Worst Tourist Traps: 2009
Many places are actually fun to visit just to watch the miserable tourists who don't know there's a less congested, crowded, over-priced, and polluted alternative. Help us avoid the worst of Europe's tourist traps with your hard-earned experience.
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Gelato in Italy
I'm a gelato fiend. The gelato scams - 20 euro for "tourist gelato" - are easily avoided.
I learned a little Italian for our trip a couple of years ago. I memorized how to say " One 2 euro scoop, in a cone, please (something like "una palina, due euro, il cono, por favore" - not perfect but workable). Did not work at one place only - one scoop cost 3 euro there. Gave me the chance to sample a little gelato at multiple shops (Florence is a gelato lovers paradise, and the best compared to Rome and Venice.
And please stay overnight in Venice... its pure magic.
Houston, TX USA Wed 12/09/2009
Villa Morgagni Rome Scam
Hotel Villa Morgagni in Rome took our money 90 days in advance, yet when we arrived after 22 travel hours they had NO ROOM for us. They put us in in a dive hotel nearby and refused to refund ANY of our $237 for that night. I guess they might have paid the other hotel $100, so they can overbook any time they want and double their profit! We paid for a Deluxe double room and could barely fit in the substitute room...and the shower was so small that I couldn't bend far enough to wash my lower legs. Not much you can do at that point....they hold all the cards.
Carlsbad, CA USA Fri 11/13/2009
Paying to use the bathroom
We travelled by train from London to Paris.At the train station in Paris,(Gare du Nord),I needed to use the bathroom.Imagine my surprise to find out that I had to pay to use the bathroom.We had no Euros (change)as we had been in London.There is a change machine on one level,so I found out.We only had large denominations of Euros so I was not happy.An English speaking tourist helped me out and scraped together the required one Euro bathroom fee.Just a word of advice to make sure you have some change since there are other bathrooms in France with the same policy.
Toronto, On USA Wed 11/04/2009
Ring scam in Paris
We also had the ring scam near the Louvre in Paris.Later in the day we met a couple who also ran into the same woman.
Toronto, Ont Canada Wed 11/04/2009
Venice after dark
The best of Italy is always a block or two away from the high profile tourist areas. Venice at night is not to be missed. St Marks after dark was worth the entire trip. The locals can really enhance any trip. Try to engage everyone that you can. I found that even the grouchiest local would smile and talk to you, if you made the effort to talk to them. A little Italian always helped.
Richmond, Ky USA Mon 10/26/2009
Oktoberfest 2009. We really wanted to re-experience our Germanness, but what we got was a state fair!!Carnival rides and kiosks, barkers, I think I saw cotton candy. Lots of leiderhosen and dirndl skirts, we only stayed 2 hours instead of 3 days!!!! Watch a video on You Tube.
sandy, oregon USA Wed 10/21/2009
Tourist Trap near the Vatican
My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon in Italy. We felt very prepared to avoid tourist traps after reading (and highlighting and flagging) useful tips from Rick's book. However....while waiting at a cafe near the Vatican where we were supposed to meet our guide, we stopped in to the Cafe Vaticano and were immediately met by a server who ushered us to a table, even though it appeared to be a "cafeteria" style restaurant. We even asked if we could get our own food, and asked again after seeing other people get theirs. Of course we were told no, and since we had to meet our guide at a specific time, were stuck. Our bill for two chicken cutlets, vegetables and waters was €47, or about $69!! It seems almost sacrilegious to get ripped off that bad right outside of the Vatican! We learned our lesson and it did not happen again the rest of the trip. We should have been more assertive, but it was fairly early in our trip and did see this happen to other people.
USA Tue 09/22/2009
Mozarts Birthplace & Residence in Salzburg
I can't in good conscience call this a tourist trap because I don't think there is any deliberate deception or build-up. But unless you're really really into Mozart and have to stand in the place he was born and lived. Then you could skip both of these. The Mozart house where he was born is a few empty rooms with some period correspondence--none by the great composer, a few strands of his hair and a violin. The Mozart Residence comes with an audio guide which is ok, mostly plays period music. The rooms are discussed and there is a rather long movie before the exit. For some this is what Salzburg is all about and I respect that. However, since Mozart roamed Salzburg why not let everyplace you visit in this charming city be "where Mozart was" and save the Euros for some treats. PS. the best price for Mozart candy is in the Bille supermarket across from the bus station.
Titusville, NJ USA Sun 09/13/2009
Taxit to Naples' Airport
Exiting the train station in Naples, we asked a taxi driver the cost to the airport. He quoted E50. We took the bus for E3 instead and it turned out to be only about 16 minutes from the train station.
