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How to Avoid Tourist Traps

Vacations are a time to relax, explore, feast and sightsee all while dodging the masses. Don’t fall victim to tourist traps; instead, vacation like the locals do with these helpful tips.

Talk to locals:  No one knows the lay of the land better than the locals.  When visiting a new city, pick the brains of taxi drivers, bakers, fishmongers, neighborhood folk, etc. for the best insider foodie tips and must-see sights. 

Fear not the language barrier when traveling abroad because with the help of some hand motions and a trusty map, you will be surprised how willing people are to offer up local favorites.  After a mini charades act and my best attempt at broken Italian in Rome, I was pointed in the direction of Trattoria der Pallaro, a hot spot that charges 25 euro for a preset meal including: salamis, fettuccine carbonara, lentils, slow-cooked meats, pastries and more.     

Wear your walking shoes:  The city center is a notorious hub for travelers. Walking off the grid is a great way to avoid the crowds and explore territory uncharted by tourists.  For instance, Trastevere’s narrow streets leave much to be explored in Rome, and Brooklyn has quickly become a mecca for New Yorkers featuring boutique shopping, flea markets, eclectic dining and a dynamic nightlife.  Northern Liberties, situated on Philadelphia’s waterfront, is the latest hip scene for Philadelphia natives thanks to its vibrant community, open space, and ever-growing collection of art galleries, bars and shops.

Public transit: Most cities offer discounted passes for rides on subways, trains, trams and buses. Implement the hop on and off method during your trip by buying metro or bus passes and let your intuition lead you to your next destination.

Lines = Finds:  One of the best ways to gauge if a place is worth trying is the good ol’ line test.  If an establishment has people stacking up around the block, you might as well endure the wait because you are undoubtedly in for a treat.  Such can be said for Sant’Eustachio where Roman locals line up day and night for the city’s best espresso jolt.     

When in doubt, turn to the Internet:  With so many dining options in New York City, it’s hard to sift out the good from the bad.  My go to app? Yelp.  This is like the little black book for foodies who are eager to uncover some hidden gastronomic gems. Thanks to the magic of Yelp, I feasted on some of the best soup dumplings I ever set my taste buds on at Joe’s Shanghai in New York’s Chinatown. And big destinations often have city-specific free apps to download before you go. A little research can save you a lot of time while away that's better spent exploring.

Save the costume photo-ops for Halloween: Avoiding tourist traps doesn’t mean foregoing main attractions all together. Visiting top landmarks such as Times Square, the Trevi Fountain or the Eiffel Tower in Paris are must-dos on your travel checklist; however, beware of the costumed characters.  If you see a person disguised as the Statue of Liberty, Egyptian pharaoh, Bugs Bunny, etc., turn the other way because learning about gladiators at the Colosseum is far more interesting than snapping a photo (for a price) of a man dressed as one.       

Enjoy exploring like a tourist incognito, but remember, leave the fanny packs at home. 

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Tips by

Deal Expert, New York
Thursday, September 13, 2012
See more Tips from
Amanda Mulligan