Posts in Travel
how to avoid being hassled in morocco (especially if you're a woman)

Morocco is so easy to access from southern Spain, it would be almost silly not to go at least once. Which is why I've now been twice. The first time was a quick weekend trip to Tangier and Chefchaouen with a friend at the end of the auxiliar school year. The second, a two-week remote working vacation in Casablanca, with a side trip to Marrakech. On both trips, the Moroccan hustle was in full effect.

morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle2
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle2

In truth, there's no way to avoid being hassled in Morocco. In fact, it should be considered a prominent feature, a defining characteristic of the locale. If you're in well-visited tourist areas like the ones I visited, you're most definitely going to get hassled. Shopkeepers shouting, hash peddlers whispering, little kids begging... it's simply a part of the scene in the streets and souks of Morocco's cities. The best thing for you to guard against, then, is being hustled. Shopkeepers, hash peddlers, little kids, taxi drivers, old women, law enforcement - all could potentially try to lighten your wallet as you walk the streets of Morocco - either by selling, stealing or conning you out of your coins.

Below are a few tips to help you make the Moroccan hassle more tolerable and hopefully help you avoid the Moroccan hustle altogether.  While these tips are from my point-of-view as a woman travelling in a Muslim country, almost all of them are applicable to both women and men.

Well except, maybe...

Tip #1 - Go With a Male

On my first trip to Morocco, I went with a male, and though we were hassled, I wondered if I would be more or less hassled if I'd gone on my own. I would get a second chance to test the theory on my second trip. I spent most of my two weeks travelling solo, but had a male expat accompany me for a few days. The difference in the two experiences was incredible. When I went unaccompanied to places (cafes, restaurants, etc.) that I'd previously been with my male friend, I was often approached more aggressively and even openly sexually harassed a couple of times. I also witnessed a couple of incidents of male-to-female violence that unnerved me and generally made me feel more exposed and more wary than any other place I've visited as a solo female traveler.  If you're a woman who's new to traveling solo, I'd suggest you get your feet wet in other destinations before diving into Morocco or invite a trusted male companion to go with you.

Tip #2 - Dress Modestly

This is another, somewhat obvious tip for ladies. As a tourist, a lot of your behavior or dress code will be overlooked by Moroccan locals, But there's a big benefit to be gained by dressing to blend in versus to stand out. I'd strongly recommend lightweight, cropped pants  instead of shorts, short-sleeved versus sleeveless shirts and dresses, and several lightweight scarves or sweaters to wear while in Morocco. You'll want to always carry your scarf or sweater with you, just in case you find yourself somewhere where covered arms are required.

But, don't think that this restricted dress code equates to an abandonment of fashion sense. On the contrary, Moroccan ladies are quite fashionable - skinny jeans, cute shoes and an endless array of hijab colors, patterns and styles are far  more prevalent than head-to-toe burqas. You might also consider investing in a reasonably priced djellaba or two to wear during your stay. It's the one article of clothing that both men and women in Morocco can agree on.

morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle7
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle7
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle6
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle6

Tip #3 - Wear Sunglasses and Headphones

Especially good when travelling solo in Morocco, the sunglasses-and-headphones trick is like a semi-impenetrable force field against Moroccan hasslers. You can still hear and see enough to move about, but  your eyes and ears are protected from the full onslaught of everything going on around you.

Tip #4 - Know What You're In the Market For

You know how most people get hustled? By not having a clear and committed idea of what they do or do not want. Before you go browsing the stalls in the souks, have an idea of what you actually want to buy. If you have no idea, use part of your time to get a general idea of what's available in the market, then circle back to make purchases. If you know what you want ahead of time, you'll be less likely to end up buying something you didn't want to begin with. You should also ask a trusted local (someone at your hotel, perhaps) expected price ranges for certain items that you may be interested in (whether it's a taxi ride or a tagine), that way you'll know how much you should be paying.

morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle

Tip #5 - Always ask, How Much?

In Morocco, you should treat the phrase, 'how much,' almost like you'd treat the phrase, 'how ya doin?' in American parlance. This is mainly because, in Morocco, you may actually be in the middle of a transaction before you're even aware of it.  Ask it of every person who approaches you out of the blue on the street. They'll either:

  • be shocked that you asked them,
  • tell you that it costs nothing (you should remain skeptical), or
  • tell you how much (feel free to haggle or decline)

Either way, at least now you'll be aware of the nature of the interaction.

Tip #6 - Say, 'No Thank You' in Arabic and French

The two most widely spoken languages in Morocco are Arabic and French. I got away with Spanish on the northern coast of Morocco, but further in, it didn't serve me at all. After a few days on my own,  I'd mastered what has to be the most useful phrase while in Morocco in both French - 'No, merci,' and Arabic - 'La, chokran'.

Tip #7 - Keep it Moving

Someone yells at you to come buy something? Someone begging you for money? Someone telling you to follow the m so they can show you the way to...? Some guy making unwelcome advances? Put it all behind you. Literally. Don't make eye contact, don't slow down or stand still. Get up and keep walking. This tactic works especially well when coupled with...

morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle5
morocco-safety-how-to-avoid-hassle5

Tip #8 - Just Play Mute

Of course, you don't have to ask, 'how much,' or say 'no, thanks,' if you don't want to. You don't have to say anything at all. In many cases, that's the best way to avoid being hassled in Morocco. So instead of replying, shake your head, put your hand up, or ignore the hassler completely.

Tip #9 - Don't Go Out After Dark

I don't want to imply that I think that Morocco is dangerous after dark, only that I noticed that there was a certain daytime veneer to each Moroccan city I visited that the populace seemed to shrug off after sunset. It was almost like, if you're a tourist who's bold enough to be out after dark, then you're a tourist who's ready for the behind-the-scenes look. Also, I suspect the hustler-to-hassler ratio dramatically increases after dark, so to avoid them, stay at home after sunset.

Have you traveled to Morocco? What was your experience with street hasslers? Do you have any tips you've used to avoid being hassled or hustled in Morocco? Share them in the comments!

6 Reasons Sitges Is The Perfect Destination For Just About Everyone
6-reasons-sitges-is-the-perfect-destination-for-almost-everyone-solo-in-spain.png

In case I haven't mentioned it already, Barcelona is one of my favorite cities on Earth. It’s cosmopolitan, chock full of culture, it has beaches, nightlife, great food and amazing history and architecture. It has so much to offer that it totally overshadows other neighboring cities and towns that are also worth exploring. One of those towns that I think definitely deserves to share in a little bit of Barna’s shine is Sitges. At just a 45 minute train away from Barcelona’s bustling Sants train station, Sitges is a jewel of a destination that has something to offer almost any type of traveler or pleasure seeker.

Don’t believe me? Here are 6 reasons why you (and just about everyone you know) should visit Sitges.

Sitges is for Lovers

Romantic passages, intimate restaurants, cozy boutique hotels, and sweeping Mediterranean views… even if you’re single and solo, you’re bound to feel a little more sexy here.

visit sitges travel lady-statue
visit sitges travel lady-statue
visit sitges travel spain
visit sitges travel spain
visit sitges-spain travel
visit sitges-spain travel
visit-sitges-travel
visit-sitges-travel

Sitges is for Families

Like the rest of Spain, families abound in restaurants, on the beaches  Lots of family-friendly restaurants and activities and plenty of vacation rentals to house a crowd at better-than-hotel rates.

visit sitges travel families
visit sitges travel families

Sitges is for 'the children'

No, not the little ones. I’m referring to the children of the LGBTQ family. Sitges isn’t just a gay-friendly vacation destination, it’s a gay vacationer’s paradise. It hosts the biggest and most popular gay pride festival in all of Spain every June. No shortage of bars, drag shows, and beeyoutiful boys to gaze at while walking in the streets, sitting in cafes, and lounging on the beaches!

visit-sitges-travel-spain2
visit-sitges-travel-spain2

Sitges is for wild women

Sprinkled all over the shoreline are these bold statues of nude women. And sprinkled along at least one of the beaches in Sitges are bold, nude humans.  Sitges is a definitely a safe place for ladies who like to let it all hang out.

visit sitges-travel lady statue
visit sitges-travel lady statue

Sitges is for the weary

The hustle and bustle of Barcelona is only a 40-minute ride away on the Rodalies commuter train. As much as I love visiting and partying in Barcelona, I have to admit that after a few days, I’m worn out. Sitges offers a close-by respite from the madness that is the big-city life of Barcelona.

visit sitges travel uni
visit sitges travel uni

Sitges is for the posh

High end shops, real estate, and world class restaurants make Sitges a favorite spot for the upper crust set, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it since everyone adopts a more casual, laid back vibe here.

sitges-travel-spain-bike
sitges-travel-spain-bike

How To Get There:

Trains from Barcelona to Sitges depart from França, Passeig de Gracia and Sants stations.

There's also a public bus that runs during the day, and a night bus that provides service between the Barcelona and Sitges until well after midnight.

More on bus and train travel from Barcelona to Sitges.

barcelona to sitges train
barcelona to sitges train

Where to Stay:

visit sitges travel hotel platjador
visit sitges travel hotel platjador

Hotel Platjador is a quirky, but comfy boutique beachfront hotel smack in the middle of Sitges. Spring for the balcony suite for all-day people watching without having to leave your room.

What  to Eat:

El Trull

visit sitges travel el trull
visit sitges travel el trull
visit sitges-travel el trull
visit sitges-travel el trull

Directly across the street from Hotel Platjador is the oldest chiringuito in Spain (allegedly). Aptly named, El Chiringuito, its food is about as nondescript as its name. If you weren't lucky enough to score a balcony room at Hotel Platjador, Go to El Chiringuito, have a beer and people watch from there.

visit sitges travel platjador chiringuito
visit sitges travel platjador chiringuito

Have you been to Sitges yet? What did you love about it?

Why i travel in spain mainly on the train
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You ever been on a train that’s just moments away from pulling into your destination, so you get up from your seat, start gathering your things and begin moving towards the nearest exit. Then, suddenly you realize that the train doesn’t seem to be slowing down enough to make a stop. Slowly it dawns on you that the train isn’t slowing down, because it’s not going to stop. And as the train ever so slowly rolls past your destination station, and you stand dumbstruck in the middle of the aisle – your rolling bag clutched in one hand, your jacket draped over your other arm – your eyes and mouth widen while you watch your intended place fade away in the distance and you wonder to yourself,

What the f*ck just happened?

And then,

Where the f*ck am I headed to now?

spain train travel
spain train travel

No? Never happened to you? Oh.

Well…

You ever been on a train seated next to an old Spanish man, who, after almost refusing to move out of your assigned seat when you boarded, later lets out the mother of all silent-but-deadly farts that wakes you and the other guy in the seat across from you out of your naps, prompts a coughing fit from the passenger seated 3 rows back, gives you a (literal) taste of what the old man had for lunch and what medications he’s currently taking, and makes you wonder exactly how to say ‘Sir! Do not move another inch. Clap your cheeks down on that foul stench immediately!’ in Spanish without being misunderstood?

spain train travel
spain train travel

Yeah. Happened to me once. Never happened to you?

Well, then…

You ever been on a train with a silent car? A silent car that you specifically booked a seat in because things like loud talking, small children, and cell phone usage are strictly prohibited? A silent car that you’ve been dying to park yourself in so you can rest your hot, hungover head against the cool, cool window and snooze a bit on the way back to your little town after a long weekend of the most turnt-up of turn-ups (aka, Carnaval in Cadiz)? A silent car whose silence is being disturbed by, of all things, a nun…talking…on a cell phone? At first, you feel a little bad at getting angry at a nun. Is that even allowed? But then all those Catholic school punishments come back to you and you think to yourself, “Oh, hell naw, Sister Mary. The rules apply to you too.” But instead of saying anything, you simply scowl in her direction and not-so-subtly snap a picture of her with your phone hoping that the power of shame will compel her.

spain train travel
spain train travel

Still no? Damn, you should get out more.

Or… maybe I should stay put more.

But, it’s hard to stay put when I have this amazingly efficient and wide-reaching network of sleek chariots on iron rails to take me almost anywhere I can think of going in this country. As an American, I am not used to this type of convenience. Our national rail system is more of a quaint remnant of history than a currently viable utility. And the price of using the rail system in Spain is more than favorable. I often make use of Renfe’s SpainPass, a volume discount-type train ticket that’s only available to non-Spaniards. SpainPass allows you to take 4 or more medium- or long-distance train trips in a month for 40 euro or less per trip. Once I realized that with the money I make off of just a handful of private English lessons (link), I can afford to travel to 2 new cities each month, I was hooked. I’ve heard that Renfe has some pretty good student discounts, too. But, sadly (or gladly?), I aged out of those a long time ago. Even without discounts, many of the regular-price Renfe tickets are still in the 40 euro or less range, depending on the day and route of travel.

Of course there are so many other benefits to Spain train travel besides price. Trains offer:

  • More comfort and speed than a bus, and much less hassle than a plane
  • Less of the security hassle than at airports
  • Larger seats / more room
spain train travel
spain train travel
  • No luggage restrictions
  • The chance to see the country and the geography up-close while on the move
spain train travel
spain train travel
  • Free onboard entertainment (in the form of smelly old men, chatty nuns or in-transit movies)

So, Dear Reader, I encourage you to get out there more. Find a destination, buy a ticket, hop a train, and have an adventure.

Just remember to:

  • Always have your phone ready to snap a pic of a naughty nun
  • Always bring nose plugs or air spray in case of an unexpected abuelo ass-ault
  • Always know exactly where your train will be stopping, so you won’t inadvertently end up in Madrid having to buy another train ticket to get back to your intended destination.