I’M HAPPY YOU’RE HERE TO READ

Things I Did NOT Like About Traveling to Morocco by Campervan

written by Sabrina
published on December 19, 2018

In May 2018, my boyfriend and I were traveling to Morocco by campervan. We spent an awesome 4 weeks driving through all corners of Morocco with the van. We explored the coast, the desert and the different parts of the Atlas. I loved so many things about our campervan trip to Morocco, and it was the most adventurous part of the 2018 Vanlife trip we made up to that point.

Even though Morocco is a great Vanlife destination and I highly recommend going there, there are also some things that I did not like. I think Morocco can be a complete disaster if you are not prepared and go in naïve. Therefore I want to share with you this list of experiences that I did not like. I hope that by sharing these experiences, I can help travelers and especially Vanlifers (solo or couples, male or female) in deciding whether they want to travel to Morocco or not.

 

Morocco by Campervan - Tizi n test road11

Morocco by Campervan is amazing! But also prepare for the tough things

Amazing Morocco?

Did I have an awesome time? YES! Was it a beautiful country? YES! However! Everyone always goes round and round and round about how amazing Morocco is. And it drives me nuts. Because every time I hear someone telling how hospitable and friendly the Moroccan people were or how amazing the food is, I just want to burst out and tell them to stop drawing an unrealistic and overly pretty picture of this country. Just imagine how frustrated I get with all the Instagrammers only posting those sweet pictures of the pretty carpet and lamp stores and of sunsets in the desert without sharing their real experiences.

So, instead of keeping these negative emotions in, I decided to let them out through this blog 😉 I can believe that if you stay in fancy Riads and guesthouses or only have private transfers with large tour companies, your perception of the Moroccan hospitality will be amazing. Friendly, service-oriented people that help you make your way through the Medina, or that show you the best places and explanations while seating in an air-conditioned car. Having luxury desert camps and eat in the best restaurants. And that’s all great!

But if you are going to Morocco as a solo traveller or you will travel throughout Morocco by campervan or motorhome, please do your research. If you go in with realistic expectations you will have a much better time 🙂

 

Frustration 1: Getting ripped off all the time

Many people think of Morocco as a very cheap country to travel to. And yes, it is very affordable if you come with currency like the euro. But it’s not cheap like South-East Asia or other countries in Africa. Main reason? You WILL get ripped off ALL the time. Most of the time, you will pay at least 2-3 times the amount the locals pay, if not more. And this will start as soon as you get off the ferry from Spain to Morocco.

Simple groceries

Ugh, the frustration! For example, a small round bread is 1DH, or sometimes even 0,5DH. More often than not, we were asked to pay 2 or even 5DH! After we found out that the price was simply 1DH for a piece of bread, it became easier to tell the seller to shut up and just sell me the bread. It may seem like a little bit of money and of course, it is, but it simply adds up and you feel like a fool constantly. Fruits, veggies, orange juice, a snack – it’s not only haggling about souvenirs but about EVERYTHING. 2 or 3 times in our month in Morocco, we got to a big city with a decent supermarket. It was such a pleasure to shop in a supermarket with price tags (and aircon 😉 ) !!

Morocco by Campervan - Rabat

It’s not only souvenirs you will be haggling about in Morocco 🙂

Taxi’s

And then the Taxis! The worst! It becomes top-sport to find a cab that uses their meter. In the cities, this is quite doable, but in the countryside, this is simply a disaster. Best is to have a local try to arrange a taxi and negotiate the price for you!

Asking for money

Next to being ripped off all the time, lots of people will simply come up to you and ask you for money. Because you’re from Europe, you must be rich right? It often felt like we were a walking ATM. Also when traveling to Morocco by campervan, you can definitely expect people to come up to your van and ask for food, clothes, and money. Or even your bikes!! (make sure they are locked!)

Haggling is part of the culture and I understand and even like it in most countries! I earn more money than many Moroccans and I understand it. And it’s not that I don’t want to support the economy or the local people. But the feeling of getting ripped off consistently is very exhausting.

