Morocco – Tangier, El Jadida, Essaouira, Taghazout


Backpacking Morocco on a budget

Morocco is a great country for backpacking or holidays. Cheap hotels, public transport and food make it a paradise for budget travelers either searching for adventure, great landscapes, surfing and kite surfing conditions, stunning beaches, colorful medinas, street art and markets, beautiful hospitality and more than just a touch of the Arabian Nights. If you have one or two weeks, there is a lot to see while backpacking Morocco.

Traveling on a daily budget of 15-20 Euros

With a daily budget of 15 to 20 Euros per person, you will be able to survive in most locations, sleep, eat, visit sights and pay for long distance bus tickets while backpacking Morocco. If you spend slightly more, you will travel, sleep and eat very well. But keep in mind: Some places in Morocco are quite touristy. So don’t expect to get anything for free while backpacking Morocco. These times are over. If you want to experience some luxury, you will probably have to pay a fair price for it. If you are happy to live as the locals do, you will be able to have an interesting, but fairly cheap holiday in Morocco.

Two weeks on the road backpacking Morocco

In March 2017, me and my partner started a two weeks trip backpacking Morocco. It was our third time traveling Morocco. This time, we traveled by bus from Tangier to El Jadida, Essaouira and Taghazout including Paradise Valley. In the end of our trip, we took the night bus from Agadir straight back to Tangier to catch our plane. We had an amazing time backpacking Morocco, but also experienced a few bizarre situations. On this page, you will find some tips about cool spots to visit, to eat and to sleep as well as advise about how to go by bus from Tangier airport to the city center, information about prices and inspiration…

Backpacking Morocco: Street art in Tangier

    Solo female traveler in Morocco

    Most backpackers travel around Morocco in pairs. But even backpacking Morocco as a single female traveler is possible, even if I would probably not recommend Morocco as the best backpacking country for a first backpacking trip alone as a woman. Especially, when traveling to remote parts of Morocco, you might rise a bit of attention when backpacking Morocco alone. And even in cities, I’m not too sure, how much fun you will have having all eyes on you while eating dinner alone in a local restaurant.

    Tangier: Colorful gateway to Morocco

    The times are over, when Tangier attracted international globetrotters, artists, writers, bootleggers, pimps and sex tourists. At least, you don’t feel any of that, when you hop off the ferry or plane in Tangier. But for many backpackers, Tangier still is the busy and colorful gateway to Morocco. Situated right at the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Tangier is waiting for travelers from all over the world with its sights, markets and beaches. Not just Tangier, but also quite a few touts, hashish dealers, souvenir sellers, restaurant owners and beggars.

    Backpacking Morocco: Street art Tangier

    Backpacking Morocco: Hidden corners of Tangier

    Tangier: Discover street art, lights at night, fresh vibes

    When I read about Tangier in some backpacker forums, some people called Tangier a dump. Others said, that it is not worth being visited. I don’t think, that they were right. Maybe, Tangier is not necessarily worth a detour and not the most attractive city that Morocco has to offer. But if you arrive in Tangier to start backpacking  Morocco, take one or two days to check it out.

    For us, Tangier was the starting point of a two weeks backpacking Morocco in March 2017. It was cool to discover hidden corners, colorful lanes and creative street art, illuminations at the sea and a modern vibe.  From Tangier, we started traveling on to El Jadida, Essaouira and Taghazout by bus, which was easy.

    Backpacking Morocco: Colorful lanes of Tangier

    Backpacking Morocco: Hidden lanes of Tangier

    Pension Miami in Tangier for budget travelers

    With rooms starting around 100 Dirham for two people, the very cheap hotels around the street Rue de la Plage in Tangier between the Grand Socco square, close to the old medina and Avenue Mohammed VI offer a great base for individual budget travelers on a backpacking trip to get orientation, to get a feeling for Moroccan lifestyle. We stayed in the Pension Miami, which is a perfect spot for backpackers or travelers on a tight budget, who just need a place to sleep. We paid 50 Dirham (5 Euro) per person per night in a double room. We had been a few times in Morocco and knew exactly, what to expect. And it was fine. If you want luxury, you need to pay for that.

    In the Pension Miami in Tangier, our basic room with the balcony as well as the linen were really clean. Even the common squad toilets on the floor were totally okay. Apart from the one night, when a guest got sick just everywhere in the hotel, but that is a different story…

    One thing, you should keep in mind, when traveling around Morocco: If you want to use toilet paper in Morocco, you need bring it anywhere by yourself. Otherwise good luck with the water bucket next to the toilet!

