A Quick Travel Guide to Dakhla, Western Sahara

A Quick Travel Guide to Dakhla, Western Sahara

By |2018-07-24T12:39:22-04:00July 24th, 2018|Morocco, Travel Costs, Travel Tips & Advice, Western Sahara|16 Comments

Guide to Dakhla - main square

Guide to Dakhla – Part 1

Brief History

Western Sahara is a disputed region in North Africa and is not a recognized country. About 80% of the territory is controlled by Morocco and 20% makes up the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. There is a sand wall that separates the two regions.

From what I’ve gathered, after the Spanish gave up control of this entire territory in 1975, Morocco and Mauritania shared control, with the native Sahrawi people lacking the power needed to take over their claimed homeland. Eventually, amidst fighting, Mauritania moved out of the region and Morocco reinforced its presence. Western Sahara has been a disputed territory ever since, with most of the Sahrawi people living in and operating from refugee camps in Western Algeria.

Dakhla is under Moroccan control, with Moroccan military checkpoints throughout the area and Moroccan government buildings and flags clearly displaying their presence. However, Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory has yet to be recognized by the international community.

Some people consider the entire region to be Western Sahara, while others (such as the Moroccan government) consider the Moroccan controlled portion to be Morocco or Moroccan Sahara and only the area under the control of the Sahrawi Republic to be Western Sahara.

Like many places, the history and current situation is complicated.

Guide to Dakhla - Dakhla Airport

Guide to Dakhla – Part 2


Most people arrive via flight from either Casablanca or Agadir or overland from Morocco or Mauritania. Entry requirements are the same as Morocco given its control over Dakhla and 80% of Western Sahara. As a result, you do not need a visa if you have a passport from the UK, EU, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and you can stay in the region for 90 days. Other nationalities should check for the latest information as you might need to apply in advance for a visa.

Arrival and Departure

The very small airport is actually in the center of town. It’s about a 3 minute drive to any hotel. When you arrive you will go through a quick immigration check and then be on your way. Taxis and drivers are waiting outside the one exit and are easy to find. Overall, arriving and departing at the airport is very simple as there are only a couple of flights per day, either to Casablanca, Agadir or Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

You can also arrive via land from the north (Morocco) or the south (Mauritania). I did not cross the land borders but from what I’ve heard, it’s a standard immigration check to enter the region.


In Dakhla, the currency used is Moroccan dirhams. There are several ATMs in town and a few money exchange offices as well. There are also two ATMs at the airport in the arrivals hall. Most restaurants and smaller businesses will not accept credit cards so cash is important to have.


Languages spoken in Western Sahara include Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Spanish and French. In Dakhla itself, there wasn’t much Spanish spoken, mostly Arabic and French. Very little English is spoken but people are friendly and will certainly do their best to communicate.


Western Sahara is a disputed territory and as a result, there is always the possibility of conflict and political demonstrations. You should check for the latest information on safety, via local and government websites, to assess any potential danger. With that said, Morocco’s heavy military presence in Dakhla itself does keep things relatively quiet. From what I was told by those I met in the region, Dakhla is quite safe in terms of regular crime.

The main thing to watch out for is dehydration and a constant dry and dusty wind during the spring and winter that can really take its toll on you.

Guide to Dakhla – Part 3


Guesthouse Dar Rio Oro – There aren’t many decent sleeping options in Dakhla but this one was as solid as the reviews stated. Good sized rooms in a cozy building across the street from the water, centrally located and with a friendly Arabic, French and Spanish-speaking owner who can assist with organizing a day trip into the desert. Rooms are approximately $40 USD per night, breakfast included. (Request a room with a private bathroom and this view!)

Guide to Dakhla - Dar Rio Oro view

After walking around for 1 week, the only other accommodation that looked decent were the Hotel Albaraka ($100 USD per night) and Hotel Mansour ($80 USD per night), both in the center of town. However, I don’t see any reason to pay those prices when you can get the Dar Rio Oro for less than half.

*If you use this link to book accommodation, you’ll save up to $30 on your booking (and I’ll receive $20 as well): Booking.com discount

Where to Eat

There’s a handful of restaurants in town and you can always head into one of the bakeries for a sandwich, pastry or quiche as well. The main market, while quiet, does have some stalls serving prepared food.

I ate most of my meals at the friendly Ikram’s. This small restaurant is in the exact center of town at the main traffic light and offers simple, inexpensive and tasty soups, wraps, grilled meats and fish and salads. A hearty meal costs about 50 dirhams ($5 USD). The place only has about 6 tables but seemed to be popular compared to other restaurants. Across the street is the decent Restaurant Bahia, again, with simple offerings that were, in my opinion, not as good as Ikram’s.

