Don’t drink the tap water. Don’t eat the street food. Don’t carry too much cash. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t stay too close to the city center. Don’t carry a bag that someone could grab from you. And don’t speak to strangers.
When it comes to traveling, everyone has their own personal commandments that they would never break. But we’re not all looking for the same things when we go off exploring. Some are primarily interested in experiencing another culture’s food and wine when abroad, while another person might have their sights set on visiting as many museums as they can. Maybe your favorite thing to do when traveling is hit up a dive bar and meet some of the locals. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to seeing the world, so feel free to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt.
Reddit user Jolros recently sparked a conversation in the Travel subreddit by asking other seasoned travelers what common pieces of advice they purposefully ignore, and hundreds of people weighed in sharing which tips they choose to skip. Below, we’ve gathered some of the best advice they shared, which might contradict travel recommendations you’ve been given in the past, but might also make you an even more savvy globetrotter. Be sure to upvote the responses that blow your mind, and let us know in the comments if there are any other popular tips that you disagree with. Then if you’re interested in checking out another Bored Panda article that might help you avoid making common tourist mistakes when traveling, look no further than right here.
Sometimes, when you are short on time, a lame-a*s bus tour to Pompeii or the Acropolis is better than planning it yourself.
It’s great to be a cool and savvy world traveler, but occasionally, it is actually fine to do the lame tour thing.
A common piece of advice on here is to stay in hostels and, if you say you don’t like hostels, people will insist that you should just get a private room in a hostel to experience “the best of both worlds.”
I happily ignore that advice while enjoying my fluffy robe and nice sheets in my hotel room.
“Don’t eat street food.”
Oh, I eat it. I love booking food tours for my first day in a new place: not only does that give me the lay of the land, but a local tells me about the food I should eat, how to figure out where is safe, and gives me many suggestions! The one time I got food poisoning in Mexico was from a high-end restaurant catering to tourists. But I’ve never had an issue with the elotes / tamales / salteñas / nasi goreng / currywurst / chip truck /etc. stands.
Traveling is one of the most exciting things we can do. Visiting new places gives us the opportunity to experience a new culture, try new foods, see new places and nature we can’t find back home and open up our minds to all of the beautiful languages and people thriving in other parts of the world. It is common, however, when reading travel blogs and books about how to be a savvy globetrotter, to find advice that is a bit pretentious.
One of the most commonly shared responses to this Reddit thread was something along the lines of, “Avoid tourist attractions and organized tours.” But in defense of the organized tour and popular destination, sometimes, things are popular for a reason. Yes, it can be annoying to encounter hordes of tourists when you just want a peek of the Mona Lisa, but that does not mean that you should not go to the Louvre. There might be a smarter way of visiting than going during the middle of the day on a Saturday in the middle of July, but there is no shame in going. The artwork there is incredible, and it would be more of a shame to visit Paris and not experience it. You just might want to go as soon as they open on a weekday during the off season…
It’s not really against travel advice, but I remember telling my parents about how cool it was to go to a Chinese restaurant while living in Rome, and they scoffed at the idea. *I’m in Italy, i should be having Italian food!* But seeing Chinese food through the lens of Italy was really cool and interesting.
So now I always try to hit up different culture restaurants from the places I visit.
This is a personal preference but I hate the money-saving travel advice that tells you to skimp on food costs. Like “go to Greece but just eat €8 street gyros every day”. I understand wanting to save money on food, but it’s a huge part of the travel experience for me that I take pleasure in, and not something I’m just doing to survive.
I also hate the “don’t do X” advice – to use another Greece example, telling people to skip Mykonos and Santorini because they’re crowded and expensive. Yes, for a reason! They’re beautiful and fun!
Every time I tell people I’m going somewhere, say Paris. They will say, that’s it? Yes. That’s it. I’ve been there 7 times and still find new and interesting things. Same with other cities. I’m not a fan of going to a city, checking off the major sites and being done with it. In a similar vein, I’d never go to 3 cities in one week like some people like to do just to say they have been there.
Organized tours seem to also be looked down upon by many people in the ‘well-traveled community’. And while a guided tour is not everyone’s cup of tea, they can be extremely convenient and informative. I have been on my fair share of free walking tours in various cities, and I always enjoyed them thoroughly. Having a local show me around and answer my burning questions during my first day in a new city was the perfect way to get an introduction, and it allowed me to map out exactly what I wanted to do during the following days. Rather than spending hours searching online for the best place to see the sunset or find vegan pastries, it can be extremely helpful to have someone take the guesswork out for you.
Bus tours can also be a great option when you’re exhausted from traveling, it’s too hot to see everything on foot, or for individuals who have a harder time making it around cities by walking. I would not force my grandmother or a friend with a disability to stomp around on cobblestones all day. A guided bus tour is the perfect solution for many people, so there is no need to attach any stigma to it.
Anytime anyone suggests animal tourism of any kind. I’m sure there’s some animal tourism that is responsibly run, but the vast majority seems to be abusive in some way or another. This is especially true when it comes to wildlife, but even animal tourism with domesticated animals can be problematic. I was in Egypt years ago and saw tons of tourists happily get on painfully thin camels and horses and be led around the pyramids in the blazing heat all day. If you saw animals in that condition at home you would probably call the police/a shelter, but tourists seem to lose all common sense when it comes to animal tourism and just hop right on.
I don’t take travel advice from the ‘do it all, see it all’ crowd. It’s fun to immerse yourself in a new culture, but don’t exploit people. Just because there’s a guided tour to visit the favelas in Rio or an African tribe in Kenya, doesn’t make it appropriate to do so. People are people, not an exhibit. I Look for ethical excursions that celebrate or assist people, and i make sure to find out what the appropriate customs and cultural nuances are from a dedicated guide.
I would consider myself a pretty seasoned traveler, and I have to say that my absolute favorite way to see a new city is by doing a bike tour. I have done 4 of them before, but I would love to do even more. A more pretentious traveler may scoff at the idea of paying someone to take you around a city, and I will admit that I typically am a “plan everything myself and stay in the cheapest hostel I can find” traveler, but something about the bike tour is so special. Just like any other tour, you have a local to show you around, but on bike, you get to really see the streets and the people, all while getting around much faster than by foot. Sure, some people might find it embarrassing to be in a huge group traveling through Paris together. But I’ve got news for you: if you’re in Paris and you’re not French, you’re not fooling anyone. There is nothing wrong with experiencing the beautiful city through the eyes of a cyclist, along with 15 other foreigners.
Avoid touristy landmarks. There’s a reason certain sites become touristy landmarks.
Avoid chain hotels. They very often have the best locations, and all the comfort and amenities I could want – and it’s not like I’m spending much time at the hotel. I’m not against a fun local place, but, sometimes, the well-placed Marriott just makes sense.
And big +1 to what other have said about guided tours. My girlfriend and I are in our early 40s and we’re often the youngest people on those things. But it’s so nice during a trip to let someone else handle something for a day or half-day and just take it all in.
Pack what you need to be happy/look good/feel good and just check a bag. People have this obsession about packing so little and I’ve found I’m better off just being prepared with more outfits instead of not enough. You never know what occasion/weather/etc. will crop up.
If you’re in a nation where you’re interested in seeing the countryside, along with the city, a guided tour can be a great way to get you into the scenery without having to rent a car or navigate public transportation and be able to see several spots within one day without having to coordinate any of the details yourself. I have been on a tour of this nature one time, to see scenic spots in Scotland outside of Edinburgh, and I absolutely loved it. Our tour guide was incredibly Scottish, which was wonderful because he was able to share so much insight into their culture while taking us from one landmark to the next. He played Scottish music in the van, and sang Scottish music, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I could have probably saved some money by spending hours researching the cheapest trains and buses to see the same places, but for me, the whole experience was worth it.
Trying to find something that is super secret and no other tourist has gone to. With the internet, good things generally get written up about and discussed.
Touristy things are usually filled with tourists for a reason. Yes, the Louvre is crowded but it’s filled with cool stuff.
Always going for the cheapest option. In Vietnam it’s super cheap to ride public transport but when I was there you had to have small change to do so and it was always a pain to find it so I paid $3 for a day pass. It was way more than I would pay per trip, but I didn’t have to hunt down change and a ticket each time. Same with buying museum passes or tickets. Maybe it is cheaper when you get there, but having it ahead of time can mean you skip the line, move along quickly etc.(though this requires research).
And, as a woman, the amount of times I have been told not to walk around at night is astronomical and I do not follow the advice. I don’t mean to say that I am not aware of my surroundings or wander in unlit areas with roving gangs of wild dogs, but I do leave my room at night to experience a place.
On this site I’ve seen a couple of people say it’s pointless to take pictures with you in them, since you “know what you look like”.
