How to Avoid the Top 8 Moroccan Scams

Man in Morocco with back facing the camera, walking in front of beautiful Moroccan tile

Travelers looking for an adventurous and unique culturally immersive experience can find it in Morocco. Located in North Africa, Morocco offers gorgeous scenery, like red dirt roads winding through its desert landscape and bustling cities teeming with ornate hand-crafted goods and the aroma of fresh spices on every street. Travelers will encounter hospitable locals who are always happy to welcome visitors and share a cup of tea or coffee. 

However, as with most places, there are some risks that travelers in Morocco should be aware of. These include the risk of being scammed by locals. In this post, we’ll tell you about some of the most common Moroccan scams and how to avoid them. Keep these tips in mind when taking a trip to Morocco, and you’ll have a safe and enjoyable time!

Moroccan scam #1: The Direction Giver

Market in Medina in Marrakech morocco. 20 people walking in Market. Sun is setting at dusk. Three tents that sell street food. Moroccan Scams take place here.

When visiting Morocco, especially Marrakesh, you may encounter locals who are insistent on giving you directions. Once they’ve guided you to your destination (whether or not you agree to let them do so), they may demand sums of money from you that weren’t agreed upon. This scam often happens in Marrakeshone of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco. Within Marrakesh, there is a place called The Medina. It is a large market, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and considered the old part of the city. It can be hard to navigate The Medina because Google Maps do not work very well within its walls and there are very few street signs. If you’re like me and have trouble with directions, it can become a stressful situation.

Here’s how the scam works:
The Marrakesh Medina is full of scammers who are looking for lost tourists. When they see someone who looks like a tourist, they’ll often approach them and ask if they need help finding something. If the tourist says yes, the scammer will walk with them to their destination and then demand money – sometimes requesting every bit of cash in their wallet. Even if the tourist doesn’t engage or request any help, they may still walk with them until reaching the destination and then claim that they helped guide them there. Moroccan scammers can be very persistent and like to put their targets in difficult situations.

Here are some tips on what to do when you encounter the “Direction Giver” scam:

  • Never go with someone who asks if they can direct you. If they ask, it is more likely that they will scam you.
  • If you let someone who lives in the area show you around, always be sure to negotiate the rate of pay before walking with them. 20 Dirhams ($0.25USD) is a good amount of money to offer for a short walking trip within the Medina.
  • If you are lost, go into a store and ask the shop owner for help. Shop owners can’t leave their store, which lowers the risk of them being able to scam you.
  • If someone asks you for more money than you want to give them, be strong and say no. They may be persistent and continue to ask for more money – ignore this and confidently walk away.

Moroccan scam #2: The Henna Lady

Moroccan scam displayed. Moroccan Lady drawing henna on an arm in an intricate design.

When I was in Marrakesh with my friend Jon, we were walking around The Medina at night when a woman who drew henna approached us. She asked if we wanted some, and we said no. Even though we said no, she grabbed our arms and hastily drew henna on us. The designs looked like slop. When she was finished, she demanded money from us. We said no and walked away. The lady followed us for about 30 minutes, requesting that we pay. We eventually caved and gave her the equivalent of $20 so that she would leave us alone. In hindsight, we should have given her less money or none at all, but we weren’t thinking clearly when it happened.

Here’s how to handle the Henna Lady Scam if it Happens to You:

  • Real talk: there’s not much that you can do to prepare for this. We researched Moroccan scams in advance and were aware that this could happen and it still hit us like a lightning bolt. The first step is knowing that it can happen.
  • If you are targeted, then stay strong. The henna lady is harmless; she will persist but she won’t hurt you. Walk away from her and eventually, she will leave you alone.
  • If you cave in and pay, be sure to hide all extra money out of the Moroccan lady’s sight. As with the other scams in Morocco, she will demand all that she sees.

Moroccan scam #3: Carpet Shops & Tea

Moroccan scam displayed. Entrance to moroccan carpet shop. Carpets hanging and a cat in doorway.

There are many carpet shops in Morocco. When you walk through the market, the shop owners will invite you in and offer you tea. While you’re drinking their tea, they’ll take out their carpets and show you a bunch. If you don’t want a carpet, they will persistently ask why. And, if you decide to buy one of their carpets, be prepared for them to offer it to you for more than it is worth. Also, be mindful of the fact that you’ll always have to pay for your tea; in Morocco, very little is free-even if you’re led to believe that it is.

Here’s how to handle your experience in a Moroccan Carpet Shop:

  • If you drink a shop owner’s tea, the culturally correct thing to do would be to pay them. 5 Dirhams ($1USD) is an acceptable amount of money to give per cup.
  • If someone tries to sell you a Moroccan carpet, and you don’t want one, confidently say no, thank them for their time, and leave.
  • When you go to buy a carpet, know the market value of the item. Carpet sellers in Morocco typically price their carpets at up to 75% more than what they expect to sell them for. This is especially true in carpet stores. So always try to negotiate and go lower than you think is possible. You won’t offend them—negotiation is a part of their culture.

