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Scams In Marrakech – What Not To Do & Things To Avoid

Marrakech souks with multiple souvenir stalls and title text overlay

Marrakech is a beautiful, historical, vibrant city of Morocco. Like any other popular tourist city, it has its fair share of scam activities to look out for. If you’d like your trip to be smooth sailing, keep in mind these possible scams in Marrakech!

Before we arrived in Marrakech, I’m embarrassed to admit we had done the bare minimum of research. Although just one of the many things to know about Marrakech before you go, the scams and sales tactics are probably the most crucial to ensure you enjoy your visit and don’t come home with empty pockets!

Most travellers we spoke to fell for these traps on day one of their trip to Marrakech, so while it’s always important to keep your wits about you for potential money-making scams in Marrakech, just after you arrive is likely going to be when you’re particularly vulnerable. Keep an eye out for these scams in Marrakech, and don’t flitter away your money!

Views over Marrakech from rooftop

Taxi Prices

One of the first things you’ll probably do when you arrive in Marrakech is get a taxi to the medina or to your accommodation. Hopping in one of the many yellow taxis seems like the simplest, easiest options, right? Wrong. You could be charged an arm and a leg for a short 15 minute ride in a prehistoric vehicle.

We paid an extortionate 200 Moroccan Dirham (£16) for our taxi ride, and even then had to walk halfway through the narrow streets of the medina to reach our riad. We knew as soon as we jumped in without asking the price we’d made a mistake, and even though when told it was 200dh we exclaimed at the high cost, we were met with argumentative “that is how much it costs!” comments. Oh well. Lesson learned!

Or so we thought. It turns out almost all taxis are planning to make their money from unassuming tourists who don’t know any better. Later in our trip when we headed for a 20 min ride out of town to a cooking class we paid 150dh for one way, after agreeing to 300dh for a return trip (he was nowhere to be found afterwards, though!). This was still much, much higher than we hoped but at this point we couldn’t argue as we were pressed for time to make our class. Our return trip was a happily cheaper price of 50dh, after we’d flagged down a passing taxi driver who turned out to be wonderful!

50dh was a much more reasonable price for this journey, and we felt very lucky to have found an honest driver. There are some tourists, however, who might try to really push the limits. In this situation, a group of girls already familiar with Morocco asked the price to share the taxi, and he told them he would charge 50dh for us, 50dh for them. They scoffed and said how ridiculous that sounded and waved him on. We were a little surprised by this, surely 50dh between 3 people is a fair price?!

I guess when you know the local prices, it might seem far too high – but I do think it’s worth bearing in mind that even if you might feel like a local, you might look and act like a tourist. If I were them, I’d have gladly shared the cab for that price, and the driver correctly pointed out that he still has to make a living, and can’t offer prices that won’t actually help him do that. Good on ya, pal. We were happy to pay!

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech: 

  • Don’t even try to ask to go on the meter, they won’t have one.
  • Negotiate before you commit to the journey, or at least know the price before you strap in.
  • Research an estimated value of the trip (likely based on km travelled).
  • Take alternative transport! A cheap bus for a fraction of the price goes from the medina to the airport, saving you the hassle of haggling for a ride.

 

Snake Charmers

I cannot recommend avoiding snakes in Marrakech enough. We dodged snake charmers like the plague, partly because I’m deathly frightened of the things, and partly because we were very sceptical and fundamentally boycott dodgy-looking animal tourism. Having said that, we heard a rather eventful story from a couple of Brits who were sucked in, and ended up paying what can only be described as a small mortgage for their experience. All for holding a bloody snake.

The tactic of these sellers is to notice those having a peek or pausing to watch and literally shove a snake around your neck. Of course, the second this happens your mate who finds the whole thing hilarious will start to snap pictures of the ordeal. In a blink of an eye, said snake charmer will then be chasing you down for 400dh or more, for just a couple of minutes of stupid “fun” (and some blurry photos, ahh memories).

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech:

  • Don’t even think about approaching the charmers if you’re wanting to avoid snakes in Marrakech.
  • Try not to even look or appear interested and just keep walking.

Note, this scam is also used by people using monkey’s – often chained. The premise is the same: you go near the monkey, you end up holding the monkey, they want money. Just don’t do it guys – don’t encourage this mistreatment of animals!

Snak charmers in Marrakech

Henna Ladies

This is probably the female equivalent of the snake charmer. The henna lady looks rather unassuming sitting in the market with a small stool and a book of designs, but before you know it she’s following you around with an already inked henna needle offering a “present”. Before you know it, you’ll be paying for said present.

