When most people plan a vacation, they usually try and work out every possible roadblock that could arise before they’re on their big getaway. Many even plan their days down to the minute!
However, when you share your vacation plans with a friend or family member, you’re likely to receive some unsolicited advice about what to do, what to avoid, where to go, and how to get there. Everyone has an opinion on how best to travel and spend a vacation, and they often feel the need to share their apparent wisdom with you. While all of this advice usually comes with good intentions, even the most seasoned travelers sometimes have terrible advice to give!
From avoiding certain countries, stomping on different cultures, to spending money like there is no tomorrow, here are some of the most horrible pieces of travel advice travelers have ever received!
25. Taking Advantage Of The Locals
Imagine coming to a country where the majority of the population earns less than USD $150 per month. You earn 10–20 times more than them.
You start your morning at one of Phnom Penh’s only Costa Coffee branches. You gladly pay USD $3 for your coffee.
Then you go to a market. A crowded, poorly lit, stuffy place. Single mothers ply their trade, taking their small kids along. Children have their lunch of rice and tiny pieces of pork and chicken next to a small radio that plays western Top 40 music from 3 years ago.
After browsing for a few minutes, you encounter an exquisite handmade local craft. A small wooden statue. You saw something that looked similar at one of the “hipster” art shops near your office before. It was sold for USD $100, and while the price was quite steep, you knew that it was reasonable, especially for something that beautiful.
But at this Cambodian market, the statue, that probably took a day or two to make, costs you USD $15.
That’s 85 percent cheaper. But here’s a thing. You’re a backpacker who tries to save every single cent so you get to splash out on more booze tonight, so you haggle and bargain really hard.
So you tell the trader, “7 dollars or nothing.”
Desperate for cash, the trader agrees to sell you the wooden statue for USD $7.
Because you want to save USD $8, which is equivalent to 2–3 cups of coffee at home, the trader takes home USD $8 less today.
She has USD $8 less to spend on her children’s education.
She has USD $8 less to spend on providing a nutritious diet of fish and meat for her family.
She has USD $8 less to spend on buying medicine for her children when they fall sick.
This is the kind of unhealthy attitude that is sadly very prevalent amongst backpackers in Asia.
Respect the locals and their trade, and the locals will respect you.
24. Wait To Explore The Earth Until Retirement
The worst travel advice I’ve ever got is to travel once I’m retired. People of my generation will probably not be allowed to retire without a decent pension before our 70s or even our 80s…
Even if medical advances will keep us healthy for longer than previous generations, how I’ll travel at age 80 will be a lot more different than how I travel now. In my 20s, I can face hardships beginning from endless flight connections to partying for two days non-stop, or even life-threatening conditions like having to fight with someone or endure dehydration or even being broke in a city (though this is less likely to happen when you’re old). These things will never be possible with osteoporosis (I might break my arm or leg by hitting the guy ahead a bit too hard) and gradual loss of stamina.
Also, you will be less prone to learn a new language and adapt yourself to the local mentality even if you already have a lot more experience in life.
23. Harboring Fear Towards Yemen
“Yemen? Are you crazy? You’ll be taken hostage as soon as you land!”
Yeah, well, I lived in Sana’a and worked all over the country as a Peace Corps volunteer, and this during the Reagan years including after the U.S. bombing of Libya in April 1986.
I never felt at risk. Make no mistake, the Yemeni people I worked with were curious (to say the least) about President Reagan’s rationale for attacking a fellow Muslim country, but they also acknowledged I was an individual and not a U.S. government policy maker.
The fact is, the notion of hospitality and welcoming a guest to their country/city/homes is strong throughout the Middle East. Even as a lowly PC volunteer, we were treated as honored guests in the remote villages we visited. However many times I tried to dissuade them, the villagers invariably killed a goat and several chickens (very expensive for the villagers) and served us a sumptuous meal within hours of arriving. We gathered as a group in the mufraj of the sheik’s house…
…where I was usually seated at the far end of the room to the immediate right of the sheik, the seat of highest honor. The men of the village were seated around the room in descending order of hierarchy. The sheik would then ask me about my wife and children (none at the time, to their amazement), my thoughts about Yemen, and finally how life was in the U.S. — all in Arabic, of course.
A darker note — all women were absent from these meals, and we quickly learned to leave plenty of food in the communal dishes once we understood women and children only ate after the men had had their fill. Much to their frustration, our female PC colleagues tended to stay in the cities of Sana’a and Ta’iz which were a little more cosmopolitan and accepting of women in professional roles. Most of them taught English to Yemeni men and a few women.
My time in Yemen was amazing, and the experience absolutely changed my life.
22. Risking Arrest And Cheating The System
Somehow, so many things went wrong on this trip, no thanks to travel advice I found online!
We were going to spend an amazing week in France in late September 2016. The weather was gorgeous and it was still super warm outside. The holiday was a dream come true!
It all started going wrong on the way from the airport. Before the trip, I read somewhere that you can skip buying bus tickets if all you need is to ride a few stops.
That’s exactly what we needed. The advice also mentioned that if caught, just speak your local language and pretend you don’t understand. Because you are a foreigner, they won’t issue a fine (and even if they do, it will eventually expire).
Not only did the Frenchies speak very good English, they also demanded our passports and took us off the bus. So in order to get out of bigger trouble with the police, we paid the 40€ fine in cash. Lesson learned!
Our next lesson was a rumor about luggage storage. Because we had a few hours before the train and we left our suburb hotel early, we were looking for a place to store the luggage and explore the city.
Again, on the forums, I read about supermarket storage cells. Oh well — another FAIL! Not only were there few supermarkets in town, all of them were, in fact, tiny grocery stores. Apparently, all the big ones are located nowadays outside of city centers. To make matters worse, the train station cells weren’t working either. So there we were, dragging our heavy bags around town and eventually landing in the nearest cafeteria.
Upon arrival in Paris, we were ready to go to bed early in order to be the first ones in the Louvre queue the next morning. Fantastic IDEA, except that we were not the only ones.
Needless to say early morning wake up didn’t exactly pay off that day. I wished we could have just slept in and enjoyed the city’s less-crowded attractions.
21. Contrasting Cultures Of Safety
One of my older relatives tried to talk me out of going to Turkey, saying that one of her friends had gone in the 1960s and “hated the place.”
I also had a lot of Indian-American students at my university try warning me off from flying to New Delhi. A lot of them seemed to think that I’d get robbed, kidnapped, or killed the second I stepped out of the airport and into the city.
Then there was an Australian fellow who tried to convince me to take a taxi back to the hostel with him in Medellin, Colombia. He didn’t think it’d be safe to walk, but I was in no mood to spend money. I was tired, tipsy, and had left my valuables back in my room. Figuring that walking was better than wasting my pesos, I took off while he a few of his countrymen decided to hang back and party. In the morning, I discovered that he’d tried flagging down a taxi and gotten robbed, losing everything down to his shoes. Apparently, he’d just started waving at every yellow car on the street, hopped into a back seat, was driven around the corner, and had a gun pressed to his temple.
The last one might not be travel advice, but it goes to show that sometimes the “safe” choice isn’t really the best choice.
20. Avoiding Stereotypically Dangerous Countries
This is kinda crazy, but here it is — I was told:
“Don’t go to Colombia – you will be shot.” I went, even shockingly met face-to-face with theresponsible for the deaths of 3,000 people. Pablo Escobar’s hitman. It ended up being the best vacation of my life otherwise.
“Don’t go to Easter Island, there are cannibals there, you’ll be dead.” Went there and found out the real legend of the mysteriousI would go back there in a second. Thank you Rapa Nui.
“Don’t go to the North Pole in the winter, it’s dark 24/7 and you will suffer from depression for the rest of your life.” I actually went, had the second-best vacation of my life doing snowmobiling, dogsledding, polar bear sightseeing, etc.
“Don’t go to Russia to film, you will be thrown in jail as a spy.” I am producing a TV show called. In every episode, we throw a dart at the world map and go wherever it lands with the purpose of helping the land or the people. We hit Russia, went there and filmed in the Red Square and orphanages and had an amazing time.
The worst travel advice comes from people who never went to those places.
19. Stay At Home
Quite simply, “Don’t go.”
I have seen it many times, sometimes said by new lovers out of fear of heartache or selfishness. Sometimes by the traveler him/herself when the fear took over.
The problem is, to travel, especially alone, is to leave your comfort zone. And it is far out there that amazing things happen.
18. Traveling In Fear As A Female
“Three girls traveling alone in India? Are you crazy?”
That was my mom’s reaction when I mentioned I would be going on a week-long trip to McLeod Ganj with two of my girlfriends.
For our summer break, me and my friends planned a trip to the beautiful mountains of McLeod Ganj, mostly because we would not really get the time later in the year. When I told my parents, they freaked out and asked if there would be more people going with us. While I have traveled alone to several places for work, going on a vacation with just girls is apparently a very dangerous thing.