    In the Pension Miami in Tangier, there were two hot showers downstairs, that we were able to use any time. And the men working at the reception were very welcoming and helpful. They even took care of our luggage after the check out, which is at lunchtime. The neighborhood of Pension Miami is full of budget accommodation places as well as cheap fast food shops or restaurants. The Grande Socco square and the entrance to the medina are in easy walking distance. You need maybe 5 to 10 minutes by foot to get there. To the main bus station, the Gare Routiére, you walk around 20 minutes.

    Backpacking Morocco: Stopping for a mint tea at Petit Socco

    Backpacking Morocco: Street life in Tangier

    Best things to do in Tangier while backpacking Morocco

    In Tangier we had a pretty good time discovering the colorful medina with small lanes, souvenir shops, markets and the old Kasbah quarter. Taking pictures of impressive mosques and churches, having mint tea at the petit Socco, take of your shoes at the beach and try tajines and sandwiches.

    Walk around the Kasbah quarter with its small lanes full of street paintings, view points, plants and little curiosities. You can also visit the Kasbah Museum. But be aware, that there are some young guys hanging around the Kasbah, who just wait for you to offer their services as guides. They behaved like limpets. And we seriously don’t even look like rich travelers. It didn’t matter. They didn’t seem to understand a friendly “No”.  So we had to tell them quite clearly to leave us alone. I always hate these situations. But you don’t help anybody being too polite, if you don’t want his service.

    • Having a mint tea at the Petit Socco square: It was cool to sit down in one of the cafes and watch the people walking by. There were the singing cigarette seller, the tour groups accompanied by a handful of very enthusiastic souvenir sellers and the locals on their way to the markets. The petit Socco is clearly not the cheapest place to have a tea, but the cafes on the petit Socco offer free wi-fi. And you will probably be in tourist company.

    • Check out the city beach of Tangier: The white sand of the city beach looks inviting to sit down, take off your shoes, feel the water. If you can manage to forget about all the cars, that drive on a main road just behind the beach and to cut out the nearby harbor, you can feel something similar to a holiday atmosphere. Personally, I can’t imagine to spend my summer holidays there, but Tangier is supposed to get really busy during the summer months. There are a lot of big hotels facing the beach. Beautiful:  The illuminated fountains right at the beach front in the evening hours.

    • Watching a movie in the Rif cinema: They also show European movies in original language with french subtitles. The Rif cinema even showed German movies, when we were there.

    • Go souvenir shopping: If Tangier is your last stop while backpacking Morocco, you can take the chance to buy some souvenirs inside the old medina like hand-painted plates, cups, ashtrays as well as spices or Tangier-t-shirts and all the stuff, that you will see everywhere in Morocco.

    • In the evenings, you get a pretty good impression about Moroccan city nightlife by walking around between the Grand Socco square, Rue de la Liberté and Boulevard Mohammed V in the more modern part of Tangier outside the walls of the medina. When we were in Tangier at the weekend, hundreds of people strolled around between shops and cafés. Families and couples, groups of young men are going for a walk, for fast food, cakes and ice cream – or just hang around on the streets. The atmosphere was vibrant, but relaxed at the same time. Try it and get caught by the busy street life. Watch, mingle and enjoy!

    • Visit the American Legation Museum.

    • Go on a day trip to the holiday town of Asilah by bus from the Gare Routière in Tangier or by train. There are frequently buses leaving to Asilah

    • Visit the Hercules Grotto. It’s possible to get to the Hercules Grotto by shared taxi. It’s 14 Kilometers away from Tangier.

     

    Backpacking Morocco: Street art of Tangier

    Backpacking Morocco: Old town of Tangier

    Be aware of Faux guides in Tangier!

    In our first minutes in Tangier, something really stupid happened to us. A man came up to us and wanted to offer us hotel rooms. There are many guys like that waiting for naive and friendly travelers on the street. They carry a few business cards of different hotels with them. If you go with him, you can be sure, that someone – most likely you – has to pay for his service in some way.

    If you are desperate, it might be even a good way to find an affordable accommodation while backpacking Morocco. But we didn’t want a guide to bring us to a hotel, that we were able to find by ourselves. Most of the hotels are named in the guidebooks anyway. And in Tangier in March, there didn’t seem to be a shortage of places to sleep. We told him a few times politely, that we wouldn’t need his help. But he wasn’t impressed at all. He didn’t go. Instead he went on and on talking to us about his offers. When we told him more directly but politely to piss off, he became really aggressive and started shouting at us. He called us racists and other things still walking next to us. It was a really inconvenient situation. And we didn’t know, what else to do except from waiting a few minutes until he disappeared.

