Backpacking Route for Morocco

Backpacking Route for Morocco

We’ve not featured Africa much on MFT yet but hope to change that in the coming months and years. This is our first route for the continent and also acts as a mini backpackers guide for Morocco with info on getting in, getting around and the cost of travel in the country.

Why Morocco?

Although Morocco does receive a decent amount of foreign visitors these days, it has never really taken off as a massive backpacking destination which given its proximity to Europe and all that it has to offer is a bit strange. People instead have tended to opt for short breaks most typically to Marrakech, sometimes fitting in an overnight trip into the Sahara Desert.

However Morocco has all the stunning natural sights and cultural thrills and surprises that anyone could ask for and to make matters better it is only a 2-3 hour flight from most Western and Central European cities. It’s cheap to get there and cheap to travel in and although there are a few hassles, it’s an incredible country to spend a few weeks travelling around and if you happen to be European, it is right on your doorstep.

Getting to/from Morocco

The most common way to get to/from Morocco from Europe is via budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet that have an abundance of cheap flights from right across the continent to cities in Morocco including Fez, Marrakech, Nador, Agadir and Tangier.

If you’re coming from further afield then Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport is you’re most likely arrival and departure point and it is the biggest airport in the country and one of the busiest in Africa. As the hub of Royal Air Maroc, the country’s national carrier, there are flights to cities all over the world. You may though still find it cheaper and more convenient to fly to a major European city like Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London and then take a budget flight to one of the more popular travel destinations like Fez or Marrakech. Casablanca isn’t quite the romantic wonder that you might think of given the film and although it’s still an interesting visit, it doesn’t make many travel itineraries for Morocco.

One final option and highly recommended is to make your way to Southern Spain and either Algeciras, Tarifa or even Gibraltar and then take a ferry over to Tangier in Morocco, where our backpacking route starts. You could easily combine this with our backpacking route for Spain and Portugal. From Tarifa it is only a 30 minute ferry to Tangier and you get to experience the dramatic instant change between Europe and Africa much better than you would by flying in. Ferry tickets are about 30-40 Euros one-way with FRS.

TIME NEEDED – 3 weeks

3 weeks is a sufficient amount of time for a backpacking trip in Morocco unless you have any specific aim other than travelling around and visiting the most interesting places. Most of the destinations on this route can be seen in a day or two. Your biggest decision may be choosing how long you want to stay in the Sahara Desert and there are two points on the route where you can get out and spend several nights in it if you so wished.

POSSIBLE BUDGET – £530 | €610 | US$650

These figures are based on January 2017 prices and exchange rates. It is not an expensive country to travel in by any means and US$30/day is considered a safe benchmark figure for budget travel in Morocco but it’s possible to get by on less if you’re savvy. The figures above are based on that but don’t include the cost of travel in/out of Morocco. Your costs will also depend on how many organised trips you take with the Sahara trip likely to be your biggest single expense.


69 nationalities can enter Morocco visa-free for up to 90 days. This includes all EU countries, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. If you’re from elsewhere use our visa check tool to find out whether you will need one.


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Morocco Backpacking Route


(1/2 days)

Tangier is Morocco’s main coastal gateway to Europe and the Mediterranean and has an international flavour but if you’re someone who likes a culture shock, it still represents a sudden, in-your-face introduction to Morocco and everything it represents. Its steep central streets are bustling with life, teeming with touts and full of decaying yet charming buildings that give it a really authentic feel. In short it is a microcosm of Morocco but in terms of genuine sights the Kasbah and ancient medina are the main things to see and are located right next to each other so can easily be done in one day.

Getting from Tangier to Chefchaouen: Frequent buses serve the route and take around 3 hours to cover the 100km or so between the two cities with most buses stopping in the city of Tetouan en-route.


backpackers in Chefchaouen and Rif mountains

Cheftchaouen, CC BY-NC 2.0

(2/3 days)

Chefchaouen is a beautiful small city in North-Western Morocco just beneath the dramatic backdrop of the Rif Mountains. It is really popular with backpackers and other nomads, some of whom are unquestionably attracted to the town for its proximity to the numerous nearby marijuana plantations. Although there are plenty of touts trying to sell hashish, which can be highly annoying it is still a very relaxed place and known as the ‘Blue Pearl’ for the colour of its buildings. It’s worth staying a few days here and getting out to explore the Rif Mountains and nearby national park.

