tourist traps in popular destinations

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece



Tourist traps:  how to get away from tired clichés in popular destinations


Tourist traps, don’t you hate them, especially in very popular destinations. It’s so difficult today to have a unique and fun experience in a highly trafficked destination like Venice, Paris or London without being accosted with tacky tourist pitches,  people in costumes wanting you to take pictures or just the hordes of tourists coming off from a line of busy or cruises into that location and at the very same time. So what’s a person to do in these situations especially when you haven’t been to the Vatican, or the Eiffel Tower? My advise is to go ahead and visit those places you’ve always wanted to see, but spend a little more time researching these venues and how to have a fun experience while avoiding the crush of tourists visiting at the same time.



Here are some tips on visiting popular destinations without the tired clichés or masses of visitors.


Visit in the off-season The main turnoff in visiting a popular destination usually stems from traveling during the peak summer season when everyone else is on vacation. If you can manage to change your vacation timeframe to early spring, late fall or even winter time, you probably will enjoy visiting the destination without the crazy crowds or terrible lines to each attraction.

No more glossies Ditch the tourist board pitches and glossy publications for a destination, it’s better to do your own research online, with guidebooks or asking trusted friends.

Visit the tourist office On that note, do visit the local tourist office to find out more about unique experiences outside of the typical tourist traps and landmarks


Helicopter landing while visiting the Grand Canyon

Helicopter landing while visiting the Grand Canyon


Some things are worth the tourist hype You should consider splurging on one-of-a-kind events like How about having tea time at the Ritz in London, Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, or an hour helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas and flying through the strip at night-time. These are definitely worthwhile splurges in my book and will be remembered forever.


Local Events Look for an interesting local event or museum show that may be occurring at the same time in the area. You can check the local tourist office, your concierge or a recommendation from a local.


Avoid taking those all-in-one bus tours and take the public transportation or even better, walk all around the city and get some exercise in. Who knows what local treats or street food you might find along the way as a reward for your walking abilities.



Street food at a harvest festival in Japan

Street food at a harvest festival in Japan


Try the street food. Not only are you having a truly local style food popular in the area but you are supporting a small business. This is also a great photo opportunity to shoot the vendor, dish or yourself trying that local favorite.


Look at local magazines or newspapers. Check out the local paper to see “What’s Happening” or “Upcoming events” in the area to get an idea of something that may work with your visit


Talk to any of the locals about any unique spots, eateries or hangouts that may be worthwhile and far removed from all the typical tourist spots in town and I’m sure you’ll get some more local areas to visit and mix with the ‘normal people in town



San-Francisco- sunrise

San-Francisco- sunrise

Walk up early and see the sunrise. You can see so much early in the morning, seeing locals start off the day and going in to their favorite cafe for a shot of espresso and a pastry. You might just discover a new hangout spot and meet some interesting locals at the same time.


Forget about the typical Fado shows, Tango Lessons, or Hula at a Luau. Instead go to an open mike night, or a club that has nightly local bands or dances that really imbibes the local scene and atmosphere – it really will give you a better impression of how locals entertain and enjoy the nightlife in their town.


Visit the main attractions, But see them at different times apart from the tourist crunch. Try visiting first thing in the early morning, at lunch time, or even just a few minutes before closing and you might even get an amazing sunset view at the same time.


Instead of staying at a western style hotel, why not try a local BnB or pensione, this is a great way to meet a local business owner who can connect you with local people and interesting things to do at your destination outside of the typical


Food tour of North Beach in San Francisco

Food tour of North Beach in San Francisco

How about trying something that combines your hobby with the local area. If you’re a photography, join a tour group that focuses on unknown places to capture. Or if  you’re a foodie, what about taking one of those fabulous citywide food tours and get the inside story to some of the favorite markets, special foods and stories of eating local in the area while trying some amazing cuisine


Shopping or love to look for souvenirs? Don’t go buy at the popular tourist destinations, yes it is convenient but it will be pricey. How about visiting a local market or specialty goods shop and supporting local business and connecting with the real crafts person or artist directly. How much better it is to know about the piece your purchasing than from the person who is selling it to you.


Get away from eating in the tourist zones for a meal.  Either get recommendations from locals. shop owners or even your concierge. It’s easy enough to check out popular websites like Chow, Yelp or even trip advisor for some of the more unique and delicious food venues worth trying outside of the typical regional cuisine in the area.


Climbing the quiet and beautiful Filbert Steps in San Francisco

Climbing the quiet and beautiful Filbert Steps in San Francisco

Get lost and visit the back streets to these popular tourist attractions You might find these side streets even more interesting due to the fact that they are just around the corner from some of the most popular spots in the city.


While walking and you find a line of locals waiting for something, check out what it is all about and it might be a worthwhile experience to try, hey if the locals are waiting in line for something good, it must be good, right?


