Whilst I was backpacking in Morocco, I noticed that the average age of the tourists is generally slightly older than in places like South East Asia or Australia. Most likely because backpacking Morocco can be seen as a little intimidating, especially for solo or female backpackers.
But I urge you not to let this put you off. Morocco is an incredible country to travel around, diverse, exotic, colourful…
Yes, there are a few precautions to take and it may not be quite as easy to backpack in Morocco as it is in places like Thailand, but those who take on the challenge will be well rewarded.
To help you plan your Morocco backpacking adventure, I have put together this Morocco backpacking guide – everything you need to know to have the most incredible adventure in this beautiful country!
We’ll be covering aspects like how to get around, where to stay, what to do and how much it will cost as well as covering some safety aspects for solo travellers. Everything you need to know to plan a brilliant tip whether that be solo backpacking in Morocco or joining a group tour.
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What you can expect from this article...
- 1 Backpacking in Morocco – everything you need to know
- 2 Morocco Backpacking FAQs
- 2.1 What should I budget for backpacking in Morocco
- 2.2 How do I barter in Morocco?
- 2.3 Is it safe to backpack in Morocco?
- 2.4 What should tourists wear when backpacking in Morocco?
- 2.5 What else should I pack for backpacking in Morocco?
- 2.6 What photography gear do I need in Morocco?
- 2.7 Can I drink the tap water in Morocco?
- 2.8 Do I need injections for backpacking in Morocco?
- 2.9 What currency should I take to Morocco?
- 2.10 Do I need a visa to backpack Morocco?
Backpacking in Morocco – everything you need to know
How to get to Morocco
Most people will fly into Morocco and there are several international airports including in Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Fes and Agadir.
The largest of which are Mohammed V International airport in Casablanca and Marrakesh Menara Airport in Marrakesh. Therefore if you fly into either of these, you are likely to have more choice of flights and may get a better bargain.
Be aware that some of the airlines flying into Casablanca are a little lax with luggage. I flew with Iberia and had to wait 24 hours for my luggage to arrive. It sounded like it was a daily occurrence in Casablanca airport as it also happened to friends of mine who arrived on a different flight a few hours later.
So if you can, take hand luggage only. You may want to add a checked bag to go home with as there are so many things you’ll want to buy in the souks!
You can also catch a ferry from Spain or France to Tangier if you prefer not to fly.
How to get around Morocco
There is a good train network in Morocco and this may be one of the easiest ways to get about if you plan on backpacking Morocco independently.
However, the only way to travel from Marrakech to Essaouira is by bus or organised transfer.
Reaching the Sahara desert is a little more tricky and will likely require a combination of buses and taxis to reach your desert hotel.
However, for this section of your Morocco backpacking trip, it is advisable to book a 3-day desert tour. There are so many great places to see along the way which you would miss if you relied purely on public transport.
The safest way to get around the cities is by taxi. Many taxis operate with a meter and are very affordable. But always check if the meter is on and if not, make sure you barter for a good price.
I found most taxi’s in Marrakech did not use a meter so bartering was necessary. A 10-minute taxi ride generally cost me about 30DHR but I imagine the locals pay a lot less!
As tourists, you will always pay more than locals do, but aim for around 50% of the price they initially quote you.
In Morocco, it is not unusual to share taxis. So don’t be surprised if someone hops in your taxi halfway through your journey!
If you are apprehensive about backpacking in Morocco, are travelling solo or are short on time, then you may want to consider booking a group tour. I have previously travelled with G Adventures in Morocco and would recommend them.
When to go backpacking in Morocco
Morocco can get unbearably hot in the summer months so I’d advise that you visit in the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. You are still bound to get lots of sunshine and lovely weather backpacking Morocco at these times.
The weather can vary massively in different parts of the country. In the more mountainous regions and in the desert, you may notice that it can get very cold at night so make sure you pack accordingly and take lots of layers.
I went backpacking in Morocco in October and for the most part, the sun shone most days but I needed jeans and a coat in the evenings when at higher altitude. Chefchouen and the Atlas mountains got especially chilly.
