One week in Morocco on a budget: seeing everything I wanted to see in only a week for cheap

This post has been optimalized for your mobile device, so I’d highly recommend reading it on your phone. Also, this article contains a couple of affiliate links. If you like this blog, and you wish to book a similar trip like I did, you’d help this blog out a ton if you’d make use of those links. – Reading time: 7 minutes

A traveler doesn’t always have all the time in the world to also actually SEE the world. Albeit because of a 9-to-five life, a college degree you need to study for or some personal circumstances that keep you at home for a long time. So, as a traveler, what do you do if that’s the case? You’re probably going to feel that urge to go some place far away sooner or later anyway, so you’d be better off to prepare for such feelings in advance. I found myself in such a situation a little while ago, and so I was joined with my travel mate and we created a plan to see as much as possible from Morocco in only one week. I think we did a pretty good job, spending only €584,- on our flights, tours (including a three-day desert tour, which was basically a guided Morocco roadtrip) and accomodations each. Here’s how we did it.

To start off, we needed to plan ahead for this trip more than I was used to. Usually when I go somewhere, I take my time to plan most of the things I want to do during my stay, but in this short time frame, I couldn’t afford that kind of luxury. So we discussed about what our priorities were. To me, the most important part was to see the Sahara desert and I wanted to see Fez. Luckily, my travel mate agreed, and so we booked our tickets to Fez and searched for an affordable Sahara desert tour.

We planned a three-day tour from Fez to Merzouga (which is where the dunes of the Sahara desert start to take over the rough, dry landscape) and from Merzouga to Marrakech, so that we’d be able to see as much as possible. We also wanted to spend a day and a night in a riad in Marrakech, which we booked only about a couple of hours before our plane left (Riad El Sagaya, €43,- for a room with two beds).

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Boy on a donkey, near Barrage Sidi Chahed.

Now, a lot of Sahara tours were pretty expensive, I quickly discovered – we’re talking about more than €500,- MINIMUM, and the prices only went up from there on, some travel websites even reaching the €1000,- EACH. We didn’t think it was worth that much, so we needed a better option. That was hard to find, so hard, that we even discussed arranging it while we were in Morocco – which, in hindsight, we could’ve done through our hostel – but we didn’t want to take that approach with one of our main priorities.

So we kept on searching and landed on GetYourGuide, where we found tours for about €245,- each, which was REALLY cheap compared to most offers online. Mind you, we booked off-season, so our prices may be lower than when you book during the holiday season. Still, it’s one of the cheapest offers you’ll find out there and what we got out of it, was INSANE. More on that later.

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Nomadic scarfs, Ait Ben Haddou.

So then there was one more crucial thing: the plane tickets. We booked the cheapest flight we could find, which was Air Arabia (€230,- for a retour flight each). If you go online and read the reviews – like we did AFTER we already booked them – you might get a little scared of what’s to come. There are literally dozens of horror stories written about this airline, just scroll down on this TripAdvisor page and be amazed of all the things people have to go through sometimes.

But luckily, these were absolutely no horror flights for us. The staff was friendly, and to be honest, my experience of this airline was a lot better than my experiences with the infamous and low-cost airline RyanAir.

The only inconvenience we had, was that it was impossible to check in online beforehand if you depart from Fez or Amsterdam, which I only knew one day before and I had to call the airline myself to actually get informed. Their website is very unclear, so there’s very little to no information about it or whatsoever, which is why we had to be at the airport three hours before departure, both in Amsterdam as on our way back home in Fez.

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Me and my mate riding dromedaries.

Day 1 and 2: Fez, Volubilis and Meknes

So after all our homework was done, we flew out and landed in the middle of the night. We got to our hostel (Downtown Fez Hostel) right inside a UNESCO World Heritage site: the ancient Kasbah of Fez. We stayed here for about €9,- per night each.

We got picked up by our host Ahmed, one of the sweetest men we’d met during our stay. He suggested we’d do a city tour of Fez the next day, walking around in the Medina and seeing the city from above at the two panoramic views. We agreed on doing so and with our great English speaking tour guide Abdul, we saw the tanneries, the royal palace, the Grand Mosque – basically everything you need to see in Fez in only one day.

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Me in front of the royal palace – it’s all mine!

The next day, we originally had planned to visit the blue city Chefchaouen for a day, but soon we discovered that that wasn’t possible: it would take a 3.5 hours drive to get there, therefore, we’d be sitting in a car for seven hours in one day which would leave us with only about two hours of walking around there in total. We didn’t like the idea of that.

So we changed our plans and booked a tour to Volubilis and Meknes the next day. Both places were so beautiful, that we never regretted not having visited Chefchaouen that day. We booked this through GetYourGuide as well, which was very convenient for us, because it was, yet again, way cheaper than any other, even cheaper than our hostel’s local prices. We paid about €30,- each.

Obviously, you could go to Chefchaouen for a day – it’s not impossible. But due to the circumstances, we decided to do something else instead. Especially if you have a little more time at hand, I’d definetely recommend going there. If not for you, do it for your Instagram account – it’ll blow up, for everybody on there gets their panties soaking wet when they see photos from Chefchaouen (me included).

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A man working the tanneries of Fez.

Before we booked though, we didn’t know what to expect. We feared being put inside a tour bus, filled with only American/Chinese/Japanese tourists who were all +60 and enjoying their safe environment of that bus, being towed from one tourist hotspot to another, only eating at touristy restaurants.

