Backpacking Morocco has become extremely popular in the last few years thanks to its proximity to Europe and cheap budget flights, yet world-away-feel. I spent a few weeks travelling around Morocco, visiting both popular destinations – like Marrakech and Chefchaouen – and some hidden gems that I will cover in this travel guide!
This Morocco guide is chalked full of inspiration, epic Morocco backpacking itineraries, and travel tips.
Whether you are planning a trip to Morocco to explore the Sahara Desert, surf along the Atlantic coast, immerse in a new culture, or shop the souks, I’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
- Where to go Backpacking in Morocco
- Best Itineraries and Routes for Backpacking Morocco
- Places to visit in Morocco
- Backpacker Accommodation in Morocco
- Top Things to do in Morocco
- Morocco Travel Tips
- Is Morocco Safe to Travel Right Now?
- What to Pack for Morocco
- Morocco Travel Guide To Getting Around
- Costs for Backpacking Morocco
- Must Try Experiences in Morocco
Where to go Backpacking in Morocco
The entire coast is a haven for surfers, with Taghazout being the backpacker hotspot. All of Morocco’s cities offer unique experiences to explore the old cities (medinas). Fez is home to the biggest medina in the world. Chefchaouen’s medina is completely painted blue.
Morocco is also the most accessible gateway to the Sahara Desert. You can go on a traditional overnight camel tour, as well as take a 4wd jeep, dune buggies, or even go sandboarding!
Speaking of sandboarding, it’s also possible to go snowboarding in some areas of Morocco. Though known for sand and sun, Morocco is also home to a mountain range where it snows heavily in the winter. Mount Toubkal is North Africa’s highest mountain, and it’s possible to summit it from Imlil, Morocco near Marrakesh.
Below I have listed 5 Morocco travel routes based on how much time you have
Below I have mapped out 4 different itineraries for your next Morocco trip. If you have a month or more, consider following my first itinerary, which hits all of Morocco’s highlights.
That being said, Morocco is a jam-packed country full of surf and sun, but it’s one of those destinations I feel comfortable saying, 2 weeks is ample time to explore the country and decide if you want to spend even more time in Morocco.
After a while, the cities do start to feel and look the same, as do the villages in central Morocco. Moreover, unless you’re a desert rat, a few days is plenty of time to explore the Sahara.
Backpacking Morocco One Month Itinerary #1: The Highlights
4 Weeks: Backpacking Morocco’s Highlights
I will start this 4-week itinerary in Adagir because it is the city right below most of the surf hotspots, but head to the beaches immediately and get out of the city! Should you fly into Marrakech first, this is also a great base for exploring the beaches or the Anti-Atlas Mountains for a few days.
Once you’ve got your fill of Marrakesh and want to chill, you have two options: head for the chilled out beaches or the chilled out mountains. Should you do both, you will have to double back through Marrakesh.
Essaouira is a laidback town on the Atlantic Coast to rest your head a couple of days. Backpackers head a bit south to Taghazout, a popular beach town for epic surf. You can easily spend a week or more here if you’re a surfer, otherwise, a few days should suffice.
If you enjoy the mountains and hiking, make sure to spend a couple days in Imlil, 90 minutes from Marrakesh, yet a world away. This area isn’t usually on the tourist radar, but it was one of my favourite places in Morocco.
Imlil is the gateway to the Anti Atlas Mountains and Berber villages. You can summit Northern Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Toubkal, from here in 2 nights. This is also one of the best places to buy authentic Berber carpets, which I’ll cover in more detail later.
Next head to Central Morocco and the High Atlas Mountains. Ait Ben Haddou is famous in Hollywood for movies like Gladiator, and most notably Game of Thrones. You can explore this area in as little as a day. If you’re a big movie buff, make sure to check out the studio lot in the nearby Ouarzazate, which has the largest studio outside of Hollywood, California.
Afterwards head to the Todgha Gorge, a beautiful deep canyon in the High Atlas region offering some spectacular scenery, hiking, and most recently rock climbing! I climbed with the main guy there for a few days, who is transforming the gorge (setting up routes, re-bolting others, and growing a climbing culture among young Moroccans.
From Todgha Gorge, you can also trek, bike, or bus to Dades Valley, Morocco’s most famous palmery.
If you’re not tired of the heat yet, head to the small town of M’hamid or to Merzouga for a Saharan experience. M’Hamid is less touristy than your other option, but in my opinion, the dunes here are less impressive. Unless you have three days by camel to reach the famously large and beautiful Erg (dune) Chigaga, or $ for a jeep, I say skip it and head to Merzouga.
From Merzouga, you can take a one+ night excursion into the Sahara. Erg Chebbi is the famous dune here.
Next, take an overnight bus to Fez. From here you can make your way back to the ocean, and visit the famous Casablanca and Hassan II Mosque, though it is out of the way. If you’re short on time, this would be the stop to skip.
Do not miss the famous blue city Chefchaouen. It is a truly beautiful city and has a relaxed atmosphere in comparison to Morocco’s other cities. You’re also at the foothill of some lushly green hills and mountains, which is a nice change after spending a couple weeks in the desert and dry Central Morocco.
You can end your Morocco trip in Tangier. I didn’t spend much time here, as I was kind of sick of the medinas and cities, but this is where you can take a ferry to Algeciras, Spain or catch a budget flight to Europe.
Backpacking Morocco 2 Week Itinerary #2: Surf and Sun in Morocco
2 Weeks: Surfing in Morocco
Start in Adagir or Marrakech, and quickly make your way to the coast. Taghazout is a great backpacker’s destination for some chilled out surf and Morocco’s most famous backpacker hang out. You can easily spend over a week here!
Tamri is only a 30-minute drive North, and also home to some great surf. Imessouan is another great option for backpackers who want a less touristy town to surf.
Make your way up the coast to Essaouira, laidback town, and the filming location of the Red City in Game of Thrones. Sidi Kaouki is 25 kilometres to the south of Essaouira and boasts intermediate to advanced waves. It is easy to reach on a day trip from Essaouira.
End your trip in Casa Blanca or Morocco’s northern capital Rabat if you are flying home.
Backpacking Morocco 10 Day Itinerary #3: The Medinas and Desert
10 Days: Exploring the Atlas Mountains and Desert
Start your journey in the famous Marrakech, where you can spend a few days exploring the Medina, trying the street food, and checking out some impressive architecture and art.
Then, head to Ait Ben Haddou for 2 days to get a taste of the villages in the desert and see some famous movie locations.
Next is Todgha Gorge. Most people come in tour buses for a day trip, but I suggest staying a couple days. The non-touristy village is absolutely lovely, and a real taste of local Moroccan culture. You can admire the beautiful oasis of vegetation, and do some nice day hikes around the gorge.
If you’re a climber, Adventures Verticales Maroc has all the gear you need and even leads lead climbing and multi-pitch lessons for affordable prices.
From Todgha Gorge, you can head to the desert. You have two options, and I don’t suggest trying both. Either head to M’hamid to reach Erg Chigaga or Merzouga to reach Erg Chebbi. My advice is to not be too ambitious if you’ve never ridden a camel. It can be quite painful, and after a couple days you may be kicking yourself for attempting a 5-day tour.
From Merzouga, you can catch an overnight bus to Fes, and spend a couple days here exploring the Medina. Then you can catch an international flight home.
Tip: If you are time constrained while backpacking Morocco, it is definitely possible to arrange a Sahara Desert tour trip from Marrakesh that will stop in the Todgha Gorge and Ait Ben Haddou. You will spend more time driving than enjoying the places, but it’s the best option for anyone with 5-7 days in Morocco.
Backpacking Morocco 5 Day Itinerary #4: Northern Morocco and the Blue City
5 Days in Morocco: Northern Morocco and the Blue City
Even if you only have 5 days to explore Morocco, you can easily make a quick trip from Spain and visit the beautiful city of Chefchaouen. Spend a couple days here admiring the city walls and doing some shopping.
This is also the base of the Rif Mountains, so there are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and hike. Talassemtane National Park is just right outside the blue city and easily visited as a day trip, but it is possible to trek and camp here! You can explore local villages, forests, and mountains.
Unlike Morocco Itinerary #2, which focuses on surfing the Atlantic Coast, you can visit the Mediterranean Sea from this side of Morocco. Al-Hoceima National Park is nearby Chefchaouen and offers remote hills and beaches along the Mediterranean Coast.
You can fly out of Tangier after exploring the city. You can also ferry to Tarifa, Spain if you are backpacking Morocco and Spain.
I have mixed feelings about Marrakech. On one hand, the markets in the medina are fascinating and fun to shop around. It’s also easier to navigate than Fez. However, the salesmen and scams in Marrakesh are really annoying. The scams can overshadow your entire experience. This is because Marrakesh is touristy, and the salesmen want tourists’ money. Simple as that.
I could only spend a couple days here. Luckily, it’s one of the best cities to arrange day/weekend trips to much more laidback places, like the mountains and the beach, as well as a good spot to meet other travellers.
During your visit to Marrakesh, there are a few must-dos aside from exploring the medina (old city).
Make sure to visit the famous main square of Djemaa El Fna at night. While touristy, the square is packed full of snake charmers, monkey handlers, and henna tattooists. The street food and evening shows are quite an experience as well! Make sure to try a fresh orange juice, freshly squeezed and locally sourced for just 10dh.
The Museum of Arts offers lovely traditional Moroccan costumes and artefacts. The Photography Museum was a cool way to pass time, though I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see.
The Medersa Ben Youssef is the ruined ancient mosque you can visit. Marrakesh offers no shortage of extravagant Riads, which is a traditional Morocco house built around a central courtyard. You’ve probably seen a few on the ‘gram.
Hammams (steam rooms) are another popular activity in Morocco. Just be aware that the traditional scrub and bath are quite, um, up in your grill.
For more information on where to stay in Marrakech, check out this guide.
Visit Cascades D’ouzoud (Ouzoud Waterfall)
The Ouzoud Waterfall is located 167km from Marrakesh, and it is a great day trip if you are itching to get in nature while visiting Marrakesh. The waterfall drops 110 meters via three-tiered waterfalls. If your boat guide is cool (and the police aren’t around), you should be able to jump in!
While you can arrange your own transportation to the cascades, it’s often easier to arrange through your hostel. I believe it cost us $10 for everything.
This city by the sea is famous for its fresh seafood and chilled out vibe, made famous in the 60s when Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley used to hang out here.
While there isn’t much to specifically see here, many travelers end up spending more time than they expected because of its chilled out atmosphere. The medina can be more enjoyable here than in Marrakesh because it’s not as hectic.
