This blog post was updated on September 4, 2018.
Let’s be honest, some tourist attractions are well worth experiencing, but others are simply a waste of time and money. Rest assured, even the most seasoned traveler falls prey to tourist traps from time to time (or perhaps I’m just speaking for this seasoned traveler). However, there are some tried and true techniques you can use to avoid tourist traps the next time you’re in an unfamiliar place. Here are my top five suggestions.
1. Talk to someone who has been there before. If possible, before you leave for your trip, talk to someone (or, better yet, several people) who has been to your destination to find out what is worth seeing and what you can skip. In addition to finding out what to avoid, ask them specific questions about what you should do/see/eat. Be sure to make a list (I use the notepad on my iPhone to make sure that I will have the list with me when I travel).
2. Rely on your favorite bloggers. If you don’t know anyone who has been to the place you will be traveling to, check to see if your favorite travel bloggers have written anything on the topic. (Of course, the OneTravel Blog is a great place to start!)
3. Consult reputable, theme-specific guidebooks. Many general guidebooks mention some tourist traps simply because they are “the thing to do” (but they don’t have to be the thing that you do) in a certain place. Seek out quality, theme-specific guidebooks that will give you suggestions for things to do that you will actually interest you. For example, if you are a foodie, consult a guidebook that is designed specifically for those who want to learn about the culinary traditions of a particular place.
4. Mingle with the locals. Once you’re at your destination, chat with the locals to get the straight scoop on what should be experienced and what should best be avoided. Keep in mind, however, that some locals who work in the tourist industry (restaurant staff, taxi drivers, etc.) may have deals or allegiances with certain tourist traps.
5. Trust your gut. Only you know what you want to get out of a trip. If you get to a place and it seems like it’s not for you, don’t do it.