Vanlife in Morocco: A Short Guide
As you know, we like to share what we know about living in a van, so we decided to write a short guide on vanlife in Morocco after our trip. We think that our experience could be useful to anyone who’s planning on visiting in a van or RV.
Many things were surprisingly different than we’d expected. Check out our discoveries about vanlife in Morocco:
(Want to read it later? Download the guide as a free PDF: Van Guide to Morocco)
Our last experience with this kind of crazy driving was in Istanbul. We didn’t drive around the city when we were there so much, but the few times we did was enough. Vanlife in Morocco driving is pretty much the same: absolute chaos in cities and craziness on country roads.
Even if I drive slowly and not long distances, I’m always tired after every jaunt. You know why? My eyes are constantly, 200%, looking for any kind of dangerous situation around the van: people crossing the road everywhere; taxi drivers passing you from the right; cars that don’t use any kind of signal except in fun; carts, donkeys, herds of sheep and camels taking a stroll.
That’s pretty much what you can find on the roads here, and it doesn’t matter if you’re driving in the countryside or in a town. These kinds of situations are pretty different from Europe.
Not only that: Moroccans seem to be pretty busy all day long and they don’t like to wait – so don’t be angry if they honk at you. A lot. And don’t stop. It’s mainly to let you know they are riding your ass, in case you hadn’t noticed.
The roads are pretty much safe and well paved, if they aren’t dirt side roads. Some of them have brand new asphalt and some others…don’t. Most of the paved roads have the asphalt in the middle of the road, the size of a single lane. If there’s oncoming traffic, you both go halfsies into the dirt sides (usually plenty of room).
If you want super safe travels you can get onto the main highway that pretty much goes from the north to the south of the country and isn’t expensive (as far as tolls) for vanlife in Morocco.
All of the other roads are in good condition (the yellow ones on the maps) and if you want to try some adventure, you can check out the side roads (white lines on the map). The side roads will definitely give you a real African driving experience- and if your van is 4×4, so much the better.
Update: The last leg of our journey was a lot smoother, as far as driving. Inland, the roads seemed much better (even if they were dirt) and the main highway was easy-peasy. Another thing we noticed: there are hardly any side roads that aren’t private. You can drive for ages before finding a public road to pull off into.
There are plenty of gas stations near cities, towns and even small villages. As you probably know, the diesel prices for vanlife in Morocco are pretty low, so enjoy getting a full tank when you arrive.
Right now, the price is around 7.50 Dirham per liter (0.70 Euros) and it’s a good quality one.
If you plan to take your van far into the Western Sahara, keep in mind to put some extra tanks in your van as gas stations are much more rare on the road there. We doubt you’d like to be stuck in the middle of the desert!
Be careful: for vanlife in Morocco, many roads are under control of police with radar. Be aware of all the signals on the road and be sure you drive within speeds limits.
There’s usually a roadblock before entering in major towns, but since they like tourists, the police shouldn’t bother you. Also in big cities like Casablanca, look around and stop at signs- or you can get a ticket up to 700 Dirhams.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is almost impossible, because it’s not easy to get booze, but anyways, always safe driving: no drugs, no alcohol.
We’ve heard that when you get caught for traffic violations, they take it seriously. And that seriously means something.
Note: If you’re ticketed in Morocco, the fine is expected to be paid immediately. If you can’t pay it, your license can be confiscated legally until payment is made.
Here’s the deal: we’re pretty used to always finding a nice place for free parking and staying overnight in Europe, but it’s a bit different for vanlife in Morocco. There is no free parking. Other people have told us that 3-4 years ago the situation was really different and you were able to park your van anywhere.
The King has recently changed some laws and put a lot of signs up, around the seaside, especially. The signs have a clear picture of an RV with a line through it.
In most of the places you can find a nice parking area for the day. But before leaving your van parked there, remember to pay something to the guy with a bright yellow vest. He’s the ‘guardian’- and that’s how it works here. It depends on the location, but the prices range from 5 to 10 Dirhams for the day and for the night parking up to 30-40. So be prepared with a big bag full of coins, you’ll need them.
Near touristic locations, like Essauira, Kenitra and Airah you’ll see an agglomerate of big campervans to see where it’s ok to park. These parking lots have a guard at night also, so your van will be in good hands. It’s better not to take a risk for couple of coins.
