23 Most Common Tourist Scams in Morocco

Marrakech, Casablanca, Essauouira, Fes, Agadir, Tangier, Rabat, Merzouga, Ouarzazate, El JAdida, Chefchaouen, Meknes, Taghazout, Asilah, Taroudant, Zagora, Tetouan, Imlil, Dakhla

Morocco

Source credit

Travelling to Morocco is an experience not to be missed. It is a simple, laidback life enjoyed with excellent food and marvellous scenery. You have the Sahara desert, interesting Mosque architecture, riads (traditional Moroccan houses), treasure hunting at Medinas, mint tea, palaces, carpets and many more.

However, scamming tourists IS a national sport here. Many you meet on the street will only be interested in your money. There are so many fakes, so many scams, that it is a contender to having the most number of tourist targeted scams in the world. Read on to learn how to protect yourself and enjoy the marvellous experience Morocco has to offer!

 

A. TOURIST SPOTS/ACTIVITIES

1. The nice guy

Morocco friendly smile

Source credit

Due to Morocco’s low minimum wage (100 DH for 8 hours), many resort to offering their unsolicited help in exchange for a tip. For instance, if you happen to look lost at a busy market, a nice guy will approach and guide you to wherever you want to go. He will then demand a sum of money, which can range anywhere from 20-50% of his minimum wage. See how lucrative it is now?

There are many variations of this scam. For instance, should a “nice guy” see you take photos, he will point out a spot with better views and demand money for it. The smarter ones would not demand a tip straight away. Once you accept their help, they will continue helping to build up trust. Only at the end do they finally ask for a bigger sum of money, which most tourists willingly give or they would feel guilty otherwise.

Rule of thumb:

Unfortunately, the police cannot be counted on if you find yourself harassed by them. To be safe, firmly reject help from these scammers, and seek help from others such as police officers or shop owners instead.

Just remember, the wider the smile, the sharper the knife 🙂

 

2. The Henna women

Morocco henna

Source credit

Spotted frequently at the Jemna El-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, you will find many ladies here who force their henna ink onto tourists sneakily. When you realize, they will apologize and offer to do a full henna tattoo instead. It will seem like there’s nothing to lose at this stage. However, when the job is completed, an inflated sum of money will be demanded.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject, because they don’t care how the henna tattoo turns out, as long as it gets done.

 

3. The live animal/costume photographer/photo

Source credit

Again, in Jemna El-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, you will find people carrying animals such as snakes or monkeys. When you walk by, they will place the animal on you, snatch your camera and take a photo of you. They then demand an extortionate tip/donation.

Do note that should you take a photo of these people/animals, they will demand payment from you as well.

Finally, besides animals, another variation could be scammers who carry Moroccan costumes around as well.

Rule of thumb:

Stay away from these street performers a.k.a. scammers. Also, be careful if someone offers to help you take a photo with your camera, as he might simply run away with it.

 

4. The water sellers

Morocco water sellers

Similar to the live animals/costume photographers, the water sellers are dressed in traditional Moroccan grub. As the name suggests, they sell water in the past via their costume, but they do not do so now. Rather, they operate by charging an amount should you take a photo of or with them.

Rule of thumb:

Stay away unless if you wouldn’t mind paying for a photo with them.

 

5. Camel/horse riders

Morocco camel ride

Source credit

This scam works similar to tuk-tuks in Thailand or Vietnam. There is a chance that the tour operator might bring you someway far away from town and then demand additional money.

Other operators might demand for an over inflated fee right at the start.

Rule of thumb:

Only book such camel/horse riding tours through reputable agencies or through your hotel.

 

6. Kif/Hashish

Morocco drug plants

Source credit

In Morocco, there are dealers and police members who work together to set tourists up and then claim a bribe to cover up the “crime”. There are also undercover police who do so to catch tourists.

Rule of thumb:

Do not buy drugs here (or anywhere!). This is because Morocco is taking a tough stance against those in possession of drugs – if you’re caught, be prepared to end up in jail.

 

7. The place/the lane is closed and they lead you to a tannery

rsz_morocco_tannery_mini

Source credit

This is extremely common in the touristy parts of Morocco. Scammers will first befriend you and give you some tips to build trust. Once trust is built, the scammer will ask where you are headed to and then claim that the place or lane is closed.

For the place is closed scam, it is easy to spot, as it happens all around the world, and it gets you thinking. However, for the lane is closed scam, you would not think as much as you can simply take another path nearby, as suggested by the scammer.

Like clockwork, you will meet another passerby (accomplice) who will corroborate the account that this path or place is closed. He will then lead you to a tannery. There’s usually a lingering smell which messes with you and many small roads making it akin to a maze. Once you’re in, it’s difficult to get out unless you buy something.

Rule of thumb:

When someone tells you that a place or a lane is closed, brush him off and continue on your path.

Do note that the police will most likely not help as they would probably have been paid off Mafia style.

 

8. Fake items – Persian carpets or rugs, ceramics, Argan oil – at inflated prices

Morocco market

Source credit

Some items (carpets, ceramics, Argan oil) are obviously fake at the major touristy markets and you know it. Claims such as this carpet is 50 years old or from a certain tribe are also obviously nonsense. However, there is a more effective way which scammers use to trick you into buying their fake ware.

For this scam, you would be approached by someone who speaks impeccable English and who claims to be from your hometown/country. He introduces himself and his goal here, that is to buy rugs/ceramics/Argan oil and sell for a handsome profit back home.

Next, he will either offer to bring you around the souks to shop or ask if you’re willing to join him in touring the city. Either option you choose, you will end up at a carpet/rug shop. He will then claim that due to his connections and persuasion skills, you can get a huge discount on the obviously fake carpet/rug.

You might not meet someone who speaks perfect English, but someone who claims to be a student and he would like to practise his English with you. The outcome is the same.

Rule of thumb:

Why would any stranger be so kind to bring you around town shopping, unless he has something to gain? Avoid these showmen at costs.

If you really want to buy, start your bargaining at ¼ of the price, as the first price quoted is often nonsensical.

 

9. Carpet/rug/currency swapping

What’s worse than buying fake rugs is having bought a good quality one only to have the vendor swap it with a fake. Generally, the vendor will have an accomplice distract you so that he can do the swap at an opportune time.

Money can be swapped as well. For instance, you pay $50, the vendor drops the bill accidentally and swaps it with a smaller note. He will then demand that you top up the difference.

Rule of thumb:

Never let your attention stray. If you are suspicious, check the rug again after they have packed it.

 

10. $1 now, $2 later!

There are rouge vendors who do not keep their word. An amount could be agree upon initially, but at the payment stage an inflated amount is demanded instead.

Rule of thumb:

Never pay until service/product is fully delivered. Also only deal with reputable vendors/shops.

 

11. Fake official tour guide

This is pretty similar to the fake nice guy scam, though somewhat different.

This scammer will claim to be an official guide who is being paid by the tourist board, and offer to bring you on a tour. To put you at ease regarding payments or tips, he will not demand any money. However, he will bring you to the famed carpet/rug shop in town and pressure you into getting a fake/lousy quality one at inflated prices..

There are also those who initially claim no payment is needed but at the end of the “tour”, demand a tip aggressively.

Rule of thumb:

Reject such offers, they are usually poor quality tours and you get sent to shops when they get a cut.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Rogue taxi drivers

Morocco taxis

Source credit

As with all rogue taxi drivers in the world, there are unlicensed drivers and drivers who do not turn on the meter. These drivers will demand a large upfront fee from you.

Also, beware of taxi drivers at airport – they are really aggressive. Some will charge an exorbitant amount (note: it should not cost more than 70 Dirham (give or take) in the day and 150 Dirham at night to the Medine). Others will not allow you to share cabs. There are also those who will jack up the price once you are out of the airport.

Besides inflated fares, rogue taxi drivers will also recommend to bring you to shops where they get to earn a commission. Commission in Morocco is big business, where drivers can earn up to or even more than 50% of items you buy at these shops.

Rule of thumb:

Only take taxis that use meters. Or if you have done your research, agree on a reasonable upfront fare. However, this is not 100% ideal as the price can still be jacked up by the driver later.

