We also learned that no matter where you go, crowds of tourists at many popular attractions are unavoidable.
That’s the typical experience at many tourist traps; they lure you with the promise of an unforgettable cultural experience (which they absolutely can be), but fail to prepare you for crowds of people and long lines to get to, say, the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
Do your research and look out for red flags
Before any vacation, do your research online—but carefully examine reviews of highly-rated attractions on websites like TripAdvisor. Look out for any mention of lines, “skip the line” passes, VIP tickets, time slots, package deals or reservations; chances are that if these words are repeated again and again in reviews, it might be a tourist trap worth running from.
Always filter for more critical reviews to get a better sense of what to expect.
And talk to friends who’ve been to your destination, research blogs or guides written by actual locals or ask strangers you come across—like hotel and restaurant staff or friendly bartenders—if they have any tips on where locals go.
Don’t book a hotel in tourist areas
The easiest way to avoid tourist traps is to avoid booking a hotel in bustling, crowded areas.
“Most city and beach destinations that depend on tourism have a hotel zone or popular neighborhood filled with affordable chain hotels (think Midtown in Manhattan or the Hotel Zone in Cancun),” Megan Wood writes for Oyster.com. “So it makes sense that the restaurants and shops around the hotels cater heavily to tourists with chain stores, fast food restaurants, and hawkers selling tours.”
This might also mean avoiding larger chain hotels in favor of smaller, boutique ones or even renting an Airbnb property. (Obviously, you should weigh the costs and carefully vet each before booking.) If you’re booking an Airbnb, look at reviews that mention the surrounding area and any mention of noise or proximity to crowded areas.
Instead, before you travel, research local specialty dishes using websites like TasteAtlas and restaurant favorites using city guides from places like the New York Times, Bon Appetit or Eater. And don’t be shy about asking locals about their favorite spots.
Carefully vet tours before booking to avoid tourist traps
Always reconsider booking a group tour if you want to avoid crowds; it’s likely some part of the itinerary will include a stop (or several stops) to tourist-ridden attractions. Depending on the type of tour you booked, again, consult reviews. Ask your guide what to expect concerning crowds and for a detailed itinerary.
If you still can’t escape the throngs, avoiding booking a trip at tourist hot spots altogether—find a city close to your destination and book a stay there, for instance, and take advantage of the peace and quiet you long for.