17 Tourist Traps That Are Totally Not Worth the Effort
Graduate from "bumbling tourist" to "seasoned traveler"
No matter what your reasons may be for making the trek to famed tourist locations, you’d be wiser for acknowledging the fact that you’re far from the only one with a desire to experience these locations. In fact, if there is one thing that can be learned about international and domestic traveling, it’s that taking the path less traveled (literally) can often be more rewarding than paying a visit to tourist traps like Times Square or Taj Mahal.
For one, you’ll be able to see a more authentic side to the culture of the place that you’re visiting, rather than having to contend with hordes of international travelers, and all of the marketing techniques and scams that often come with frequented tourist destinations.
So, if you’re feeling more adventurous (and don’t exactly enjoy sharing your space with thousands of other tourists at once), take our advice, and avoid these worst tourist traps in the world—and take the first step in learning how to take the path less traveled.
Pyramids of Giza; Cairo, Egypt
More than anything, surviving a trip to the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo without severing ties with most of your precious travel fund is next to impossible. Before even entering the area, taxis will offer to drive you to hidden parts of this tourist trap—though, be warned: this secret entry will cost you more than you could ever imagine (often hundreds of dollars).
Additionally, tour guides will often target international tourists and trick them into thinking that they have to purchase a guided tour, which is actually not the case. At the end of the day, you’ll just be fighting massive crowds and dodging swindlers. So, while visiting ancient architecture can be an amazing experience for history buffs, anyone else with only a minor interest in these historical artifacts should steer clear at all costs.
All of Cancun, Mexico, is one endless tourist trap. From sales representatives pressuring you to attend presentations about purchasing timeshares in Mexico, to international, young tourists looking to engage in binge-drinking (the drinking age is 18 in Mexico), you’ll spend more time avoiding these unpleasant diversions than actually enjoying your time in this beautiful place. For crystal-clear waters and hidden cenotes, check out Bacalar, Yucatan, as an alternative to crowds and salespeople.
Taj Mahal; Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
According to CNN Travel, visiting Taj Mahal in India is only a good idea if you enjoy contending with thousands of other tourists elbowing you to get the best Instagram picture of its beautiful architecture. In fact, this location proves to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world, with around eight million visitors crowding around its exterior every year. So, if your heart is still set on seeing this historic place, plan to arrive there at dawn, before the crush of the crowds descends.
Sydney Fish Market; Sydney, Australia
While a visit to Sydney, Australia, should be on your bucket list, you can spend more time exploring the city and less time dealing with crowds and overpriced goods by skipping a trip to the Sydney Fish Market altogether. As the world’s largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, you’d be right to expect large throngs of tourists navigating its hallowed fishy halls, but what you may not expect is the less-than-stellar variety and prices that greatly exceed your grocery shopping budget. As CNN Traveler states, this tourist trap isn’t worth your time—or money.
Old Town; Prague, Czech Republic
Around three million visitors flood the streets of Old Town each year—meaning that a visit to this historical place requires quite a bit of elbowing and jostling to get the best experience. For many seasoned travelers, this area isn’t the worth the trek for the simple fact that so many other beautiful and distinct historical monuments to the wonders of Prague exist outside of Old Town. To only name a few, Vinohrady, Vršovice, Žižkov, and Holesovice stand as testaments to the architectural wonders of this place, without the throngs of tourists and overpriced attractions.
Notre Dame; Paris, France
While the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris presents an impressive display of Gothic architecture, fighting the crowds to actually get inside of the cathedral can take more than a few hours. For the same experience without the crowds, pay a visit to nearby Musée de Cluny, which is currently in the process of being renovated, restored, and redeveloped to its former grandeur by the country.
Leaning Tower of Pisa; Pisa, Italy
Even if it is amazing to spend a few minutes in an architectural anomaly such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ll have to pay more than your fair share of money ($22 per person) and precious time to even set foot in the historical building. So, if you don’t want to stand in lines to see a leaning tower, instead, take a trip to the mostly tourist-free medieval towers in the town of San Gimignano, in nearby Tuscany.
Though its shores are thought to provide some of the best and most beautiful waters to snorkel in, most understand this spot in Indonesia as a tourist trap. For one, the waters aren’t as pristine as they are made out to be—you’ll actually fare better in places like Pulau Menjangan, where the beaches are more carefully preserved. Additionally, as a general rule while traveling abroad, be careful of avoiding scammers: if the deal sounds too good to be true, then, most likely, it is.
Graceland; Memphis, Tennessee
Unless you’re a die-hard Elvis Presley fan, the $50 you’ll spend touring his home can be better spent on more authentic attractions in Memphis, Tennessee (like the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum).
Walt Disney World; Orlando, Florida
Welcoming a whopping 20 million visitors into its heralded gates every year (that’s 56,000 every day—the population of some small cities), a visit to Walt Disney World is akin to walking through Times Square in New York City during the height of the holiday season—not exactly for the faint of heart. Instead of dropping loads of money in an attempt to impress your family, venture instead to family-friendly parks like Hersheypark and Dollywood, where the tourists aren’t as intimidating and the prices are more manageable.
Stonehenge; Wiltshire, England
Since you’re barred from actually walking anywhere close to the stones, many agree that a simple drive by the famous rock formation is a better investment than actually forking over the money to see the famous Stonehenge from a distance. Not only that, but Stonehenge is in a more remote part of England, requiring a two and a half hour drive from London, meaning that you’re investing much more than admission price ($25 per person) to see (and not even touch) this rock formation.
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, New York
While there is a reason millions of flock to Niagara Falls every year to catch a glimpse of this stunning testament to the beauty of mother nature, the surrounding town has become so tourism-centered that exceedingly-high prices and overpopulated streets is the price you’ll pay for one look at these falls. A better alternative to this American city would be its equivalent in Ontario, called Niagara-on-the-Lake, which features the same stunning views of the falls with fewer tourists and more shopping that isn’t focused on the tourist population. In other words, it’s just a more authentic Niagara Falls experience.
Blarney Stone; Blarney, County Cork, Ireland
To get “the gift of gab” you get to pay for the opportunity to hike up 120 steps to kiss a wall that millions of others have kissed. While this may be a rite of passage as a tourist in Ireland, there are many other ways to enjoy your time in this historic country.
Nanjing Dong Lu; Shanghai, China
Recently regarded as the fourth worst tourist trap in the world, Nanjing Dong Lu, a shopping center in Shanghai, hardly measures up to its hype, according to CNN Travel. While many flock there for its supposed historical context (it was once the best shopping district in the country, around 150 years ago), there are little to no reminders of this fact still present in the district today. So, for those looking for unique Chinese shopping centers, they would be wiser looking elsewhere.
Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience; London, England
If your heart is truly set on learning more about Winston Churchill and World War II on your trip to London, you’ll want to steer clear of this exhibit, a tourist trap that features more mannequins and fake artifacts than authentic relics. For the real deal, head to actual World War II sites, like Churchill’s old bunker, which happens to be right around the corner.
Dunn’s River Falls; Ocho Rios, Jamaica
For starters, the trek up these falls is no joke—to make it up the falls in one piece, you’ll be holding on to other’s hands for support against the waters and steep incline. Further, you’ll be forced to endure the relentless parade of tour guides and salespeople trying to sell you tours and products at steep prices, which are often conveniently masked by “great deals.” While it is one of Jamaica’s most visited attractions, there are plenty of other beautiful sites to visit in this country—without enduring large tourist populations and swindlers.
Times Square; New York, New York
Especially as somebody who has lived in New York City for the past three years, take it from me: there are so many other ways to spend your time in the Big Apple without having to deal with costumed swindlers and overpriced chain restaurants. For a true taste of New York City, head downtown, below 14th street, instead. (Greenwich Village is an ideal destination.) While you’ll still have to contend with a crowd (it is New York, after all), you’ll find more authentic eateries and park strolls than you could ever imagine.
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