30 Disappointed Tourists Share Their Underwhelming Travel Experiences Interview
We firmly believe that traveling is one of the best parts of being born a human being. We have the sort of freedom to go on life-changing, cultural, and educational adventures like nobody else in the animal kingdom. (Except for birds, of course—they can go anywhere, any time, and they always fly first class. Yes, we’re jealous!) However, what you see in those bright and brilliant travel ads isn’t always what you get.
Underwhelming, disappointing, and a waste of time—that’s how some members of the wildly popular, 6.5-million strong r/travel community felt after going to these ‘must-see’ and ‘must-visit’ tourist attractions. And today we’re featuring their candid comments about what they felt was overhyped so you don’t fall into the same trap… or at least so you manage your expectations.
Pack your bags and get your scrolling muscles warmed up, Pandas, because we’re about to go on a trip into the Land of Disappointment (featuring the Valley of Over-Hyped Stuff and Paris Syndrome). Got any horrible travel stories to share with the class? Do you disagree with some of these redditors’ opinions? You can spill the tea (and/or beans) in the comments.
One of the moderators helping run r/travel, u/SiscoSquared, was kind enough to answer our questions. Bored Panda also got in touch with entertainment, pop culture, and lifestyle expert Mike Sington, who's known as Hollywood's Ultimate Insider. He was happy to share what first-time visitors to Los Angeles should definitely see and what they should probably steer clear of if they don't want to be disappointed. Check out both interviews below.
The Dead Sea. You're in Israel. In the desert. It's blazing hot, like 115°F. You think you'll go take a dip in the Dead Sea to cool off, right? Wrong. First, you have to pay to go through a spa to use their towels, pools, etc. Then you take the wagon/shuttle that drives you from the spa down to the shore. The wagon/shuttle goes about 5 miles per hour in the scortching sun. No breeze. Next, you get to the shore of the Dead Sea. You the proceed to run over the sand that's so hot you're sure your feet will burn off. You tentatively step into the water....and it's like the hottest bath you've ever taken in your life. The water is maybe 1° away from boiling. But you figure you've made it this far, might as well get the full experience. So you submerge. It's a mistake. Every pore on your body is burning from the salt. If you have shaved any part of your body within the last three years, you will feel the salt seep into the little micro cuts and burn you from the inside out. You find cuts on your body you didn't even know you had. Even your asshole is burning because you have pooped and wiped within the last week, so your skin is raw there. And the worst part is, when you decide you have had enough of this boiling body of water, you practically have to crawl out because you're too bouyant to stand. And in the process of crawling out, you scrape your knees on the bottom where the salt rocks have crystalized which sets off a whole new round of pain. So now you're hot, sticky from the salt, and every inch of your body burns.
In moderator u/SiscoSquared's opinion, there are two ways to go about avoiding disappointment when traveling anywhere. The first is to go in with little (or better yet, no) expectations. The other thing you can do is put in a bit more effort and do more than just read the promotional material. Consider asking someone you know who's experienced it all before, or find a guide or a blogger with similar interests as yours. That way, you can get a more nuanced opinion on whether or not a location's worth visiting.
"I think the more popular a place is, the more easily it is to become overhyped and a letdown," they pointed out that the sense of disappointment, culture shock, and unmet expectations is commonly known as Paris Syndrome. (Naturally, it isn't just Paris that can let you down—Hollywood can do the same, as entertainment expert Mike told us, but hang on for a bit for his insights.)
The r/travel mod believes that all of us are unique and how we enjoy our vacations is entirely up to us. Nobody should feel forced to do something that they hate. "For many people, learning the local culture, on a surface level or maybe more makes for a fun trip, for others sitting at an all-inclusive resort at the beach is ideal. How you enjoy your vacation is up to you. Thankfully, we're not all identical and boring as a result."
Dubai. It's the most soulless, cultureless, and artificial city I've been to. The shameless and obscene display of bling-bling only adds to this vibe, and the supertall skyscrapers and mega malls get old sooner or later.