Never pay any fare upfront when booking or making an arrangement with a taxi driver to turn up later. They will disappear once they get their money.

Also, never follow their recommendations, stick to the plan which you have spent hours researching on.

 

C. MISC

1. Cheating restaurants

Morocco food

Source credit

Some restaurants have two different menus. The cheaper one for when you first enter, and the more expensive one when it is time to foot your bill. Thus, always check your bill lest you overpay.

Good news is that the police knows about this and also which restaurants are the culprits. So you are covered in a sense.

Another way restaurants cheat is by claiming that bread and water are complimentary, but charge them in the bill. There are even restaurants which add extra items which you have never ordered into the final bill.

Rule of thumb:

Always check your bill. Leave if you cannot find prices on the menus. Watch out for footnotes, especially those in a foreign language. Do your research online and eat at reputable places.

 

2. Fake beggars

In Morocco, beggars will act as if they have some ailments such as being blind or being unable to walk.

Rule of thumb:

Ignore. Else you run the risk of attracting other beggars, or potentially get pickpocketed by them.

 

3. Hotel Amira et Vacances

The hotel has has been accused of racism, where the plaintiff’s Senegalese friend was asked to leave even after having paid in full.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid, stay only at reputable places.

 

4. Fake hotel recommendations

There are hotels which hire people to approach tourists on the streets. They will provide a glowing recommendation of the hotel and encourage you to stay there. An example is Pension Talaa in Fez’s Medina. These are hotels of poor quality at inflated prices.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject, stay only at reputable places.

 

5. Fake police

You can find this scam everywhere around the world (UAE, Indonesia, Brazil), although in different variations.

The scam in Morocco goes like this. A stranger will put an item into your hand. When you try to return it, he will accuse you of robbing him. At this moment, a fake policeman walks by.. You will be asked to pay a compensation fee or be threatened with arrest.

Rule of thumb:

Demand to check the policeman’s identification and badge. Next, threaten to call the police hotline to verify his details – you can find the hotline number at the end of this article.

If the scammers still pester you, demand to go to a police station to settle the issue. However, do not allow them to take the lead in bringing you to a police station. Instead, check with a passer-by.

Another alternative is to simply get a cheap spare wallet with little money inside before your trip. You can easily surrender this in exchange for saving yourself the trouble of getting these scammers off your back.

 

6. Fake gifts/musicians

This is very similar  to the musician scam in the US. A musician will forcefully pass you a CD and ask you to check out his music. Should you accept, payment will be demanded. This can happen for any thing, as long as it is a physical item.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject. This is not the way to support local music – it is most likely a blank CD.

 

7. Toilet “fee”

Note that you do not have to pay to use the public toilet! There are scammers who plant themselves at the entrance and demand a small fee. Most tourist pay as they do not know and it is a small sum.

Rule of thumb:

That said, depending on how large the sum is, it might be better to just pay and not waste time arguing.

 

8. Medina/Tannery’s entrance “fee”

Morocco medina

Source credit

Similar to scam #7, there are scammers who demand an entrance fee at the Medina and Tannery, which are obviously free to the public.

Rule of thumb: 

Firmly refuse, explain that it is free and walk past them.

 

9. “Botched” ATMs

Due to the lucrative nature of rigging ATMs, the scam is unlikely to die.

Rule of thumb:

Use the ATMs in the banks or shopping malls. Avoid using ATMs you find on the streets or secluded corners. Also avoid using night.

Be wary of strangers or beggars hanging around ATMs as cases of robberies have been reported.

 

10. Kidnapping

This is more so for Westerners in North Africa, as several state departments have warned. Though it’s really more the border and southern regions which you should avoid.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid hanging out alone late in the night or trekking in remote mountain regions.

 

11. Western Sahara’s landmines

This is not technically a scam, but something to be wary of.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid the area.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Morocco police

Source credit

  • Police: 190 or 112
  • Police outside the city: 177
  • Ambulance: 150
  • Fire brigade: 15

 

Connect with us!

Get protected!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares