4 Ways to Avoid Tourist Traps
Picture this: You’re finally on your trip, you have your day planned out. You’ve been researching for months. With your “20 Best things to do in Spain” list you start your adventure. About half way through you start to say to yourself “I feel like I have been surrounded by tourists all day” or “I feel like these activities and items are over priced and disingenuous” Well let me be the first to tell you; you’ve googled yourself into a tourist trap.
This is very common, often times we research the best things to do on a trip because we want to experience the local culture and genuinely learn about a part of the world that we are not accustomed to. However, sometimes we can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and completely miss out on the experience we wanted.
Why travel thousands of miles to have highly commercialized experience.
What is a tourist trap ?
I define a tourist trap as: a person, a location, or establishment that offers an overpriced and disingenuous experience that exploits your experiences solely for the purpose making money off tourist inexperience and ignorance.
How to Avoid Tourist Traps
Consider the Source.
When researching your activities ask yourself some questions before the trip. Who is writing this article? Have they actually been to the destination? Is this article sponsored by the tourist company or establishment they are backing? Am I paying for an authentic experience or the experience they think I want? Is this an experience I could do in my own town at home? These questions will help you sort through the establishment’s intentions.
Sometimes we fall into tourist traps because we did not take the time to research activities ahead. Often times you want to relax on your vacation; keeping things care-free and spontaneous. While this is great, sometimes it can lead us to making an uninformed decision, like booking the first tour package offered to you as you step off the plane (usually the most expensive) . Plan ahead, haggle, or shop around before settling on a package or tour.
I have found the most authentic experiences while traveling by looking on social media. Check hashtags, look at pictures, even reach out and message people who have already been, ask them what they suggest. When I was traveling to Cuba I looked on Instagram for things to do that were not in Havana. I ended up visiting Viñales,. Viñales is less touristy then Havana, and ended up being my favorite place in Cuba to visit. Sometimes destinations have amazing experiences that mostly locals know about and share on their social media pages.
Is it Worth it?
Ask locals, ask other travelers, check the reviews. The truth is that some tourist traps end up being a good experience. If you are still considering going, check with other people to get their feed back. When I went to Guatemala the famous Chichicastenango Market was at the top of my to do list. It was going to be a hassle to get to and a bit expensive. After talking to a local and expat, they suggested that I skip the market. They said it was touristy and anything I was looking for could be found in the Guatemala City market which was much easier to access.
Now go travel!