Before you read this post, I want to make it known that Morocco is full of nice, hospitable, and honest people. Over the course of our trip, we met some incredible locals who really made our visit special. That being said, Morocco has a buzzing tourist industry, and wherever there are large amounts of tourists, scammers seem to follow.
In this article, I discuss four of the most common tourist scams you might face in Morocco, and how to avoid them. By getting familiar with the signs of Moroccan scams, you'll be less likely to fall for them and have a better trip because of it!
Whenever you’re buying something in Morocco, pay close attention to the amount of change you’re handed back. In Marrakech’s Jemaa el Fna, food vendors often tried to rip us off by 10-20 Dirham. They expected us not to recognize or check the value of the coins we were given, in hopes of making a little extra money.
As soon as we confronted them, they all almost instantly handed us the correct amount of change without saying a word. The shop workers knew they’d been caught, and didn't want to start a scene at their booth.
how to avoid this:
- Always check your change and make sure it's the right amount
- Confront the vendor who tried to cheat you
Read more: Cost of Traveling in Morocco
Being ‘shown the way’
90% of the time you ask for directions, it’s likely someone will volunteer to show you the way. They will say things like, “don’t worry, it’s free,” or “it’s on my way.” Before you know it, the guy is rambling off facts and suddenly you feel like you’re on a tour.
After he’s showed you where you wanted to go, he’ll ask (or demand) you pay him for helping you. If you’re lucky, you can get away with firmly declining and walking away. Other times, the man may get angry, follow you, or say you’re not allowed to leave that particular area till you pay.
How to avoid this:
- Buy a Moroccan sim card (30 dh), and a gigabyte or so of data (10 dh per gb) - this allows you to pull up Google Maps and find your own way to places
- Firmly say, "no, thank you," to anyone who tries showing you the way
- Look confident and appear like you know where you're going; even if you don't
- Hire a guide to show you around the city
Remember that if it comes down to losing a few dirhams, or risking your safety, it's better to pay someone a small amount of change. If the man isn't happy with the size of the payment, say it's all you have on you.
Eating food you didn’t order
It seems silly to eat food you didn't order, but an easy trick to fall for if you think you're being given a 'free' side dish. This problem stemming from the fact most restaurants in Morocco actually do give you a few free sides dishes (bread, olives, dipping sauce, etc.), and that in places like the U.S., any additional items which are placed on your table are included in your meal.
So when a restaurant sets bread in front of you, and then adds a few Moroccan dirhams onto your bill at the end, it can be a little surprising.
Why worry about a few dirhams? We didn't for the most part, until we met two guys who ended up getting charged 150 dirhams more than what their meals should've cost. Their waiters continuously brought them 'free' tea and side dishes, only to charge them for it at the end.
How to avoid this:
- Check with your waiter to see if the items he set on the table are free - make sure to use the French or Arabic translation though if he doesn't understand English well
Also note we only ran into this problem in Marrakech. While it may happen in other areas of Morocco, it seems to be a pattern around Jemma el-Fna.
Read more: 6 Unique Things to do in Marrakech
Getting flagged down on the highway
Renting a car and heading out on the road is one of the best ways to see Morocco. It offers complete flexibility, and can lead you to discover places you might've missed otherwise. One thing you got to watch out for though is people trying to flag you down and block the road unless you pay them a fee.
While my friend and I were riding along in an American couple's rental car, a man on a side of the road stepped right into our path and waved his arms wildly. As we slowed down and tried to maneuver around him, he continued to step in front of our car and tell us to 'stop.' He wanted money as if this part of the road was some kind of checkpoint - it wasn't.
Luckily, we managed to get around him and continue on our way without handing over any money. Others though may not be as lucky.
What to do if this happens to you:
- Keep moving and try to speed back up when you see an opportunity - don't come to a complete stop
- Don't roll down your window and try to speak to anyone - this will only make it harder to get out of there
Something to note is that police officers may ask you to stop. This is a different situation and is completely normal. You should stop for them if they motion you to do so.
Read more: Spending the Night in the Sahara Desert
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