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Learn2 Avoid Tourist Traps
(5 steps)

Take the road less traveled

Tourism is a huge business worldwide. Sometimes it's a city or country's biggest industry, in fact. This travel boom has led to an amazing proliferation of tourist traps--spots intended to attract vast numbers of visitors and relieve them of excess cash. This often involves either the selling of a superficial, prepackaged version of local culture, or the creation of a more or less phony "attraction."

Some tourist traps are obvious, like the "World's Biggest Mall" or a giant roadside statue of Little Orphan Annie. But many natural or historical marvels, like Yosemite or the Great Pyramids, are also overrun with tourists--and the people who sell stuff to them.

So what do you do if you can't stand tourist industry trappings, but aren't really sure what the alternatives are? We'll help you avoid disappointing destinations and experience something unique.

Before you begin

Any destination catering to tourists will have tourist traps. So avoiding them should not necessarily be about skipping famous, popular, or trendy destinations. Rather, it's about trying to get beyond the packaging of the tourist industry and have genuine, direct contact with the place you're going to visit--wherever that place is.

This often involves traveling independently: making your own arrangements for lodging and services on the road, rather than reserving them ahead of time. But it's also possible to have meaningful adventures on a good package tour, or to get stuck in a boring rut on your own.

Even if you're planning most of your own itinerary, a good travel agent can be an ally and rich source of information (and a bad one can be a roadblock). If you don't already have one you like, find one that specializes in leisure travel; or, better yet, in independent or off-the-beaten-path travel.
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Step 1: Decide when to go
Step 2: Find out what there is to see
Step 3: Decide if you want to see it
Step 4: Plan your time
Step 5: Keep an open mind

  • A destination
  • A good travel agent
  • A good guidebook (or several)

  • A computer with Internet access
  • URLs for travel sites, including message boards and chat rooms
  • Current travel-related periodicals
  • History and contemporary fiction books (in translation if necessary)
  • Current local periodicals


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