Travel Bloggers on Tourist Traps and Disappointing Places – and where you should go Instead.

Travel Bloggers on Tourist Traps and Disappointing Places - and where you should to go Instead.

This post was inspired by our very uninspiring visit to Bran Castle last week. How is it that some places attract the tourist hordes while other places, similar or even better, get very few tourists?

I reached out to a few of our favorite bloggers and asked them simply: What destinations do you think are really just tourist traps and what would you recommend instead? It doesn’t have to be a site, it can be a country, a popular destination spot, etc. A place that really disappointed you.

I got some interesting and colourful answers.


Megan, Mapping Megan

Mine is a highly unpopular opinion, however Paris was the most disappointing travel experience for me, mainly due to the hype. People rave about Paris. They talk deliriously about its beauty, and the city is put on a pedestal which I sadly felt was too far detached from reality. The city of love is, in my opinion, a real tourist trap and I would recommend anywhere else in France instead.

To its credit, Paris can be viewed as a great city when you consider there are a fantastic range of historical attractions, the architecture is gorgeous, and it’s an authentic European experience. But it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype of “the most romantic city in the world”. I arrived with expectations which were way too high. I expected magic. I expected to fall in love. I expected the city to woo me in a way I had never been woo-ed before. But what I found was a city not dissimilar to any other in Europe.

Paris by Mapping Megan

I thought Paris was fairly dirty, that the locals were rude, and that there was too much tourism to make for an enjoyable experience. Attractions were crowded, and you couldn’t escape street vendors selling tacky souvenirs. I felt a huge anti-climax in traveling to Paris, and after having given it a second and third shot to “woo” me and change my mind, it never did.

You can read more about my adventures in Paris here.

You can also follow Mapping Megan on facebook.

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Tomasz, Adventurous Travels

In my opinion, the most overrated tourist trap of all the places I’ve been to is Bangkok, Thailand. Of course, I had some expectations prior to coming to Bangkok and I didn’t have a hope that it was going to be an off the beaten path destination. There are some touristy places that I really loved (like Prague or the Greek islands) but any nice feelings or excitement about Bangkok were shattered on the very first day.

My friends and I were constantly given wrong information – even in the official tourist offices – and because of that we missed a ferry and were scammed numerous times. We were also threatened with murder by a local man who showed us some gruesome photos of mutilated/beheaded bodies and warned us that we were unwanted inThailand,saying if we don’t leave the same will happen to us. The reason? We hadn’t taken our shoes at the right place when entering a temple.

Yes, I know we should be prepared for scams, but do you really want this on your holidays? Do you want to try to avoid being scammed at all times and perceive anyone who approaches you as a con artist? The number of rude people in Bangkok also exceeded any norms – in the guest house, in the streets, everywhere. It seemed as if we were just pests for the locals! But what shocked me the most was the complete lack of authenticity – it turned out that those famous insects that are supposedly eaten as a snack in Thailand are on display only for the tourists (who are charged for taking a photo)! No local actually have them for dinner. And the drunk western tourists everywhere – yes I know, it’s a touristic place but where are the locals enjoying their free time? Like in Prague or Rome? It seems, in Thailand, popular places had three types of locals: con artists, rude traders/receptionists and lady boys.

Below: Friendly sign in Bangkok

'Friendly sign' in Bangkok

I don’t understand how such a place has so much recognition in the media.

Read about my experience in Bangkok here.

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As an alternative, I’d like to talk about Albania – a country whose reputation in the western media is really poor (comparing to ‘Amazing Thailand”). But, as it turned out, in Albania I wasn’t scammed or pushed to buy anything I didn’t want. Not even once. Me and my friend were invited to a bar on the beach by the local people, offered free drinks, given Brazilian T-shirts (it was the time of the World Cup) and free accommodation!

Not too mention that Albania has beaches as nice as in Thailand but completely unspoiled, without resorts and hordes of drunken tourists (who’ve turned the beach in Thailand during the full moon party into a septic tank urinating everywhere). In Albania, it was only us and the perfection of nature.

Albania

Why is that that no one knows about it? No one has any idea that Albania has white sand paradise beaches with crystal clear turquoise sea, UNESCO ancient ruins, cozy coastal villages, beautiful towns with architecture unique Europe-wide, spectacular mountains, Blue Eye lake which is the clearest I’ve ever seen and even Osum canyon perfect for rafting! Why are people not curious to discover something new and unknown instead of just following and relying on the travel brochures and what the media advertises as “trendy” destinations?

Have a look at my posts and experiences in Albania here.

You can also follow Adventurous Travels on facebook.
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Sarah & Kris, Jet Setting Fools

Overrated: Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England

For many London tourists, a trip to the Royal Borough of Greenwich is essential – as it was for us during our visit. The claim to fame is the Prime Meridian: the 0 Longitude Line that marks the beginning of time. When we arrived, the city was choked with tourists, but we followed the herd along the path to Royal Observatory that sits at the top of the hill. Rather than proudly celebrating the invisible line with a public monument, it’s tucked behind an iron gate, only to be visited with a ticket. Tourists queue for the pricy admission – £9.50 ($15 USD) – to enter the courtyard (and stand in yet another line) to have their photo taken by the marker as they stand straddling the Eastern and Western Hemisphere.

Prime Meridian in Greenwich

The exorbitant price was enough to make us scoff at participating in what seemed more like an ordeal than an actual sight. However, the real tipping point of this tourist scam is the fact that the marker is not on the Prime Meridian! As technology has advanced, it has been proven that the 0 Longitude Line is about 100 meters away from where the Royal Observatory monument is, yet they continue to charge the fee and promote the spectacle (a complete farce!).