San Francisco, CA USA Sat 09/12/2009
Train travel in Italy
Before traveling to Italy last week for the first time, we studied and read Rick Steves'Italy tour book and everything relating to our travel in the helpline. However, when we arrived at the train station in Rome, we were a bit overwhelmed and totally forgot to ask for reservations when we bought our tickets for the train to Florence. Stood the whole way from Rome to Florence. Wish the agent at the Termini would have at the very least SUGGESTED we may want seats. Didn't make that mistake again. Rick Steves was right again. We just forgot.
Philadelphia, PA USA Thu 09/10/2009
Barcellona Parc Guell
I would advise anyone visiting Barcelona and planning on seeing Parc Guell to get there as early as possible. I got there at 11:30am on a Wednesday (Sept 9) and the park was so crowded that it was difficult to enjoy it. Besides wall-to-wall tourists that made it difficult to even see the features of the park, it was crowded with street vendors selling the same cheap trinkets you see down at the harbor, along with singers and musicians (with amplifiers!) performing for spare Euros. It was dissapointing. By all means, get there when it opens in the morning.
Issaquah, WA USA Thu 09/10/2009
Some Scandinavian downers
After a whirlwind 3 weeks in Scandinavia, we had very few disappointments. The major one was Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm. After Rick raved about it in his book and DVD we couldn't wait. It was boring and the ''characters'' were pretty lifeless. The other was the Glacier tour from Balestrand to Fjaerland in Norway. While the tour itself is breathtaking, there is a 3 hour wait in Fjaerland for the ferry (while the lazy afternooners do their tour). There is ABSOLUTELY nothing to do or see in Fjaerland except used books. I would STRONGLY recommend doing the NOON glacier tour rather than the 8AM one. Both groups take the same return ferry. Enjoy Balestrand in the AM or go to Vik instead.
Montreal, Qc Canada Thu 09/10/2009
in Paris. Two different occassions on a 4 day trip I had a lady "find" a gold wedding band on the ground right in front of me as we were passing each other. She picked the ring up and gave it to me as if it were mine..or from my group. then showed me it was 14k gold and mentioned it was expensive and said I should keep it. I told her I didn't want it...but she kindly insisted. Then walked away...for about 15 seconds! Then came back and asked if perhaps I could give her some money instead of the ring.
Tualatin, OR USA Fri 08/14/2009
Wasted time in The Louvre
First we wasted at least 30 minutes trying to find the place to by the Museum & Monuments Pass, which you can't buy where you buy the regular admission. You have to go to a special office, down a hallway, for the M&M Pass. The same office sells all the other special passes, but the M&M Pass isn't clearly listed on the sign in the hallway outside the office.
After finally getting into the museum, we wasted at least an hour trying to get out of the Antiquities section.
Their map is BAD. (Yes, we had the correct language version.)
None of the museum staff we found spoke enough English to be helpful.
I realize The Louvre is in a non-English speaking country, however it IS one of the major International museums in the world.
You'd think someone on their staff could speak enough English to get us out of one section and into the correct one.
Also don't eat at the museum cafe. Sheer rip-off.
But the waiter spoke better English than any of the other museum staff.
In contrast, the Muse d'Orsay was a breeze. The map is clear, and the its layout is simple to follow.
Portland, OR USA Sat 08/01/2009
I see post on here about Venice being boring at night!? It was COMPLETELY opposite!!!! Had the entire city to yourself with cafes playing music, dancing under the stars was magical! Turists gone was GREAT! I disagree!
Naples, fl USA Sat 08/01/2009
I hate to say this but I just returned from a trip to Paris and the Eiffel Tower was my least favorite part. We waited in line for nearly two hours despite getting to the Tower quite early in the morning and spent the entire time worrying about our purses and getting harassed by trinket sellers. Then we finally got to go up the tower, we spent probably about 20 mins or so up there. It actually might be worth it to go to Altitude 95 for a "splurge lunch" if you must say that you were on the Eiffel Tower.
Chicago, IL USA Thu 07/23/2009
Florence Santa Croce Church
Currently the church is a waste of time and money. Literally half of the inside (where there are monuments to Dante, Rossini..) is covered in scaffolding for a restoration or construction project. There is no info on 95% of the tombs that you walk over or near and the only way to see the pulpit is to look at a cardboard picture of it attached to the scaffolding.
Napoli, CA Italy Tue 07/21/2009
The best advice on the site is to stay in Venice - after the crowds go home, you pretty much have the city to yourself. It's great to explore and non-tourist areas. What a delightful city without the noise and dirt from cars/scooters etc.
Lewisburg, PA USA Tue 06/30/2009
Platform 9 3/4
The station is being renovated and the "platform 9 3/4" has been temporarily moved to a location near the garbage dumpsters. It looks nothing like the Harry Potter movie. We wasted too much time getting there via subway, and our kids (and we) thought it was a bogus. My advice is- don't spend the time going there to see this useless tourist trap.
aurora, oh USA Mon 06/29/2009
By the old bridge in Florence DO NOT buy Gelato!!! Especially a waffle with Gelato on it!!! 20 euros later and we were cracking up that Rick Steve's was right again. Make sure you know the price before you buy anything! We also had a 14 Euro Beer in Barcelona.
Bellingham , WA USA Thu 06/18/2009
Bracelet Scam - Paris, France
I got caught in the Montmarte district in Paris - somehow, the guy managed to get me with the bracelet scam - while he made the bracelet I kept repeating "i'm not giving you any money"........8 euros later, bracelet in hand, I was LIVID. Watch out for these scam artists - once they get that string around your finger, your toast.
Mobile, AL USA Tue 06/16/2009
I just got back from London and found 50 pound notes hard to pay with (like using $100 here). I would take 20 pound note as the largest, were I to go again.
Clay County, FL USA Tue 06/16/2009
Regarding the 17Euro gelato, just like in the US, if you order a sundae with the works, you're going to pay for it.
Gelato is best enjoyed as a simple single flavored cone.
Best gelato in Rome I found at San Crispino on Via della Panetteria near the Trevi. 2euro for a small cup and a small cup is enough for anyone.
New York, NY USA Wed 06/10/2009
One particular instance that comes to mind is a purchase I made in front of the Louvre in Paris. There were a number of street vendors selling art and one of them had these pencil drawings of various sights like the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc. Believe it or not, I was so entranced in that moment that I actually asked the guy selling it if he was the actual artist and he said yes and I bought it. Only later did I come to my sense to realize that the drawing was neither an original nor was he likely the artist and on top of that, I found tons of the same drawings later in the Latin Quarter for less than half the price.
With that having been said, sometimes even scams, such as lesser ones like this, can serve as a somewhat endearing memory of a place or trip. That drawing is now framed and in my house somewhere and every time I look at it I remember not what a rip off it was but how memorable that first trip to Europe was.
San Leandro, CA USA Wed 06/10/2009
Tips for managing your money
When buying food or drinks and asked if I would like an additional topping or condiment, I've found it is a good policy to ask how much it will cost? Additionally, before embarking on my day or eve I get change for larger bill's so I can pay close to the exact amount without getting change. This allows me to have control of my money.
MN USA Fri 06/05/2009
I wouldn't consider it a trap, but I was in Prague for 4 days and I found it very disappointing in that it was so touristy. It was almost like it sold itself out. The city was by itself very beautiful, but the crowds, the tacky souvenier shops everywhere, the overpiced restaurants in the old town got to be a little much. I was happy that I stayed out of the center as I had a nice time escaping the crowds and ate at good and cheap restaurants. I have been all over Europe (except Spain) and found this to be just as bad as Venice. Like Venice, it was beautiful, I was glad I went, but I won't go back.
canada Thu 06/04/2009
Venice is Nice
Venice is beautiful, if you zip through the tourist sites and then "get lost" in the local areas. Also don't miss the dueling orchestras in St Mark's square at night. Get a gelato and stand in the crowd with everyone else and enjoy the moment. But don't sit down, there is a "cover charge" to sit and the food is mediocre and overpriced.
Denver, CO USA Mon 06/01/2009
See Provence, but skip Le Beaux
Sorry Rick, but we found Le Beau to be the least satisfying of all the hill towns we visited in the Luberon. Its a compendium of gift shops, and recently reconstructed buildings. Even the ruins look sanitized for the tour bus and white shoes crowd. In this area, only the hospital where Van Gogh was kept is worth seeing.
You can see the most significant of the nearby Roman ruins in the parking lot without paying to see the foundations of buildings inside the pay area.
