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It is everybody's objective to have a relaxing time on holiday, but in Morocco you can expect to be pestered by all manner of people trying to extract money from you. This article sets out some of the scenarios you are likely to come across and gives advice on how to deal with them.
The most basic type of pestering is from street beggars. They are most often sitting on the ground, and sometimes cluster round bank cash machines in eternal hope. Sometimes as you walk by, you might feel a tug on your trousers or dress and there is an elderly beggar wanting money from you. Younger beggars might pounce on you as you get out of a taxi. The best way to deal with beggars at all times is to ignore them resolutely.
The next hazard is people who offer you services you never asked for. For example, at the airport some guy with a uniform will grab your bags from you and load them onto a trolley. Before you know what's happened, he's wheeled them to your taxi, or to the check-in desk. You then have a cough up a payment of as little as possible to get rid of the guy. Another scenario is when you've paid your entrance fee to go into a museum and straightaway there is a "guide" wanting to show you everything. The strategies for dealing with unwanted services vary. Obviously at the airport you don't let some stranger in a uniform take control of your luggage. At the museum the best strategy seems to be to get your guidebook out, consult it and walk off in the opposite direction. In the street, you can avoid false guides "faux guides" by having a map and a compass to hand. If you look like you know where you are going, they won't bother you.
Taxi drivers can also be con artists. If you are going on a tour or excursion, you should book it in advance for an agreed fee to avoid any misunderstanding later. When it comes to short trips around town, the taxis have meters that you can see ticking away. If you want to go somewhere local and the taxi driver insists on quoting a fixed fee at you, beware, this is likely to be a scam. Don't get in, don't argue, just find another taxi with a reputable driver who will charge you the metered fee. Don't be afraid to share a taxi - it can work out cheaper.
In the medina, everybody wants to sell you everything. They see Westerners as a cornucopia of euros, pounds and dollars. As you walk around, shopkeepers and stall-holders will try to entice you into their shop and sell you goods at outrageous prices. Obviously you should do a bit of research beforehand on what's available and make a shopping list of what you might like to take home. The big problem is that practically nothing on sale has a price tag attached to it, so how do you know if you are getting a good deal or not? Ideally you should visit a few shops first to get a feel of the prices. This is easier said than done, since it is quite hard to get out without having bought anything. You just have to say something along the lines of already having a house full of carpets back home, and don't have room anymore, and walk out. Another important measure is to have a strict financial budget for your total purchases over your holiday and to stick by it come what may.
It is reported in the guide books that if your taxi driver or official guide takes you into a shop, and you make a purchase, then later on they will be back to collect a commission from the shop owner. This probably bumps up the price. To avoid this, try to be as independent as possible.
Another problem you are likely to come across is the difficulty in getting a receipt for your purchase, so that you can take it back if there is a problem. Most shops don't have cash registers, and they don't seem to do invoices. You can only do your best. If your purchase is for a sizeable amount, you might be able to pay by credit card, but they will inevitably increase the price by as much as 5% for "bank commissions". However a credit card receipt is better than nothing. If you are buying something to be shipped to you back home, you should make sure that the export paperwork gives full particulars of the item, e.g. exact dimensions in the case of a carpet. If you have your mobile phone or camera with you, take a snap of your new purchase.
Some words of advice for women travelling in Morocco. If you go out on your own, you may face a greater level of pestering than men. If cornered by a shopkeeper, say firmly that you aren't carrying any money, and that you need your husband's permission before buying. Couples should stick together. Do not let your other half wander off. If you are a single woman, think of wearing a cheap wedding ring bought before arriving in Morocco.
Finally at all moments, e.g. when you are relaxing over a mint tea having slogged around the medina, you will encounter people trying to sell you watches, hats, jewellery etc. So be sure to be wearing a watch or hat etc, and just say no when approached. A good tactic to avoid shoe cleaners is not to wear shoes! Wear sandals instead.
In conclusion, you will be hassled in Morocco, no question about it. However, before it ruins your holiday, keep calm, avoid engaging, be polite and respectful, and say no whenever necessary. Best of luck in a wonderful country!