Fes (also spelled Fez) is one of the top tourist destinations in Morocco, famous for its winding alleys, bustling souks, tanneries, and historic sites. As a major city and cultural hub, Fes offers visitors the chance to experience Moroccan history, architecture, food, and culture.
However, many travelers wonder – is Fes safe for tourists? While Morocco has made great strides in ensuring tourist safety, it’s still important to take precautions when visiting any new place.
Read on for tips and information to ensure your safety and make the most out of your Fes trip.
Why Visit Fez, Morocco?
Founded in the 9th century, Fes is often described as the country’s cultural and spiritual heart. It’s also the oldest of Morocco’s four imperial cities. Some key reasons to visit Fes:
- Massive, lively medina – Fes el Bali, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the world’s largest walled medieval cities. Wander the endless maze of alleys, markets, mosques, palaces, and more.
- Historic monuments – Fes has many stunning historic buildings, like the Bou Inania Madrasa and Al-Attarine Madrasa.
- Shopping – The souks of Fes are bursting with traditional Moroccan goods, from carpets to leatherwork to spices and more. Expect to haggle!
- Food – Fes is a culinary capital, with delicious Moroccan cuisine like tagines, couscous, and pastries.
- Handicrafts – See artisans at work in the famous Fes tanneries and pottery workshops.
- Day trips – Fes makes a great base to visit nearby destinations like Meknes, Chefchaouen, Volubilis, Moulay Idriss, and Ifrane.
Also Read: Fez Travel Guide 2023
Is Fes Safe for Tourists?
The short answer is yes – Fes is generally quite safe for tourists who take basic precautions. Violent crime is rare, and tourist spots have a visible police presence. The Moroccan government places a high priority on protecting tourism. Still, you should exercise common sense, as in any new place. Fes draws over 2 million visitors per year, most without incident.
Some specific tips:
- Avoid walking alone at night, especially in unlit areas. Stick to well-traveled routes.
- Dress conservatively to respect local customs. Cover knees and shoulders.
- Keep valuables in a secure place, like a money belt under clothes.
- Ignore persistent touts or anyone pushy offering “help.”
- Arrange guides/tours via reputable agencies like Great Desert Tours. Read reviews.
- Stay in safe accommodations like riads in the Medina interior.
- Buy a SIM card for emergency contacts if needed.
- Copy key documents like passports in case they’re lost/stolen.
- Carry emergency cash in case cards are stolen. Notify your bank.
- Trust instincts if a situation feels unsafe or suspicious.
With vigilance and respect for local culture, Fes is perfectly safe to explore and enjoy as a tourist.
Safety Tips for Visiting the Fes Medina
The massive Fes el Bali medina, with over 9,000 alleys and dead ends, can feel overwhelming. While exciting to explore, it helps to know:
- Hire an authorized local tour guide – Their expertise lets you see key sites and avoid getting hopelessly lost in the alleyways. Agree on fees/tipping beforehand.
- Have a meetup place if splitting from your guide or group. Exchange phone numbers too.
- Study a map ahead and memorize landmarks near your riad. Apps like Maps.me work offline.
- Mark your riad door. Ask for routes from the nearest gate or masjid.
- Ignore hustlers claiming “the medina is closed” or other deceptions.
- Pickpockets target crowds. Keep valuables secure. Have emergency cash on hand. Do not carry a very large amount of cash with you.
- Hire a car and driver, or know bus stands rather than find one yourself after dark.
- Respect cultural norms by dressing modestly and not photographing people without permission.
- Keep hotel details with you. Have phone numbers accessible.
- Don’t feel pressured to buy goods/services. “No thank you” is sufficient.
The old medina has many treasures to uncover if you remain alert and use common sense while exploring. Allowing ample time means not rushing into unsafe situations.
Top Tourist Sites to Visit Safely in Fes
Fes has several must-see tourist attractions that are generally safe to visit with some precautions:
Fes El Bali Medina
The sprawling, centuries-old walled medina covers over 150 hectares with endless souks and sights. Avoid isolated areas and stick to well-trafficked routes.
Bou Inania Medersa
This stunning 14th-century Islamic college has intricate tilework and carvings. Entry fees support upkeep and guarding.
Royal Palace (Dar el Makhzen)
The imposing royal palace has lush gardens and ornate doors. Arrange a guided visit for access.
The huge ornamental blue gate is popular for photographs. Stay alert for pickpockets in the crowded plaza.
One of the world’s oldest tanneries, with brilliant colored vats. Follow elevated walkways rather than weaving through stalls.
Al-Attarine and Al-Seffarine Mosques
These historic mosques have exquisite interiors. Dress conservatively and avoid prayer times if visiting.
Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts & Crafts
This excellent museum inside a former fondouk (inn) illuminates Fes’ artisan history.
Jardin Jnan Sbil
Well-maintained gardens for respite from the medina’s intensity. Avoid isolated paths.
Mellah Jewish Quarter
This historic area once housed the city’s Jewish population. See synagogues and the remains of 16th-century walls.
Ville Nouvelle (New Town)
For a change from the medina, explore this area with French-colonial architecture, gardens, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.
Check out this article to learn more about the best things to do in Fes, Morocco
Avoiding Pickpockets and Scams in Fes
While violent crime is rare in the Fes medina, pickpocketing of unsuspecting tourists may occur, especially in Jemaa el-Fna and crowded souks. Some common tactics:
- Bumping into you or causing a distraction before stealing your wallet or valuables.
- Groups surrounding you then covertly rob you while your attention is diverted.
- People insistently tie “gifts” to your wrist and then demand payment.
- Children or women with babies asking you to lift an item, under which valuables get stolen.
- Vendors or “guides” pretending to help you find a place and then stealing your belongings.
- Men on motorbikes riding close to snatch bags. Men and female travelers should keep bags on the interior side.
- Deceptive “police officers” insist on fining you for made-up infractions. Ask to see I.D. and verify their claims.
- Rigged ATMs or unauthorized payment terminals that steal card data when used. Verify legitimacy before using.
To avoid theft and scams, following these safety tips is a must to feel safe and enjoy your trip to Fes:
- Remain alert and trust your instincts around large crowds or interactions with strangers.
- Keep your valuables close in front pockets or a concealed money belt. Avoid backpacks and outer pockets.
- Carry a “dummy” wallet with a small amount of cash, in case robbed under threat.
- Ignore unwanted “help”, especially forceful guides or people distracting your attention.
- Avoid poorly lit alleys off the main medina paths at night.
- Research common scams before visiting and learn how to spot them.
- Be assertive saying “No” if pressured into paying for unsolicited services.
Staying Safe in Crowded Tourist Areas
Famous sites like Jemaa el-Fna and the tanneries attract huge crowds, which thieves or scammers can exploit.
- Keep belongings close and secure. Do not leave bags unattended.
- Be wary of being encircled by groups, especially children, who may pickpocket.
- Hold bags away from the roadside to avoid drive-by motorbike thefts.
- Ignore “guides” or “henna artists” getting too close to apply something without asking.
- Be very cautious of “demonstrations” or persons insisting you come to see something.
- Verify people are indeed police before handing over documents.
- Arrange trusted guides/tours in advance rather than someone claiming expertise onsite.
- Blend in with moderate dress and demeanor, and avoid flashy jewelry or clothes. Moreover, female travelers should avoid wearing tight-fitting outfits as they can appear provocative.
- Walk with confidence like you know where you are going, even if lost!
- Trust your instincts; leave if a place feels unsafe.
By taking precautions, you can safely enjoy Fes’ famous sites along with other visitors and locals. Use common sense, and let trusted guides steer you away from problematic areas.
Tips for a Safe Visit to Fes, Morocco
To summarize, here are key tips for a safe tourist visit to Fes:
- Research common scams before your trip and learn how to spot them.
- Dress conservatively; cover knees and shoulders. Avoid flashy jewelry that attracts thieves.
- Use registered guides and tours from authorized companies. Read reviews in advance.
- Keep valuables in front pockets or wear a concealed money belt. Carry emergency cash.
- Be cautious of crowded areas where pickpocketing occurs, especially winding streets. Keep bags secured.
- It is always best to arrange taxis through your hotel and know the fare in advance. Don’t hail taxis on the street.
- Avoid isolated alleys off the main medina routes, especially at night. Stick to well-lit major streets.
- Ignore touts aggressively offering services. Be firm in saying no.
- Look purposeful when exploring. Walk with confidence and try not to appear lost around the city.
- Consider travel insurance with medical evacuation, in case of an emergency.
- Keep important documents photocopied in case of loss or theft.
- Note emergency numbers. Have small local currency for pay phones.
- Stay alert and trust your instincts. Leave if a place seems unsafe.
By taking sensible precautions, you can safely experience the magic of Fes! The city has countless wonders to offer visitors who respect local culture and avoid hazardous situations.
With common sense and vigilance, Fes makes for an unforgettable Moroccan trip full of rich culture and history, flavors, beautiful architecture, and adventure.
Related Tours and Trips from Fes
For guided experiences from Fes with a reputable company, consider these Marrakech Desert Tours options by the Great Desert Tours agency: