What’s the difference between a Hotel, Riad, Pension, and Hostel

In Morocco, we name our hotels in at least three different languages, so it makes sense that there is some confusion about what they all mean.  Here are some quick definitions and a reasons to choose each type.

Hotel: These will generally be a safe choice, and certainly more consistent service than pensions or hostels. In Morocco, you can knock off one star from the ratings you are used to in Europe and the US.  Typically a hotel with no stars, can be dropped into the category below.

Riad: A Riad  is something really unique. It is typically small and lavishly decorated… and sometimes ridiculously expensive. Usually hidden in the traditional part of the  city in restored palaces or villas, many have large fountains, Moroccan tiles, traditional decor and often offer delicious Moroccan cuisine (prepared under sanitary conditions by real chefs!).  Generally, riads are run by a small staff that will work very hard to get things just the way you want them. Check out this site, if you’re interested in other Moroccan Riads.

Pension: These places are generally very affordable, but often you get what you pay for: communal bathrooms, busy staff and older facilities, though some are clean, and well run. In some cases “squatty” toilets and cold showers are the norm, so choose carefully and write a review to help those who come after you.  Pension staff won’t necessarily be able to communicate in English, so have a back up plan. Be sure to keep a tight grip on your passport, wallet and camera, even if your door locks.

Hostel: Tangier’s only hostel is nice and well reviewed, but many other cities don’t have any options that call themselves a hostel.  Although in many cases they won’t compare with the places you may have stayed in backpacking around Europe, it’s a good cheap alternative to hotels or riads.

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