Besides its beauty and uniqueness, Marrakech is the type of destination that you have to keep your guard up at all times and well informed before hand. There are a lot of scams around you that is sometimes hard to tell until you experience it yourself. My friends who have been to Morocco either despise it or love it. Too bad that bad experiences caused of scams get many people to pass bad judgement on an amazing country and people. Just remember that the scammers are doing these because they are trying to live by in very poor conditions.
I have to say, at the end of the day it is about expectation management. Research and read what to expect in a new place you go. Even myself, I learnt and read a lot of articles about scam Morocco, and I almost fell into some. So, I thought it might be handy to share for you who are going or still dreaming to go. Note: It is definitely not a reason for you not to go and explore Marrakech or Morocco in general. Do your research before, know what to look out for, and you will be fine.
Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a couple of coins. However they might leave you feel ashamed and mad. Sellers or scammers are aggressive: true, but not all Moroccans are like that. It is absolutely not part of their culture!
Ok, so basically, every scams that I had read are a real thing! It’s either happened to us or to other tourists around me. Here are the most common ones. I hope this list does not scare you but instead make you travel easier.
1. Taxi drivers
Once we exit the airport, we had to search for where the bus was at. I was a little bit reluctant to ride a bus, because of the scams fear etc. However, it’s the taxi which could get you into scams. All the taxis will call you out, insist to go with their taxi and if they figure you look for the bus, they will say that the taxi price is the same with bus, which is not. Price should be not more than 50 dirham but they surely will ask for around 100-200 dirham. If you travel by yourself and want some extra security and guard, you better make the arrangement with your stay for airport pick up.
At the end of our journey, we did not have any other choice then to reserve a taxi (arranged by our hostel). Our flight was at 6.55 am so we had to leave our stay at 4 am. The night before we agreed with the hostel that the cost would be 15 euro (which we calculated to be 170 dirham but the hostel calculated to be 150 dirham). And to be honest, 180 dirham was our last cash.
At 4 am a taxi driver, who looks very nice and sincere, picked us up. Damar, with his initiative make sure that 150 is the price we had to pay. You know, just to get agreement beforehand. You know what he said????? He pointed the watch and said no, 200 dirham!!! But because our cash is literally limited, we said that we don’t have the money. I said we only had 180 dirham. He nodded and agreed.
Once we arrive, Damar only gave the 170 dirham because he could not find the 10 in his pocket. The man said, it’s okay. Well there you go! It was happy ending for us, but can you imagine if Damar did not ask, we would be surprised and did not know what to do. Although in our case, nothing much we could do because we literally had none.
Tips: Always make sure and make agreement in the beginning. Also, taxi price will never be the same with bus, that is for sure. However, I think it is different if you already know and you decide to do it anyway. It means you agree to pay more and I would suggest to agree with the price in the beginning!! Also bring GPS with you to check where this taxi driver brings you. It’s worth paying more credit.
Bus in the airport
The bus is operated by a Spanish company, Alsa. The Airport Bus service is no. 19 transferring from the Marrakech Menara airport to the medina (ancient city) and Gueliz (new city) of Marrakech. Bus number 19 is definitely the least expensive method of airport transfer. Price is 30 dirham one way and 50 dirham return ticket at time of initial purchase. It comes every 3o minute.
Good to know is, the approximate time from airport to centre is 20 mins.
Where to wait
It is definitely not in a quick glance. You have go towards packing lot and you will see big sign of BUS 19 there. You will not be the only waiting for the bus. If you do, not so long after you there will be people coming and waiting under that sign.
2. Helpful local
There are several things in this category, but the most common one is someone tries to help you getting a direction. Out of politeness and a stranger in a place, you tend to be polite and oblivious. They will come towards you, be friendly, ask you where you are from etc. And then they will offer to guide you and ask for a service fee at the end. What almost happened to us was someone tried to mislead us by showing another turn. I almost fell into it, but Damar was confident with the direction from our hostel and generally his sense of direction is much better than me. So I followed.
Apparently after arriving to the hostel, the keeper told us to be careful with someone who pretend to want to show the way. Which was exactly what happened to us. The guy who tried to detour us would have showed up in our confusion and offer to find a way. He would take you to the “labyrinth” and made a complex route. It could be quadrupled longer than it should have been. At the end, they made you think that it’s impossible to find the place without their help. That is when they ask for money.
Tips: Walk around confidently (even if you are lost) and use GPS. They will still try and follow you. Our hostel keeper said the best way to avoid it is to just keep walking. Even saying ‘La, Syukron (no, thank you)’ will make them think they have chances and follow you even more. If you just smile and keep walking, after 5 meter, they will know you really are not interested.
3. Henna lady
I did not experience myself until the last day. Around Jemaa El-Fna there are a lot of Henna ladies. Some just sit and quietly offer, but some are really aggressive. I must say they get more aggressive and walk towards you at night. On our last night while walking in the middle of food stalls, the lady came over and offered henna. I said no, and she asked if i’d be interested tomorrow, well just to get away with it, I said sure. Then he took my hand and almost started drawing (to show what she can do) until I pulled my hand away quite roughly. I am sure she’d ask for money if that had happened.
Tips: If you are not interested, don’t come near it and do not take pictures. If you want to take the risk (fake henna, terrible drawing) be very clear with drawing you want and agree on price. If they happen to come towards you and ask, smile, say firm no and walk away. I’d suggest not to do in the square, if you really want it, go to Henna cafe not so far from the square.
4. Pictures (Snake, monkey)
When walking around Jemaa El-Fna square, there will be a lot of monkey handlers, cobra snakes performers etc. They will walk to you, put the animals around you and once you take pictures, they will ask money from you. Even you just enjoy from afar and take pictures, when they find out, they will force you to pay.
Tips: Do not go near it. Or if you want to take pictures, bargain the price first and agree before hand (10-20 dirham would make sense).
5. Restaurant or food stall
You go to the restaurant, check the menu and order. When it comes to pay the bill, the result is way more than what you ordered. The waitress would say you must read the menu wrong and showed different menu than you saw earlier.
Also, in the food stalls, if you receive food you don’t order. Never think it’s a complimentary food. They will add up at the end. This happened to us but I was conscious enough not to eat anything other than what I ordered.
Tips: Make a picture of every menu before you order so that if this happens you can show them the picture with the old prices.
6. Store visit / Tea offer
Usually in the rugs souk/market, the owners will invite you to sit down and have some tea. If you at the end refuse to buy anything, they’ll get angry and will ask you you pay for your tea. Usually it ends up with you buying something from their shop which you do not really want.
Tips: Avoid buying things in Jemaa El-Fna or buy with locals you know. If you are really interested with something, take picture (secretly) and ask your hostel keeper or local friend to price. You can use it as a base to bargain, if the sellers act like they get offended, don’t feel sorry, then they will realise that you know the price. If they invite for tea, just refuse it in the first place.
Public toilet is free! There are scammers who appear at the entrance and demand a small fee.
Tips: Just pay with any coins you have and leave.
Emergency number to call
- Police: 190 or 112
- Police outside the city: 177
- Ambulance: 150
- Fire brigade: 15
Ignore the scams and enjoy the beauty of Marrakesh.
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