Marrakesh is a bustling and very active city, especially within the walls of its old city or “medina”. A place that’s constantly in overdrive and full of people who, if you’re not careful, will hustle you out of some money. Many of these common Moroccan scams are easily preventable if you’re simply aware of them.

1. “Market, Square, Tannery?”

children in marrakesh

You won’t be able to walk very far at all without hearing these three words from mostly teenage and young boys. It’s a game they place amongst themselves – who can get more people lost – and they actually count their triumphs at the end of the day. Basically they want to lead you astray in the medina’s maze-like narrow streets and then will demand money once they help you “find” your way back. You need to be confident and at least act like you know where you’re going, and if in doubt, go the opposite direction of little pointing fingers.

2. Bait and Switch

marrakesh spice shop

You walk up to someone to ask them where to find bread, a map, or cigarettes and you’re lead on a wild goose chase around town. You likely won’t end up with what you were looking for and have to pay for an hour of wandering. If you do need directions or are looking for something specific, ask a shopkeeper, since they can’t leave their shop. The only time to leave a shop without directions is if they tell you to wait for a friend who will show you the way.

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3. “For You A Special Price”

tea shop marrakesh

Don’t get me wrong, bargaining is not a scam and is a part of Moroccan culture. That said, you shouldn’t take the first price you’re quoted. In Morocco, you should typically shoot for 1/4 of the quoted price and work your way to mid ground from there. Bargaining is ultimately about building relationships and you can bargain your way to a good price, even if you don’t know the local language.

4. Hash

hashish

Don’t try to buy drugs in Marrakesh. You’ll be offered to do so quite a bit as you walk around (particularly if you’re younger) but most claims aren’t legitimate and even if they were, it’s illegal in Morocco. Undercover policemen have been known to dupe tourists into drug purchases only to arrest them – a sticky situation no traveler wants to be in.

How To Keep From Falling For These Scams

Typically these scams end with you being asked and intimidated into giving money for the “directions” or “help” you’ve been given. Once you know about these scams they’re easy to avoid; firmly say “no” to anyone who wants to show you around and tell kids that latch on to go away. Violence is rare so you don’t have to be scared in Marrakesh, just aware. It also doesn’t matter how familiar you become with the local kids, they’ll still try and lead you astray day after day, take no mind of it.

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Scams on tourists are common around the world and your best defense is to know what they are. Even if you do brush up, it’s possible to get cheated so here’s what to do if you get ripped off and 13 other elaborate travel scams to be aware of. Despite these scams however, Morocco is still a place you should visit even if you’re a bit scared to.

[photos by: Rain Rannu, placid casual, Brett, The Wine Maestro, Morgan200]