Guide to Dakhla - Ikram's Snack

For proper restaurants, there is the Villa Dakhla, offering typical Moroccan dishes as well as international food at a premium price. The setting is great, right on the water and they do serve alcohol. Casa Luis serves up good Spanish-Moroccan cuisine and Chez N’Tifi, on the edge of the town center, is an excellent option for cheap, local fare. Casa Lola and Samarkand were also both recommended but I never tried them.

In the evenings, many tea shops open up in town, although most remain pretty empty. If you find one with patrons, it’s a good chance to enjoy some Moroccan tea while trying to interact with locals who will certainly be curious about you.

Getting Around

Dakhla is small! You can walk everywhere and anywhere in this town. You can even walk from the airport to the town center in about 18 minutes. If you want to visit the outskirts, which include the opposite coast, the lighthouse or the nearest beach, you might want to take a taxi.

Taxis are shared and you simply wave one down, although you might have to wait a while for one to actually pass. Then, just tell the driver your destination and get in. They’ll get you there eventually, probably picking up and dropping off another person or two along the way. At the end, you hand over 15 dirhams ($1.58 USD) and you’re good. If you’re taking a taxi to the Beach KM 25 or the popular windsurfing area, located about 20-25 minutes north of town, you’ll have to negotiate a price ahead of time.

Guide to Dakhla - quiet street

Guide to Dakhla – Part 4

Things to Do

In Dakhla itself, there isn’t much. Lighthouse, market and Oum Lbouer, the closest beach which is about 10 minutes drive out of town.

North of Dakhla, about 20 minutes, is Beach 25 (at KM 25 on the main road) on the edge of the Dakhla Lagoon. This spot marks the start of an area that is popular with those interested in windsurfing or kitesurfing. You can actually stay out here at one of the windsurfing camps, such as Ocean Vagabond, which offer bungalows and a restaurant/bar near the water (they range from budget to quite upscale). The main downside is that apart from the beach and windsurfing camps, there is nothing else around. If you’re really into windsurfing or kitesurfing, it’s perfect. If you’re just curious, it’s best to stay in Dakhla and spend an afternoon out here.

The desert and mainland coast! If you gain anything from this guide to Dakhla, it should be the need to hire a driver with a 4×4 vehicle and let them take you off the peninsula and show you the surrounding desert and the untouched coast. It’s some of the most inhospitable land on the planet but with that comes some of the most stunning and surreal landscapes I’ve ever seen in my 19 years of travel (it even rivals the unbelievable Socotra Island). We’re talking off-roading in the rough, barren Sahara, gorgeous white sand beaches without a soul around, 100 meter tall sand dunes rising out of the water, massive sweeping plains of soft pink sand and so much more.

I’ll be posting more about this in my next post, complete with videos and photos such as this one…

Guide to Dakhla - Porto Rico Beach

(The owner of Guesthouse Dar Rio Oro organized my driver. It was actually her neighbor, Sidi, a really kind guy that charged a reasonable $80 USD for a 10 hour adventure all over the mainland.)

Want to Know More About My Trip to Dakhla?

Check out my post Travel to Dakhla: Straight Into the Unknown for the complete story.

If you have any questions after reading this guide to Dakhla, just let me know!

The Travel Email - SIGN UP!

New blog posts, updates from around the world and endless inspiration to help you achieve your own travel goals. Sent once per week.


  1. Andrej August 28, 2019 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Derek,

    I am before a similar decision you was when you visited WS (particularly the plan would be arrive at Dakhla, stay 4 days and leave at El Aaiun) …except I would travel from Gran Canaria and naturally can choose one of the many Canary Islands instead:)
    I would like to ask if it is possible (good idea) to rent a reliable 4×4 car in order to explore what you explored with your guide by myself. The plan would be to ask the guide for a recommended route.

    ..btw where can I find “…more about this in my next post complete with videos and photos…”?

    Many thanks,

    • Derek August 29, 2019 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Hey Andrej – That would be very tricky and probably impossible since there were no roads. It’s just a vast desert and if you don’t know the desert there very well, there’s no way to know where to turn. My driver would just turn into the desert and create his own route most of the time. Other times, he followed dirt paths through the desert. But there were no signs, no indications of where these paths began or where they would lead. So I’m not sure how you would do it on your own.

      Here’s my second post about my visit: https://www.wanderingearl.com/travel-to-dakhla-western-sahara/

  2. Martin Tvede Larsen June 29, 2019 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Derek,

    Very useful guide and info, especially considering there isnt much information available about this region 🙂 My wife and I actually travelling by land from Morocco through Western Sahara and Mauritania to Senegal this July to August and this certainly helped. One thing I wanted to ask though is about the internet and mobile data in this region? We work online while traveling so internet is quite important to us so can we expect any internet at all anywhere? Or at least in Major cities? and is there decent local sim cards with mobile data available and hows the connection (If you know?) Same question if we go to Mauritania, in case you heard from other travelers?