Essaouira is considered a windy city, which naturally makes it popular for windsurfers. It’s also a great base for to arrange dune buggy tour and to go surfing.
I kick myself for missing Taghazout, but when I was backpacking Morocco I was more interested in visiting the desert and Berber villages having just come from Portugal’s coast.
Still, everyone I met said it’s one of their favorite places, and I think that is because it’s so chilled out compared to other places in Morocco. That and the surf is supposedly incredible.
Taghazout is the place to go for surfing in Morocco because there are beach breaks, point breaks and reef breaks all within fifteen minutes drive. Get there fast because the town is developing rapidly.
I wrote an entire post on my visit to Imlil here. This is a great contrast to the bustling city of Morocco, and a romantic getaway if you’re traveling with your significant other.
I totally recommend staying at Kasbah Imlil! The free breakfast was amazing, and the room/bathroom was clean and comfortable. I loved hanging out on the rooftop.
The main attraction in Imlil is the possibility to summit Northern Africa’s largest mountain, Mount Toubkal, at 4,167 meters. You have to hike during the summer when the snow has melted.
The first day, hikers trek to “the refuge” at the base of the mountain. There are a couple hotels/guest houses here that provide accommodation. The second-day you trek to the summit for sunrise and return back to Imlil around lunch.
While a semi-difficult hike, you don’t need any technical experience. It’s possible to hike Toubkal on your own because the trails are marked, and there were plenty of other hikers. If there is snow, however, the trails may be hard to find.
If you are only coming to Imlil for Mount Toubkal, it’s actually cheaper to arrange a hike from Marrakesh with a guide since they usually include transportation.
The only way to reach Imlil is by taxi, so make sure to get to the Marrakesh taxi stand in the early morning to catch a Grand Taxi, so you only pay for a seat versus the whole cab.
Backpacking the High Atlas Mountains and Ait Ben Haddou
You may recognize the backdrop of this mudbrick city and ancient fortress (kasbah) from Game of Thrones. Yep, this is the legendary UNESCO site they film famous desert scenes in movies.
This area is well worth visiting, but you really only need a day to explore the kasbah. You can stay in the village, which is a 10-minute walk from the city itself.
You can combine Ait Ben Haddou with a trip to Ouarzazate, where you will likely catch a bus. Here, you can visit the movie studio, Studio Atlas, where movies like Gladiator and the Mummy were filmed!
Backpacking the Todgha Gorge
150 km to the east of Ait Ben Haddou is this magnificent, deep canyon gorge and climber’s paradise, thanks to 300-meter high rock walls. The village itself is quite peaceful and beautiful, and a great place to just chill out and enjoy the local life. You will feel like you are in the middle of an oasis, which technically, you are.
Keep in mind, you will have to bus to Tinghir to reach the gorge, a rather unremarkable city 20 minutes from Todgha Gorge. Catch a grand taxi to the gorge for around $1.
I highly recommend staying at A Secret Garden. Julio, the owner, is the same guy who runs the local rock climbing shop and teaches skills, guides climbers on multi-pitch routes, etc. There aren’t any hostels in this area, so look up guesthouses in Tinghir (just make sure the location of the accommodation is actually near the gorge).
We met some of the nicest people on our entire trip at the Todgha Gorge. While most people just visit the gorge as a quick stop on the way to the Sahara Desert, I recommend spending a few days here to soak up the scenery, go on a few hikes (multi-day hikes are abound), and do some serious rock climbing.
If you are heading north or to the desert, the next logical step is to catch a bus to Merzouga.
You will want to spend little time in the actual town of Merzouga, and head straight for the Sahara Desert.
Most desert trips planned in Marrakesh come to Merzouga but you’ll spend more time driving to the desert and back han actually hanging out there. If you are heading north without extremely tight time constraints, it’s best to just arrange your own visit to the desert in Merzouga and custom tailor your experience.
Most people spend one-three nights in the desert. The quality of the camps varies greatly, from extremely basic to luxuriously expensive glamping hotels.
If you are expecting dramatic Saharan dunes, be prepared to be disappointed. These take a while to reach and are mostly found across the border in Algeria and Libya, off-limits to tourists. That being said, if you have the money, you can take a 4wd out to the bigger dunes, and reach them much faster than by camel.
Even though the dunes aren’t huge, the galaxy will be! This is one of the best places to stargaze in the world (unless you have my luck and get overcast skies and a sandstorm!)
Famous for its winding, confusing, and wonderous medina markets, Fez (Fes in French) has two ancient medinas (old cities) that together form the largest medina in the world. This is the main reason you visit Fes.
Ruined Garden is notoriously the best place to eat here. They take an interesting approach to local street food and serve it in a laidback garden. (You may need a laidback food experience in a calming garden after exploring the medina.)
Casablanca was made famous by the movie Casablanca. While the movie may have made this city popular, travellers tend to give Casablanca lukewarm reviews. I never made it to Casablanca; we ran out of time and it wasn’t high on my priority list because of its reputation.
On that note, I met other travellers who enjoyed their time here, and I have never heard of anyone being underwhelmed by the Hassan II Mosque. It is supposed to be one of the most impressive mosques in the world (third largest), and definitely the most impressive in Morocco. It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers! The size and decor of this mosque are worth the visit to Casablanca alone.
Casablanca is also supposed to have a nice city center, and it is a city on the beach, which is refreshing to Morocco’s hot, inland cities.
Additional reading – Check out Casablanca’s best neighborhoods to stay in!
This is that “instaworthy” town painted blue and white. No one really knows why.
Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in the Rif mountains by Jews and Moors fleeing Spain. I heard a lot of different theories about why Chefchaouen is blue. Some say it was painted blue as a symbol of hope when the Jewish refugees who settled there fled the Spanish Inquisition, others say it’s to keep the mosquitoes away, while some just said it represents the color of the sea.
Al-Hoceima National Park isn’t far and offers remote hills and beaches along the Mediterranean Coast. Talassemtane National Park is even closer. It’s possible to trek and camp here! You can explore local villages, forests, and mountains.
Chefchaoen is also pretty famous for marijuana, which is grown in the nearby hills. You will be asked to buy some throughout your visit.
In my opinion, you cannot miss Chefchaoen on your Morocco trip; it’s way too pretty. There are plenty of cute streets and shops to explore. Plus, it’s a great base for trekking around the surrounding mountains. Plan to spend more time here.
Check out our ultimate list of the best hostels in Chefchaoen.
Off the Beaten Path in Morocco
Most of the places I listed above are hot spot destinations on the tourist map, and for good reason. If you really want to get off the beaten path, I suggest exploring smaller villages to get a real taste of local life. That being said, don’t expect anyone to speak English!
You can still get an authentic experience in the smaller towns on my list, like Imlil and the Todgha Gorge. You can hire a guide from both places to trek out to more remote places.
The Sahara Desert is also as remote as it gets. All you need to do is ride out for a day, and you’ll be surrounded by no one except your crew.
You can find cheap hostels in the major cities, and affordable guesthouses and hotels everywhere else. I often stayed at family-run guest houses while backpacking Morocco.
|Location||Accomodation||Why we like it!?|
|Marrakesh||The Madrassa||Affordable, free breakfast, and awesome rooftop. The staff is awesome too.|
|Essaouira||Atlantic Hostel||Social and fun atmosphere. Awesome rooftop|
|Taghazout||Salt Surf Taghazout||Very clean (rare for Moroccan hostels) and awesome staff. It's close to the beach!|
|Imlil||Kasbah Imlil||No hostels in Imlil, but here are plenty of guesthouses. This one was clean, comfortable, and served a wonderful, free breakfast.|
|Todgha Gorge||A Secret Garden||Again no hostels here. Julio runs a tight ship. Clean, affordable guesthouse, and the place to stay if you climb.|
|Merzouga||Auberge Kasbah des Dunes||Free breakfast and wi-fi, and options to book a Sahara tour.|
|Fes||Hostel Dar Jannat||Spotlessly clean, comfortable with hot showers and a good breakfast.|
|Casablanca||Carre Francais de Casablanca||While not cheap, this hostel has good facilities: a pool, pool table, gym room, and motor rental, as well as clean bathrooms. There is a free breakfast too.|
|Chefchaouen||Riad Baraka||Great atmosphere and staff. They arrange cool events.|
Top Things to do in Morocco
Backpacking Morocco is all about experiencing a completely different culture. There are plenty of awesome things to do in Morocco that will push you out of your comfort zone, or you can just hang out at the beach the whole time!
1. Explore the Medinas
Every Moroccan city has an old city, also known as a medina. This is where the iconic, mazing markets are located, and where you can buy just about anything. Fez is notoriously known for having the larget (and most confusing) medina in the world.
2. Sleep in a Riad
A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a central courtyard. Many Riads have been converted into guest homes, and most of them are located in Marrakesh. They have conspicuous entrances, like a plain door in an alleyway, that open up to a beautiful home with Moroccan tiling, and uniquely decorated rooms.
3. Catch a Wave
Morocco’s Atlantic Coast is famous for its surf breaks. You can surf all up the coast, from Adagir to Rabat, and many smaller towns in between.
4. Visit a Mosque
99% of Morocco’s population is Muslim, so it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of places of worship in Morocco. Some are off-limits to tourists (understandably). The most famous mosque in Morocco is Hassan II in Casablanca. It is the third largest mosque in the world.
5. Save a horse, Ride a Camel
One of the most popular things to do while backpacking Morocco is ride a camel through the Sahara Desert. There are two main towns to arrange Sahara tours: M’Hamid and Merzouga. M’Hamid is the gateway to Erg Chigaga, and Merzouga is near Erg Chebbi.
You can also arrange 4wd tours, and go sandboarding in the Sahara!
6. Hang out with the Berbers
Morocco was originally settled by the nomadic Berber people hundreds and hundreds of years ago. While they were discriminated against during French colonization, their culture is making a come back.
It is possible to visit and live with Berber people all over Morocco, from the desert to the mountains. Please be respectful of their customs, and immerse yourself in a beautiful culture!
7. Splurge on a Magic Carpet… and a Hundred More Home Decor Items
Outside of Guatemala, I have never felt the need to buy so many souvenirs, and I’m usually quite good at foregoing shopping sprees for money for more travel. Still I could keep thinking on my Morocco trip was how I couldn’t wait to come back with an empty suitcase.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the best Moroccan purchases are outside the cities. You will generally spend more money for less quality stuff in the touristic areas of Marrakesh and Fez, some exceptions permitting.
