24 Most Common Tourist Scams in Morocco

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

Image source: traveltourist1.blogspot.com

 

Travelling to Morocco in Africa is an experience not to be missed. It is a simple, laid-back 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 more!

However, scamming tourists is rampant here. Warm and friendly people obviously exist, but if you are not careful, you can easily fall for a scam or tourist trap.

Read on to learn how to protect yourself and enjoy the marvellous experience Morocco has to offer!

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. The nice guy scam

Morocco friendly smile

Image source: intrepidtravel.com

 

How it works:

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, a “nice guy” may point out a spot with better views and demand money if he sees you taking photos.

The smarter ones will not demand a tip right away. Once you accept their help, they will continue helping to build up trust.

Only at the end will they try to guilt trip you into giving a huge sum of money as tip.

 

What to do:

Unfortunately, the police cannot be counted on if you find yourself harassed by them.

If you are approached by an overly friendly local stranger out of nowhere offering his help, firmly reject unless you really need it.

Remember, the wider the smile, the sharper the knife.

 

2. The henna women scam

Morocco henna

Image source: visit4morocco.blogspot.com

 

How it works:

Spotted frequently at the Jemna El-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, you will find 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.

 

What to do:

The scammers will not care how the henna tattoo turns out, as long as it gets done. So reject firmly.

 

3. Live animal, costume photo scam

 

How it works:

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.

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

 

What to do:

Stay away from these street performers a.k.a. scammers.

Also, be careful if an overly friendly local offers to help you take a photo with your camera, as he might simply run away with it. Else, he will demand a tip.

 

4. The water sellers

Morocco water sellers

 

How it works:

Similar to the live animals / costume photographers, the water sellers are dressed in traditional Moroccan grub.

As the name suggests, water sellers in the past operate in these costumes, but they do not do so now.

Rather, they operate by charging an amount should you take a photo of or with them.

 

What to do:

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

 

5. Camel / horse rides

Morocco camel ride

Image source: marrakech-select.com

 

How it works:

This scam works similar to tuk-tuks in Thailand or Vietnam.

There is a chance that the tour operator might bring you somewhere far away from town and then demand additional money.

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

 

What to do:

Book such tours through reputable agencies or through your hotel (though it may be more expensive as they may get a cut).

If you were to engage a camel ride on the streets, do not make any payment at the start of the ride.

Keep your valuables securely with you instead of leaving it with your guide or in the satchels on the camels. Consider investing in a money belt or hidden pouch or in an anti-theft bag.

During the tour, identify the route back to the exit so that you will not be stranded if caught in the scam.

Once the scammer demands a higher payment, ask to get down before you start negotiating. Insist on this despite the scammer’s threat as he will not dare to injure you.

Also, consider using a cheap, spare wallet with little money inside which you can use to trick the scammer to let you go.

 

6. Kif / Hashish set-up

Morocco drug plants

Image source: hempforfuture.com

 

How it works:

In Morocco, there are dealers and police members who work together to set tourists up with drugs and then claim a bribe to cover up the “crime”.

 

What to do:

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. Place is closed and they lead you to a tannery

Morocco tannery

Image source: travellingbackflip.com

 

How it works:

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.

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 your senses and many small roads making it akin to a maze.

So once you’re in, it’s difficult to get out unless you buy something.

 

What to do:

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.

Also, consider concealing your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and only use a cheap, spare wallet with little money inside to make yourself look like a less attractive target.

 

8. Fake Persian carpets, rugs, ceramics, Argan oil 

Morocco market

Image source: roughguides.com

 

How it works:

Some items (carpets, ceramics, Argan oil) are obviously fake at the major touristy markets. 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. Or a “student” who wants to practise his English with you.

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.

 

What to do:

Ideally, check with your hotel / hostel on how much certain items should cost. If you do not know and are at a bazaar or a souk, start your bargaining at ~25% of the price, as the first price quoted is often nonsensical.

You can also check online or with your hotel / hostel on places with fixed prices or shops where locals go to shop.

 

Items to be aware of: 

  • Avoid buying Argan oil anywhere except at pharmacies. Those sold by souk / street vendors are really just vegetable oil that comes with an inflated price tag.
  • Kilim rugs sold to tourists in souks are usually woven from a type of cotton dyed with natural dyes, not with silk as many of them claim. If you really want to get one, get a trusted local to go with you.

