Morocco is not a difficult country to travel solo, but there are some tips and tricks that can make your experience more enjoyable and prevent you from wasting time and money.
Speak the Language
Linguistic richness characterizes this North African nation. The majority of Moroccans speak Moroccan Arabic (Darija) or one of three Berber dialects as a native language. French is widely used, and you can still get by with Spanish or Portuguese in some coastal regions. Traveling alone is an excellent opportunity to meet and converse with locals. Even if you can only manage basic greetings, an attempt at speaking Darija or Berber will often gain you immediate respect and can lead to better deals on lodging, tourism packages and souvenirs.
Lonely Planet has phrasebooks for both French and Moroccan Arabic. Another travel-geared French phrasebook on the market is by writer Rick Steves.
In a pair or a group, it’s easier to have small change on hand. When you’re alone, you can only rely on yourself for those two dirhams needed to use a public squat toilet or the ten dirhams you’d like to give the busboy as a tip. Always carry cash and always have small change. You don’t want to have to pay for something inexpensive with a large bill, as shopkeepers cannot always make change.
Don’t Always Wait for Grand Taxis
Grand taxis typically don’t leave the taxi stand until they have six paying passengers. For getting from town to town, these taxis are often the only option. If you show up first, you’ll need to wait for five other passengers before your vehicle will be on its way. Work some money into your budget to pay for an extra seat. If you pay for two seats, you can sit in the front seat solo and avoid the elbowing and smell of body odor that can accompany four adults crammed in the backset of a Mercedes. You’ll also get your taxi on the road faster.
Find Travel Buddies
It’s much cheaper to arrange guided tours and transportation when traveling in a group than by yourself. If you’re looking for travel buddies, try giving out a shout out ahead of time via Twitter or a blog post to see if any of your virtual acquaintances will be traveling in Morocco at the same time. While in country, head for the hotels rated highly on TripAdvisor or guidebook author picks that seem the most appealing for other travelers with a similar budget.
Get a Phone
A phone can be a useful tool for coordinating with taxi drivers for day trips or other travelers you meet on the road, especially if you plan to spend a few days on your own and rendezvous in another city. A phone also gives you an additional layer of security. Morocco uses GSM technology, so if you have a US-based cell phone it will likely be cheaper to buy an unlocked GSM cell phone and get a local SIM card than to use international roaming services.
Women traveling alone in Morocco should exercise additional caution by dressing modestly, avoiding arrival in new cities after dark and not allowing taxi drivers to take you to a friend’s/brother’s/cousin’s hotel instead of the hotel you’d planned on staying at. A false wedding ring and a wallet-sized photo of a husband or fiancé (real or fictional) may also prove helpful in fending off would-be suitors and wannabe mother-in-laws.
Written by Heather Carreiro.
Photo by Anomalily.