So, to conclude this rant, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s good to prepare yourself for it 🙂

 

Frustration 2: The campsites

The campsites in Morocco – I could write a whole website just on the topic. If you are traveling by campervan to Morocco you will be able to wild-camp sometimes, but some areas are just not safe. Or you need to fill up on water or need electricity – sometimes you just need a campsite. Campsites in Morocco vary from luxury, European style campsites to, literally, shitholes. The average price for a campsite is about 70DH, for the good and for the bad ones.

Amazing campsites

The Relais de Marrakesh campsite was the closest we got to a European style campsite. Although this was much more than we needed, it was a real haven to relax and unwind. They even have a pool! I probably could have spent the whole winter here! There were lots of animals roaming the grounds and I was super excited to pull out the hammock 🙂

 

And awful ones

The one campsite that actually brought me to tears was the campsite in walking distance to Essaouira. I really liked exploring Essaouira but this campsite really dampened the whole experience. The unfriendly welcome, the disgusting toilet building (no I didn’t go in, the flies and smell at the entrance were enough), and all the stray animals (see more below) actually made me want to leave. But it was already getting dark and we were forced to stay. If you are traveling by campervan, you sometimes don’t have a choice where to stay.

If you prepare for the worst, it will probably be a lot easier. Prepare for concrete slabs with a big high wall and sanitary facilities that makes you wish there was a bush nearby. It will make your life a lot easier 🙂 And it will make you appreciate the beautiful campsites a lot more! I am currently writing a post about wild camping with your campervan in Morocco, so stay tuned!

 

Frustration 3: Not feeling safe/free

I have traveled the world and I always try to respect the local culture. I dress accordingly, cover my hair when required, I learn some basic words and phrases and try to learn some local customs with regards to greeting people, handshakes etc. All this to blend in and be respectful and stay safe.

Feeling unsafe

Our trip to Morocco was without major incidents. Still, there were occasions in which I did not feel safe. One example where I felt unsafe was when we tried to get a taxi back from Marrakesh to the campsite. We had taken a “grand taxi” to get to the city from our campsite and this was easy enough. It cost us 5DH each. On the Moroccan market squares or along the bigger streets it’s not always clear where to catch a taxi or bus back. It took us over 30 minutes to finally find someone going our direction. All other cab drivers told us there were no more grand taxi’s and our only option was to take a taxi (300DH). They became increasingly aggressive and pushy and I was honestly close to tears. I was happy to be with a man, especially after dark! We were just about to let ourselves get ripped off once again when a friendly face showed up and took us to the right grand taxi.

Morocco by Campervan - Volubilis3

Wearing long pants and at least shoulder covering shirts or blouses can be recommended

Not feeling free

But unfortunately, the experience I had in Morocco, was similar to how I felt when I was staying in India. I did not feel I was able to walk anywhere by myself without getting harassed. Especially as a woman, I felt constrained in the movements I could make. Luckily, I was traveling with my boyfriend, but I often felt uncomfortable going somewhere by myself, or even staying alone by the car or at the campsite while he went to go run an errand. Please think twice about traveling to Morocco as a solo female traveler – especially if you are traveling by campervan. Read about fellow vanlifer Susie Cruz her terrible experience here.

On top of that, you cannot understand a thing about the language. Even though French is an official language, in the countryside, the mountains or even in big cities many people do not speak French. Luckily the internet in Morocco is cheap these days so you can simply use google to show where you need to go, but it’s not comfortable if you feel people are talking about you and you cannot understand what they are saying.

Both me and my boyfriend felt very constrained in the type of clothes we could wear. We do find it natural to adapt our clothing to the places you visit and we were prepared as to what to wear when visiting Morocco. However, after a few weeks we were looking forward to going to Europe again where no-one would stare at us wearing shorts 🙂 Our luck was that we were traveling by campervan to Morocco. Often we were just wearing shorts in the car and then would change before going outside. Again, not a dealbreaker! But after 4 weeks in Morocco, I was so happy to put my dresses and shorts on again!

Frustration 4: Stray dogs and cats and other animals

One of the things that bothered me the most about our Vanlife trip to Morocco was the stray animals. There are so many dogs and cats roaming the streets, it’s often painful to watch. They often look really bad, have infected eyes or open wounds. It’s simply heartbreaking.

To help out an animal here and there, we carried a bag of dog and cat food to feed them. It’s not much, but we couldn’t stand the sight of these poor, starving animals.

Traveling to Morocco by Campervan - Feeding stray dogs

Feeding a poor stray dog with the food we were carrying along

If you have a dog with you on your Vanlife adventure, be sure to keep him on a leash! And be careful about where you park. Some areas are full of troops of stray dogs. Even though we have only encountered friendly dogs, the troops can be intimidating especially when food is around.

Also, we saw many tourists having fun with the troops of monkeys in the Atlas near Azrou. These were once wild animals but the area has turned into a circus!

 

Frustration 5: Fake Hospitality

Maybe it was because we were traveling on a budget. Maybe we just met the wrong people. And yeah, maybe we just didn’t get it right. But during my 4-week campervan trip through Morocco, we rarely met any people that were hospitable without wanting anything in return. It left us quite exhausted and with bittersweet memories of the people and the country.

And maybe “fake” is not the right word to use. Because I do feel that people honestly want to share stuff about their country and make people feel welcome. But the perception of what tourists want, how to make them feel welcome and how to treat them is completely off. Maybe it’s not as much a matter of “fake”, but of truly misunderstanding each other.

Tour guides

The experience that stayed with me the most, was of the tour guide in a small town near a Kasbah. In the middle of our trip, we visited the town of this Kasbah and we met (yet another) unwanted tour guide. We said we didn’t want a tour guide but he insisted. We gave in again and tried to negotiate a price. All we heard was, “I want to welcome you to my country”, “Ah you pay what you want, I do it from the heart”! After the Oasis tour, the guy asked us to come in for a tea. Then he asked us if we’d like his wife to cook a Tajine for us. Home-cooked Tajines are the best and we asked him how much he wanted us to pay. Again “Ah you pay what you want, I do it from the heart”!

After we visited the Kasbah, the guy brought a lovely home-cooked Tajine to our van and we had a great talk. We promised to leave a good review for him on TripAdvisor and to refer our friends to him. And when it was time to say goodbye, we got together some money. We had decided amongst ourselves to pay 150DH for the tour and the Tajine. Some 80DH for the tour and 25-30DH is a normal price in a simple Moroccan restaurant for a Tajine. So for two people that would be 70 for the Tajine we thought. We gave the guy our money and thanked him a lot!

 

It’s never OK

But his face changed when he saw the money. No that’s not enough. Give me 300DH. We were like, WHAT? That is the price for a dinner for 2 in a fancy restaurant in Marrakesh. Not for a Tajine on the Moroccan countryside. After some discussion, we ended up giving him 250DH. He even dared to say: if you are not happy with it you don’t have to give it to me. But by then had made us feel so bad about it that we just wanted him to leave.

We ended up with a bittersweet after-taste. It’s not necessarily about the amount, but about the pressure, the fake disappointment and the feeling of getting ripped off.

That said, we also had some great tour guides in Imlil, a beautiful hiking town not too far from Marrakesh. After reading recent news on the terrible events that happened in Imlil, we were even happier that we had chosen to go with a reputable tour guide.

Also mind: on any given tour, there will be an added, unwanted, part to the itinerary: the carpet shop (or the argan oil shop, or the ….) or any shop that is. Your tour guide and the shop owner are 99% of the time related (cousins, brothers etc) 🙂 and you will probably feel some pressure to buy things.

Traveling to Morocco by Campervan – GO or NO-GO?

After reading this blog, you may think I had the worst time in Morocco 😉 But that’s definitely not the case! I just wish I had been better prepared for the mental exhaustion. I think if you realize that your time in Morocco will be a bit like this, that you may enjoy it even more!

Don’t forget to read the stories about the parts that I did like! 🙂

9 Comments

  1. Hi Sabrina,
    Great article, I agree that the rose tinted glasses are often worn when describing Morocco experiences. having been myself there in a hotel and experience mutch of what you did I’ve consider going in my campervan but I’m not sure. you did actually reminds me of all the frustrating Brown things that occur there however the weather is quite nice isn’t it for winter.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Julian! The weather is lovely indeed and I loved the adventure 🙂

      Reply
  2. I think you have to remember that most of the world is still very poor and underdeveloped. It’s easy to look at photos on instagram of luxury riads in Marrakesh and think that’s what Morocco is. You have to be ready to do some real travelling, yes, but I think when looking out for things like ‘European style’ accommodation you have may have a skewed view of what places like Morocco have to offer (and by that – all they can offer.) Locals pay less because they don’t have much to give. Its not a secret, they are very open about the reasons.. Although it doesn’t seem like you paid much from what you explain? Maybe if you spoke to people next time? I’m pretty sure they will be happy to talk (they have a lot of time for people – you may be stuck there all day lol). I agree, haggling is definitely part of the experience so if you are not up for that maybe its the wrong place for you.
    You have the luxury to see the world so you must understand that you have more to give than most do. It seems like you have seen places for what they really are, not the social media version, so I’m confused as to what you expected? Maybe you had some bad experiences, it can happen anywhere I guess. You should be prepared when you go to places like Morocco that you will not be as comfortable as you might be at home but they country is beautiful and so are the people (I mean, most, there are people that aren’t nice everywhere). Like any country Morocco has its issues and it has a lot of pain ingrained in the lives of the people and in the policies of the country. Do your reading before you visit a country, hold judgement and try to stay humble.

    Reply
    • That’s why I wrote this blog, so other people can do their reading before they go. I would have enjoyed Morocco more if I was more prepared.

      Reply
    • Get off your high horse mate. As a campervanner wondering whether to travel across Morroco, Sabrina’s article was hugely helpful in giving me an idea of what to expect. “I think you have to remember….” Maybe you..” should try to be less pompous ?

      Reply
  3. You exaggerate a lot, you are giving people a negative outlook about morocco. Don’t use the “Fake” word especially with the hospitality of Moroccans because they are not fake, if someone in Morocco didn’t like something you did he will come to your face and tell you that you are wrong and they can welcome you and your family to share them their houses and food with no problem especially if you have a problem. So, please don’t use it with Moroccans.

    And about those who tried to sell you overpriced things. Don’t forget that they have a short period of the year to make their living, so they try to take advantage of everyone (law of survival) and if you don’t want to buy no one gonna force you.

    If you have a problem with what others are saying learn their language or just go to another country that you can understand their language.

    And you said that you can’t be able to feel free and wear shorts. I want to say that one of the values of travellers is to respect the customs and traditions of others, if they don’t wear shorts you should and must respect that because you are the one who went to them, and not vice versa. Be respectful.

    You tried to give a bad outlook about Morocco and Moroccans, but all that you said seems FAKE.

    Reply
    • Hello Ayoub, thank you for your comment. If you have read my other blogs you would see that we had an amazing time in Morocco (like this one: https://www.backpackinglikeaboss.com/vanlife-morocco-itinerary-4-week-campervan/)

      This is a post that reflected on the things that I found difficult when visiting all parts of Morocco for almost a month, and speaking and interacting with people from all different parts of the country.

      I think that international visitors that will read this blog will be better prepared for the challenges they will face when visiting Morocco. By being better prepared, people will enjoy this fascinating country even more.

      So nothing about this post is fake, I don’t have anything to win by portraying a negative image, it’s just how I experienced it 🙂

      Safe travels!

      Reply
  4. Hi Sabrina, my boyfriend and I are considering a campervan trip through Morocco and your post couldn’t have been more helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your invaluable experience so honestly!!

    Reply
    • Happy I could help! Enjoy your travels :-)!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This