To top it off, all of this is built overnight on what is essentially slave labor.
While the Louvre is wonderful, the Mona Lisa was a huge disappointment.
The painting itself is tiny and there are always hordes of people around it.
There are a million better things to see at the Louvre.
Redditor u/SiscoSquared boasted about their fellow moderators who have "done an excellent job of setting up a very comprehensive automod." That means that a small handful of moderators can take care of the entire massive subreddit. "We each just do it in our spare time, maybe when we're bored at the airport or train station! Most of the work is filtering posts that don't follow the subreddits posting guidelines and responding to reports."
Hollywood isn't like it is in the movies, folks. It's likely to not meet your expectations. "There’s one popular, supposedly must-see attraction that’s way overhyped in Los Angeles, and that’s Hollywood. Everyone has heard of it and everyone wants to see it, but once you arrive in the real Hollywood, you’re sure to be disappointed," entertainment expert and LA local Mike shared with Bored Panda.
"It’s very crowded, and there’s hardly anything to see except the stars in the sidewalk. Once you do that, and you have to dodge the crowds to even navigate the sidewalks, that’s it. I’d suggest passing on Hollywood itself, and taking one of the professionally run studio tours all the major movie studios offer," he stressed that Hollywood itself doesn't have much to offer.
Disney Parks. Want to eat? Be ready to Shell out $50 a person per day. Oh, you came for the rides? Enjoy the four or five you make it on unless it's a busy day, those days enjoy the two or three
Hollywood. The most disappointing garbage and pee covered place on earth
The London eye. It's so overly expensive, and you have to wait in a long line for your turn. If you want a good view of London, I'd recommend checking out St. Paul's Cathedral (even if you're not religious). It's a lot cheaper, and if you're able to climb the stairs you can go all the way to the top and take in an even better view
According to Mike, it's important to manage your expectations when coming to Los Angeles. "Because the city is often pictured in the movies and on television as some glamorous place, that’s often all that visitors are expecting. Sure, Los Angeles is beautiful and diverse, and the weather is spectacular, but keep in mind it’s a very big city, so it has all the problems and urban sprawl of most big cities," he said that some visitors expect only the upsides and don't foresee the downsides.
"As a longtime resident of Los Angeles, I’m very familiar with what’s worth seeing, and what’s not. Here’s my personal list of the actual 'must-see' places for a first-time visitor:
- Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park
- Getty Center
- Runyon Canyon
- Santa Monica Beach
- The Grove
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- The Broad
- Universal Studios
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
- Beverly Hills
- Mulholland Drive"
Machu Picchu. I respect the Incas for building it, the real issue I have with it is the current management. It’s flooded with people (they let in over 3x the cap sto make money) being annoying and it’s very expensive, they bus people up a huge hill all day and we are required to have a tour guide and only spend 3 mins at certain areas. It’s misrepresenting the history of the Incas to people with selfie sticks. Not my fave
You are WAY better off seeing the Inca capitol, Cusco because it’s where they actually lived and thrived. See Sasqsyhuaman and the Qoricancha sun temple. Go on a backpacking trip and you will find Inca and pre Inca stuff Everywhere. With no idiotic tourists families. I highly recommend it.
I didn’t get anything out of Las Vegas. It was cool to see the themed hotels but besides that it was just an overpriced cultureless soulless city designed to entertain you
Sydney Opera House. The tours are expensive and the inside is kind of underwhelming. The outside is free and is also the best part. ALTERNATIVE: Just walk around Sydney harbor. It's free and gorgeous.
The r/travel subreddit is an online community that unites travel enthusiasts from around the globe. They celebrate people’s desire to explore the world, and members, in turn, share their photos, and stories, and ask others for advice. Community members are encouraged to put in effort, be descriptive, and add details to their posts. Low-effort posts aren't the way to go.
It’s all friendly, educational, and done in the spirit of adventure. The sub has a handy FAQ for any new redditors joining just now. And the moderators advise members to search the community for specific questions and topics before asking a question. It’s to see if someone’s already answered it before. That way, you get to rely on the community’s collective experience and save everyone’s time by avoiding repeating questions (or asking stuff that you'd easily find on Google).
It’s very important to manage your expectations when doing anything. If you’re overhyped about visiting a place, seeing a work of art in person, or going to a (supposedly) great restaurant for a meal, you might end up disappointed even if the actual experience is objectively fine.
For sure, it’s hard to meet expectations if they’re sky-high. Being realistic and avoiding being overly excited can, paradoxically, make your trip far more enjoyable. That way, you get to be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed that things aren’t as wonderful and ‘perfect’ as you imagined them to be.
If you go to the Great Wall of China, I'd suggest not going to the section right there in Beijing. Very rebuilt and touristy.
Take a van ride a ways out of the city, to the Simitai section. Now there's some uncrowded, old-school Great Wall.
Japan has such a romanticized view of France that they actually have a term, "Paris Syndrome", for the sudden shock suffered by Japanese tourists when they see that France isn't how they imagined
Naples. I did a big trip through Europe after college and spent about a month in Italy. Naples was easily the worst place I visited. It was seedy, rundown, trashy, and unsafe. I would never go back
Aside from your expectations, it’s also vital that you put in the effort and do your research before heading out. For example, Professor Christine Vogt, the Director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University, told Bored Panda some time ago that people should learn about their destination’s culture, customs, and language before packing their bags.
“More than likely that is what draws a person to visit a certain place. The more local knowledge a traveler has, the more a traveler can feel like a local and fit in," she explained, adding that the locals appreciate foreigners putting in the effort.
"Local customs can include how a traveler dresses, eats, uses a cell phone, etc. When a traveler is out in a community such as walking in a downtown area or eating in a restaurant, these local customs can come into play,” the professor said.
“For example, in Buddhist countries, a woman who has not covered her shoulders or legs may not be allowed into temples or even a restaurant. Learn as many local customs as you can and a few key words to enhance your experience.”
Egypt, all the beauty and awe of the ancient civilisation is completely outshone by how absolutely horrible the modern civilisation is. Think of all the worst parts of India and then add sand to it
Casablanca, Morocco. I think it's the least interesting place in a fascinating country. It felt like a dumpy business district on the coast. Other than one obscenely expensive mosque built by a previous king, there's nothing to see. But the rest of Morocco? It's one of the most beautiful places I've seen. Fez, Essaouira, the High Atlas Mountains, and Marrakesh were all gorgeous
The Guinness brewery tour in Dublin. It was an absolute tourist trap. They don't even brew beer at the storefront any more.
Meanwhile, you should also keep in mind that the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. There are some restrictions still in place, depending on where you travel. You should definitely read up on them while planning your trip to avoid some nasty surprises.
For instance, investor and author Rick Orford, who has traveled all over Europe, recently shared with Bored Panda the headache of a system that was in place in the Southern part of the continent.
He’d planned to sail to Greece from Italy on a cruise ship, but the rules regarding Covid tests caused a lot of stress. In short, the rules were inconsistent with what’s happening on other forms of transportation.
The Skybridge at the Grand Canyon was definitely a bad experience, and an overpriced one. I don't understand why so many tourists do this. There's the entire freakin' Grand Canyon right there for you to access for free. The park offers thousands of breathtaking views all over. And exploring the trail with its ledges and views is thrilling enough. Walking the Skybridge is a far cry from the best experience you can have there
The Taj Mahal (Agra). It's surrounded by 10-meter-high walls, and the entrance fee is ludicrously expensive compared to any other attraction in India. If you're in Agra and want to see the Taj Mahal, go across the river. There are some gardens almost directly across from it, and there's a great spot by the river with a brilliant view of the Taj Mahal, particularly at sunset. This experience is totally free, and you won't have to deal with crowds
"We must have a negative Covid test to get on a cruise ship. On a plane, at a hotel, restaurant—[it's] not needed. But on a cruise ship... it's mandatory," he said.