Our advice: Go to Greenwich and enjoy the free sections of the Royal Observatory, which are quite impressive. If seeing the monument is a must, save yourself the price of the ticket and simply peer at it through the gate. If being in two hemispheres at one time is what you’re after, use the GPS on your phone and head east to find 0 Longitude.

Our post on Greenwich, England.

You can also follow Jet Setting Fools on facebook.

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Heather, Conversant Traveller 

Colosseum, Rome 

The Colosseum was once an arena made glorious by the exploitation of victims. Yet today, for me at least, the iconic amphitheatre has become a victim itself. Of its own success. Unsurprisingly a visit to the Colosseum is at the top of most Rome itineraries, and being a bit of a romantic (and a history nerd as well) I was eagerly anticipating travelling back in time at this well-known icon.

Below: The Colosseum

Colosseum, Rome

Yet rather than photogenic crumbling arches, and the excitement of wondering which ancient hands had once touched the stones now beneath my fingers, it all felt rather modern. Of course repairs have been necessary to combat the ravages of time, but I felt I was just looking at a load of concrete rather than connecting with the Caesars and gladiators of old. I was disappointed that only two levels were open to explore, and to see the lower tunnels where the fighters were held required an additional ticket on an evening tour. Add in the crowds jostling for elbow room and the whole experience was an anti-climax. In fact it was a bit dull. 

A far better alternative when you’re in town is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The birthplace of the Eternal City. The ruins are equally famous but still manage to retain the magic. It was here that we finally found the sense of walking through history that for us, the Colosseum had lacked. Plus the site is large enough to absorb the crowds so it’s a winner all round.

Below: The Roman Forum

Roman Forum

You can read more about my adventures in Italy here.

You can also follow Conversant Traveller on facebook.


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Janice & George, Sand in My Suitcase

Most over-hyped Thai island – Koh Tao.

When researching our last trip to Thailand, we’d read that the island of Koh Tao (which means “turtle island” in Thai) has some of the country’s best snorkeling and scuba diving. Current guide books still rave about its underwater action! We love blowing bubbles underwater and seeing coral reefs and sea creatures whenever we can. So as part of our visit to the larger island of Koh Samui – where we had assignments from a Canadian magazine to write a couple of luxury hotel reviews – we decided to tack on a few days in Koh Tao (a two-hour passenger ferry ride away from Koh Samui).

We lucked out in choosing a sweet bungalow resort right on the beach (Sensi Paradise).

But we didn’t luck out with the snorkeling on Koh Tao. Where were the tropical fish? Where was the tangle of neon-colored coral? On our full-day boat tour around the island, we stopped at several snorkeling spots, but we saw few fish and much of the coral was dead. We were relieved that we hadn’t signed up for a more expensive diving trip – as then we would have been really disappointed!

Below: Crowds on Koh Tao

Busy Koh Tao - disappointing

On a previous visit to Thailand, we stayed on Koh Lanta, where we took a scuba diving trip to the uninhabited islands of Koh Haa. We saw beautiful coral gardens and sea caves, as well as lionfish, giant moray eels, tiny sea horses and schools of silver barracuda. (We also think Koh Lanta has prettier beaches than Koh Tao.) You can read about this visit of ours to Thailand here – think sea canoeing through caves, twisty Thai massages, bicycling around ancient temples and more.

But visit Koh Lanta soon! A bridge is being built to connect Koh Lanta with the mainland – and that will mean the island will get busier.

Below: Koh Lanta. Much nicer!

Koh Lanta - much nicer!

You can also follow Sand in my Suitcase on facebook.

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Kemkem, Next Bite of Life

Kill the messenger, but Amsterdam is meh if you’re over 25. It’s overpriced, over hyped and over everything. It might have to do with the high expectations one has from all the stories from people that have been there. I expect a lot of people are let down, but don’t dare to speak lest they be mocked 🙂 . Ghent on the other hand is understated elegance. You can experience the same for less in Ghent.

The canals are plentiful in the Flemish city, just like in Amsterdam. Take a boat ride along the beautiful canals and you’d swear you were in Amsterdam or Venice, but without the crowds.

Below: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Next Bite of Life

Party: lots of breweries in Ghent. It’s a college town, so plenty of hip young people about. Did you know in Belgium, if you’re over 18, you can legally have a certain amount of marijuana? No need to go to the coffee houses. Go by St Michael’s bridge, and you will certainly smell it.

Museums: Yep..plenty of them in Ghent too.

Colorful Houses: Yes…yes..and yes..

Bike culture: goes without saying. They definitely have that in common

Red light district – Nope! None in Ghent. If that’s your thing, then l guess Amsterdam is for you. All l saw were tired looking, dead in the eyes prostitutes and lots of guys who just gawked, passed by and headed for the pubs. Sex trafficking is big there, so please look for “pimp free establishments” if you decide to use the services. I doubt many do, but they tell the stories anyway 🙂 . My post on Amsterdam.

Ghent has awesome food and quite a selection of eclectic restaurants. It is also drop dead gorgeous, like a fairy tale land. It is more wallet friendly, and a 30 minute train ride brings you to sister city Bruges.  Boom!!!

More on Ghent.

Below: Ghent

Ghent, Next Bite of Life

You can also follow Next Bite of Life on Facebook.

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Larissa and Michael, Changes in Longitude

The Marfa Lights in Texas are unexplained mysterious lights that reportedly appear in the nighttime sky nine miles east of the West Texas town of Marfa. They have been a phenomena in West Texas for so long that they’ve become somewhat of a tourist attraction.

