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.
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:
I 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
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.
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!)
‘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.