Getting from Chefchaouen to Meknes: Buses take about 4 hours to get to Meknes from Chefchaouen.


(1/2 days)

Meknes is free from the hassles of some of the more popular tourist destinations as most travellers tend to overlook it in favour of nearby Fes. However this imperial city is full of interesting historical sites with plenty of palaces and mosques while at the same time it is also a good example of a flourishing modern Moroccan city and if you’re looking to shop in Morocco, the medina in Meknes is perhaps the most reasonably priced of all the cities on this route and it’s a great place to land a few bargains.

Getting from Meknes to Fes: Very close and very well connected cities with at least one train leaving per hour. It costs just 22 Dirhams (roughly US$2) for a 2nd class ticket and the journey takes about 30 minutes.


(2/3 days)

Fez is one of the real travel highlights of Morocco. This ancient walled city is a giant maze of souks, shrines, tanneries and tombs and the only certainty when exploring the enormous medina of Fez is that you will get lost! It was the medieval capital of Morocco and is widely regarded as the most well-preserved old city in all of the Arab world today so it is well worth spending a few days here.

Getting from Fes to Merzouga: It takes about 10 hours by overnight bus and is almost certainly the longest journey you’ll need to take in Morocco. The Supratours buses do the route in full and can be booked easily once in the country and you shouldn’t have any problems getting seats if you book a couple of days in advance. Alternatively you can take a bus from Fez to Rissani with CTM (165 Dirhams) and then take a taxi to Merzouga.

Merzouga, Sahara Desert

Backpacking Route for Morocco

Merzouga Warrior, CC BY-ND 2.0

(2-4 days depending on length of trip in Sahara)

A trip into the wilderness of the Sahara Desert is a must for anyone backpacking in Morocco. While trips are easily arranged from Marrakech or any of the main cities, heading all the way to Merzouga yourself is the most rewarding way to do it. The village is much deeper into the desert than a typical short trip from Marrakech will reach and given you are based in the Sahara, you have much more flexibility to do the things you want to do rather than the typical tours which you basically have to do everything as a tour group. Options here include camel treks with the possibility of spending several nights in the desert, off-road 4 x 4 or motorbike trips around the dunes or you can simply get out and explore them on foot from Merzouga, which is a very small settlement.

Getting from Merzouga to Tinghir: There is one Supratours bus that leaves Merzouga in the direction of Marrakech at 8:00am each day and takes the tourist route, stopping close to the Todra Gorge. Alternatively you can take a Grand Taxi (shared taxi) to nearby Rissani for 10 Dirhams and from there you should be able to reach Tinghir by taking a local bus. Best to ask in Merzouga for advice on this leg as most visitors do it as part of a tour group and it’s not a route locals would regularly take so options are limited.

Tinghir & Todra Gorge

(1/2 days)

Tinghir is a small and fairly unremarkable place in the stunning High Atlas region of Morocco and it is a good base for exploring the nearby spectacular Todra Gorge, which is a popular stop en-route between the Sahara and Marrakech. From Tinghir, you can take a taxi up to the gorge, which has a well marked 2-3 hour hiking trail and is also a good place for rock climbing and you can also take trips to the surrounding oasis, which is wedged between the High Atlas and Little Atlas Mountain ranges.

Getting from Tinghir to Ouarzazate: Direct Buses leave at 5:30am and 1:00pm and take 3 hours costing 55 Dirhams (about US$5.50). Other departure times may be available.


(1/2 days – more if you skipped Merzouga)

Situated at 1,135 metres above sea level but just inside the Saharan region of Morocco, Ouarzazate is another popular stop. The town is far bigger and more developed than Merzouga and there is a bigger tourism industry so there are more options for tours into the Sahara and a wider variety of types and lengths of trip to take. If you feel you’ve had your fill of the Sahara Desert in the more remote Merzouga though, you could perhaps skip it as there isn’t an enormous amount to do in town.

Getting from Ouarzazate to Aït-Benhaddou: Only 30km between the towns so it doesn’t take long but there are no direct buses. Instead take a bus from Ouarzazate Bus Station towards Marrakech and tell the driver you want to go to Aït-Benhaddou. He will drop you off at a crossing (around 9km from Aït-Benhaddou) from where there are plenty of taxis waiting to take you up to the town. The whole journey should only be about 20 Dirhams if you wait for a shared taxi to fill up rather than getting your own.


Backpacking Route for Morocco

Ait Benhaddou, CC BY 2.0

(1/2 days)

Ait Benhaddou has one of the best preserved Kasbahs in the country and is frequently visited as part of a day trip from either Marrakech or Ouarzazate but it is well worth staying overnight as this Mud Brick city on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains is beautiful when lit up at night. Be sure to climb up the hill to the Granary for spectacular views of the town and surroundings. Most of the appeal here is the town itself which has featured in numerous movies including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator but again you will only really need a day or so to see it. Budget accommodation is pretty limited in town so you’ll need to either fork out for something a bit more expensive or stay a bit further out.

Getting from Aït-Benhaddou to Marrakech: Either return to the crossing via taxi and try to flag down a local bus to Marrakech (this can be tricky as most signs are in Arabic) or return to Ouarzazate and get a bus from there. There is one leaving Ouarzazate at 4:00pm and arriving in Marrakech at 8:30pm costing 80 Dirhams.


Backpacking route Morocco

Marrakech, CC BY 2.0

(2-4 days)

Marrakech is perhaps the most famous city in Morocco these days with travellers at least and it has become a popular place to visit for Europeans with the number of cheap flights going in and out of it on a daily basis. As such it is more touristy than a lot of the other cities on this backpacking route for Morocco but it’s still a unique and special place.

It’s a bit like two completely different cities in one with the ancient medina still a mysterious maze of narrow passageways and colourful stalls and shops. There is an array of souks, squares, museums, mosques and palaces to visit so you’ll need a few days in town for sure. Visits to one of the many hammams for traditional massages and spa treatments are popular while accommodation choices include stays in typical Moroccan Riads, which can be a wonderful experience in their own right.

For a complete contrast head to modern Gueliz district which feels more like Europe with excellent restaurants and larger department stores. Another nice option is to take a day trip to Amizmiz, a nearby town in the High Atlas Mountains with a large Berber Souk every Tuesday.

Getting from Marrakech to Essaouira: This is a popular route with visitors to Morocco so buses are quite frequent and take roughly 3 hours usually costing 70 Dirhams (US$7).


(2/3 days)

Morocco has tried to develop a few coastal resorts in recent years with varying success but by far the most charming remains Essaouira. As an 18th Century fortified town it has plenty of interesting history and its unique coastal location gives it a different climate and feel to the other destinations on this route. The beach dominates life here although high Atlantic winds mean kitesurfing, windsurfing and other water sports are more popular than swimming and relaxing.

You may need to return to Marrakech to leave Morocco although there is a small airport in Essaouira with flights to London (Luton), Paris (Orly) and Marseille.


Budget Accommodation in Morocco

You may be able to find accommodation just by rocking up but some of the cities are immensely complicated to get around so it can be easier to book online and get a cab there when you arrive.

Is Morocco Dangerous?

Unlike fellow North African countries and popular travel destinations Tunisia and Egypt it hasn’t yet been the victim of any major ISIS-linked terrorist attacks although the terrorist threat is listed as ‘high’ by the UK Foreign Office. Whether you choose to take any notice of such warnings is obviously a personal decision but it is worth noting that the Foreign Office lists a similar threat for a huge number of countries around the world, while the threat level in the UK itself remains ‘severe’.

While trips to Morocco are very rarely dangerous these days neither are they completely hassle-free. There are many scams and irritations which can be avoided if you’re assertive and have your head vaguely switched on. You are likely to be approached by many people, particularly in the main tourist centres trying to offer you unofficial tours, take you to restaurants (probably with the aim of extorting money from you) or sell you some ‘flower power’. The regularity of these approaches particularly if you’re travelling alone can get irritating and although it may seem rude, you will have to be assertive or just outright ignore such people. Don’t let these incidents put you of Morocco or Moroccans as a whole as they are naturally sociable people and typically very friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Many girls are put off travelling alone or visiting Morocco full stop but provided you are respectful of the local culture, you shouldn’t have any issues although again it is not without irritations. Although there are those with more traditional views, Morocco is not the most conservative of countries in the Arab World by any means but you should still dress moderately.

