Accommodation in Morocco
Morocco offers a range of accommodation for cyclists, from a well-developed network of campsites to luxury hotels. Credit-card touring is possible in much of Morocco, especially on the well travelled route from Marrakech to the desert around Zagora, but consider carrying a bivvy sack if not a tent as most tours will include at least one long stretch between accommodation. The necessary camping supplies and a willingness to wild camp will open up some of Morocco’s most beautiful landscapes to you.
If you travel without shelter and fail to find a hotel, it’s possible to ask for a bed at a mosque or with local families, perhaps offering to pay a small amount for the latter option. Some hosts will be insulted by any suggestion of payment, seeing the traveller as an honoured guest. This is not always the case in Morocco and reactions to tourists largely depend on how much of a novelty you are. Use your instincts. If you think money wouldn’t be accepted, a pack of tea and a box of sugar is always a welcome gift and one that can be bought in any community across the country. Police stations are a good place to request help if you are really stuck. They can point you to a hotel you may have missed or help make a link with a family willing to host you. Carrying a letter explaining your trip – ideally in Moroccan Arabic as French will only be understood by the university educated – will make these connections easier.
In terms of prices, the cheapest hotels start at about 50 DH a night for a double room, outside the major cities. These are usually little more than a bed and perhaps a basin in a room with shared toilets. Showers are usually an extra 10 DH in this budget category. From 100 DH upwards you should be able to get something with ensuite facilities but readjust your expectations for the tourist centres of Marrakech and Fes. Here rooms usually start around 220-250 DH on the high budget or lower mid-range end of the scale.
In the bigger cities and around key attractions like the desert dunes of Merzouga and Zagora, it’s easy to find plenty of mid-range and luxury accommodation in addition to the budget options. The well-known Ibis chain has opened some branches in Morocco, as have five-star brands like the Sheraton. More atmospheric, however, are the large number of restored riads with beautiful central courtyards.
Campsites are all over Morocco, thanks in large part to the number of retired Europeans who spend the winter here in their motorhomes. You will find both privately run campgrounds and municipal sites. In general, the municipal sites tend to be functional but basic with prices that are fixed and usually the cheapest option around. The private sites are broadly kept to a higher standard but not always so have a good look around and expect to bargain on the price, checking to see if showers and other extras like electricity are included. Annoyingly, both municipal and private campgrounds like to charge extra for bicycles. In early 2007, we tried to pay around 30 DH a night for camping on average but this fluctuated wildly, going up to 60-70 DH in the most popular campgrounds around cities like Essaouira and Agadir and falling to as little as 10 DH in remote areas. Usually the price fell near the middle of the two extremes. Ask RV owners what they are paying and adjust your price accordingly since you take up much less space and fewer resources than a camping car.
The best camping bargain in Morocco is in Larache, about 100km down the Atlantic coast from Tangiers. The ferry companies running services between Tangiers and Europe offer rest areas here with restaurants, hot showers and sparkling clean toilets. These aren’t officially campsites but motorhomes are welcomed in their dozens to stay overnight and tents can set up on the lawn. We have paid for many campsites which offered far less so we were quite pleased with this little find. You can buy ferry tickets here too.
Wild camping brought us to some of the most beautiful landscapes we saw in Morocco. There is plenty of open space and it’s no problem to pitch your tent wherever you like, taking the normal precautions to hide your tent from view. Despite our best efforts, we were visited by shepherds on many occasions and once, when we camped in a field between three villages, by the local police. They had no problems leaving us for a peaceful evening after a quick passport check, offering their mobile phone number and pointing to the constable’s house in case we needed anything during the night.
You may well see nomad tents as you cycle through Morocco and it’s fine to camp in the vicinity. Be respectful. Leave a few hundred meters between your tent and theirs and introduce yourself when the opportunity arises. You may be asked for medicine for the children, who seem to always be suffering from a cold or some other common ailment. Whether or not you share from your First Aid kit is a personal choice. Some tourists come to Morocco with headache tablets and medicines especially for children. Nomad families are rarely able to afford such things, if they have access to a pharmacy at all. On the other hand, the people you give medicines to may not understand how to use them safely and giving out free things encourages begging. A good compromise is to give medicines to a guide or other trusted Moroccan, who can then distribute them to families most in need and explain their use. You may like to share some fresh fruit with the nomad families instead of medicine, which has the dual benefit of being good for their health and not dangerous at all. A few oranges or bananas will be a special treat for many as they only collect supplies intermittently from the nearest town.