But when we did end up going, it felt like the best trip ever. We took a train from Delhi and the three of us had so much fun in the cool terrains of the beautiful town. We trekked to Triund and camped in the night under the stars. And everyone was so courteous, especially our host at our Airbnb room. The three of us talked for hours amidst the extraordinary scenery and discussed anything and everything.
It gave me the courage to plan another all-girls trip to the Andamans. Me and my friend planned a post-grad trip to the beautiful group of little islands and got similar reactions from our parents again. I was equipped with a pepper spray and a tiny knife (which I never really used). The two of us, amidst all the honeymoon couples in the island, thought that we might feel a little out of place. But it turned out to be an amazing experience in the sun-soaked beaches and all the gossiping and food!
So girls in India, take a chance to travel India without any fear. I am quite new to traveling, but I take every chance I get to go and explore with my girls. Plan ahead and see how amazing the experience is.
“Who run the world? Girls!”
17. Avoid Dull, Uneventful, And ‘Boring’ Ireland
“Ireland is boring — don’t go there.”
As a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad. After a lot of thinking, I had to make a choice: Madrid or Dublin.
My mom was worried about my lack of Spanish-speaking abilities and advocated for Ireland.
Literally everyone else said go to Spain.
I listened to my mama.
Cuz mama is always right.
And guess what?
It was the best decision of my life.
Ireland is most certainly not boring and you should definitely go there.
Sure the climate isn’t ideal. It’s windy, cold and rainy. But the countryside is absolutely beautiful. There are rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. The Cliffs of Moher are surely a wonder of the world and places like Donegal and the Aran Islands are sights everyone should see in their lifetime.
The people are THE BEST. I mean really, you can walk into a pub alone and walk out an hour later with 10 of your new closest friends. I’m pretty sure I became best friends with just about every taxi driver.
Ireland is an absolutely magical country.
16. Dressing Formal Instead Of Fun
This happened with one of my friends. Let’s call him “A.”
So, A and I work for same company, and it was our first onsite travel. Being inexperienced about international travel, and since it was supposed to be a business trip, we were given ample amount of advice by all sorts of people around.
In one such discussion, one of our seniors told us to pack only formal clothes for office visits and strictly wear the same during the flight as well.
Fortunately, I took this advice little less seriously, and had packed a pair of jeans along with formals as well.
Now, our Mr. A is of a kind who never wears formals in the office here in India. He says its too uncomfortable, so he can’t bear it.
We reach the airport, me in my most comfortable jeans, ready to enjoy my first international trip.
I can’t stop laughing when I see this friend of mine clad in full formals, top to toe. He actually wore trousers and a shirt and well-polished shoes for a 16-hour flight. When I asked, he said he had packed only these for the whole two weeks!
When we entered the client’s office the next day (this time me in formals as well), and our manager there (who was wearing shorts) welcomed us with a smile. Facepalm. We two were the only ones in formals in the entire office!
Also, my friend “A” still used this travel advice every day for the rest of the trip. I could not help but laugh! Lesson learned: always do little homework about workplace habits when you are visiting another country.
15. Steer Clear Of Typical Tourism
“Avoid “touristy” places.”
In some respects, there is truth to that, such as with restaurants. You’re almost always going to get cheaper, better, and safer food at restaurant jam packed with locals, without an English menu, with high turnover of food, then at a restaurant that caters to tourists. Some of my best travel experiences have been when I’ve just gotten lost in random parts of a city and met locals.
However, plenty of people take that too far. There’s a reason certain attractions are highly visited by tourists — they’re the most impressive sites to see. If you “avoid touristy places,” you’d go to Egypt and not see the Pyramids, you’d go to India and pass over the Taj Mahal, and you’d go to Florence and not see Michelangelo’s David. You should certainly try to meet locals and get off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean you should skip places because they are popular. If you do, you’ll miss a lot of amazing sights.
14. Too Much Travel Will Hurt Your Love Life
I like to travel a lot, so whenever I get a chance, I plan for it. I believe at least one long-distance trip is required in a year.
Last year, I went to Hampi, Karnataka and my relatives found out thanks to my posts on Facebook.
One of my relatives said, “No boy will say ‘yes’ to you (for marriage) if you travel this much.” I started laughing so hard.
13. Follow Your Gut
“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home!” This was the worst travel advice I ever received. If I’m at home, I would never get to be able to to do all the things a different location and different climate would provide me. I am a native New Yorker, but I don’t live in the city. When I went to California, I rented a jet ski (something my parents would never approve of). I know now how much of an amazing experience this is. I somewhat would like to buy one just for myself to take it out in warmer weather.
