As a tourist, I am typically interacting with a very isolated percentage of the local population: professional staff (the riad owners, the restaurant staff, etc) and scam artists. Love the first, not a fan of the second.
Most of the time, they just try to charge you more. While you can’t get the local price, ask locals you can trust what the price should be and don’t be afriad to negotiate for EVERYTHING!
En route to the desert, we encounter many other types of scams though, and our hotel hosts helped shed some light so we knew what to look out for:
1) Can I get a ride?
Twice, as we were driving at 100 km/h, a person tried to flag us down, almost getting into the path of the car. At the Dades Gorge, a nice gentleman came over to speak to us and needed a ride out of the gorge area to the main road. Our hotel guest explained that this one is common. They try to get a ride from you, then offer to show you a better way to get to your destination in an attempt to try get your 2WD car stuck somewhere. Then they will (conveniently) know someone with a towtruck/4×4 who you can pay to get you out. Frankly, I’m not stopping for anyone unless they are a cop. As an aside, we actually were stopped by a cop at a road checkpoint and we had to ask for directions from another – they were consummate professionals.
2) My car has broken down!
Open hood on the side of the road and being waved down? This is a classic. There are no problems with the car. Just like the first case, this is a “give me a ride scam”.
This example was even more clever – coming from Marrakesh, there was a sign to turn off to Ait Benhadou, but the road didn’t look good. We started down the path, and decided we weren’t going to attempt it in a 2WD. It was a good decision, as it turned out, 2 kms later, there was a good, paved road there. The sign on the dirt road was put in by a local, trying to scam tourists and get their cars stuck.
4) Don’t go that way, silly tourist!
This scam goes something like, “No, not that way, the main square is that way” OR “Yeah, that fish market sucks. But if you are looking for fish, there is a great restaurant over here”. This will always result in needing to tip the person who helped you out. While I am sure that sometimes, I actually DID need the help, if you do feel lost & need directions, I have found that walking into the nearest restaurant, riad, hotel, art gallery or other professional establishment, or talking to a cop is a better bet.
From what I can tell, most Moroccans are nice and friendly. As for the scammers, they don’t seem to want to hurt you or rob you. Instead, they just want to find ways for you to give them some of your money.