You also need to plan your trip according to Ramadam dates which changes every year according to the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is a holy month where Muslims fast during daylight hours for 30 days.
Whilst you can travel during Ramadan and you should be fine finding places to eat, you need to know that some shops and tourist attractions may have altered opening times and restaurants are unlikely to reopen until late evening from about 9 pm onwards.
If this bothers you, then look to backpack in Morocco at a different time.
Ramadan dates for the next 5 years;
- 2020 23 April – 23 May
- 2021 12 April – 11 May
- 2022 2 April – 1 May
- 2023 22 March – 20 April
- 2024 10 March – 8 April
Backpacker Accommodation in Morocco
Whilst there isn’t a huge backpacker hostel scene, there are more and more available as Morocco grows in popularity amongst backpackers. A Hostel will usually set you back $7-12 per night if you’re happy to stay in a dormitory.
Another popular option is to stay in a riad. Riads are traditional Moroccan houses set around a central courtyard. They are often decorated with intricate mosaics, water features or small pools and lots of greenery.
The price for a nights stay in a riad varies and the posher ones can be very pricey. However, you’ll find plenty of budget options on booking.com.
Where to visit when backpacking Morocco
If you want to hit up all the highlights of Morocco on your backpacking trip, I’d suggest you need a minimum of 2 weeks but preferably 3-4. I’d recommend spending most of your time in the following cities and regions and planning day trips from there.
If you are on a shorter trip then check out this 10 day Morocco itinerary.
Fes is an ancient bustling city perfect for culture vultures and history buffs. Its medina is a chaotic labyrinth of 9000 laneways and alleys so prepare to get very lost. Here is one place that it might be worth hiring a guide for! Home to the worlds first University and the oldest leather tanneries which are a must-visit for anyone who can tolerate the stench.
I only spent one day in Fes but I wish I had more time to explore this fascinating city.
From Fes, you can visit another city full of history, Meknes. You are also not far from Volubilis, the Roman ruins well worth visiting for anyone interested in Morocco’s ancient history.
Things to do in Fes
- Take a guided tour of the chaotic medina.
- Experience the leather tanneries
- Go shopping for leather goods in the souks
- Visit Medersa Attarine
- Enjoy a hammam spa experience.
- Take a cooking class
- Day trip to Volubilis
- Day trip to Meknes
Where to stay in Fes
- Scrimp: Medina Social Club offers a mixture of budget private rooms and dormitories in a converted riad with beautiful rooftop views of Fes. Check it out here.
- Save – Riad Al Makan is the perfect place to stay if a budget guesthouse is more your style. This is set in a pretty riad with a lovely courtyard and has a wellness centre attached. Check it out here.
Marrakech is often mistaken as the capital city of Morocco as it is so well known. Marrakech is merely the tourism capital of Morocco but the actual capital is Rabat.
The word which describes Marrakech best is pandemonium. The medina is jam-packed with people (and motorbikes) at all times of the day. The night market at Jemaa el’ Fna is chaotic and noisy, people’s energy palpable.
But despite the bedlam, riads provide quiet, tranquil havens right in the midst of the medina chaos. Marrakesh really is a city of contradictions.
There are many places to explore in Marrakesh so I’d advise spending 3-5 days here. Any longer, and you might go a little bonkers…
Things to do in Marrakech
- Visit the chaotic Jemaa el ‘Fna night market – but take care here!
- Shop for souvenirs in the souks
- Take a guided tour of all the highlights
- Stay in a riad or at least visit one for lunch or a massage.
- Visit the Maison de la Photographie – well worth the 50DH entrance fee.
- Have a hammam
- Take a cooking class
- Day trip to Ouzoud waterfalls
- Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa to admire the complex architecture. (Note that it is currently closed for renovations as of October 2019)
- Enjoy the ‘Escape the medina’ escape rooms
- Visit the Saadian tombs
- Visit El’Badi Palace
- Take the hop-on-hop-off bus
Where to stay in Marrakech
- Scrimp: Boho 27 Hostel is right in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from the busy medina. The decor is lovely, there is a roof terrace and its great for backpackers on a budget. Check it out here.
