22 Most Common Tourist Scams in Morocco

Safety at Rabat, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech, Meknes, Ouarzazate, Tangier, Taroudannt, Tetouan, Al Hoceima, Laayoun, Dakhla
Note: If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. World Nomads Travel Insurance, backed by Lonely Planet & National Geographic, is one we recommend. Check it out before your adventure.

 

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

 

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

Moroccan

Moroccan. Source: intrepidtravel.com

 

How it works:

Due to Morocco’s low minimum wage (100 DH or ~10 USD for 8 hours), many resort to offering unsolicited help in exchange for a tip.

For instance, if you look lost at a busy market, a nice guy will approach and guide you to wherever you want to go.

He then demands a tip which can range anywhere from 20-50% of his minimum wage. See how lucrative it is now?

There are a few variations of this scam.

  • The earlier described pointing directions out to you.
  • Or pointing a spot with better views and helping you taking photos.
  • Not demanding a tip right away, but continue helping and asking for a big sum of money at the end.

 

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

Henna

Henna

 

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.

Note that even if you were to approach them in the first place, any price that was initially agreed upon can be jacked up at the end.

 

What to do:

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

If you want to do one, do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on a reputable place to go.

 

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.
  • An extortionate tip / donation is then demanded.
  • If you take a photo of these people / animals, they will demand payment as well.

Besides animals, another variation is scammers who pose in traditional Moroccan costumes as well as performing dancers.

 

What to do:

Keep a safe distance away.

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 hold your camera hostage while demanding a big tip.

 

4. The water sellers

Moroccan water sellers

Moroccan 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

Camel ride in the sand dunes of Morocco

Camel ride in the sand dunes of Morocco

 

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:

  • Offline operators: ask – is the operator licensed? Is there a website, office and working phone number? Are there real online reviews? What does the price cover – is it too cheap?
  • Online platforms: GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) – popular tours include:

 

 

  • Paying: avoid paying in full upfront (unless reputable operator) or off the (online) platform.
  • During the tour: identify the route back so you will not be stranded, ask to get down before you start negotiating.

 

6. Kif / Hashish set-up

Growing kif

Growing kif. Source: hempforfuture.com

 

How it works:

Kif or Hashish is a locally produced drug.

There are dealers and police members who work together to set tourists up with drugs and then demand 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

Tannery in Fez

Tannery in Fez

 

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.

 

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

Morocco pottery shop

Morocco pottery shop

 

How it works:

Items popular with tourists (carpets, ceramics, Argan oil) sold at the major touristy markets are generally fake.

Do not believe claims such as this carpet is 50 years old or from a certain tribe.

Another version is that of the “business opportunity”:

  • A scammer introduces himself, and claims to be here to buy rugs / ceramics / Argan oil to sell for a handsome profit back home.
  • He offers to bring you around the souks to tour but eventually you will end up at a carpet / rug shop.
  • Next, he claims that due to his connections, you can get a huge discount on the (fake) carpet / rug.

 

What to do:

Items to be wary of:

  • Argan oil: only buy at pharmacies. Those sold by souk / street vendors are just vegetable oil with an inflated price tag.
  • Kilim rugs: those 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 want 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.

Bargaining:

  • Check online with your hotel / hostel staff on how much certain items should cost.
  • If not, start your bargaining at ~25% of the price, as the first price quoted is often nonsensical

Else, you can also consider shopping tours:

  • GetYourGuide (leading day tours platform globally) has a few such options:
 

 

 

9. Carpet / rug / currency swapping

Rugs in Marrakech

Rugs in Marrakech

 

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

Souk in Morocco

Souk in Morocco

 

How it works:

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

The 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 claim no payment is needed initially but at the end of the “tour”, demand a tip aggressively.

 

What to do:

  • Offline operators: ask – is the operator licensed? Is there a website, office and working phone number? Are there real online reviews? What does the price cover – is it too cheap?
  • Online platforms: GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) – popular tours include:
 

 

  • Paying: avoid paying in full upfront (unless reputable operator) or off the (online) platform.

