Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guides in Fez - official, unofficial and more

Just how much should a visitor to Fez pay for the services of a guide? The View from Fez recently came across a website offering a half-day guided tour for £103 for one person (yes - pounds Sterling). Strangely enough, there were no reviews available on this service ... so we've done some research

Official guides charge Dh150 for a three-hour walking tour of the medina. Official guides wear a laminated identification badge around their necks. Such a tour will most likely involve being taken into shops chosen by the guide. You can bet on prices in such establishments being at least 50% more than if you were to shop alone. The guides supplement their income with commission from the shops.

However, it is possible to ask for no shopping. Ask for this when you book the guide and reiterate it when you set out. It's a good idea to pay an extra amount to compensate for the lack of commission, say Dh200.

The guides are usually well-educated in the history of the city and speak a variety of languages. However, the two or three who speak Japanese charge Dh350 for the half-day tour. There are also one or two women guides, well-known for their penchant for shopping, and who don't like non-shopping tours!

Not all guides are particularly reliable. Recently we heard of some visitors who'd booked a supposedly trustworth guide. But on the appointed day he was busy and sent a friend, who never turned up. This can really spoil the visitors' stay in Fez. Perhaps the best thing to do is ask in advance for the guesthouse to arrange a guide. The owners always have a number of guides they know and trust.

The other problem that persists is that of the unofficial guides that range from young men pestering tourists around Bab Boujloud and insisting on accompanying them, to the man who boards the train at Meknes and targets tourists, offering his services as a guide and to try to persuade them to stay at a guesthouse he just happens to know. Yes, he's still at it, and the police still don't want to do anything about it.

Do you really need a guide? A good guidebook and map of the medina could be enough, but not everyone is good at reading maps, and many visitors prefer to have some input from the local experts. Half a day is usually enough, but if you want to include the mellah (old Jewish quarter) and the Andalous quarter, then a full day would be better.

If you do the maths you will realise that a good half day price for a guide is around 28 to 30 UK pounds, not the 103 advertised on the site we mentioned. Being ripped off is not good for anyone.


monsieur mike said...

Surely a good half day price (150 dh) is approximately £12 or €13, no?

Volnei Silva said...

Our Riad manager in Fés( Palais de Fés) arranged us an official guide. I always think we started our tour with the left foot. What he did the mostly was to take us to his "favorites" shops. We had to ask him to stop doing that. Strangely, a few minutes after our request, the tour finished. We met then a non official guide. The approach was completely different and he took us to very interesting parts of the Medina. I mentioned that would be amazing to go inside one of the Medina's resident and he said: Let's go to my place and meet my family. So we went to his place in the middle of the Medina. We met his wife, interract with his kids. His wife prepaired a delicious traditional Moroccan dinner for us. Believe it or not, but hours later he took us back to our riad and I noticed he was not going to charge anything for his services and meal. I naturally payed him for the amazing day and night.