Getting Around Morocco

Getting around Morocco is cheap and easy with one of the most extensive train networks in Africa and plenty of regular bus and rail connections, many of which are surprisingly fast. You can book train and some bus tickets online by the ONCF website (in French but translates well into English) or easily on the day at stations.

The main bus companies that travellers tend to use are Supratours (website doesn’t seem to work well) and CTM and they also have extensive connections in the country.

More Local geared buses also run many of the connections on this route but info is hard to find and almost always in Arabic so it’s difficult for foreigners to use unless you speak the language. In cities, shared taxis are the cheapest way to get around although you may be the victim of minor overcharging as a foreigner.


This article was published in January 2016.

The budget at the top was updated in January 2017.

Backpackers Guide to Malawi

Backpackers Guide to Malawi

by Kate Sanger

Malawi Zebras

NOTE – This article was written in September 2010. Some of the info may no longer be accurate.

Basic Shizzle

Population: 14 million (ish)
Size: 120,000km2, small by African standards but it is quite long and travelling even short distances can be painfully slow.
Weather: The warm and wet season runs from November to April. The rest of year is very dry with cooler temperatures (around 20°C and much less at night) from May to August. September and October are much hotter (30°C+).
Law: Cannabis and most other drugs are illegal. Homosexual acts are also illegal in Malawi. Discretion is advised if you intend to indulge in either activity.
Exchange Rate:
Malawi Kwachas (MWK) trade at around £1=230MWK, €1=190MWK, $1=150MWK
Time: GMT+ 2
Religion: 75% Christian (mostly Protestant) 20% Muslim


Malaria and rabies are pretty common in Malawi, so you should take Malaria tablets and you might even want to consider the Rabies jab if you’re heading off the beaten track seen as healthcare ain’t so great. Yellow fever certification may be required if you’re coming from an infected country. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Polio are all reccomended. Even though HIV rates are higher in many other African countries, the risks are still great so extreme care should be taken.

Getting In

Flying in, Lilongwe International Airport is your best bet with flights too and from Nairobi, Harare and Lusaka as well as the main cities in South Africa. Air Malawi has some pretty good regional connections. You can get the steamboat from Mozambique across Lake Malawi into the country. You must get your passport stamped at the immigration post on Likoma Island when coming in this way. Otherwise there’s a load of cheap bus/minibus routes you can use for getting in from Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe.

Best Places to Visit

The thing that makes Malawi special is the fact it has everything a traveller could ask for in a small space. You can travel from the top to the bottom of the country in a day, yet in that space you can sunbathe on the beautiful lake at Cape Maclear, go tracking elephants on foot at Vwaza Marsh, trek up Mulanje mountain to see beautiful vistas and rummage for clothes in the immense clothes markets at Lilongwe.

Backpackers guide to MalawiThe main draw to Malawi is the crystal lake which extends 500km along the border with Mozambique. The endless palm beaches provide the illusion of an inland sea and its sheer beauty makes it a focal point for travellers with a host of activities such as diving, kayaking, boat trips as well as the obligatory sunbathing!

There are many places to visit along the lake however Cape Maclear and Nkhata Bay are definately traveller favourites and have a busy, party atmosphere with lots going on and a whole host activities ranging from diving to attempting to master the art of paddling a traditional dug out canoe. Whereas the tranquil islands of Likomo & Chizimulu are much less developed and provide a peaceful place to get away from it all and relax while taking in the stunning scenery.

The abundance of wildlife in Malawi means a visit cannot be complete without a safari and there are several safari parks catering for a range of budgets and tastes. Liwonde is the biggest and most well known offering copious amounts of elephants, hippo, crocodile, antelope, zebra and more. It caters to a higher budget than the smaller parks but you definately get what you pay for. However not to be overshadowed is Vwaza Marsh. Vwaza is much smaller and less than developed than Liwonde but offers a more rustic, intimate safari experience including unforgettable walking safaris with elephants only meters away.

