Morocco has always been a prime location for backpacking. Located in North Africa and just 4km from Europe, Morocco offers its visitors a rich and diversified tourism experience of culture and history. Morocco features 3600 km of golden beaches, diversified landscapes (oceans, mountains, valleys, and deserts), and ancient heritage easily noticed in its architecture, cities, mosques, and souqs.
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Due to the Covid19 restrictions, the current time might be a little unpredictable for travel in Morocco. If you are looking to visit Morocco during these times you have to consult your embassy or the Moroccan embassy to get more information about whether it’s safe to visit now or not and what the regulations put in place are to ensure safe travels and a great experience in Morocco.
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Important Information about Morocco
- Morocco’s religion is Islam as 99% of Moroccans are Muslims.
- The currency used in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (Dh or MAD). At the same of writing this post, 1 US Dollar is equal to 8.85Dhs. Plus, the Moroccan Dirham is a closed currency which means it’s hard to find outside Morocco.
- The common languages spoken in Morocco are French and Moroccan Arabic. Make sure to learn a few words in either of these languages. Moroccans get really happy seeing foreigners making an effort to speak their language. However, you’ll do just fine with English in tourist areas.
Why backpacking in Morocco?
Backpacking in Morocco is a unique experience that will allow you to experience mountains, beaches, and the Sahara desert in one country. Each one of these landscapes accommodates thousands of years of unique culture and customs of Morocco. In the High Atlas Mountains where a large population of Moroccan Amazighs lives, you can get close to the Berber-Moroccan identity. Meanwhile, in the Sahara desert, you can ride a camel across the dunes wearing a traditional Sahrawi outfit and drink exotic Moroccan tea.
Backpacking in Morocco can be very challenging to many tourists but as we all know, the best part of traveling is learning and overcoming the challenges we face. In this post, I will walk you through everything you need to know before going backpacking across Morocco. From the visa requirements, weather, safety, to the DO’s and DON’Ts in Morocco.
Is Morocco safe for backpacking?
Is Morocco safe to visit? Is it dangerous? These are probably some of the questions you are asked when you mention that you are traveling to Morocco. We don’t really understand where this misconception of Morocco comes from but in my experience, Morocco is one of the safest countries I’ve ever visited. Yet, Morocco can be a bit of a challenging country to foreign visitors due to the many differences in culture, language, and religion.
It is also important to note that there are many parts of Morocco where the community depends almost completely on foreign tourism for their income. Therefore, people are very careful to make sure that tourists are treated in the best way.
Be streewise when backpacking in Morocco
There have been cases of pickpocketing in Morocco. People that live in big cities around the world are probably aware of the danger of pickpockets. In Morocco, pickpocketing is usually taking place in crowded areas such as Souqs and busy streets.
Locals can be amiable and helpful when they see someone trying to steal, and in many cases, they run after the person to catch him and return whatever he stole. However, this isn’t always the case so you have to be careful if you are backpacking in Morocco.
Another thing that might be unpleasant to experience in Morocco is being overcharged in Souqs, restaurants and mostly taxis. This is also experienced in many other countries in Africa and Asia but very common in Morocco. It can be easily managed if you’re aware of it.
Our Morocco Travel Tips for a Great Backpacking Experience
Awareness at all times is important when you are in a new environment. You should always be mindful of your belongings and be aware of the people around you without being suspicious. Most people are genuine and honest but there are some who will try to take advantage of you because you are a tourist. Don’t let them.
- Avoid walking late at night in empty and narrow streets in the old Medinas. If you are traveling at night stay with a group or stay around big and lighted streets.
- Be vigilant in busy areas. be extra careful in places such as Souqs and busy cities, public transport, and do not keep your money or phone in easily accessed places like in a backpack or your back pocket to avoid being pickpocketed.
- Be careful with taxi drivers. If it is a white Taxi (called a big taxi as well), ask about the price before hopping in and if it’s a small taxi, ask whether he is using the meter or not. Many taxi drivers refuse to use the meter even though you ask them to. Therefore, request the price and negotiate it before getting into the taxi. One more thing, check the location you are going to beforehand and ask your hotel staff how much it could cost you in a taxi. Some taxi drivers like to take the long way just to get more from you.
- Haggling and bargaining in Morocco is A MUST, not because people are trying to scam you or anything but just because of how things work there. Even locals have to haggle for everything they buy from the Souq. Check this post out before going shopping in Morocco. I have added a bargaining strategy there.
- Drones are banned in Morocco. So make sure to not bring a drone with you because it will be confiscated by customs officials.
- It might take more time than expected to get through customs in Morocco. So, just relax and don’t panic because things are usually slow in Morocco. Plus, Don’t expect to check-in online when you are traveling in Morocco. The check-in is usually at the airline desk.
- Credit cards are not used everywhere you go. Even though some places have credit cards, they usually charge more money if you pay using your card than cash. The message here is to make sure you carry cash money everywhere you go.
- Having small bills in Morocco is important. You’ll need small bills to give tips or simply to pay for things and serives.So, get some coins and 20s in your wallet.
Do you need a visa to visit Morocco
Morocco is an open door to people from all over the world. A country that is encouraging tourism by the easy procedures the government has put in place to facilitate getting a Morocco visa. Many countries also have the privilege of a free visit visa for 3 months, which is more than sufficient to backpack around Morocco.
The USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South Korea are among the countries with the privilege of visa-free entry. Morocco has also introduced e-visa and visas on arrival for many other countries.
For some of the European, Asian, and African countries with entry visa requirements, getting a visa to Morocco is quite easy and not very costly. The visa application is done in advance through the Moroccan embassy or consulate in your country and it costs from $30 for a single entry visa and $50 for a multiple entry visa.
Best time to go backpacking in Morocco
You are probably thinking about the best time to visit Morocco for a backpacking experience. Choosing the best time to backpack in this beautiful country will depend on what you are expecting from your visit. That includes city destinations you want to visit or experiences you want to feel.
Morocco will captivate any traveler with its bustling cities, souqs, mouth-watering cooking, traditional riads, and camel tracks in the desert. Your senses will be truly overloaded. Morocco enjoys 4 distinct seasons, each bringing something sensational for travelers with the extremes of the high Atlas Mountains, the Golden Desert, and miles of stunning coastline. The weather can be as diverse as the landscape but there is always something to be enjoyed.
1. Morocco in Spring (Recommended)
Spring is regarded as one of the most enjoyable times in Morocco for backpacking. From March to May, the weather starts to warm up and the temperatures around the country are neither too cold nor too hot. Spring in Marrakech is beautiful and warm yet not too hot with an average temperature of 26 degrees (Around 78.8’F).
You can explore the Souqs in the old Medina and people-watch from cafes in comfort. The coastline enjoys a moderate climate year-round and Essaouira and Casablanca are warm and sunny in spring with average temperatures climbing to the 20s (68F).
Fez, on the other hand, is also warm and sunny in spring with temperatures in the low 20s and warming up toward summer. In the Sahara, spring has already begun to turn from warm to hot and in Merzouga, you will be able to enjoy some of the world’s most iconic sand dunes in a balmy 29 degrees (84’F). Spring in the Atlas Mountains can be beautiful with warmer days and flowers starting to bloom.
2. Morocco in Summer
Summer is when most of Morocco really heats up and the desert basques in the sun. Marrakech’s average temperature reaches 38 degrees (100.4’F) in July but the main square Jamaa Fena really comes alive in the evenings.
Fez is a hot 36 degrees (96.8’F) and in the Sahara, Merzouga reaches 43 degrees but the views are best viewed at sunrise and sunset when it’s a few degrees cooler. Summer is milder along the coast and perfect for enjoying the beaches as Essaouira is sunny 22 degrees (71.6F) in July and Casablanca in the mid to high 20s.
3. Morocco in Fall (Recommended)
In fall, temperatures start to dip and might be more comfortable for many. The beaches of the coastline are not as busy. The desert pulls down and the skies are clear. Marrakech enjoys an average temperature of 28 degrees (82.4’F) in October.
Merzouga and Erg Chebbi dunes in the Sahara are cooled down to 29 degrees during the day, perfect weather for a camel trek. On the coast, Essaouira remains pleasant at 22 degrees (71.6’F).
4. Morocco in Winter
Winter in Morocco can bring snow with it. With snow falling in the mountains, the desert continues to warm up during the day to around 18 degrees, but the temperature drops dramatically at night. Marrakech is also around 18 degrees during the day.
Winter could be one of the ideal times to explore the famous city Marrakech. With fewer visitors, the old Medina and The Majorelle Gardens are less crowded with tourists. The charm and bright colors of ancient Fez are also perfect for exploring in a mild 16 degrees.
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How to Get Around Morocco?
Morocco has put in place a developed transport system which has made traveling around Morocco relatively easy. If renting a car while traveling in Morocco isn’t an option for you, you can easily travel from one region to another using the train, buses, taxis, or planes.
All cities in Morocco have their own local bus system but taxis make it much easier to navigate the city, especially if you are not very familiar with the bus lines and numbers.
Both Rabat and Casablanca have a tramway line that links the most popular places in the city. The tramway is a practical, safe and affordable way to travel around the city.
The national train system links almost 82 cities in Morocco while other cities can be accessed using intercity buses or big taxis.
1. Trains in Morocco
Trains are the best way to travel between cities in Morocco. Train lines link most cities in Morocco and they are cheaper than intercity taxis or even fancy buses. Train lines are managed by the ONCF company and most of them have tickets for first class and second class. The first-class section is good if you are traveling long distances, have too many bags, or if you are traveling during a short vacation and you want to avoid the crowd.
First-class tickets are obviously more expensive than second-class ones. The second class section is quite comfortable but sometimes you will have to travel standing if there are no available seats.
Morocco has recently introduced a high-speed train line between Casablanca and Tangier. The high-speed train called the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) and can travel at 300km/h, making the trip to Tangier in just 2 hours. This is a lot less than the regular 6 hours on a normal train.
If you land in Casablanca airport and you’re headed to Marrakech, you will take the train straight from the airport to Marrakech which takes about 3 hours.
