Is Fez Morocco safe? I personally had upsides and downsides there, so it can be safe if you use caution and travel with common sense!
To start out our month in Morocco, Matt and I flew into Fez. As the cultural capital of Morocco, Fesz is home to the oldest Medina in the world and the oldest university in the world.
The traditional ways of the Moroccan city are very well preserved, even with the rising tourism sector.
But is Fez, Morocco safe?
I found Fez to be pretty safe, but you have to have good street smarts and common sense. Matt and I had one unfortunate incident happen to us in Fez, which I’ll get into later.
We did learn a lot from our time in Fez, and it helped prepare us for exploring the rest of Morocco.
Fez is safe if you use general safety knowledge. I’ll list some safety tips and important things to know before visiting Fez! This is all based on my own experience in the city and in Morocco in general.
Is Fez, Morocco Safe?
Fez can be safe, but it can also be sketchy if you aren’t aware of your surroundings. Following basic travel safety tips is absolutely essential in Fez!
Matt and I are both pretty well-traveled, and we experienced major culture shock in Fez. We also let our guard down on our first day which led to a bit of an argument with a local.
Nothing that bad happened, but it did rattle us and give us a negative first impression of Morocco. I’m going to describe what happened to us and give some general safety tips so you all know what to expect in Fez.
I overall had a great time in Morocco, and the country felt safe overall. I don’t want to deter anyone from visiting, but Fez is definitely a place where you need to be vigilant about your own safety.
Definitely read my list of Morocco Travel Tips. This includes all my advice for navigating the country after spending one month there!
Culture shock in Fez, Morocco
As someone who has traveled a fair bit, Fez was still a huge culture shock to me.
You can’t walk for five minutes without someone trying to haggle you, and you can’t ask anyone for directions without being expected to pay them.
Locals seem to have made a profession out of milking tourists for money, and they do a damn good job of it. Moroccans are so friendly and nice that it’s hard to ignore them! Without even asking, locals are walking right by your side leading you to a restaurant or a tourist attraction.
It usually seems generous at first, but we learned the hard way to always assume there’s a price for even the smallest gesture of kindness.
Our unfortunate conflict in Fez
We were wandering through the madness of the Medina on our first day in Morocco when we almost walked into a Mosque by mistake.
A local man stopped us and said kindly that non-Muslims could not enter the religious building. So we apologized and turned to be on our way.
But the man, who we soon found out is a 27 year old Medina native named Abdul, suggested we go to the upper lookout to see the Mosque from above. Since we had no plans or sense of direction, and Abdul was pretty much already pushing us along, we agreed.
After speed walking around sharp corners and up a few random, hidden staircases, we found ourselves on a rooftop overlooking the city and making small talk with Abdul.
He told us that all the Mosques have green tiled roofs, because green is the color of Islam. He told us that the massive Medina has over 9,000 streets. This fact didn’t surprise us at all throughout the next 45 minutes, as Abdul continued leading us all over the Medina.
We went through pitch-black alleyways, sunny courtyards with kids playing football, and crowded, narrow, winding streets.
Feelings of uneasiness began to set in.
We started to feel like Abdul wasn’t just showing us around to be generous and kind. Assuming there would be a price, we started saying we wanted to leave this impromptu tour. But he just brushed it off and kept pushing us along. We had no idea where we were, so we had no choice but to follow.
Matt tried giving him a 50 dirham tip after he brought us up a steep hill outside the Medina to another lookout point. He refused the tip and insisted on walking us back to our hostel.
Finally, Abdul got angry.
When we finally arrived back at our hostel, sweaty and tired, he refused again to take our tip and kept repeating “you pay Moroccan people 200 dirhams!”.
That’s only about $20, but we didn’t have that much money on us and we didn’t even ask for the tour.
Matt literally emptied his wallet for the guy, which had about 120 dirhams in it. Abdul was an overwhelming mix of furious and hysterical. We couldn’t tell if he was about to cry or fight us. He even gestured to his ring and threatened about “doing this the hard way”.