"What I find really fascinating is that one can visit a hotel, or a restaurant, or take a train or a plane here in Italy, and nothing is required. Yet, to get on a cruise ship, one needs to prove vaccination, and give a negative Covid test within 48 hours of sailing," he stressed that the rules aren’t always consistent and that they might fit someone’s understanding of common sense. In short, do your research, check the rules.
Niagara Falls. I didn’t expect the falls to be in a city. I expected something more like a national park, but the whole falls and its surroundings just felt like a giant shopping mall
Calanque de Sormiou in Marseille, France. Called one of the best beaches in Marseille, I expected a wonderful, spacious, and quiet white-sand beach with crystal-clear blue water. But what I found was a packed, small, and polluted strip of sand. Turns out you can't always trust the idyllic photos of a destination
The glass bridge over the grand canyon.
Total rip-off tourist trap.
It takes HOURS to get there from Vegas
They charge you $20 to park in an empty desert
They charge you $30 per person to take the bus from the parking to the attraction (it's like walking from parking into a mall - no distance at all!)
Then they charge you $30 per person if you actually want to walk on the bridge
You cannot take pictures or bring a camera onto the bridge, but they will sell them to you, of course.
There is one overpriced place to eat where they sell you canned food heated up in a microwave for big money... or you could drive 5 hours back to Vegas...
Go there to get scalped.
Plitvice National Park in Croatia was a disappointment. I expected a stunning natural wonder, and hoped it would be a little crowded on a random Monday in September (not peak season, not a weekend). The reality: a perfectly pleasant national park that was absolutely jam-packed with the world's pushiest, screaming, selfish visitors. I was basically trapped on a boardwalk shuffling along desperately just trying to get a space to see the waterfalls
Ha Long Bay in Vietnam was a bit of a letdown. Based on the photos, I was so excited to visit, but there was so much garbage in the water it felt extremely polluted. Our junk ship operators were visibly annoyed with us because we didn't want to buy any of the touristy trinkets they were pressuring us to purchase on board. I’m glad I went and experienced Ha Long Bay, but I wouldn't go back
The Temple Bar area in Dublin. Sure, walking the streets is nice, and there are some neat shops and street art to see. But going in a pub in Temple Bar? Unless you like overpaying for drinks and listening to some guy sing a cover of 'Wonderwall,' I wouldn't recommend it
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland. It's very artificial, and these days it's just a place where tourists like to get drunk in dirty water. There are tons of natural thermal pools scattered all around Iceland that are far nicer and authentic.
Besides the small square with the tower where everyone is taking the same stupid joke pic. And guys tryna sell you toys.
The rest of the town is pretty lame. You're in Tuscany, go to ANY small town and you'll enjoy it far more
I wasn't a fan of Lake Bled, Slovenia. The photos make it look so majestic, surrounded by nature in solitude. In reality though, the whole shoreline is covered by hotels, businesses, overpriced restaurants, and touristy shops. You'll spend a lot of money to take a little row boat out to the island, wander around for a few minutes, eat your hundredth cone of gelato, and then row back. I'd say to visit Lake Bohinj instead because it's far more peaceful
Central Restaurant in Lima, Peru was a big disappointment. Ranked the fifth best restaurant in the world, I was expecting an amazing meal, especially for the hefty price. It was admittedly a very impressive meal in the sense that it was full of unusual ingredients prepared in interesting ways and plated beautifully, but taste-wise, everything was just OK. It was not nearly as good as many other, less acclaimed restaurants I've eaten at
Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua. I had wanted to see it in person ever since seeing photos on Google and YouTube videos, but it really didn't live up to the hype. I feel bad saying it, but I wasn't impressed
Mount Rushmore was horrendously underwhelming. Years ago, my family drove across the US. For hundreds of miles as you drive you see huge signs counting down the distance to Mount Rushmore. For days the excitement builds...and then you get there. It is four faces on mountains. There is nothing else there. Just four faces you've seen time and time again in pictures and textbooks and movies
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