    By the way, it happened to us in many ways while backpacking Morocco in almost every tourist area, that faux guides tried to offer their service in a very pushy way. Either, they wanted to show us directions in a medina, explain the historical background of whatever, show us special sights, hotels, great restaurants, view points, shops, directions and so on. Just try to ignore them or be aware, that you will end up in a certain shop or pay for the service in the end.

    The main point after all is not to get paranoid, if a Moroccan offers his help. Because in contrast to the faux guides and all the people in the need to earn money from tourists, there are so many unbelievably friendly and helpful people in Morocco. Accept a few bad experiences and stay open for the many good ones!

    Backpacking Morocco: Illuminations at the sea

    Backpacking Morocco: Tangier at night

    Backpacking Morocco: Someone left his foot prints in Tangier

    Cheap bus from Tangier airport to Tangier city center

    First of all, there is no direct public bus going from the city center directly to the airport terminal. When you arrive at Tangier airport on a tight budget and are not in the mood to pay the ridiculously expensive taxi fare of 200 Dirham to the city center of Tangier, then you need to leave the airport area by walk to catch a bus. But you will have to walk around 15 to 20 minutes from the airport terminal to the main road. That’s what we did. And we were not the only ones. There is just one road to leave the airport. After 20 minutes walking, you will get to a road junction with a petrol station. The local bus to the city center stops right across the petrol station. The fare is 3,50 Dirham per person. The guys working in the petrol station are super sweet and can tell you, where to wait for the bus. The bus can take you to the main bus station of Tangier. From there, the beach, the medina, the hotels are in walking distance or just a short taxi ride away. The bus ride from the airport of Tangier to the city center takes around half an hour depending on the traffic. It’s not a big deal at all.

    If you want to go the other way round from the bus station to the airport, you will find the bus stop for the local bus right behind the main bus station (Gare Routiére). There are different lines going into the direction of the airport. Ask the bus driver, if he is going close to the airport. The passengers can show you, where to get off the bus. That’s the thing: You need to communicate. Otherwise, you probably don’t have a clue about where you are.

    Moroccans offered us a ride from Tangier airport

    We were super lucky, when we arrived at Tangier airport on a Friday evening, because we got a ride. When we were waiting for the bus at the road to Tangier after a 20-minute-walk, car stopped for us. Two young Moroccan guys gave us a ride. We had already met them at the airport and had a little talk. When they saw us standing at the road, they stopped, brought us to the center and gave us some helpful advise about what to do and see in Tangier. We had already experienced overwhelming helpfulness in Morocco on former backpacking trips around Morocco. That’s one of the reasons, why we really love Morocco.

    Backpacking Morocco: Sunny Tangier city

    Backpacking Morocco: City beach in Tangier

    Backpacking Morocco: Tangier city beach

    Do I need a visa to enter Morocco?

     

    Backpacking Morocco: Tea time

    El Jadida: Cité Portugaise, markets and seafood

    We were not impressed, when we arrived in El Jadida late at night by bus while backpacking Morocco. It was 11 pm. It is a really stupid idea to arrive that late without a hotel reservation in an unknown town in Morocco. But our bus had been late. Try to avoid that while traveling Morocco.

    The area around the bus station looked rough. Although in general, Morocco seems to be safe. During all our trips, we rarely experienced tricky situations. And we had no other choice than to start walking into the direction of the tourist area including the famous Cité Portugaise. There was rubbish lying on the streets – leftovers of the market in El Jadidah. I would have to wait until the next morning to see the picturesque scenery, that I knew from guidebook pictures. We had no idea, where to go. The hotels, that were listed in my guidebook were either closed at that point of the year or simply didn’t exist anymore.

    Backpacking Morocco: Portuguese city in El Jadida

    Backpacking Morocco: Discovering Ej Jadida

    BackpackingMorocco: Portuguese city of Eld Jadida

    Best budget option in El Jadida: Hotel Bordeaux

    Two young Moroccan women recommended the Hotel Bordeaux to us. Prices for basic double rooms were between 100 and 200 Dirham depending on the room features. The rooms were very clean, right in the city center, the hotel is open 24 hours per day. Hotel Bordeaux is a really good location for travelers on a budget backpacking trip in El Jadida.

    Beautiful Rooms at Maison d’hôtes Cité Portugaise

    The Maison d’hôtes Cité Portugaise offers beds inside the Cité Portugaise of El Jadida. The accommodation is just beautiful, the whole house decorated with love and style, the roof terrace a great place to chill. We really loved our time in the Maison d’hôtes Cité Portugaise, although it was far more expensive than the Hotel Bordeaux. Room prices of the The Maison d’hôtes Cité Portugaise usually are around 350 Dirham. If it is not busy, you might be lucky being able to bargain a bit. We were lucky. But rooms inside the Cité Portugaise are slightly more expensive than elsewhere in Morocco. The reason might be, that there are just a few small private hotels inside the old city walls. And many of the rooms are really nicely decorated.

