Morocco is the most visited country in northern Africa. It’s one of the most diverse places in the world - it basically has everything - beaches in the north, world’s famous Sahara Desert in the south and spectacular Atlas Mountains where you can even find ski resorts. Not too mention the unique architecture in cities such as Chefchaoeun, Fez or Marrakesh. The country has so much to offer, however, from time to time, we can hear some unnerving stories about the safety issues. What is like to visit Morocco? Is Morocco safe?
Is Morocco Safe?
Government websites do warn about some dangers (especially petty crime and terrorism), however, Morocco’s overall profile does not look nearly as bad as the profile of some other countries in the region - such as Egypt and Algeria. So what is Morocco like? Is it safe to visit?
We felt pretty safe during our trip in the country. We traveled from Sahara to the sea (take a look at this post) in a local taxi, we visited the desert and a few cities. Nevertheless, although our trip was completed without any incidents, there were some minor events that made us feel a bit uneasy. In places, you can feel that some areas are dodgy and you must be a bit more careful. it’s quite similar to destinations like Egypt or Thailand - if you’ve traveled there, you’ll be fine in Morocco.
As long as you stay in the tourist areas and go to visit the main places, everything should be OK. Of course, usually it’s way better to leave the beaten path and try to explore the area as much as possible, but in Morocco, this must be done wisely. Don’t go hiking in remote places without a local guide (note the tragic incident where 2 Norwegian girls were beheaded) and before visiting an unknown area, check information.
How to avoid scams in Morocco
Don’t trust strangers trying to show you the way
You will most probably be a victim of some sort of a scam in Morocco. Unfortunately for us, we had a very unpleasant experience right on the first night after arriving in the old medina in Marrakesh. When we got off the taxi and entered the old city walls, we were approached by a very nice and friendly stranger who asked curiously where we were from and offered help to find our guesthouse. It turned out that the hotel was very close, and the walk took less than 5 minutes. But then, when we were just about to enter the building, the self-proclaimed guide demanded that we pay him 50 EUR (!) per person for his service of showing us the way. At first, we thought it was a joke, but then he got really angry and aggressive and stated that if we didn’t pay, a group of his mates will be waiting for us with knives in from on the hotel. We started arguing with him and only gave him some small change. He finally left, totally annoyed and cursing us. When we came out of the hotel the next morning, nobody was there.
Prepare change for shopping and tipping
The maze in the old medina in Marrakesh can be dodgy and intimidating, but it’s not dangerous. We went to the main city square and had a meal in an amazing restaurant. Of course, Moroccan food is so delicious, but then, when it comes to pay (for food or for anything else), in many places, the seller will want to take advantage of you (or at least we felt it this way). I don’t know if we were unlucky, but they never had change to give us back. Sadly, Morocco was probably the only country where we didn't fell like leaving tips - I don't mind doing that when the service is great, however, if you constantly have a feeling that you're being taken advantage of, it makes you so frustrated, that you actually want to only pay what's due.
It happens in groceries and restaurants as well as in some small shops - they hardly ever had change. Also, during our Sahara tour, the wife of the guide aggressively demanded tips from everyone in the amount of 1/3 of the tour. The tour did't even at that time end and we felt this is not fair to force people to leave tips in such a way.
When you negotiate a price, make sure that you firmly agree on the amount before taking the service. It happened to us on one occasion that we arranged a taxi service with the owner of our guesthouse. The driver was so friendly and nice, everything was agreed, and the following day, he suddenly changed his mind and asked us double the price. We had been so tired of being tricked that, to his surprise, we refused, and we found another driver.
Visiting the tanneries
The most famous tannery in Morocco is the one in Fez. You can see for yourself how how the leather is being prepared and dyed. It is quite an experience - it is done all naturally with the use of animal waste and the smell is unbelievably strong. And it's not a pleasant one. The tanneries in Fez are easy to visit, but be prepared that if you don't buy anything, you may be asked to leave and not in a polite way. As we didn't purchase any of the leather products, but we wondered about buying some small souvenirs, the owner came up to us and rudely stated that we have to get something bigger or we should get out of there right now and not waste his time.
In Marrakesh, the story is different, because the tanneries are not for tourists. They are rough and dirty, the way it really is. To get there, you must follow a maze of tiny streets in medina. Be careful of local “guides” who roam around there and want to charge a lot of money - no need for that - you can see it all by yourself and refuse politely but firmly any of the offers. If they follow you, tell them, you will call the police and walk away ignoring them.
I know that the above stories are a bit of a negative side. But it's better to be prepared and then get surprised rather than have great expectations and get disappointed. Let this not discourage you from visiting this amazing country. Morocco is truly beautiful and has so much to offer. Just be prepared of what you can expect. Safe travel!
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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