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Is Essaouira safe? Sharing experiences as both a solo female traveller and a mum

Is Essaouira safe? Sharing experiences as both a solo female traveller and a mum

“Is Essaouira safe?” This is one of the most common questions that drops into my inbox weekly, even from people who have followed me for years on social media and seen posts about my family trips, solo female trips, trips with my own retired parents, and the months we lived in Essaouira. Perhaps because Morocco is a north African country and feels so far removed from Western comforts, people want that extra assurance before they book a flight.

I do get it. So many media outlets post click-bait articles that plant seeds of doubt for visits to Muslim and African countries. And Morocco ticks both boxes.

Please don’t let these seeds of doubt grow as Essaouria really is worth visiting. Indeed, having lived and travelled all over the globe, it still remains one of my favourite places on the planet.

So if you’re wondering if Essaouira is safe for tourists, in particular whether it’s safe for solo female travellers, I am here to tell you that I have always felt safe in Essaouira. From the first trip we took when our youngest was just one year old back in 2016, to our time living there just after the pandemic, to recent trips on my own where I’ve ventured on public transport out into the countryside to local markets.

Something I’ve often said is that I feel more safe wandering around Essaouira medina than I do in a UK city on a Saturday night (now that can be disconcerting).

But don’t just trust me

All of this advice is based on our own experience from numerous visits as well as living in Essaouira, but it always makes sense to stay up to date with any recent changes.

The UK Government FCDO website is constantly kept updated with both local and regional travel advice and is a good place to check the latest situation. They have sections of customs and culture, health, visas, and women travellers, and also make live updates in the event of more serious situations (e.g. natural disasters).

Whilst the advice is aimed mainly at UK citizens, the information is applicable to visitors from most other countries. It’s worth checking if your own country has a similar page as well.

A couple of nuisances

I have received a few messages from young female travellers to say that they have received unwanted attention from men. This is more of a light annoyance than a threat, but can be unnerving for first time visitors to Essaouira, and something to be wary of.

In all my time visiting Essaouira I’ve only had one man annoy me whilst swimming in the sea, asking to be a Facebook friend whilst I was playing with my kids. All I can say is that there are idiots wherever you go. Just ask them to leave you alone and that should be enough, otherwise threaten to call the police or enlist the help of people nearby.

The other thing I wanted to mention are stray dogs on the beach. Whilst there are only ever a few of them that appear in the evening, they are harmless. But for those who are wary of our canine friends, it’s worth mentioning.

Be respectful

READ OUR GUIDE: What to wear in Essaouira

Essaouira is a tourist town and beach destination, and consequentially is one of the least conservative destinations in Morocco. However, this is still Morocco with a very strong Muslim culture, and visitors should be respectful of this, especially around Ramadan.

Often being disrespectful is what warrants unwanted attention.

Whilst everyone should be free to wear what they want, out of respect, we advise you to dress modestly, especially around the medina and outside mosques. It’s best to cover your shoulders and knees, and women should avoid low cut tops. Children are absolutely fine in T-shirts and shorts.

I advise you to leave the hotpants and thong-bikinis at home. Whilst no one would actually say anything to you about the way your dress (Moroccans are extremely polite), again, it’s just a case of being respectful.

And despite there being a burgeoning nightlife scene in Essaouira, drunk and disorderly behaviour is extremely disrespectful and highly likely to draw the attention of the police. If you do drink, please do so respectfully and remember that drinking alcohol in the street or on the beach is illegal.

It is especially important to avoid drinking alcohol in public and being drunk during Ramadan or Eid al-Adha. In fact, shops that sell alcohol in Essaouira will close during these religious festivals, and some of the restaurants that serve alcohol are also closed.

Also, if you invite new local Muslim friends out for lunch or dinner, don’t try and encourage them to drink, or to ‘try it’; this is very insulting to their religion.

market in Essaouira medina

Hazards in Essaouira

The main danger in Essaouira is probably the hazards around the medina – slipping on the narrow, winding steps of an Essaouira riad, stubbing your toe on a random pavement slab sticking up, or accidentally brushing past exposed electrical wiring.