    Backpacking Morocco: Sleeping at the Maison d'hôtes Cité Portugaise

    Backpacking Morocco: Room at the Maison d'hôtes Cité Portugaise

    4 things to do in El Jadidah

    • The most interesting thing in El Jadidah was for me the market just outside the Cité Portugaise. A lot of people were strolling along market stalls and shops at day and evening time. It was a vibrant atmosphere. For backpackers on a budget, the area offers good opportunities to get some lunch or dinner, a soup or a salad for around 4 Dirham or a sandwich for 10 Dirham. For everyone else, it is a very interesting place to experience some authentic Moroccan street life at night, watch or even buy some souvenirs in local shops without a lot of other tourists around. You will get far better prices here than in the medina of Marrakesh for example. But between all the usual household items and clothes, it might be a little harder to find something useful.
    • The Cité Portugaise is clearly the main attraction in El Jadida being on the Unesco World Heritage list since 2004. The difference to many other popular tourist destinations in Morocco is, that the life inside the city walls is pretty chilled out. The Cité Portugaise isn’t packed with souvenir stalls or restaurants. It’s a place, where the locals live. You can walk around the old town on the town walls and enjoy the view on the Atlantic Ocean.
    • The Cistern Portugaise is called one of the highlights of the Cité Portugaise in El Jadida. The Cistern Portugaise is basically a large cellar room with a few pillars inside, formerly used as a large water tank. With the sunlight falling in through a hole in the roof on the water on the floor, you can capture some nice reflections inside the Cistern Portugaise with your camera. That’s it. We were not really impressed. But if you have seen everything else, go for it.
    • The beach of El Jadida invites for walks. There is a concrete promenade at the water front, a few beach bars and some waves to enjoy. In summer, El Jadida is a popular holiday destination. In spring, the beach is yours.

    Backpacking Morocco: Market in El Jadida

    Backpacking Morocco: Looking over the roofs of El Jadida

    Backpacking Morocco: Sky over El Jadida

    Backpacking Morocco: Inside the old Cistern Portugaise

    Food in El Jadida

    There are quite a few fish restaurants around the harbor of El Jadida. Everyone recommended to us Snack El Bahri for good fish and seafood for dinner. When we walked by Snack El Bahri, it was just not busy at all. We were not in the mood to be the only customers in the restaurant. And we got slightly put off by the neon lights. The restaurant is located in a row with many other seafood restaurants.  But for some reasons, this has a far better reputation (or better marketing).

    Everyone, who is looking for a filling meal in a local restaurant or fast food place will find it on the main road in El Jadida. All the restaurants were busy. Expect to pay around 25 Dirham for a Shawarma with fries or 15 Dirham for a big sandwich with fries, around 15 Dirham for a fresh fruit juice. If you are looking for cheaper places, try the market just outside the Cité Portugaise. You will get there a soup or a salad for around 4 Dirham or a sandwich for 10 Dirham. Sometimes, I was a little surprised about the prices. Holidays in Morocco are not for free.

    Backpacking Morocco: Road to the beach of El Jadida

    Backpacking Morocco: City of El Jadida

    Essaouira: Among Hippies and package tourists

    Essaouira is an easy breezy chilled out town right at the Atlantic Ocean. Essaouira is one of the towns, that traveler’s usually don’t want to miss while backpacking Morocco. It’s a place, that attract hippies, streets musicians, travelers and package tourists at the same time. They all want to feel the vibe of the easygoing windy city with its long sandy beaches and good kite surfing conditions, that once even impressed Jimi Hendrix.

    Inside the medina, the tourist life takes place. It’s where you will find most of the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Once a secret spot, Essaouira becomes nowadays more and more touristy. It is still amazing to walk along the small lanes of the medina, to have coffees and mint teas at the main square with artists, acrobats and musicians around, the sun shining in your face and the sounds of the ocean in the back. Every time backpacking Morocco, we return to Essaouira at least for a few days.

    For fresh seafood, try the front of the harbor. The waiters just wait for you to drag you into their restaurant. Also inside the harbor area, we saw a few travelers eat at smaller and less fancy tables, probably for even less money. If you are happy to look into the eyes of what you want to eat later or just make sure, that your food is fresh, this is the right place for you.