So, what should you see? Bonnieux, Lacoste, Sanion, Opiedde, Beaux, Menerbes, anywhere but Le Beau
San Jose, CA USA Thu 05/28/2009
Rip-offs & credit card/money issues
Just returned from 18 days in Belgium, Netherlands, & Italy. Mostly a wonderful trip, but we got ripped off twice: once by the taxi driver in Amsterdam who charged us 25 Euros to take us from the Centraal Station to our B&B on Leidsegracht, which should have been 12-14 Euros--we didn't think to ask the driver first and there was no meter. Because of that experience, when we went to leave Amsterdam, the B&B owner called for a cab for us and was given a rate of 10 Euros back to the station--however, when the cab arrived, the rate was now 17.50--which we were about to decline in favor of taking the tram back to the station, when he offered to take us all the way to the airport for 30 Euros, which seemed reasonable. We had no problems with taxis in Rome, which were all metered.
Our second rip-off was the gelato shop in Rome on the Piazza Venezia, which a nearby policeman recommended. I ordered a fancy cone dipped in chocolate & nuts, then 2 dips, then the clerk asked if I wanted cream also, and I said sure--my husband ordered 2 dips in a plain cone--mine was decorated with extra cookie wafers and mini cones and fancy rolled cookie and a little Italian flag--anyway the cost was 17 Euros!!--5 for my husband's and 12 (!!) for mine. I laughed then at the ridiculous situation, (husband didn't) but I considered it the cost of the entertainment of the outrageous thing I was eating. We were careful to check the cost of any future gelatos in Rome and the Amalfi coast--usually they were 2.50 each.
Also ran into the problem of a huge number of restaurants & shops which advertised that they take credit cards in the windows, but I can't tell you how many times we were told that their "credit card machine was broken"! Fortunately, we had enough cash to cover things.
And speaking of credit cards, we had a unpleasant welcome to Europe when we landed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, and went to buy train tickets to Bruges, and could not use a credit card without a 4-digit PIN which we didn't have--have never had to use one with a normal Visa charge, nor could we use a Visa debit card which we had the PIN for--so again it was good we had some Euros with us when we landed. We then had to call the credit card company from the B&B (collect) to plead with them to give us a PIN number immediately on the phone instead of mailing it to us. Anyway they did it--and then we never had to use it for any of the times we were able to use the credit card throughout the rest of the trip! Advice to everyone going to Europe--make sure you have a PIN for whatever card you plan to use just in case.
Regarding the Visa debit card we took and had planned on using to get cash in Euros at a bank like our stateside bank had said would work--not! Tried it only once in Bruges, was turned away at the bank--but we had no trouble using the ATM for cash--we just had to do it 3 days in a row to get enough for the trip. So the moral is to be prepared with a couple hundred Euros, some backup dollars, 2 ATM cards, and PINs for your credit cards. We never had to use the dollars.
Potomac, MD USA Wed 05/27/2009
Skip Edinburgh Castle and Mary King's Close
I am living in Edinburgh right now and have taken many groups of visiting family to tourist sites across the city. Except for the two sites above, Edinburgh has a lot to offer and Pamela from Madison covers many of them (definitely go to the National Museum). You'll want to see the castle, but I don't think you'll get much out of paying the high entrance fees as Historic Scotland has spent very little effort/money on the interiors or on the history presented. Specifically, they have used Astroturf to cover the floors of Mary Queen of Scot's bedchambers where she gave birth to James VI (the first King of England and Scotland), and adorned the walls with cheap prints of paintings. In truth, the castle cannot claim even a fraction of the interesting history that the Tower of London can, or even that of the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the other end of the Royal Mile across from New Parliament. To enjoy the best part of the castle (the location), go to the promenade at its base (basically a parking lot where the Royal Tattoo is held in August) and look out across the city. You can walk paths cut into the grassy sides of castle hill for free. The Scot Monument offers better views of Edinburgh, but don't go if you're claustrophobic or afraid of heights. Mary King's Close is really disappointing and gives you that exploited feeling that you get whenever you know you've been had by a genuine tourist trap.
Edinburgh, UK Mon 04/13/2009
Venice is a cool place to visit, I mean you have to visit it in order to say you have been to Italy. No other place like it in the world. However, all the stuff there is made in China and its not really "Nostalgia" I would only recommend one full day, it is really boring at night.
Minneapolis, MN USA Tue 04/07/2009
French banks will not change dollars
French banks will NOT exchange U.S. dollars for Euros. In my opinion, it's better to bring 500-700 Euros
Cary, NC USA Sun 04/05/2009
Euros Can't Swim!
It's not a Tourist Trap per se but it can get you if you're not careful: At the bridge over the Seine River between Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis here in Paris, I watched an elderly woman open her wallet to pay a street musician a few euro coins. The strong winds on the bridge blew a 50 Euro bill out of her wallet and into the Seine River below. We all watched helplessly as it floated for a while, then sunk straight to the bottom when a large boat cruised by.
