30 Experienced Travelers Share What ‘Traveling Tips’ Aren’t Worth It To Even Try
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
+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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“Don’t eat the street food.”
I especially love and enjoy the street food. So far have never gotten sick.
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.
“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’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.
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 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 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).