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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.