But before leaving your van parked there, remember to pay something to the guy with a bright yellow vest. He’s the ‘guardian’- and that’s how it works here.
We’ve also had free parking overnight in some places, though it’s difficult to find. It’s easier if the spot is not right at the beach. More than several times at sunset, a couple of police officers have stopped by to tell us that we have to move (mostly for our safety) at any of the beach spots. Believe us, it’s such a pain in the patootie to pack up, drive randomly or to the ‘closest camping’ and then unpack.
Update: We had several interesting experiences with parking the last month of our stay. In one field, we asked a local farmer if we could park and they insisted on inviting us in to share dinner. None of us could communicate with each other, but it was a fantastic moment.
In Marrakech, finding parking is a hassle. We paid for one parking space at first, only to find out a.) it wasn’t parking and b.) it wasn’t his. A little police help got our money back.
Another not-so-nice parking time: after the crazy of Marrakech, we just wanted quiet. We found a small village and parked. Within a short time, a man approached and asked us to leave. The ‘women couldn’t leave their houses’ and ‘why can’t you go to Marrakech?’ That really left a bad taste in our mouths, since we weren’t obtrusive in the least. Just being foreign was enough.
CAMPING AT CAMPSITES
We’re secretly convinced that the police and ‘beach guardians’ are working hand-in-hand with cousins who just so happen to own a camping in the next village over.
We’ve spent a few nights at campsites, just once by choice. Again, really don’t get your expectations up or even try to compare to what you’re used to.
Either a nasty-looking wire fence or bricks typically ring the campsites. Again, for ‘protection.’ The parking slots are like a dirt parking lot.
Many sites don’t have toilets, if they do, they’re Turkish style. Some have showers, sinks for doing the washing up, laundry and water to load up into your van. (The showers, so far, have only thought briefly about being warm.)
We paid 85 Dirhams in the off-season outside of Targhazout; and for just parking overnight we’ve paid 30-40 Dirhams at campsites.
The strangest part of the campsites is that phenomenon of long-term campers (RVs with the patios, etc.) who seem happy enough in a dirt parking lot for weeks or months.
Update: We rarely use campsites, but this camping guide in Morocco could be useful for those of you that do.
You’ll see gas bottles everywhere, from small villages to big cities. For vanlife in Morocco, pretty much everything is run by gas, so for your van kitchen, it’s super easy and inexpensive to get a new one.
We have a regular ‘Campigaz’ bottle 3kg. We didn’t want to give up our empty one and decided to just buy a local one that has the same size and same attachment. It cost only 60 Dirhams, but we did have to enlist help from someone to open it.
The bottles have a plastic middle you need to push a knife into and then use it to unscrew from the bottle. If you’re in doubt, ask a local. They might laugh at you, but better safe than sorry.
Don’t count on being able to charge as you travel. Very, very few places accept cards. Perhaps 5%. You need cash for gas, food and anything you can’t buy in one of the big chain supermarkets. ATMs are handy, when they work. But they don’t always.
We have a Mastercard debit card, and we’ve had some trouble getting money from ATMs. We’ve been told everything from: ‘sometimes all Mastercard servers are down, countrywide,’ to ‘you need to keep the language in Arabic/French, not English.’
We’ve had our card spat back out, got the dreaded ‘not enough funds’ message and have done the whole panicked drive in search of working ATMs.
If you have any problems with your card or getting cash, going inside the bank and asking for help has worked for us. People have been more than friendly and eager to help, which takes the sting out of not being able to get your money.
Update: Don’t try to make sense of why or why not an ATM doesn’t work. We had one work the first time, but not the second; one that only accepted our card after spitting it out 3 times; and one that we put back into the machine for ten minutes, regularly (a little frustrated), that finally went through.
Other people had no problems at all.
In Morocco, they have two big supermarkets: Carrefour and Marjane. We’ve tried both and can say that are both fairly expensive. Maybe we’re just used to the cheap discounts in Europe, but here the prices are high. For example: a local bread (the round one) at the supermarket is 3.50 Dirhams, when at the local shop it’s usually 1. Many of the imported products are overpriced, and when you leave with a small bag and are 30 Euros lighter…mmm…better to buy local.
The absolute best places for shopping are at the ‘souks,’ or weekly markets. The day of the week they’re held depends on each specific place, so ask around.
You can find dozens of small shops all around villages/towns/cities that sell pretty much everything: from cigarettes to Coca-Cola, chips and chocolate bars. The absolute best places for shopping are at the ‘souks,’ or weekly markets. The day of the week they’re held depends on each specific place, so ask around. You can get loads of fresh produce, handicrafts and find a lot of surprises for half the cost you’d find in traditional shops. They’re also a lively and integral part of Moroccan culture.
In the local markets you can find a butcher, fresh fish, veggies and so on. Sometimes it’s even cheaper to just eat out. Of course not in the fancy tourist restaurants, but where locals go.
In Casablanca, a friend of ours brought us to the harbor and we spent 20 Dirhams each for: a nice plate of fresh fried fish, an omelet with fresh shrimp, soft bread and tea. And it was delicious. We also recommend trying a ‘tajine,’ which is a slow cooked roast of meat, potatoes and veg in Moroccan spices. Double yum.
It’s not very common here to find water fountains or such around. We’ve found a couple, but it was more than lucky. Usually when we need to fill our 70-liter tank and the solar shower, we stop by a gas station and gently ask if we can get some water. We typically tip 10-20 Dirhams for the service.
We only use this water for cooking and cleaning, not for drinking. It’s always better to buy some bottled water at the local shop, a 5-liter jug costs you 1 euro. And you’ll be needing a surprising amount of water, more than usual, due to the dry heat and the sand. Lots of fine-grained, dusty sand. Everywhere.
Update: In the Atlas mountains, you can find a lot of fresh water from the runoff with small road side stations to fill up, which is perfect for vanlife in Morocco. We found that many small towns also had public water stations on their outskirts (don’t let the sight of donkey drivers put you off, the water’s fine).
In our first few days here, we noticed what many visitors to Morocco notice: vast heaps of garbage. Countryside, city side, beach. Just tons, everywhere.
We’ve realized now that a large part of the problem is the where of the thing: it’s pretty tough to find a trash bin, no matter where you are. But what, with all of the water you’ll be drinking and the heat to spoil anything organic in hours rather than days, you’ll need to get rid of it.
Our only solution is carting it around with us until we find that holy Grail: a trash bin to throw it in. Some can be found on the outskirts of towns and some haphazardly along streets. It’s kind of a bin-Bingo, but they can be found.
We had a bout of minor food poisoning that led to a superbly painful skin infection, and had to find a hospital. The hospital in Belfa was closed, but we were directed to the emergency services. We found the small lit sign with a door leading up stairs, and two doctors on call.
The waiting room was empty (it was around 8:30 PM) and we were taken in, treated and finished in 20 minutes. I have to say: it was one of the most pleasant and professional experiences I’ve ever had in an ER.
We went back a day later to make sure everything was as it should be, and got some medical supplies. Costs: 150 Dirhams for the visit; 100 Dirhams for the supplies.
PETS AND ANIMALS
There are a lot of street dogs and cats around that are so happy to be fed and to be loved, even for a short time. You will see some shocking and sad sights of abused animals, just to prepare you. If you bring your dog, be sure you have his passport. And if you want to adopt one in Morocco (like we did), make sure you have the time.
What happened with us: Ziggy just decided to jump in our van and to adopt us. The day after we brought him to a vet to have him checked out (very healthy). With 1040 Dirhams (around 100 Euros) we got: an injection against rabies, an injection for the microchip, pills for stomach worms, an anti-parasite wash for his fur, a general check of his condition and a nice bath.
After a month from the first vaccination, we’ll have to go back to a vet and do a blood test. After 15 days, they’ll send us the results by email. With a printed copy of this document, you can get the dog in Europe and then do the EU passport. So make sure that if you find your special 4 legged friend here, you have at least month and ½ ahead to take care of the regulations.
Update: We had some anxiety and Ziggy’s papers ready, but they weren’t bothered at the Spanish border. In fact, we found it strange that we’d been searched so thoroughly going into Morocco and barely leaving, despite its fame for hash smuggling.
Morocco is an amazing place if you like to surf in the winter, in warm water. All of the coast is full of nice spots for surfing, mainly right waves and occasionally left ones. Living a vanlife in Morocco is a surfer’s paradise.
