From time to time The View from Fez receives warnings about scams on Moroccan trains. Although we have published a story on this before, we have been asked by a group of businessmen in Fez to repeat the warning as they believe the situation has not improved. It may well have become worse, with American and Australian visitors being targeted.
The Train Scam
If you have just arrived in Morocco by air and are about to take the train from Casablanca to Fez, you may be approached by a very "friendly" man. After chatting for a while, he will ask you where you are staying in Fez. It is often the case that he will suggest you change as the place you have booked "is not very good".
This friendly individual will also "kindly" offer to provide you with a guide and a car and driver.
Once in Fez, he hands over to the guide who will take you to "the best carpet shop in the Fez Medina".
In the carpet shop you will be encouraged to buy carpets at inflated prices.
In amidst the confusion, culture shock and exchange rate bewilderment, you may find you have spent a great deal more money than you intended. In a recent case, an American couple were devastated to discover they had spent almost US$100,000 on six carpets worth a fraction of that amount. An Australian mother and son had a similar experience to the tune of US$26,000 USD. They also found themselves paying for a car and driver they did not use, as they were holidaying in the Fez Medina.
According to our informants from the Fez business community, there are up to ten individuals who board trains at Casablanca, Rabat or Meknes on the lookout for newly arrived visitors. While we would encourage you to be friendly and courteous, do not let anyone persuade you to change your existing plans, or to hire a guide or car and driver. If you need a car and driver, the reputable riads and guest houses will be happy to offer the services of people they trust and have worked with before. They will also book a guide for you who is government registered.
This warning aside, Moroccan people can be warm and generous to a fault. On a recent trip, a Moroccan on a train befriended some acquaintances who were going to Tangier and on to Spain. He not only paid for the taxi from the train station to the ferry, but then assisted them in buying tickets. He left them in Spain after making sure they had found the bus company for their onward travel. It would be a pity if a small minority of crooks should jeopardise Morocco's otherwise friendly reputation.