So you’re planning a trip to Marrakech and you can’t wait to see the hustle and bustle of Djemma el Fna. That’s fantastic. I love hanging out in the square because of its vibrant energy from all the tourists and locals interacting in the shops, the stalls, and practically every corner. But there are some common scams that take place in the square and generally can be found in the Medina that can leave tourists with a bad experience in Marrakech.
Today I want to describe to you a major scam that you find ALL. THE. TIME. Faux Guides.
Who are faux guides?
Faux guides are individuals who try to scam unsuspecting tourists in a few ways. Official tour guides will always wear a badge on their clothes that indicates that they are certified national tour guide and are allowed to help tourists. Often you’ll find the official guides when you ask your riad/hotel to hire or recommend one for you. There are some guides now that are online and actively promoting their services.
How do you know someone is a faux guide?
First of all, if you are walking around Djemma el Fna and you are trying to find your hotel, hostel or riad on your own, they will spot you and try to get you to “follow them to bring you to your hotel.” They might take you an extra-long way so it looks as if they brought you a long distance and then they will expect you to give them money for bringing you there. If it was just a couple of dirhams, I’d say that’s not a bad deal but they generally will ask (or demand) 150-200 dirhams just to take you around the block.
The second situation you will find a faux guide is when you’re walking around the Medina and either looking for something or just strolling and people will whisper or shout, “Looking for the Square? Come this way? Want to go to the spice souk? I’ll help you. Are you lost? I can bring you (insert location here).” Now sometimes you will find that people are genuinely kind and want to help you if you are lost. But oftentimes, they just want money.
A third situation in which you will find a faux guide is when someone you meet tells you they know a shop where you can find the best prices for carpets/blankets/ceramics/spices/etc. Unless you know the person recommending the place to you, more often than not this location doesn’t have the “best prices” and the person gets a commission from you spending money there. Also, you can find yourself in this situation when you agree to let a faux guide take you around the Medina and they “just happen” to be near their friends’ shop so why don’t you go in.
A final situation is when someone straight out offers to give you a tour of the city. Any guide that works with tourists needs to be licensed. They will have a very obvious badge that they wear. You can ask for and inspect their badge and if you’re uncertain, let them know you want to check with the police. If they’re legitimate this won’t be a problem. If they’re a faux guide they’ll likely take off.
How Do I Avoid Fake Guides?
Well, here are my suggestions. Don’t walk around with a map of the Medina/Marrakech. You can have it with you to check when you’re indoors as a back-up but if people see you with a city map, you will automatically be a target. It basically makes you look lost…not a good look here.
Second, don’t ask for directions from a group of young boys/men. Young boys/men are most often faux guides. They are usually just hanging out, with not much to do so some try to make some extra cash by hustling tourists who don’t know better. I’ve found asking a woman or girl typically works out better.
Those were the “don’ts” so what are the “dos”?
If you’ve never been to the location where you will be staying, ask your accommodation to arrange a pick up for you from the airport or train station. If you try to be more independent and arrive to Djemma el Fna yourself or are looking for a landmark or tourist location, then seek out a standing police officer to ask for directions. You can also ask café or hotel workers for directions. They will most likely speak some English, French, or Spanish and are less likely to scam you.
There you have it, my tips and tricks to spot a faux guide and how to avoid them! I hope these tips will help you avoid an unwanted encounter with faux guides and let you enjoy Marrakech the way locals and us expats living here do. Have you encountered a faux guide before?
Looking for the other posts in this series on scams to avoid in Marrakech?
How to Avoid the Tannery Scam in Morocco
Tuesday 24th of December 2019
There are faux guides in Fes, more than in Marrakech. I had a very annoying time trying to get to places in fes especially around tanneries. I did know where to go because I had Google maps and a good sense of orientation but they spot you anyway and they will try to bring you to leather shops with the excuse of getting a panoramic view of the tanneries from their terrace. They just try to force you later on to buy jackets or bags even though you tell them you are vegan.
One guy followed me and did not stop to bother me until I decided to follow him because there was no way to get him out of my way and I was a little bit scared. He took me in a riad which he said was a museum for 20 dirhams and then asked for more money. I refused to give him more money although I was alone in a small dodgy street and I run away from him, literally. I can genuinely suggest you to hire an official guide if you are travelling alone in fes or to take into account the faux guides scam.
In Marrakech they wanted to bring me to my riad in the Kasbah area and when I refused they ended up cursing me.
I cannot say Morocco is not safe enough as nothing bad happened to me but if you expect to go for a relaxing holiday this is not the place where you may want to spend your days. Be prepared as I was and know in advance that some 10 euros scam for 14 days ( faux guides, taxis) must be taken into account. Maybe I was lucky but I had just one taxi driver who doubled the fare and I ended up paying 8 euros instead of 4 euros ( I knew it was not the correct fare but there was a sandstorm going on in Marrakech and I did not want to wait or to contract which sounds to me very low) plus the two faux promoters who took me to the leather shop terrace and to a riad. Total amount scam: 80 dirhams. Not that bad if you think that in Rome or Naples tourists get regularly robbed in restaurants and they end up paying 150/200 euros or even more in some cases instead of 50 euros.
25 Tips for your First Trip to Marrakech, Morocco - Casual Travelist
Sunday 30th of June 2019
[…] Scams are an unfortunate part of life in the Medina, often in the form of unsolicited help with directions, telling tourists that the street they are on is closed or “tannery tours” , all of which will then demand a payment for their services. My friend Amanda of Marocmama has excellent advice on various scams in Marrakech. […]
Morocco: Country Spotlight – Companach
Friday 19th of October 2018
[…] Marrakech Scams: Faux Guides – MarcoMama […]
Blogs About Morocco That You Have to Read (in English)
Tuesday 9th of May 2017
[…] the Red City. If you’re planning a trip there, you should defintely read her posts about the faux guides and the other one, about touristy scams in […]
Monday 1st of May 2017
I had to laugh when reading this, because I had never heard of a 'faux guide' until a vendor in the souk called my husband one! I was browsing the shops while my husband attended mosque and when he joined me, I let him negotiate my purchases, because he always gets the better prices. The vendor was SURE he was my paid guide! That was a revelation for me...sometimes I am so naïve and don't even think how anyone else views our relationship. Faux guide lol!
Tuesday 2nd of May 2017
That actually happens quite frequently. I often am out with my husband and the shopkeeper will talk to him as if I'm a client and then I either say "I'm his wife" or start talking in Arabic too. I think they just assume it in mixed relationships. ;)