Ahh, the dreaded moment you realize you’ve been sucked into a tourist trap. They usually creep up on you disguised as a “good deal” or a “time-saver.” It’s not usually until you’re half way into your meal, or have already paid what you thought was a cheap price, that it hits you…you were robbed blind. Not only that, but you didn’t enjoy your experience how a natural or a local would.
Tourist traps are a yucky experience. Unfortunately, too many travelers are unaware of how to avoid these traps, so they end up spending most of their vacation in over-priced tourist spots—eating microwaved restaurant foods, and riding over-crowded double-decker busses. (Side note: double-decker busses just aren’t my thing—to me, it’s like you get as much of a location as you would flipping through pictures of it in a magazine. Yea, you might see a lot, but remember that when it comes to travel, you want quality over quantity. The more you experience is always better than the more you merely see.)
I’ve gotten caught in the web of tourist traps enough times to now know how to avoid them. Below are five things to keep in mind when traveling so that tourist traps don’t make their way into your itinerary:
- Maps (or lack thereof) are important.
We live in an era where learning how to read and use real-life paper maps are not the norm. I’ll be honest, they’re quite confusing. But learning to use them can make all the difference when traveling (especially if you don’t have internet). I will admit, getting lost in a new city is half the fun, BUT doing so wisely, i.e having something to pull out and double-check…just in case. It’s safer, and way more fun to check your map for back-roads that will lead you to your destination. You never know what cute shop or interesting local you might run into when you (purposefully) get a little lost!
- Put on your walking shoes.
Walk, walk, walk! Especially away from major tourist sites. In bigger cities, use public transport like the buss or subways when trying to get to places that are far apart. Public transportation gives you a feel for the locals—you have a chance to “walk in their shoes.” Buy day passes so that you are able to hop on and off as you please!
- Get creative with transportation.
For those who can’t (or refuse) to do excess walking, find a mode of transportation that forces you to slow down and soak it all in. For example, bikes are awesome! Many cities have incredibly easy and cheap means of renting bikes. I also found a ton of free bike-tours in Europe! Also look into horse-back riding, segways (still haven’t done this, but dying to try it, ha!), and any alternative form of transportation. Getting around will be an adventure in itself! You also get the chance to run into little treasures that you might have missed if you would’ve been speeding through in a closed-up car!
- Chalk-boards are the way to go.
Tourist traps disguise themselves in fixed-priced menus. STAY AWAY FROM THESE. Or if you see the same menu in a few different restaurants in the same area, it’s a trap. Chalk-board menus are usually the best because what’s offered is constantly being changed, meaning it’s fresh. Fresh is always good idea. If the menu is on a chalk-board AND the place seats less than 100, chances are you’re trap free.
This picture was taken in a little bar in Rome, Italy
- Coffee is always a good idea.
Sit (or stand) in a cafe where the neighborhood folks go to hang out. Enjoy a cup of coffee (decaf works too) and strike up a conversation with a local. Even if you don't speak their language, you'll be surprised at just how much they will help you with suggestions—either through pointing to a map, using body language—or whatever they can do to share with you their insider information. They’ll also love the fact that you’re taking the time to get to know what their city is really like!