- Save: Riad Salam 40 has a boutique feel and also has the perk of a rooftop swimming pool as well as a wellness centre. It’s a little more than hostel prices but is right in the centre near the medina so you’ll save on taxis. A perfect solution for any flashpackers in Marrakech! Check it out here.
- Splash out: Whilst not on a typical backpackers budget, if you wish to splash the cash and treat yourself to posher accommodation for a few nights to experience luxury in Marrakech then I’d recommend doing it at Bliss Riad. I went here for lunch and a massage and it was divine. Its actually inside the medina and yet despite chaos at its front door, it’s somehow a haven of peace and tranquillity inside. I definitely found myself wishing I could stay longer. Check it out here.
Essaouira is a breath of fresh air after the chaos of Marrakech. A bohemian beach town with a charming medina and a plethora of beach activities on offer from quad biking to kitesurfing. You’ll also find beach bars aplenty with live music and great food to keep you entertained in the evenings.
I could have whiled away weeks here but realistically allow 2-4 days here.
Things to do in Essaouira
- Go shopping in the souks
- Relax with a hammam
- Visit the ramparts and Scala du Port
- Go quad biking
- Take a camel ride along the beach
- Learn to surf
- Learn to kitesurf
- Eat, drink and enjoy live music
For more ideas read my article about the best 17 things to do in Essaouira.
Where to stay in Essaouira
- Scrimp: The Chill Art Hostel is a quirky hostel with rooms individually decorated – some a tribute to Jimi Hendrix! There is a rooftop terrace and it’s right next to the medina so you won’t have far to go to reach the shops. Check it out here.
- Save: Dar Latigeo s a small boutique guesthouse with 6 rooms and a roof terrace right in the heart of the medina. If there’s two of you travelling together then this will cost you barely any more than a hostel dormitory – it’s a bargain! Check it out here.
You’re bound to have seen photos of Chefchaouen and if you haven’t, you should go and check it out now! The medina is painted top to toe in bright blue paint and it has a sort of laid back, hippy vibe. This was one of the more relaxed places I visited and I could easily have stayed longer. Plan to stay here 2-3 days.
Things to do in Chefchaouen
- Hike up to the Spanish Mosque for a great panoramic view
- Take a guided food tour
- Take endless photos of blue streets
- Visit the old kasbah
- Just relax…
Where to stay in Chefchaouen
- Scrimp: Chefchaouen doesn’t have many hostels yet but Dar Besmellah offers basic rooms a short walk from the medina with plenty of outdoor space and views onto the surrounding mountains. Check it out here.
- Save: If you haven’t had enough of the blue decor of this curious blue city, then stay at Dar Dadicilef. Situated close to the Kasbah, this guest house is also blue top to toe which seems to be fitting in Chefchaouen. Check it out here.
Merzouga, Sahara Desert
If you want to experience life in the Sahara desert, then Merzouga is one of the best bases to do this. A small but busy town right next to the golden sands of the Sahara. From here, it will be a short journey out to one of the desert hotels.
There are five ways you can explore the Sahara desert;
1/ Arrange your own transport to Merzouga and from there arrange accommodation at a desert hotel where you can arrange activities with the hotel directly.
- Scrimp: If you don’t mind a bit of sand between your toes, you can stay at this Berber and Camel Trek, a budget glamping camp and spend your evening listening to music around the campfire. Check it out here.
- Save: If you’d rather sleep in a hotel then this budget desert hotel, Kasbah le Berger, is right on the edge of the dunes and has a beautiful swimming pool. Check it out here.
- Splurge: If you want a more glamorous glamping experience then this place is incredible. Sahara Majestic Luxury camp is the sort of place you’ll never want to leave. Check it out here.
2/ Arrange your own transport to Merzouga then take a multi-day guided tour from Merzouga.
