hustling in morocco tips

Find your way out the annoying hustlers in Morocco through psychological testing

[us_message color=”yellow” icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” closing=”1″]Author’s Note: This post was originally published on August 14, 2013 when I first visited Morocco. Hustling in Morocco is really aggressive so I tried a few tricks on how to escape them. Feel free to try them, too! Since this is kind of a repost, some personal situations in this article (i.e. life circumstances, writing style) don’t apply today.[/us_message]

On to my 9th city in Morocco, I finally arrived the hot and touristy Marrakesh! I was tested right away the night I arrived the city. While I was looking like an idiot carrying my big bags, a man in the Medina grabbed me and said, “Konichiwa!” Dude, seriously, you cannot do that in Asia. Francisco comes to the rescue.

You know what, in Asia, it’s very rude to do that to women. Please respect your cultural differences.” I wasn’t offended because I know that he meant well. I think the Moroccans just don’t know how to send their message in an acceptable manner that’s why foreigners always reject them. The man then replied, “bad tourists.” Okay, if you say so.

I have been here for 7 weeks and I can say that I pretty much did a great job in dealing with the hustlers in Morocco. Here in Marrakesh, I’ve seen a lot of foreigners still falling for the trap so I made a decision to share how I do it. Most of the time, I overhear their conversations and man, they are really being ripped off! I can’t believe they don’t fight back.

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About the hustlers in Morocco

They will lure you. Talk to you and start being nice. The Medinas are usually huge and it’s very impossible to know your way there unless you have a very reliable map. As for me, Google maps seem to work properly. They will ask if you need help in finding your way in hostels. At first, you will accept it because it’s considered “help” and you’re new to this city. What do you know? By the time you reached your hostel, they will rip you off. They will ask for money and you will be forced to argue with them. They will be aggressive and sometimes, the language barrier makes you give up. Ending, you will give them money. They win. This is just one of the travel scams in Morocco – there’s so much more!

In some other cases, they will force you to enter their store to look at what they’re selling. Mind you, they’re very pushy so you should be firm. After all, I don’t think you will be buying something if you are backpacking. You don’t need extra load. Take it from me who carries around a huge luggage.

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If you travel to Morocco and a hustler offers help, always remember that you are a traveler and that you do not need assistance. You can find your way, right? I have tried many ways on how to approach these people with respect and without leading to any arguments. Here are the things that work (most of the time).

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1. Citizenship

It’s worse than Thailand and the Philippines — from French to Spanish to German to Dutch to English, the hustlers did their homework. They know every greeting in all these languages and some basic conversation starters. Of course, if you are from the Netherlands and you hear someone speak Dutch to you, you will be very surprised that it encourages you to respond. I did this and it worked! I don’t mean to be a racist or whatever but let them feel what you feel when you’re being mistaken for another citizenship. I don’t really like the idea of labeling a person on where he is from. I am not a fan of this. It’s just my way of responding back.

[us_iconbox icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” iconpos=”left” size=”24px” title=”TIP”]Always throw them a question so the conversation will be diverted to them. With this, they will talk about themselves {less} and totally forget about you. This is the perfect time to carry on wherever you’re going. With this, you won’t end up fighting or having an argument. They won’t call you a “snob” too. You will both end in a good note.

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2. Greeting

This is probably my favorite. I always stunned people with this! Imagine everyday, I get konichiwas and ni haos because people wanted to engage a conversation with me and try to lure me to buy their stuff.

They will stop for a few seconds with their faces like “did she just say salam alaikum?!!” It’s very rare for tourists to adapt to one’s culture specially when you’re only visiting the country for a few days. So you better know some basic greetings in Arabic! After I respond like this, they give me a big smile and let me walk away.

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3. Offering hashish

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, Morocco is known as the prime exporter of hash and these are offered casually on the streets.

His response? “Sorry.”

And then he let us walk away. I don’t mean to use religion in these kinds of stuff but you have to be creative on how to reject them with their offers. However, if you want hash, by all means, take it. I cannot give you an advice on how to deal but I am telling you that it’s illegal to use/purchase/sell this in Morocco even if you see a lot of people smoking it in public.

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4. Further offers

From restaurants to cheap hotels to his cousin’s souk, everyone offers something that you ‘might’ need. There was one instance when I asked for something and the man didn’t have it. He called his cousin and it turns out that he has it. They are somehow connected in odd ways — every one of them. So be careful to make up for things to ask them. Do not underestimate their capacity because they have everything!

I broke the ice for asking for a baby tiger. I first wanted to ask for a donkey but I realized that donkeys are everywhere and it would be easy to access. They would think that you’re serious about this so they will discuss ‘baby tigers’ with you but in the end, they will figure out that you are joking and they will let you go. 🙂 Good, I made friends!