To me that’s ridiculous. As you grow you will get older, and look different, and it can be fun to look back and think of I remember that shirt, or look how hot it was I was all sweaty, or whatever. Also, if you just go and take a picture of the Eiffel tower or whatever without you in it, hey you could just download a much better photo someone else took.
On a similar vein, I’ve seen a couple things about photoshoppjng crowds out, which I also think is silly. If crowds are part of the experience, they should be captures so I can better remember my trip later warts and all.
TLDR; i take pictures so I can look at them in a couple years and remember my time more clearly, not to have some aesthetically beautiful picture
Travel blogger Nomadic Matt shared a post on his blog in 2020 titled “Why Pretentious Travelers Fill Me With Hate”, and he hits the nail on the head with his points. One of which being that traveling is not a competition. We travel to see the world, have new experiences and enjoy ourselves. We should not be jetsetting for bragging rights or to shame other people who don’t travel the exact same way we do. As long as someone enjoys their journey and feels like they got something out of it, who are we to judge them? “Travel is a personal experience,” Nomadic Matt says. “I go where I want, when I want, how often I want because I’m on my own journey.”
+1 on organized excursions. Honestly, having someone explain to you the history and cultural significance of a site is better than me googling it as I try to line up trains to get back to my Airbnb/hostel/hotel.
For me it’s the HoHo (Hop on – Hop off) bus … Most advice I’ve seen is anti-HoHo, but I’ve used them particularly on Day 1 the day of arrival or morning after – to get a lay of the land and chill. Then I get about my plan.
Wearing your backpack on your front. It’s uncomfortable and IMHO makes you more of a target because you look so weird. There are better ways to secure your bag.
“You do not have anything to prove to anybody. Travel is for you,” Nomadic Matt explains. “Don’t let anybody rain on your parade. You do this for you. I do this for me. That’s all that matters.” As with many of the answers on this list, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to travel. Of course, it is assumed that we all exercise the same cautions that we would at home and be mindful to respect the locals and their customs and traditions. But when it comes to where you’re allowed to eat, visit and what tours you’re allowed to go on? That is completely up to you.
Don’t go to the tourist traps where everyone goes, and don’t buy the stuff everybody buys (when there’s no alternative for either, and/or they also don’t list alternatives).
Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know I came here for purposes other than the most common reason people came here for that made it such a destination, and I didn’t know if I wanted souvenirs as a physical reminder of my trip here that I was supposed to buy the most obscure thing that even I won’t remember where it came from years from now.
F**k you, you “oh I don’t do or get the most popular thing” hipster (no matter what age your are) and shut the f**k up.
Some of the answers on this list also refer to what to wear when traveling. When Jolros posed the question that started this conversation on Reddit, they mentioned, “I think Rick Steves has done a lot for getting people out of their comfort zones and seeing the world, but the recommendation of nylon tear-away cargo pants, sturdy boots, multi pocketed hiking shirts, and Saharan sun hats for hanging around a European capital drinking coffee and seeing museums always seemed a bit over the top. You do you, of course, but I always felt most comfortable blending in more and wearing normal clothes unless I’m hitting the mountains.”
I ignore advice about those shoulder bags with steel (or whatever) straps that can’t be cut through. I just keep valuables in my pockets (the same way I do at home) or in my money belt. The shoulder bag or crossover bag is just for stuff like my map, mitts, etc.
I used to look for badly reviewed hotels. You can find the truth in bad reviews. For example, a hotel where you can’t find a chair at the pool and the music from the night club thumps until 4 am sounded delightful when I was a young, single man.
The first day I was in London I took the double-decker bus tour. It’s such a huge city and the tour gave me a sense of where everything was so I could venture out on my own afterwards.
And when it comes to what you should wear when traveling, I say just pack clothes that are appropriate and comfortable. For example, you’re likely going to be walking much more than usual, so I wouldn’t wear heels or a brand new pair of shoes that you haven’t broken in. If you’re in a country where women are expected to cover their shoulders and/or hair, be sure to have a headscarf or cardigan to throw on. If you’re in a rainy country, bring an umbrella or raincoat, even if the forecast is showing clear skies. And if you want to try to fit in with the locals by wearing neutral colors or long, flowy skirts, go right ahead! But don’t feel like you need to invest in hiking shoes or special gear just to walk around a city. I guarantee the locals don’t gear up for their daily commute to the office.
“Your hotel doesn’t matter that much. You’re only going to sleep there.”