2. Intercity buses in Morocco
Morocco has many intercity buses linking almost every city in the county. There are many companies offering this service at different prices and of course, different comfort levels. For this reason, make sure you do your homework before taking these buses. If you have a clear plan for your trip, try and book the bus ticket earlier than your trip and this is for 2 main reasons.
The first one is to choose a window seat in the front because you don’t wanna miss the stunning views. The second reason is to actually find a seat because they can be booked so quickly especially in the holidays. There are several intercity bus companies in Morocco, like CTM, Al Ghazala, and many more.
3. City buses and tramways in Morocco
When traveling inside the city we don’t use the previously mentioned buses, but there are other local buses, usually used by locals only. I don’t actually recommend using these public buses for foreigners as they are less safe and there is a high chance that you come across some bad experiences such as pickpocketing.
A great alternative would be tramways which are only in Casablanca and Rabat, and taxis. Taxis can be costly to take in big cities such as Casablanca, but they are much more affordable in smaller cities like Beni Mellal.
4. Planes in Morocco
Morocco has several airports with daily regional and international flight lines. The biggest airport in Morocco is Mohammed V airport, located just outside of Casablanca and can be easily reached using the train from the Casablanca city center. If you are coming to Morocco, you have a large choice of airlines and also arrival destinations. Some of these airlines offer local flights.
5. Car rental in Morocco
Renting a car is probably what a backpacker won’t do but you never know. Almost all cities have rental car agencies of local and international companies. I recommend that you go to international rental companies as they are the safer option.
We’ve had many problems on the road when renting cars in Morocco and the truth is that we were never disappointed with the company we chose, they were international agencies such as Avis, Hertz, Sixt. If you need to rent a car in Morocco you will need a valid driving license, a passport, and a credit card. Make sure to take the insurance, at least the basic one. Never drive without car insurance.
Accommodation for backpackers in Morocco
Riads are a type of accommodation in Morocco and one of the most famous ones. Riads are mostly found in imperial cities such as Marrakech, Fez, and Meknes. Riads are Moroccan houses designed in a square with a garden in the center. The riads usually contain multiple rooms, living rooms (Moroccan salons), a rooftop, and a Hammam. Many tourists are now favoring Riads over hotels to just experience the traditional Moroccan type of accommodation.
Many Riad owners in Morocco have transformed their homes into boutique accommodation. Riads are costly, compared to hotels but you can definitely find some cheaper Riad options starting from $20 a night. Riads offer a unique experience that is different and equally pleasurable.
You have a variety of options when looking for a hotel in Morocco. There are international hotels and local ones which are less expensive. Affordable hotels are usually found outside the city center and the price starts from $10 a night.
Daily rental of an apartment is also an option if you’re backpacking in Morocco. Apartment owners advertise their properties for tourists and travelers and the apartments are usually equipped with everything a hotel has. The price can vary depending on the location of the apartment and the services provided. You can either find it through Airbnb or just look for facebook rental groups in Morocco, if you know some French.
Hotels are probably the best option for budget backpackers who are traveling alone or for anyone who is looking to cut the costs of the trip. Hostels in Morocco offer dormitories and private rooms and they are a great way to socialize while discovering the country and saving money. There are several good and cheap hostels in Morocco. You can find them through Booking, Airbnb.
Cities to visit when backpacking in Morocco
Like many other cities in Morocco, Marrakech is an ancient city packed with history and culture. The old city medina is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Also known as the red city, Marrakech is one of the busiest cities in Morocco and serves as the biggest tourist destination in the country. The former imperial city is home to beautiful palaces, mosques, chaotic souqs, and delicious food. If you are backpacking in Marrakech, you want to make sure you include Marrakech your itinerary.
Essaouira is a quiet and spectacular city in Morocco. Located on the west coast, right on the Atlantic ocean, and just 2 hours away from Marrakech but it feels like a world away. The walled city of Essaouria is known with the name of “the wind city” in Africa because of its super-strong winds by the beach. Essaouira is a perfect spot to add to your backpacking itinerary in Morocco. This unbelievable and yet calm place is a great destination to relax and enjoy the authentic Moroccan experience without having to deal with tourist crowds and high pricesMarrakech.
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Food in Morocco
Food in Morocco is considered an integral part of the country’s culture and history. Maybe you’ve heard about the famous Couscous and Tagine dishes, but the Moroccan food experience is way more than that. If you’re planning to spend a few days backpacking in Morocco check our Moroccan food guide that lists every single dish you should taste.
Morocco is a country that lies at the crossroads between Europe and Africa. It is also the gateway to the Mediterranean. This land has existed and been inhabited for 1000s of years. Today, it is still at the crossroads. It lies between the old and the new. Like many developing countries, Morocco still has some charm and old-world beauty that is captivating. This, coupled with well-developed transportation and widespread safety makes for a backpacker’s dream destination. Morocco is also affordable. Although it sees millions of tourists all-year-round, traveling costs have remained relatively low while the quality of the services provided is still good. Morocco is a diverse and welcoming backpacking location that offers something for everyone.
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