Western Sahara is often visited by people who are curious about life in the desert. They often find out that there are significant differences in culture, and living in the desert is not as you would think. The sand dunes and the oasis are not the only things that characterize desert, and it can turn dangerous if you do not do your homework before you leave. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation that can impose a threat to your life.
Before planning your trip to Western Sahara, there are some things that you should know. The first thing on your list should be the visa. You need to check whether or not you need one to visit Western Sahara. If you read about it a little bit, you will see that that majority of Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco. One part is under the control of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, but that area is typically restricted to any visitors, so you should not be there.
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. They only need a valid passport. However, there are a few exceptions. For one thing, the citizens of Hong Kong and Singapore can remain inside Western Sahara for only 30 days. Secondly, the nationals of the Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Mali are required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization starting the 1st of November 2018. Other than that, the general rule applies.
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 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.
One thing that is worth mentioning is that you must always have your passport on you when you travel through Western Sahara. There are multiple checkpoints where your passport will be checked. You will not receive a stamp or anything of this sort, but the officers just need to check your documentation. Nobody can enter Western Sahara without a valid passport.
As to how to get to Western Sahara, you have a couple of options. You can fly from the Canary Islands in Spain or from Agadir, Casablanca. You can take a boat or the train, and if you want to, you can travel by car.
Getting around is just as easy. The buses connect the larger cities, and they will stop whenever you ask for a stop. 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. That is essential for your survival. You may get to that settlement only to find out that it is just a small village with no gas station. You should refuel every time you come across a gas station, just to be on the safe side.
Communication in Western Sahara can be tricky. The official language is Hassaniya Arabic, but you cannot understand it if you know Arabic. But what you need to know is that English is rarer than French and Spanish so it would be best to learn at least one of them. At a conversational level.
At the same time, when 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 best ways to move through the desert, and an experience you must try while in Western Sahara, is by camel. They are gentle creatures, but you must learn how to ride them. You must respect them and their owners. You can be left without a camel if you hurt the animal or do not follow the instructions of the owner.
The bottom line is that as long as you do your research, a trip to Western Sahara can be a great experience. It may need proper clothing and a lot of attention, but the journey itself should be fascinating. There may not be many tourist attractions, but there are a lot of things you can experience for the first time.