3/ Organise a multi-day tour from Fes or Marrakech returning to the same place which will include your accommodation, activities and some food. This is a great way to visit a few highlights along the way eg Ben Ait Haddou or Todra Gorge.
4/ Organise a multi-day tour from Fes or Marrakech which will return to the opposite city which is a great option if your Morocco backpacking itinerary includes both cities.
5/ Take a guided tour around Morocco which includes some time in the desert. This is a great way to travel if you are nervous about solo travel in Morocco as you will have a group of ready-made like-minded travellers to explore with.
- G Adventures is my favourite travel company having travelled with them 9 times myself. All tours focus on adventure and sustainable travel and include visits to a few off-the-beaten-track places along the way. See their trips to Morocco here.
- Intrepid Travel is a very similar company who I’ve travelled with twice. A few of my friends have travelled to Morocco with Intrepid and raved about their experience. Check out Intrepid Morocco trips here.
Things to do in Merzouga
- Take a camel trek for sunset – an absolute must-do in Morocco
- Camp under the stars
- Join a drumming circle around the campfire at night
- Visit Berber villages and tribes
- Try sandboarding
- Or quad biking
Read More: How to plan a desert tour in Morocco
Here is a great base for visiting several of Morocco’s best tourist attractions. From here you can easily reach the High Atlas Mountains, explore Todra Gorge or visit beautiful UNESCO site Ben Ait Haddou.
Things to do in Ouarzazate
- Visit the desert if you haven’t done so already
- Explore the UNESCO site and preserved kasbah Ben Ait Haddou, the location for various films including Game of Thrones and Gladiator.
- Visit the High Atlas Mountains for hiking
- Visit The High Atlas mountains for skiing in the winter
- Hike near Todra Gorge
- Visit Atlas film studios and see where films such as ‘The Mummy,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Gladiator’ were filmed.
Where to stay in Ouarzazate
- Scrimp: Dar Widad offers a selection of budget single, double and dormitory rooms at a reasonable price and scores 9.2/10 on booking.com. Check it out here.
- Save: Maison d’hôtes Dar Farhana is a little out of town s best for those with a hire car as there is free parking. It has a really lovely terrace and boasts a swimming pool as well as plenty of light airy rooms. Check it out here.
Morocco Backpacking FAQs
What should I budget for backpacking in Morocco
Backpacking Morocco was not quite as cheap as I expected it to be. Whilst some things are still very affordable, I suspect the influx of tourists over the past few years has driven prices up considerably. Here are a few prices you can expect to pay when you are backpacking in Morocco;
A meal in a restaurant: $5-9 for a tagine. $3-5 for pizza or pasta.
A non-alcoholic drink in a cafe: $1-2
A glass of wine $5
Taxi: $1-3 for a short journey under 10 minutes (closer to $3 in Marrakech but less elsewhere.)
Airport transfer: massively inflated around $30 for a 45-minute journey. Book a pre-organised transfer instead if you can.
Basic riad or guesthouse $30-50/night
All-out luxury riad or resort $150-300/night
Full hammam experience with a massage: $45-65
3 Day desert safari: $120-$150
Day tour: $30-50
How do I barter in Morocco?
You will need to barter for just about everything in Morocco.
I usually ask the vendor ‘how much?’ and am usually given a first ridiculous price. I tend to laugh and say ‘No, what is your best/fair price?’ at which point they’ll usually give a slightly less ridiculous price though it’ll still be a lot more than it’s worth.
At this point, I give a counter offer which is usually around 1/3 of their price. We then to and fro, each increasing/decreasing our offer slightly before meeting somewhere in the middle.
The final result should be a comfortable one for both parties. Think ‘is it worth that price to you?’ If so, its a bargain.
Try not to look too over-interested when you are looking at something as they are likely to quote a much higher first price.
Head away from very touristy areas such as Jemaa El ‘Fna where prices will be much higher. You will also get better prices in smaller, less touristy cities.
Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away. They are likely to run after you with a better deal when they learn you are not a walkover. If they don’t then you now have a better idea of what is a fair price and you can usually find the same item at another stall or return to the same stall later on.
Is it safe to backpack in Morocco?
Morocco isn’t a particularly dangerous country to backpack in but you do need to take precautions. Petty theft and sexual harassment are common and solo female travel in Morocco is not without its challenges. It is certainly easier and safer to travel with friends, as a couple or as part of a group tour.
That said, the foreign travel advice on the Gov.uk website states the risk of terrorism is high in Morocco. Whilst there haven’t been any large scale terrorist attacks yet though 2 Danish girls were murdered in an isolated terrorist attack linked to ISIS in 2018.
It’s important to put this into context. These days the risk of terrorism is high in most countries!
I didn’t feel unsafe in Morocco but I did take safety precautions. I did at time feel harassed by men but not in any real danger.
Here are a few tips for staying safe whilst backpacking in Morocco;
- Avoid straying far at night, take a taxi to stay in the tourist areas.
- Definitely avoid walking in the countryside after dark. If you are hiking anywhere for the sunset, make sure you walk back straight away before you lose the light and walk in groups.
- Consider buying an anti-theft bag as petty theft is common. I have this bag and love it because not only does it look stylish but it would also be incredibly difficult for people to steal from since it only opens from the back.
- Try wearing a scarf with a pocket for your valuables. As well as using a theft-proof bag, this can be a great way to hide valuables on your person in a place no one will suspect. Check out these scarves with hidden pockets.
- Ask locals where is safe to travel – your hotel can always advise you.
- Whilst cannabis is widely produced in Morocco, it is still illegal so don’t risk it.
- You will get comments, sometimes sexual but mostly its just words. Try to have a thick skin.
- Be especially careful in the medinas where it is very crowded and thieves operate.
- Consider taking a group tour is backpacking Morocco alone makes you nervous. I recommend G Adventures.
- Leave jewellery and designer clothes at home as it makes you a target for theft.
What should tourists wear when backpacking in Morocco?
Backpackers in Morocco should be respectful of the conservative culture and make sure they cover-up whilst still keeping cool in the hot weather.
Ideally, both men and women should make sure that their shoulders and knees are covered. Covering your midriff and cleavage goes without saying!
It’s best to wear thin, light, floaty clothes in cotton or breathable materials. Girls should carry a scarf for some extra coverage when required such as entering any religious buildings.
Unfortunately, it’s not just out of respect for the local culture that necessitates covering up so much. Women, in particular, are likely to get stared at and may receive derogatory comments. Sadly this happens even if you are covered up well but will undoubtedly occur more often if you stand out by flashing your flesh!
I mostly wore loose floaty midi-skirts with round neck T-shirts that have short or medium length sleeves. I would pair this with trainers as roads were often rocky and required comfortable and supportive footwear. I also took some loose cotton tousers which I also paired with T-shirts. I also saw lots of girls wearing Capri trousers with linen shirts.
It can get chilly at night so I recommend packing a couple of jumpers and a jacket if you are travelling outside of the hot, summer months.
What else should I pack for backpacking in Morocco?
In general, a backpack would be better suited to backpacking in Morocco than taking a suitcase. Many of the riad guesthouses are in the old medinas which are inaccessible by car. The roads are rocky and dirty and would quickly damage your suitcase wheels.
I personally use an Osprey backpack. The anti-gravity feature makes it feel much lighter than it is, even when it is full of Moroccan souvenirs! It also has loads of pockets for storage.
You also need to think about having a theft-proof day bag. Theft is common in Morocco as I mentioned above. I have this bag which I love as its both pretty and functional!
It only opens from the back making it very challenging for even the most dextrous pickpockets. It has pockets on the front so I use these for things I need easier access to including some loose change and camera batteries. But my valuables stay hidden in the secret compartment.
It may be worth having a sturdy padlock for your main luggage too.
You will need plenty of sunscreen even in the cooler months. You won’t, however, need any mosquito spray. I found it difficult to find hair conditioner so I’d recommend bringing enough in your luggage to last your trip.
Pharmacies are easily accessible but I always carry Loperamide just in case – traveller’s diarrhoea is common in Morocco!
