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A vast desert territory, Western Sahara is a curious and enchanting place for tourists looking for a beach vacation or sandy adventures. iVisa strongly recommends doing a significant amount of research before departing, for you may find yourself in a life-threatening situation with the government, citizens, or simply the imposing landscape.
Before planning your trip to Western Sahara, you need to check whether or not you need a visa. While the majority of Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco, one part is under the control of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, although that area is typically restricted to any visitors.
Since most of Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco, you need to take a look at Morocco’s via policy. According to the rules, the citizens of 69 countries can access Western Sahara and stay there for up to 90 days, and needing just a valid passport. However, there are a few exceptions: citizens of Hong Kong and Singapore can remain inside Western Sahara for only 30 days, the nationals of the Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Mali are now required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) since November 1, 2018. Other than that, general visa rules apply.
If you cannot find your country of origin on the list of 69 visa-exempt countries, your only option is to apply for a visa at the nearest diplomatic mission or embassy of Morocco. The process is reasonably straightforward. You should first call the embassy/diplomatic mission to ask about the requirements, then gather everything you need so that you can submit your application in-person.
It is worth mentioning is that you must always have your passport on your person when you travel throughout Western Sahara. There are multiple checkpoints where your passport will be checked. You will not receive a stamp or anything of this sort, for it is just a security measure. Nobody can enter Western Sahara without a valid passport.
As for to how to get to Western Sahara, you have a few options. You can fly from the Spanish Canary Islands or from the Moroccan cities of Agadir or Casablanca. Alternatively, you can take a boat or the train, and if you want, you can travel by car or bus.
Getting around is quite simple. Buses connect the larger cities and they will stop whenever you ask. However, you must be very careful if you travel through Western Sahara by car. If the map shows you a long road and the distance to the nearest settlement is significant, make sure that you fill your gas tank. You don't want to run out of fuel on the way, and you may arrive at the town only to find out that it doesn't have a gas station. When passing across the desert by car, you should refuel every time you come across a gas station, just to be on the safe side. If you travel independently, you should always have a survival kit in the trunk of your car or your backpack. The kit includes a torch, a lighter, a rope, a knife, a compass, an insulated blanket, and a first-aid kit. If something happens, the equipment can save your life.
One of the most interesting and unique ways to travel through the desert is by camel. They are gentle creatures, but you must learn how to ride them with respect for them and their owners.
Communication in Western Sahara can be tricky. The official language is Hassaniya Arabic, but you cannot understand it - even if you know Arabic. Note that English is used less frequently than French and Spanish.
If you do your research, a trip to Western Sahara can be a great experience.