Five Common Tourist Scams in Marrakesh and How to Avoid Those
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
As such Morocco is a safe country and majority of the population is friendly. Still like any other popular destination, scams are common in all touristy spots and unfortunately many innocent tourists fall into these traps unknowingly. But do not let that should not put you off from travelling to this magnificent country. Some awareness of the surrounding and some precautions are all you need.
Here are the 5 common tourist scams we have seen during our trip to Morocco and how we managed them.
Its very common to be approached by a stranger offering to help
1. Friendly Moroccan showing you the way: This is a very common scam in Marrakech and other popular tourist destinations in Morocco where a friendly Moroccan appears out of nowhere and offers to show you the way to your destination or offer to help if you seem lost. If you accept this help you may be asked to pay for it usually ~50 Moroccan Dirhams which is ~5 USD. While wandering around in the narrow lanes of the Marrakesh souk we were approached this way many times- but we ignored by politely saying ‘la, shukraan’ (no thank you) with a big smile! Even after this, some determined souls may continue to follow you- Use la shukran tactic with a bigger smile and keep walking. They will be gone.
How to avoid this scam: To avoid getting lost in the streets or souk of Marrakech always carry a local map and mark the landmarks clearly on the map. Do not always depend on your phone! We used the map of Marrakech and it was very easy to follow the map while going from one attraction to another on foot. While going inside the souk try to remember a few landmarks or spots (such as a particular shop) that you can use as reference while coming out of the souk.
The common scam with snake
2. Picture with Snake and Monkey in Jemaa El-Fna: During day time and till early evening, while walking in and around the big square of Jemaa El-Fna, tourists get approached by snake charmers (non-venomous) and some with monkeys. They approach you and place the snake or the monkey around your neck or shoulder and offer to take a picture for you. On many occasions it is done this almost forcefully and some may even take your camera for this before you can react. The real scam starts from this point- they will ask for 100 to 200 Moroccan Dirhams which is roughly 10-20 USD for the picture and may even refuse to give back the camera unless the money is paid. On some occasions they unleash the monkey for a second time on tourists who are otherwise uncomfortable when in contact with the animal. While we were walking around the square we were approached by a snake charmer who suddenly placed the snake around my neck. As we was aware about this, we just decided to walk away with the snake and that guy had to follow us. Soon the scammer realized that we know how the scam works and he took the snake off me and walked away.
How to avoid this scam: The best possible way is too refuse firmly and taking a few steps back quickly or just walking away. Be aware of your surroundings while walking around the square and try to locate anyone approaching you early as it gives you time to react and step back.
3. Fake tour guides in Marrakech and Berber villages, Atlas Mountains: Fake tour guide approaches you claiming to be an official tour guide from the tourism board. They carry real looking ID cards to convince you of their authenticity. In majority of the cases they offer tours around the tourist attractions for a reasonable sum of money, but then they will take you to a shop and convince you to buy something as this is where they earn their commission. Or they may take you to restaurants claiming that the restaurant serves the best local food. In the Berber village outside Marrakech, these fake guides approach you as soon as you step out of the car and may keep following you so much so that you agree to take the service just to avoid the harassment. We experienced the same when we arrived at the Berber village - we were approached by a number of fake guides. When we refused, a couple of them kept walking ahead of us to the mountain to 'show' the way. It soon reached the point where we clearly told them that we will not pay him even if they come with us to the top. We then turned around and took a little break and sat down in a small shop and ordered a drink which made them finally give up and walk away.
How to avoid the scam: If approached by random tour guides, the chances of them being fake is high and therefore the best way avoid is to firmly refuse them when approached. If the scammer persists, ask them to come with you to the local tourist office so you can verify the authenticity of the service and price to pay for the service. This should deter them. In our opinion if a guide is needed for city tour or day trip out of Marrakech, taking the service from Get Your Guide would ensure a hassle free experience.
4. Pickpockets on the streets and souks of Marrakech: Like many other big touristy cities around the world, Marrakech has its own gang of pickpockets who target tourists onthe crowded streets around Jemaa Le-Fna. Most of these pickpockets work in groups and follow a target - usually someone that has any valuables on display like watch, mobile phone, jewellery etc. In most cases one of them distract the victim and the other one walks away with the valuable even before you realize.
How to avoid this: Always be aware of your surroundings. Try to keep any valuable in the hotel locker (if staying in a reputable hotel) and only carry what is needed. Keep your money/cards in a small pouch or wallet in the front pocket. If carrying a camera bag or back pack, try to keep that in front instead of carrying it on the back. Also investing in an anti-theft bag is always a good option if you like to travel.
5. Overinflated price of souvenirs and other local crafts in shops in Marrakesh souk: Most of the shops in souk selling souvenirs, leather goods, spices and other items put a high price for tourists.
How to avoid this: Avoid asking for prices if you don’t intend to buy it. If you plan to buy something, ask for the price and offer a bit less than what you think is reasonable to give you room to haggle. It is the culture in some parts of the world and can be a good way to interact with the locals. If what you offer is not acceptable, thank them and walk away, you will be called if the seller still has some room for profit – if not, it means he usually sells it for more, so use that as a benchmark for next time!