After two solo travel trips to Morocco, it’s needless to say that I love this country. But I want to set the record straight about how to travel to this country as a solo female traveler. This article will prepare you for your trip and provide with the tips for how to make the most of your time in Morocco and what you can expect while you’re here.
You’ve probably heard it before, but I’ll say it too. Dress culturally and religiously appropriate. Morocco is a predominately Islamic country, and as a result women don’t show a lot of skin. They wear long-sleeved robes called kaftans that down to their ankles or feet. This is commonly accompanied with a headscarf or niqab, but not always. Other women might wear long sleeved Moroccan tops and long flowy pants.
As a female traveler, you certainly don’t have to wear a scarf or kaftan, but you should wear longer skirts that go to your knees or below. You shouldn’t wear shirts that are too low cut either.
Morocco is a hot country and the sun is strong. Thin scarves and modest linen tops and flowy pants will go a long way in keeping your body cool and protected. For more tips on protecting yourself from the sun, see my article here!
Don’t fret if you don’t have a lot of clothing that fits this criteria. Marrakech and other cities are full of fantastic souks with dresses, pants, shirts, and hats at great prices. They make for easy souvenirs while also supporting the locals. You’ll also, in the end, be practicing conscious travel by putting your money in the hands of the community instead of big businesses.
It’s okay to ignore
You don’t have to say “No, thank you” or even acknowledge every salesmen, henna lady, or promoter you encounter on the street. It’s perfectly fine to simply ignore them. If you’re not interested in whatever they’re selling, you have no obligation to interact. Besides, imagine how tiring would be that be.
When men notice you as a foreigner, they may try to talk to you. So, feel free to ignore the “flirters” as well. Keep your head up and continue walking.
Tip: My local friend advised to minimize smiling and openness when in the souks or busy areas. You won’t be bothered as much and salesmen will be less pushy.
This tip is important especially with men who might make you feel uncomfortable. A lot of older local men don’t understand friendliness and smiling the way we do. They receive it as an invitation and assume you’re attracted to them.
Haggle the right way
Most of the shops in the souks don’t have set prices. The salesmen will initially overprice you. It’s your job to talk them down to a fair price. Think of the price you’re willing to pay, but don’t say that price yet. Go lower. Then, the salesmen will suggest a different price. Then, you say the final price you’re willing to pay, and if it’s fair, they’ll generally accept it.
For example, there’s a lamp you like. The man suggests 200 MAD (20 euros). You know you wouldn’t spend more than 150 MAD for it. So, you suggest 100 MAD. He changes his price to 175 MAD. Then you suggest 150 MAD and he accepts the offer.
The roads are madness
Pedestrians, mopeds, cars, and cats all share the city streets here in Morocco. Basically, it’s mayhem. Be aware of mopeds zooming effortlessly through crowds of people — even carrying a family of four sometimes! It’ll take some time to get used to, but you’ll typically want to move to the right when you hear them coming.
Pedestrian crosswalks are sort of just there to suggest the idea that “maybe this is a crosswalk”, but don’t assume that vehicles and bikes will stop for you as soon as you hit that crosswalk because 99% of the time they won’t. You have to cautiously walk through and sometimes you’ll have to stop in the middle of the street as you await an opening from the other side of the street. It’s complicated, but just be alert.
Don’t follow people
In Morocco, sometimes adults and children will try to point you in a direction or tell you somewhere you should go discover. Don’t listen to them and don’t interact with them. They typically want to take you to a less safe neighborhood and they expect money for guiding you.
Tip: Always have a map with you. Even if you don’t have data or WiFi, with Google Maps you can download city maps and use them without any connection. It’s a life-saver!
Prepare for the worst, but don’t assume everyone is bad
I realize Moroccan men tend to have a bad reputation, but I want to set the record straight. I agree that some men don’t have the best intentions, which is why you should always prepare the worst. However, many more Moroccan men are kind, harmless, and just want to get to know you and teach you about their country. It’s just that you always hear more about than bad rather than the good.
Be prepared for the worst and keep your guard up until you’re certain, but don’t assume that every man you meet is evil.
So, have the tea
This brings me to my finale piece of advice. When you enter stores in the souks of Morocco, many salesmen will ask you to have tea with them in the shop. If the salesmen seems interesting and isn’t giving you the “oh hell no” vibe, then have the tea. Part of being a true traveler is getting to know the locals. Share with them and they’ll share with you. They’ll teach you how to make a proper Moroccan mint tea and tell you stories of their culture and life. This is what traveling is all about after all.
I spent 2 hours in a spice and beauty shop talking to locals, learning words in Arabic, making proper tea, and sharing stories of about our lives. I ended up buying a couple of products that I already knew I wanted before even walking into the shop and they gave me an extra gift for free for a fair price. Though as cheesy as it is sounds, the best gift was the 2 hours I spent talking and drinking with them.
Originally published at http://thespiritedexplorer.com on June 24, 2019.