Morocco was a complete leap of faith. I searched and surveyed high and low to find out if this was a safe destination to explore. After gathering all of the reviews, they were mixed. I got many YESes, encouraging me to go and enjoy the mint tea and Riads. And I got many NOes, warning of the possible dangers, particularly for women, that I might encounter. My mind told me, there's only one way for me to discover the real truth, and that is to go for myself.
Before I jump into my entire Morocco experience, I want to sum up my answer to the question I asked myself going as a single woman.
"In Short "Can you go to Morocco alone as a woman, Yes. Should you go to Morocco alone as a woman; ONLY if you plan out your trip in full, hook up with the right tour guides, stay in reputable places and do research on where you are going."
My experience in Marrakesh was based on lack of planning and pure luck. I was in Ibiza, Spain and unsure of where I wanted to go from there. My Ibiza friends were leaving and I needed to make a decision. I didn't have a flight booked, but I had checked prices a few days earlier. The night before I was supposed to leave, I re-checked prices and they had gone up significantly. So, I booked the cheapest ticket, which got me into Marrakesh at 1am. Therein lies the problem... Upon arrival, and after going through customs and all, I walked out of the airport at around 3 am. I approached the taxi area where I met a gentleman, who I thought, assigned each tourist to a taxi driver, and got in the cab.
Right away I had a feeling this cab driver was going to scam me for the cab fair. All I wanted to do was get to my hostel. Upon arrival at the Old Medina, near where my hostel was located, I realized there are no vehicles allowed - walking and animals only. I would have to walk the rest of the way to my hostel!
In the map to the left, I circled in black, the taxi drop-off area where the cab dropped me off. I highlighted the route in red, which I was supposed to follow in order to get to my hostel. Now, I would have pulled up google maps if my cell carrier hadn't mislead me into believing Morocco was a place with service. It wasn't!
Upon arriving at the drop off point, I sensed my cab driver was going to rip me off on price, charging me around 250.00 Dirhams ($25 USD). It was so late and I just wanted to get to my final destination, so I paid the man. A ride from the airport to the Medina should be no more than 100.00 Dirhams ($10 USD).
One of the 6 men, around my age, followed me and assured he would help me find my destination.
Now my next challenge was finding my hostel. When I arrived at the drop off point, after paying the cab, I was relentlessly hassled by about 6 weary looking moroccan men, each claiming that they would "Show me the way to my hostel"and, "the other 5 are liars, don't follow them" Now you could just imagine that feeling of confusion, concern and just sheer terror I felt. Without hesitation, my fight or flight kicked in and I just ran. Alone at 3 am in the streets of Marrakesh.
"Deep down inside I felt as if I still was going to die, But there was about a 25% chance I may live if I followed him, so naturally, I followed."
He did the right thing and brought me to my destination safely. However, he wanted money. I stood outside of my hostel pleading with him, crying that I had no money. I had about 10 euros on me, and that was all. He wanted to take me for about 450 dirhams (about ~$50 USD), but after I gave him 10 euros, the lady running the hostel opened the door and let me in.
After arriving at the hostel and checking in, I arrived to my room, with NO locks on the doors. No place to lock up my luggage, and the best part? Upon waking up, I realized the guy who shook me down for money the that night, was staying in the room next to me at my hostel. To top it off, I'm pretty sure he worked there!!
At that moment, I was out. I packed my bags, found other accommodations in Marrakesh, and chose NOT to give up on Morocco. I strived to make the best out of this trip, and I ended up doing exactly that. Check out everything below to make your trip to Morocco Fun, Safe and Exciting!
Going into a bit more detail about the scams, and the types of scams prominent in Morocco, here is the most common ones I found during my time in this country:
Cabs: Ask for a price BEFORE you commit to a cab ride. Like mentioned above, a ride from the airport to the Old Medina should be around 100 dirhams ($10 USD). If you are staying in a hotel or Riad, ask if they have an airport shuttle. If not, always ask before you commit. If you map it out, and it sounds a bit high, don't take it.
Tanneries near the Old Medina of Marrakesh
Souvenir Shops: Souvenir Shops are harmless, but a headache. There are PLENTY of places to buy moroccan goods but odds are they are trying to sell you these items for a pretty penny, and to top it all off, you are never really sure if these items are "Authentic." Everything in Morocco is negotiable. The first price is never the true price, and never pay more than you think its worth. There are a few licensed souvenir shops that assure honest pricing and are non-negotiable. If you stick with a tour guide, they should be able to point you in the direction of those. One of my Favorite shows on Netflix is "Scam City" with Conor Woodman. He dives deep into the scams of Morocco and how to spot them when you see them.
