Marrakech Safety And Avoiding Faux Guide Tourist Scams

Updated on May 12, 2016

Faux Guides And Hustlers Are Popular In Marrakech Medina

Faux Guides In Marrakech aren't easy to spot!
Faux Guides In Marrakech aren't easy to spot! | Source

A Guide To Safety And Avoiding Scams In Marrakech, Morocco

Every year Marrakech lures thousands of tourists from around the world. Some for short weekend breaks due to the relatively short flights from Europe and the Middle East. While some travellers choose to visit Marrakech as part of longer breaks and tours around Morocco's Imperial Cities.

Marrakech and Morocco in general are very different to many European cities. It will seem very imposing initially within the main old walled city (The Medina). There are also a number of Marakshi's around that are looking to exploit tourists for their financial gain. This guide aims to showcase some of their scams and help you stay safe on your Marrakech trip.

Keep Your Valuables Away From Hustlers Eyes

Despite worries for many travellers theft is not a big problem in Morocco.

In the medina's of many of Morocco's major cities (Marrakech, Fez, Tangiers, Casablanca to name a few) there is a history of petty crime- particularly in the form of theft of valuables such as wallets and cameras.

Therefore as a tourist it make sense to be aware of your situation at all times and keep your valuables out of the eyes of potential hustlers and thieves. Money belts are a great way of keeping your cash close at hand. Plus it's recommended to keep a hold opf any bags and cameras.

Ideally you should leave any valuables you don't need locked away in your hotel room.

Faux Guides And Hustlers In Marrakesh

Many Moroccans see Western tourists as gullible prey to make themselves some money. Wages are generally low, particularly in the Souks and Medina area of Marrakech so many Marakshi's are on the lookout to exploit a naïve tourist.

This has led to many Unofficial Faux Guides in Marrakech who wish to prey on tourists although in recent years Moroccan Police have really started to get a hold of the problem and Unofficial Guides face potential jail if caught hustling tourists by the Police.

Most Lucrative Nationalities To A Marrakech Faux Guide

Perceived Wealth
1. Japanese
2. North American
3. Australian
4. British
5. Northern European
6. Southern European
7. Middle Eastern
Adapted from the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco 2008.

Who's At Risk From Unofficial Guides In Marrakech

Upon initial contact an Unofficial Guide in Marrakesh will quickly size-up a tourist based on where they're from and any signs of affluence such as label clothing, watches and any other items (such as expensive digital cameras) they're carrying.

The Lonely Planet Guide To Morocco states that these scam artists tend to consider the most lucrative of nationalities in descending order from the most affluent (shown right)

Be Attentive Around The City

A Faux Guide will often approach in a very friendly manner. Often walking alongside you while starting to engage in conversation. From experience they initially come across as though they're looking for a degree of friendship and will ask initially innocent sounding questions like "How long have you been in Marrakech". These questions are to gain as much information as possible about how new and potentially gullible you are to Marrakech and it's surroundings.

They will ask you where you're from. Often they will have a Cousin/ Auntie/ Uncle/ Friend who lives there. We found that if you tell them that you're from somewhere that isn't a major city it often forces them to say they know someone from a completely different part of the country which often involves a Soccer stadium in the description such as Highbury, the home of Arsenal Football Club in the UK.

They may also tell you they want to improve their English skills and ask for you to talk with them while walking with you. It seems very innocent, however has a very dark side.

The Faux Guide Scam In Marrakech, Morroco

If you continue to engage with the Unofficial Guide while in Marrakech they will often try to direct you away from the direction you're heading. They'll recommend an alternate place to visit or even say they'll show you a better way into the Medina which will help to show you a different side of the city. However they're secretly often planning on taking you away from the usual popular and safer tourist areas and to potentially make some money from you for themselves and other faux guides.

They will state they want no money from you and just wish to learn English or whatever your language however you will find that the guide will often ask you for money when they decide that they've spent enough time with you. This is often quoted as hundreds of Dirham's- even for a relatively short trip.

Once you have served your purpose to them and they decide they've taken you as far as they wish to go they'll give you directions to where you wish to go onwards. Unfortunately some Faux Guides will simply do this to pass you on to another Faux Guide as part of a circuit of scam artists.

The Bright Lights Of Marrakech's Djemaa El Fnaa At Night

The Djemaa El Fnaa is a wonderful place to see a carnival but you need to be attentive
The Djemaa El Fnaa is a wonderful place to see a carnival but you need to be attentive | Source

Tips on how to deal with Unofficial Tourist Guides

These tips will come in handy when you're in the Medina and will potentially prevent or minimise your hassles from faux guides around Marrakech.

  • If asked how long you've been in the city it's positive to say that you've been there a few days and already explored.
  • Set out with a plan on where you wish to go and don't let anyone on the street deviate you from your route
  • Give the impression you know where you're going and the route you need to take.
  • Politely decline any offers of help and refrain from being overly friendly by getting into conversation
  • If being hassled by an unofficial guide stating that you're going to approach the Police (with meaning) will also dissuade them from their continued approach.
  • Get yourself and Official Guide or book yourself onto a tour if you don't feel comfortable in the Medina or feel you wish for a more structured approach.

Consider A Guided Tour Of Marrakech

Marrakech has so many wonders to see. However it's maze of tight Medina streets and endlessly snaking alleyways mean that it's often difficult to find exactly where you're looking for. Many of the Souks aren't particularly well mapped out and therefore a guided tour of the city would be a great consideration.

Atlas and Sahara Tours offer an excellent Guided Tour Of Marrakech- as well as being able to customise trips to the requirments of their customers. All trips are in exceptionally small numbers which puts you in more control of what you see and do. They also offer a range of day trips and longer excursions out into the Atlas Mountains and further beyond into the Sahara Desert all run by fully qualified and insured guides.


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    • profile image

      Sue 15 months ago

      Thanks so much, most informative. Fore warned fore armed. Off to enjoy ourselves now.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 3 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Redouane, this guide was written in a manner to help visitors to Marrakesh- I agree that these predators do not make up a huge part of the people of the area but from our experience foreign visitors should be aware. Marrakesh is an amazing place and thank ylu for commenting.

    • profile image

      REDOUANE 3 years ago

      i don't actually notice some sort of objectivity in your comments so i want to tell you that i'm from marrakech and i live near to jamaa el fna and i know that some people tend to prey on tourists but we don't have to think that the most part of the population of the city they are con artist!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Polly C- not everything is as it seems in Marrakech to western tourists. I was stung a year ago when someone on the djemaa el fnaa draped a snake around my neck and then tried to get me to pay for the 'pleasure'.

      It is an amazing place I would go back to regularly- with caution

      Thanks for your comment


    • Polly C profile image

      Polly C 5 years ago from UK

      I went to Marrakesh back in 1998 and I managed to get lured into the Medina for a tour with my partner. It was quite a long time ago so hard to remember exactly what happened, all I know is we parted with much more money than we intended! Locals in Marrakesh can be experts in extracting money from tourists, my first experience was agreeing to have my photo taken with the water bearers at Djemma El Fna - we had only just arrived and I thought they were just being friendly - until they asked for money.

      Aside from our Medina tour costing rather more than anticipated, it was still one of my favourite experiences because we did see many things we might not have discovered otherwise. I didn't regret it but I would definitely be more wordly-wise if I went back again! It was a bit of a culture shock, but a great trip all the same. We also drove through the Atlas Mountains on a tour in a very old taxi. That was no con - we paid what we agreed at the beginning - and it was an absolutely beautiful experience. Ourika Valley was stunning.