Should Travel Blogs Tell People Where NOT to Travel?

Recently I have read a number of ‘Ten Places Not to Visit’ posts, or negative posts about a place disliked by the writer in which they explain why you shouldn’t go there. Amongst others places, I

Recently I have read a number of ‘Ten Places Not to Visit’ posts, or negative posts about a place disliked by the writer in which they explain why you shouldn’t go there.

Amongst others places, I have read posts that advise travellers to avoid Stockholm because it’s too expensive, cross off Vietnam because of constant scams, and never, ever to visit Bangladesh because it’s poor and beggar-ridden. Some of this advice was offered by travel blogs claiming to inspire people to travel the world. Sure, some of the posts offered disclosures at the end of the post telling people to go anyway and make up their own minds, but by then the damage had been done.

Predictably, these posts were followed by scores of commenters saying ‘Thanks for this great post, I was going to visit X,Y or Z, but now I won’t bother’, thus denying themselves the chance to eat pho from a Vietnamese street vendor, or to swim in the Stockholm archipelago – city water so clean it is allegedly drinkable.

It's starting to look a lot like spring in the archipelago

I get it: the more you travel the more you will compare one place to others you have been. And – of course – you will never like everywhere you visit. If somewhere is dangerous, then it is wise to tell people to think carefully about visiting, but if you simply didn’t like it – or had a bad experience – then to tell people not to go to a city, or even a whole country, seems somewhat arrogant.

Let’s be honest: Stockholm is expensive. You might get ripped off in Vietnam, and I haven’t been to Bangladesh, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it is poor and overrun with beggars. Does that mean people should strike them off their travel plans?

Surely it’s better to present the facts about what to expect and allow people to make their own decision?

There are places I have visited that I didn’t like as much as I hoped I would:

  • I got ripped off in Croatia more in 5 days than I did in 3 years in Vietnam.
  • The prices in Vienna are easily comparable to Stockholm, where, despite one blogger’s statement to the contrary, you can get a good pizza for $10.
  • I felt more unsafe in Buenos Aires than any city in Colombia.

But I would never tell anybody not to visit these places, just because I had negative experiences there.

If I had listened to the naysayers then I might never have visited the following places, all of which I was advised not to bother with:

Santiago, Chile

SONY DSCI was told that I would be in a hurry to leave Santiago, as no other city in South America compared to the bright lights of BA. But I loved Santiago so much that I stayed for a month. Many of my happiest memories of travelling the continent occurred in Santiago. I loved the city’s laid-back bohemian vibe, street art, and I adored the amazing views of the Andes.

Santa Marta, Colombia 

Colombians basking in the sun during a National Holiday

The instruction (found in a popular travel guidebook) was to skip this city altogether; to get off the bus and take a taxi straight to Taganga or Parque Tayrona (which are both, admittedly, worth spending more time in), but we stayed for a few days. Although we initially found ourselves in a mafia-enforced city shutdown on our first day, I found a lot about the place to like. We had some great food and enjoyed walking along the busy promenade. I wouldn’t suggest booking a holiday-of-a-lifetime there, but I wouldn’t dismiss a visit if you’re passing by.

Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest's Arc de Triomphe

Romania is a beautiful country and there are many cities more picturesque than Bucharest, but Bucharest is historically interesting, surprisingly green, and has some wonderful restaurants in the old town. I would live in this city.

Taj Mahal, India (yep, really!)

Mumtaz Mahal must have been a pretty incredible woman!

Touristy’, ‘overpriced’, ‘steep foreigner entrance fee’ and ‘aggressive vendors’ are among the main accusations hurled at the Taj Mahal, but couldn’t you say the same about every other famous landmark in the world? So the locals pay less than a tenth of the price you pay to get in? Get over it! Do you want to swap your salary with theirs for a month? Even your meagre backpacking budget is more than many local Indians will earn in years of hard work.

Up close the Taj Mahal is magnificent. I have never seen a photograph that truly represents how the gems and the marble sparkle in the sunlight. We don’t celebrate love enough in this world, so quit being so negative about the Taj!

I am pleased that I didn’t heed advice to avoid these places, as much as I am pleased that I didn’t listen to advice not to move to India because if I had I would have missed out on all of the experiences that these places have brought me.

Have you ever been told not to go somewhere? Have you ever been surprised by a destination others said you wouldn’t like? Tell me about it in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Should Travel Blogs Tell People Where NOT to Travel?

  1. Interesting perspective and yes, I have been to places that other people discouraged me to go, but I wanted to see them with my own eyes and make my own mind about them. If there is one thing I learn since I started travelling and even before when I left Italy to move to the UK, is that other people’s experiences and opinions are there to be listened to but they shouldn’t prevent you to do what you want or go where you’d like to. I think it’s perfectly fine that travel bloggers talk about places they haven’t liked and tell the reasons why, travelling cannot be all amazing and we don’t fall in love with each place we visit, but it’s up to who ever reads to decide what to do with these piece of information bloggers share. It’s always important to keep in mind that these are personal experiences, we are all different and we might or not like the same things and enjoy (or not) in the same way. 🙂

    1. You hit the nail on the head, Franca. “It’s always important to keep in mind that these are personal experiences.”
      I would add that readers should also be aware that, in many cases, the authors didn’t spend more than a few days on location. Other times the experience in one location is extrapolated to the entire nation – just like when people ask me “how is the weather in Peru?” and I, having lived in Lima, respond “it is horrible!” 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree completely. Some places really divide opinion, but I think everywhere deserves a fair shot. I find it bewildering that such lists are written by people who claim to inspire all kinds of travel.

  3. I think this is a fantastic post and you’ve made some really valid points! I haven’t come across any of these negative posts from the travel blogs I follow, but I can well imagine that some bloggers do it and it’s something I feel a little torn about.

    In one sense, travellers want to share their experiences and insights, which I think is great. But I think the problem lies in people taking what they share as gospel and following that for their own travels.

    I am sharing this, you’ve made some really good and interesting points!

  4. To be honest I guess I’ve been lucky enough to not bump into any of these ‘Don’t travel here’ guides. But personally would take it with a grain of salt. I too have been scammed in Vietnam, but I went right back with a better mindset and preparation.

    And suggesting not to go to the Taj Mahal because its touristy and overpriced? They may as well suggest not seeing the pyramids of Giza because its too dusty

  5. Like it , Interesting and healthy perspective thank you .
    Dont believe those “Expert Travelers” who put up a blog after visiting a country with 2$ per day budget and post pictures of garbage and buggers , specially of Asian countries .
    they sleep in shacks and eat at dirt cheap eateries and travel in 3rd class railways and propagate negative comments about the country .
    these guys dont have any problem giving 50 Euros for a smelly bunk bed in a Norway Hostel or 50 cents to pee in Europe , but will not bother to stay in a decent accommodation or spend at least 20 Euros a night in places like in India .
    In my opinion your 99 % travel related issues can be solved if you choose right accommodation and place of stay , always spend a little more for accommodation ,especially for female travelers , less worries on safety, mosquitoes, ,electricity ,water , etc .

    Also general human behavior is to propagate negative things , if you visit a country and if it went well you will share with your immediate friends or relatives ,but if you were pick pocketed out of ignorance you will be spreading this in all available medias ,Facebook,twitter,Tripadvisor , lonely planet, travel blogs etc .

    so just ignore them , my suggestion to know about a country before visiting is follow native travel bloggers , like if you are planning to visit Srilanka , google for “top 10 Srilankan travel bloggers” , you will get plenty of useful information and get to know Hidden Gems and insider tips

    Thanks you , keep your nice blog going .

  6. I agree! We all have our own shares of good and bad experiences and that there should never be bashing on any country; no matter how bad one’s experience is.
    The path is not always smooth either in our own country, and being travel bloggers, or even a blogger at all, especially if you are commanding a huge following, there should be consideration in thoughts when writing about another country or even anything in general.
    There is no rule, but there should be that judgment when it comes to writing (there’s ethics too, but let’s not go there) and give people an overall perspective of the place in an overview and objective manner. Leave the interpretation to the subjective.
    That would be the spirit of journalism, or so as is intended.
    Great article, love the perspectives! 🙂

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