I’ve never regretted spending money to get a nice room in a good hotel. We do a lot of research, and try to find the best hotel our budget will allow. A quiet, comfortable room makes a huge difference. And if you’ve booked one that also has a nice view, is convenient to places you want to see, has a bar or restaurant, etc., that just makes the trip even better. Even when roadtripping, and staying somewhere just to sleep, it was fun to stay somewhere more unusual than a Red Roof Inn. There are a lot of reburbished old motels out there now, and they have almost always been some of our favorite stays.
“Don’t eat the street food.”
I especially love and enjoy the street food. So far have never gotten sick.
You should be seeking ‘authentic’ experiences, to ‘live like the locals’…No matter what I do, I am not going to truly ‘live like a local’ as a temporary visitor, so putting a bunch of effort into trying to do that has never made sense to me. I do the things I’m interested in doing. If those things are what local people do, so be it. I’m not too concerned, so long as the things I’m doing aren’t harming anyone.
We hope you’re enjoying this list of tips that seasoned travelers disagree with. Whether you’re heading to a different country next week or you’re not planning on going anywhere else until next summer, keep some of these tips, or anti-tips, in mind. Tailor your trip to your own personal needs and desires, and don’t feel like you have to do things the way a travel blogger would. Keep upvoting the responses you resonate with, and then feel free to share the travel tips you hate down below. Bon voyage!
I’ve been told many times that the itineraries of my trips are too packed and you can’t really “get the feel” of a city/country/etc. if you are jumping from location to location.
While I agree with that to an extent, as someone who can only do international trips occasionally, I think it is fine to try to pack as much into a trip as possible. Knowing that you might not be able to take another trip in the near future.
Is 4 countries in 10 days a lot? Yes, but I would rather exhaust myself seeing everything I can while I’m young(ish) than limit myself to one location per trip.
Along these same lines, I hate when I read that “You can’t do [X country] in one week. You need at least 2 or 3”. That just isn’t realistic to a lot of people. Just do what you can. A week is better than nothing.
Personally, speaking native language unless you’re pretty good. Causes more problem than it usually solves especially as it results in someone replying with words you don’t know.
It’s nice but most people you’ll be speaking to are staff and the quicker solution is best. Nothing wrong with being a tourist and using hello and thank you.
It’s okay to get a guide for big landmarks. They know the historical c**p and can make the experience more interesting. I can’t count the number of times I’ve eavesdropped on a guided group so I could learn more about the things I was looking at.
“don’t go anywhere that you are unfamiliar”
Well I’m exploring so basically I only know small details about the place that I want to explore
i find often times people dont enjoy adventure aspects and nature views on trips the same that i do. so i tend to ignore when people downplay sights. my parents for instance drove the road to hana and said they werent impressed, i did the road to hana with my wife and we stopped a bunch and it was life changing
I always read up on the common scams wherever I go, and then I take a day to purposefully get caught up in all the fun ones.
Slight caveat though – I don’t do this in Europe, but mostly in Asia/Middle East where even a full day of scamming is unlikely to cost me more than a few hundred dollars. It’s just a lot more fun to say yes to everyone asking you if you want to see a priceless artifact or a master painter who’s down on his luck. I have some paintings at home from just such a Chinese “master” that are my favorite mementos from that trip; I have fake antiquities from Syria that look awesome, and I’ve been taken on some truly memorable tours. In Peking once my “poor student guides” eventually got so ashamed of how much money they were taking from me (waaaay less than a tour seeing the same things would’ve cost with an official guide) that they insisted they pay for everything the last day. They took me to the part of town they’d go, and ate at restaurants that they went to themselves, which were the best meals of my whole trip (but way outside the tourist areas and costing a tenth of the usual places).
Don’t know if it’s “common” advice by now but I keep seeing endless Airbnb horror stories, comments that they’re worse value than hotels these days, etc. on this forum in particular.
I guess I’ve been super lucky because every time I travel I usually stay in Airbnbs (or occasionally VRBOs) and it’s always way cheaper for much bigger and better spaces than comparable hotel rooms. I’m careful to read reviews and never had a bad experience in ~25 total stays with groups from 1 to 8 people.
