Are You Falling for Tourist Traps? 3 Signs that You’re Not Getting An Authentic Travel Experience

Restaurant owners and knickknack sellers know tourists are gullible: they’re not familiar with the area, don’t know the language, and will do anything for the ‘gram. The more popular the destination, the more likely you are to get bombarded with false-advertising. Here are some signs you’re falling for the bait.

1. You’re Relying on Social Media Like Some Kind of Tech-Savvy Neanderthal

Michelle Borbon | Lets Go Pretty… but is it good? Photo: Eaters Collective

Social media is a great way to find good photo-ops. But, but! It is also an easy way to get tourist-trapped. Filters, good photography, and straight-up photoshop makes your favorite influencer’s feed an unreliable source for good travel experiences. Influencers flock to whatever looks best on their cameras—you might get to the spot, take your picture, then realize there’s nothing else to do around.  


Resist the urge to jump at the first picture that makes your brain go, “Oooh pretty people! Shiny place!” Use social media strategically: instagram is a good way to find fun nightlife, for example, but not great for food. Search the location tag or hashtag for your destination city and scroll past the top-rated pictures. This will help you find posts in your destination city’s official language to guarantee you visit local favorites.

2. You’re Only Hitting the Places You’re “Supposed To”

Michelle Borbon | Lets Go Pretty, but you can do better. Photo: Saurav Rastogi @rastogi_saurav

There’s a way to see big cities and keep your sanity. Going to every single monument because *it’s just what people do* is not it. It’s just not always realistic to pack in every crowd-pleaser in one trip. If big-ticket sights are the only places you hang out in, you’re also more likely to get seduced by the nearby vendors preying on tourists.


I am giving you permission to pick just some of the famous spots at your destination. Dedicate leftover time to finding unique experiences that interest you. You’re a whole-ass person with hobbies and interests, so use them to guide your travel! Search for strangest museums, unusual food, or recommendations for whatever weird, niche things you like doing when you’re home.

3. You’re Stopping at the First Restaurant with a Review Sticker and a Sign that Says “Authentic Fare”

Your review app might be reliable in your home city but you might as well put on clown shoes if it’s your only recommendation source abroad. Think about it: most online reviews are filled out by touristy Americans. Sure, that Five-star pasta place you found online is probably tasty, but it won’t necessarily be the best in Rome or even a good representation of Italian pasta. Americans are also uniquely service-centric when it comes to restaurants, which could cause you to lose out on hidden gems.


Don’t rely on one-time tourists to guide your experience. Most cities have restaurant rankings that are published by local media and informed by local taste. Or, seek out advice from experienced travellers. You want information from people who are either from the city you’re visiting or have done the thorough, nitty-gritty research on hard-to-find places.

If you’re looking for a compiled source for well-researched travel advice that filters out the gimmicks but still features crowd-favorites, check out Let’s Go Europe 2019!

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