Planning your first trip to Morocco? Been scammed in the past? Then you’ve come to the right blog post! No traveler ever wants to admit that they’ve been scammed. From beginner to advanced traveler, we have all been or will be in a position where we might be scammed. It’s the unfortunate reality of our world. However, it’s not something to fear. You can avoid being scammed on your first trip to Morocco (or any destination) if you travel smart and trust your gut!
I’ll admit it, I was scammed on my first trip to Morocco in 2017. I was in college and was traveling with a group of seven friends to the city of Fez for spring break. We wanted to have a care-free, adventurous trip which meant we didn’t make any advance travel plans except for booking our flights and Airbnb. You can use my Airbnb link to get $55 off your first Airbnb experience!
Five of my friends arrived in Fez in the early evening and agreed to wait for us at our Airbnb. After researching different accommodation options for a large group, I booked this riad near the center of the medina. What I didn’t know was that cars were not allowed to drive here. My friends took a taxi and realized this the hard way. The taxi drove them as close as he could, leaving them stranded on the outside of the medina with no cell service and no way to find our accommodation.
At the same time, my friend and I were on the next plane from Milan to Fez. We landed in Fez an hour before midnight and connected to wifi at the airport to check on our friends. We received the following message, “Tell your taxi driver to call this number when you arrive, and meet the man wearing the baseball cap outside the medina.”
My friend and I looked at each other in disbelief as we read the message again. It didn’t sound like something our well-traveled friend would say, let alone even suggest. We messaged her back and didn’t receive any further information.
It was getting later so we decided we had no choice but to trust our friend’s message. We hailed a taxi, asked him to call the number we were given, and off we went. I’ll never forget that drive: Moroccan music blasting, speeding down an empty highway, and trying to ignore the growing pit in my stomach.
We soon arrived outside the medina. Our taxi pulled up next to another dark car and, lo and behold, out came a Moroccan man wearing a baseball cap just like my friend said. We were about to get kidnapped or see our friends very soon, maybe both.
He smiled and welcomed us to Morocco. He told us to follow him and that he would bring us to our friends. Everything that I’ve ever learning about traveling was telling me not to follow him, but I had no cell service, no wifi, and no connection to our friends. We followed him and walked down alleyway after alleyway until finally arriving at our destination. He stopped and said, “Here’s your friends!”
I was shocked to see my five friends sitting in a restaurant, munching on local Moroccan food at midnight and cheering at our arrival. They apologized for leaving us hanging and not having phone service. A plate of food arrived in front of me. I couldn’t believe we met the man in the baseball cap and were sitting in front of our friends in Morocco.
After eating, the man guided us to our Airbnb as promised. We expected him to charge us money for meeting us. To our surprise, he didn’t and instead offered to give us a tour of Fez the following day. As I said, we didn’t have plans so we said yes.
The next day, he arrived at our door and we began our tour of Fez. It started out like any tour: we walked downtown and explored the local sites. We were enjoying our unexpected adventure, until he started bringing us to shops. At the first shop, it was fun. We got to see the process of rugs being made by hand and then were offered a “special discount” if we bought them. Next, we went to a tannery and then were offered another “special discount” if we bought leather goods. For the next few hours, we would see a site, and then visit a shop, see a site, and visit a shop.
By the afternoon, we understood that we had been scammed into taking a “shopping tour” of Fez, Morocco. We were tired of being shipped from store to store and wanted to leave. Sensing our frustration, he ditched the shops and brought us to tourist sites outside the medina (which were beautiful). As the day turned into night, we were ready to go back to our riad. We arrived at our Airbnb only to find two of his male friends waiting at the door. He told us the price of the tour, which wasn’t anymore than a normal tour would’ve been. However, the thought of paying for a day of shopping irked me, plus I didn’t like that three men were waiting outside our Airbnb to make sure we paid up.
We paid and locked the door behind us, relieved to be free and at peace. We all looked at each other, understood our mistake, and burst into laughter. We had been duped, but we had seen some beautiful places in Fez and had some crazy stories to tell. We made mistakes that could’ve cost us our safety, but we knew how to avoid being scammed in Morocco next time and became closer friends because of it.
Don’t make the same mistakes we did and avoid getting scammed in Morocco by doing the following:
- When researching accommodations, read the host’s notes on how to arrive to your location. If you’re not sure, message them in advance.
- Try your best not to arrive in an unfamiliar city after dark.
- Pay for phone service in advance or buy a local SIM card.
- Trust your gut, it knows best.
- Don’t tell a stranger the address of your AirBnb or lead him to your entrance.
- Ask for tour prices and destinations in advance.
- Stay safe, make the best out of the situation, and learn for next time!
For more travel stories and advice, check out my Ukraine Fulbright travel reflections and details about my Ukraine ebook!