Some of the places we’ve visited are: Kenitra, Essaouira, Sidi Kaoukli, Simand….., other places I don’t remember now, and the surf capital of Morocco: Taghazout.
In each place, there are surfing camps, schools, surf rentals and shops. And in some of the more windy places, like Essaouira, it’s also good for kite surfing. So put your equipment in the van for some fun along the trip.
Also, if you like fishing, Morocco is a great place to give it a go with a lot of different varieties. Your best bet: ask a local for advice on bait and lures or get adventurous with deep-sea fishing.
VISITING THE DESERT
You’ll have more than enough offers of a Sahara tour or a camel tour in the desert. We went with Caravane du Sud in Zagora for both their ‘mini camp’ and the camp at the edge of the Sahara. The journey includes: camel or 4 x 4 riding; staying in authentic Berber tents; and a full Moroccan experience with friendly locals.
BUYING OTHER GOODS
The great thing about vanlife in Morocco is that before entering, you can buy some extra stuff that you can then trade here with locals. Sweets, cakes or alcohol. A couple of bags of candies or cheap bottles aren’t a bad thing to have handy. We also had some childrens toys (small rubber balls) that we were able to give away. Trade is common between local Moroccans and visitors, so bring extras of everything to barter with.
Trade is common between local Moroccans and visitors, so bring extras of everything to barter with.
We had men approaching us to ask for shoes; electronics; phones; and small children ask for pens (though that may have been the only vocabulary they had). And for vanlife in Morocco: it can feel more than a little impolite with strangers stopping by constantly.
As smokers, we had problems finding tobacco here. They have some, but it’s the same type that they put in cigarettes, not for rolling. Anyway, in most of the shops you can find cigarettes, so we went for a local brand called Marquise for 20,5 Dirhams a box.
About alcohol, you should stock up before entering if you like to have your evening wine or beer. Marjane shops don’t sell any; Carrefour does seemingly randomly (in Essouaria, but not Agadira); and legend has it shops exist selling all types of alcohol, carefully hidden behind unmarked doors that are pretty dodgy-looking.
WiFI AND CONNECTIONS TO THE WORLD
In the main cities and towns you can find a lot of cafés and bars with WiFi. A free app for your mobile phone we use to check for local WiFi: WiFi map. If you need WiFi for work (like us) you can choose between a couple of providers.
We chose the national one: Moroc Telecom, which has the best coverage in the country. We bought a card with 12GB for a month and a USB stick for 200 Dirhams. Our router reads the card perfectly, and if you finish the GB you can recharge for another 12GB a month at 100 Dirhams.
So far, the connection has been good, except for a few places that were away from any signs of civilization. We didn’t mind. It’s part of the reason we enjoyed our vanlife in Morocco. It’s really not bad, from time to time, to be offline and immerse yourself in the world you’re discovering.
Arabic is the primary language of Morocco, though French comes in second. If you have any school French remnant in you, this is the time to dust it off and use it. It’ll make things easier for you- and for the locals. They speak French or at least understand it pretty much everywhere.
In some areas in the north and a few villages in the south, you can also practice your Spanish. In many of the touristic places, a lot of people speak English.
However, no matter which language you speak, locals will usually find a way to communicate with you. Sign language and pantomime are nearly universal, after all.
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
We’ll showcase some links here if you want to know more about the culture and traditions of Morocco. Especially if you’re a little sketchy about how different it will be to visit (like we were) we’ve piqued your curiosity with our Vanlife in Morocco guide:
Bewildered in Morocco: Blog
Moroccan Etiquette: Blog
Morocco Reddit Travel Feed: Possible Problems
Tips for Solo Women Travelers: Short Guide
Driving in Morocco: Article
Why Morocco: Blog
Morocco Essentials: Official Guide
Top 10 Scams in Morocco: Blog Post
That’s it for our vanlife in Morocco tips and info. We hope it’s been helpful! Have you ever been to Morocco in a van? What was your experience? Have we missed anything? Have any questions about vanlife in Morocco? Just let us know in the comments below!
Armando, Mel, Ziggy & Mork
(Want to save Vanlife in Morocco for a reference? Download the guide as a free PDF: Van Guide to Morocco)