There is nothing more frustrating than arriving at a famous place and discovering that 25000 other people had the same idea and arrived at the same spot on the same day. That’s exactly the biggest problem with tourist traps.
The good news for you is that there are of course ways to avoid the crowds. In this post I will try to share with you a few tips how to make your visit to tourist traps as pleasant as possible.
Try to avoid high season
First of all, you shouldn’t visit them in the high season. That usually means summer, where most of us travel (especially the ones with kids). You might want to leave the biggest tourist traps for other parts of the year and visit less crowded places when you are on holidays with kids. I’m pretty sure they will also enjoy more. Don’t forget that they will be the first ones to complain when you’ll be standing over 20 minutes in the queue to enter the first room of a huge palace.
Timing your visit – first steps
Another good tip is to avoid visiting tourist traps at midday and in the afternoon. It is a huge pleasure to sleep longer when you are on holiday. Then enjoy a relaxing long breakfast. Then go visiting. Well – majority of other people think so too and thus will come to the tourist traps as late as you. If you want to enjoy the place, you need to make an effort. Try to be there before the crowds. I recently visited the Acropolis and as I was there at 8:30 AM on a chilly but sunny February morning, I had a totally different experience than my colleague who visited the same place at midday in August. She was exhausted by the queues, the crowds and the heat. I could enjoy the place, as apart from me there were only circa 30 people on top of the hill.
Visiting the same places during lunchtime is also a smart move. The crowds will move to the nearby restaurants, so be smart and do exactly the opposite (unless you are in places like France, where the meal times in restaurants are set by law).
Sightseeing is tiresome, so many people will tire out and go back to their hotels to relax. If your location has long open hours, why not go there at 5 or 6 pm, especially if it’s still daylight? Another reason to visit them then is that the pictures at sunset look stunning and will make the special place look even more special.
One of our favourite examples of such an approach is the Old Town of Prague. So many of our friends have been telling us that Prague has become unbearable with all the crowds strolling along the axis of the Old Town Market Square – Charles Bridge – Hradcany Castle and therefore has lost much of its charm. Well – it is true, when you there at midday or early afternoon. But if you go there in the morning and try to take a slightly different route – you can have almost the whole Hradcany Hill for yourself, like we do, when we are there – in one of our favourite cities.
Sometimes it is worth to go off the beaten track – charming old Prague in the evening.
Timing your visit – further steps
Another tip I’d like to share with you is to go to the places during a weekday rather than on a weekend. You are usually on holiday and are flexible, but there are also people who live in the neighbourhood and work from Monday to Friday. They would like to visit these places when they don’t work, which means the weekends. They will add on top of the usual crowds, making it even less bearable. For example during our honeymoon we visited the Disneyland in Orlando, Florida. As it was a Wednesday in mid-October, which was not a school holiday week, we could benefit from all the activities offered with queues that rarely exceeded 5-10 minutes.
Buying tickets online before visiting is also a smart move. You need however to know precisely on which day you will be visiting the place. For your luck some places offer open tickets too. Quite often the online tickets are cheaper, which makes it yet another reason to do.
Be flexible on spot
If the venue offers a few visiting routes, try to avoid the main one and look for something less popular. You will most likely land in the parts of the building which are less crowded and enjoy it more. For example when visiting the Hampton Court in London, go for the parts of the palace built by the Stuarts rather than the ones in which king Henry VIII built. They are just as impressive but are less congested by people who are there only because they have it on their “tick off” list. When you are in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, try to avoid the impressionists on the second floor of the palace. It is a former attic and you’ll be squeezed. All the rest of the palace is much more impressive and has great works of art too.
Think of alternatives
Another hint I would like to share with you is that you could consider alternatives to tourist traps. Very often a place is crowded because it is very popular and many people go there for the name not knowing that not far from there, there are similar palaces, castles, cathedrals or towns which are nearly as impressive (sometimes even more). I will be writing a few posts on good alternatives to biggest tourist traps in the near future.
Prepare yourself in advance
Prepare yourself before visiting the place. Do you know what is it and why is it important? If not – read a bit about it. Read online or in a guide book. If you are convinced that you want to go there – do it. You only live once and there are so many important famous places to see which are certainly worth it. However If you aren’t sure you really need to go there – think of alternatives. You will most likely enjoy it much more.
Try to avoid buying package tours. You will be cramped with a group of strange people and thrown around the place in quick speed without the possibility to enjoy the places you like. As an alternative, think about hiring a local guide. But it has to be a good one. He or she will do the tricks to avoid the queues, will provide you with tailor made services. Will allow you to stop at a place you are in awe. The guide will speed up in the parts you find dull. It does cost more, but will bring you memories which a credit card can’t buy 😉
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What are your tips? What are your best and worst experiences? Did you fall into any spectacular trap and regretted it afterwards? I’d love to hear more from you.
- Title photo credit aykapog from Pixabay. All other photos are as always ours.
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