Of course you need to visit the popular tourist sites and other landmarks, but do build in some time to explore some of the unique neighborhoods and quiet spots in town. Even up and coming areas are fun to explore for the food, art and youthful energy in the areas



Enjoying a stunning sunset and panorama in Athens, Greece

Enjoying a stunning sunset and panorama in Athens, Greece

Always have some down time to just find a nice cafe, watch the street life and enjoy the everyday scene of the area you are building and I’m sure you’ll even feel like a local if only for a nice coffee or sweet pastry break!


If you travel wisely to a very popular destination, you don’t have to be put off by all the tacky displays and cliché travel experiences. Just think out of the box and you will find that these places are still fabulous and worth visiting over and over. Thanks for visiting and checking out my post on tourist traps in popular destinations. If you have any other suggestions on how to have a great experience at a popular attraction, please do share it in the comments section below.


, , , , ,

18 Responses to tourist traps in popular destinations

  1. Alan January 6, 2017 at 12:32 am #

    Off season is often a good time to explore what an area has to offer

  2. Wayne Seto May 19, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    All great tips. I whole heartedly agree with eating the street food. I always find it tastes much better than most of the restaurants and cheaper to boot. Great post.

  3. Best holiday countries May 15, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Too bad the weather wasn’t at nice, but it looks like you made the very best of it! It has been quite a few years since I’ve been to Crete, but next time I want to try mountain biking.

  4. Suze The Luxury Columnist May 12, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    Some fantastic tips, Noel – I agree that it’s wise to ask the locals for ideas and to eat off the beaten track. I often mean to catch the sunrise but my body doesn’t always agree with me!

  5. Suze The Luxury Columnist May 12, 2015 at 4:05 am #

    Some great tips here, Noel – I certainly agree with asking the locals for tips of where to go and trying to get off the beaten track. As for the sunrise, I usually have good intentions of seeing it though don’t always manage to wake up in time!

  6. Valerie May 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    These are some great tips! I was a little nervous about visiting Thailand because I know it is such a popular place to visit now and is overrun with tourists. We were able to to have a fantastic, authentic experience though by visiting on the shoulder season, waking early and doing our research. Even while visiting touristy Maya Bay we were completely able to escape the crowds of people by paying a little more for an overnight tour! I think the “touristy places” are probably popular for a reason and worth visiting at least once, but it doesn’t mean you have to visit it the way everyone else does 🙂

  7. Revati May 10, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    Excellent tips Noel! And it’s sometimes a great idea to use social media to get unique recommendations from locals or others who visited!

  8. Francesca @onegrloneworld May 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Great tips! I love traveling in off season ^_^ The tourist office is also the first place I go when I arrive in a new destination! Locals work there, so they have the best advice!

  9. Brianna May 10, 2015 at 5:52 am #

    Some great tips Noel.As a general rule you’ll eat better and more affordably if you search for restaurants at least 2 blocks away from a tourist site.

  10. Orana May 10, 2015 at 5:48 am #

    Hey this post is great! Every point you make is totally valid and true. THIS is the way to travel. Good job on this one.

  11. Corinne May 9, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Noel, Some great tips. I hate bus tours as a general rule, but sometimes you just have to do it.

  12. Lieurene Tran May 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    Wow, very useful tips! Thanks! I agreed that it can be annoying to fall for those tourist traps but just got to be smart about it and not to be afraid of doing something different

  13. Laura Lynch May 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    I definitely agree that there are better ways to see the major tourist traps than the typical bus tour with the tour guide who drones on while you and 100 of your fellow travelers follow along behind. I definitely think going on the shoulder-season to anywhere is the way to go, and then ditch the tour group.

  14. Sue Reddel May 9, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    Great tips Noel and I agree sometimes you have to do those “touristy” high-priced events. I wouldn’t have missed the balloon ride in Cappadocia for anything it was wonderful.

  15. Pippa May 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    This was really interesting! I love encouraging local events. Thanks for sharing, I love it!

  16. Natalie May 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Great tips! I love seeing a new place through walking tours or just pounding the pavement on my own. I also like traveling in the off season–fewer people, and more time at each site. As someone who’s super allergic to shellfish, I do have to be very, very careful about what I’m eating and how the food is prepared. But when I do find a cart that is safe, I love trying something new!

  17. April May 9, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    Great tips to help people evolve from being tourists to travellers. Lets get off the beaten path, people. It will help you better connect with the place you are exploring and you will have a more unique experience. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Mags May 9, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    Great tips! I especially like the local events. I always check local websites with calendars and event lists to find fun less “touristy” options. Of course, sometimes you have to suck it up and go to the top of the Effiel Tower.

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

%d bloggers like this: