Tips For Solo Female Travel In Marrakech

Tips For Solo Female Travel In Marrakech

I’m not going to sugar coat this. Travelling as a solo female backpacker in Morocco is tough. You will get harassed, you will get shouted at, maybe even grabbed. Men will make the most grotesque sucking / kissing noise as you walk by, as if you won’t notice. 

As with everything in life though, the risk really is worth the reward and when it comes to solo female travel, following a few easy tips can make your trips all the more enjoyable. While solo travel in Morocco can be a challenge at best, it is a truly fascinating country, with Marrakech no doubt the beating heart of the nation. There is no city on earth that pulsates the way Marrakech does, with aromatic incense filling the air inside the souks, the smell of freshly cooked Tagine floating out on to the street, the Moroccan people dressed so full of colour, and the call to prayer ringing out across the city creating a strange calm in an otherwise hectic Medina.

There are certainly ways to make your stay more enjoyable, even if there is no definitive way to stop the harassment entirely. Having just spent 5 full days in Marrakech, here are my tips on not going crazy in this ancient city that never sleeps.

EXPLORE FURTHER: Morocco’s magical blue city

Dress appropriately

This is just common sense in a Muslim country, but over the past 5 days I have seen many tourists who seem to think they are walking down the main promenade in Barcelona, dressed in short dresses or low cut tops. If you want to avoid getting harassed, you will need to cover up as much as possible. This can be difficult, seeing as the low Winter temperatures are still in the mid to high twenties and the temperature soars to over 40 degrees Celsius in Summer, but packing light flowy dresses, leggings and many scarves (which can be bought in the Souk) will help you cover up without feeling the heat. Still unsure? Check out this post by Travel Geekery on how not to dress in Morocco.

It should be noted that no matter how covered up you are, the local men will still try harass you in some way. There was a Muslim women from the Middle East in my hostel dorm who said she could believe how much she was harassed despite being covered from head to toe in traditional dress. It seems they can just spot a foreigner a mile away and zone in on you straight away.

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Ignore unwanted attention

I found that the minute I started ignoring the harassers (mostly young men), the less harassment I got. They will tell you how beautiful your body is, how sexy you are, how they want to marry you or…much more explicit requests. They will try to befriend you and coax you into their store first in English (and with a horrible fake English accent) and then in French, so pretending you don’t speak either language can be a good start. Whatever you do, do not let them know that they’ve riled you. Don’t speak back, or give them the finger as I once did, as they can get angry or will persist even more. No contact is best! Just walk on through the main square as if you are a woman on a mission!

Pretend you are married

For the last 5 days, my “husband” has been asleep in bed while I go out and shop for souvenirs. “Your husband is lazy”, they would tell me. “You need new husband?” they would ask. Will, it was worth trying anyway. Might work better for you!

Be careful when taking photos

Street performers, or buskers as we call them in Ireland, are whole different breed of people in Marrakech. They are aggressive, extremely persuasive and a very sneaky bunch. Besides these charming qualities, many are also horribly cruel to animals and should be avoided at all costs. Want to take a sneaky photo of a snake charmer? Be prepared to be chased by four grown men demanding payment of $40 upwards. Recording a video for your Vlog in the main square or in any of the markets in Morocco, as some locals dance and play traditional music? They will see you, they will find you and they will surround you and intimidate you until you pay up. Just tip them 5 – 10 dirham and be firm. If they say it’s too little, just walk away…and keep walking!!

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Always carry cash

While this could also be a problem for people travelling with a friend or in groups, I think it is even more important for solo travellers. Most places in Marrakech, and Morocco in general, do not accept card and will always expect you to have enough cash on you. If you have decided to buy something and realise you don’t have enough cash, they will often march you to the nearest ATM, standing a little too close for comfort. If they do claim to have a card machine, there is a high chance they will skim it and an even higher chance that you will be charged exorbitant prices. Try to keep small notes and coins with you too, as many shops never seem to have enough change and you will need it for tipping.

Don’t eat at Jamaa el Fna

Not only have cafes on the main square been designed to only cater for tourists, but sitting at any of them will attract a lot of unwanted attention and getting through a full meal without being sold a scarf, sunglasses and some cheesy t-shirt is pretty much impossible For a but of tranquility and some time to rest your mind, I suggest eating and drinking at more secluded cafes that are either high up and away from the main square or are tucked in behind secret alleyways in the middle of the souks. I won’t go naming places as not only will you never be able to find them, but I will probably never be able to find them again. Just go get yourself lost and keep walking til you find a suitable hidden treasure. If you think you are really lost, there is always someone nearby that will direct you back to Jamaa el Fna.

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Escape to a local Hammam

If you really just want an hour or two to yourself to unwind and not have to deal with creepy Moroccan men looking you up and down, there is no better place than the local Hammam. These Moroccan baths are totally segregated and a place of tranquility for Moroccan women who spend hours in there with friends scrubbing each other and just sitting around drinking tea. You can read about my first Moroccan Hammam experience here. My hostel in Marrakech, which was one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in, actually has its own Hammam in the building so that might be a good place to start!

Book into a hostel 

One way to make your stay in this crazy city more enjoyable would be to check yourself into a hostel and make friends as quickly as possible. That way you don’t have to explore the city alone and will get a lot less harassment. I stayed at Equity Point, just a few minutes walk from the main square, and was blown away by the facilities, location and blissful rooftop where you could see the entire city and watch the world go by…without having to actually be a part of it.

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Don’t feel guilty

The final piece of advice I would give to anyone travelling to Marrakech is to remember that speaking to others is a choice, and you should never feel guilty for choosing not to reply to every “Hello, baby” that is thrown at you. I did feel guilt at first, I felt I was disappointing myself by not talking to the locals and simply ignoring them. However, then I realised if ignoring their creepy glances and their horrible kissing noises meant that I felt safer and started to enjoy the city a little more, then that was the way it needed to be. There are plenty of friendly people to talk to who won’t spend their afternoon harassing female tourists. Make friends in your hostel, in the local tea shop or even with the lovely old ladies in the hammam. 

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Tips For Solo Travel In Marrakech

 

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16 Comments

  1. January 13, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    I have a hate-love relationship with Marrakech.

    When I first visited Marrakech I was terrified – thankfully I was with a group. I spent an afternoon wandering around the medina with two other women, and the harrassment was a bit too overwhelming.

    Last year I revisited Morocco, and this time I spent another day in Marrakech with my boyfriend. This made a big difference!

    • January 14, 2016 / 10:39 am

      I definitely think at this stage I could walk through the city and not get annoyed, ignoring all comments. And I now know where my little secret hideouts are, to get away form the madness. I just want to give first time travellers to Marrakech a little heads up!

  2. January 14, 2016 / 6:31 am

    Hahaha! :P I’m still curious about Morocco. I think it’s a cultural challenge! And that’s why I love the idea of it!

    • January 14, 2016 / 10:37 am

      And so you should be! Morocco is amazing, there is no denying it…I’m just not a big fan of Marrakech. :-) Taghazout is a pretty cool place to chill out and surf…but the water is also pretty dirty. Positives and negatives wherever you look.

  3. January 14, 2016 / 9:05 am

    Hello Janet,

    This is an excellent post! I can’t imagine being in Marrakech fully on my own, you’re so brave! It’s one of the places where it’s extremely difficult to connect with locals and enjoy local way of life..
    The Henna cafe looks interesting, and the hostel?! Wow. I stayed at a riad Airbnb and it was amazing too.. but if I’ll ever go again, on my own, I will totally stay at the Equity hostel!

    And btw. thank you for linking to my post ;)

    • January 14, 2016 / 10:36 am

      Hi Veronika! No problem. I am the least stylish person…on the planet..so uploading photos of ‘what I wore’ would probably put people off reading my blog. That is one type of article I will never be postinhg haha. You should def check out Equity Point Hostel, it is amazing!!

  4. January 14, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    Interesting article though I must say that my experience in Morocco was hugely different from yours. I never really felt harassed at least not in comparison to places like Rome. Mind you, I did feel completely overwhelmed in the souks but then again I get scared by the Victoria’s Secret sales ladies too :)
    I guess in the end it is all about attitude and actually not being overly friendly or even too polite with men in particular.
    I would like to note however that dressing appropriately in Morocco is not only to help you avoid attention, but also common curtesy. As you said, it is still a Muslim country, albeit a liberal one and shorts & co are just not appreciated. I find that if you stick to certain dressing rules getting in touch with local women and interactions are just easier.
    In regards to the Jemaa el Fna – I love it! I highly recommend the merguez at stall 31 – many local families eat there so no hassle and the fried calamari at 14!

  5. January 14, 2016 / 3:13 pm

    Great post! Morocco has long been on my travel bucket list, but I must admit I am a bit afraid of travelling there alone… Some great advice here though and I shouldn’t let the fact that it will be difficult at times scare me out of doing it!

    • Paulo Guzzon
      June 14, 2016 / 3:29 pm

      I want to go there too.. But as a gay male man ., im also afraid of travelling alone there. we should go together :)

  6. January 17, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    Some solid tips Janet! I think I’d like to give it a go myself.
    Cheers!

  7. January 31, 2016 / 12:03 pm

    Love this post, and your tips. I almost booked a solo trip to Marrakech, but decided to have a stay-cation in Germany instead. While reading this, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of my uncomfortable visit to Cairo… can’t say I’m itching to experience that again! ;)

  8. February 12, 2016 / 7:46 pm

    Great post and this undated attention is always there when you go to so many countries especially in south east asia. Ignoring them and just walk and not responding is the best you can do if you are a solo traveler but sometimes, even when you are married and your husband is with you, they will still try.

  9. June 12, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    I’m fascinated by Morocco and and usually travel solo, still not sure if I’ll ever visit by myself but your post has shown me it’s possible! :)

  10. Paulo Guzzon
    June 14, 2016 / 3:28 pm

    Best Tip i can give to everyone is DONT GO THERE, i mean come on . is this a holiday or a prison escape ? with so many countries in the world where you can go and have a “normal” holiday. why go to a place like this ?

  11. abdel
    June 23, 2016 / 12:38 pm

    did you were here Paulo, i live in Marrakech and it’ s make me feel strange your comment about ” normal” Holiday !!

  12. August 9, 2016 / 10:36 am

    I spent 5 weeks in Morocco in 2014 as a solo female and had a great time. I dressed appropriately and yes often had unwanted attention but in general found Moroccan people to be friendly, I never felt scared really. Irritated definitely! As Paulo said you can go on “normal” holiday anywhere, but for many of us who have travelled to various European counties Morocco offers something completely unique and just a short flight from Europe. I often recommend Morocco to my friends who want to test out backpacking before taking the plunge further afield as its certainly the most culturally different country within close proximity to Europe. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Morocco definitely bare in mind the authors points! You can also skip Marrakech and visit quiter, tamer towns like Essouria, Sidi Ifni, Chefchaouen, Tahhazout and more. Morocco is beautiful and so, so cheap with many lovely people and places and certainly worth a visit!