I live for new and exciting travel experiences. I’d like to think that I would try just about anything once (well, I won’t eat bugs, sorry) but over time, I have realized that there are certain travel experiences I just won’t endure any longer.
Pay to Climb
This one is really my partner’s Golden Rule, but it is a policy I have gradually adopted. Just about everywhere in the world one can find a skyscraper, tower or ziggurat offering fantastic views. This rule doesn’t eschew the value of these structures, but it does prohibit paying money for the privilege to climb. I have no problem handing over some cash to take a nice funicular or elevator to the top of a structure for the stunning views, but I will not pay to climb multiple sets of stairs. The best/worst example of this is the Eiffel Tower. For €5 you, the guest, have the privilege of being allowed to climb hundreds of stairs to the second level. That seems like a lot of cash to pay for manual labor. I also experienced this in Madrid while visiting the Almudena Cathedral. Once again, the views from atop the church promised to be amazing, yet we each had to hand over some coins for the right to climb a lot of stairs. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t always seem worth it.
Everyone should probably visit a palace and tour royal apartments once. Just once. And it should probably be Versailles. Afterwards, every visit blends into a melange of oddly placed furniture and long narrow rooms with a lot of fussy drapes. The most impressive feature is their outside facade, which is free to view and admire. Unless you’re a hardcore royal nut, most castles and palaces can be skipped forever
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a travel snob. I fully embrace the fact that everyone’s travel styles are different and there is no wrong way to see the world. Well, unless you travel to the wrong country or fall into an pit, then you probably did something wrong. That being said, I hate, hate hate the idea and practice of Ho-Ho buses. I get the fact that one wants to learn the layout of a new city, but this is not the way! First, they’re usually pretty pricey and they don’t always take you to the areas where you really want to go. Pictured is a copy of the Marrakech Ho-Ho bus route, including trips to the post office and McDonalds. Really Marrakech, really?
Instead of taking the Ho Ho bus, get a map, learn the public transportation system and explore on your own. You won’t be seeing the entire city in one day anyway, so why pretend that you are? Besides, learning to navigate the city on your own will provide much richer travel experiences and help you get used to the travel experience. We all have different levels of travel comfort, things we would and would not do. But the only way to grow is to expand our travel envelope.
Ok, this may be a personal thing, but it really annoys me and I’ve encountered it around the world, from New York to Singapore. When we travel we don’t plan our meals. Guide books don’t do a great job with them and we much prefer being in the actual destination to see what looks good for ourselves. Sometimes this has produced amazing experiences and other times, it’s been a bit disastrous. In Singapore we were walking around Clarke Quay looking for a dinner spot when, out of the blue, people from the restaurants started to jump out, trying to lure us into their establishments. I don’t mind a gentle sales pitch, but at one point someone actually tried to block my way forward. That was my breaking point. I looked him square in the eyes and asked him, as politely as I could, to move. The install chill in the otherwise sweltering air convinced him to kindly step aside.
Like I said, I don’t mind when restaurants try to convince me to eat with them, it’s when they start yelling at me, calling us names or try to physically prevent us from leaving that I get really angry. The same thing happened in Marrakech, Istanbul, etc. Do they think their rudeness will bring rewards? I would never eat with them and instead I go out of my way to convince others to avoid them as well. I realize that part of this is cultural, but when you’re dealing mostly with tourists, it’s perhaps best to dial it back a bit.
Maybe this list is a little cranky, but these are a few of the things I won’t do anymore when on a trip.
What are some of the things you won’t do?
28 thoughts on “Things I Don’t Do When I Travel”
I refuse to give money to people who send their children over to tourists to beg for money! I think it is deplorable anywhere I encounter it!
Ergh I cant abide Hop on Hop off buses. I am refusing to do one in London when we get there (only 31 days to go!) Instead we are doing a fat tire bike tour of the city. Sounds much more pleasant to me.
I love this post. However, you should definitely pay the $80 (or whatever it is these days) to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s quite a different experience to yet another tower and yes, the views are spectacular.
