Crime and Law in Morocco: How to Stay Safe

Part folklore, part reality, Morocco has a reputation for shysters, scammers and petty thieves. Find out what to avoid, how to abide by the law and stay safe while traveling.

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While fears of being kidnapped by slave traders are the stuff of legend and belong only in storybooks, you do need to exercise some common sense while traveling through Morocco when it comes to personal safety. Be prepared not paranoid. Here's everything you need to know to stay safe.

Muggings in Morocco

The crime is almost exclusively petty and opportunisitic, however there have been instances of travelers being robbed at knifepoint in Morocco's major urban centers; mostly in quiet areas and along beaches at night.

Although the number of tourists injured is minor, it's still advisable to avoid these spots late at night, and don't carry large amounts of cash or valuables on you. Always stick to well lit, busy areas and if you need to get around at night, take a taxi.

Pickpockets & Petty Crime

While most Moroccans are honest and helpful, there will always be others who take advantage of the crowds and small alleys in medinas.

Souks are like magnets for the petty thieves. Pickpocketing and purse-snatching is very common, and visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying large sums of cash. Instead, wear a money belt, use the hotel safe for valuables and carry a minimal amount of cash.

Tourists are more likely to be mugged than a local, so try and blend in. Always look like you know where you're going. Looking like a lost sheep on the streets will draw attention to you immediately. 

Pickpockets often work in a group, so if you're distracted by someone; make sure you know where your belongings are. Keep a distance and be vigilant. Never leave your bag on a table or hanging on a chair in a restaurant.

Snatch and grab robberies by scooter have been reported so always walk away from the roadside and keep your bag close on the opposing side.

Credit card fraud does occur in Morocco. Never let your credit card out of sight when paying. In the larger cities such as Tangier, aggressive begging is common at ATMs. Try to use ATMs inside buildings and banks, and take a friend for added safety.

Taxi Tactics - How to Avoid Dodgy Taxi Drivers

More dishonest than dangerous, Morocco's taxi drivers seem determined to weasel a few more Moroccan dirhams from visitors.

There are two types of taxi: petit taxi and grand taxi (little and big).

Petit taxis are small sedans which take up to 3 passengers. If there are spare seats it may stop to pick up additional passengers. Everyone pays the appropriate fare recorded by a meter. Petit taxis will not take you beyond the city. Ask for the meter to be turned on and if the driver won't, choose another taxi. If there is no meter, make sure you negotiate the rate before hopping in.

Grand taxis are big old Mercedes sedans and can take up to 6, and others will join you unless you pay for its exclusive use. There are no meters so negotiate the price. Ask your hotel to tell you the price you should pay. Grand taxis can take you to another city - for a price. Some of the grand taxis have defined routes and won't take you to exactly where you want. You might have to do one or two hops to get to your destination.

If you do get scammed, remember this is a small time fraud, so try to keep it in perspective. The dishonest taxi driver will get a few dollars, not your life savings.

Laws in Morocco

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in Morocco and the penalty for getting caught is imprisonment. Poverty and social exclusion are the reasons why it exists with prostitutes hanging out in bars and restaurants in order to solicit work. Most solo women in bars and restaurants at night are working. They usually don't dress or act provocatively, though might wear a touch more makeup than the average Moroccan woman.

Men should be aware when chatting with them that they are looking for business, not social encounters. Women travelling solo should be aware that some might assume they too are looking for customers (though this is less likely if they’re obviously from the west).

Drugs

Marijuana or kif, which is grown in the Rif Mountains is commonly found throughout Morocco however it's illegal to buy, smoke, carry, distribute or consume it. Hashish is also illegal. Penalties range from financial to jail time, even if you are with someone who has it on them and you don't.

Lese Majeste

Like many other countries with a monarchy, Morocco has a royal family and it's an offense to speak badly, deface images or any other derogatory actions towards King Mohammed VI or his family. Penalty is usually a few years in a Moroccan prison.

Money

The Moroccan Dirham is a closed currency, meaning it can not be traded outside of the country. Travelers can take up to 1000 Moroccan dirhams in and out of Morocco.

Homosexuality

Morocco is an Islamic nation and homosexuality is strictly forbidden. Even kissing in public can get you jail time whether you are LGBTQ or not. PDA's are a no go too. However it is common to see people holding hands in a platonic manner, particularly men.

Take care when connecting with local gay community members (there are places which are more gay friendly than others and discreet nightlife spots) via social apps as there have been reports of travelers being robbed or bashed.

Drones and Photography

Drones are currently banned in Morocco, so don't even think about trying to sneak one in as customs will seize it and you won't get it back. As in many other countries, photographing government, royal or military buildings is prohibited.

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