I bring a suitcase instead of traveling as a backpacker. I tried once to follow Rick Steves advice and bring the bare minimum and do the backpack thing in Europe. I did that my first time in Europe. I brought too little. I was there 4 weeks- a week on my own in Paris and then I joined a young tour group for the rest of Western Europe. We stayed 2 days or less in most cities. I never had time to do laundry and when I tried to wash it in the sink and hang dry it never dried with thr humidity and short time there. Meanwhile everyone on the tour brought their big suitcases which was under the bus. I felt gross and unclean much of the trip wearing my clothes often.
Anyway I feel there is a time and place for taking a small set of clothes and carrying it in a backpack. If I’m going to be based somewhere for a few days I bite the bullet and drag my suitcase on the train to the hotel or store it at a bag storage in between. It gives me more room for clothes, toiletries and souvenirs too. I also pick air bnbs where I can do laundry now as needed. Usually I’m only carrying a suitcase for a little while once every few days (a rolling one).
Staying awake after a long flight so that you can sleep that night. When I have flown from the US to Europe, I have always immediately taken a few hour nap upon arriving, then going out for a few hours before bed. Never had an issue getting back to sleep since of course I didn’t really sleep on the ~8-12 hours of traveling. To add to this, I find it severely limits the amount of jet lag I experience over the coming days.
“Just get lost in the back alleys” or “Spend the afternoon exploring the neighborhood”
I mean, I get what they are saying but I’m not gonna just wander around aimlessly. I like to research cool neighborhoods and at least make a plan to try and walk through some of those alleys/streets multiple times on different routes on my way to somewhere. If you spend enough time in a city walking around, you’ll naturally find a lot of cool streets and shops.
Money belt/hidden valuables in a ppuch you read under your clothes.
I took one with me on my first trip (back when you had to change money and use cash) and found it annoying, uncomfortable and way too difficult to worry about.
I just take a small bi fold wallet with me in my front pocket and I usually walk with my hand on it in my pocket. My passport is in my bag that I hold on to.
People who say never eat at a global chain restaurant (I.e. McDonald’s or Subway) when abroad.
No doubt there are amazing local foods to enjoy, but sometimes out of a time crunch or just no feeling local cuisine, something like a KFC might be appealing.
I’m also not a foodie in the slightest, so do with that what you will.
For reasons I don’t understand a lot of people insist that you *must* have a backpack for long term travel to be a “backpacker.” They’ll say a lot of reasons for this, but the fact of the matter is for the grand majority of travel this just isn’t an issue so save your back and get a normal bag with wheels (can have hidden straps in it if you really want, I had a bag like that for years).
Like, unless you’re planning to be trekking with all your stuff in rural unpaved villages in Laos wheels aren’t the best (one of the only times I needed to convert my wheelie bag to its straps on my RTW), the grand majority of the world where tourists go is paved, and the few minutes of navigating cobblestones or a few stories of stairs are *not* worth not having wheels if you ask me! Airports alone with wheels on your bag make it soooo worth it.
“You can do XYZ location in (insert number of days)”
I always roll my eyes when I see this advice, as if there’s a commonly accepted way to “do” a city.
the advice is to stay in charming 500 year old hotels
nope. yeah, they’re charming and neat but there’s a always a problem or inconvenience. floors creak, bathrooms and/or plumbing is problematic, heating pipes bang all night, your bedroom window looks out over a parking lot, wifi doesn’t work….
these are all problems i’ve had at charming old hotels.
no more. now i stay at hiltons. totally worth it
Once I ignored a feature box in Lonely Planet Vietnam about avoiding a particular type of Rickshaw tour in Ho Chi Man City.
Ended up mugged by a dude named Big Dong.
I have recently accepted that sun hats are better than sun glasses. They protect your eyes without darkening everything you want to see. I will wear my sun hat in Florence IDGAF.
I usually skip advice to purchase special travel clothes and use regular stuff I normally wear.
I skip whatever has become super popular on social media.
I skip the omg everyone goes to this party spot too
Those absurdly large hiking/camping/whatever they are backpacks. I have lived out of a decent sized duffle bag for a year and a half without carrying a giant thing on my back that also to me feels like i would be waving a giant flag to bring attention to myself like “hey, traveler here, come rob me pls”. but idk.
My Marmot two-in-one “Shants” as my friends called them, is still hard to live down from my first backpacking trip to Europe. I rocked those things hiking, clubbing and rolling dice at the Monte Carlo, but man do they take embarrassing pictures years later.
Everyone says to bring earplugs everywhere, but I won’t do it. Mostly because I’m not super sensitive to noise, but also because it’s hard to hear if a rapist is coming for you then.
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