Moroccan scam #4: The Fake Beggar

Street where moroccan scams take place displayed. Alleyway in Morocco shown. Blue and white homes line the alleyway in Morocco.

As is the case in many other countries, some people will pretend to be poor or suffering from an ailment in order to make money. Sometimes, children will come up to you to ask for money and their parents will hover nearby to ask for more after you donate. This happened to us numerous times throughout our trip and it’s a heartbreaking situation to witness.

Here’s how to handle this scam:

  • You must say no and walk away from all beggars. It’s very likely that they are faking it for money.
  • Do not ever give money to a begging child in Morocco—their parents usually hover nearby and when you pay, they will come to you and demand more money.

Moroccan scam #5: The Photo Opp

Moroccan scam displayed. Snake that is used in Snake charming scam shown. Snake has long black head and is coiled up inside a basket.

People often try to scam other people by asking for money after taking pictures. This usually happens with pictures that look like they are staged, like pictures with snake charmers, magicians, and camels. Be careful if someone asks you to take a picture like this. They might ask for all of the money that they see in your possession once you’re done taking a photo.

Here’s how to handle this scam:

  • The best way to avoid this scam is to not take staged photos.
  • If you want one of these pictures, then negotiate the pay before taking the photo.
  • You should not let people see how much money you have in your wallet when you are paying for a picture. If they know how much money you have, they will ask for more.   

Moroccan scam #6: The Tannery Trap

Moroccan scam in Morocco displayed. Scam inside a Moroccan tannery. Picture displays paints and leathers inside a tannery.

Leather in Morocco is some of the best in the world, and one of the most popular things that tourists do in Morocco is visit a tannery. There are some legitimate Moroccan tanneries, but there are also some tourist traps set up—especially in Marrakech tanneries. There are two ways tourists can end up at a tannery against their will. A local can offer them directions that take them to a tannery, or the tourist might stumble upon a scam tannery. Once at the scam tannery, the scammers will ask for money in order to let the tourist leave. If the tourist doesn’t pay, they won’t be allowed to leave. This becomes a no-win situation for the tourist and they usually end up having to pay a lot of money for a tour of a mediocre tannery.

Here’s how to handle this scam:

  • There are some great tanneries in Morocco, but it can be hard to know which ones are real and which ones are scams. To minimize your chances of being scammed, go with a trusted tour guide, and never walk into one alone.
  • If you find yourself in the middle of a tannery scam, then pay the scammers as little money as possible and leave. A negotiation tip is to always lead with paying them less than what you want. For example: if you want to pay a maximum of 20 Dirhams, start by giving them 5 Dirhams and then slowly increase the amount until you reach 20 Dirhams (the final payment). They will think that they have “won” in this situation—but really, you’re the winner.
  • One golden rule to remember is to never keep more money where people can see it. This makes you a target for scammers, who will want to take all your money. Always hide large sums of money in places that are not visible to thieves.

Moroccan scam #7: Restaurants with Hidden Prices

Local moroccan restaurant shown to display a place where Moroccan scams take place. There are three columns with intricate moroccan designs displayed. There are two tables and chairs with blue and orange moroccan cloth.

Some Moroccan restaurants add hidden costs to your final check. This can include items like food you were told were complimentary or things you didn’t eat.

 Here’s how to handle this scam:

  • Always look at your check before you pay it.
  • If a waiter offers something for free, just say no, unless you’re okay with paying for it.
  • If you find a charge on your bill that is not correct, tell your waiter. They will likely remove the charge for you when asked.

Moroccan scam #8: Fake Fossils & Minerals

Moroccan gemstones that can be sold in a moroccan scam displayed in picture. Gemstones are polished and the colors blue, purple, white, orange and green.

Morocco is known for having authentic fossils and minerals for sale. However, a lot of the products sold in the souks are fake. Sometimes, tourists will pay a high cost for something that isn’t real.

Here’s how to handle this scam:

  • Make sure you know how to identify a real fossil or gemstone before you purchase one.
  • Before purchasing a gemstone or fossil, do the research to find out what the market value is. This includes researching online, asking locals, and looking at the cost of similar products in multiple shops.

 

How about common scams in Morocco and learn how to avoid them.

23 thoughts on “How to Avoid the Top 8 Moroccan Scams”

  1. This is such a helpful post… full of valuable tips. We’ve been to Tangier for a day and found it quite intense. We are also supposed to be travelling through Morocco long-term when the borders re-open. I will be saving this post for then, thanks for sharing.

    1. jagsetter923@gmail.com

      Glad it was helpful! Morocco is really awesome. Hope you have a good trip when you go! I plan to go back too.