12. Toss Financial Wisdom To The Wind
Count me among others who believes, nay, knows, that “don’t worry about money, just travel,” is a huge crock of steaming garbage, and we all need to just stop it already.
Unless your coffers are so overflowing with greenbacks that you just can’t spend them fast enough, you should always worry about money, especially if you are just starting out in your career. I matriculated in the early 1990s when credit card companies were still practically handing out cards to fresh grads along with their diplomas. And a lot of my peers got into serious trouble with those credit cards. One acquaintance racked up $200,000 worth of debt in two years. Why? Because he took the oh-so-flawed advice, “don’t worry about money, just travel.” What’s a little bankruptcy in your early 20s?
There is never any excuse to be financially irresponsible. We don’t tell young people, “don’t worry about money, just go to college” anymore, because we know that they might not be able to pay back student debt. So young people are rethinking that whole university experience. And yet the travel-the-world-and-don’t-worry-about-money mindset still hasn’t been scrubbed out of them. Don’t you see something wrong with this picture?
I worry about this, because it nurtures a culture of entitled delusion. Or delusional entitlement. Whatever.
You don’t have to wait until you retire before you travel. Just do it like a sensible, realistic person. Get a job, put in your time, and save up for your fun in the sun. Use your two weeks of vacation wisely, and stay within your budget. Big ticket expenditures are something that you earn after you’ve put in X-amount of time, much like luxury cars and houses.
11. You’ve Heard This Before
“Don’t go to that amazing place. It might not be safe because of some recent, rare and horrible event that could happen again.”
I’m not a daredevil by any means, but it doesn’t take a genius to calculate the odds of rare horrible events occurring again in a generally safe place. We can’t live in fear for the rest of our lives just because something bad can happen when we can’t even stop it from happening in the first place.
You only live once, so enjoy it as much as you can and go visit that place you’ve always wanted to visit in your life!
10. Slippery Slope
“Just wait a little longer before you go on your trip, save more money, it’ll be worth it!”
If you want to travel the world, go for it! For so many of my friends and family, it’s always going to be next year. Then something comes along, whether it’s an excuse, a relationship, or a new job, and then it’s “No, NEXT year.”
In other words, if you put it off, you probably never will.
9. The Importance Of Learning Japanese
“Don’t go out of main cities without a Japanese speaking guide and/or a pre-contracted travel package! You won’t be able to communicate with anyone outside of Tokyo!” – This from Japanese descendants that had already been to Japan.
This proved to be the most wrong advice I’ve ever received.
That was probably true for them, as they look Japanese, and people may assume they have some obligation to know the language. But not so much when you look like you’re obviously a tourist that is obviously lost in the language.
I went there with my parents a few years ago and did everything on our own. And I know only about half a dozen Japanese words I picked up watching anime when I was younger. We booked hotels and tickets for planes and trains in advance, but that’s all. Once we got there, we had the reservations on us (both on paper and my iPod), so we just showed them to taxi drivers to get us to our hotels. No matter how small the city, at the hotel there’s ALWAYS someone who speaks English, so that’s where we got most of our information. We’d go to the reception and ask for maps, ask them to show us how to get to places, where or how to book activities (or if they could do it for us).
We didn’t starve once. We’re adept at always finding markets close to our hotels so we can have snacks whenever we need, and buying things in markets is just a matter of looking at the numbers and giving money or card to the cashier. If they see you don’t understand them, they’ll take care of everything. Also, Mom is highly adept at mimicry, so she does most of our communication by pointing and mimicking. I’m the one charged with trying to communicate in English whenever possible.
We found that restaurants in Japan are awesome for people like us, since they have most their dishes displayed in front windows and the menus are all full of pictures and prices, so you just have to point to what you want. Even in those restaurants where nobody spoke English, we got our meals easily enough just by pointing.
And, not to leave out the most important: the people, once they realize you’re a tourist in need of help, will go out of their way to help you, and you’ll always find someone who speaks at least a little English.
So, yes, worst travel advice ever! Had we followed it, we either wouldn’t have gone, or wouldn’t have had the freedom we did to explore on our own.
So, if I was to sum it up: it’s not about knowing or speaking the language, it’s all about being able to communicate to people and working things out no matter the language.
8. Proper Conduct During Prayer Time
“In the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), don’t go out during prayer time.” Yes, during prayer time, all the shops will be closed, but you are very much free to walk around. I have even seen the local people roam around during prayer time.
7. Bad Train Advice In India
Being on a waiting list for Indian trains is fine if you’re number 50 or lower. You will get an actual ticket for sure.
This advice was given by numerous friends, and travel agents. I ended up without actual train tickets two times. I didn’t get refunds on the waiting list tickets, either.
6. Don’t Go To Twitter For Advice
“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life is not meant to be lived in one place.”
I don’t always go on Twitter, but when I do, I always get this advice.
Seriously, I think I can control how much I want to travel myself, and a tweet won’t change that. I don’t even like to travel, so should I travel just because some people tell me that life is not meant to be lived in one place? What do they know about the meaning of life?
This tweet is useless. If people want to travel, they certainly will travel. If they don’t want to travel, they will stay at home. They won’t care about how life is supposed to be lived (well, some people will, but I am not talking about them right now).
5. Penny Pinching
The worst advice I’ve heard is to fly the low-cost carriers.
I fly over 100,000 miles a year, and I’ve found that traveling as a top-tier frequent flyer, while it may be slightly more expensive each trip, really pays off with all the perks that come with. Having top-tier elite status results in a lot of ancillary costs you run up every trip suddenly becoming complimentary. I have not paid for a meal in an airport in years as I have access to plenty of first- and business-class lounge meals. For morning flights, I’m able to wake up and just go to the airport earlier, which lets me beat rush hour traffic and use the airline lounge shower suites to freshen up instead of doing it at home and then running into rush hour. I’m able to shower in between long-haul flights, which makes a huge difference.
Also as a top-tier flyer, I get to pick the best economy seats for free and I often get upgraded to business class. I’m also exempt from most of the fees airlines charge. I can switch to an earlier flight if I need to. I’ve found that if I try to fly the cheapest airline instead of sticking to the airline I have elite status with, the money I’d save would be wiped out by the increased stress and fees and other costs I would’ve run up.
On top of that, as an elite flyer, I earn reward miles at an accelerated pace so I can sponsor my family members on free tickets more often, and in some cases, sponsor them on premium tickets.
4. Departing ‘Smart’ But Blowing Your Dough
There’s so much bad advice out there from travelers. And most of it can cost you money. The worst travel advice around is:
1. Book Aisle And Window Seats
I’ve heard people advise couples to book the aisle and window seat on a flight so that they can get the whole row to themselves. The presumption is that no one will book the middle seat.
But airlines fill flights. It’s how they make money. The couple almost always ends up asking the middle person to switch. This advice gives couples false hope.
2. Exchange Currencies
I’m in a Facebook travel group of 12k people, and they often talk about exchanging currency before a trip.
What a waste of money!
The absolute cheapest way to get/spend money in a foreign country is to use a credit/ATM card that charges no transaction fees. Exchanging money in airports or online before the trip is a total ripoff.
3. Wear All Your Heavy Clothes
I am #teamcarryon, and I recommend wearing your bulkier items on the flight to save space and weight in your baggage.
But there are limits!
This kid passed out wearing 12 layers of clothing on a flight to avoid baggage fees. That’s a terrible hack.
3. You’d Think This Would Be A Good Idea
Traveler checks. My parents were advised to take traveler checks to Japan when they came to visit me in Kyoto. “Great,” they thought, “we don’t need to go to the ATM and can pay our hotel with it.”
Turns out, those checks were not accepted anywhere except the central post office in Kyoto. The hotel didn’t take them, the smaller post offices didn’t take them, larger shops didn’t take them, so we had to cash them out. Granted, it only took about 30 minutes and I was able to translate, but still, it was annoying.
2. The ‘You Only Live Once’ Complex
- You only live once, travel the world.
- A good holiday is an unplanned one.
The list is endless. I’ve always wished I could do one of the above. Travelling is truly an exhilarating experience, but it comes with its own demons.
- It’s not the easiest for every passport holder to walk into a country without applying for a Visa. Visa fees are quite an amount for most countries. If you try booking flights on different airline groups, you could run into the hassle if your transit is in a new country for obtaining a transit Visa.
- Most countries require a minimum amount in your bank account. An unplanned holiday with not much in your pocket may prove to be a tedious one.
- Travel can get exhausting at times and if you’ve not planned the entire trip, you could run into the trouble of exhausting yourself even more if you don’t have a hotel to crash at and energize yourself.
1. Wait Until You’re Married
“Travel (with your husband) once you are married!” This basically applies to every out-of-the-ordinary activity a girl wishes to do ranging from traveling alone to getting a permanent tattoo.