    Any info you have would be awesome. Thanks!

    • Derek July 1, 2019 at 9:34 am - Reply

      I’m not sure about Mauritania but in Western Sahara, my Moroccan sim card worked while in Dakhla. Outside of the town though, there wasn’t much of a connection at all. So I think you’ll be okay in the handful of towns using a sim card but apart from that you’ll be offline.

    • Matthew August 9, 2020 at 5:56 am - Reply

      Hey Martin and Derek,

      I saw this post and was curious if you (Martin) actually made the trip between Dakhla and Mauritania . Did you mange this route with a guide?
      My girlfriend and I are interested in starting in Nouakchott then heading up to Casablanca. Any tips or advice would be helpful. Cheers!

  3. Johanes June 8, 2019 at 7:00 am - Reply

    This is interesting. It’s great reading this and learning more about Western Sahara.Someday I want to visit and see for myself. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Irina May 9, 2019 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Hi Derek! i am thinking of visiting Morocco and Western Sahara this December. 2 questions:
    How safe is it to visit WS for a single woman?
    Your blog is dated in July but on the pics you are wearing what looks like a winter jacket. Was it really that cold there in July?
    thanks a lot for posting this info!!

    • Derek May 9, 2019 at 7:32 am - Reply

      Hey Irina – The areas where I was – Dakhla and surroundings – seemed very safe for any traveler. Male or female, I wouldn’t head into the far interior of the country where there could be some issues. But in Dakhla and the surrounding desert region, that area is considered safe. And with the weather, I was actually there in June but because the town is located on a very narrow peninsula, there is a constant strong and cool wind coming across the town. Once you go to the desert, which is off the peninsula, then it was much warmer as the wind was gone.

  5. Ravi January 16, 2019 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Hey Derek,

    I’m going to Morocco next month and from there I would like to go overland to Western Sahara.
    Is it really easy to cross the border by land from Morocco?
    I have a EU passport, do you think that I need a spciel visa from Morocco?
    And last question, from Dakhla I would like to go south and cross the border to Mauritania. Is it possible?
    Thank you very much for your answers!

    • Derek January 16, 2019 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Hey Ravi – Yes, it is quite easy and you will simply go through a normal immigration check. If you are allowed into Morocco, you are generally allowed into Western Sahara. From what I heard, it is possible to cross into Mauritania as well. Just make sure you have the necessary visa if needed. Plenty of people drive or travel along this route between Morocco and Senegal.

  6. Lilianna January 6, 2019 at 6:42 am - Reply

    We go there in the month of February. Can we find a place where you can simply swim?

    • Derek January 6, 2019 at 7:07 am - Reply

      Not in the town itself. But about 5 kilometers outside of town is a beach where you can swim. It will be freezing cold water in February since it’s the Atlantic Ocean but if you’re up for it, you can go in!

  7. Maria Jodiyawalla September 15, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Thank u for giving this place the much needed exposure it deserves. After constantly being labelled a desert wasteland, you have finally given a voice to this uncharted part of the world.

  8. Jane September 14, 2018 at 2:47 am - Reply

    This is great, thanks! I love the idea of the desert & coast tour, and also the thought of being in a city that’s actually quiet 🙂

    One thought: For places with a primarily (or wholly) Muslim population, it would be helpful to provide some information specifically for women and girls. For example, if we wear regular Western clothes appropriate to a hot climate, will or could we have problems — even if “only” stares or threatening looks; are women welcome — truly welcome — in all eating/drinking establishments; is it safe to take a taxi by ourselves, etc.

    I’m really hoping to do your Morocco tour this year, but I might be in Russia at that time. However that works out, thanks for being low-key and real in all that you publicly do.

    • Derek September 15, 2018 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Hey Jane – Thanks for the thought, that does make sense. As for Western Sahara, like most Muslim countries, it would be best to dress conservatively. Hot weather western clothing would generally not be appropriate and you would want to wear pants and shirts with at least short-sleeves. You would be allowed in all eating establishments (there’s not many drinking ones but a few restaurants serve alcohol and you would definitely be allowed). It’s safe to take taxis and to travel around on your own. The main thing would be the clothing and keeping it conservative would make your trip easier.

      And I look forward to hopefully traveling with you to Morocco! The next trip will be in April if you can make that one!

  9. Markus August 10, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Nice read. Very informational. Keep exploring and sharing.

Leave A Comment