Before flying to Morocco, I did a lot of research about the do’s and don’ts in this country; and I stumbled about blog posts/articles about the common scams that some tourists experienced here.
Please note that I wrote this post with the only purpose of making other travelers be aware of this and not to discourage anyone to visit places or try things here. There’s more risk of falling in love with Morocco than becoming a victim of a scam in some of the medinas in this country. Being vigilant is always the key.
1. “It’s the last day of the Berbers”
If you’re walking in a street especially in the Medina, there are some young men who speak English very well would tell you to be careful with the cars/bikes passing by or they would tell you where the right direction is for the place you’re looking for. You would think it’s nice of them to do that but be careful. There are just few spots to visit when you’re in the Medina so they can easily pin point where you plan to go.
“You’re going the wrong way. That street is a dead end. The direction to Palace Balais is this way…Let me just show where to turn right because it might be confusing.”
“Thank you but no need. I can find out where it is. I’m using Google Map.”
“I’m not a guide and I don’t need money. I’m just trying to help.”
“Oh okay, that’s so nice. Thank you.”
(And this is where the well orchestrated scam is going to be unfolded…)
“So where are you from?”
“I’m from the Philippines.”
“Welcome to Morocco! Is this your first time here?”
“Yeah, my first time here.”
(After few minutes of walking…)
“So just go straight to this direction and you’ll see the Square, then turn right to this, blah, blah.. But the palace is always open the whole day. If you go to this direction, just 5 minutes of walk, you’ll see the Berbers who came here in the Medina and they all bring their handmade products. It’s actually their last day here and we can’t really tell when they we will visit again. Maybe next month. You should go if you want. Lots of tourists go there and you’ll be able to take some nice photos. You don’t need to pay anything. They’d be happy to see people coming to see them.”
The dumb me believed that crap. “It’s just a short walk anyway. There’s nothing to lose”, I told myself. So off I go starting to walk to that direction, when there’s this innocent looking old man passed by us.
“Oh wait, this guy works there. You can walk with him going there. He’s a good man. He can’t really speak English, so just say Shukran once you get there.”
He then waved to that guy and they greeted each other. The dumb me started walking with this guy and he seems to be nice. He introduced himself and asked where I am from. So I thought it’s 5 min walk but it felt like it’s 15 mins. But anyway, we arrived at this place where they said we can see the Berbers. I can’t see any tourists though. A guy greeted us and handed us mint leaves. He said we can smell it while walking inside since we might not like the smell of the ammonia.
He introduced himself. Explained what the place is all about. He then explained the process of making leathers. He’s a good at it. There’s nothing suspicious so far, I told myself. But.. where are the berbers?
He said he’s a Berber and their organization is under the government where they showcase their products for free. He said there’s no need to buy any products if we don’t want to and it’s okay to just look. “Okay, cool. Looks like I made a good decision going here”, I murmured.
I asked him what’s the name of their organization but he changed the topic of the discussion.
The tour around the place was nice. They showed us their leather products, carpets, spices, and others. I saw one tourist inside (another one who fell to this trap).
After the last tour, he then asked us to pay 200 Dirhams for each.
“Whaaat?! 200DH? All throughout everyone said it’s free! 200DH is too much.”
“It’s not for me. We have to pay all the workers here. You need to pay.”
“No. When you started touring us around here, you never mentioned that we will pay 200Dh.”
“Okay, 200DH for 2 people.”
“No, that is too much.”
“150DH for 2 people.”
“No. You lied to us.”
“120DH for 2 people. Look at all the workers here, they need to get paid.”
“You know what, this is a scam. We’ve been set up to get scammed.”
“100DH, take it or leave it so you can go now.”
“No matter you say, we don’t need to pay you any money. You said we don’t need to pay anything.”
“You’re a bad person. I’ve already lowered it to 100DH. You need to pay.”
Just so we can stop going on and on with this crap. We told him we can only give 20DH. We can’t give above that. This is clearly a scam. He was so mad and keep on telling that we’re bad people for not paying the right amount. He didn’t get the 20DH because he insisted that we give 100DH. But we said no and just left that place immediately; and we can still hear him saying things so loud.
These kind of people can easily spot tourists walking around the medina and they would randomly talk to you, applying the same technique of trying to help about the direction or be careful at walking because a bike might hit you. They will asked you where you’re from and would mention that “it’s the last day of the Berbers, you need to see them, blah blah”. I hear this almost everyday when I was in the medina of Marrakech from different men. They speak very good English though. I was surprised that there are some guys doing this too in Fes. But I haven’t experienced nor hear the “it’s the last of the Berber” thing in Chefchaouen, Tangier and other medinas in Morocco.
So my advice is that if you’re doing a DIY trip going around the Medinas, please rely on the map. Before you go out of your riad and see things, look at the map, remember the direction; and use it when you don’t know which way to go or ask for advice from the staff in the riad. Some random men will try to help but be very careful and you might fall into a scam. You can just nicely say “no, shukran” and walk away. They can be very persistent though and would say they are not guides and you don’t need to pay them, etc. But I’ve had way more people that have helped me all throughout my stay in Morocco without asking for anything.
2. Buying in the souks
The only souks that I felt like the prices are fairly enough are in Chefchaouen and Rabat. Before going to Morocco, I was very looking forward to see the souks that I’ve seen on blogs and Instagram. But I don’t find buying in the souks a pleasant experience – it’s time and energy consuming (mentally). I remember asking for a price of a sunglass in the souk and the vendor said it’s 250Dh. I think that it’s too much, he keeps on lowering the price – from 250, 200, 120, 150, 100. I went to this store that has fixed price items and the same glasses were sold for 50-80Dh.
3. Adding item/s in the bill that you didn’t order
I’ve eaten in different kinds of restaurants and cafes you can find in the medina and I’ve had good experiences in these places. But unfortunately, there are very few places that do this kind of scam. Don’t let this bother you. Just always check your bill before you pay. And if you have a picture of the food you ordered before you ate it, show it to the staff what you exactly ordered.
4. Overprice taxi fare
In my experience, the only bad experience I had with overprice taxi fares were in Marrakech, especially in the medina. I was transferring from one riad to another and since I’m carrying heavy luggage and backpack, I need a 5-10 min cab ride going there. To my surprise, the driver asked me to pay 200Dh!! I told him it’s not too much and he’s telling me stuff in Arabic and I can’t understand him. I’ve only managed to lower it to 100Dh. The staff in the riad told me that it should have just been 15-20Dh.
When I got to ride metered taxis in other cities of Morocco, it was such a relief and most taxis that I got to ride to, the drivers are honest with their meters and always give the exact change.