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Unusual (perhaps) personal question regarding travel to Morocco.

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Jul 11th, 2012, 05:03 AM
  #1
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Unusual (perhaps) personal question regarding travel to Morocco.

I have been fascinated for quite some time with travel to Morocco, but there are a couple of "challenges" to the trip that have me concerned.

We (husband and I) have traveled extensively to various parts of Mexico as well as many Caribbean islands and actively seek out off-the-beaten-path experiences. We've been exposed quite a lot to 3rd world living conditions, but I am worried that travel in Morocco could be overwhelming.

My husband is generous and kindhearted, and this frequently results in a large expenditure for tips and overpaying for purchases, etc. It makes him happy to share and the recipients happy to receive, and so it's not normally an issue except for his once in awhile being taken advantage of to some degree.

But while travel to those locales occasionally means that there will be haggling or requests for money for small favors or aggressive vendors, I think the scale and frequency of that is likely much higher in Morocco.

My question is this... Is it possible to arrange for a reputable personal guide to run interference for us when visiting all of the places we might encounter that type of thing so that we do not end up penniless our first outing with my husband not being able to resist doling out to all those in apparent need?

By the same token, I don't want to sanitize the visit down so much that it becomes a shell of what visit to the country should be all about. We do want to see and experience the people and culture of Morocco at its finest, but I also don't want to be so distracted and overwhelmed that we can't enjoy it.

Thoughts, ideas and recommendations much appreciated!
Diana is offline  
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Jul 11th, 2012, 06:21 AM
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I can't see that the guide is going to be of much help. If you want to shop (I don't, but it sounds like you do) you will have to bargain (hard), and you can't expect the guide to do it for you. You also can't expect the guide to interfere if your husband wants to give to beggars, or to pay for photos (something else I won't do).

I deal with such impulses by donating to a reputable charity before visiting a country where I think they are likely to strike. Do you think that might lead your husband to exercise some restraint in-country?
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Jul 11th, 2012, 07:32 AM
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thursdaysd is right that a guide won't be too much of a buffer. Ours did shoo away children a few times that were very persistant but as far as anything we bought he did not and would not get involved in the haggling.

But as far as aggressive begging or people wanting to sell things or pull you into their shops - I don't remember that being a big deal in Morocco at all. Walking around the souks by ourselves in Marrakesh or Fez we didn't have anyone glomming onto us unlike some other places. I'm remembering Cartagena, Colombia in particular with ladies trying to sell lace that just would not understand "no thank you" and were in our faces the whole time.

Donating to a charity ahead of time is a great idea.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 07:59 AM
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Thank you both very much. We normally make arrangements during our travels to visit a local animal shelter and/or school and donate onsite. In this case, I am looking at SPANA for donkey welfare. (Any other suggestions would be welcome!)

We don't like to shop overly, so I will probably ask at the riad/hotel for ideas on where to go for the few items I'd have an interest in. My husband can dicker somewhat, but I normally busy myself looking at something while he handles the business end.

I am glad to hear it may not be as intense as I had imagined. I think I might be able to convince him to restrain himself somewhat!
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Jul 11th, 2012, 09:33 AM
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Moroccans are expert at sensing weakness and vulnerability and you are likely to get fleeced at every opportunity. Best thing is to take hold of your husband's wallet and don't let him have access to money.

If you enter a shop with a guide then he automatically becomes entitled to a kickback on everything you buy and whilst he might seem to be on your side when it comes to advice, believe me he isn't.

You don't (or shouldn't) need a guide just to say 'no'.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 11:01 AM
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Tim is right about them driving a hard bargain (haha, my nice way of saying fleecing suckers). I would say there is certainly risk there to get way overcharged or end up buying things you don't want (yes, I have a Moroccan rug to prove that) and if your husband is a softy maybe you SHOULD hold onto his wallet

But as far as begging or needing a buffer from people coming up to you, I don't think that's necessary.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 12:21 PM
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I think you are both absolutely right! I could have sworn he had "I will give you money if you ask!" typed in boldface across his forehead several places we have been.

I guess I am going to need to have a sit down with him about how we should handle it.

I love how kind and giving he is, but it makes me sad and angry when I feel he gets taken advantage of.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 12:44 PM
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"...I feel he gets taken advantage of."
Does HE feel like he's being taken advantage of? If he does, then he needs your help. If he does not, then be quiet let him enjoy it.