Are they from a UFO, atmospheric disturbances, car lights or perhaps just a means of attracting visitors? A few years back the town even built a plush viewing stand along Highway 90 to view the mysterious lights. So that’s how we found ourselves standing in the desert on a brisk autumn evening to see for ourselves.

Marfa lights texas viewing platform Michael Milne

The first thing we noticed was that in the direction where the lights would magically appear after sunset there was a road heading off over the horizon. My cousin Mark who is a Texan was skeptical about the lights and had warned me ahead of time, “You know it’s just car lights.” But what about cowboys who reported the lights in the 19th century? Mark scoffed at the notion.

So we stood there waiting for the sun to stop playing footsie with the horizon and disappear from view. About twenty people were gathered around, some of them descending from RVs for this festive occasion. The sun finally bade farewell and we all stood there . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .waiting. After an hour the crowd started to peter out until we were the only ones remaining.

After a while a car pulled off the highway and the people got out, saw what we knew at this point were just headlights in the distance and exclaimed, “Cool! We saw the lights!” They got back in the car and hit the open road, perhaps adding to the legend of the Marfa Lights with tales of their “sighting.”

As for us, we had turned down a chance to go to the nearby McDonald Observatory to see some real lights of the celestial variety. You know, stars and planets. Marfa itself was pretty cool with a history that includes the filming location of the James Dean film Giant. But if we’re ever passing through West Texas again and want to see lights in the sky we’ll head straight to the Observatory.

Night sky, Texas

Larissa and Michael Milne have been global nomads since 2011. They write about their journey at www.ChangesInLongitude.com. You can also follow them on their facebook page.

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Rhonda, Travel Yes Please

Himeji Castle is widely considered to be Japan’s finest castle. In many ways it is. Freshly restored, its bright white exterior is quite elegant, especially when surrounded by cherry blossoms in the spring.

However, the “tour” of the castle was one of our biggest travel disappointments. After standing in line for hours, we finally entered the castle and were disappointed to find that it was nothing but floor after floor of empty wooden rooms. There was nothing on display and no information boards. Instead we just were funneled through the bare rooms at a snail’s pace, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other visitors.

Below: Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle, Japan

To be fair, we did visit on opening weekend after the castle had been closed for five years for restoration work. Maybe it isn’t always dreadfully busy. Either way, we were expecting to see more on the inside and leave with a better sense of day-to-day life in the castle.

As far as castles in Japan go, we much preferred Hiroshima Castle. The exterior was also very beautiful, but the interior had much more to offer. There were exhibits sharing information about the castle’s history and displays depicting what life was like in a castle-town. Overall, we found our visit to Hiroshima Castle much more enriching.

Below: Hiroshima Castle.

Hiroshima Castle, Japan

More on Hiroshima Castle.

You can also follow Travel Yes Please on facebook.

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Zara and Ashray, Backpack ME

North Goa vs South Goa

Whenever travelers think of idyllic beaches in India, Goa comes to mind. But the truth is that the Goan coastline can range from over-crowded and unattractive, to amazingly blissful.

If you were to travel from the other side of the world to spend some relaxing time at the beach in Goa, and you were to stick to the famous names up North such as Baga or Calangute, chances are you’d be disappointed. If you’re looking to party, pay inflated prices for water-sports that are polluting the waters you plan to bath in or even if you enjoy seeing stretches of once upon a time paradise-like sands covered with sun loungers and people all over the place then, sure, North Goa is for you! Those beaches are indeed interesting for people-watching but, if you ask me, as a beach destination, North Goa is pretty overrated.

Our detailed post on North Goa.

Below: Tourists looking unhappy in North Goa.

Tourists dont look too happy at the beach in North Goa

In my opinion, South Goa is where the magic happens. The southern beaches (such as Palolem or Agonda) offer a much more soothing atmosphere, while still being pretty happening. No wonder we keep on going back time after time! Maybe you won’t get to rave all night long down there, but you’ll enjoy a much more inviting waterfront, with clear warm waters you’ll only want to get out of when you get hungry. And, because food always tastes better with your toes dipped in the sand, most restaurants in South Goa put their tables on the beach particularly at night, when candle lit dinners become the standard. South Goa tends to offer better value for money accommodation too – think huts at the beach, as there’s nothing really fancy around. And even though the tourists in the South are mostly gora (that is “white people”, as Indians say), the truth is that when it comes to a beach vacation to unwind, South Goa is one of your best bets in India!

More on South Goa.

Below: Palolem beach, South Goa.

A beautiful end of day at Palolem beach in South Goa

Please note: most beaches in Goa see cows lounging around on a daily basis.. North or South, it’s still Incredible India for everyone to enjoy!

In India cows enjoy the beach too

You can also follow Backpack ME on facebook.

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Andrea, Best World Yet

It’s on every Parisian postcard, and is the consistent image that comes to mind whenever you think of Paris, but is a visit to the Eiffel tower everything you’d imagine it to be? An important thing to keep in mind, is that the Eiffel tower is Paris’s most visited attraction!

I played the tourist role well on my first visit to Paris, waiting in long lines for the chance to cross hot spots off of my bucket-list. I had visions of climbing to the top of the Eiffel tower, peacefully enjoying my surroundings, and taking in phenomenal views from one of Paris’s tallest (and by far its most famous) structure. Reality, however, was quite different. I fought my way through swarms of tourists, working hard to ignore aggressive vendors pushing me to purchase souvenir trinkets. When I finally made it to the top, I felt hurried and chased away by the never ending flow of people shoving their way to the best photo opportunity. Needless to say, it was not my ideal scenario.

Below: view from the top of the Eiffel tower.