Yes, I imagine that will be one of the exceptions. :)
I seem to have committed quite a few of those crimes last week in Copenhagen. To be fair, the hop on/off bus was actually a canal tour and we only got off twice – but once was to climb to the top of a church! And guess what – for the first time in years we did a Royal Palace and, you’re spot on, very nice and all that but so like many others – apart from the glass cutlery which amused me.
Hate the bossy restaurants.
Totally agree with you on royal apartments or any kind of “fancy historical residence.” I actually skipped the trip to Versailles when I was in Paris. My friend went and showed me the pictures, and it was good enough for me.
One other thing I won’t pay for is the right to take a picture of something.
Yeah, the first couple are fine, but anymore they just bore me.
I have no problem paying for things like the Eiffel Tower because it’s a life experience I need to have. I’d feel lame telling people, ‘Yeah, I saw the Eiffel Tower, but I didn’t climb it.’ About the only thing I won’t do is overpay for attractions. If the asking price feels out of line with the enjoyment I’d get out of it, I skip it.
Yeah, I would (and have) pay for the elevator at the Eiffel Tower, without question. But paying to climb bothers me, obviously. LOL
I do 2 of these.
I will pay to climb. Usually, if you don’t pay an entrance fee, this is the only means of paying for maintenance and preservation besides relying on the government or giftstore sales.
For the Ho-Ho bus, I’ve only done it once, and it was in Dublin. It stopped basically everywhere, including some of the shadier neighborhoods where you don’t really want to walk like around the Guinness Storehouse or Kilmainham. Of course, I walked and took regular public transportation for most of the time, but this was a handy way to get to the spots further out.
You know, Dublin is the one place I kind of wish we had done it. It was FREEZING and we walked a long way to Kilmainham, getting lost along the way. The warm buses racing past looked great.
Hmm interesting post and question. I will and do pay to climb and I do love Palaces and Castles. I won’t pay for a picture with a Beefeater or dogs (St. Bernards in Zermatt). I have never used a hop on/hop off bus but I don’t know how I really feel about them. Ambivalent I guess.
The only time I did a hop on & hop off bus was in Mexico City b/c the city is just so damn big. I really enjoyed it actually!
I refuse to pay to enter a Church, Cathedral, Basilica,or Temple. This was especially true in Thailand. I didn’t go into any of the major temples in Bangkok because 1) They triple charge foreigners and 2) I don’t believe one should have to pay to visit a house of worship. My only exception on my RTW trip was Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It was worth it to take the elevator to the top, then walk down for one reason: the view of the construction still going on is quite fascinating. Technically, the church is not finished, nor will it be for another 100 years or so…but the detail in the work that has been completed is really neat. Granted, it took me almost a week before I finally coughed up the money, but in the end, I didn’t regret it.
One thing I don’t do when I travel is stand in line longer than 15 minutes to see things. I try to time it so there will be hardly anyone there when I go sightseeing, or get tickets ahead online if available.
I also don’t do Ho-Ho buses. I will take public transport or walk everywhere, including seedy neighborhoods, and I will climb anything, even if it costs a few bucks. I will go into palaces and royal residences as I’m a history buff and like to walk in the footsteps of the people that I read about. Places of worship fascinate me (although I’m not at all religious), and if the entry is free or costs only a few dollars, I will check them out.
Excellent tips and I agree about waiting in line.
Agreed. It is a rare thing that I’ll stand in line for. Same goes for restaurants- it better be one of a kind.
I refuse to pay to enter a church, especially a Catholic one (the cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium, for example), because I’ve been a Catholic my whole life and feel I have earned the right to enter. Protestant churches too – they don’t make you feel welcome when they charge.
I like the Ho-Ho bus! Though I’ve never seen one with a McDonald’s stop =) I put my family on one when they came to visit in NYC – it was great for a somewhat rickety grandma and two directionally challenged relatives. And my little sis and I only had about 48 hours in London, so we did Ho-Ho so she could see everything and then decide what she wanted more of.
I won’t pay to climb either. Come to think of it, after doing Tongariro, I’m pretty much done with steep inclines… free or not.
Great post. We dont do basic tourist site tours. Know your stuff before you go. Find advanced guides like Context for in depth presentations.
