I am a solo female traveller so let’s set a few things straight first: after having travelled to 4 different cities, I can truly say that Morocco is one of the friendliest and most hospitable nations I’ve travelled in! Moroccans are a traditional, respectful and good-humoured bunch! I have never felt unsafe, harassed or worse!
So what about all those horror stories of being constantly ripped-off or hassled? There’s indeed no denying that there are a fair amount of hustlers, conmen and touts in Morocco, but like it or not, you will somehow have to find a way to deal with it.
You cannot change their way, but what you CAN change is your own attitude! During my trip to Marrakech, Morocco’s nr 1 tourist destination, I came up with a few tips on how to deal with scams in Marrakech or any other Moroccan city.
Would you like to be greeted with a grumpy or nasty look when you’re trying to do your job? No? Well, neither do the shop keepers or restaurant touts who are just trying to make a bit of money. Yes, it is annoying being stopped every 5 seconds to “just have a look, my friend”, but with a bit of banter, you can actually turn it into a rather pleasant encounter. Put on your biggest smile, say thank you and make a good-humoured comment. You’re likely to get a smile back and they’ll move on to the next customer! It’s much more pleasant than putting on a grumpy face and get a nasty comment back, no?
2/ Be confident!
It doesn’t matter if you have no clue where you are. Just pretend this is your daily walk home. “Yes, you’ve been to Morocco before and yes, you know perfectly well where you’re going, thank you” Hesitation means you’re prone to hustlers, who will be very happy to show you the way… in exchange for money! Even if the maze of streets seems like a true labyrinth, you’ll eventually turn up at some square, which will allow you to find your bearings. If not, ask at a local food stall, these people can’t leave their shop and will therefore not follow you.
3/ Be weary of people approaching you!
Moroccan cities can be a real labyrinth. You know that, but so do Moroccans. Inside the medina (old town) you’ll be approached by “friendly”, mainly young, men willing to show you the way to your hostel, the tanneries, the bus station …
Some of them are pretty inventive:
- While you are taking a picture they’ll tell you about a viewpoint that is even better, where they will happily lead you to… in exchange for money.
- They tell you they just want to practise English. They start giving you information about the city/culture/… in exchange for money.
- They tell you about a special Berber market, only on today. Funny enough they tell you the story 31 days a month and the Berber market always seems to be located inside a carpet shop.
Be firm, but friendly, and they usually go away. Only once in Tangier did I have to threaten to go to the nearby tourist police because somebody couldn’t take no for an answer.
4/ Walk around the souks early morning
The best way to avoid hassle in the main souks is to go when shop keepers are still busy setting up their stalls. It’s a quiet time where you get to see a slice of real life: shop keepers take their first tea of the day, have breakfast together and are basically too busy to approach you.
5/ Go the local souks and the artisan area.
The medina is more than souks full of trinkets, lamps and carpets. Local people do their shopping here as well. Walk around in those areas and nobody will even catch a glimpse at you! They do not need tourists here to make money, they live from local commerce. In Tetouan, I drank an avocado juice on a rickety chair in the middle of the street while observing local life and wasn’t hassled once!
So, will you be scam-free after those tips? No, but it’ll make your stay a lot more bearable, not to mention cheaper! Don’t let these touts stop you from going to this truly beautiful and interesting country that is Morocco!
Have you been to Morocco? What tips would you add to avoid scams in Marrakech?