 

Places to check out:

  • If you do not want to haggle, the Ensemble Artisanal shopping complex located close to the main Jemaa el Fnaa square is one you can check out.
  • Other non-touristy areas with better quality / more interesting wares to check out include Gueliz and Sidi Ghanem

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

 

9. Carpet / rug / currency swapping

Image source: CCat82 / Shutterstock.com

 

How it works:

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.

Currency can be swapped as well.

For instance, after you hand the notes over, the vendor drops the notes accidentally or swaps a large note with a smaller note.

He will then demand you top up the difference.

 

What to do:

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

 

10. $1 now, $2 later!

 

How it works:

There are rouge vendors who do not keep their word.

An amount could be agree upon initially, but at inflated amount is demanded at the payment stage.

 

What to do:

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

 

11. Fake official tour guide

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

 

12. Pickpocket

Image source: curlytraveller.com

 

How it works:

If you are at a souk or medina, there is a chance you will be targeted by a pickpocket. Jemma el-Fnaa for instance is a favourite hot spot.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it)
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

Do watch out for child pickpockets as well.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal from you, we recommend:

  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap, spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables securely in a slim fitting money belt or hidden pouch.
  • Store larger valuables in an anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and lockable. Keep it in front of you.
  • Keep most of your valuables in your hotel / hostel safe, which can be further secured with hotel safety tools.

 

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Rogue taxi drivers

Morocco taxis

Image source: YouTube user jjvanwinckel

 

How it works:

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 an inflated upfront fee from you.

Also, beware of taxi drivers at the airport – they are really aggressive.

Some will charge an exorbitant amount (note: should not cost more than ~70 Dirham 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 initially agree upon 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.

 

What to do:

Only take taxis that use meters.

Or if you have done your research (e.g. check with your hotel or use an online fare estimator tool such as taxifarefinder), 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 your 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. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Overcharging restaurants

Morocco food

Image source: folomojo.com

 

How it works:

Some restaurants have two different menus – the cheaper one when you first enter, and the more expensive one when it is time to pay.

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 charge you for food which you have never ordered.

 

What to do:

Leave if you cannot find prices on the menus. Also, watch out for footnotes, especially those in a foreign language.

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel on the reputable restaurants or places to eat at.

Finally, always check your bill.

 

2. Fake police

 

How it works:

You can find this scam everywhere around the world (e.g. UAE, Indonesia, Brazil, etc), 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.

 

What to do:

Demand to check the policeman’s identification and badge. Next, threaten to call the police hotline to verify his details (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 or use Google Maps if you have mobile data.

Remember also to never give up your passport if asked. Instead, show only a photocopy of your passport.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside for daily transactions while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you.

Even if not, you can simply give up that wallet or the cash in it with minimal loss to yourself and save a ton of trouble.

 

3. Medina / tannery’s entrance “fee”

Morocco medina

Image source: getintravel.com

 

How it works:

Similar to scam #7, there are scammers who demand an entrance fee at a medina or tannery, which is obviously free to the public.

 

What to do:

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

 

4. Rigged ATMs

 

How it works:

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

How this works is that thieves will install a card skimmer over the card slot to capture your card details, and a camera to capture your PIN.

These are some red flags to watch out for:

 

What to do:

Use the ATMs in controlled environments such as in the banks or shopping malls.

Avoid those on the streets or around secluded corners. Also avoid using at night.

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

To prevent or reduce losses from a robbery, consider investing in a money belt or a hidden pouch and a cheap spare wallet which you can give up.

 

5. Fake gifts / musicians

 

How it works:

This is very similar to the musician scam in the US.

A musician will forcefully pass you a CD (most likely a blank 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.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject. This is not the way to support local music.

 

6. Toilet “fee”

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

 

7. Fake beggars

Image source: trekearth.com

 

How it works:

In Morocco, scammers will pose as beggars with ailments such as being blind or being unable to walk.

 

What to do:

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

To prevent yourself from falling victim, consider getting an anti-theft bag or use a money belt / hidden pouch

 

8. Hotel Amira et Vacances

 

How it works:

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

 

What to do:

Avoid, stay only at reputable places.

 

9. Fake hotel recommendations

 

How it works:

There are hotels which hire people to approach tourists on the streets. These are usually poor quality hotels which charge inflated prices.

The street touts will provide a glowing recommendation of the hotel and encourage you to stay there.

An example reported is the Pension Talaa in Fez’s Medina.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject, stay only at places where you have done your research.

 

10. Kidnapping

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

 

11. Western Sahara’s landmines

 

How it works:

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

 

What to do:

Avoid the area.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Morocco police

Image source: riadzany.blogspot.com

 

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

Join the community!

Get protected!

16 Comments

  1. Sarah

    Wow! That’s a very negative look at Morocco. I have been there 10 times over the past 3 years and never had any problems.

    Reply
    • Odalis Douglin

      Neither do I!!! YOU PEOPLE ARE TOO MUCH!!

      Reply
      • Ian

        I’m here at the moment and most things are true. Have not had the bad experience of attacks or police but I was asked not to visit fes at night, some parts of Marrakech and Casablanca due to danger.

        Reply
    • Joe Qasse

      10 times in 3 years, it’s impossible that you haven’t been scammed, especially if you don’t talk any Arabics language and you don’t look Arabs. Because I went there in 1987 and I’ve been scam and 90% of the tourist I meet they were all piss off of the scamming in Morocco and it’s no wonder the government has passed a law over scamming.

      Reply
  2. VictrJule

    A policeman charged me a fine on the spot for a very small error whilst driving with no cars anywhere or threat to others. Which in other countries can be be easily forgiven or warned to be careful. He asked for a large and sum. No choice but to pay as fear kicks in.

    Later to realise, there’s no evidence, no paper trial, no nothing. Just got robbed by the people protecting tourists? I’m still thinking if I should escalate this further.
    If any law knowledgeable people can give me a comment just to ease my conscious, would be grateful.
    Everything in this article is true and I have similar stories from more visitors. Just because it has not happeend to you does not mean it won’t happen to anyone else.

    Similarily bad things happen everywhere. Not judging.

    Reply
    • Mehdi KASSORI

      can I.know what happened? I am moroccan qnd I can.show you where to go.
      by the way in every place there is the good and the bad.
      kidnapping is impossible, beggars are even in saudi arabia (rich country), scammers are everywhere etc.. just do not show morocco like Juarez in Mexico or some canabis colombian farm.

      in morocco you can knock at any door say “i’m hungry” you will see the level of hospitality, you will eat untill you get full and even a big chance to be accomodated for FREE.

      Reply
  3. Angel of truth

    MERZOUGA SCAMMERS
    Merzouga is a beautiful romantic village in the middle of the desert. Women fall for the charms of the men here without realising that the majority are working as call-boys/prostitutes for a living. They are very loving and charming. They get the girls/women to fall in love with them, talñking about romance and future. The women/girls keep travelling there to visit their boyfriends, taking with them gifts of clothes, telephones, sunglasses etc., and pay for everything they do with their “boyfriend”. They pay the alcohol, tobacco, food, hotel rooms…. Usually (blind from love) they leave money for their boyfriends when they return home. Later the men are asking for money per Western Union, using excuses such as they must put credit on their phone to be able to chat, or repair their phones to keep contact, pay electricity, debts, and whateverelse they can think of. Often if they think their “girlfriends” have a bit of money they suggest larger sums to enable them to buy a jeep to do excursions for tourists so enable them to build a busiuness so their girlfriends can eventually move there or to make money to start to build a home for the future together. Little do the women/girls realise that they are being scammed, and actually PAYING to have a “nice time” with a man on “holiday. Usually, a few months later (or 3 or 4 years) the women/girls find out that they are not the only “girlfriend”. There are usually at least 2 or 3 others in the mans life…. all travelling to morocco to spend time with their “boyfriends” when they can. The men there in Merzouga find it normal to use the women in this way. They feel no guilt. It is their way to get money, and needs. I speak from experience. I know many women/girls that have fallen for this scam and ended up very hurt (and sometimes quite broke!). THIS IS THE REALITY OF MERZOUGA. Often these men contact women through messenger, after checking out the females facebook to see if they are single, rich, looking for boyfriend, sad, adventurous… and especially “older” women that are alone because these are usually the most generous. They start with sweet introductions, then video chats, then start pestering for the women to visit. ALmost all say and do the same things. It is a planned scam, and there are people they call “uncle” who often have homes/rooms somewhere for them to stay. Women believe the “uncles” are family, but they are not. They are mafia. Helping control the “business” in Merzouga….