Paris, Best World Yet (3)

While the Eiffel tower is on nearly every travelers Paris to-do list, there are better ways to tackle this hot spot, if you must! I recommend a picnic in the park beneath the tower – take advantage of Paris’s wonderful markets and bakeries. Grab pate, baguettes and wine, and make the Champ de Mars your lunch stop for a grand experience with the tower. Take in the magnificence from ground level while enjoying the Parisian sun.

Still want to take in views from the top? If you’re set on ascending Eiffel, it’s definitely worth it to splurge on a fancy lunch or dinner. Make sure to plan ahead and make a reservation at Le Jules Verne. Not only will you be able to skip the line (taking a private elevator up the tower), but you’ll enjoy a Michelin Starred meal in a truly breathtaking setting.

Looking for an even more unique view? Eiffel has the height, the history, and certainly makes for a dramatic entrance. However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, and won’t miss the seas of swarming tourists and fees, head to the 6th floor rooftop of Galleries Lafayette Mall. This hidden gem has views across all of Paris, including a picture perfect Eiffel in the distance.

Just follow the escalators up, all the way to the top of the mall, and enjoy the relaxing (free entry) café setting. You can bring your own lunch, or order food and drinks from the roof-top restaurant, all while enjoying the perfect Parisian panorama.

More on Paris (a city we actually love).

Below: views from the rooftop of the Galleries Lafayette.

Paris, Best World Yet (4)

You can also follow Best World Yet on facebook.

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None of the bloggers above knew what destinations the others were writing about so it was interesting to see some of the overlaps, most notably on Paris.
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We’ve had a lot of our own misadventures. Top Tourist Traps and Disappointments on our list?

Let’s start with the one that inspired this post: Bran Castle in Romania. What a tourist trap…..go to Peles Castle instead. Much more impressive.

Costa Rica was disappointing to us: over hyped, expensive, and overrun by foreigners…go to Nicaragua instead for something a little bit more off the beaten track.

Lucerne sticks out as one of our most expensive, most over-rated cities we’ve been…but we loved Lauterbrunnen in the Berner Oberland.

In Tuscany, most people go to PisaSiena is, in our opinion, much more impressive. See Pisa as a day trip only.

But the most disappointing place we’ve been? Rio de Janeiro. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. I would go to Cartagena ten times over before ever going back to Rio (or Brazil in general).
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So your turn. What is the worst tourist trap and/or most disappointing place you’ve been?

 

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Comments

  1. I wasn’t a huge fan of Paris either. I do have to giggle a little at the comment about the Colosseum being a load of concrete. I’m not sure if she’s aware that the Romans actually invented concrete! Soooo a lot of it is authentic. 🙂 It was very much crowded, though, and unless I were returning with my kids, I wouldn’t pay to view the inside of the Colosseum again.
    Katrina recently posted…Mapping My Month: November 2015My Profile

    • Ha ha, that’s kinda hilarious!! I clearly wasn’t paying attention in my history classes at school (would’ve zoned out at the word ‘concrete’ no doubt). Still, I think the Romans of old would be horrified to see their great invention being used in such an ugly way today, at least they used it aesthetically as well as for durability.
      Heather Cole recently posted…My Lokai bracelet review and giveawayMy Profile

  2. Paris was disappointing for us too, when we visited during the Summer. But on a different occasion, we visited during Autumn and the experience was SO different! So much that after criticizing the city so much on our blog, we ended up writing another post entitled: “Paris when it’s pleasant”. If anybody is curious, here it goes: http://bkpk.me/paris-when-its-pleasant/

    Paris is indeed nice.. just need to visit at the right time! 🙂
    Zara recently posted…Tracking expenses while traveling with ToshlMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Zara – we’re actually thinking of visiting next spring. Maybe its a city best seen during the shoulder seasons.

  3. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who wasn’t a fan of Paris! Thanks for putting this post together Frank 🙂 Always eye opening to see which places other people didn’t take to 🙂
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…What it Takes to Produce a Travel Documentary. Interview With @CaminoDoc Director Lydia B. SmithMy Profile

  4. Ha – great post. I second the ‘trapness’ of Paris and of the Bran castle. I much preferred the whole charming town of Sighisoara in Transylvania.

  5. Some unfair comparisons above like comparing a city with a country or a large city with something smaller.

    Some of the reasons popular places can be disappointing are

    1 Large crowds ruin the experience
    2 Popularity pushes up prices
    3 Locals get sick of whingeing tourists and become less friendly
    4 Con artists see tourists as gullible so they target tourist hotspots

    So rather then follow the uninformed masses get advice from locals who know good spots away from the crowds.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Lots of tourists = all the by-products you mention above. That’s one constant we’ve noticed for sure.

  6. The common thread coming through with on almost all the blogger feedbacks could be titled ‘stay away from places with a lot of tourists’ . What amazes me is how put out so many seem to be because they actually had to wait in line for hours or put up with the pushing and cajoling of other tourists, or souvenir pushers, or the place was not as good, impressive or nice as they expected ! A lot of it may come down to advance research ? Its also pretty evident that many of the disappointments or bad experiences are largely, even invariably due to the other tourists… . . Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Greenwich ? Many of the places mentioned are amongst the most visited places on earth, and as such why , when we finally get there , are we going to let ourselves get intimidated by the other tourist mobs, and all that goes along with them. Big Surprise. There are pushy souvenir vendors at all these tourist sites .. Wonder why ? Could it be they have a few hundred thousand potential clients a day ? Hmmm…

    And as Andrea pointed out there are so many alternatives if the waits and mobs are too much – in Paris (in addition to Galeries Lafayette) how about the fantastic views from the top of the Tour Montparnasse or better still, for a really unique and different perspective, from the top of La Grande Arche at the Defense, the ‘new’ skyscraper business centre of Paris, or even the Arc de Triomphe, where entrance is a lot easier and quicker outside of ‘tourist hours’ (before or after) and whn the light and the lights are at their best ? No long waits, no souvenir vendors – and most of few gritty tourists! In fact few tourists at all, as they seldom seem to get off or very far away from the beaten path. More’s the pity. Despite everything, an important part of the blame for our travel woes and negative experiences are brought upon ourselves.

    In a great many of my personal experiences, it is exactly the tourist sites and highlights where we tend to find what we don’t like about travelling…How come an autumn experience in Paris can be SO different and pleasant ( Zara ) ? Could it be there that there are less of the mobs of summer tourist bores ? Could it be that so many visitors do not do enough research into the best way to see these notoriously busy and over-visited sites ? In London & Paris for example a simple 3 or 5 day transit pass (a huge value in itself) can be linked up to preferential or ‘fast track’ entrance to many museums, sites and attractions (British Museum, the Louvre, Orsay etc ). A bit of pre-planning can, and invariably does reduce many of the obstacles and hassles that go along with such ‘mass tourism’ anywhere.

    A general observation – the dirtiest parts of many major tourist cities tend to be exactly where the tourists are …and if I was a local I would get my back up by the inconsideration, boorishness and “aggressive attitude” of so many of the tourists themselves ..I often feel they have a different code of behaviour away from home – dropping papers and junk wherever they may happen to be, acting like louts and yabos or just being downright objectionable. Usually, the worst service , meals – and highest prices – tend to be in the same areas – and/or where the menus are in several languages… The way tourists often act and expect to be treated (as the English say, “like Lord Muck on toast”) often brings along with it a negative reaction from the locals. And in MHO, understandably so. I often wonder how the locals live and put up with he incessant tourist pressure year round as they have to do in places like Venezia, Rome, Paris etc, where literally everything is pretty much swamped by them .

    A little anecdote – and amazing fact … When starting my travel experiences in Europe in the late 1960s, (yep, you have a real ol’ fogey here…) the Eiffel Tower was a 20 minutes queue ; the Piazza San Marco was full of locals (who have since left the city) and relatively few tourists ; visiting the Vatican was a mere formality, the Colosseum a cinch ! My photos (Kodak Instamatic…) bear witness to the overall dearth of mass tourism of whatever form , anywhere and everywhere we went. In 1970 (the year of the 747…) world-wide air travel totaled fewer than 300 million passengers – and most of that was in the US ! By 2014, air travel numbers had topped 3 Billion world wide ie: it could be said that almost half of humanity can be considered to be on the move every year!

    The Italian politician who wants to levy a 100 Euro entrance fee to Venezia , to limit the tourist masses to those willing and able to pay – or really interested enough to make the ‘investment’ – and in order to (finally) provide the necessary funds to maintain and save the city, is not too far from an eventual truth . With so many places at ‘saturation’ point as far as tourism is concerned, coupled with many of the negative effects that go with it must lead to big upcoming changes , and probably sooner than later. We have all been and are still living as very priviledged members of Society as far as travel and tourism goes. But how long will it – can it – continue. But in the interim we can only all try and make the most and best of it .

    A ‘slower’ more balanced approach to visiting any place invariably improves the experience. Mixing a museum with a lot more local visiting – a meal up a side-street in Venezia as far as one can get away from Piazza San Marco (or any of the touristy place), or a café or orange-pressé in the Parc Monceau, or elsewhere in Paris, where almost no tourists step-foot, goes a long way to enhancing a visit anywhere . And I can never understand how a poor or even bad experience at a particular site or place can lead to the total negation of an entire destination . Yes, Ghent is a wonderful are largely unknown (at least to North Americans) destination, but Amsterdam , which despite its ‘over-hyped’ presentation – and prices – is still a unique and wonderful place to visit and experience with its incredibly rich heritage , museums, arts and musical attractions ..

    And I think thats where your ‘slow travel ‘ , Frank and Lissette , have a huge advantage over the shortish jaunts most travellers tend and have to do. You are experiencing as far as is possible, the real life in a place, for all its warts and weaknesses, for all the positive and upbeat sides.
    With real time in a place , we tend to appreciate it and its people a lot more. And I have found this to be pretty much a universal rule… Invariably with time, a place grows on us, it matures and improves with Time. It perhaps seldom end up being as positive or attractive as we may have expected or wanted it to be, but its NEVER ends up being as bad or negative as we have been led to believe !

    Look forward to hearing of your new experiences on a ‘new’ Continent !

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Wow. All great points Tony. I’m not going to try to counter any of your arguments I think you are pretty much spot on.

  7. I liked the Colosseum. What did people expect? Things like that are good to look at for an hour or two then move on.

  8. Thais do eat bugs and what not. Silk worms, grasshoppers and also frogs. Grasshoppers are high protein and taste like chips but more healthy. Frogs taste like a cross between chicken and fish – love em. I don’t like silk worms though.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I have memories from my single days of buying a bag of fried crickets and eating them in a strip join in Phuket. Went down well with a beer.

  9. Kyoto and Japan in general has some nice temples but how important are temples to tourists? Unless it is your spiritual beliefs it is a one dimensional visit. Why do westerners spends days looking at temples? Do buddhists visit western countries and spend days looking at churches? Not many. It is like westerners are trying hard to experience “culture” when all they are doing is being led around like sheep at the sales yard.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I think it’s just one part of seeing a different place Tom. Just like being in South Africa we want to see a bit of wildlife, climb Table Mountain, and get in a bit of culture. And if I’m in Europe I do want to see churches because some are spectacular and you won’t see anything like it anywhere else. Not that I’ll ever be religious, but you can’t help but be impressed by some of those buildings that took decades to build…something we’ll never see again.

