The salesmen of Marrakech are practicing the art of supply and demand. Expect to pay 1/10-1/5 of the initial offer.
After seeing pictures from Marrakech on Instagram, me and my fiancée were very intrigued and decided to go there. But we hadn’t thought of the many scams we would experience.
Don’t get me wrong. If you stay in a Riad, a traditional and somewhat luxurious Moroccan boutique hotel, you get really lovely and honest service, but the moment you step out on the streets, you’re gonna be a walking wallet that hustlers want to rip apart. Traveling in the third world often means being approached by locals trying to get money out from you in a number of creative ways, but Morocco is different. Although it isn’t really the third world anymore, hustlers are everywhere, they are aggressive and most of them seem to think you are walking around with millions.
Before we list the scams we experienced – here’s an overview over what things should cost in the souks.
100g of Moroccan spice: 10-20 Dirham
Slippers or shoes: 50-100 Dirham
Pastry: 1 dirham per cake / cookie
Yoghurt / smoothie: 5 dirham
A lamp, lantern: 50-70 Dirham
A scarf in cashmere: 150 Dirham
Another scarf: 50 Dirham
Real argan oil with ”eco-sticker” 100 ml: 150 Dirham
A taxi ride within the Medina: 5-10 Dirham, add another 10 Dirham if you or your hotel have called for the driver
A taxi ride to the airport: 70 Dirham, but you could probably pay less if you speak arabic
The salesmen of Marrakech are practicing the art of supply and demand. Expect to pay 1/10-1/5 of their initial offer, unless there already is a ”prix fix”.
Do not tip! We wanted to buy shoes from a nice gentleman but couldn’t find anything that would fit my fiancée’s Cinderella foot. We felt bad for the guy, so I tipped him 10 Dirham (1 USD) for his effort. He then demanded at least 5 dollars. For nothing.
Scam group #1 – People who want to take you to places
”Sorry, square is this way”.
Many youngsters know exactly how to catch the attention of lost tourists who aren’t able to navigate in the small streets of the Medina. Most of them assume you’re going to the big square – Jemma El Fna, so they suggest another way. Best case: they show you to the square by taking a detour to some shops where they get commissions for bringing tourists. Worst case: they take you to a small alley where they ask for a donation. If you don’t pay, some shady dude will appear and make you pay.
”This is closed but another thing is open – only today”
Usually the same type of person approaches you nearby to a tourist attraction, saying it is closed. But he can show you to a market, a tannery, etc. We came across a very trustworthy gentleman next to Bahia Palace, which in fact had just closed. He then wanted to show us to the ”jewish quarter”. ”Only today” it was open for the public. It was more or less on our way, so we let him accompany us. Then he insisted on us going in a small, dark alley, which clearly wasn’t right and that was when we realised he was a fraud. A police officer we talked to later, told us this occurs sometimes and that we would have gotten robbed.
”People come from Atlas Mountain – only today”
This is the ”only today”-scam I love the most. It is totally harmless. But time consuming. Some friendly person who identifies himself as ”Berber” tells you he and his family have ”gone down the mountains” and brought hand-made things and they now are borrowing a shop around the corner. ”Only today! Just look, no buy!” You feel sorry for him, so you tag along. The family is there, but they are there every day. And you feel like an a-hole trying to get out of there not buying anything, so you buy.
”I no guide but I help”
Guides must be registered with the government and if someone wants this how you around, ask for ID. Nobody helps anyone for free in Marrakech.
Scam group #2 – Taxi drivers
Most of your Marrakech money will go to cab drivers. They are obliged to put the meter on, but they never do. Petit Taxis, that is. Grand Taxis do not have a meter. Having to change Riads in Morocco, we asked 10 different drivers we hailed on the street if they wanted to take us 2 kilometers to the new place with our bags. Their offers ranged all the way from 200 Dirham to 50. I insisted on the meter, showing my 10 fingers and not a penny more. After half an hour, a guy agreed on taking us for 15 Dirham. Shared with a local woman. We had nothing against it. It was a lovely ride and she was very nice. But as we got to our destination, the meter said 6 Dirham and the local woman got out and paid 2. He insisted on still getting 15 from me.
Riding to and from the airport is different. Here you will have to haggle down the price from ridiculous amounts like 500 Dirhams to 70. For a 3 kilometer ride, that is. This makes Marrakech more expensive for taxi per kilometer than Oslo, NYC or Zürich.
The female sneak-up ”tattoo artists”
Usually in the hideous square of Jemma El Fna. Some nice women will sneak up from behind, grab your hand and perform a Henna tattoo without asking you first. Then you need to pay. This happened to us but we waved them off last second. In return we were cursed and they wished us bad sex in the future. We recommend to have your hand in your pocket.
The involuntary photo model
You’re taking a photo and a person is very angry because he ended up in the picture. He now wants money, because you will sell that photograph for millions later. Solution? You take more than one shot and show him one picture that you erase if you have your camera strapped around your neck. If not, don’t bring up any valuables.
The baker / fruit dude
We experienced a ”baker” approaching us with coconut donuts. We said we didn’t have money, but he insisted on us tasting these donuts anyhow. ”Taste, only try, no money, don’t worry, be happy”. I tried saying I was gluten intolerant, but he didn’t mind. Once he forced the donuts in our hands, we had to pay him 25 Dirhams per donut. Bakeries sell these for 0,5 Dirham each. We gave one of the donuts back and gave him 5 Dirham just to get rid of him. 20 minutes later, he approached us and had no idea he had just been talking to us.