Note: A lot of the stuff in the cities have gone through multiple middle-men and vendors, which drives up the prices. Moreover, much of the stuff is falsely advertised as handmade (when it is machine made) or autnetic leather when it is plastic.
Go to Imlil and the Atlas Mountains for Berber made items, like carpets and blankets. I was also told that Zergaht has the best carpets. You can spend hundreds of dollars less in these towns than in Marrakesh for a great quality double sided carpet.
Fez is the best place for leather (though I don’t really support the tanneries). Talioine is the place to buy spices. Meknes has green and black ceramics. Marrakesh specializes monochrome ceramics. Generally, you can buy everything else everywhere, like Moroccan Oil (good for hair and skin), and other knick-knacks.
Books to Read While Backpacking Morocco
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
A House in Fez – This comical light-read details Suzanna Clarke’s experience of buying a rundown Moroccan riad in Fez with her husband in a mission to restore it to its former glory.
The Secret Son – This is about a poor boy, Youssef, raised by his mother in the slums of Casablanca. With big dreams of living another life, Youssef discovers his presumed dead father is actually alive, and very wealthy.
Lords of the Atlas – This is one of the best books set in Morocco, which documents the extraordinary story of the Glaoui brothers reign over the red city and kasbahs to the south during a feudal fiefdom in southern Morocco.
The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco – This book aims to keep the tradition of rich storytelling on Jemaa el-Fna alive. The author located the last of the storytellers, and compiled a collection of ancient folk tales and fables filled with moral reminders.
Lonely Planet: Morocco – This is a comprehensive Morocco travel guide to help you plan itineraries and get around the country.
Arabic Travel Phrases
Moroccans speak “Moroccan” Arabic or Darija (countries in the Middle East will say it’s not really Arabic). The main Berber language is known as Amazigh. Most people speak English in the cities, as well as other languages. However, once you get to smaller towns, you’ll find many people barely speak English, even guesthouse owners.
French will get also get you by anywhere in Morocco, though it is no longer an official language. (My college classes finally came in handy here!)
I have listed a few phrases in Darija:
Is Morocco Safe to Travel Right Now?
Despite the warnings (mostly from people who have never been), Morocco is a safe country to visit right now. Most of the government warnings heed to the Algeria – Morocco border, which yeah, you want to avoid at all costs.
On that note, there are plenty of scams to watch out for in Morocco that will definitely drain your wallet if not your patience. Most of the scams take place in the souks (maze-like shopping areas) and medinas, but be weary whenever you are anywhere remotely touristy.
Overly nice shop owners who invite you in for tea or “just for a look” still expect you to by something. If anyone tries to lead you to a festival, museum, or offers directions to the main square, they may be trying to lead you to their shop instead.
Another famous scam is the pushy henna women. They will quite literally grab your arm and draw henna on you if you give them any eye contact or attention with claims it is free, or a gift, because you are beautiful and friendly. Then they will demand money and make a scene in the middle of a crowd.
For some more general advice, check out our guide about safety in Morocco for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking Morocco, and pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.
Morocco Safety Tips for Women
As a woman, I never felt unsafe, but admittedly I was rarely alone. I’m not going to say you won’t get unwanted stares and attention, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to travel to Morocco as a woman.
The best advice I can give other women is to dress conservatively to avoid wandering eyes and hand grabs, especially in untouristic areas where Moroccans aren’t as used to seeing Western women as often. You aren’t expected to wear a hijab (headscarf), but don’t show your knees and shoulders, nor should you wear tight clothing.
Places like Marrakesh are used to seeing Western women showing skin at this point, but it’s still considered disrespectful to their culture.
Another general rule of thumb for staying safe is: don’t walk alone at night, especially in the medinas.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll in Morocco
Because of Muslim faith, alcohol is hard to come by in Morocco. It’s also pretty expensive, so we just decided to have a dry month. If you are really fiending for some beer, most hostels and hotels can supply it, but it’s pricey.
Bars do exist, and some cater exclusively to tourists. Others have a weird vibe, and I wouldn’t recommend going as a solo woman, or sadly as a woman at all.
On the other hand, hash and marijuana are quite common, especially in the North. Most of it grows in the Rif Mountains around Chefchaouen, and you will be offered it often.
Aside from some backpacker areas, which are still pretty laidback, you don’t come to Morocco for the parties. Drinking is just not a part of their culture unless you consider Moroccan mint tea, which is nicknamed Berber Whisky.
My advice? Save your money, use your trip as a detox, then go north to Spain for the real parties.
Get Insured before Backpacking Morocco
Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Morocco backpacking trip, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend World Nomads.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
What to Pack for Morocco
Unless you are spending a lot of time in the mountains, Morocco is hot. In fact, I suggest avoiding Morocco at the height of summer, especially if you want to go to the desert.
Chefchaouen and the surrounding area is an exception, as are the Anti Atlas Mountains. A light sweater will be useful for nighttime. Pack warm clothes for the winter. It snows in the mountains!
Girls (and guys), plan to dress conservatively, and in loose clothing. Make sure to pack light layers, like linen and flowy tops and pants, to cover up but withstand the heat. Light scarves and shawls make for great accessories. And women, you aren’t expected to wear a hijab (headscarf).
On every adventure, there are six things I never go travelling without:
1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if needs be.
4. Headtorch: Every backpacker should have a head torch! A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl Actik Core rechargeable headlamp – an awesome piece of kit! Because it’s USB chargeable I never have to buy earth polluting batteries.
5.Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colourful and tough.
6. Toiletry Bag: I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag as it’s a super efficient way to organise your bathroom stuff. Well worth having, whether you are hanging it from a tree whilst camping, or a hook in a wall, it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Best Time to Travel to Morocco
Like I mentioned above, summers are excruciatingly hot in Morocco. Even May proved too hot to handle. The best time to visit the Sahara is in the winter.
March April, October, and November will also prove as comfortable times to backpack Morocco. The exception to this rule is the mountains.
Imlil and the Anti Atlas will have snow in the winter, which may be what you’re after! You can go snowshoeing and enjoy the beautiful scenery. If you want to hike, then summer is actually the best time to visit Morocco’s mountains.
October to April is generally the best time to catch the best waves in Morocco. If you want to surf in the summer, Rabat and Safi will typically offer the best waves.
Avoid travelling to Morocco during the month long holiday, Ramadan. We happened to be ending our trip during Ramadan, and many shops and areas were closed.
Apps to download before travelling to Morocco
Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? This app is one of the best travel apps, but it’s especially convenient in Morocco. You will more than likely lose your way in the Medinas and this offline map can help you find your way back! Download your map before you get here to keep you on track while backpacking Morocco.
XE Currency – I used this a lot when backpacking Morocco. It is a great help while calculating expenses.
HIDE.ME – I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.
There are hundreds of budget airline flights from Europe to Morocco. The best cities to fly into include Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, and Tangier.
If you are Backpacking Morocco and Spain, you can take a ferry from Algecrias, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. It’s comfortable, affordable, and easy to book last minute.
Oh, and avoid Royal Air Maroc – they operate out of Casablanca – like the fucking plague. I have never experienced such awful customer service. Long story short, I once got rerouted to Cameroon in West Africa for a flight to Nairobi, and had to sleep in the airport lobby with a detained passport (no visa for an unexpected country visit).
Entry Requirements for Morocco
Most Western countries will receive a visa on arrival valid in Morocco for up to 90 days. It’s a virtually painless process.
Note: Visitors that wish to stay longer than 90 days should apply at the local police station within fifteen days of arrival.
How to Travel in Morocco
Buses are the cheapest, most efficient way to get around. Morocco isn’t a huge country, so generally, the bus will suffice, though we did take a couple overnight buses. CTM and Supratours are the main private bus companies. Both were always comfortable.
I do not recommend taking the local buses for long journeys. They aren’t much cheaper than the private buses, but they stop much more frequently, and are dirty and uncomfortable.
Flights are also an easy way to get around. Domestic flights aren’t too expensive and may be the best option if you’re trying to get from the very south up north. Still, buses are cheaper.
There is a train in Morocco as well, which may be a good option for overnight excursions, but it can be more expensive than buses and even flights.
Grand taxis will be the most affordable way to get around Morocco’s smaller towns. You pay per seat rather than for the entire car/van.
Renting a Car In Morocco
One of the very nest ways to explore Morocco is by renting your very own vehicle. This enables you to get off the beaten track to explore the towns and villages at your own leisure. It can be a whole lot faster than using public transport. You may also be surpised by how economical this may prove – be sure to check car rental prices in Morocco to see if you can pick up a great deal. Be sure to only rent from a reputable agency or through a respected intermediary.
You will need a full driving licence to rent a car. Driving standards in Morocco are not what they are in the West and can be pretty haphazard so do keep your wits about you.
Make sure you also purchase a RentalCover.com policy to cover your vehicle against any common damages such as tires, windscreens, theft, and more at a fraction of the price you would pay at the rental desk.
Hitchhiking in Morocco
Hitchhiking in Morocco is safe and easy, but some routes may have infrequent passerbys. It can be hard to avoid the interest of grand taxis (who will definitely want payment).
Compared to the hassle of the cities, hitching in Morocco is a very pleasant experience, and people for the most part are incredibly generous. You can often expect an invitation to enter someone’s home or come over for dinner. It is polite to refuse once. If the offer is genuine they will ask again.
Police in Morocco will also be helpful, so feel free to approach an officer at a roadblock.
Hitchhiking in Morocco is generally quite safe because of the importance of tourism to the economy. Anyone found physically harming a foreigner is punished severely.
Onwards Travel from Morocco
Since you can’t really visit any of Morocco’s neighboring countries (Algeria and Libya), your most common onwards travel will be to Europe. There are ridiculously cheap flights from Morocco to Spain, France, and the U.K.
As I mentioned above, you can also take a ferry to Spain for $35. It’s easy and you can book a ferry ticket last minute, which I prefer to planning far in advance. Ferries leave every hour.
From Tarifa, Spain, you can take a bus to Cadiz or Málaga with ease.
Morocco can be affordable considering how comfortable it is to travel here.
I personally spent less than $30 a day while backpacking Morocco. This includes accommodation (often in private rooms with my boyfriend), food, transportation, fun activities, and a few shopping splurges! (Had I not purchased that Morocco magic carpet and a couple pillow cases, my average would be less.)
A hostel dorm in the cities will cost around $8 after tax. A private room elsewhere is around $25 a night. Accommodation almost always includes a rather filling free breakfast full of fried pastries and breads, jams, cheese, juice, and of course, Morocco mint tea.