Malawi scenery mountainsFor the more adventurous Malawi provides many opportunities for travellers to absorb its varied and beautiful countryside. Zomba plateau with its luscious green forests and dramatic views, and Nyikah plateau with surprising population of zebra roaming over scenery reminiscent of Scotland supply plenty of walking/driving and cycling trails and stunning scenery.

While exhausting and gruelling at times, a trek up Mulanje Mountain has to be a must for all travellers. Your (obligatory) guide will introduce you to amazing views over the country as you scramble up the steep slopes while local villagers run past barefoot carrying an unfathomable weight of logs on their heads. At the end of each day curl up next to an open wood fire in picturesque communal mountain huts nestled into gorgeous spots on the mountain.

Another beautiful place, which is worth the long walk or drive is Livingstone, this historic, isolated settlement high in the North of Malawi provides amazing views over the country out to the lake. Traveller-favourite Mushroom farm or the more secluded, eco-friendly Lukwe both provide beautiful places to camp or rooms to stay in balanced right on the cliff edge and are the perfect places to chill out after some hectic travelling.

Getting Around

The transport in Malawi is an experience in itself ranging from sharing a seat meant for 2 with a whole family and a chicken to clinging onto the top of a pick up truck loaded up to the roof with plantain and maize, and again there will probably be a chicken somewhere.

Transport is relatively easy compared to the bigger countries such as Mozambique, the short distances mean fewer of the 10 hour bus rides and 4am starts you will grow to love in the larger countries! The majority of the roads, especially the main routes through the country, are tarmaced, there are some roads however which will still leave you looking like a bad accident with a bottle of foundation after several hours of bumping along a dusty track in an open pick up!

Large buses run between the big towns such as Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu at pretty much set times, however minibuses and pick ups, called matolas, run along these main routes and serve all the smaller routes as well. As long as you aren’t too picky about the type of transport you get and are willing to spend a while sitting around the bus stations, you will generally be able to get to your destination with little stress. However it is best to leave earlier in the day as more matolas run in the morning especially on the less popular routes. Buses normally depart from the main bus stations in towns and don’t leave until they are full.

Boat on Malawi lakeThe Ilala ferry travels once a week in each direction up and down the lake making 13 stops at villages an towns on the way, it takes 3 days to cover the whole distance but many people get on and off along the way. The Ilala is an experience in itself. It is a great way to see the lake and make friends with travellers and Malawians alike, nights are spent on the open deck watching the stars and fishing boats twinkling.

Many people on longer trips pass through the country in 4×4’s, which is a great way to see the country and also gives the option to hitch. Malwaians really are the friendliest people and will direct you to the bus station, walk you to the right bus/pick up and very good at letting you know of any changes you need to take. Just remember if someone tells you a journey will take 2 hours it will probably take at least 4!


Nightlife in Malawi varies depending on where you are. In the places popular with backpackers such as Nhkata Bay, Lilongwe and Blantyre there are many bars and clubs frequented by locals, travellers and expats. Hostels such as Maboya lodge in Lilongwe and Mayoka village in Nhkata Bay have happy hours and themed nights and there will always be someone heading into town.

However in the smaller towns such as Zomba, Rumpi and Mzuzu, as well as all the bigger places, nightlife centres around small bars in the markets and dotted all over town. These bars are where the locals gather in the evening to catch up and relax, beer and soft drinks are generally the only drinks on offer in more rural locations, however spirits can be easily found.

A local speciality which many locals clutch, and on first glimpse appears to be milk cartons, is chibuku, a maize based drink which looks and tastes like a soupy alcohol with bits floating in it and tastes just as delighful! It is very cheap and apparently starts to ferment after it is open so gets stronger and stronger, try it if you dare!

Another local speciality are the packets of gin and whiskey that come in shot sized amounts and can be bought in some bars and most supermarkets, while the Malawians seem to drink these neat they are much nicer mixed with bottles of tonic and soft drinks! Malawians are very friendly and sociable so if you do go to local bars you are bound to make some new friends!

