Travelers Tell All: The Most Overrated Destinations

By Aussie on the Road on  33 Comments
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Most Overrated Destinations in the World

Overrated (adj): To be held in a higher opinion than is deserved.

We’ve all got a place in our past travels that just didn’t live up to the hype. We’d heard so many good things about it and when we finally got there, it was just completely underwhelming.

Maybe it was too crowded and touristy. Maybe its signature landmark wasn’t all you’d imagined or hoped it would be. Maybe you just have different tastes.

Or maybe the place just isn’t that special.

Case in Point: Bondi Beach, Australia

One that always leaps to mind for me in Sydney’s Bondi Beach, to which hundreds of thousands of people flock every year to get a tan, ogle impossibly attractive people, and ensure Bondi Rescue gets renewed by failing to appreciate just how unforgiving the Pacific Ocean can be.

When I hear from the legions of Brits who have made the suburb Little London, I can’t fathom what they see in the beach. It’s far from the nicest beach in Australia. Far from the nicest in NSW. Not even the nicest in Sydney.

Hell, Bronte Beach a short bus ride away is a nicer beach than Bondi.

Yet year after year, people flock to this comically small stretch of beach with its overpriced cafes and the inflated egos of its pseudo-famous lifesavers and worship at the shrine of sunscreen, sand, and the occasional blue bottle sting.

Alternative: In Sydney, you’ve got Freshwater or Shelly over near Manly. You’ve also got any of the beaches in the Cronulla region. Heading out of Sydney, Redhead, Newcastle, and Merewether (all in Newcastle) are infinitely superior as well.

Travel Bloggers Most Overrated Destinations

The Bondi thing got me thinking about what other destinations I’ve found overrated and what destinations others had been burned by. I put out the call, and some of the biggest and best travel bloggers out there have stepped in with their own suggestions.

Where possible I’ve also asked them to suggest an alternative – a place that offers a similar experience without the disappointment. You’ll find Europe, North America, and Asia were all represented – with poor South East Asia providing a lot of the places that disappointed.

Apparently Oceania, South America, and Africa aren’t quite as over hyped. Who knew?

Europe

Capri, Italy (Justin Plus Lauren) Facebook|Twitter|Instagram

Don’t get me wrong: Capri is stunning. It’s a gorgeous island nestled in the Bay of Naples across from the famed Amalfi Coast. Tourists flock to the island daily to experience its rugged cliffs, the Blue Grotto, and shopping for upscale Italian goods. However, Capri was definitely an overrated destination.

First of all, it was very crowded. Of course, many places in Italy are crowded, but it felt as though the island was too small to accommodate everyone who visited.  And we visited in May…I couldn’t imagine what it would be like there in July!  Many visitors came for the day from cruise ships, so perhaps Capri would feel very different at night.

The boat tours for the Blue Grotto took on as many tourists as they possibly could, so we were left to wait, floating around on a small boat for two hours for our five minute canoe ride into the cavern. Once we were inside, it was really cool, but man, that was a long wait! Taking a bus around the island was a challenge as there were too many people and too few buses. There were very long lines for the buses, which forced us to take a taxi at one point (or else we would miss the ferry back to Sorrento!).

Speaking of prices…this was a very expensive place. It was our most expensive day in Italy, and we didn’t even buy anything! We took a ferry to Capri and back, we booked the Blue Grotto tour, we took a bus to Anacapri for the chair lift ride up the mountain, and then we shared a taxi ride back with some other tourists…that alone was enough to break the budget.

Alternative: I highly recommend that you explore some off the beaten path spots in Sorrento. Just a short walk out of the main downtown area, Bagni della Regina Giovanna was a beautiful place and there were hardly any people there. We were able to stand on the rocky cliffs and gaze out to sea, just the two of us. There’s a really awesome cove there that you can swim inside during the summer months. It was a little bit too chilly for us to swim in May, but we were very content hiking around the rocks and enjoying the view. Sorrento itself is a really nice town with great restaurants and shops at a fraction of the price compared to Capri, and it definitely didn’t feel as crowded there.

IMG_9714

Dublin, Republic of Ireland (Don’t Stop Living) Facebook|Twitter|YouTube

The Republic of Ireland’s capital city of Dublin is somewhat of an over-rated city to myself and many travellers. If it wasn’t for Guinness and having the biggest airport on the island, this place would be nowhere near as popular as it is. I’ve passed through Dublin several times on my journey and with each visit I just think “what is all the hype about?”. You stop someone on the street to ask them directions. They don’t know what you mean. They’re strangers too. You walk up and down Grafton Street and O’Connell Street searching for inspiration. Then you realise: There is nothing to do in Dublin except drink Guinness and listen to Irish music! Oh and the Oscar Wilde statue.

Alternative: Dublin is drab, dreary and dull. The same cannot be said about Belfast, arguably the true gem on the island of Ireland. So for anyone heading to Ireland, get the Northern Irish capital of Belfast on your list and avoid the over-rated, boring, sleeping city of Dublin. Hyped up because everyone and their Granny has been there for a Guinness. Slainte! (Gaelic for cheers) Belfast offers more history, politics and local culture and is also the gateway to the Giant’s Causeway. DSCF9414

Florence, Italy (Max Globetrotter) Facebook|Twitter

I have never been keen on the herds of tourists anxiously clutching copies of “Let’s Go” or some other anodyne guidebook, and nowhere are these more apparent than Florence. Fair enough, Florence is a pretty darned nice place, but unless one has a burning desire to see the Uffizi with several thousand compadres, or pay silly money for “recommended” hotels, I highly advise staying on the train for another couple of hours and heading to Bologna. It is a very fine place; old, an ancient university (1088), a major centre for food, stunning medieval towers and a very well-preserved historical centre. Add to this some very modestly priced accommodation, and superb accommodation at very realistic prices, Bologna is a much, much better bet!

florence

Istanbul, Turkey (The Other F Word) Facebook|Twitter|Instagram

From its placement on the border between Asia and Europe, to its cultural heritage, to the mouth-watering food and glamorous party scene, Istanbul lures millions of tourists on a yearly basis that live to tell the tale of this terrific destination. Or so I thought…

Seeking traces of the Byzantine culture and Greek heritage? Prepare to walk the slums of the Fener district that houses the Patriarchate. Now, I have not actually seen many slums in my life but I have seen war-torn Beirut and it looks palatial, in comparison.

Is it the Turkish influence that you wish to explore? Topkapi Palace’s living quarters can induce claustrophobia even in those that never had the condition and Dolmabahçe Palace brought to mind a poor man’s imitation of the opulent European castles, at best.

Surely strolling The Grand Bazaar is a good way to experience the ‘real Istanbul’? I found it reminiscent of a K-Mart, when you actually do pay attention to the merchandise: corridors upon corridors of small stalls, selling the same overpriced, generic, tourist-geared souvenirs.

To say I was underwhelmed with the city, would be an understatement. The city is filthy, crowded and has none of the ‘authentic’ charm you tend to aim for, when picking an unusual destination. The food is mediocre, unless you really know where you are going or are prepared to pay a premium, so no stumbling on ‘hidden gems’ there.

Perhaps, my only fond memory includes the Turkish Baths, although here, again, caution must be taken to align your expectations. Though great in theory, Istanbul did not deliver the awe and glamour I was expecting.

For those that have tried to change my mind by mentioning the luxurious night clubs, I have two things to say: 1. A night club is made by the company you are with and 2. Aforementioned Beirut. Enough said.

4

Asia

Bali, Indonesia (One Travels Far) Facebook|Twitter|Instagram

While many people like to rave about Bali, I simply can’t.  I consider it the most overrated destination I’ve ever visited, and probably wouldn’t go back. Sure, it may have been paradise ten years ago, but these days it’s just full of drunk Australians wearing Bintang singlets, guys on corners offering drugs, and police waiting for bribes.
Kuta may be great for cheap cocktails, but don’t be surprised if you’re robbed. And Ubud may be beautiful, but you’ll soon get tired of running into people “finding themselves”. Don’t get me wrong, if you get off the mainland you’ll have better luck.
Alternative: I would recommend Northern Thailand over Bali any day. Places like Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Pai offer excellent nightlife, gorgeous scenery, and an actual cultural experience-something you’d be hard pressed to find in Bali.
Editor’s Note: I intend to avoid Bali like the plague. If I wanted to deal with asshole Australians, I’d just stay home.

Bangkok, Thailand (One Weird Globe) Facebook|Twitter|Instagram|Pinterest

Bangkok is the hub of Southeast Asia, both in terms of flying in and as a place from which to venture around the country. Unfortunately, that also means the locals have had decades of practice and experience at separating tourists from their money. The famous ‘Grand Palace is closed’ scam is still working today, the streets and sidewalks are clogged with (typically illegal) street vendors, and the amount of corruption and safety issues throughout the city borders on legendary.

Alternative: I’d make a choice between Krabi and Chiang Mai. Krabi is in the south and has plenty of beaches, but isn’t as developed as Bangkok. Chiang Mai is in the north and has plenty of cultures, and has plenty of shopping and temples to enjoy. A flight to either one from Bangkok takes an hour or so, and both have more than enough tourist infrastructure in place for a great time.

Editor’s Note: I love Chiang Mai. Sure, it’s getting more touristy as more people discover how wonderful it is – but it’s still such a peaceful, beautiful city.

bangkok

Battambang, Cambodia (Contented Traveller) Facebook|Twitter|Instagram|Pinterest

Battambang is located in the far northwest of Cambodia. It seemed a good idea at the time to see something a bit different and taking the boat from Siem Reap along the Tonle Sap River would be an experience. What was supposed to be a 3-hour trip turned out to be a 10 hours of getting bogged and boats sinking, so Battambang did not have a good start.

When we eventually arrived it was an utterly depressing place and something felt wrong about it. It had a bad vibe. We went to a café for dinner and then a car came careening around a corner and slammed into the cars parked next to where Gordon was sitting, showering him with glass. They were the Battambang gangsters, and not one person would go near them. There was not one thing that was redeeming about Battambang, and we got the hell out of there the next day and headed, by bus to Phnom Penh, which is place that is totally worth going to.

Paula McInerney of Contented Traveller likes nearly every place that she has visited and can generally see the good in them, but unfortunately, not Battambang.

battambang, cambodia

Boracay, Philippines (Don’t Worry Just Travel) Facebook|Twitter|Pinterest

When I heard about Boracay in the Philippines, I was told and also read, that it has pristine beaches, a vibrant nightlife and is just a cool place to visit.

I stayed in the island’s centre in the station two area. If you’re unwilling to spend 100 USD a night for a beautiful hotel in the north of the island you’ll end up in a place in a back road with sewage smell issues. White beach is indeed beautiful except for these green algae, that made the place a little appalling. Let me guess: Too much sewage again? At night-time, wherever at white beach you finally decide to sit down and have your meal and drinks, you will hear a mix of loud music from different sources trying to drown each other out. The only really cool thing to watch were the fire shows.

If you like a decent mix of nightlife and stunning beauty, go to El Nido in Palawan, also in the Philippines, instead. It is cheaper with better options for all price ranges from wealthy to backpackers. I’ve been at both places, but don’t remember feeling ripped off in El Nido as I did in Boracay. Don’t believe me? Check out the El Nido article on my website.

Editor’s Note: I went to Boracay expecting noise, clubs, crowds, and food – so I wasn’t as disappointed by my own visit. It was a fun place to be with a group of people who just wanted to drink, swim, and eat good food – so it hit the spot. I must have missed algae season too, thank God!

El Nido is lovely, though. My group and I loved our time there. It hasn’t got much of a night life in comparison to Boracay, but it’s so peaceful that you won’t mind.

boracay-philippines-plus-algae

Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates (Meet Megan Lee) Twitter

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, ultimately stood for disappointment. After being shuffled, pushed, and prodded up the elevator, you were quickly shuffled, pushed, and prodded onto the 126th floor. Despite the skyscraper’s efforts for crowd control, it still took a few good elbow throws to get to the edge of the platform and see the vistas. It was a constant battle against selfie sticks and the sea of people. The dusty atmosphere of the city meant the view lacked clarity. And to be honest, what’s so cool about seeing endless expanse of flat desert, peppered with a few airplane landings and some other big buildings…?

Thumbs down Burj Khalifa. Thumbs DOWN.

Alternative: Eat dinner at a restaurant with a terrace at the Dubai Mall next door near sundown and enjoy the transition to the sparkly lights from there.

Editor’s Note: You’re making me glad I decided to give the Burj Khalifa a miss during my recent visit to Dubai. I settled for room service and watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in my underpants. Winning.

megan-lee-burj-khalifa-overrated

Continue reading on the next page for the worst of Thailand, the UAE, and Myanmar.

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  • Thanks for featuring my choice of Dubai. I really tried a number of times to see any hint of culture or anything real behind all the fake glitz and glamour, I tried so hard, but Dubai just wouldn’t let me see it!

    • Jaillan Yehia

      I completely agree with you on Dubai, I tried hard too but came to the conclusion that you can’t find what isn’t there. Some people like fake places, I acutually think Miami despite having more of a a real side, is generally admired for the fakery, glitz and glamour too. Neither was for me.

    • CWBush

      As I said in my email, I was lucky enough to get a local perspective through my partnership with Emirates & Dubai Tourism Board. It got me out of the malls and off the busy beaches so I could see some more interesting stuff.

  • Man, I hate Boracay – if I wanted to see white people get drunk on a beach i’d go to Bondi… oh, wait, I don’t want to go to Bondi because its covered in douchebros – I’d rather go to Shelley Beach in Manly or the Fairy Bower. Or in the Phils – go to Davao!

    • CWBush

      Shelley shits upon Bondi from on high. Freshwater is better too.

      I don’t hate Boracay. It is what it is. If you go there expecting to party, it’s great. If you’re looking for serenity, maybe Google two pages deep.

      Davao is very much on my list for my next Philippines trip. I’d love to be on Palawan right now, come to think of it.

  • I agree with Bali being a big let down but instead of heading to Thailand go and visit Lombok, its beautiful. How Bali was before tourism and all that.
    I mean look at this…

    https://theeighthours.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/visting-the-waterfalls-in-lombok/

    • CWBush

      I still need to make it to Indonesia. My desire to go there is somewhat tempered by the number of Australians there and the fact they occasional kill my compatriots.

      • In that case avoid Kuta, Bali at all costs.
        I was so disappointed with Bali that I judged other places the same, big mistake, there are some gorgeous places.

        https://theeighthours.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/the-secret-gili-islands/

        • CWBush

          Hehe, will do! I do need to get to Indonesia someday. There’s a lot there I’d like to see. I’ll just avoid Bali much as I avoided the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.

          • CWBush

            For sure. I’m not a big fan of date rape heavy raves. I wrote about my disdain for the whole affair in my piece comparing Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan.

          • I’d worry for anyone that is.
            Will have a look for that piece now.

          • CWBush

            You’d be surprised by how many people from all over the world go. Some of the most intelligent people I know even made a bee line for it because of its fame.

  • Jonny Blair

    Thanks for including my contribution Chris and a great list. I’ve actually been to almost all of these places and have to agree they are mostly over rated. However, it’s still an each to their own with travel and no doubt people will disagree.

    • CWBush

      Even I found myself in disagreement with a few of them. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with Boracay if you’re looking to party and dine out – which is basically the only reason you’d choose to go there over someplace like El Nido.

      I have friends who adore Paris, yet when I asked readers – the majority of the responses were quick to say Paris was overrated, dirty, and expensive haha. To each their own!

  • Claudia Luxembourg

    I think a lot of what people consider overrated is based on their personal experience and perhaps even the people they were travelling with. I would never dare say that places such as Florence, Machu Picchu, the Amazon or even Buenos Aires are overrated. One of the biggest warnings I got before visiting the Amazon was that I may or may not see animals. It is not like they wait for tourists to show up and wave at them. Florence is simply a work of art, and it takes a refined “palate” to be able to fully enjoy it. Machu Picchu is not “rebuilt” but “restored” – that means, it has not been abandoned to the course of nature and it is extremely well kept. I actually find it brilliant that thanks to the work of archeologists and researchers we are now able to see what it would look like when it first was built.

    • CWBush

      Very good points, Claudia. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear/read the likes of Machu Picchu, Florence, and the Amazon on here. They’re still very much on my to do list, and especially the South American duo.

      Do you have a destination you do think of as overrated yourself?

      • Claudia Luxembourg

        I couldn’t see what the fuss was all about for Panama – in particular Bocas del Toro and San Blas. I still think it has a lot to do with me and my perspective on things. Of course I will hardly be impressed with beaches when I come from Sardinia, where we have the most amazing sea and beaches on the planet! I also wasn’t in very good company there, to enjoy the place fully.

        • CWBush

          I have the same problem at every beach destination I visit. After growing up with access to Aussie beaches, every beach I visit is either too calm or not pretty enough. I’ve found prettier beaches, for sure, but it’s not a beach if it’s as calm as a bath :-p

          • Claudia Luxembourg

            Most of all, what I need is a CLEAN spotless beach. Clean beach with no garbage on it, clean water where I can see through. I like the sea when it is calm, as I am a swimmer. But Sardinia offers a bit of everything, depending on the weather though!

          • CWBush

            You’re making Sardinia sound very tempting, Claudia!

          • Claudia Luxembourg

            Hahahahaha I don’t mean to brag, but hey… it is gorgeous 🙂 You can check some pictures on my instagram 🙂

  • Thank you so much for including my contribution about Koh Samui in your post, Chris. I shared it on Facebook and on Twitter. It’s interesting to read what other Bloggers think. I totally agree with Clelia from about Maya Beach and with Alice about Shanghai. Furthermore I found Western Malaysia quite overrated, but it’s true what another commentator, Claudia Luxembourg, wrote. A lot depends on the people you travel with and in Western Malaysia I didn’t travel with the right ones.

    • CWBush

      The company can definitely make or break a trip. Despite what others have said, I had a wonderful time visiting Boracay with my brothers last year. We went there expecting good food and late nights, and we got what we wanted haha.

      Conversely, I’ll always view Shanghai with a bit of negative bias because I was there with an ex-girlfriend who made me miserable 😛

  • Graham Askey

    Whilst many of these places would be vastly improved by a spot of carpet bombing from the US air force, lets be honnest – the main gripes are based on the fact that these places are popular and all us cool travellers cant be seen mixing with the riff raff. Popularity always starts for a good reason but inevitably leads to higher prices, rip offs, hassle and above all, more of us tourists – the death knell for holier than thou travelers. Instead of moaning about about these places why not look a bit harder to find the aspects of interest which always lurk down less trodden alley ways, get to know some locals to find out what they like and spend more time than a quick whizz round the tourist sites before condeming it. When that fails you can call in the B52s with a clean conscience.

    • CWBush

      Ha! I’m not sure I would suggest such extreme measures, but it’s certainly one way to drive tourists away :-p

      It is an inevitability that a place’s popularity eventually poisons people against it. That level of saturation either triggers decline or demands innovation. Sadly, a lot of the places above have yet to reinvent themselves, so they’re likely to continue stagnating.

      Of course, some aren’t as bad as others.

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  • Chris

    El Nido a nice alternative to Borocay? It may be an alternative but it is anything but nice. There is not ONE decent beach to go swimming in El Nido. Sandflies, crowded, expensive (compared to much nicer places i’ve visited on my trip), full of rocks in shallow water – NOONE is swimming here, want me to post pictures of full beaches and empty water?! The only way you get your toes wet is by booking tours to sourrounding islands which take place from 9am to 4pm. Is that what you would imagine your vacation in paradise? NO! I want to walk into the water from my Bungalow not being stuffed in a small boat with other tourists all day. If you re on a budget expect to lower your standards drastically below what you are used to in SEA. Also from March to April (high season) you will only enter the water with full clothes on. The jellyfishes are highly poisonous. People die here regularly during jellyfish season. The next hospital is a 6hours drive away. Stay away from this place. Its only good for diving.

    • You mustn’t have looked especially hard for good beaches to swim at, considering we spent entire days at two nearby beaches in El Nido where the swimming was fantastic.

      Nacpan Beach is a short tuk-tuk (or scenic motorbike ride) away and was great for swimming. Clear water, no rocks, and no crowds.

      Closer to El Nido town is Las Cabanas, which was also perfectly fine for swimming. A couple of rocks here and there, but nothing to worry about.

  • I would highly recommend the Giant’s Causeway if you guys are ever in Northern Ireland!

  • Pingback: Philippines' Boracay Island is voted the ‘world’s best island’, but is it worth the hype? - Travel Wire Asia()

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