The perfect time to visit North East Africa is now! Well actually any time in the winter months but specifically October, November and February thru to April.
The countries of Morocco and Tunisia are at the very top of Africa and are easily accessed from Western Europe. Spain would be the natural jumping off point as it’s only a short hop over the Gibraltar Straights via ferry. You can also fly into Morocco and Tunisia from Europe and for Mauritania you would need to fly direct or maybe to the South of Morocco and go over the border there.
Female Travel to the region
Admittedly these might not be the easiest countries to visit as a solo female, particularly if you are blue eyed and blonde. If you decide to really stick out by not wearing much then you really can expect hassles. However if you dress modestly and respect the culture then there is no reason why you can’t have a safe and enjoyable trip.
So sit back and enjoy out mini guide to North East Africa.
SOLO GUIDE TO MAURITANIA
Firstly, there’s not a lot here but a lot of sand dunes and the odd town amidst the endless desert. The roads are few and far between and desolate doesn’t even come close. This is the main attraction for many people however, and there are some incredible sights of ruins being swallowed by dunes, and the National Park on the coast with it’s abundant birdlife, in stark contrast to the rest of the country. Where there are people there is a warm welcome and much ceremony over cups of tea to be found.
Budget Accommodation in Mauritania
The cheapest spots are on the rooftops of lodges aimed at long distance drivers or on the floors of restaurants (they’ll expect you to buy a meal). Otherwise a bed for yourself won’t set you back that much, about US$6 in a shared dorm. In some hostel type accommodation, a meal is provided.
A Traveller’s Budget for Mauritania
There is no actual bus service to speak of, all the local transport is by bush taxi or pick up truck converted to carry passengers. The price of the transport is usually proportional to the level of comfort you can expect. If you’re travelling in a group, it’s possible to hire a four wheel drive vehicle and driver for about $50 a day, it’ll carry up to six and you can get to places which could be otherwise inaccessible.
To eat cheap there are various low budget restaurants and cafes where you can fill your belly up for as little as a dollar. Some places would have you sit on the floor but the food’s still good.
Solo Activities in Mauritania
Camel trekking in the desert
Check out the birds in the Parc Nationale du Banc D’Arguin on the coast.
Ride the longest train in the world for free in one of the open topped wagons – dusty
Visit the ruins of the city of Ouadâne which are disappearing into the dunes.
Chill out for a while in Chinguetti, Islam’s seventh holiest city.
SOLO GUIDE TO MOROCCO
Desert landscapes with photo opportunities and romantacism galore, the Atlas Mountains, medieval cities and buzzing bazaars, market towns, carpet sellers, sunsets to die for and some of the best food on the face of the earth.
Budget Accommodation in Morocco
Youth hostels are found in all the major towns and cities, as are cheap hotels. Some will even offer a mattress on the roof for a couple of dollars. Otherwise there are camp sites on the outskirts of most of the towns which are incredibly cheap.
A Traveller’s Budget for Morocco
Around US$20 per day should get you through here. To travel around the country it pays to take the train, Morocco has a very modern railway service. Otherwise the bus is cheap, and the network runs over much of the country subsidised by shared taxis which take you to the places the buses don’t go, but along set routes, these are often shared. Make sure the driver puts his meter on or you’ll be paying over the odds.
The taxis are a little more expensive than the buses. If you want to eat cheaply you can live off Harira (thick soup) for less than 50c, resh fruit and veg are pretty readily available and the cafe culture is huge here, eating inexpensively shouldn’t present much of a problem.
Activities for the Budget Solo Traveller
-Safaris to the desert to watch the sun rise / set
-Trekking in the Atlas Mountains
-Time it to arrive in town during a Berber festival (sually in summer)
-Visit the Erg (sand dunes) at Merzouga for pics straight from a brochure
-Be in Djemma el-Fna, Marrakesh, in the early evening for some bizarre spectacles and an atmosphere to die for.
SOLO GUIDE TO TUNISIA
Forget the fact that it borders the somewhat hostile Algeria and Libya, Tunisia is like a Mediterranean oasis at the north of Africa. It was once a French colony and there’s still plenty evidence of this (apart from French being one of the first languages) but now Tunisia is a relaxed country where much of life revolves around the family and goodwill and generosity pervade everywhere.
Solo Budget Accommodation in Tunisia
If your budget is tight or you’re going self sufficient, it’s possible to camp anywhere in Tunisia if you have the landowner’s permission. Otherwise, if you can avoid the tourist centres, there are shared rooms available in some of the cheaper hotels but these tend to male dominated so if that intimidates you or you just don’t want to put up with the snoring, pay just a little more and you’ll find that the quality rises dramatically. Some of the more unusual places to stay include the lodging houses for the old camel caravans, try it at Houmt Souq
A Traveler’s Budget for Tunisia
For travel around Tunisia, you have the option of bus or train. The bus service covers more ground but when the train does go, it’s worth catching. There is a national bus company which runs the major routes between Tunis, the capital, and major towns, and there are smaller companies which run to almost all locations.
The food in Tunisia tends towards spicy but centres around cous cous, salad and French bread so eating cheaply shouldn’t ever be a problem.
Activities for solos
Sightseeing – Get lost wandering around in the Medina of Tunis.
Star Wars Tours – it’s the landscape of Tatooine
Camel Trekking – take an overnight trip from Douz
Bathe – Take a cleansing bath in a Hammam, you get a massage too.
Roman Ruins – Remarkable preserved, check them out at Dougga and Bulla Regia
Travel Health in the region
Make sure you have a good level of UK travel insurance if you are considering travel to the region. The standard of healthcare in Morocco is pretty good as in Tunisia. There can be issues with mozzie bites and in the desert there are all sorts of creep crawlies who could ruin your day, but usually they hide out in the daytime.
Not having travel insurance from your own country is a massive risk so don’t take it!
Have a great time in North East Africa, it’s an awesome region and you’ll be rewarded by very diverse experiences. The people of the region are very friendly too.