    Bckpacking Morocco: Harbor view in Essauoira

    Backpacking Morocco: Seagull waiting for you

    Backpacking Morocco: Harbour in Essaouira

    Essaouira: Commercialized paradise

    But all travelers in Essaouira have to share their experiences with more and more people. The result: Even within three years, prices for mint teas and rooms have risen. On our first backpacking trip to Morocco in 2014, we fall in love with Essaouira. On our third backpacking trip to Morocco, we were more skeptical about the place, got once even irritated by the slightly rude behavior of a very busy waiter in a popular bar at the main square. On the main square in Essaouira, the restaurants make money. It’s a giant business.

    For a reason: Essaouira is still beautiful there with reggae sounds in the background, even if the food in some places on the main square is semi-fantastic. But we already noticed some travelers trying the local restaurants and cafés outside the medina. And for sure, it is worth to try new places and to support small businesses.

    More concrete at the beach of Essaouira

    When we arrived in Essaouira in March 2017, we were shocked about what happened to the beach. It became slightly smaller. A huge long concrete promenade had been built – similar to that in Agadir. Beach restaurants had opened with ridiculous prices in comparison to the Moroccan standard. Personally, we didn’t like the changes. But we understand: Not just locals, travelers and hippies hang out in Essaouira anymore. It’s becoming more and more a destination for people with money, who are happy about more fancy hotels and bars. We just really hope, that Essaouira is keeping its charm and atmosphere on the long run.

    Backpacking Morocco: More concrete at the beach of Essaouira

    Rooms in Essaouira’s medina start at 150 Dirham

    Backpackers in Essaouira need to expect to pay at least around 150 to 250 Dirham for a double or twin room per night in small budget hotels inside the medina. Sometimes, breakfast (usually coffee or tea, orange juice, bread, jam, honey and maybe a few olives and cream cheese) might be even included. In many hotels and hostels in Essaouira, you will be able to bargain, if you travel to Essaouira before or after the main tourist season. If you go for example for the famous Gnaoua Festival in June, you might be lucky to find a room at all. In March, we just walked around and had a look at different rooms. It’s probably a good idea to arrive in Essaouira before midnight, if you still want to have a good choice of rooms.

    Good budget choice in Essaouira: Hotel Cap Sim

    We stayed at the Hotel Cap Sim in a double room with shared bathroom for 200 Dirham per night including breakfast. For us, it was a great deal in a very central location inside the medina. There was a lovely roof terrace with nice views on Essaouira’s illuminations by night.

    Backpacking Morocco: Red Night in Essaouira

    Backpacking Morocco: Colorful budget rooms at hotel Cap Sim in Essaouira

    Bus station in Essaouira: 10 minutes walk

    In Essaouira, the bus station is in easy walking distance from the medina. It takes around 10 minutes to get to the medina. Taxis cannot go in there. But there are a lot of locals waiting with handbarrows to carry your luggage to your hotel. it’s a very good idea to speak about the price beforehand.

    When we arrived at the public bus station in Essaouira in the evening, we were tired. Our bus from El Jadiada (price is around 60 Dirham depending on the company) was late. The bus had had a little accident. It had crashed a parking car on the way. And it had taken a while until the problem had been solved. Luckily nothing had happened. And another Moroccan passenger had insisted to buy some bananas, yoghurt and water for us while we were waiting for the bus to move on.

    It’s possible to travel to Essaouira from many major cities in Morocco. Check prices and timetables at the bus station. Most companies don’t sell tickets online. To check prices and distances in general and to get an orientation, use the websites of the two major, fastest, most expensive and most comfortable bus companies CTM and Supratours. Usually, many more connections are available, just not online. And don’t expect all of them to be equally fast and comfortable.

    Backpaccking Morocco: Essaouira street view

    Our personal Moroccan paradise: Taghazout

    When we arrived in Taghazout in 2017 after traveling around Morocco for one week, we didn’t want to leave Taghazout anymore. Surfers, hippies and travelers have already discovered the village of Taghazout right at the Atlantic Ocean in the South of Morocco. And we understood immediately, what they like about Taghazout. Taghazout is a cool place to stop over on a backpacking trip around the country or even spend your holidays there. And Taghazout is a great base for a trip to Paradise Valley. Taghazout is a unique place, where the waves are louder than the sounds of the local Mosque. Travelers will like the prices for rooms and food. Still. It can change, because construction work is going on around the beaches. New hotel projects are getting built….

    Backpacking Morocco: Fishing boats in Taghazout

    Janina

    Janina

    Travel writer at Travel Steps
    Traveling around the world is my passion. On www.travel-steps.com, I'm writing about my backpacking trips with all ups and downs.
    Janina

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