But luckily, none of that. No, instead, we were picked up by Abdul (not the same tour guide as in Fez, there’s just a lot of people called Abdul here). He’s an incredibly intelligent, sweet man and most of all: a great tour guide. We drove around in a station wagon with only one other fellow traveller inside the car – a very sweet Canadian lady of about 28 years old.

We got to Volubilis first, which is an ancient Roman town. I personally love these kind of places. Ostia, which is near Rome, has been one of the best preserved ones I’ve ever visited yet, but Volubilis is a great second, for most of it is still there and you can even see the marble floor in one of the houses. There’s also a clear main road which is still very much usable. You can wander around this town and imagine what way everything used to look like, which is one of the most fun things to do in a place like this.

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The ruins of Volubilis.

Meknes was interesting to see as well. It’s one of the oldest cities in Morocco and one of the four imperial cities, which means this city has a really rich history when it comes to all the different dynasties that used to rule over the different regions inside Morocco. It also used to be the capital for a period of time. After walking around here for a couple of hours, we drove back to our hostel where we arrived at around 7 p.m. and had our last meal before we went on our desert trip the next day.

Day 3-5: The Sahara desert trip

We got picked up early in the morning and drove off to Merzouga. We had an extremely funny tour guide called Driss and again we were joined by only two others. This time, it were two sweet Canadian girls of around 19 and 20 years old, with whom we’d had the most amazing of times roaming Morocco together.

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We toured in a large SUV, so again: no big ass touring buses with noisy, annoying and way too demanding tourists complaining about the aircon or talking about their seven cats back home on board. Or someone who’s repeating a VERY average joke about six times, hoping someone may like it if he just says it so many times, so that eventually, it becomes painful if you don’t give the man – it’s always a man – at least some small gesture like a grin.

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Me feeding a monkey.

But putting all my past bad experiences with tour buses aside, this tour was exactly what I wanted: people of my age, and not too many of them. It’s a golden combination, and apparently, that’s part of GetYourGuide’s policy, we later discovered. They offer cheap tickets for small tour groups, which is perfect if you’re traveling alone or for when you’re with only one or two friends.

The first day, we went to see the cedar forest and visited the monkey tree, where we fed the monkies berries and we let them drink water from our water bottles, which was really fun. Then, we passed the biggest oasis of Africa, which is an insane sight to behold. It looks like a green river, going on for miles while driving past it, in this otherwise dry landscape.

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The biggest oasis of Africa.

After a long but beautiful drive, we finally arrived at the Berber tents, where we rode dromedaries and got there just in time to see the sunset. During nighttime, we went stargazing and my travel mate even saw his first ever shooting star there. Imagine being able to say that: “I saw my first ever shooting star in the clear nightsky of the Sahara desert”. Lucky bastard.

The next day, we got up at about 6 a.m. in the morning to see the sunrise. It was amazing to see and the sun gets up so fast, that you can actually see it moving. You need to act fast if you want to capture it in a photo, because in about five minutes, the sun is already all the way up.

So the rest of the morning we continued taking some photos, which is really fun to do in the desert, for it’s the perfect environment to let your creativity run free. We later went for one last dromedary ride before we got back on the road again. We passed the valley of the Roses and saw the Todgha Gorge, an amazing site, that I didn’t expect to see in Morocco. It’s often referred to as ‘the Grand Canyon of Morocco’, because of its humongous rocks. There’s a road right in the middle you can walk through. A lot of nomads come here to the markets along the roadside to buy and sell goods or to just wash off in the river next to it.

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We stayed the night in the famous city of Ouarzazate. If you’re not familiar with that name, you might know the environment from all the Hollywood blockbusters that were recorded here. I’m talking Game of Thrones, The Gladiator, The Mummy, Babel, Black Hawk Down and even Star Wars. We went and saw the studio where The Gladiator was recorded and saw Ait Ben Haddou, the town that’s often a decor for big movie franchises (Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and more).

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Posing like a surfer with Ait Ben Haddou in the background.
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A man in Ait Ben Haddou

After that, we went and toured the High Atlas, where we saw the great viewpoint at Tizi n’Test and where our awesome tour guide took us to a great local restaurant to have a huge lunch. We then drove around the High Atlas mountains, and set course to Marrakech.

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Viewpoint of Tizi n’Test

We ended our tour in the middle of Marrakech, where we were dropped off at our riad, El Sagaya. We spent the night there at the famous big square of Jemaa el-Fnaa, and the next day, we already had to be at the train station at 2 p.m. to take the 7-hour train ride back to Fez, only to fly back the next day. The train passes Casablanca and Rabat, so technically, we’ve been there as well – I know it doesn’t count, but I just wanted to have said that. If it was possible to book a flight from Marrakech to Fez, we might’ve done that, but unfortunately, that was a no-go.

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Riad El Sagaya in Marrakech.

So yes, Morocco has far more to offer than what we’ve seen, but for trying to squeeze it all in just one week’s time, I think we did a pretty good job. We were lucky enough to have been able to book some great, affordable tours and to meet some lovely people while doing so. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re eager on going on a shorter holiday and seeing more than you could’ve ever imagined. All together, we spent €584,- for the tours, our flight and the accomodations each. In my opinion, this isn’t a lot and totally worth the money.

Let’s conclude on this. I didn’t know just how diverse Morocco really was – and how much there still is for me in that country alone to yet discover. I hope I’ll be lucky enough to come again some day. Until then, and shokran Morocco!

Thank you for reading this post all the way. If you wish to use my advice for a trip to Morocco, you can use the links below. Mind you, the links from GetYourGuide are affiliate links, so if you wish to help this blog survive, I’d be very grateful if you’d specifically use those:

 

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