We didn’t even mean to end up in this one, we were simply minding our own business walking through Jemaa el-Fnaa (the main square of Marrakech) when a henna lady offers us a present. Having been aware of these scams we kept on walking and said a no thank you, maybe later. But oooh no, she insisted! My little legs were clearly not fast enough as she grabbed my arm and began forcibly inking it with the brown liquid. She was a feisty tough lady I’m telling you! In hindsight, this was absolutely not ok and verging on an assault but at the time all I wanted was to ensure I didn’t lose any money. Luckily, I escaped with only a big ol’ smear down my arm (thankfully scrubbed off in a hammam!).

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech:

  • Like with the snake charmers, just keep walking.
  • Be firm and commit to saying NO.
  • Don’t pause unless you seriously want a henna tattoo from these ladies.
  • If you do want a henna tattoo, consider the Henna Art Cafe or Henna Cafe tucked away in the medina, you’ll find a much friendlier and safer atmosphere!

Tanneries

To the east of the medina is a place that is known for a pungent aroma and particular textile process – the Marrakech tannery. We ventured out to see the Marrakech tanneries for ourselves, but came away without seeing too much as on our way we passed a father and son duo who claimed to have been ripped off by their experience. Around here, some locals are eager to entice visitors to explore and witness the process of producing leather by ushering them through to an out-of-sight area, after paying a rather spectacular fee. Of course, if this activity is high on your to-do list then by all means use those haggling skills to see what deal you can get, and check ’em out! However, for us (a vegetarian and a trying-to-be one) this wasn’t going to be worth the expense.

We’re glad that by this point in our trip we weren’t about to get hassled into paying for something we didn’t want, and came away having at least visited the tanneries area (albeit not seeing much), and with our money still in our pockets.

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech: 

  • Like the previous suggestions, it’s best to just keep on walking when you’re not interested!
  • If visiting the tanneries is something you’d like to pay for, do plenty of research to understand a good price point.
  • Go with a pre-arranged guide who’ll set a fixed price for your visit. The staff at your accommodation will likely be able to help.
  • Don’t necessarily say yes to the first offer, continue to get an idea of other offers and see who you most resonate with as being reasonable for the experience offered.

Walking through Marrakech Tannery in the day

Souk Sellers

The souks of Marrakech are probably the most common place to be pushed into a sale, but also some of the easiest to avoid. We found these instances weren’t so much scammy, but just generally too argumentative and salesy. For example, a small decorative mirror was initially offered at a price of 400dh (a whopping £32!!), but after we kept looking at several other sellers we got offered 120dh (a comfortable £9.50). Had we gone with the first offer, we could well have left rather hustled for a chunk of our budgets.

These sellers will almost always ask you “what’s your lowest offer?”. This might be a way to gauge your expectations, and for them to know how much of a sucker you’ll be. A sensible answer here might be met with faux-shock from the seller, but they’re rather good actors! They’ll happily put on the charm for a sale. Equally, they may well plead with you too. In one example, a small bric-a-brac store owner told us of how poor he is, which while it might pull at the heart-strings, isn’t an enticing sales tactic. For us, it was an alarm bell instead.

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech:

  • Don’t get cornered in a shop, if you head in to take a look, try to stay near the doorway for an easy exit.
  • Go in with a tactic to agree a price you’re comfortable with. We liked the good cop bad cop approach.
  • Do some research by browsing and scouting other prices to understand if you’re getting ripped off.
  • If they’re being pushy, you still have every right to walk away! Do so if you feel uncomfortable.
  • If haggling isn’t for you, find a seller who uses fixed prices.
  • Head further into the souk to find the local areas, you’ll see items that might be less fancy, but they’ll also be cheaper. We were offered tagines for 10dh which were selling for 50dh or more elsewhere!
  • Be mindful of what you’d reasonably expect to pay for a particular item. Is a small trinket really worth £5, or is it more likely to be worth £1? Factor in the quality, size, production, and intricacies of your items.
  • Ask a local for tips. Staff at your riad might be able to offer some advice on how much items generally should cost, but don’t rely on this info as they might have variable opinions themselves.

Marrakech souks with multiple souvenir stalls

Market Dining At Food Stalls In Marrakech

You know that song from Les Miserables, about the con-artist innkeeper Thenardier who charges for literally anything and everything? Eating at the central market stalls feels like that.

You’ll walk past the fruit stalls towards the sit-down dining stalls, ushered and heckled by every menu-holding seller there is. Once there, an inviting piece of bread awaits you, and before long olives and dip orbit the table.

When taking your order, the staff will probably encourage you to order a particular item (in our case, a skewer of vegetables). It’s hard to say no, especially with hungry tummies! Your food will come out, alongside yet more accompanying dishes such as salads. Don’t be fooled by all this generosity, you’ll be charged for every single dish. As we so annoyingly found out.

The group of lads next to us seemed to be inundated with food, and with their latest batch arriving they promptly handed back a pile of untouched dishes. The waiter didn’t make a fuss, but we were quick to ask them if that’s how it worked. They recommended we literally hold up plates to the waiter if we didn’t want it, which we proceeded to do. However, we learned this slightly too late as we realised we had about 5 dishes each… The fear of the damage to our budgets left a bitter taste in our cous cous filled mouths.

We ended up paying 220dh for our two meals. That’s £18, which might not seem all that much for  a meal for 2 – but given the quality and quantity and the fact we were in a budget-friendly destination, we felt more than  a tad robbed. We fairly paid, of course, but learned a valuable lesson. Don’t mindlessly eat the food served!

How to avoid this scam in Marrakech:

  • Pick a stall and stick to it. Don’t faff about choosing the best one, they’re likely very similar and the more debating you do the easier target you are.
  • Choose specific items from the menu and don’t even mention anything else.
  • If it’s in a separate bowl, you’ll be charged separately. That means couscous comes on its own, and the veg to accompany it.
  • If it’s not what you ordered, say something to the staff.
  • Don’t be afraid to send food back.
  • Unless you’ve ordered it, don’t eat it. You’ll be charged for everything!

Sunset over food stalls in Marrakech

What To Do If I Get Scammed In Marrakech

Unfortunately, it happens. Even the best of us can get scammed in Marrakech. The first thing to do is consider if it’s your mistake or theirs – these scams aren’t exactly illegal, but instead rely on the ignorance and mistakes of tourists. Take these steps to help a situation where you feel like you’ve experienced a scam in Marrakech:

  • Contact the police. If you’ve lost a significant amount of money, or are uncomfortable with a situation, the police station is clearly marked in Jemaa el-Fnaa. Head there and you’ll be able to report the incident, and with any luck get your money back. You’d be amazed how sheepish the real con-artists get when the uniforms are out!

 

  • Move on. If you fear you’re the one who’s made a mistake, it’s probably best to move on and make a note of the person or stall so you know to avoid it next time. Don’t cause more trouble for yourself and companions if there’s nothing that can be done about it.

 

  • Sleep on it. After a bad experience it can be easy to feel like your trip is ruined. But I promise, it’s far from that! It’s likely best to call it a night, head back home, and get a good rest. You’ll absolutely feel better in the morning and see with a little wider perspective it’s not all bad, and could’ve been way worse! If your incident happens in the day, try not to dwell on it and be kind to yourself for the rest of the day. You’ll probably be super on edge and way more cautious, which isn’t a bad thing!

Jemaa el fnaa central square Marrakech at sunset

  • Laugh it off. I know this might be easier said than done, but trust me being able to laugh at yourself will go a long way to feeling better. After all, you’ve got a great story out of it! Put it down to character building, and don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes and these things really do happen to everyone! At the end of the day, if all you’ve lost is money then that’s not so bad, right guys?!

 

  • Alert others. We are a travel community after all! If you think you’ve been scammed in Marrakech, tell other travellers of your mistakes and share your knowledge on how to avoid these situations. Not only will others be grateful for your honesty, it’ll help reduce these incidents for fellow travellers.

 

This list of things to avoid in Marrakech is by no means intended to scare anyone off – it’s such a wonderful place to visit and absolutely deserves your tourism! However, like many places, there are some people out there who just want to make a quick buck. And that’s fine, but don’t let it be your buck they get their hands on. Keeping diligent and savvy about the numerous sales tactics and possible scams in Marrakech is vital to not only saving your cash, but also having a good time!

Although we found ourselves beyond annoyed with ourselves for falling for the odd trap, it could have been much worse. And, we still had such a blast and without those silly mistakes, the trip wouldn’t have been the same. We have something to look back on fondly and can certainly laugh about our ignorance now!

What scams in Marrakech would you suggest avoiding? Have you ever been caught out?

 

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