How to Survive Traveling Solo in Morocco
19 April 2017
Most of people who see my travel photography and who heard about my solo adventures tend to think that all my trips are rainbows and butterflies. However, they forget that I am able to do these solo trips thanks to the hardships I have to go through to learn and adapt to the situations; this adds more value to the experience. Same as there are happy experiences you can also come across situations that may ruin your trip if you are not prepared to deal with them.
There are countries that you have to be more prepared than others, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be scared to visit them, every experience is worth the try to venture in the unknown, it will make you stronger and teach you things you probably wouldn’t expect. In my opinion when it comes to solo traveling is to learn and grow as an individual, all my solo adventures have taught me to be more in touch with myself and to open my mind to new perspectives.
I would like to share my adventure in Tanger which is a city at the northern part of Morocco. This trip is one memorable trip, because it was a last-minute trip without much elaborated planning. Africa was in my bucket list and I wasn’t been able to visit it by then. I have to confess that sometimes I can be very capricious when it comes to traveling, this trip was decided in an early morning and since I don’t travel with big luggage it was easy to prepare for my new adventure to this exotic country.
This trip was possible to plan last-minute thanks to Amovens, where I could share a ride with random friendly travelers from Granada to the city of Algeciras (Spain). I have to admit that sharing a ride in Spain is quite fun, because it’s an opportunity to make good friends during the trip; therefore it is a more enjoyable ride, because (for me) time flies when you’re having a nice conversation with other people. The reason I went to Algeciras is because according to the research I’ve done in the early morning I could take a ferry from there to Morocco, Tanger Med.
My trip to Morocco was short, it lasted only two days but in my opinion time is relative, the experiences I went through taught me more than many other one week trips I’ve done in the past. Also according to what I mentioned before, when you travel solo is a totally different experience that when traveling with friends, family or acquaintances.
The activities that I did during my trip to Tanger were spontaneous and weren’t really thought through beforehand, I was going with the flow and I made sure to have the most local experience without any tour agency or group to guide me. But if you want to know more widely about what you can do in Morocco take a look at Jen Reviews.
Make sure to cash out some Dirhams
One of the biggest mistakes I did was that I entered the country without any local currency; I thought that by going to any ATM I was going to be able to cash out some dirhams and that it would be easy. To my surprise when I arrived at the port none of the ATM machines were functioning and I was almost obliged to stay in the premises of the location until next morning (I arrived at 23:00). Thankfully I met a friendly local in the ferry who offered me a ride to Tanger city center and on top of that he was kind enough to exchange some Euros I had to Dirhams, it is always nice to talk to locals when going on solo trips, there are many kind people in this world willing to help you, besides I had no other choice at the moment.
Plan to arrive during day time
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph I arrived almost at midnight, besides that I arrived in the middle of a heavy rain that made it difficult to make it to the bus station by foot. Thus, I highly recommend everybody to arrive during the day, it will give you more flexibility and in a country like Morocco it’s better to explore during day time, because during the night it can be pretty dangerous. Also, one of the biggest mistake I did is that I miss the last bus to Tanger City center, if it wasn’t for the friendly local that I met who offered me a ride, I don’t know how my night would’ve ended.
Learn Some French
It is always advisable to learn some basic words in the local language when traveling to a new country, because I have learned that locals appreciate the fact that you are using their local language and are more willing to help you if you approach them using their local language, so I was able to learn words such as ‘Salam Alaykom’ or ‘Shukran’ , which mean ‘Hello/peace’ and ‘Thank you’ in Arabic. I got to use these words many times, but I was surprised how all the people I met were able to speak French, which made it easier to communicate, because it is very difficult to find locals who speak English.I was also lucky to find some locals that were able to speak Spanish as well.
Furthermore, thanks to my basic knowledge of French and my body language skills I was able to get around non-touristic locations. In conclusion, if you’re traveling solo to Morocco make sure to have a basic knowledge of French, which is easier than learning Arabic, especially if you’re coming from an European country.
Watch Your Back
When it comes to safety I recommend you not to be so overly obvious that you’re a tourist e.g. walking around looking lost with a big map in hands and carrying a notorious camera bag. I committed the mistake of being 'obvious' when in Tanger, I didn’t know that by being a typical tourist you would be the main target for street vendors who can’t take a NO for answer. I was followed many times by these strangers that tried to sell me stuff, but who didn’t get the rejection, thus they followed me everywhere. I was able to get rid of them, by changing my direction or by going to more crowded places. There was a creepy experience I had, when I rejected one of them and even after changing my direction he kept following me from far away, I thought I was being paranoid, but thanks to my previous experience in other third world countries, I was able to spot him and decided to take a taxi to my next destination.
My advice is to always be careful where you walk, avoid empty hallways and try to walk in open areas where it’s crowded. When you are being followed change your direction and pretend you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. Better yet, try finding other fellow travelers who are willing to walk around with you, so you don’t go walking alone and become the main target for these stalkers. For more info about safety in Morocco read the following article of fellow blogger Nomadic Matt HERE
Meet Some Locals
Last but least you should do an effort to meet some locals, once you’re in company of a local your whole experience changes and they are the best guides to get to know the city. I got to meet a local guide while talking to the staff at the hostel I stayed in, this old friendly man took me around the city and showed me many hidden treasures that I wouldn’t have been able to discover on my own, he had an interesting background and knew several languages fluently. One of the main noticeable changes in my experience is that when I was with a local, nobody followed me and people were more open, social and kind to me, which in the case when I was walking solo was a big NO, unless I was buying something from them. So, the main lesson learned is that by becoming friends with locals, traveling in Morocco can be an exciting experience.
In conclusion this adventure taught me about planning and that by socializing with locals you will improve the quality of your experience. I also got to know other fellow adventurers that were traveling solo in this exotic country, the best way to survive a solo trip is by adapting to your environment and by meeting new people, socializing is the best way to survive such places, showing respect and being flexible to the cultural differences will also help you in surviving traveling solo.
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