Tanneries: If you go to Morocco, odds are your tour guide is going to try and bring you to a tannery. This does not mean you have a bad tour guide. They will typically give you a heads up before they bring you there. They will pass it off as "seeing how the goods are made"and "experiencing the real Marrakesh."
Upon arrival, you are handed mint leaves to cover up the pungent smell as you walk through the grounds. Your tour guide will pass you off to someone who works in the tannery. They will show you around and essentially you will see how they dye the hides of the animals.
It's not necessarily the most pleasant thing you'll see. It's sad in some ways to see how some of the locals work and the unpleasant living conditions of the lower class. In my opinion, if your tour guide mentions it, skip it. After your quick tour, they bring you into the gift shop, and try and sell you a leather product or a rug. They will bring you into a room and lay out every rug in the room and pressure you, big time, into buying one. Just politely, but STERNLY decline.
Offering Help/Directions: Something you would think is a normal common curtesy in most places can be easily misconstrued in Morocco. When walking around, you'll find, people will offer to help you locate something if you look confused. If you take them up on their offer, most likely they will ask you for money.
Street Performers: In the Old Medina (Jemaa el-Fnaa), you will find everything from henna tattoos to monkeys on leashes, snake charmers and gypsies. If you decide to take a photo with one of them, or even just take a photo standing nearby, odds are they will ask you for money. Also, be sure to watch your pockets for pick pockets in these busy areas.
With a love for hostels, I found out very quickly that hostels weren't the best choice while traveling Morocco. The hostel I booked initially was Hostel Riad Rogue. With the highest review on hostel world, and over 1,600 reviews, I thought it would be a home run. After my nightmare arrival, than to find out that my greedy guide from the night before turned out to be my roommate, I immediately knew Hostels (especially this one!) were a No-Go for Morocco!
The next morning this trip quickly turned around - upon my arrival at my new accommodations. I knew Marrakesh had a Four Seasons hotel, and I knew it was out of my price range, so I looked up a few hotels near that area and I found this:
Hivernage Hôtel & Spa - This hotel immediately turned my experience around for the better. Upon arrival, they sympathized with my story of how this country greeted me initially, and did everything they could to make it right. Hivernage worked with me to book my room at a comfortable price, and connected me with their tours and excursions manager who assured that everything I booked for the rest of my stay was safe and enjoyable. Hivernage is located right near the Gardens of Marrakesh, a beautiful, safe area with surrounding hotels. I felt comfortable residing here. An incredible breakfast buffet every morning before my excursions and a clean and friendly environment. Overall my stay was nothing short of amazing!
Destinations & Tours
I booked all of my tours through my hotel. Unless you do research, and/or are referred to specific people in the area you are visiting, I'd recommend booking via tour agencies or hotels. By booking this way, you are assured a guided ride, to and from the destination, and in countries like Morocco, you will be placed with a government licensed tour guide.
You'll want to make sure that whatever guided tour you go on is planned fully from start to finish. Walking around Marrakesh is okay by yourself during the day, especially in the Old Medina. It's an extremely crowded area, so just make sure to keep your wits about you, and have a good eye on your valuables.
A General tour of Marrakesh should take you to some of the places below, give or take a few:
Jemaa El'Fnaa - The main square/marketplace in Marrakesh. Filled with tourist attractions, shops and fresh fruit stands, you can find moroccan oils, spices, leather goods and more sold in this area.
Bahia Palace- Built in the late 19th Century, Its name means "Brilliance". This palace was intended to be the greatest palace of its time. Located among a set of gardens, you'll find beautiful architecture and bright colors upon visiting.
Saadian Tombs - Sepulchres that date back to time of the Saadian Dynasty and the reign of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. They are located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque.
Atlas Mountains - The specific tour that I was taken on brought me to the Atlas Mountains. These mountains span all the way thought Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. At the base of the mountains you will find villages typically populated by Berber culture.
The village I found myself in was the village of Setti Fatma; or Ourika Valley. In this village, you will find restaurants nestled alongside the rivers flowing below the mountain scape. While hiking this portion of the Atlas Mountains, you will see 7 beautiful waterfalls. It's a long hike, but well worth it. You will see all sorts of wildlife, and nature on your hike up.
Nightlife & Restaurants
You can find nightlife nestled within the streets of Morocco. But for a single girl, I was hesitant to really indulge in what Marrakesh had to offer. In other write ups regarding nightlife, you'll see there are plenty of options such as Pacha - Marrakech, - check their website and find dates and times for some prime time nightlife happening in Marrakesh.
Other notable nightlife locations include The Lotus club, Theatro Marrakesh and So Lounge, Marrakesh. Make sure to check with your accommodations or online which nights are best to attend these clubs.