- When traveling to a new destination, you can easily end up at a tourist trap. But if you keep your eye out for a few red flags, you can avoid the tourists.
- You need to avoid places that are popular on Instagram and have hashtags.
- Long lines, crowded areas, and gift shops are also red flags you should look out for.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
When experiencing a new city, you can get drawn into famous landmarks, expensive restaurants, and crowded areas. Before long, you’ve wasted money and time at inauthentic and even overrated establishments.
But there are ways to avoid these touristy spots by looking out for these red flags while traveling.
If a landmark, restaurant, or even a city is overcrowded and filled with people, you’ve probably ended up at a tourist trap
Elizabeth Becker, author of “Overbooked: The Global Business of Travel and Tourism,” said a good rule of thumb is if “the crowds at the monuments or beaches resemble the hordes of Black Friday shoppers in the USA,” then that should be a red flag. In fact, she refused to go to the temples at Angkor in Cambodia because the crowds ruined a place that was supposed to be sacred and holy.
If you’re only staying around famous landmarks, then you’re going to fall into tourist traps
When visiting a new city, it’s easy to get trapped at some of the biggest and most famous landmarks that everyone wants to see, and then you’ll end up at touristy hotels and restaurants.
“I always want to see the main tourist spot in a city, but never have that as my main reason for visiting,” Katy Rebrovich, an agent at CIRE Travel, told INSIDER. “What is a trip to Rome without seeing the Colosseum, after all? But once you’ve seen it, get off the beaten track and really explore. In major tourist cities, you have to work for the secret spots, but it’s worth it.”
If a destination or landmark keeps popping up in your social media feeds, then it’s probably for tourists
Whether it be pictures of people soaking in the hot springs in Iceland or selfies at Chicago’s Bean, we repeatedly see the same pictures on Instagram and Facebook from friends’ travels. That should be a red flag.
“My least favorite part about an Insta-famous destination is the type of crowd it tends to attract,” Christy Woodrow of Ordinary Traveler told INSIDER. “I have found people are often disrespectful, they don’t bother learning any phrases of the local language, and they are only there to take a photo … It’s actually quite a different experience than a place that’s gotten famous because of something other than Instagram.”
Likewise, if the landmark or restaurant has its own hashtag, you should stay away
“Anything that has become so popular that it has its own hashtag is a pretty blatant sign that you’re about to walk into a tourist trap,” Megan Jerrard, the avid traveler of Mapping Megan, told INSIDER. She said you should especially be aware of locations that have multiple hashtags, like the Eiffel Tower with its hashtags #EiffelTower, #EiffelToweratnight, and #EiffelTowerview.
“I’m not saying completely avoid these places, but just be realistic about the fact that you’re going to stand in lines, possibly for hours, be pushing past a sea of girls in pretty dresses while their Insta husband takes photos from a million different angles, and have hawkers yelling at you to buy their #EiffelTower key chains,” Jerrard said.
If the location you’re heading to has a gift shop, it’s a tell-tale sign that it’s a tourist trap
Restaurants like Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe are well-known tourist traps, and they both have expensive gift shops. Jerrard said you should stay away from these.
“If you can buy a replica of the landmark you’re visiting on a key chain or immortalized in a snow globe, that’s a pretty big red flag that it’s going to be swarming with tourists,” she told INSIDER.
Similarly, if there are more t-shirt shops than local crafts in the town or city, you should reconsider your destination
One of the best ways to experience a new culture is through their local crafts. But if you only see generic t-shirt shops selling shirts that are similar to “I Love NY,” then you’re in a tourist trap, Becker said.
If blogs and travel guides say you should only visit at a certain time of the year, then it’s probably a tourist destination
Amy Brueckner of CIRE Travel agency said that places like Disney World and Cancun have specific times of year when they see a big influx of people. During those seasons, those places might be worth avoiding. Places that aren’t tourist traps don’t have a specific time of year that you should avoid.
If a person is outside an establishment telling people to come inside, it’s most likely a tourist trap
Some restaurants or entertainment spots have a person outside whose goal is to get people off the street and into the establishment. Brueckner said these people are called hawkers and should be avoided because the only people who would actually step inside are tourists.
“If a restaurant is good, they don’t need to beg people to eat there,” she told INSIDER.” I was in Seville, Spain, last week and had this experience walking down the main tourist street on the way to the cathedral. Waiters were out on the street trying to wave you in. Once off the main drag, however, it was a quieter experience and we found more authentic restaurants.”