What photography gear do I need in Morocco?
I took my Sony A7iii mirrorless camera with two lenses, an ultrawide 16-35mm Sony lens and 24-75mm F2.8 Tamron lens. I used the Tamron lens 95% of the time and found myself wishing that instead of my ultra-wide, that I had bought a decent telephoto lens instead.
There were times when a long-range lens would have been handy, for example shooting street scenes at Jemaa El ‘Fna from the safety of a rooftop cafe.
If you want to try any astrophotography in the desert then don’t forget a remote trigger and a tripod. Whilst I have a great travel tripod I use for photography trips, for most trips I just use the Manfrotto mini tripod. It’s super light and takes up barely any of my luggage space.
A polarizer filter may be helpful in the Atlas mountains or the desert for reducing reflection and boosting colours in the sky. However, I found I needed to remove it for most of my urban photography as many of the laneways are lacking in much light and I found a polariser lowered my shutter speed too much for quick setting changes.
Don’t forget to take plenty of SD memory cards and a spare camera battery!
SD cards cost a fortune in the markets and are generally low quality. I always get mine here as they have brilliant bulk deals.
Can I drink the tap water in Morocco?
No, the tap water in Morocco is not safe to drink.
Consider taking a WaterToGo bottle which has an inbuilt filter so you can fill up anywhere, be it your hotel or a stream. Use the code GLOBETROTTERGP for a 15% discount at the checkout.
Do I need injections for backpacking in Morocco?
Yellow fever vaccination is not required for Morocco.
According to the FitForTravel website which is my go-to source of information, boosters for Hep A and Tetanus are recommended. Hep B vaccination is only required for people at high risk.
You can also consider Typhoid and Rabies vaccinations. Please note that the Rabies vaccination is expensive and only gives you a little longer to receive medical attention (you still need treatment.) So I only have it if I know I will be a long way from a hospital, staying somewhere very rural.
Malaria and Zika virus are not currently present in Morocco (as of Oct ’19.)
What currency should I take to Morocco?
I know many people have problems getting Moroccan dirham out before they travelled. I didn’t have any trouble getting some at home before I left. However, you should avoid bringing Dirham out of the country and you may find it hard to get it changed back.
You will find plenty of ATM’s and foreign exchange offices at the airport to get some cash out.
Some larger shops will accept Euros but do not rely on this.
There is a 2000 DH limit on ATM withdrawals.
Do I need a visa to backpack Morocco?
As long as your backpacking trip is under 3 months, it is unlikely you will need a visa. Visitors from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe can enter for 90 days visa-free as long as you have a valid passport and proof of your return flight.
There are however some countries including various places in Africa, Central and South Asia and Central Amerca where a visa is required. It is best to check here first. If you do need a visa, you will need to get it in advance as no visas are issued at the airport.
Get your Morocco backpacking trip booked! Here are the resources UI trust and use personally to plan my own trips;
- For booking hotels, I use booking.com and love the in-depth search options. If I’m looking for self-catered accommodation, I use Airbnb. Get a lovely discount HERE.
- For flights, I love Skyscanner. I always find the best deals there and the ‘search everywhere’ option is great for inspiration.
- For day trips, my preference is to use Get Your Guide. If you’re looking for longer trips or group tours then my absolute fave company is G Adventures. Other companies I recommend are Intrepid Travel, Dragoman and Tour Radar.
- For renting cars, I use Europcar – hassle-free!
- And for insurance – please don’t travel without it – try Nomads!
- The best 10 day Morocco itinerary
- Solo female travel in Morocco – what you need to know
- 17 of the best things to do in Essaouira – Morocco’s hipster town
- How to get from Marrakech to Essaouira
- How to survive your first hammam
- One day in Fes – the perfect itinerary
- The cats of Morocco – a photo gallery
- Planning a desert trip in Morocco
Hopefully, you feel better prepared to go backpacking in Morocco. If you have any further questions, please pop them in the comments below! And don’t forget to pin this article so you can return to it again!