In May 2016 I visited Agadir, a colourful and vibrant city in Morocco by the Atlantic Ocean. Friends did query our choice and we had many conversations while we were there about the recent drop in tourism – but realistically it is a beautiful and inspiring place. I travelled with a friend for relaxing and sunny week, catching up on reading, practicing our French and experiencing the local culture and food and we were on a strict budget. To keep to the budget of £100 spending money each for the week we would explore any options, be inventive and open ourselves to more local experiences rather than being regular tourists. My friend is diagnosed gluten intolerant and some research online revealed she might have an issue in Morocco.
We booked direct flights with Easyjet (£109 pp) and had carry-on luggage only (including handbag in the case), we packed in rolls like professionals (it really does allow you to take more). We research accommodation online and booked Residence Fleurie for the best price of £110 pp incl. breakfast and local tax. We researched a realistic budget (mainly through anecdotes from friends) and felt adequately prepared with our plan.
An entry certificate is required for all non-Moroccans (Top Tip – no-one actually tells you about them), they are available when you arrive (get an extra and keep to use also on exit) and there is a mad rush to fill them in. I seemed to be the only person with a pen and so the pen was in demand. Passport control is slow (40 minutes at least, so patience is a virtue), if you haven’t filled the form in properly they will send you back so expect a few strops. Once you are through passport control, currency can be bought and taxi sorted (220DM for 2 people with bags).
Our hotel/apartment was located fairly centrally in town, so easy to get to everything on foot (10 to 20 mins). On our budget taxis, even though extremely cheap, were going to be a luxury. The hotel was perfect, way better quality than anticipated – clean, comfy beds, good kitchen, a little balcony, a small pool area. There were also some really nice cafes and restaurants nearby.
The pastries in Morocco are really good and the breakfast croissants, especially the almond ones were lush. On the gluten intolerance front, as suspected it’s not generally known about, cue vacant looks when you mention ‘pas de gluten’, so chocolate and ice cream (readily available 8DM a scoop) instead of the fabulous cakes. There is a Monoprix supermarket and it stocks a fair range of gluten-free products as well as Soya Milk (25DM) etc. It is a little bit of a walk but you can get what you need. As a guide a 10L bottle of water was 12DM and 500ml was 2DM. That was opposed to the little kiosk near the beach that charged us 57DM for 2 little bottles of water and 2 ice creams! When you are on a tight budget every penny counts.
Eating out in Agadir can be cheap, especially away from the tourist marina area. If you are a lover of kebabs then you are in heaven as there are places everywhere. Many restaurants offer set menus for 50 to 65 DM. We found a few little places in the square close to the hotel Sindibad where the fixed price was good with a nice tagine. I would however recommend just ordering a main course at around 40 to 60DM at most places as that is the highlight (and it is bigger than on a set menu!). If you are looking for shopping you will find some nice boutiques and a Zara in the marina area – expect UK prices.
We visited the local (non-tourist) Hammam in Charaf, with separate areas for men and women. Wear bathers (bikini best for women – see below!), bring a towel and a change for afterwards. We chose to have a Gommage (80DM each including glove), once changed you head to the steam area where you pour cold water over yourself, then into the steam room where you cover yourself with the available black soap rich in vitamin E and made from olives. The attendant will come and collect you when you are steamed enough, then the rough glove is used to exfoliate you from head to toe. It’s not particularly relaxing during the exfoliation but when you see your skin peeling off like dough and the clean new pink skin underneath it’s worth the effort. We were scrubbed to within an inch of our lives and emerged pink, clean, shiny and ready for our sunbeds the following day.
Back on the beach, sunbeds in a slightly fenced off area are a good idea at 20DM to avoid the stream of traders who will try to sell you their trinkets if you are directly on the beach. We had quite a bit of sun when we were there so do make sure to use a decent factor and don’t be the pink person on the beach.
I find the people in Morocco very friendly and open to some great conversations over meals and coffee. Moroccans are natural salespeople so be warned, smile but say “NO” quite firmly, “pas d’argent” and “je suis pauvre” are very useful expressions if you are not interested. When I did purchase I generally went in at 1/3 of the price they initially asked and worked my way from there. A smile is the cheapest currency as anyone knows (it’s good for the soul) and was generally met with a happy response. The Souk is great with all manner of items to tempt you, make sure you look around before you buy and that you have a strategy of what is a fair price to pay for items but remember this is their livelihood.
On the way home, it took us nearly 2 hours to get to the gate. You have to fill in another form on exit, you then have to queue twice with bags even if you only have carry-on and then you also have to go to your carrier check-in desk even if you have you’ve checked-in online.
We had a great week and stuck to the £100 budget. We met some fabulous people, left with super-soft skin and I would definitely return again for some relaxation and early sun.
We booked our flights and accommodation in early March, and visited in early May. We had 4 sunny days, 24-26°c (beach and pool) and 2 fairly rainy days (Hammam and reading) and one overcast day (Souk & exploring). Our total spend each for the week was £319. The exchange rate at the time of our visit was £1 to 13.198 Dirham (DM) or €1 to 10.463DM (airport rate).