Considering visiting the bustling, chaotically enchanting city of Marrakech as a solo female traveler? You’re making a wonderful decision, despite the backlash you may be receiving from some friends and family — I’m all too familiar with that. Morocco’s beautiful is a wonderful destination for any traveler will to step just a tad bit out of their comfort zone. Here’s a guide to traveling to Marrakech as a strong, adventurous, solo woman.
Things to note about Marrakech
The local religion is primarily Islamic. Arabic and French are most often spoken, but the majority also speak English and a variety of other languages — you’ll be surprised by just how many languages some locals can speak! There are bus services and taxis throughout the city, but getting around on foot is easier.
Where to sleep in Marrakech
One of the first questions you might ask yourself when traveling to Marrakech solo is where you’ll set up your base in the city. To be in the center, it’s best to book somewhere within the medina, within close proximity to the Jemaa El-Fna, or as the locals will tell you, “The Big Square.”
Of all my visits to Marrakech, I’ve always stayed in hostels. There are several cozy options in the medina most offering the beautifully inviting architecture we’re all dreaming of. Oh, and the breakfasts! Hostels in Marrakech are known for whipping up excellent meals every morning for their guests. Moroccan breakfast of bread, boiled egg, Moroccan-style pancakes, yogurt, jam, juice, and your choice of mint tea or coffee. WHAT! The prices can’t be beat either. On average, a hostel in Marrakech costs anywhere from $3.50-$8 a night, breakfast included.
Another option for accommodation is booking a riad hotel (the traditional buildings of Morocco), which I’ve never done because I prefer more rugged travel experiences but Along Dusty Roads highlights some fantastic budget options.
Finally, you can look into Couchsurfing for the most localized experience. Couchsurfing is completely free, just read reviews of hosts before agreeing to meet. Several solo female traveler friends have stayed with Couchsurfing hosts and had an amazing experience. Their hosts even cooked a meal for them and took them out to see hidden gems around Marrakech.
Is Marrakech safe for women?
Marrakech is a safe city. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve traveled solo. Sure, the people can be forward, the culture can be different and intimidating, and sometimes people might try to scam you. The key to solo female travel in Marrakech is to move confidently, hold your head up high, and try not to be overly friendly or too smiley in certain situations. I know that can be difficult. I myself am always extremely friendly, too polite, and constantly smiling.
Before, I had never thought anything about being smiley and overly friendly until I had an incident in Marrakech where a man tried to grope my chest. Well, he did actually. The man was trying to sell me a dress. The chest area on it was clearly too big for me, and he kept trying to change the price, but I still didn’t want it. Finally, I noted that I didn’t think it would fit my chest… my mistake. Not even 30 seconds later the man tries to pin me to a wall and begins to grope at my chest. I was horrified and immediately ran off and threw the dress at him.
I told my local, male friend about it. He was shook by the incident, but noted that sometimes older men, beyond 30 years, can see openness as a sign of flirtation and attraction. Basically, the man thought that me smiling and being polite, then making an open comment about my chest (I know that was a bad move — sometimes words just come out of my mouth… you get that, right?!) was invitation for him to make a move. Either way, yes, it’s appalling, but just keep this story in mind when you’re chatting with a insisting salesmen and older men.
Plus, being less smiley means you’re more likely to haggle for the best price when shopping in the souks.
Beyond that, read my article here for other essential things to know about Moroccan culture before traveling to Morocco.
To sum it up, feel free to ignore people and don’t follow strangers who insist on showing you something or guiding back to the main square. They just want you to pay them for showing you the way or they’re taking you to a poor, less-safe area of the city, where they hope you’ll end up spending money. As a responsible traveler, yes, it’s nice to help out the poorer areas, but I don’t recommend going there unless you’re accompanied by a local person that you’re already well-acquainted with.
And let me make it known that I’ve met far more kind and caring men in Marrakech than I have disrespectful and harassing. Don’t let my story steer you away from an amazing experience. My positive experiences far exceed my negatives ones.
What to do in Marrakech
Wander the unique streets
Marrakech can be sensory overload. There are beautiful colors and intricate patterns around every corner, movement and noises from all directions, and the bellow of the Call to Prayer echoing around the medina. It’s truly magical. That’s why one of the best things to do in Marrakech is to wander around. Explore the souks, chat with the shop owners and other locals, and get to know its winding, small streets.
Best neighborhoods in Marrakech for walking
My favorite neighborhoods in Marrakech are Jemaa El-Fna, Kashbah, and the Mellah.
Jemaa El-Fna is the main square where you can find orange juice, henna ladies, shops, snake charmers (unethical — I don’t recommend you participate), and more during the day and at night you’ll find food vendors and live music. It’s lively day and night, so catch it at both times. It’s nice to also have a coffee or mint tea at one of the cafes along the square for people watching and exquisite views. My typical go-to is Cafe de France.
After people watching in the main square, wander around all the surrounding side-streets for souks and various markets.
Kashbah is one of the most beautiful spots in Marrakech. An ancient mosque highlights its tiny skyline and you’ll find some nice shops, dining spots, long fountains, and gorgeous outdoor cafes with patterned cushions around the area. Listen for the Call to Prayer to really stir the mood of this enchanting neighborhood.
Lastly, there’s the Jewish neighborhood of Mellah. It’s historical, full of spices markets, and old-world flare. Its historical vibes will dazzle you and its shops and friendly staff will keep you coming back.
Located a little over 30 minutes walking from Jemaa el-Fna (totally doable to walk), Le Jardin Majorelle is a touristy garden full of hundreds of plant species and hints of blue and yellow decor and traditional Moroccan architecture. You can spend hours wandering the different sections and scoping out all the types of cacti and other plants.
Explore the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace is a gorgeous palace in Marrakech, about 10 minutes from Jemaa El Fna, boasting Moroccan tiles, stained-glass windows, and a stunning courtyard. The whole place is very minimalistic and a beautiful place to experience traditional Moroccan architecture.
There’s a great abundance of friendly cats throughout Marrakech. Locals do tend to feed them, but they’re so joyful when they see visitors feeding them, too. They’ll be sure to say thank you (and so will the cats!)
I fed cats by hopping over to the nearest shop next to my hostel and asking for food for the cats. The guy didn’t understand me (don’t worry, most Moroccans in Marrakech understand English. This was an exception) and kept trying to offer me something totally off the wall. Luckily, a man sitting nearby hopped up and happily explained what I wanted. They thanked me so kindly and had such happy smiles on their faces. They ended up giving me some sort of meat, and they charged me very little for it. So, I just went around and fed it to as many cats as I could find. A local friend came along with me and brought cheese. He says the cats there love cheese.
Go to a Hammam
For a cultural experience in Marrakech as a solo female traveler, visit a hammam alone. These are spas/bath houses where a woman cleanses you from head to toe, and you leave feeling like a sparkly new person. It’s a great thing to do solo because you’d spend the majority of it in separate spa rooms even if you went with a partner.
I explain everything you need to know about a hammam in this article, if you’d like to know more.
Shop in the souks
One of my favorite Marrakech pastimes is shopping around the souks for solid perfumes, interesting spices, and argan oil. You can find such interesting handmade items throughout the city at such affordable prices. Most of their products are free of harsh chemicals and made in a kinder way. I’d recommend one of the solid perfumes, which are pictured above. The powdered pink clay mask that’s pictured in the middle is also great.
Above all, I so wish I could bring home one of everything from Marrakech’s souks — especially from the spice and beauty shops — because wow. It’s quality stuff and it all just smells so damn good. Indulge in it while you can.
How to dress in Marrakech as a woman
You’ll see an array of women in Marrakech from locals to tourists. Morocco is a predominately Islamic country, so you’ll find many Moroccan women wearing a headscarf/niqab or a burka. However, it’s certainly not everyone you will come across. For instance, a lot of Moroccan women do not wear a head piece, but still cover up their body. They don’t expose their skin on their arms or legs and many wear kaftans. Kaftans are long-sleeved robes that go down to their ankles or feet. On the other hand, other women simply wear long-sleeved tops and flowy pants. I’ve even seen some of the younger women in their teens and early 20s wearing jeans a regular tops.
With this in mind, when visiting Morocco as a female, it’s polite to dress similar to the local fashion. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a niqab (don’t do that unless you’re Muslim) or wear long-sleeves every day. However, you should be conscious about what you’re wearing. Avoid short skirts and low-cut tops. Opt for flowy items as it’s more appropriate and will keep you cooler throughout the day.
Needless to say, it’s hot in Marrakech pretty much year round, so how to dress in Marrakech needs to be loose-fitted to keep you cool. You want to pack a protective sun hat, and UV-protective clothing, too. Tightly woven linens will keep you cool and protected.
Remember you can buy many of these things once you arrive, such as sun hats, sun scarfs, and linen clothing. The prices are affordable and you’ll be supporting the local economy.
Traveling Marrakech as a solo female traveler is an incredible experience. Why else would I keep returning? What do you look forward to about visiting Marrakech? Have any concerns? Let me know in the comments below!