Is Morocco safe for solo females?Lizet Wesselman - 19/08/2023
Is Morocco safe for solo females?Lizet Wesselman - 19/08/2023
I often hear solo travelling women wondering whether Morocco is a safe travel destination. To make it easy, opinions are often divided on it. So there’s never a very unanimous answer as to whether it’s safe or not. In this blog, I will explain to you what is safe and unsafe about Morocco, ultimately allowing you to draw your own conclusion whether it falls within your definition of safe. After all, it’s one of those countries where your own interpretation of the culture has a lot of effect on your sense of safety.
Did I feel safe in Morocco?
Short answer: yes. I really didn’t feel unsafe for a second. Admittedly, I was travelling with a group of 40 people. But I had plenty of solo moments that I feel I can comment on this subject.
For example, we took a train from Marrakech to Rabat, where we got mixed with locals. The worst thing that happened there was that I was stuck outside the compartment because the door wouldn’t open after I went to the toilet. Other than that, I was offered food and even drinks several times. In fact, it’s very rude according to Moroccan culture to eat or drink alone. The norm is to offer what you have to the people around you. Even to complete strangers on the train.
Furthermore, with a group of 40 people, things were quite often forgotten at the locations we visited. This resulted in trips back to hostels, restaurants and organisations. In both Rabat and Marrakech, I walked quite a bit to pick things up. Admittedly, this was always with 1 other tiny blonde female traveller. So not technically alone. But I doubt that on my own I wouldn’t have been offered a whole teapot at the hostel where we picked up things, with the urgent message to really drink that while he went back to work. We were also hardly looked at, whistled at, addressed or harassed in any way. So in that respect, Morocco is safe for me.
Have I felt uncomfortable in Morocco?
Also yes. Marrakesh in particular is not a favourite for any of us. It’s very touristy, and the culture is very sales-oriented. So they will harass you endlessly with sales tricks and try to coax you into their shop. And very occasionally, they will grab your arm for that and literally try to pull you into the shop. That does cross a line for me. But still, it’s not with bad intentions. They just see you as a rich tourist they can sell a load of stuff to. Keep in mind that it’s not a particularly rich country, and they are pretty much there to convince you to buy something from them.
We came across this a lot. Also photo props, for example, where you can take a picture with an item or an animal. As soon as you’ve taken the picture, they suddenly hold up their hand. So just don’t take anything, then there’s nothing to worry about. Or keep in mind that you have to pay. For instance, a lot of photo spots in Chefchauen are paid. There’s often a basket or someone sitting next to you who you have to pay to be allowed to take a photo at the beautifully lined staircase. Doesn’t cost a turd, usually something like a euro, if that much at all. So just pay it if you want that photo. Yes, people take advantage of tourism, but what would you do if you couldn’t easily get a full-time job? This is also part of responsible tourism, where you’re aware of the situation in a country and do your bit to make an impact when you have the opportunity. And for you, what’s that one euro?
Feels dangerous or uncomfortable?
Knowing this, you can probably imagine that this makes many people uncomfortable. That you’re constantly being talked to and people intrude your personal space. This differs to a lot of Western cultures. I only experienced it as uncomfortable and annoying, and really only in Marrakech. But for some, this can feel quite threatening. So I think this is why opinions are so fractious about whether Morocco is safe for solo travellers. If you’re a less experienced traveller and still get dragged into things easily, you’re more susceptible to these kinds of situations and may perceive it as unsafe.
Still, I sincerely believe that these people have no other intention than to sell you something. They just want to earn from the rich tourists, and you can’t really blame them for that. So I think whether Morocco is safe or unsafe is mainly a matter of feelings and perception.
So, do they have no ulterior motives at all?
Admittedly, we met some men who asked us for our socials and such like “maybe I can come to the Netherlands sometime” etc. It’s quite difficult for Moroccans to get visas to Europe (yes, we fly there like that, they need visas). So yes, you’ll definitely encounter people who think of making a better living in Europe and then act very friendly, hoping you can help with those visas.
Still, not necessarily with an ulterior motive that they want to marry you or anything. But yes, sometimes there’s a hidden agenda behind the friendliness, and that’s very unfortunate. You have to kind of pierce through that and just smile away and say “who knows in the future” and then leave it at that. We added some of these guys on facebook and had no trouble with them. They respond to posts and photos, but I haven’t heard from anyone in the group that they’ve actually asked to come to the Netherlands yet.
However, some members of the group did move to Morocco temporarily because they had fallen in love with the country. That says something.
Do watch out for scammers!
This actually goes everywhere. But it’s known that, again especially in Marrakech, scammers really try very hard. For instance, large parts of the cities are car-free, so taking a taxi directly to the ho(s)tel often isn’t an option. You have to walk a bit, and they’ll queue up to offer to show you the way. In the maze that the medina already is, they take unnecessary side streets, making you genuinely lost. Only you don’t know that, which means that when you arrive at your accommodation, you’re grateful that you were guided by them and gladly pay them for it. Or at least, that’s the reasoning behind it (I think). But again, they hold up their hand afterwards.
And there are certainly more well-known scams that you come across in Morocco. Partly because of this, it’s labelled as unsafe, but that’s quite unjustified. This is just a matter of watching your stuff and saying no to everything you’re offered.
Official safety warnings Morocco
There’s an official medium safety risk for Morocco, but actually mainly because of the surrounding countries. It’s not recommended to go to the border areas, which even have a red travel advices. Furthermore, it’s strongly advised against driving a car randomly through the desert. Stay on the roads as there may still be old landmines under the sand. Does that also form a risk for your overnight stay in the desert? I doubt it. These tours are done daily and residents have set up camps there. They know the route and therefore drive a route that sometimes doesn’t seem logical. Perhaps because they know where they can and cannot pass. Trust them, and so don’t cross the desert on your own.
The presence of landmines or rebel groups at the border definitely falls into the unsafe category for me (duh). But that’s a matter of googling and keeping those safety measures in mind.
Furthermore, there’s a risk of terrorism, with one example of how this went wrong once in 2018. I always find such warnings a bit exaggerated when it comes down to one incident. Would you consider Amsterdam or Sicily unsafe because there’s maffia roaming the underworld there as well?. The terrorists in these countries are similar to that mafia. You rarely get caught up in that and that one situation in 2018 I think is just a mission gone wrong, as can happen anywhere. So basically, the only real warning is to watch out for pickpockets, but that applies everywhere.
So, can you conclude from this information that Morocco is unsafe? I don’t think so. As long as you don’t go to the border areas or cruise around the desert on your own.
Research a culture before you travel
Long story short, before you travel, check official websites regarding real threats. Is Morocco safe? I think so. Because as a woman, I don’t feel like I’m at risk for getting drugged or dragged into an alley. That being said, it’s wise to research a culture before you travel and prepare accordingly. If you take into account that they will be tugging at you to sell you things, then you know that walking quickly helps to make sure they leave you alone.
I went to Turkey with this knowledge and almost ran through the bazaars. I knew what I was interested in and didn’t feel like all that tugging. They addressed me, but no one walked along or was annoying. To be fair, I found the atmosphere in Turkey less intense anyway, but the fact that I was prepared for it made it a much better experience. I could laugh at the “I have a feeling you’re going to make my day!” and “I’ve been waiting for you all day, come take a look at my shop” comments. And finally also a “walk a little slower, this way I can’t ask anything”, mission accomplished 😉
Convinced about a trip to Morocco? Read my tips for the best locations in Morocco!