  2. I was in Morocco last year and experienced some of them on my own. One time some children told us the street ahead of us is a dead end and they’ll show us the way. Of course it wasn’t a dead end 😀

    1. jagsetter923@gmail.com

      haha yeah, stuff like that happened to us there too! We had a great time but stuff like that happened a lot.

  3. I feel like you had a terrible experience in Morocco and I’m so sorry to hear that! We have been “stuck” in Morocco for 4 months because of Covid-19 and the closed borders and we have met some really wonderful people and we’ve experienced very few of these “scams”.

    I think a lot depends on where you go. We’ve been in Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca, and Tetouan. In Marrakesh we did have a lot of people try to direct us, but we just didn’t listen and most people left us alone with a pretty firm “no thank you”. It is true though that if someone that you don’t know walks up to you on the street and says they will guide you for free, they will likely ask you for a tip at the end.

    People will absolutely walk up to you and ask you for money here- but part of the culture for Moroccans is charity so it’s a normal thing for people to give them a dirham or two (a dirham is .10 USD).

    In our experience, you have to be on your guard whenever you’re traveling, in any country. We were harassed more by beggars in Spain than we have been in Morocco.

    1. jagsetter923@gmail.com

      We actually had a great experience in Morocco! It’s definitely just a part of the culture, the post is just to inform travelers that have never been in an environment like that of the way that things can go there (specifically in Marrakesh). Morocco’s a really lovely city and I plan on going back. It sounds like you’re having a great experience there – that’s wonderful! We met some really kind locals there, too. And yes, totally agree – travel can always hit you with a scam or something hard if you’re not alert. I never had issues in Spain but I do agree that other places are equally, if not tougher! Thanks for the comment. :
      )

  4. Super helpful tips! I like to scope out popular traps prior to travelling somewhere and I’m glad I read this – I had no idea about the tannery scam – and quite frankly ick haha. I’d love to buy a carpet but I’d have no idea how I would get it home!

  5. These are super helpful tips for first-timers. I would add to the list taxis – I had a situation where the taxi who went round and round the block to finally take us to a shady restaurant with extortionate prices. It wasn’t even the place we’ve asked him to take us. Obviously they were working together. Having said that, I’ve had both great experiences and bad experiences in Marocco.

    1. jagsetter923@gmail.com

      Ah, yeah – good call. We had an issue with a taxi driver in Marrakech. He took us to a guy that he said would walk us to our hotel. He obviously knew the friend because his friend asked us for a large tip which was equivalent to what the taxi driver gave us back for change. So, the driver must have told him how much tip money we had on us. Ah, well! We had really great experiences in Morocco too … but yeah just wanted to list these tips out for first-timers as you said.

  6. I’ve never been to Morocco but it’s definitely a country I would love to visit one day. Thanks for sharing, these tips are great. Always good to be on the lookout.

  7. Thanks for sharing the details – it’s key to be prepared for what could happen. I had an amazing trip to Morocco myself but did run into the henna scam. I had been prepared for the photo ops, direction giver, and the necessary haggling. But having my hand grabbed and henna applied without consent was intense – you described it well as being hit by lightning.

    1. Thanks for sharing your henna experience, it’s good to hear from someone who had the same exact thing happen to them! It was def shocking.

  8. On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Morocco. So good to go prepared with a list of scams to watch out for. I must admit that we have seen most of these scams with local flavours in other countries. We have successfully managed to avoid trips to tailors and rug shops. So hopefully would not get conned into visiting a tannery! A good post to keep as a reminder!

  9. The country I come from, it is not uncommon for the locals to scam tourists and thus, to a great extent, I am always on the lookout for scammers when I am travelling. However, there are some countries which have a higher chance of scammers and Morocco definitely seems like one. This is a fantastic list of things one needs to be aware of before travelling so that it can be avoided. Most of the ways of scamming sound quite ‘usual’ in the sense that they do not surprise me, but the fact that restaurants might end up adding items in your bill which you didn’t even order or consume, is shocking! I’d expect local shop keepers or people in the street to do such things but establishments such as restaurants, wow!

    1. That’s great that you already know what to look for. I grew up in a bit of a bubble so being exposed to scams like this was new to me. Morocco was one of my first trips abroad, so candidly I think that the scams there got to me a little more back then than they would if I re-visited today. Thanks for sharing your comment!

  10. Great tips here to avoid scammers in Morocco! It is scary that the henna-lady just pulled your hand and applied henna. It takes weeks to get rid of henna color. I have heard of scams like this in Barcelona and Madrid too. As tourists, we have to be conscious of our wallets and valuables while walking around busy places and say no to possible scammers. Thanks for an informative blog post. 🙂

    1. Yeah! We were so worried that we’d have disgusting henna blobs (of nothing) on our hands for a few weeks. Luckily, we were able to quickly scrape the henna off with the help of a local. That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of scams like this happening in Madrid and Barcelona and spent two months in Spain…but, you’re not the first person who’s said that!

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