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Safe Travel in the Western Sahara

Despite ongoing tensions in the Western Sahara, travel in much of the west of this region is still considered safe by most government travel advisories. Flying in and out of Dakhla from Casabanca or Agadir is straightforward and safe.

Spain has been most critical of Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara, so Spanish travellers are most likely to field questions from Moroccan officials. Occupations likely to ring alarm bells at police posts are journalist or aid worker. If police confirm that you work in an occupation of that nature, you could be followed, detained, sent back to Morocco proper or even deported. Authorities tend to be more wary of travellers visiting Laayoune than Dakhla or Tarfaya.

That said, Spanish and other nationalities visiting for legitimate purposes of tourism are likely to have no problems at all.

Travelling overland, and approaching the Western Sahara through towns such as Tarfaya, Tan Tan, Goulimime and Tata, you should also be prepared for the regular occurrence of police checkpoints. Foreigners are invariably asked about their occupation, reason for visiting, and next destination, and passports are requested so details can be recorded.

For most people exchanges between police and travellers at checkpoints usually dissolve quickly into the relative merits of the Barcelona and Real Madrid football teams. However, everyone should treat the checkpoint stops seriously, tedious though they are, as there is a small risk of travellers being mistaken for a journalist or Polisario sympathiser.

In the Western Sahara, your passport and visa details will be noted down, along with your vehicle details if you are driving. If you’re on a bus, you can usually stay in your seat while the police take your ID and write down your particulars. To streamline these encounters, it's a good strategy is to have multiple photocopies of the identification pages from your passport, to hand over, rather than the actual document.

Once in both Laayoune (especially) and Dakhla, you will be aware of the military and police, both of whom are sensitive to photography around military installations. Similarly, they will not take too kindly to you photographing or trying to visit the refugee camps around both cities, where many Saharawi still live.