Street food and local eateries are the cheapest way to eat in Morocco and will cost you around $3 a meal. You can also pick up affordable snacks in the souks that are expensive in other countries, like dates, nuts, and fruit.
Restaurants and hotels’ meals are generally around $5-7 a meal, so they’re not the best deal.
Transportation is relatively cheap as well for the level of comfort! Expect to pay around $2 an hour for the bus, which is cheaper and faster than the train. Hitchhiking is also a safe way to get around Morocco.
I recommend using the private coaches versus public transportation for longer journeys. Public transportation isn’t much cheaper, and considerably shittier. Our overnight public bus makes the list of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had; whereas, the private shuttles are clean and comfortable.
Taxis will throw your budget out the window, but sometimes they’re inevitable, especially if you are going places like the mountains or taking short journeys between towns. Show up to the taxi stands early in the morning to score a seat on a grand taxi, otherwise, you’ll be paying for your own taxi after 10 am.
Even the activities in Morocco are affordable. You can rent a surfboard for around $10. A one night Sahara camel trek will set you back less than $50. Renting a car or 4wd will cost more.
Shop around on your own versus booking tours online, and watch for how the companies treat the camels. Also, make sure to ask specific questions about where you are camping. The comfortability of the camps will range considerably, although the food and tea is almost always good!
The most important rule to backpacking Morocco on a budget is to haggle hard. You will always be given the tourist price, which is usually 3 times more than locals pay. This is for anything from souvenirs to street food.
Money in Morocco
ATMs are widely available in the cities; however, bring extra cash to the smaller villages! I rarely used my card, unless I booked places online.
Cash is typically the only way to pay at outdoor markets, food stalls, small bakeries, and public buses.
Top Tips for Broke Backpackers
Camp: With plenty of gorgeous places to camp, Morocco can be a great place to camp in the rural areas. You can also ask to pitch a tent in people’s yards. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking. Or, if you’re feeling real adventurous and want to save some cash, consider picking up a backpacking hammock.
Cook your own food: If you are on a tight budget, you can save money by cooking your own food – I recommend bringing a portable backpacking stove.
Invite yourself over for dinner: Okay, this is a weird option, but Moroccans are extremely friendly in this regard. Most families will offer you food and a roof over your head if you’re struggling.
It’s just a part of their culture. While we were rock climbing with a group of 6 people, a few women came over to us with a massive plate of Tagine for all of us! We were expected to eat with them. You will see Moroccans sharing plates of food on the street floors often.
Book your transportation early: Both plane and train tickets are much cheaper if you purchase them in advance. This rule does not apply to buses, which you can often book within the day or even hour.
Couchsurf: Moroccans are awesome, but I would be cautious if you are a woman travelling alone. Check for reviews. That being said, Couch surfing to make some real friendships and see this country from the perspective of locals.
Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
To learn how to travel the world on $10 a day, check out the backpacker’s bible.
Joining an Organized Tour in Morocco
For most countries, Morocco included, solo travel is the name of the game. That said, if you are short on time, energy, or just want to be part of an awesome group of travelers you can opt to join an organized tour. Joining a tour is a great way to see a majority of the country quickly and without the effort that goes into planning a backpacking trip. However—not all tour operators are created equal—that is for sure.
G Adventures is a solid down-to-earth tour company catering to backpackers just like you, and their prices and itineraries reflect the interests of the backpacker crowd. You can score some pretty sweet deals on epic trips in Morocco for a fraction of the price of what other tour operators charge.
Check out some of their awesome itineraries for Morocco here…
Volunteer in Morocco
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Morocco whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.
Worldpackers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. We’ve tried and approved them ourselves – check out our Worldpackers in-depth review here.
If you’re ready to create a life-changing travel experience and give back to the community, join the Worldpacker community now. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll get a special discount of $20. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $29.
Travel Morocco for Free
Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Internet in Morocco
Most hostels and guesthouses, as well as cafés and restaurants in the cities, will offer free wi-fi. Outside of the cities, the service can be hit or miss. Sometimes it was fast enough to stream movies, but in smaller towns it would be painfully slow.
Must Try Experiences in Morocco
Meet the People
I’ve never traveled somewhere where I have met both the friendliest people and the worst. I’ll never forget the one time we were climbing in the Todgha Gorge and these women just came over with a fully prepared meal for us. This is quite common in Morocco. They will offer you free food, a place to stay, and the shirt off their back.
Community and family are the cornerstones of Moroccan culture.
Morocco is 99% Muslim. You will hear the Call to Prayer every morning, bright and early!
It’s the touristy cities that give Morocco the bad rap, especially Marrakesh. The salesmen and touts are incredibly pushy and can come off rude and aggressive.
That being said, one true stereotype is how male-dominated Moroccan society is. This is quickly changing, especially in the large cities. Still, you will mostly see men out: manning the shops, hotels, eating at restaurants, etc. Women tend to stay inside their homes.
While traveling in Morocco, keep in mind that the original inhabitants were Berber – the nomadic tribes and shepherds who move around the desert and mountains. Now, the line between Arab and Berber is often blurred.
When the French colonized Morocco, Berbers were often discriminated against. The culture is once again accepted and education among Berbers is encouraged (whereas it used to be banned). French is no longer an “official” language, though it is widely spoken. In the smaller towns, my French was handier than my English.
The food in Morocco is actually quite good, though it gets old after a few weeks. A girl can only eat Tagine and couscous so many times. That being said, I don’t think I could ever get sick of the mint tea.
One thing I didn’t expect in Morocco was good-quality produce. Most Moroccan ingredients consist of products grown in Morocco, without GMOs or chemical fertilisers.
You can get figs, pomegranates, grapes, cherries (the best I’ve ever had), nuts, dates, peaches, tomatoes, oranges, mandarins, onions, etc. depending on the season. The list goes on. You can also try and buy usually expensive spices, like saffron here.
Morocco Cuisine in the Morning
Breakfast is big in Morocco, and eaten at a leisurely pace. Everywhere I stayed served breakfast for free, from hostels to local guesthouses.
Generally, breakfast consists of coffee, orange juice, eggs, beghrir (Morocco pancakes with a spongy texture) with honey and jam – this was my favorite – pastries, and khoobz (Morocco bread).
It’s safe to say breakfast often kept me full until dinner.
Other Morocco Dishes
Morocco Tagines: This is the most popular dish. They are Moroccan stews cooked in large earthenware pots to keep the meat tender. No worries, veggies are heavily used too, and there is always a vegetarian option. The vegetables consisted of caramelised onions and many root vegetables.
Couscous: A fine, pale fluffy grain. Thi sis often served with lots of vegetables, like pumpkin and tomatoes, and fresh herbs.
Nuts: You can get nuts like almonds pretty cheap in Morocco. They are often served as an afternoon snack with mint tea.
Mezze: A varied amount of salads
Moroccan Mint Tea: Also referred as Berber whiskey because it’s the closest thing you’re going to get to alcohol.
For Moroccan cooking classes, check out this site for awesome deals.
Trekking in Morocco
There is surprisingly quite a bit of trekking in Morocco, though be prepared for sunburns and hot weather! The High Atlas is the most popular, especially around the Todgha Gorge.
For a bit of unexplored terrain head to the Anti Atlas range. The most famous area here is around Jebel Aklim, which will offer the opportunity to visit ancient kasbahs (fortresses) and Berber shepards.
You can also summit North Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Toubkal at about 4,100 meters. This hike takes two nights. You start your ascent from the town of Imlil, 90 minutes outside of Marrakesh.
Surfing in Morocco
You can surf all along Morocco’s Atlantic coast, but the most popular place to surf is Taghzout. Other towns in that area, like Tamraght and Timri, offer great surf as well. You can even surf in the cities on the coast: Rabat, Casablanca, and Adagir included.
While more remote, there is surf in Sidi Kaouki and Mirleft.
This is the Atlantic though, so don’t expect any nice tropical beaches and warm board short weathered water!
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Morocco
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
I think the most important part of being a responsible backpacker in Morocco is to dress modestly. I saw girls wearing booty shorts in Marrakesh and wanted to facepalm, over and over. Not only will you avoid unwanted attention, it’s just part of respecting a culture that is 99% Muslim.
This is especially important if you have the chance to visit a Mosque or place of religious significance.
There are a lot of cool activities, like camel riding, you can participate in Morocco. Make sure to choose companies that treat their animals well!
A Recent History of Morocco
Morocco earliest inhabitants were nomadic peoples who lived in the desert. Around the 4th century Romans arrived and named the indigenous people “Berbers” meaning barbarians. Due to Berber rebellions inland and attacks along the coast, the Roman Empire was pushed out.
By the 7th century, Islam arrived in Morocco. While there wasn’t one successful armed force to convert Berbers over to Islam, many Berbers gradually began to convert on their own over time.
In the 1800s France began to colonize Morocco and the sultanate of Morocco slowly lost power. By the 1900s France took control of Morocco’s banks and police force. Nationalists resisted the French colonization, and Morocco finally negotiated independence from France and Spain between 1956 and 1958.
Soon after King Hassan II became leader of the independent nation. An economic crisis drove Morocco into debt, and Hassan II didn’t help. There were attempts to assassinate the king. He was never a popular leader, and was even investigated for human-rights abuses.
Morocco’s Arab Spring
In 2011 Morocco underwent protests across the nation and rest of North Africa. Protesters demanded political accountability, and Mohammed VI responded with constitutional reforms that gave more power to parliament and make Berber an official language. While there is still work to be done, these reforms helped assure stability in Morocco.
Final Thoughts on Backpacking Morocco
In truth, there were many aspects I absolutely loved about visiting Morocco, as well as times I wanted to pull my hair out.
You will meet some of the kindest people in Morocco – they will take you in and feed you, no questions asked. You will also come across some of the rudest, pushiest sales touts in the world. They will scream at you for not buying an overpriced blanket and make a scene for not accepting their tea.
All of that being said, I’ve never been to another country like it. Nowhere else have I encountered such interesting souks like in Morocco’s medinas, desolate deserts like the Sahara, and nomadic cultures like the Berbers.
There are so many experiences unique to Morocco, and plenty of adventurous sports to participate in – sandboarding and surfing, for example.
Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!
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Need More Inspiration?
- Best Hostels in Marrakesh
- Onwards to Backpacking Spain
- Onwards to Backpacking Portugal
- Is Morocco Safe?
- Is Madagascar Safe?
- Where to Stay in Tangier
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.