Stretches of gentle dunes, lush oases, and remote desert communities make up the Western Sahara. This tourist destination is more offbeat than usual, but it can be an exhilarating experience for adventurers.
The Western Sahara is a disputed territory caught between the Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front. Its tourism infrastructure is still underdeveloped, but it makes for an exotic travel location. The Western Sahara will suit travelers who like to venture out solo. As you’re planning your trip, be sure to purchase
travel insurance or
travel medical insurance
to stay covered in case of any unexpected accidents, illnesses, injuries, or mishaps.
Things to Do for Travelers in Western Sahara
Western Sahara offers tourists a lot to explore in its glory of dunes and the rare oasis. Explore remote communities, old sites, and absorb the local sights and sounds of the bustling city. There are many activities to keep you occupied in this small coastal desert area.
- Smara: Also known as Semara, this city used to be a caravan halt area. Be careful with your photography equipment in this the Moroccan Army area. The great mosque of Ma el Aïnin is an important relic of the past contained in this small town. Also, visit the famed ruins of Fort Zawiy Maalainin. Every Thursday, a souk is held, and if you happen to visit in April, don't miss out on the local festival featuring music and a variety of entertainment. A day trip is best for Smara, as transportation becomes sparse at nightfall.
- Dakhla: Tourists arrive via night flights into Dakhla, waking up to a gorgeous lagoon sheltered by the dunes. Major points of interest include Catholic churches built by the Spanish and an old Spanish lighthouse. This city is a great place to grab seaside food. Dakhla is a good destination for kitesurfing, beach quad-scooter rides, and water activities.
- Guelta Zemmur: It is a small town under Moroccan control where the military base is also located. The Moroccan military base is close to the Moroccan Berm—the separating point of the two clashing powers. The town is ideal for walking, taking a tour of surrounding mines, and shopping. Guelta Zemmur is also the home town of Sharaabi human rights activist Mohammed Daddach. Smara is reasonably close to this town, about 200 miles (about 320 kilometers) away.
- Camel rides: Booking a camel ride through the dunes of Western Sahara is an enchanting experience. The calm desert is a treat, especially at night, when the sky comes alive with stars. You can go for sunrise camel rides or book an exclusive package to traverse the west coast of the Sahara Desert on camelback. For the latter, usually, camel rides start in Morocco and continue to Western Sahara.
- Laayoune: Laayoune (or El-Aaiún) is the biggest city in the Western Sahara. This is a good pit stop before heading out to the desert, where it gets tougher to find luxuries of the city. The city is a blend of the traditional and the modern and came into being only in the early 1900s. Laayoune lies at the coast of the northern territory with a beach accessible to the public. The desert is an extension of the city, with its oases serving as popular lounging spots.
Travel Risks for International Travelers in Western Sahara
- Military Areas: The Western Sahara is a disputed area. Consequently, there is a heavy military presence in most areas of the region. Be careful with camera equipment, as some areas might require permission to take pictures. Some areas are off-limits to visitors, and others might require entry permits.
- Conflict: Independent travel is mostly restricted, and rules of the occupying country apply only to occupied areas of the Western Sahara. Overland travel is generally allowed, but militants in the area have the right to turn visitors away. You're better off keeping away from these areas and restricting your movement within the tourist-friendly neighborhoods.
- Weather: The Western Sahara is mostly desert, so sandstorms are quite common here. Sirocco winds ravage the city during winter and spring with a perpetual haze hanging over most areas. The period between May and October is most suitable for visiting, as daytime temperatures are lower.
- Vaccinations: Stay updated on your vaccines, and consult your doctor if you have any pre-existing health problems. Healthy travel habits in a desert location will help keep ailments at bay.
- Food and drink: Avoid eating stale food, and only have meals fresh off the stove. Avoid bushmeat, unwashed fruits, and runny eggs. Stay hydrated, and don't drink or use water from unknown sources.
- The border area might be off-limits for travel. Consult reliable travel resources to check on areas before setting out.
Western Sahara Travel Medical Insurance for International Travelers – FAQs
It is always a good idea to invest in travel medical insurance for international travel. Traveling in remote locations will (more often than not) cut you off from the outside world. Being equipped with travel medical insurance will assure a smoother experience if you face any health issues.
Do I need travel medical insurance for Western Sahara?
It is not a legal requirement to have travel medical insurance for the Western Sahara.
Why buy travel medical insurance for Western Sahara?
An exotic location with a whimsical weather pattern puts travel in jeopardy. But, if it's your health that takes a toll on you, your insurance will be a savior for your finances. You will not have to spend more money than necessary on medical services if you fall sick or get injured.
Buy travel medical insurance to save money, and to also ensure your peace of mind in case you fall sick. Travel medical insurance covers a wide range of diseases and injuries that are common to Western Sahara.
Western Sahara Trip Cancellation Insurance for International Travelers – FAQs
Canceling a trip is usually unforeseeable and happens at the last minute. The most common reasons for cancellation, including traveler illness or flight issues, have coverage under trip cancellation insurance. This insurance is valid for people who cancel their trip for one of the explicit reasons included in the policy’s certificate wording. Be sure to review the fine print for awareness of what will and won’t be covered.
Why buy trip cancellation insurance for Western Sahara?
It is hard to predict cancellations, much more so for an anticipated international vacation. The losses you might otherwise incur if you have to cancel—including prepaid, non-refundable expenses like hotel services and tours—are usually covered, although specific benefits differ from plan to plan.
What all is covered under trip cancellation insurance for Western Sahara?
Common circumstances like deaths, termination of employment, bankruptcy, and weather disturbances are usually eligible for trip cancellation insurance. This list is tentative and varies from one insurance company to another. Again, check your specific plan for details. But be sure to buy travel insurance to be prepared for the worst.
Before You Travel to Western Sahara
We wish you a safe and fun trip to Western Sahara. Before you venture out, make sure to check your belongings twice. You should have all travel documents—including your visa, passport, plane tickets, and important receipts—within reach or in a secure location.
Most importantly, be sure to purchase travel insurance for your trip. Enter some basic personal information, browse a wide variety of plans, compare them side by side, and select the one that best fits the needs of your trip.