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Well, if it doesn’t work, let’s be serious…

I repeat, never find yourself arguing with them and don’t give in either. We have different cases. Maybe you want some Moroccan carpets or restaurant and if that’s the case, go with the offer. But bear in mind that you have to pay them for taking/guiding you. If you want to be firm with your decision, good. Fight for your right but in a nice way. They will not get physical but you will feel threatened when they start raising their voice and making a scene. Do not provoke them. Best of all, walk away. That won’t make you less of a man, I promise you.

However, I also encountered the good ones…

There was a lot of people offering help without expecting something in return. A lot! The others have overshadowed the hustlers in Morocco but I assure you that you will find people who just want to help. Play it by ear. As for me, I haven’t mastered this yet. I still generalised every person who was offering help. Can you blame me? I have been here for almost 2 months and the experience is always the same. I am very thankful for those who helped me and I apologise to those who wanted to help but I rejected them. This world is not fair!

I hope my wit will help you survive the Medinas of Morocco. If you had the same experience, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.

Comic Cartoon by baylorlariat

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“Often we may even smile or laugh at adversity, but all people share the same passions. They are merely manifest differently according to one’s culture and conditioning.”

Yasuo Kuwahara, Kamikaze: A Japanese Pilot’s Own Spectacular Story of the Famous Suicide Squadrons

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Do you have any tips on how to avoid annoying hustlers in Morocco?

I had so much bad experiences but I’d also want to know your point of view if you visited. How did you deal with it? Leave your thoughts and suggestions on the comment box below!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

Comments

  • August 16, 2013

    Cara mia! You are funny trishaaaa

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  • Gem
    April 2, 2017

    Love this post, Trisha! We haven’t been to Morocco yet but it’s in our list. I’ve watched about these hustlers (but in Egypyt) in Idiot Abroad and Karl was swarmed and he didn’t really know how to brush them off without wasting so much time, loved that episode haha. I’ll make sure to check this guide again when we do get to Morocco or other countries that have hustlers.

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  • April 2, 2017

    I love this. Useful advice and humour, just the way I like to get my information.

    reply
  • April 2, 2017

    This had me laughing along. I have not yet been to Morocco, but I think some of these “tips” will help me out when I do go. Thanks!

    reply
  • April 2, 2017

    Unfortunately, touts and hustlers are all part of the travel experience, especially in some countries where the average wage is low. I’ve found that the best way to avoid being hassled is to simply ignore them. As soon as you engage, even if it’s to say no they won’t leave you alone.

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  • April 2, 2017

    What great tips so you can safely enjoy Morocco. I hired a guide to take me through the medina in Marrakesh so it was a huge help since he swatted the people away. It would be a shame to miss things otherwise!

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  • April 3, 2017

    I always try to keep headphones in and sunglasses on. I pretend I don’t hear people when they try to engage. It saves a lot of time trying to get out of conversations!

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  • April 3, 2017

    hahah, I want a baby tiger! That is clever. I think I might ask for an Elephant! I love the idea of turning the convo back on them. When hustlers ask me for money, I usually turn around and ask them for money and say I need money too! They are so shock, they forget to continue bothering me.

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  • April 3, 2017

    Great tips. I don’t look forward to dealing with the aggression but having a better sense of what the experience is helps. I’ve encountered some of these tactics in malls in America too!

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  • Micki
    April 4, 2017

    Great advice! When I’m in a touristy part of a city, I walk briskly, with my shoulders back and my head up. I think hustlers prey on the weak, so I show with my body language that this not my first rodeo. If someone comes up to me I say no thank you in their language, with a smile, and keep walking. So far I haven’t had any problems, but I also haven’t been through any markets like this. Thanks for sharing!

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  • April 4, 2017

    I generally hate these kinds of experiences when I travel. I never try to act rude to anyone, but I do feel bad sometimes for turning people away. These are some great tips!

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  • April 5, 2017

    Great tips. I wish I read this before I started strolling through the medina in Marrakesh. We got into some argue mental but we learned quickly and figured out how we needed to act. They can be relentless but an awesome experience overall

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  • April 2, 2021

    Absolutely love the blog! You nailed it! It seems that Marrakchi people can speak all the language of the world – well at least greetings. No matter where you are from they will know to say hello – how are you? It is mind blowing. They will look , do anything to make a bug. But it is part of the experience. We recommend venturing beyond the cities and head to the Southern Morocco. People here are more well hearted, friendly and the experience is in some way more real. Again thanks for the great tips and writing.

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P.S. I'm On My Way is a blog by Trisha Velarmino. She didn't
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