 

12. Pickpocket

Djemma El Fna, Marrakech

Djemma El Fna, Marrakech

 

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 / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

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

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

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Rogue taxi drivers

Morocco taxis

Morocco taxis. Source: YouTube – jjvanwinckel

 

How it works:

In Morocco, there are a multitude of ways for rogue taxi drivers to overcharge you:

  • Unlicensed drivers and drivers who do not turn on the meter who demand an inflated fare.
  • Airport taxi drivers who charge an exorbitant amount, not allow you to share cabs, and jack up the initially agree upon price once you are out of the airport.
  • Some will bring you to shops where they get to earn a commission (big business, as drivers can earn up to or more than 50% of items you buy).
  • Producing an “official” looking charge sheet with inflated prices reflected on it.

 

What to do:

Only take taxis that use meters.

Or if you have done your research – check online forums, with your hotel / hostel staff, an online taxi fare estimator tool – you can agree on a reasonable upfront fare.

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.

Finally, you can also consider arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or day tour platforms like GetYourGuide (global leader) – 30+ options:

 

 

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Overcharging restaurants

Moroccan cuisine

Moroccan cuisine. Source: folomojo.com

 

How it works:

Again, there are a multitude of ways rogue restaurants can use to fleece you:

  • Two different menus: the cheaper one when you first enter, and the more expensive one when it is time to pay (the police knows this and knows which restaurants are the culprits, so you are covered).
  • Claiming that bread and water are complimentary, but charge them in the bill.
  • Charging you for food which you have never ordered.

 

What to do:

  • Eat at reputable places and avoid those promoted by touts.
  • Check the menu (prices, fine print), do not eat what was not ordered, check your bill.
  • You may also consider a food tour for a local experience – GetYourGuide (leading day tours platform) has a couple of options:
 

 

 

2. Fake police

 

How it works:

You can find this scam everywhere around the world (e.g. 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.

 

What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

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

 

3. Medina / tannery’s entrance “fee”

Marrakech

Marrakech

 

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:

Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

5. Fake gifts / musicians

Street performer in Morocco

Street performer in Morocco

 

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 item, 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 hang around 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

A beggar in Morocco

A beggar in Morocco. 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.

 

8. Hotel Amira et Vacances

 

How it works:

The hotel 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 / well reviewed places.

 

9. Fake hotel recommendations

A guesthouse in Marrakech

A guesthouse in Marrakech

 

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 legitimate places which you can find via:

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Morocco by staying with a local host!

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not meant to be a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Morocco. Source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: armed robberies occur, but scams and petty crime more of a concern.
  • Hazards: unexploded mines in Western Sahara area (sovereignty remains unresolved) and surrounding areas such as Mauritiana.
  • Hotspots: threat of kidnappings along borders with Algeria and Mauritania.
  • Terrorism: there are locals who belong to Daesh and extremist groups. Plots regularly disrupted by authorities.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations occur occasionally, though more frequent in the north (Al Hoceima, Tangier, Nador).

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, hiking alone, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.

 

2. Medical care

A hospital in Morocco

A hospital in Morocco. Source: leseco.ma

 

How it works:

Medical care is good in the larger cities of Rabat, Marraksh and Casablanca.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: leishmaniasis, rift valley virus, west nile virus.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Others: some henna tattoos contain the chemical para-phenylenediamine (PPD) which may cause allergic reaction.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: hepatitis B, rabies.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

Activities:

  • Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds).

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: Morocco lies in an earthquake zone, so there may be minor earthquakes (the last strong one was in 2004 which hit the port town of Al Hoceima in the north).
  • Rainy season: November to March, potential flash flooding particularly in mountainous areas (e.g. High Atlas Valley area) or areas near rivers.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reports, weather forecasts and sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture; expect aftershocks.

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Driving in Morocco can be hazardous, especially during certain months of the year.

Some points of note:

  • Large traffic numbers when overseas Moroccans return from July to September.
  • Potential flash flooding during rainy season of November to March.
  • Poor driving practices.
  • Poor lighting systems.
  • Roads in rural areas are unpaved.
  • Roads in the mountains are steep, narrow and windy.
  • Buses are usually overcrowded.

As for public transportation:

  • Trains: safe and reliable.
  • Buses: usually overcrowded and may be subject to reckless driving.

 

What to do:

Before going out, check the latest media reports and weather forecast.

When on the road, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Morocco police

Morocco police. Source: riadzany.blogspot.com

 

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

Join the community!

Get protected!

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares