When it comes to blogging and travel writing, it seems to be a big thing that people don’t want to talk about the bad experiences, everything has to be about how wonderful travel is, you HAVE to visit here etc etc. But in reality it’s not always the case, you’re not going to love EVERYWHERE that you travel. Now I don’t want to be mean, there are many different things that can affect a visit, but first impressions are first impressions and in this post I share 5 disappointing travel destinations from around the world.
One thing to consider, is that everyone is different. Someone might LOVE a destination, but then someone with a completely different travel style may visit and feel completely underwhelmed by the same place. Sometimes you go with high exceptions and then for whatever reason feel a little let down. I looked into some of the reasons why I may have felt disappointed by some of the destinations and how I would do things differently if I was to return.
Overrated Travel Destinations
1. Byron Bay, Australia
In 2018 I visited Byron Bay. I’d seen many bloggers say how much they loved Byron Bay, even my sister’s boss said that Byron Bay was great and that we’d definitely love it there. In reality, I didn’t love it. It had been hyped up so much that when I got there I was left with a feeling of, is this it?
Before visiting I had got the impression that Byron Bay was a bit of a backpacker town. In a way, I was right, it has a backpack vibe, but I guess it was more of a hippy town. There’s nothing wrong with either of these things but by thinking it was good for backpackers, I was expecting there to be cheap food options for example.
There was nowhere particularly cheap to eat. Australia ISN’T a cheap destination, I’ve been 3 times now so I’m fully aware of how much things cost there. But usually you can find somewhere that offers something budget. In Byron Bay, we gave up trying to find somewhere cheap. (Although I did get my frozen yoghurt for free because I amazingly managed to guess its exact weight).
The ‘hippy’ aspect of the town (think tie dye and ‘peace’), meant that those places we did find added a fancy ‘twist’ to regular meals. We just wanted something boring like a bacon roll for breakfast but everything was vegan/vegetarian/organic/super food/instagram food, whatever you want to call it, I just wanted bacon in a bread roll, I wasn’t worried about whether or not it had edible flowers on it.
It just felt BUSY as well. On the same trip we had visited Surfer’s Paradise beaches, Bondi Beach in Sydney and they were all deserted in the off season. Byron Bay was busy and like one big traffic jam.
Don’t get me wrong I’m all for being eco friendly and it’s great that some of the coffee shops give you a discount if you take your own reusable cup. But when people were turning up with actual coffee mugs and then try to drive away with a full mug of burning coffee, let’s just say that driving skills then go out the window.
We couldn’t walk down the street without tour companies trying to get us to go on trips, they didn’t want to take no for an answer. I hadn’t experienced this type of pressure selling in Australia before.
There were also people living in the bushes behind our motel. It felt dirty, there was a lot of rubbish places. It seemed like people being ‘free spirits’ also wanted their litter to be ‘free’ too and not put in a bin.
If I gave it a second chance – I didn’t like the town, but I did like Cape Byron, the lighthouse and the hike to the Southernmost point of mainland Australia. If felt like that area brought in a completely different crowd of people and I felt more comfortable there. It’s OK for a visit but I’d be tempted to stay somewhere with more options for food…or at least go EXPECTING to pay A LOT.
2. Rome, Italy
Sometimes it’s not always the destination’s fault (or maybe it is?!). For my opinion of Rome, I partly blame myself. I think if I returned now, 13 years older, I think I’d see it and appreciate it more. So I think I found Rome overrated just because I was too young to appreciate it.
I visited as part of a college trip when I was 17. We were a big group, we didn’t have much freedom and I felt like I didn’t have any control. We had to go where we were told, ate where we were told to eat and it wasn’t my travel style at ALL.
I remember getting home and my Mum asked me what I thought of it and my reply was ‘the Colosseum is in the middle of a roundabout and it’s like a dirty East London’. Don’t get me wrong, some places in London aren’t the best but there are now lots of nice places in East London, so if I could, I’d take that comment back.
We’d go out in the evening because that’s what our teachers thought ‘young people like to do’, which yes a lot of 17 year olds do, but I’ve never been a partier/drinker and I was annoyed by the unwanted attention. I purposely don’t put myself in those situations when I travel because I don’t like it.
If I gave it a second chance – Now I am more into my photography I think I’d appreciate Rome a lot more. Yes we saw all the ‘big tourist attractions’ but if I had the flexibility to make my own itinerary I wouldn’t be visiting places like the Trevi Fountain at the busiest time of the day, I’d be going early in the morning. I’d also do an awful lot more research into attractions and the things that I was interested in, rather than being told what I had to see.
Underwhelming Travel Destinations
3. Grand Canyon, USA
Shock horror, I think a lot of people would be disappointed in me that one of the ‘Wonders of the Natural World’ would be on my list of places that I didn’t like. The expectations of something like the Grand Canyon National Park are huge, it draws in millions of visitors every year. BUT I found myself bored after an hour.
We stayed at the Grand Canyon for 1 night as a detour from Route 66. Yes it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, but when I try to describe it, it’s almost like my brain couldn’t process the size of it. It almost looked a little like a 2D picture.
I think my biggest problem was that it didn’t MOVE. Sounds silly hey! I could sit and watch the sea for hours, watching the water move, boats passing by in the distance etc. The Grand Canyon never really changed. We visited 3 different view points and they all looked very similar. I took a short hike down into the Canyon, still looked the same. I’d have been happy seeing it for an hour and then leaving, maybe I’d have a different opinion of it if I hadn’t been there for ‘so long’.
If I gave it a second chance – I’d have to try and experience it more ways. I always said that I thought a helicopter ride would be the best way to see the Grand Canyon to really get a feel for the size of it. Maybe white water raft the Colorado River at the bottom. I’m a pretty active traveller and I think I just needed an extra ‘dimension’ to really appreciate it, rather than just seeing it from the rim.
4. Budva, Montenegro
This is in no way a reflection of Montenegro, I was actually VERY impressed with Montenegro as a country. I originally booked a Montenegro day tour from Dubrovnik, Croatia. The reason being that I wanted to see Kotor and climb the city walls. I couldn’t find just a trip to Kotor so settled for the best looking tour I could find, although there wasn’t an EXACT itinerary.
We had a quick stop in Perast which impressed me but was very quick. The next stop was Kotor, a stop of 2 hours and after a quick guided tour of the town it only left 1hr 30 of free time to explore Kotor. I was one of only a few which managed to get right to the top of the walls in that time, a lot gave up and had to turn around to make sure they got back to the bus in time. I could have spent a lot longer in Kotor. I liked it there.
(In Kotor after my sprint to the top)
We then drove on to Budva and were told we’d be there for 3 HOURS. An hour longer than Kotor and I felt disappointed and after Perast and Kotor, Budva felt like a bit of a come down. Part of me thought we’d have the longest amount of time in Kotor, ideally I’d have been happy not to have even gone to Budva at all!
(Beach in Budva, Montenegro)
As I didn’t know in advance that we’d have had THAT much time in Budva, I’d done no research and the only thing our guide really cared about recommending was a restaurant where I’m pretty sure she was on a commission for.
(Budva Old Town)
My first impression was that it wasn’t as visually pleasing as the other 2 stops. I ended up sitting on the beach for most of it but even then it wasn’t a nice beach and a small boy decided to stand on the piece of sand directly in front of me and then pee literally inches from my stuff. The parents saw it happen and didn’t even tell him off or anything.
(Budva Old Town)
If I gave it a second chance – I’d spend more time in the Old Town. I didn’t really find out about it until I decided to go for a walk and then stumbled across it. It’s like a tiny version of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, with narrow streets, little bakeries and shops etc. I like doing lots of research on places for a reason!
Disappointing Travel Destinations
5. Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I know there are a lot of people that like Mexico and living in the American Midwest, Mexico seems to be one of the ‘cheap’ go to beach destinations to escape the winters. Yet it was the travel destination that I’ve been the most disappointed with out of the 40+ countries I’ve been to.
It felt like the whole time I was there I was just being mugged off constantly. I’ve travelled a lot and yet it was one place that nearly broke me mentally. It started off with a delayed flight that had taken FOREVER as it was flying head on into high winds, and I just could not find my pre-booked (already paid for!) transfer to the hotel. I ended up getting scammed into getting a highly expensive taxi to the resort in Playa Del Carmen. By that point I was so exhausted I just took it.
I moaned to the hotel that I couldn’t find the transfer and they just didn’t seem to care, they were like ‘Oh well, the driver said you were a no show’…yes because my plane was 3 hours late. And that was that. We were then forced to give our CABIN LUGGAGE to the bell boy because apparently we couldn’t take luggage to the room ourself, it was part of the service.
Of course the bell boy then demanded money. I had just got off a flight from the UK and the only US currency I had was the high denomination notes from the currency exchange. I had JUST got there so I’d had no chance to get anything smaller yet. Needless to say that bell boy got a huge tip from an already fed up, much poorer, me.
The concierge guy, that was also in charge of the airport transfers, was then trying to get us to buy excursions. He kept stopping us in the lobby, ringing our room etc. I’d already pre-booked day trips direct with the attractions that we had wanted to visit. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He even went to the length of waiting for us when our bus came back from the trip and demanded that he wanted a copy of our booking so he ‘could show his boss that we already had trips booked so that’s why he couldn’t convince us to book through him’. I was fuming. It was none of his business who I booked through and after he had no interest in refunding ANYTHING from our missed transfer, the last thing I cared about was helping him out.
I told him it was an e-ticket and I’d email it to him when I got home as I didn’t have my computer…I never sent the email but it got him off my back.
It’s probably important to say that I was staying at a large worldwide chain all inclusive resort which I HAD used before in a different country. I had had no problems with my first experience so was highly disappointed by their Playa Del Carmen resort.
If I gave it a second chance – It’s honestly put me off staying at a tourist resort so far away from the airport. If I was to go again I’d want to stay closer to the airport, so there was no chance of a scammed long distance taxi journey. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my excursion and I think it was just one thing after another that just beat me down and made it a trip that left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe different staff, a different hotel, being more prepared, would have given me a completely different experience.
Please remember that these are MY opinions and as I’ve hopefully shown there are things that could be done differently, which could have given me very different experiences!
What is a destination that you felt was overrated?
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