    • Travel is all about new experiences, widening horizons and learning about the world. We don’t have temples like that here in the UK so I’m gonna want to gawp at them (yes, lots of them) when I’m in SE Asia because they’re exotic, they’re something different, and deserve the respect of being visited. I’m not religious in the slightest, and rum and coke is as near to spiritual as I’m ever going to get. Yet my temples visits are far from ‘one dimensional’ and yes, it is about experiencing the culture, which is possible whilst being an outsider. As for the sheep at a sales yard (we have an farmers auction mart down the road!) that’s also a very enlightening experience to witness, you should perhaps give it a go some time! You don’t need to be a farmer to enjoy!
      Heather Cole recently posted…My Lokai bracelet review and giveawayMy Profile

  10. Wait, I’m not one of your favorite bloggers? 🙂 What I’m about to say is an unpopular opinion as well but neither of us love Berlin. When I ask people what they love about it, they usually say it’s so diverse, there’s so many different kinds of people there, there are so many different ethnic restaurants there, the nightlife is amazing and things like that. After thinking about it for a while I came to the conclusion that maybe because I grew up in NYC and all that was commonplace, I wasn’t impressed by Berlin. I think it’s just okay. I’d recommend Dresden or Leipzig over Berlin any day. Another place that was a huge disappointment to me was Volendam in the Netherlands. It’s the only place I haven’t liked there so it was extra disappointing. Tourists flock there by the boatload and it was just terribly cheesy with nothing but souvenir shops and completely awful. Go to nearby Monnickendam instead.
    Travels and Tipples recently posted…Something’s Brewing in LichMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      That’s funny and I’m almost relived to know you weren’t crazy about Berlin – because it’s a place that’s never really interested me. Every photo I’ve ever seen it just seems big, grey and cold looking. I love Germany, one of my favorite countries, but the idea of going to Berlin doesn’t excite me. Dresden on the other hand really impressed us.

  11. What an interesting post! And to see what some of the other travel bloggers say :-). Oh, and by the way, thanks very much for asking our opinion (Koh Lanta preferred over Koh Tao). We absolutely adore that photo by BackPack Me (presumably on North Goa) – and since we don’t want to look like that couple, we’ll make sure to visit South Goa instead (if we ever get to Goa, which would be nice!). And by the way, Frank, your suggestion about Siena in Italy, we hear is spot on. Friends who visited recently say they preferred it to busy Florence too.
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…The “Temple Whisperer”: Turning love for Indonesian art into Hotel Tugu LombokMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Janice and George,
      Thank you both for contributing, have heard for a while that Koh Lanta is really nice and it’s been on our list of places to go in Thailand.
      Yes, I like the photo of that couple!
      We enjoyed Florence but Siena much smaller, easy to get around, and filled with some stupendous highlights. Not really that much to Pisa.

  12. I’m surprised how many travel bloggers dislike Paris. I hear everywhere how much people love it. It was the most disappointing destination for me too (with the exception of Bangkok)! I expected something wow and what I saw was: grey, kind of boring buildings (which actually made me feel as if I was in a post-soviet city), zero cozy romantic streets like in the Balkans and I didn’t even bother to wait in the line for the Eiffel Tower. The cathedral, churches other monuments are nice but nothing more spectacular than in other cities. I think people dislike Paris because of this hype created by the media – they see Paris and it actually turns out to be like any other city.
    In Japan, they actually have “Paris syndrome” – a psychological disorder – a shock caused by the difference between the imaginary city of love and reality. That’s why I prefer off the beaten path – less disappointment. Compare Kiev and Paris for example: Kiev is full of colors, amazing architecture and surprisingly interesting sites and you get this wow feeling everywhere. And it’s not even shown in media at all. Before I visited those 2 cities, I had imagined Kiev the way Paris is and Paris the way Kiev is.

  13. This is not to negate any other cities or sites – the world is full of so many wonderful, different and exciting ones . But Wow ! How can anyone think the buildings and architecture in Paris is boring and ‘post-soviet’ (whatever that may be ) ? Maybe because its a (relatively) modern planned city albeit a very unique form of urban planning ? Yes, the buildings are generallyof a homogeneous height (a big asset compared to the jack-saw skylines and architecture of most cities these days..) but thats what makes the entire whole so much more beautiful than the individual parts. But the buildings are all very individual too, with their own unique ornamentation, statues and sculptures. Happilt they were still built in a Time when architecture and art went hand in hand.

    Sorry the overall colour is grey, but thats the local stone. (Bordeaux is all cream, Toulouse all in red-rose brick and Nice is bright, outrageous Mediterranean colours ! ) Most Northern Europeans don’t paint their cities in sunny southern colours (Copenhagen excepted ?) although they probably … Guess it not in their genes….

    Paris is full of incredible perspectives and vistas on a grand scale – , a rare thing in and of itself , and something that adds an element of grandness and uplifts the human spirit – and it was all planned that way. Very few other cities were (only Washington DC and perhaps Vienna come to mind ) There are lots of large,as well as pocket parks, and fantastic hidden urban jewels like the Place Royale or Place des Vosges. The cathedrals, churches and monuments are ‘nice’ ? Hmmm… I have not heard anyone claiming the monuments are ‘more spectacular’ than in other cities – in fact the Parisiens themselves are the first to admit that Notre Dame, though impressive, is far from being even the largest or most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in France ! But how about the Sainte Chapelle just opposite – a real and beautiful wonder of the world ? Its nothing like anything in any other city … or monuments like the Arc de Triomphe, Alexander IV Bridge, or Les Invalides (to name just a few…) – all pretty hard to beat…
    Whatever else Paris is, or maybe, almost everywhere one looks, it is a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the senses (And if one cannot find little romantic streets, squares or parcs in Paris, then they ain’t looked too hard.

    If only more of our cities had been planned and built with the same equilibrium for their inhabitants ! The French – whatever their other weaknesses may be – have turned out to be pretty good urbanists – and not just in Paris. Many of their cities – Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Lyon, Strasbourg etc are likewise renowned for their pleasant, agreeable and good urban planning.

    I can’t attach any importance to visiting the Eiffel Tower. That is not what Paris is about. But I feel that somewhere along the line a lot more was missed in Paris than the Eiffel Tower ! I wish indeed that Paris was “like any other city”, because then, we would all be living in a generally far greener , uplifting and pleasant urban environment that most of do ! An urban enviornment that actually stimulates rather then depresses – like so much of our modern development and cities do.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I remember going back when I was 17 – that’s 32 years ago now – and thinking that Paris was gorgeous. I think the major issue is what you said in your previous comment Tony: just the sheer number of tourists that go to these places today vs 30 years ago. It’s the humanity that ruins places. Venice for instance is just spectacular but imagine what it must have been without the tourist hordes? We loved our 3 days in Venice a few years back but I remember also how stressful it was and that I felt a strange sort of relief leaving…Our favorite places usually evoke an emotion, they bring you back to a time and you can ‘feel’ the past. Of course you can feel that more when you don’t have a couple thousand tourists breathing down your neck with their selfie sticks…

    • Thanks Frank, and Yes, I agree entirely. My latest comments were in response to Tom’s, who seems to feel the buildings,architecture of Paris are ‘kind of boring’, “post soviet” etc and that its ‘just like any other city’ . And thats an emotion I can’t understand or identify with. Irrespective of tourist numbers or specific experiences in a place, things like the buildings, architecture, perspectives, parks etc can still be appreciated for their beauty, for what they are – albeit they would be a lot more pleasant and enjoyable without the mobs ! Paris , Vienna, St-Petersburg, Barcelona are amongst them – planned and built to be totally different – and to be ‘beautiful’. Others are just naturally so – Sevilla, Grenada, Munich, etc. Sometimes History enters the equation as the dominant factor in a city’s ‘beauty’ – Dresden, Leipzig, Krackow, Rome and Quito or Cartagena (not to forget our Latin cousins…) But none of them are ‘like any other cities’, each has its unique character and personality – and yes, emotions .

      I can well appreciate Tom’s preferences for ‘getting off the beaten path’ and going local as much as possible, but so much ‘on the beaten bath’ is also well worth seeing and experiencing too ! Surely both can be combined to the degree preferred ? Reading Tom I get the feeling that if a place has too many tourists, then he can’t really be too ‘bothered’ to experience it at all. Led around like sheep ? Why visit temples unless we have a spiritual link to them ? If visiting temples, sights, sites and attractions that are ‘foreign’ , different or unfamilar to our own culture, is ‘one dimensional’ , as he claims, I wonder why he bothers to travel at all….

      • Frank (bbqboy) says:

        That Tom, he’s just a grump 🙂 Actually he’s one of the most loyal followers of the blog and I always appreciate his comments, especially on Thailand on which he is an expert. He seems to have irritated a few people on this one though…

      • The vibe of the city of Paris is unique indeed and boring (for me) and I truly dislike it. I’d seen the triumph arches in many other cities, and when I saw the one in Paris – I got disappointed. I thought: “is it really this famous Arch de Triomphe”? Nothing unusual and yes, so famous. The overcrowded Champs-Elysees is another joke. Normal, ordinary buildings and full of buffoons who think that if they buy an over expensive thing from the famous street, they are better than others. And so many extremely dodgy, dirty streets right off the city center. The Eiffel Tower was nice indeed (and unique), I must admit that.

        You also said that Paris is grey/beige and we should like it because that’s the way it is. Well, Soviet cities are also grey and many buildings similar to the ones I saw in Paris and yet many people in the west claim that those cities are ugly because they are gray.

        And I don’t dislike Paris only because it’s popular or planned. Maybe because I had gone first to the really amazing, romantic, full of colors, fragrances and flavors towns of the Balkan peninsula. I couldn’t believe how it is possible that there’s no tourists there and in Paris… millions. Prague, Rome or Barcelona (that you’ve mentioned) are also popular and I love them.

        So, yes I am a grump because it’s annoying when people love Paris which is nothing special comparing to other cities they would never visit only due to lack of exposure or bad reputation in the western media: Kiev, Tbilisi or Yerevan.
        I get such opinions all the time and those opinions, of course, emphasize the frustration when I hear: “What? You must be out of your mind you’re going to Armenia! Why not Paris?”

        It’s not about whether Paris is beautiful “in general” or not – objectively speaking it’s not ugly. When we travel, as you said, we absorb the place. We like the vibe or not. And that’s the amazing thing about traveling! To see through our eyes. For example, Prishtina in Kosovo is an honestly ugly city, without amazing architecture, but it has the sincere, down to earth, easy going, lively atmosphere that I just loved. I didn’t like the “emotion” of Paris – it was too cold and “formal” for me (I didn’t even go there intentionally – I visited it as a stopover, my friends insisted). I am entitled to express my opinion and my opinion should not diminish the beauty of Paris in your eyes. And it’s not only my opinion, every second person here on this forum was disappointed with Paris.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Hey Tom: my own reply to Tony was about ‘Thailand Tom’ not about you (‘Eastern European Tom’ – Ha!). Just in case there’s confusion…

          • No worries, because Tony in the comment above was speaking about my comment on Paris. I think everyone is free to have an opinion and it’s not a sin to dislike Paris 😉

  14. If people want to experience local culture then they need to learn the language, make friends with locals and hang out with locals doing normal activities.

    Visiting a few temples/churches/museums is tourist culture not genuine local culture.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      But does doing ‘normal’ stuff mean experiencing local culture? I could hang around with lots of people back home and experience no culture at all. Is local culture in Thailand TODAY hanging out with Thais at KFC? Does the normal Thai go see traditional Thai dance? And if they don’t does it mean it is not part of the culture? Because if you take away temples/churches/museums we are all increasingly homogeneous: listening to the same pop music, eating the same junk food (actually I think they eat more per capita in Thailand than anywhere I’ve seen in recent memory), and watching the same TV shows.

      People want to see temples/churches/museums etc because it is part of a place’s historical culture. It’s also why many museums worldwide have free museum days – to get their own people to appreciate their own culture and not lose touch with their identity.

    • I think to learn the local language it’s a bit too much but I agree with you – visiting museums/churches and monuments won’t show you the local vibe at all! But they are the witnesses of history and a beautiful thing to see! That’s why I travel with the locals as much as I can. And go to the country side 🙂

  15. Great article. Helpful tips that I will definitely put into practice.

  16. Local music venues
    Local sporting venues
    Local restaurants
    Local festivals
    Family get together

    That is local culture.

    Museums/famous temples are worth 2 or 3 days. Plenty of time for genuine culture.

  17. It would totally suck balls if everyone liked the same places and things 🙂 . Thanks for asking for our input. Federico had been to Amsterdam years earlier and he had good memories. I wouldn’t mind going back, but not to the city itself, maybe outlying areas. Amazing how many people hate Paris!!! I like it well enough, and always look forward to visiting. Great post!!!
    Kemkem recently posted…A very long, money draining, travel week!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for your input Kemkem. It’s a little surprising about Paris, look forward to going back sometime in the spring and we’ll see for ourselves.

  18. Really enjoyed reading this article, some good advice and tips for alternative options. Would love to get to South Goa, sounds great.
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  19. I’m not suprised people hate Paris. It’s marketed like the most amazing romantic city in the world. Victim of it’s own fame.

  20. We loved Paris but thought that the Eiffel Tower was actually better to be seen as a feature over the city everywhere we went, but the actual view from the top is just ok, and the queue plus the vendors was less than enjoyable.

    We have recently visited Japan and the most disappointing place we visited was the Tokyo Skytree (another tall tower!) – the queue to get was massive, but as we were from overseas we were able to pay a higher fee to skip the queue, and when we got to the top there were so many people that I did not enjoy it all. We could have stood in another queue for an hour to pay to ascend to the higher level but we decided to give it a miss and head out. On the way out we went through some lower level and we were relieved to see a lot less people. We actually sat and took in the view and enjoyed the experience a lot more once there were a few less people…
    Anne Sutherland-Smith recently posted…5 Top Tips on How NOT to Start Your First Visit to Japan (plus Bonus Tip!)My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Anne. Good to know – I’ve seen that in other places where it’s a mad rush to get to the top level but a floor just a few flights down might be empty.
      Honestly, I’ve never waited hours for anything. I just hate crowds and I hate waiting around. If anything I’ll try to visit at some strange hour where it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll be less people.
      But we have to make it to Japan one day…

  21. I liked Amsterdam, not for the red lights and the marijuana, but the city itself was beautiful and I enjoyed the museums and art. And of course the tulips. Maybe I just kept my expectations low, but I wasn’t disappointed.

  22. Great post, no matter how hard you try you cant avoid the tourist traps!
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  23. I am agree with Megan about Paris. I didn’t like this city from the first visit.
    My last disappointment is Naples, Italy.
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    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, I’ve read your post on Naples and I concur 🙂 I don’t think I’d be crazy about it either.
      I haven’t been to Paris for 30 years. I was a teenager and met a beautiful Mexican girl under the Eiffel tower and fell in love (for a day). Spanky and I are hoping to get there sometime this summer so we’ll see how we feel about it..

  24. Always fun to read this lists.

    A disappointing experience for me was the Pyramids of Giza. It was a hazy day. The pyramids simply looked like pile of rocks. Was not impressed.

    Loved Cairo though. Spent a week there. And it was amazing to explore
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  25. It is too easy to pack your expectations of a place, especially when so many images are available to see before hand… Paris was good to us, but then we were out of season and had an early start to go up the tower, the kids then had such a great time laying on the glass viewing area, so it made for a fun day.
    My most disappointing place was Neuschwanstein Castle. I was so excited to take the girls there as I’d camped beneath it when cycling with a friend through Europe years back, but the group leader could not be understood, we could not take our time as they really shoved so many through far too quickly and they did not allow and photos to be taken – the highlight for me was when a security guard yelled across the room at me for dawdling and taking photos! Geez, that made me giggle! The famous view from the bridge up above the castle was incredible – just for the complete lack of control and incredible numbers of people on it – definitely a spot that one needs to get to very early in the day!
    Great article Frank, I enjoyed the read too.
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    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We had the same experience at Neuschwanstein Jane! Really, we found it very much overrated and actually much preferred our visit to Reutte which is right across the border in Austria.

      I agree with what you say in the 1st paragraph; experience often variable depending on time of year you are visiting. Paris and Rome are two places I think that are really not ideal in mid-summer.
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  26. Always great reading lists like this 🙂

    I’m pretty surprised South Africa was nowhere on this list. My favorite is Cape Town, and by unpopluar choice, Phuket in Thailand 😛

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