After a few minutes of stressful arguing, where we apologized endlessly and tried to explain that we just arrived in the country hours ago and didn’t know the customs, Abdul finally took the money and stormed off.
It was not how we imagined our first few hours in Morocco would go.
Matt and I spent the rest of the evening feeling a mix of confused, guilty and embarrassed. We were hungry and wanted to eat somewhere cheap and out of sight.
But we felt so defeated that we just let another local shove us into a touristy restaurant right in the main square.
We ate our first meal in Morocco, a 70 dirham tagine that equals about $7. This is still super cheap, but for Morocco it’s very overpriced.
After we got over the shock of the incident, we laughed about it and promised ourselves we would never take any more directions from Moroccans.
The Upsides of Fez
If you had asked me “Is Fez, Morocco safe?” right after our incident with Abdul, I would have said no.
But our second day in Fes was a lot better. We headed back into the Medina, which felt a lot more relaxed at 10am than at 5pm.
We watched craftsmen, carpenters and artists work in their tiny little shops, creating beautiful handmade goods. Tiny stray kittens either slept curled up in street corners or roamed around looking for food scraps.
Store fronts sat adorned with traditional gowns, jeweled shoes, and vibrantly patterned camel blankets.
The scents in the Medina are crazy as well.
From sugary sweets, roasting meat, and fresh bread, to thick industrial scents, body odor, perfume and argan oil, to coffee, mint, cigarettes, shisha, trash, livestock, leather, animal waste, paint and so much more that I couldn’t identify, the aromas in the Medina changed every second.
We also ventured to Bab Bou Jeloud, known as the Blue Gate, the western entrance of the Medina. Then we continued outside to the Royal Palace and Jewish Quarter. We also toured the Chouara Tannery, one of the oldest and largest traditional tanneries in Fez.
So once we got to know the city better and had our wits about us, Fez was actually pretty cool. And it felt fine in terms of safety!
Read next: 13 Best Things To Do In Marrakech
10 Safety Tips For Fez, Morocco
Now that I’ve described my personal experience in Fez, here are some tangible safety tips and recommendations that will help you prepare yourself. Fez is very overwhelming in my opinion, and reading something like this before visiting may have lessened my culture shock.
1. Have a navigation app for the Medina
The Fez Medina is absolute chaos. You’ll get lost in an instant, so just be mentally prepared for that.
Part of the reason why we let Abdul lead us around for so long is that we had obviously lost our bearings and it felt nice to have someone show us around.
But having a navigation app like Maps.Me or Google Maps can help you find your way without a guide.
Getting lost is part of the experience, but it is handy be able to find your way out of the Medina when you’re done exploring.
A professional guided tour is also a great idea. That way you’re guaranteed not to get lost and you have a reputable guide showing you the highlights.
2. Don’t go into a Mosque if you’re not Muslim
You’ve probably figured this out based on my story. But non-Muslims can’t enter mosques.
Again, we might not have had our tense situation with Abdul if we didn’t try to walk into a mosque like dumb tourists!
3. Dress conservatively and try to blend in
For all of Morocco, and any Muslim country, it’s important to dress conservatively. Especially for women! Try to always have your shoulders, midriff, cleavage, and legs covered.
Not only is it respectful of the local religion and culture, it helps you blend in more.
Morocco is hot, so get long pants and shirts that are lightweight to keep you cool.
4. Know that any seemingly nice gesture from a local may cost money
Locals in Morocco are very outgoing and sometimes pushy. They’ll try to offer you help, give suggestions, or take you on a tour.
If you do have money to pay them, this is a cool way to learn about the area and get to know some locals. Some of the stuff I learned from Abdul in the Fez Medina was super interesting! It just got awkward when we didn’t have enough money on us to pay what he wanted.
So if you are accepting anything from a local, make sure you can pay them.
5. Don’t be afraid to say “No”
This is definitely one of the most important tips for staying safe in Fez based on my experience. Again, locals will always try to get some money out of you.
Don’t be afraid to say no, and say it with confidence.
I’m a bit of a people-pleaser and I feel guilty saying no to things. I would have let Abdul lead me all over Fez for the whole 3 days we were there if Matt didn’t try to end our tour.
But after one month in Morocco, I got really good at telling people no. Most people will respect your wishes and give you space if you’re honest with them.
6. Don’t carry around valuables
I didn’t really get a pickpocket vibe in Fez, or anywhere in Morocco. Locals are pretty genuine and would prefer to earn money in exchange for a service rather than stealing.
However, petty theft can still happen, particularly in busies Moroccan cities.
Just to keep yourself safe from pickpockets, only carry around what you need for the day. Leave the fancy stuff at home, just in case.
Read next: Budget Travel Guide To Essaouira, Morocco
7. Avoid walking around alone at night
Like any city in a foreign country, most of the sketchy stuff happens at night. Walking around alone at night if you’re a tourist just makes you a target for any type of crime.
We didn’t explore Fez at all once it got dark. Getting lost in Fez is scarily easy even during the day!
If you are going out at night, just make sure you’re in a group. But I still wouldn’t recommend wandering around Fez at night for any reason.
8. Be wary if you’re a solo female traveler
Is Fez Morocco safe for solo female travelers? Females may have absolutely no problems in Fez if you take these safety tips into account. But personally, I was pretty glad to have my boyfriend with me in Fez.
Because of the heavy culture shock and the hectic nature of city, it was overwhelming enough being there as a couple. Men do stare at you pretty intensely as a blonde female in Morocco. Though nothing bad happened to me, I think I would have felt a bit uneasy if I was traveling alone.
9. Get to know the locals
Though I’ve mentioned how the locals always want to get money out of you, they are still super nice. Get to know the staff at your hostel, the bus driver, the restaurant staff, and anyone you possibly can.
It’s mainly the random locals in the street that you need to look out for. They’re the ones that may try to scam you.
But if you can chat with any other locals that aren’t trying to get something out of you, you can learn a lot! They’ll recommend the safest areas as well. Local knowledge is always helpful.
Read next: How To Visit The Atlas Mountains On A Budget
10. Use caution in the streets
Like I just mentioned, it’s the strangers in the street you need to look out for in Fez.
When roaming the streets, make sure you’re on high alert always. Not only do you want to be aware of people approaching you, you also need to be cautious of the traffic.
Moroccans drive pretty wild, and the busy, narrow streets can be dangerous. In addition to car and motorcycle traffic there is often animal traffic and pedestrian traffic as well.
Especially in Fez, you never know what will pop out of an alleyway onto the street. So just use caution!
So is Fez Morocco Safe?
Fez can be safe if you’re smart and cautious. Even as a solo female traveler, you can still explore during the day with a bit of preparation and have a great time.
We just had a stressful situation because we were overwhelmed by the culture shock and too nervous to stand up for ourselves.
The city was hectic and we constantly felt targeted by the locals to try and take our money. It definitely wasn’t my favorite place in Morocco.
But the people who didn’t try and hassle us, like the people who ran our hostel and the guy who sold us our bus tickets, were extremely nice and helpful.
We even went into a shop in the Medina where the owner didn’t pressure us to buy anything. He even gave us a little cup of super sweet tea just to be hospitable.
So moving forward in Morocco, we’ve learned that locals can be very friendly. Just always be careful of the pushy ones and don’t be afraid to say no!
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Before traveling to Morocco…
- Visit iVisa.com to check visa requirements.
- Also consider buying travel insurance! (Read my Budget Traveler’s Guide To Travel Insurance for more info on that topic)
- I also highly recommend reading my article: Morocco Travel Tips. Had I read an article like this before visiting Fes, I probably would have had a more positive experience there.
To read about more of my adventures in Morocco, check out these articles:
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