    Reply
    • mehdi K

      this is not totally trud, there is no mafia, there is, lkke in everyplace some people who does that but you CAN NOT STEREOTYPE, maybe you survived from such experience but we moroccans are not all like that.

      I had an experience with a lady, sexy older and MARRIED from UK, she asked to be my GF and to divorce her husband for me or be her sex master, I refused and said NO I AM NOT RAISED LIKE THAT, and this is how I lost one of my biggest and best customers (handcraft products).

      Reply
    • Desert Thorn

      Hi. I was wondering if you would be able to give me any more information about this scenario. Right now I am afraid that i might be living it. I have not been asked for money directly at all, ever, but I helped build him a tourism website (kind of at my own suggestion, to help) and am staying here and am paying for everything, because we’re from different circumstances, and if i didn’t help just pay the costs of daily living (really just groceries), he would have to be out doing the tours and couldn’t spend time with me, is how i understand it. But, we met in person, on a tour. Not online. We’re quite similar in age, both younger than 35. I’m paying just for groceries, but also to stay in a house where we can be alone, because that’s kind of the only option for places we can actually stay, is my understanding. BUT last time I was here, we did indeed stay in his “uncle”‘s house. Any other warning signs to look for that this is somehow not real? I met his family including mother and grandmother, sister, brother, everyone is sweet and generous. I’m quite concerned after seeing your comment here. It never occurred to me that my boyfriend could somehow be a callboy. I didn’t know that existed here. Please advise. Thank you.

      Reply
      • Warningwomen

        This is 100 % true and the very same thing has just happened to me. I didn’t go into the relationship blindly and it told me ages to trust him. I am actually so very impressed how well he has managed to scam me as I thought I was fairly smart. It has honestly been the worst feeling in the world when all the truth unraveled and I genuinely can’t believe how he’s got away with having so many women on the go behind my back, especially as I was there so often and for such long periods! My honest opinion is to never trust a Moroccan ever. It’s devastated my entire life and although the relationship is over, the trauma and online abuse is not. Many women just walk away but I’m afraid I can’t do that and I’m fighting against his actions as best I can. Please feel free to have a chat about it with me if you have any doubts and want advise! Xx

        Reply
        • Desert Thorn

          Oh my gosh, I’m sorry 🙁 Yes i am really looking for someone to chat with about this and get some advice. It seems there is not a way to contact users individually on here without all the information being public. How could I contact you? Thanks in advance…. !

          Reply
          • riri

            I am onevof the girl who got involved with moroccan guy as my boyfriend and just got to know that he has other girl / girls online that he talked and wooing for behing my back!!! Its very hurt to know this and confronted but never admitted by him! I have spent money and time by believing he is a nice guy with good Islamic background!! Never ever cross my mind that i was one of the girls he has as a victim! I noticed also guys from Merzouga and Mhamid are doing this things to the foreigners who traveling there or coming for traveling and even luring them to visit Morocco to meet those girls! I am now having trust issue especially with men!

  4. J.

    Merzouga Activity Camp: listed on booking.com but to be avoided.

    Scam consist in contacting you to cancel the reservation so they don’t have to pay commission to booking.com

    If you do that they will charge you 2 times. In cash when you arrive, your credit card when you leave.

    And since you are not on booking.com you won’t be able to alert other traveller’s.

    Reply
  5. Ali

    just dont waste your time and money visiting a shithole country like Morocco

    Reply
  6. KXOMBIE

    The Marrakech animal scam is very real and very common. Be advised,if you hand over your phone, it normally won’t be returned until you pay the price they demand which is usually in the neighborhood of $20 for one or two crappy cellphone snaps of you with a VERY disgruntled monkey on your shoulders. Another interesting detail: the monkeys seem to have no problem with innapropriate touching or grabbing. Especially when it comes to females. Also, if you are getting ready to find a taxi after dark, avoid shortcuts through the alleys if at all possible. We were followed by a group of guys; one of which tried (unsuccessfully) to help himself to whatever I might have in the outer pocket of my backpack.

    Reply
  7. Morocco Tours

    awesome post and really really helpful tips really appreciated and thanks a lot for sharing

    Reply

Submit a Comment

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares