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Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

Toronto, Canada
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Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

We recently came home from a 15-day tour of Morocco arranged through Around Morocco Travels. Judging from the hype on this site, we assumed that our driver/guide would immediately immerse us in the history, culture, architecture, etc., of the country. This was not the case. While Hassan is a lovely man who was willing to accommodate us in every way, his English skills (while adequate in general) and depth of knowledge were frustratingly inadequate for a family of four adults who were hoping to experience the country with a fully guided tour. (Hassan is also not a regular driver with this company and was hired because of what appears to have been an excess of tour bookings by Around Morocco over Christmas vacation. We were finally informed of the name of our driver only after the final payment was made, despite numerous requests.)

What Around Morocco and other tour companies do, I've since found out, is offer an "English-speaking driver" for the duration of the trip and provide you with (supposedly) certified guides in the towns and cities you're visiting. In our experience, some of these guides were good and a couple, at the beginning, were obviously more interested in taking us to shops so they could get commissions on purchases. We fell for this once but, after our second such guided tour, made it clear to the tour company that future guides should refrain from taking us to any shops. This request was honoured.

Otherwise, our trip was well organized and, despite one dud, we enjoyed our accommodations. To the company's credit, we were able to make changes to our itinerary on the fly, exchanging a night in Midelt for an extra night in the desert so we could go on a fossil-hunting expedition.

Just thought I'd warn those of you who are planning future tours of Morocco to understand how the system of drivers/guides works. We still managed to have a wonderful time, but were miffed that our guide books provided more background information to us than our "guide" did.

York, United Kingdom
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1. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

Yet another story with the same ending.

Sorry about your disappointing trip, and I hope your experiences haven’t put you off going back to Morocco….hopefully this time without the annoyance of a guide-that’s-really-a-driver issue.

This is probably one of the most frequent complaints about “guided” tours of Morocco (along with the forced trips to his cousins shops), and it’s an issue that infests not only the cheaper outfits that ply the backpacker scene, but also the mid to top end tours that you would expect wouldn’t do such a thing. Unfortunately its not just isolated to dodgy tour companies, and paying a higher price for your tour (or seeing they have a fancy website) is certainly no guarantee of a issue free tour.

I usually get a lot of beef when I warn folk of the pitfalls of Moroccan “guided” tours (mostly from tour operators who want to keep the scam alive and get annoyed with folk spilling the beans), but once again, here’s another example of a pure rip off at the hands of the Moroccan Tour Mafia.

Lesson learnt here is………use public transport/hire car and buy a guide book and you’ll save enough money to go on another Moroccan holiday!

Toronto, Canada
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2. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

Kate, our trip was far from disappointing. Yes, it was an expensive lesson about Moroccan tour companies, but we tried not to let it put a damper on our vacation.

York, United Kingdom
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3. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

That's good TOCanadaGAL. I hate to think that these tour companies are putting folk off going back. Sometimes people find it hard to see past the rip offs and think all Moroccans are as subversive as these guys can be. Thanks for letting others know about the pitfalls of a Moroccan tour.

idaho
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4. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

our tour company filled our dreams and more. depends on who you use, i think. ours was a top notch gem...great drivers and guides...took us to their homes, and all....

5. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

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6. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

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Toronto, Canada
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7. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

charley48, I got a quote from Journey Beyond Travel, the tour company you used. The quote was quite high, the planned stops minimal, and the itinerary they initially sent me did not include Essaouira, which I'd specifically asked for in my first email to them. I also told them I didn't want to be in a different city every night and would prefer to spend two or three nights, with free time in certain places (meaning places with things to do, like Fes/Essaouira/Marrakech), and they ended up sending me an itinerary that included three nights of relaxation in the Dades Valley, at a hotel with a beautiful outdoor pool. Umm... in the middle of winter???

I also recently corresponded with someone who'd just returned from a tour with the company that you rave about and, when I questioned her about her driver, admitted that he was in no way a tour guide but merely a very good driver. Same situation -- relying on regional guides along the way while spending hours in a car with someone who can't really express much about their country.

Was your driver actually a licensed tour guide? Do licensed tour guides even exist in Morocco?

(By the way, I sent you a personal message a number of months back and you never replied to it.)

idaho
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for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Beach Vacations, Idaho
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8. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

sorry tocanada...had to be rushed to the hospital in hawaii, and lost 25 lbs, and have had a tough time. i also get about 5 or more PM a week!! and try and answer them.

cant believe that about fazia and thomas. we had NO idea what to do and they planned the whole trip...still raving about it to this day and always will!!

i have been lucky to take a few tours in my life and this was the best. our driver redwan, was great...he was a driver and we asked him tons of questions, getting answers all the time. he said that he hadn't had this much fun, untill us...opps. we had guides in fes, went to ifrane, met fazia, then off to the desert to meet tata of the desert (abrahim on the webstie) and walked the ziz valley with him, learning how what they do for daily life. how they grow each and everything (or trade) that goes on the table. i will never forget the time with he and his family. then we had a guide in marrakech. redwan drove us to ess and we stayed in the most elegant riad, and back on the bus for the last few nights in marr...had a guide there.

sorry bout the miscommunication, been a long fall, but i am fine and very thankful for that!!

marrakech
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9. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

TOCanadaGAL,

It just goes to show that everyone can have different experiences (even with the same company) and you shouldn't rely on rave reports from people who have maybe only visited Morocco once so have nothing to compare their experience with. Sending PM's is usually a good way of winkling out whether someone is genuine but even though you found they are not always answered (for whatever reason) I still think this is the best way to confirm your choice when deciding on important details of your holiday.

NZ
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10. Re: Caution: Drivers for private Moroccan tours are not guides

Misconception number one .

Drivers are drivers in Morocco. Tour guides are tour guides. If you go with a reputable company they are licenced. It is a very rare occasion that they do both as to get a licence for tour guiding there are certain criteria that must be met and in the bigger cities this includes a university education in history etc etc. (Not quite so in some of the smaller places where a well educated local with good language skills and a knowledge of the area can be licenced by the local authorities)

If you go on a tour with numerous people (ie one of the big providers such as Trafalgar, Globus etc, you will have both with you constantly. If you go on a private tour, the driver will take you to your destination, provide transport while there and arrange for a local guide to do the honours - usually one they work with regularly and they will be licenced. (check the lanyard they wear or ask them for proof).

A reputable company will not risk their own licence by providing a faux guide as their own licence can be rescinded by breaking the law. Sometimes they will use trainee guides - students doing tourism at university, however they should let you know this.

Drivers often have a great depth of knowledge of their country and its history, however they will only give you this knowledge within the safe confines of the vehicle - to stand out and do so in public would ensure their own job would be subject to scrutiny or dismissal.

We have to realise that the regulations are different. We may not approve - but need to comply - it is not our livelihood that is at risk.

Incidentally this same demarkation between the two skilled jobs also applies right throughout most of the Arab world and in Turkey.