As a traveler, there will be times wherein you might experience being with hundreds of other tourists like yourself—all waiting in line to see the same thing. There’s also the chance that you won’t even have enough room to move freely at tourist spots and not bump into someone else’s shoulder or backpack. If you’ve been in a situation like this, then you’ve stumbled (maybe intentionally) onto one of the worlds most overrated tourist attractions before.
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Tourist traps come in as many forms as the number of different souvenirs you can find at the place itself. They can be famous historical monuments, entire streets, and even houses can be tourist traps. The areas around famous historical or cultural sites and museums are notorious for being tourist traps, as well.
If you’re tired of looking at the same postcard locations, waiting in long lines, and are ready to explore the world differently, then read on to learn how to avoid tourist traps, and travel how a local would in all your future travel adventures.
1. Do your research
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The easiest way you can stumble across a tourist trap is if you don’t do enough research. Take some time and research your destination. If you plan on visiting a famous tourist spot, check out several travel websites like Tripadvisor or the Lonely Planet and see if it’s worth your time and money to visit these popular tourist spots.
Read the reviews left by other tourists on these websites; if they all say that where you want to visit is overpriced, overcrowded and not worth the time and effort, then it’s best you stay clear, as it’s most likely a tourist trap. Taking the time to research can save you time, inconvenience, and money; so get reading.
2. Be wary of world famous tourist hotspots
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Popular tourist spots like Time’s Square and the Taj Mahal both have one thing in common: they’re both tourist traps. They’ll be packed full of tourists, all looking to take that perfect picture. There are also tourist trap restaurants that you can find near these areas, filled with overpriced food and packed full of other tourists.
If you want a better alternative, head to a local tourist office. You can ask for recommendations on the best local favorites where you can eat and explore, away from the tourist traps. Remember to make it a point to visit the local tourist office; so you can get a more authentic travel experience in every location you visit.
3. Plan a DIY tour instead
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There’s nothing wrong with booking a packaged tour. They’re convenient, and the tour guides can help you get to know the various locations you’ll be visiting. But it also means they might be taking you to overcrowded and overpriced tourist traps, and there might be locations on the tour’s itinerary that you don’t want to go to.
Time is precious when you travel; so why not remove the chances of you losing time and make a DIY travel itinerary for your trip? By doing the proper research and planning your trip on your own terms, you can go to the places you want to visit and spend as much or as little time you want on each item of your DIY travel itinerary. By having a DIY travel itinerary, you can save time and money for your other travel expenditures. Now, who doesn’t want that?
4. Think like a local
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Thinking like a local doesn't mean that you need to speak the same language or do everything that the locals do. Locals are experts in avoiding tourist traps. They know the best places to eat, drink, and explore, without the hassle of dealing with hundreds of tourists. So go where they eat and drink. If the language barrier is too great, you can use apps such as TripLingo that teaches you basic phrases for 19 different languages. It also has a voice translator that can help you break the language barrier with the locals.
You can also use Couchsurfing, where you can book a “couch” from a local that knows the area you’re in, inside and out. If you’re not looking for a place to stay, the app also has a hangouts feature that can connect you with locals for coffee, drinks, and even lunch. So go connect with a local, share a coffee at a small local cafe and away from popular coffee shop chains. And don’t be afraid of asking locals for recommendations. You might be surprised by what they recommend.
5. Stop thinking big
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You don’t have to go and ride the London Eye or take a ferry to see The Statue of Liberty. The biggest and most popular sites aren’t always the most authentic or the most bang for your buck. Avoiding tourist traps means thinking on a smaller scale and looking for hidden gems wherever you travel. Even with popular tourist destinations like Boracay, you can still find hidden gems on the island that aren't well known to tourists, if you look hard enough. You can book a room at Alta Vista de Boracay and take a dip at the infinity pool or have a gastronomic experience at the L’altura Restaurant before you start exploring the hidden spots in Boracay.
6. Pick a direction and get lost
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Sticking to the same tourist routes that all lead to tourist traps and not venturing out into other less known areas of your travel destination is a beginner traveler’s usual mistake. Try picking a direction and walk that way. If you start finding more tourists in the area you’re walking towards, pick another path and head that way, instead. You’d be surprised just how many other unique places there are to explore at your travel destination, simply by turning a few corners away from tourist traps.
With traveling becoming more popular every year, it’s understandable why different areas in any travel destination become tourist traps that cater to hundreds—even thousands—of tourists every year. You might want to check one out because of the novelty value of visiting something known all over the world. But remember to have a local’s mindset whenever you travel; so you can take your traveling experience to even greater heights.