Nom De Plume, TX USA Sun 04/05/2009
Travel in Europe
I can't believe all of the negative comments about various places in Europe. We have been to most of them and always found something that interested us. We have never had a bad experience. I guess you have to have a open/curious mind and some Americans should stay home and have a Big Mac & fries.
Larry & Linda
Yarmouth, ME USA Wed 03/11/2009
Don't pass up Venice (especially at night)!
When I hear people say that they didn't enjoy Venice I wonder "What did they see that I didn't?" or "What didn't they see that I did". I love Venice and most of Italy for that matter.
THE KEY to Venice (in my opinion) is to stay overnight. Getting lost at night when all the crowds were gone and we seemd to have the place to ourselves was a highlight of all our Europe trips over the years.
Edmonton, AB Canada Thu 03/05/2009
Wonderful Rome & Venice
My wife and I went to Rome and Venice last September for the first time and enjoyed each very much. Use some common sense, study the guide books, and get off the beaten path to avoid the crowds. Sure, some places will have crowds that you have to deal with, but learn the tricks to deal with them and have a good time! The trip is what you make of it!
In Rome we learned from locals to avoid the brightly colored gelato piled high. This is "tourist gelato." In Trastevere where we stayed, we found a quiet local shop with amazing gelato that we indulged in every night along with a neighborhood pizza place that was always hopping at night.
Venice is dirty? Not so. We strolled the alleys and side streets of Venice for two days and nights and loved every minute of it. Venice was an enjoyable break from the crowds of Rome. We had less planned for Venice and did more things on a whim. It was so fun! Ride the water taxi, visit the glass blower in Murano, stroll across the Rialto at night, and enjoy getting lost!
Alexandria, VA USA Mon 03/02/2009
Things to Avoid in Italy
Venice and the Vatican were my least favourite parts of Italy. Venice is dirty, overcrowded and overrated in terms of architecture, art and culture compared to most European cities. The Vatican, again, is hugely overrated. Avoid the crowds and head for better sights elsewhere.
Winnipeg, MB Canada Thu 02/26/2009
Venice & the Vatican
NOW HEAR THIS: The Vatican and Venice are NOT overrated, dirty or a disappointment. And the archtecture is WORLD CLASS; the culture is beautiful and the locals warm and caring - They are must-sees!
San Diego, CA USA Thu 02/26/2009
Harry's Bar Venice
Harry' Bar in Venice, or any other city for that matter, is a major tourist trap. We went there because a member of our group had always heard of it, but she was unable to make the trip, so we went there to see what it was all about. It is all about money coming out of your wallet. When entering, you are immediately whisked upstairs to a waiting table and served by waiters who bear a striking resemblance to "Agador Spartacus" from the movie "The Birdcage". You then open the menu and behold, the 20 Euro bowl of soup and the 30 Euro club sandwich. Both of which are the least expensive items on the menu. But by this time, you are already seated, so you decide to stay. Believe me, it gets worse. The famous (infamous?) and expensive "Bellini" drink that I ordered came in a very small juice glass. The kind of glass that they give to children at Denny's Restaurants. Don't go there unless you like being parted prematurely with your cash. Explore outside of the normal tourist areas frequented by cruise ship passengers and you will find good food at reasonable prices.
Dallas, TX USA Wed 02/11/2009
Rome is a tourist trap if you don't do your homework
The Trevi fountain during the day is just not enjoyable. I'd much rather stumble upon it at dusk or nighttime when the huge crowds have subsided. There's always quite a few people around, but midday is just too much to handle. And I do agree with the idea that if you don't want sloppy imitation Italian food, then keep walking away from the major tourist sites. Also, dare to go to a hip, residential area that has some shops, but is also characteristic. In Rome, this neighborhood is just across the Tiber River in an area called Trastevere.
Seattle, WA USA Mon 02/09/2009
A Different View Re: Anneliese Friese Shop (Rothenburg)
Just wanted to respond to the gripe about the Anneliese Friese shop in Rothenburg. First off, yes, Rothenburg is a tourist haven. Everyone who visits it knows that. But it's still unique, quaint, and magical (especially at Christmas time, when I visited). I specifically sought out the Anneliese Friese shop, with RS's book in hand, on my mission to buy a cuckoo clock. I got a wonderful deal and they shipped it for 30 Euros or so. I am one happy tourist (and I'm also German).
West Coast, CA USA Mon 01/12/2009