Have you ever felt like you are paying too much to see something worthless. Perhaps you have been invited to a restaurant and didn’t get the service you expected? Or maybe the famous Mona Lisa was not worth all the waiting in line? Welcome to the Worst Tourist Traps in Europe and how to avoid them.
Restaurants with tourist traps
Some tourist traps are pretty common and could be found in almost any country in the World. For example, have you ever seen waiters standing outside nice looking cafes and inviting people in. Well, next time you see that – walk away! Why? Because it’s a tourist trap! Don’t be surprised if you see that only in crowded, touristy areas (e.g. near famous sightseeing). The service in such restaurants will most probably be quite moderate and the prices much overrated. The reason for that is simple – after visiting a famous monument, most people get hungry and will pick the first available place to sit down. While staying close to famous sights has it’s advantages, you will get much better service few hundred yards down the road, away from tourist traps.
Hotels with tourist traps
Many hotels, especially in the resorts, offer so called “all inclusive” service. The idea is to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel. For families with children this might look like an ideal situation. Just imagine all the energy you’ll need to get your big family together and go look for a place to eat. However, experienced travelers will probably stay away from all inclusive option. Hotel food is mostly unhealthy, tasteless and doesn’t really change much over days. It’s the worst idea if you came to explore the culture and local food.
Best travel tips that are no longer useful Whenever it’s time to plan another trip, most of us start looking for best travel tips for a given destination. Internet is full of great advice how to plan your perfect holiday. However, you should be cautious about what you read online.
Tourist traps in Europe
Let’s look at some popular European destinations and find out which tourist traps to avoid during your next visit.
Barcelona has bad reputation due to high amount of pickpockets. Areas to be particularly vigilant are around Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia and other modernist buildings. If you are looking to try Paella, stay away from places advertising it (brands like Paella d’or). Remember – that any place with paella for under 15€/dish is suspicious.
The same goes for Sangria – don’t risk buying it in a touristy area. Chances are, they will serve you bad wine with juice and a lot of sugar, so you will wake up with a nice hangover. Many places advertise flamenco shows, but these are typical tourist traps – if you really want to see real flamenco, you should travel to Andalusia. In Barcelona, locals recommend place called Jazz Si in El Raval.
Famous tourist scam involves taxi fares. Some travelers recommend being beware of taxi fares. That goes for rides both to and from the airport. In the past, there have been reports of drivers demanding obscene fees to tourists. How they do it? They either are not running the meter or taking a ridiculously long route to your destination.
Paris is paradise for scammers, you will meet all sorts of the here. Some are just selling cheap Chinese souvenirs, others will try to cheat you into paying them. If you visit Montmartre, be prepared to see famous trick with “friendship bracelet”.
Some African guys will approach you with a thread and tie it around your hand. You will then be asked to pay 20€ for it. Rose scams are also common, although they are quite obvious and easy to spot. You will given a rose as a token of friendship and then asked to pay for it.
Old port – one of the main attractions – is considered a rip off by the locals. Most bars and cafes are overprices, however you might find some decent spots as well (in particular on the Cours Estienne d’Orves). Terrasses du Port is another overrated place – lots of shops and not a very good view of the sea.
Just like in any other European capital, you can find tourist traps here as well. One of the most popular ones are the costumed models, who will first tell you one price and once you start taking pictures, the price will rise astronomically. Best advice – just stay away from them or only take one picture and walk away. They are annoying, but not dangerous. Be careful in the metro – a lot of pickpockets around! Best advise is to hide your valuable belongings, such as mobile phones and DSLRs, in the bag.
Experienced travelers recommend staying away from restaurants with signs “traditional Czech kitchen” or offering “goulash soup”. Generally, any restaurant with costumed promoters outside should be avoided. Beer prices is another tourist trap – avoid places with beer costing more than 30–35 for 1/2 liters, (unless it’s a Pilsner). Might be slightly more expensive at on-site microbreweries. Lat but not least, skip marionettes and marionette theater.
How to avoid tourist traps?
- Research about the destination before you go. Check local forums, ask expats, ask locals if you know the language. If you don’t know anyone to ask, search for expat blogs on Google.
- Avoid places advertised in tourist brochures. These are most probable overpriced, low quality places.
- Always try to find a place to eat where locals go. Also, avoid chains. Small, family owned restaurants are the best!
- Don’t dress like a tourist! Hide your expensive camera. Nowadays, even iPhones make decent pictures.
- If you can, rent an apartment. You will have a better feel of being a local this way. Airbnb is a great alternative!
- Stay away from tour buses and organised tours. You will only get minor information and the amount of participants will make it hard to see the beauty of the place.
- Go out early in the morning, before it gets crowded.
- Walk everywhere or rent a bike. If the place is big, take the local transport. This way you will feel more like a local.
- Visit other cities, away from the famous attractions. You wouldn’t believe how much more beautiful they can be!
- Travel Off season! You will save a fortune and spare yourself from hot, crowded and overpriced madness!
Have you ever been scammed? How did you get out of it?
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Yes… Taxi fares are the worst, also in Warsaw! And these bracelet scam… It’s so annoying, especially in crowded places like Duomo in Milan, there is actually no place to run away from them! 🙁
Both my husband and myself have fell for the scam at airports where the friendly man takes your luggage without asking and then demands payment. I got scammed out of $20 in Nepal because of this! I am really cautious with my bags now!
Ugh, I avoid taxi’s like the plague because of this, but it’s not really feasible everywhere you go.
I had some great Sangria in Barcelona, but it was at a fancy restaurant that we’d budgeted for well in advance. And of course I don’t remember the name, it was at least seven years ago now.
Wow I love this article.. it’s so important to know this. I just got back from Rome and its filled with traps.
Thanks for sharing
Super advice and such an easy way to ruin a trip by getting robbed or scammed! Great things for people to watch out for!
Ricci - wheninmyjourneys
Very useful tips. I think the most common in every destination are the taxis who are asking for an outrageously expensive fare. If you can walk or take a bus do so to avoid these opportunists.
Thank you for nice tips regarding scammers in many world-famous tourist destinations.
I am glad I have not fallen victim to these scams – but its because of articles like yours that warn me of them. The chinese made souvenirs will be the death of me. Outside nearly every major attraction in Europe someone is selling something for far too much money and they are relentless. They will not stop harassing you.
These are really helpful tips. I am headed here in couple of months and need to be prepared. Had heard of the friendship and rose scams before. But got to know many more tips here
You could say every city in Europe is a tourist trap and we will never get away from that. Good to check them out once but then check out the lesser known places and get away from all those cameras and expensive accommodation places 😀
Love this! The first time I went abroad I totally fell for restaurants with tourist traps for the first two weeks. I thought that the best places would be closer to the main sites. I was so happy when i realized my mistake.
Thank you sharing so much on your Blog and at Quora, really helps the newbies. Thank you. Have a safe journey