Matt, we part ways on the ho-ho bus. In cities like Paris or London, where the public transportation is mostly underground, I love getting a view of the city. It’s terrible for transportation – yes, you’ve got to get a map and use public transport to get around. But, for day 1 or 2 or for a first time visitor? I think it’s a great use of something even more valuable than money – time.
I love that you call it “ho-ho” by the way…
I won’t pay for ‘staged’ pictures, you know, when you are at a major tourist attraction and somebody waves a camera in your face and asks if you want to pay them to take a picture of you with said tourist attraction behind you. At Iguazu Falls I saw people paying to have their pictures taken: they were stood in front of a blue screen, the photographer took their pictures and then PHOTOSHOPPED the waterfall in behind them! They were already standing right next to the waterfall!
As others have said already, I hate it when you pay an entrance fee and then they want to charge you extra to take pictures.
Tourist city buses– never done it, never will. Especially that hop on hop off stuff. Ew. Public transport/buses is the way to go, whenever possible. Such a more real experience! As for pay to climb, I usually don’t but will sometimes to support a lesser-mobbed landmark. I’m not talking Eiffel towers and London towers and places with infinite lines of people in zip-off pants and 20-pocket vests. Some towns and little cities have a temple or fort or church with a great view and endearing staff and if the price is reasonable I don’t mind trading them some maintenance money for a lovely vantage point. I also almost never do palaces and rich-people’s former homes. Just not my thing. Even with Versailles… the exterior gardens were plenty for me.
Climbing Fees: I am happy to pay (a reasonable price) for entry to climb attractions. The Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is amazing, but did you know you can also do the free walk across the bridge which still provides great views over Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. There is also a stair climb you can do in the pylon museum (for a fee) which you will also get elevated views out the window, and learn how the bridge was constructed. I have paid to climb many other things (Duomo in Florence, St Peters in the Vatican, Notre Dame in Paris, St Paul’s in London etc) and felt it was money well spent (and legs well exercised).
Royal Apartments: Yes I have visited Versailles and it was amazing (gilt, glass and renaissance paintings). I have also visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany which was amazing in a totally different way (more cozy, painted walls with different art style). I have also visited major palaces in Prague and Vienna and enjoyed the experience each time without going particularly out of my way. So I think the royal apartments are an interesting tour mixed in with many other experiences.
Hop On, Hop Off buses: Hmmm… So far I have never used the ho ho option. I have considered it a few times and found it to be too expensive in comparison to public transport. And I like to do my own thing, and try to find the places in between the ‘tick the box’ sights.
Mean Restaurants: Agree, if they hassle me I don’t give them my business…
So I have about a 50% hit rate with your article, but it has made me think!! Thanks.
I think my policy on not paying to climb has slowly changed actually since I wrote this piece. And we all can’t agree but thank you for reading and commenting!
I like some others in these comments, won’t give handouts to kids sticking out their hands. It encourages begging and while that can be challenging, there are numerous ways to help out in a truly productive way.(ie research before hand to find a school or hospital that might need supplies and bring them or volunteer your time etc.) I also don’t pay to take pictures of people. I will ask or gesture to someone if it is okay to take their picture and if they show any kind of dismay then I just won’t take the picture. I believe that in these cases, it only encourages begging yet again. A nice thing to do is to show them the picture on your camera (easy now that it’s the digital world), show them how to take a picture of you with your camera and if possible language wise, try to get their address or email address if they have one and send them a copy of the picture. But if you say you will do this, make sure you follow up and to it.
I don’t eat anywhere I can eat back home. Traveling is about experiencing new things not hitting up the local Chili’s.
Generally we would avoid hop on hop off buses too, but in NYC in the cold with the kids, it was a life saver.
I refuse to give money to beggars when I travel. I do, however, pack up all my extra food (even if I don’t have a fridge in my hotel/hostel room) and take it with me from a restaurant. Same when I leave my hotel or hostel. I put all the free shampoo samples, any leftover soap, some fruit, whatever I don’t want to take with me to the next location, all into a bag. There’s usually people on the street happy to get the items or the free food. In my experience, the ones who really are in need will take the hot meal or toiletry items. Still doing good :)
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