Or how about an approach like - You (DH) everyday have $100 to spend anyway you wish. I (DW) will not worry nor fret over it, and I (DW) will make no comment unless you (DH) ask for it.

regards - tom
ps - I just spent $140 at the hardware for a saw I don't really need. No one is going to harangue me about that and I'm going to enjoy using it (maybe) someday.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 01:35 PM
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u will get fleeced atr every turn what a load of rubbish maybe you expect something for nothing you must remeber that the product for sale in the souks are all hand made one of a kind I bet you wouyld pay what its worth in your country but you come to morocco and places like and say you are been ripped off come on guys please a little logic wouldnt go astray now back to the original question if you want a guide to be with you you find a agency of which there are many but they certainly will not do the bartering for you what would be the fun in that .... isnt that one of the reasdon besides the most amazing scency you come to a place like Morocco logic people logic
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Jul 11th, 2012, 02:06 PM
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and.... breathe

you sound a trifle naïve, have a full read of this thread where some numpty paid 600dh for photos of monkeys: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...readID=1890523
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Jul 11th, 2012, 03:09 PM
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Diana: "But while travel to those locales occasionally means that there will be haggling or requests for money for small favors or aggressive vendors, I think the scale and frequency of that is likely much higher in Morocco."

Your idea of Morocco bears no resemblance to my experience of Morocco. And by the way, Morocco is nothing like Mexico. I love Morocco, have visited numerous times and have never experienced that which you fear/anticipate, except in Marrakech, where vendors in the souks will often call out to you to 'come in, buy something, don't just take a photograph!'. And where haggling/bargaining is part of the purchase process, but normally in a civilized and good-natured way, not as you are portraying it.

Many people in Morocco dislike having their photographs 'stolen', i.e. taken on the sly without their permission, and will angrily protest if you do so. Put yourself in their place for a moment and try to imagine how you would feel if a foreign visitor, often with a big and very expensive camera, came to your town and started shooting photos of you and your family without your permission as you are out and going about your business.

Some may respond positively if you make an effort to introduce yourself, speak with them, ask permission. If they say no, then you just have to respect that. Don't offer money unless asked, it's insulting. And then there are those who don costumes, such as the tea sellers, or are actively seeking money in exchange for posing for you. If you want to photograph them, then pay them. If you don't want to pay, then no photo.

If you want a guide, that's fine. Your guide will show you places you might not search out on your own, but you're not in Zimbabwe, where I hired the first tout who came along each morning to keep all the other touts away. Your Moroccan guide may help you deal with children who ask for money, but he won't shoo away people for you. I'm afraid you will have to learn to run interference for yourselves on that one.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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Diana; regarding the illustrated replies above i agree and i disagree with some, so they are all right but for a visitor should take notes first before travelling it's good that you are using this travel advisory community websites so you can get some travel tips in advance of your travel.
For the city guide it's adviced and recommended to hire a guide in Fes better than get lost in the alleys of the old medieval medina, however; make sure you are going with the right guy who can assure he showed you the most interesting places and for the shopping if you get interested in something try to bargain and get it with the moroccan local prices, as you can just suggest for them that you already find that thing in some low suggested price which can help you take it with your the price you like and satisfied with.
It's not normal to visit Morocco and go home with no local things to buy, you will have many opportunities in Morocco to buy things buy keep yourself away and don't show you interests in the shopping as you can take things like you already have.
For Marrakech and other places you don't need to hire a guide as you will find other tourists visiting there with no guide.
So about fleecing or bad experience, not all the visitors has same experience, and don't let others experiences effect negatively for yours.
Your Guidebook will help any time.
Good luck.
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Jul 12th, 2012, 05:38 AM
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Hi Diana - as you're a regular poster on fodors I'm sure you're not surprised by the variety of answers - some of them unnecessarily testy I have to say. You had a legit question.

The point Alex makes above about a city guide in Fes is one I wanted to second. Getting lost in the medina there is almost guaranteed on your own -- that is a fun adventure for some people, not everyone. But making sure it's a good guide that isn't just leading you to his cousins' shops all day is important.

I also thought a guide for a half day tour in Marrakesh to be a good thing and we learned a lot and went places we wouldn't have found in guide books. But you could also do it on your own if that's your inclination.

Tim - very funny story on LP about the monkey photos!
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Jul 12th, 2012, 07:33 AM
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Thank you all VERY much for your input and ideas.

cary, he very rarely thinks he is being taken advantage of, and I rarely think he is either, and so I usually don't say anything since it's kind of a "win win" for everyone. My concern is that in this case, it could be like the time in New Orleans where I could swear people had the ability to let others know he was coming! I just don't want to get overwhelmed.

Kathy and Julia, thank you for the input. I obviously know very little, but am making an effort to learn. We like to "know before we go," so your information is very helpful.

I had to laugh at that story, Tim. My husband paid $20 USD for a ridiculous snapshot of me in Key West with a snake around my neck and a cockatoo on my head. (I was scowling as I was very unhappy to have been the subject.) I made him SWEAR never to do that again. So, now you see what I am dealing with, ha ha.

And thank you Alex and Leslie - I appreciate that info!
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Jul 12th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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I stayed in Fez for a couple of months when studying Arabic and found the medina quite easy to navigate, in fact easier than Marrakech. There are coloured signs up high pointing out several walks through the medina and there's some good maps to be had.

But basically find either Telaa Kebira or Telaa Sghrira (big slope or little slope) and head downhill. When you are lost, head uphill. Easy.
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