Cycling in Morocco has turned out to be an awesome experience. In this country of extremes we have experienced:
- Sub zero temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius,
- Diverse scenic landscapes,
- Quiet peaceful mountain ranges and towns,
- Dirty and simple but cheap “hotels”,
- Negotiating most of the prices,
- Delicious food,
- Very busy and chaotic cities,
- Overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable people,
- Tim (probably) almost getting robbed,
- The widest range of traffic on the roads: pedestrians, donkeys, horses, cyclists, all kinds of old rusty motor powered vehicles, and regular traffic.
- And much more!
Entry to the country
We, as Europeans, didn’t need to get a visa for Morocco. On the plane we only had to fill out a little form with typical information like personal data and the purpose of our trip. We wondered how they were going to manage all these little papers. Was someone going to enter all this data into a computer by hand? Probably, because it took about an hour to get through customs while there were only a few people in front of us. Once our little form was checked, we got a stamp in our passport and were allowed into the country for 3 months.
The official languages of Morocco are Arabic (Moroccan dialect) and French. Luckily I speak and read basic French and it proved to be very helpful during our trip, from negotiating prices to getting to know the people.
Be prepared to negotiate prices, especially for meals at restaurants and accommodation. They will almost always ask way too much at first. After spending some time in the country you will develop a feel for what a fair price is. We didn’t bother paying more than the locals, but more than double is too much in my opinion.
We didn’t feel the need to negotiate the price of groceries, like a water bottle (5 dirham), bread (2 dirham), or soda (5 dirham). They were usually around the same price.
Some tips for negotiating:
- Negotiate in advance. When you express this desire, they will often say the price will be determined after having something (eating for example). Just hold on and you can agree on a price.
- Act as if you are not in any need. If you feel like they ask too much, you can always say you budget is X dirham. You might get the deal, or they show you an alternative (like a simpler room), which often is fine.
- Stay friendly and calm, but decisive.
Outbound flight: Amsterdam – Agadir
Inbound flight: Marrakesh – Amsterdam
About 90% of our time was spent on good asphalt roads with little to no traffic. So on the road we felt very safe most of the time. Exceptions were Marrakech and the stretch between Taroudant and the start of the Tizi ‘n Test pass. It was manageable though.
The people of Morocco have been incredibly friendly and hospitable towards us. Almost everyone greeted us with a friendly “Bonjour monsieur, Bonjour madame, ca va?” or “Welcome to Morocco!”, gave us a thumbs up and honked to encourage us. We also got invited into someone’s house twice in only 10 days on the road.
There were also a few less nice encounters. Like shop owners acting really friendly and promising us a good price, but then overcharging us by WAY too much, and not being open to negotiations. Maybe this was also something you can deal with in a better way. After we experienced this about 2 or 3 times, we decided to always ask / negotiate the price in advance.
There was only one moment I felt threatened by 3 Moroccan guys. Kate and I stopped with our bikes in Taroudant and I wanted to get some cash from an ATM. There were many people, but after I crossed the street and inserted my card into the ATM, I looked over my shoulder and noticed 3 guys that I saw right before on the side of the street where I came from. At the same time, when they were grabbing something from behind their back, I felt a shot of adrenaline, canceled the ATM operation immediately and walked away. It just didn’t feel right, but I will never know for sure if they were about the threaten me with a knife or something and demand cash.
Generally, the cities felt less safe than the quiet mountain towns, which goes for any country I guess.
Generally November till May is considered the best time to travel in Morocco.
We cycled from the 24th of March till the 4th of April and the first half was perfect, around 25 degrees Celsius in the valley. The second half of the trip it got a lot hotter, up to 35 Celsius in the valley, which we found too hot to pleasantly cycle. It was hotter than average during this period.
We had sun everyday all day. So be prepared to protect yourself from the sun.
We took a hotel / motel / room a few times. Cheap accommodation can be found almost everywhere. The average price we paid for a double room including breakfast was 200 dirham (20 euros). Don’t expect too much from these cheaper hotels though. We usually found them untidy or simply dirty. The rooms are simple and things are missing (batteries for the air conditioning remote or a power outlet) or broken (door handles and stuff).
There were more expensive and better looking hotels for European prices too.
Our best nights were the ones out camping. On our route there were plenty of wild camping options. Onetime nearby a river which was handy for washing ourselves and filling our water bottles (after filtering the water).
We didn’t look for or see any commercial campsites, except for a deserted one.
We had a rough idea of a route, which included the Anti Atlas and High Atlas Mountains, and Marrakech.
In the end, we roughly cycled from Agadir to Tafraoute (Anti Atlas) to Marrakech (through the High Atlas).
Day 1: Agadir -> Ait Baha (57 km)
Day 2: Ait Baha -> Tioulit (30 km)
Day 3: Tilouit -> Ait Abdellah (43 km)
Day 4: Ait Abdellah -> Taroudant (121 km)
Day 5: Taroudant -> Oulad Berhil (51 km)
Day 6: Oulad Berhil -> Tizi ‘n Test pass (37 km)
Day 7: Tizi ‘n Test -> Tin Mal (42km)
Day 8: Tin Mal -> Ouirgane (39 km)
Day 9: Ouirgane -> Marrakech (60 km)
- If we have to choose a favorite part, it was from Ait Baha through the Anti Atlas to Ait Abdellah.
- Day 2 was by far the toughest. We took a smaller road which went up steeply and down all the time. It was tough, but very much worth it. The “main road” from Aith Baha to Tafraoute was easier (we could see it from our road) but looked much less interesting.
- Day 7 Tizi ‘n Test pass was climbing all day up to 2100 meters, but gradually. We gained a better view of the mountains every 15 minutes. The descend on day 8 was spectacular!
On the Tizi ‘n Test pass we met the only other bicycle tourers, a couple from Sweden. They had chosen for mountainbikes because they thought they could be cycling gravel roads. Turns out that Morocco has been putting asphalt on almost all roads, so there was not much gravel left for them.
Morocco has been a fantastic country for bicycle touring! Nine out of ten people are very friendly and welcoming; they will put a smile on your face every single day too, I’m sure. The roads are great, good quality, and most of them quiet (if you avoid the main roads). We didn’t spend much time in cities but would probably like to avoid most of them anyway. Marrakech was nice for 1 or 2 days, and we have heard good things about Fes.
We can highly recommend other tourers to travel this country by bike.