Hello! Excuse me! Good price!

It seems everyone in morocco has been bitten by an entrepreneurial bug. But we guess that’s what happens in a country with low wages and fewer opportunities. Tourism plays a major role in the Moroccan economy and rightly or wrongly this entrepreneurial spirit has over flowed into the tourist sector. We have found it impossible to walk around the medina in Marrakesh without calls of ‘hello’, ‘excuse me’ etc, which are a bit of a nuisance. Every shopkeeper seems desperate to make the next sale and even a glance in their direction is an invitation to flog their wares. After a few days it is possible to tune out the persistant shopkeepers and restaurant staff but it certainly takes a bit of getting used to.

So much choice, so little suitcase space

Unfortunately these eager salesmen aren’t all innocent. In just a few days, we have come across some unscrupulous individuals with scams or money making ploys which we would like to share and hopefully help you avoid:

  • Young men offering to take lost tourists where they need to be (or the man thinks they want to be) – we were victims of this when trying to find our riad on the first evening. We asked for directions in a shop but got lost again and a young man took us to our riad. We offered him 20 Dirham which he refused due to a tear in one corner of the note. He asked for English money, but since we only had coins he didn’t want this either. Eventually our riad owner came out and threatened him with the tourist police before he finally gave up. Or so we thought. We met him again a few times and each time he asked for money but we stood our ground and gave him nothing. To avoid this unpleasant situation we suggest asking women and shopkeepers for directions or arranging transfers to your hotel.

  • Streetfood sellers offering freebies – in many of the large squares there are carts laden with sweet treats or people selling macaroons. Many will offer you a free taste before asking for a ridiculous amount of money in return. One old man asked us for 150dh for two macaroons! We managed to haggle the price down to 30 which was more acceptable to us but still not cheap.

  • Taxi drivers dropping tourists off a distance from their accomodation and getting a friend to show them the way for a fee – not something we have had happen but this seems quite common.

  • Paying money for photos – many of the musicians, snake charmers and monkey handlers in the jamaa el fna watch for tourists taking photographs and will chase you asking for money. It’s not worth it at all, and you have to question the ethics of keeping snakes to dance or monkeys on chains.

  • Tourist prices – it’s worth being aware that every shop seems to have 2 prices for everything, from bottled water to clothing to tagines. In some cases it seems fair that tourists should pay a little more, but when you realise the price is being inflated ten-fold it starts to seem a little unjust. We suggest shopping with the locals and being cheeky when bartering, start as low as 10% of their original price. We strongly recommend shopping around before buying and venturing further into the depths of the medina. We ended up there almost by accident and saw people in workshops acctually making and selling things in one place. This should be a lot cheaper than the tourist souks nearer to the main square and we would be happier paying more when we know the actual craftsman earns it.

That’s all we have come across so far but we are sure we will find more to add. Our best advice would be ‘nothing is free, expect to pay for every service and fix a price you are happy with at the beginning’. Happy bargaining!

Berber Matthias

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