundance of goodies, from local products, foods and spices to handmade crafts, clothes, rugs, shoes, cosmetics and more.
Haggle like a local
Haggling is a common phenomenon in the bustling souks, but don’t be afraid to haggle in regular stores too, as most shops will try and get as much money from you as they can.
Safety in Morocco is a much-discussed topic, as up until a few of years ago street robberies were a common occurrence. However, the number of these petty crimes has been decreasing and most people will be warm and welcoming. Women traveling alone should definitely be more cautious and alert, as you will encounter cases of street harassment. Of course, as in every country, you should let your host or party know of your whereabouts. In fact, Marrakesh just enforced extra street security measures for travelers, to discourage beggars and petty thieves.
You will have no problem finding a variety of restaurants and cafés that serve delicious traditional dishes, like couscous or tajine, but you will also find street food and your usual fast food joints. There are also amazing vegetarian restaurants that serve healthy and tasty Mediterranean plates, and cool spots where you can have lunch for under $3.
Regarding accommodation, there are many riads all over Morocco that are cheap, cozy, and located in the heart of the medina. There is nothing like experiencing a medina for a couple of days—relaxing in the calm garden after strolling the narrow, crowded streets, or enjoying a plate of delicious prawns from the local food stalls.
One of the best ways to make friends is to socialize in public places. In Morocco, people hang out in bars, cafés and parks, and activities such as yoga classes, surfing or cycling help bring people together. To impress your future Moroccan friends, learn some basic phrases to show them you’re interested in their culture and country.
In Morocco, they use Moroccan Dirhams (MAD), which is quite a controlled currency as it can’t easily leave the country. Staying in Morocco can be very cheap for visitors coming from Europe or the US, as US $1 is equal to MAD 9.1, which can buy you a couple of things in the Kingdom.
Morocco has a number of accommodation options, from luxury riads to cheap hotels. One night at a backpacker hostel will cost you around US $15-35, depending on which city you’re stayin in. It’s easy to find cheap and cheerful food, with a meal including one beer rounding up to US $3-6.
Navigating the inner-city transport system is cheap (US $0.5-2) but you could also opt for going off the grid or exploring the Atlas Mountains. Whether in the city or not, you can enjoy affordable local experiences for US $1-5, and explore museums, relax at a hammam or drink mint tea like a local.
Any hygiene or medical essentials you may need, like bug repellent, suntan lotion, painkillers, shampoo or other toiletries, won’t break the bank either, costing about US $2-5.
The Chouara Tannery: Located in the heart of the medina of Fez, these tanneries are the oldest in the world—dating back to the 11th century—and are still intact and working. However, don’t forget that the smell can get quite foul!
Aït Benhaddou: This is a fortified, mud-brick village located near Ouarzazate. The sight is absolutely mesmerizing, transporting you back to ancient times. It’s so realistic, it’s been featured in the TV show Game of Thrones and the movie Gladiator.
Jemaa el-Fna: The most popular square in Morocco, located in Marrakesh. This is the perfect place to spend your morning, taking photos with snakes and monkeys, and buying souvenirs from the small souk shops. Don’t forget to grab a sweet, natural juice from one of the many stalls on the square.
Le Jardin Majorelle: If you’re an Yves Saint Laurent fan or love gardens, this place is for you! At one time, the Jardin Majorelle were designer Yves Saint Laurent‘s house garden, which was turned into a memorial ground, filled with a variety of rare plants, fish ponds, a museum and a souvenir boutique.
Cap Spartel: Cap Spartel is the exact point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, and it is located in Tangier. This is one of the most beautiful places in Morocco, and certainly unforgettable.
Camel trekking in the Sahara Desert: This will be one of the most memorable journeys in your life. Not only will you feel like you’re in a movie, but you’ll meet amazing people along the way. The sun and heat of the day contrast with the cool, starry nights, making for a sensational experience.
Hot air balloon over Marrakesh: Marrakesh is extremely picturesque when explored on foot, but seeing it from up high is a whole other story. Going on a hot air balloon flight will give you another point of view of the city and the surrounding mountains and villages.
Discover the Ouzoud Falls: The Ouzoud Falls are located near Beni Mellal, in the most exotic and picturesque setting. These beautiful waterfalls get rather crowded in the summer, but are just as refreshing a sight in spring.