Especially if you’re following our Essaouira walking tour, I recommend wearing closed coved shoes, or shoes that protect your toes. Avoid wearing flip-flops.

KEEN sandals

In case of an emergency

READ OUR GUIDE: Emergency numbers and contacts in Essaouira

It’s worthwhile being prepared for your visit to Essaouira in case of an emergency. No one plans for accidents, but having the right information at hand is extremely handy at time-critical emergencies.

It’s also imperative to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and hospitalisation while travelling in Morocco, as medical expenses can be costly should the worst happen during your trip.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 150 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. However, in a place like Essaouira, there is always someone around to help and advise you on what to do and where to go.

There is a hospital in Essaouira, Hospital Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, which is open 24 hours and takes walk-ins. The phone number is +212524475047, although you’re better off turning up in person rather than asking for advice over the phone.

In the case of serious emergencies, you will need to be transferred to Marrakech or Casablanca hospitals, where the facilities are much better.

There are no embassies or consulates in Essaouira. British tourists will need to either go to Agadir (best option) or Marrakech, USA tourists will need to go to Casablanca, and Australian tourists will need to go to Rabat.

Staying healthy

Generally the food served around Essaouira is fresh and delicious. But I’m going to be honest, there are a couple of occasions where we’ve experienced food poisoning. Our main advice is to avoid the salads and whole-roasted chickens from the fast food stalls along the main boulevard.

Also, I recommend that you avoid drinking tap water. Whilst the majority of locals drink the tap water, if you are only visiting Morocco for a short time, the last thing you want is a stomach bug. Best to stick to filtered or bottled water, and avoid ice cubes in your drinks at restaurants and cafes.

To save on water bottles, consider buying a water filter bottle. The WaterWell™ Travel Ultra 2 Stage Filter 700ml Water Bottle removes bacteria and parasites (including Salmonella, E-coli, Giardia) and chemicals. It’s the perfect water bottle for travellers.

WaterWell Essaouira beach
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Petty crime

Petty crime can be an occasional problem in Essaouira, but you’re much less likely to experience it here than in most other destinations. It does pay to take the usual sensible precautions, e.g. don’t make it obvious you’re carrying valuables, watch your pockets in crowded places like the narrow Medina streets or in the main square, and avoid walking alone at night in isolated locations.


Cash is still more commonly used in Essaouira than credit cards, but that is gradually changing, especially in the more upmarket bars and restaurants. If you do decide to pay with card, consider using Digital Wallets on your mobile phones, which provide an extra layer of security compared to physical cards. Just make sure your phone is compatible and you setup before trying to make your first purchase.

ATMs aren’t especially common within the Medina walls, we’d recommend using either the CIH one just outside Bab Sbaa, or walk a little further along Ave Mohammed V to BMCI. Both of these are in busy, well-lit parts of town and feel safe to use, but always keep an eye out for suspicious characters and cancel the transaction if you need to. In practice, this has never happened to us.

Insider tip: the BMCI ATM tends to give smaller bank notes, sometimes even letting you choose the denominations.

retirees exploring Essaouira (my parents)

Final thoughts on being safe in Essaouira

The combination of chilled ocean vibes, warm and friendly locals, and fixed fares on petit taxis to get around (8DH during the day), all support a safe environment. Indeed many of the locals rely heavily on tourists and want Essaouira to continue to be a safe tourist destination and will do all they can to maintain this.

Safety is always relative of course, and the last thing you want to be is on edge when travelling. But I hope I’ve been able to reassure you that Essaouira is a safe place to travel. If it wasn’t, we would never have moved our family there to live, and I certainly wouldn’t continue to take multiple solo trips to Essaouira every year.

Explore Essaouira ebook

Updated for 2024, the Explore Essaouira ebook is the only travel guide you need for exploring Essaouira. It is jam packed with inspiration on what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and also includes a step-by-step self-guided walking tour (with photos). 

This is a PDF download for use offline and on the go (and ad-free!). Save it to read on the plane to Morocco, download to your phone to follow the self-guided walking tour around the medina, or print it off at home before you leave on your adventures and highlight all the bits you want to remember for your visit.

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