Scams in Morocco

Scams in Morocco

Most Moroccans are honest and very helpful. However, the country is a very popular destination and just like every other tourist destination, scamming unwary travelers is quite a common thing. 

You will find warm and friendly people all around the country but if you’re not careful, you can easily fall for a scam. 

In this post, we will share the most common scams in Morocco and tips on how to avoid them. 

Henna Tattoos 

In Marrakech’s main square, Djemaa el Fna, you will encounter women who will try to put Henna ink on your hand without you realizing it and then offer to make up for their error by giving you a full henna hand tattoo. The outcome and quality will be of poor quality. They will ask you to pay 100MAD (10 euros) for the few minutes it took them. 

Most of these women use black henna instead of the real one. It’s an ink that turns your skin black instead of brown, and it’s extremely harmful. It contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a hair dye. When it’s applied to your skin, it may look like a real tattoo, but allergic reactions can cause blisters and open wounds. 

If a woman spills some ink on your hand, you should immediately wipe it off and walk away. Even if she is super insistent, do not accept her offer. The best way to get a safe, fairly-priced henna tattoo is to ask your hotel staff what the most reputable place to go to is. 

Overpriced Taxis 

Taxi drivers, like anywhere else, can be aggressive frauds! It is against the law in Morocco not to use the meter but most taxi drivers will say that it’s broken. When you say that you will tell the police most often the meter will magically work again. Another scam tactic is taking the longest road or claim not to have change. 

The tannery scam 

Morocco is famous for its leather tanneries. The ones located in Fez and Marrakech are the most popular. When you walk into the area of these tanneries you will be approached by overly friendly “guides”. They assure you that if you visit the tanneries by walking through the main entrance, you will have to pay a super high price. They then guide you through a different entrance where they assure you that you don’t have to pay for a ticket. 

Once you are in the tanneries, they start asking for money, and usually much more than what you would have paid if you had bought the ticket. Some travelers reported being aggressively pressured into paying for an overly charged “exclusive tour” of the tanneries.

If you want a tour of the tanneries, it’s better to go through the main entrance. Agree on a price beforehand and insist that you will not pay more. It’s always better to ask your hotel staff for a professional tour guide. 

Pickpockets 

Something you should be aware of in the more touristy cities of Morocco is pickpocketing. Unwary tourists can get their most precious valuables stolen (wallets, passports, phones) while they are walking around in the crowds. Keep an eye on your belongings! 

Fake Guides 

Many professional, government-licensed guides can provide tours of the medina. But you are likely to be approached by strangers who may ask you where you are going. If you tell them, they will try to lead you to the place, but unfortunately, they are not just being friendly and helpful. They will ask you to pay a fee, sometimes as much as 20 euros for a five-minute walk. 

In the medina of Marrakech or other cities, you may also be approached by someone who tells you that there is a special festival going on and that they will lead you there. There is no festival!! They will lead you to the tannery or a shop where they will get paid commission to bring you. 

Fake items for sale 

Popular items sold at the markets, such as Argan oil, carpets, saffron, fossils, and designer products will usually be fake and overpriced. 
For example, sellers might claim that a carpet is over 100 years old or that it came from a Berber tribe in the mountains and then ask a ridiculous price for it. If you pay what they ask, you will be scammed at a hugely inflated price. 

Argan Oil sold at roadside stands, and outside of shops is unlikely to be real. Unfortunately, extreme poverty in the Moroccan countryside has driven people to such desperate measures. But even in medinas, be wary. Some shops have a machine that presses the oil from argan nuts in front of you. If they fill a bottle this way, it’s safe, but the other, sealed bottles in the store might be fake. In general, it’s best to buy argan products from cooperatives, groups of primary producers who share the costs of processing and selling argan nuts. 

Charges for Photos 

This scam is particular to Marrakech in the Djemaa el Fna square. You will see a lot of guys with animals like monkeys and cobras, all waiting for curious onlookers to take photos. When you walk by, they will place the animal on you and invite you to take a photo. They may even steal your camera from you to photograph you with the animal. They then will ask you for a large amount of money (around 100 MAD or 10 euros). If you offer less than what they want they will toss the money back at you and start yelling at you to pay more. 

If you like to take photos, pay only what you believe to be a reasonable price and then walk away.

Surprise charges for meals 

Restaurants may scam you in a variety of ways, and this specific scam can cost you a lot of money. One method is that when you enter the restaurant, you are given the meal menu, which is inexpensive and attractive. 

When it comes to paying the bill, you will be given another menu with excessive charges, and your bill will contain items that you did not even want. In some restaurants, they will tell you that water and bread are complimentary and will be served to you, but in reality, you will be charged for them. 

If you request an explanation, they will send you a separate menu with higher costs. It’s pointless to argue with them since you will never see the initial menu with lower pricing again. 

If you are a victim of this scam, simply pay what you believe to the initial payment and walk away. The authorities are aware of this sort of scam, therefore they will never file a case against you if you simply walk away without paying their “tourist” fees. 

Hashish 

A hashish dealer will sell you an amount of the drug and even smoke a part of it with you. Once you are high, a policeman (who works together with the dealer) will shop up and demand that you will have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to cover up the crime. If you don’t pay you could end up in a Moroccan jail. 

While I was walking, I was approached by many hashish dealers. I simply ignored them and continued walking. 

Tips

1. Be prepared! Do some research before you go, read up on common scams. 

2. If you ever find yourself in trouble and need to contact the police, dial 19 in major cities. If you are calling from outside the city, dial 177.

3. Don’t trust everyone! Not everyone has good intentions. 

4. Have good travel insurance. 

5. Count your change very carefully. 

6. Be careful with unofficial tour guides. 

7. Buy a SIM card upon your arrival at the airport and don’t leave the airport until it’s activated.  

8. Get comfortable saying NO! 

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