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.
What's coming up
- 1 Amazing Morocco?
- 2 Frustration 1: Getting ripped off all the time
- 3 Frustration 2: The campsites
- 4 Frustration 3: Not feeling safe/free
- 5 Frustration 4: Stray dogs and cats and other animals
- 6 Frustration 5: Fake Hospitality
- 7 Traveling to Morocco by Campervan – GO or NO-GO?
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.
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 😉 ) !!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