Local Lingo

English is the official language and widely spoken. Chichewa is the national language and you can impress your hosts with a few of these random words/phrases:

moni : hello
muli bwanji? : how are you?
zikomo : thank you
kama : bed
kudya : to eat
njoka : snake!
ngona : crocodile!
ndalama zingati? : how much?

Typical Backpacker Budget

Malawi is a country that can be done on any budget, accommodation ranges from luxury safari lodges and hotels cheap local hotels and dormitories in hostels. The cheapest way to see the country is to bring a tent and camp, all of the backpacker hostels, safari parks and places like Zomba and Nyikah have areas for camping at a fraction of the price of rooms.

For example Maboya camp in Lilongwe charges from $4 for camping up to $18 for a 2 person room, although it is worth remembering prices in the big cities are more expensive than in towns like Zomba and Mzuzu. Camping also removes the pressure for booking ahead and planning in advance and means you will rarely turn up after dark in a new place with no bed for the night.

Food again ranges from supermarkets and restaurants in the bigger towns where food catering to a more Western taste can be found, to the cheap, market stalls and local food places where a plate of nsima (a dough like carbohydrate eaten with the hands) or rice with vegetable, meat or fish costs about 70 pence and a beer about 40 pence. The local markets also provide an array of fruits, vegetable, rice, bread and many ingredients enabling you to cook for yourselves on your own gas or where possible on an open fire.

Activities can again be done on a wide range of budgets, a walking safari at Vwaza will cost about £3 whereas at the larger Liwonde a boat safari will be more like £60. However even the more expensive activities such as scuba diving are relatively cheap compared with elsewhere in the world, an open water course can be done for about £230.

As a guide, I spent well under £1000 in 2 months. I camped in a tent in most places and bought food from markets and supermarkets to cook on a gas stove. I saw most of the country including a 3 day trek up Mulanje, scuba diving on Likoma island, several safari drives and walks at Vwaza marsh and Majete, boat trips on the lake and a fair few beers!

Thanks to Kate Sanger who travelled in Malawi last year for the article.

you can also follow Kate on twitter!

This article was published in September 2010


Funky 100 – 5 Things to do in Marrakech


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Funky 100 – Number 82

5 Funky Things to do in Marrakech

Why you should Visit…

It may only be a short flight or hop across the Mediterranean Sea from Europe but culturally it is like venturing into a different world. It is a bustling North African city complete with the hectic markets and intense sounds and smells. Yet it is much more attractive and visitor-friendly than almost all the other cities in the region and one of the most popular stops in Africa with travellers.

1) Learn how to haggle like a local in the souks

Souk in Marrakech

2) Have a drink at a roof terrace cafe and watch life go by in Place Jemaa el Fnaa

snake charmers in marrakech

3) Try some tasty treats at the night market, whilst being serenaded by musicians, fortune readers and story tellers.

Marrakesh night market

4) Discover a little history at one of the many ancient palaces

The Palace in Marrakech

5) Stay in a riad and pretend you’re in a tale from 1001 nights

riad in marrakech


by Heather Cole at the Conversant Traveller who is a regular visitor to Marrakech.


This article was published in December 2013.

Funky 100 – 5 Things to do in Accra


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Funky 100 – Number 18

5 Funky Things to do in Accra

Why you should Visit…

Accra is a vibrant and friendly city. There are restaurants to suit all tastes, even for a veggie like me – I had some wonderful Indian food at a genuine South Indian restaurant. Try to catch some music, too. Finally, a tip for striking up conversation: drop in the names of a few legends of Ghanaian football, like Abedi Pele, Samuel Kuffour and Tony Yeboah and I’ll guarantee you’ll be sitting there for hours over a few beers with your new friends.

1) Go to the market – a wonderful experience of organised chaos.

market in accra

2) Go to the football – there’s nothing to match the colour and sound of African football.

football match in ghana

3) See some things that you normally only see from David Attenborough, like this giant termite mound.

termite in africa

4) Taste pineapple like you never get it from a supermarket.

accra pineapples

5) Go birdwatching – you’ll see all sorts of glorious birds without even trying, like this green wood-hoopoe.

african bird


by Tom Locke who used to work in Accra

All photos were taken by Tom, except the last, courtesy of

You can read more about his travels over at Duck Holiday


This article was published in November 2013.