Runaway from tourist traps for a unique stay
At one point or another on our trips, whether we know the city by heart or not, we will always be somehow a tourist in a town we didn’t grow up in. To get to know the true essence of the place we visit is the almost unreachable goal of everyone, and it takes time and patience to adventure yourself in the unknown with the mind open enough to discover the most typical greasy spoon.
There is for sure something comforting in the fact of going to the “famous” areas of a city or joining a crowd on a site, but it’s also the promise for you to miss the real soul of the place, and, worst, to fall into what we commonly call a tourist trap; the ultimate nightmare of the traveler.
For those who visited the Eiffel tower or a Madame Tussaud’s museum and experienced the horror of the unavoidable gift shop, the idea of what is a tourist trap is pretty clear, and therefore no need to do an entire chapter on the tourist trap meaning; but for those who still fear to fall into the clutches of the tourism industry, we offer you here a practical tourist trap definition to give you the keys to spot those red flags to avoid them and make your journey unique.
What is a tourist trap?
So, what is a tourist trap exactly? A restaurant? A shop? A street? A square? An attraction? Can it be a whole city? You probably got it, the answer to all those rhetorical questions is yes. A tourist trap is a place, a location, or a facility created only for tourists, proposing entertainments and things to buy at high prices using the naivety of the tourists, often crowded, and usually avoided by local people.
Except for the economic weight on your wallet, running away from those ambushes is also important for the local businesses. Tourism is probably the most lucrative industry, with 79 billion dollars each year extracted directly from the pocket of the tourists, and rarely reversed to the actual local people. So, to experience a more ethical and less pricey stay, here are the warning signs of the tourist trap to avoid.
First of all, the first challenge as a tourist occurs the minute you step out of the plane, probably the most vulnerable moment of your trip; all the taxi drivers’ eyes are now pointing in your direction. You can be sure the price they will first give you will be twice if not three times more than the regular one. To get away from this first tourist trap, make sure that you get in a taxi line, it’s the safest solution; look for the sign of the taxis or ask an employee of the airport to direct you to an official taxi service.
Explore the city
Once you managed to reach your hotel room, and it’s time for you to explore the city, the most precious advice to give is to run away from overcrowded places; you can be sure to fall into a very expensive place and a trap for your wallet. It can be the most famous places in the world, the Colosseum of Roma, South Beach in Miami, the Great Wall of China, or Times Square in New York; as long as it’s filled with hordes of people like it is black Friday, you can be sure you’ll be called to sit in a restaurant, you’ll be offered to buy a miniature version of the monument for your keys, or to give money to fake Monks as donations.
This should be the first red flag for you to run away after you visited the famous place you really wanted in order to complete your vacation souvenir album. As soon as you finished your tour, escape from a small alley and try to find a restaurant, a bar, or a gallery with local people only, to merge in the real essence of the place.
As well, if you recognize the place from the Instagram stories of your friends, it should ring a bell that you are about to visit a tourist trap. The places that usually pop up in your social feeds are the guarantees for you to live an experience far from being authentic but rather very touristic and fraudulent. Try to get advice from local people that you meet on the way, they will direct you to very specific places that for sure you won’t find back home.
Don’t be surprised by the prices, mind the place
In the same idea, stay away from the hashtag places; a restaurant that became a trend enough to have its own hashtag is something you don’t want to endure unless you acknowledge before that you will probably enter a tourist trap, so don’t be surprised by the prices and the artificial vibe inside.
Finally, try to avoid the big brands, even if you are in New York City, where the capitalist spirit became the essence of the place and turned into a kind of tourist show, you still can find some underground places closer to the local autochthones, and some of the best places to eat; so why to run into a Macdonalds or a TGI Friday?
Try to get away from the common NYC tourist trap guide everyone usually follows, escape from the chain restaurants, give up on the big bus tours or the souvenir shops in Time Square, and venture yourself into the neo-gothic buildings of the Big Apple; run away from this consumption way of being a tourist, and break the capitalist loop to make your stay more enjoyable and unique.
More about fakes in our article 8 Fake attractions made for tourists