Travellers tales of the places they just didn’t like.
As we all know, not every place in the world is going to rub everyone the right way. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and that’s the most beautiful thing about travel—there can be a million people that travel to the same place, yet each will leave with their own perspective and opinion on a place.
A few months ago I wrote about a place I really didn’t overly like—Hanoi, Vietnam, and also shared the stories of several other travelers and the places they didn’t enjoy (You can view that article here). After the popularity of that post, I realized that there were so many people itching to tell me their stories about the places they just didn’t like. It’s funny really, we talk so much about the places we love, and often are so hesitant to talk about the ones we don’t. So here are more stories by other travelers and bloggers about the places they just didn’t love.
Giza Pyramids, Egypt
I have traveled to over 80 countries but none have rubbed me the wrong way like Egypt has.
It started on arrival. Firstly, the immigration man tried to keep my passport and tell me I didn’t need it! Then people were trying to take luggage from the conveyor belts, and then we couldn’t leave the airport without people trying to bully us into buying tours.
Unfortunately, things did not get better. We were hassled in our five star hotel room and the attractions were ruined.
If there was one site in the world I really wanted to see it was the Giza Pyramids, but I did not enjoy it at all. Even the taxi ride there was annoying when some man also got into our taxi and tried to make us take a horse ride to the Pyramids. At the site we were constantly hassled and harassed. I was at this amazing attraction and I did not even have the chance to enjoy it. The only break came when we sat in the neighboring KFC. We were finally left alone!
We only had three days in Egypt and I can’t say that I was sad at all to leave that country.
– Sharon @ Where’s Sharon Family Travel Blog
Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
We really didn’t like it in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. The surly cab driver from the airport should have been our first clue. Our resort, despite “beach” in its name, was a mile-long boiling walk uphill from the water. No window screens in our accommodation (security risk!) meant several times we awakened to find one of many stray cats had curled up in our living room overnight (my husband is allergic). Every place we tried over the first few days had abysmal food. High winds on Fuerteventura are ever present. When we finally made it to the beach, we got sandblasted. This is a very popular destination for people from the UK to break up their winters, with cheap flights and low prices. Brits who really don’t know any better come for sun (and generally burn themselves scarlet – ouch!) but most of the vacation complexes look like prisons with high wire fences and precious little plantings to break up the volcanic moonscape. Although we finally located a couple of fun places to hang out with decent food, overall, we found Fuerteventura depressing and totally overrated.
– Betsy @ PassingThru.com
Underground River, The Philippines
I didn’t know whether to go or not for they warned me it was a very touristy place. It hosts the longest underground river of the world. It often happens when I travel that my eagerness to avoid the touristy crowd and the one of going to an unequaled place come into conflict with each other. This time I decided to give it a try.
Life jackets on, we get on the boat. I refuse to be one of them and I tell myself, ‘enjoy this landscape even if the orange tide disrupts the view’. At the entrance a billboard reminds us, in case we don’t know yet, that we have reached the Underground River, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I keep on walking, on a wooden path, designed just in case any delicate tourist gets its precious feet injured and that’s when we come across some monkeys and the show starts. People run after the animals to touch them, take pictures or even shout at their faces. It’s hard for me to distinguish who’s the human here. I try to escape, I walk and finally I find the wonder I had come to see. The turquoise color of its waters charms me, the shape of its rocks and the faded cave in the background…
“Quick! Follow your group! Take your helmet and go to the line!”
“Wait, what’s this? Am I in the market?” I ask myself still confused. What a way to break the magic!
People keep on taking pictures like crazy, pictures of stones, of the sand, of their kids with a helmet on, all of them hurrying because there’s no time, no time to enjoy this unique setting. And I say to myself, “there’s no way they will ruin my moment!”
– Alba @ Alba Luna
Vienna was the second stop on a 6-city tour and I was really looking forward to it. In my mind, Vienna was going to be a city of music and light and laughter. It was winter, so I envisioned myself warming up with a hot schokolade mit schlag (hot cocoa with whipped cream) in a cute, quaint café. The reality was a disappointment. I was there on a Sunday, so tons of places were closed. Those that were open served only expensive, heavy-sounding foods like wiener schnitzel and sausages. The people were helpful but clinical – no warmth or friendliness at all. The train station was so clean and quiet it was uncomfortable – I prefer a little chaos in my train stations. I stumbled cold into an open café for my dreamed-about schokolade and was greeted by a wall of cigarette smoke. I took a nap and went back out at night to take night pictures of the opera house, because so far I had been disappointed with the lack of photo opportunities. I walked 20 minutes in the frigid air to get there, I lined up my shot and got ready to press the shutter release, when BAM, all the lights went out precisely at midnight. Budapest never looked so good after leaving Vienna!
– Mar @ Testarossa Travel
I don’t like saying the word hate so I’ll just say I didn’t enjoy Ottawa. I’m Canadian so a couple years ago when I was in Toronto I thought it would be fun to take the train to Ottawa to see my nation’s capital. Everyone I knew who had been to Ottawa kept telling me that I’d love the city, but when I got to Ottawa everything just fell flat. I didn’t get the vibe in Ottawa. I felt like everyone was either a 12 year old on a school field trip or a 60-year politician. Also I’m sure I saw a junkie yell at some guy as I was trying to find my hostel, which is never a good impression. I found myself tired and lost all the time, including when I was trying to find a museum I thought was in Ottawa, but was actually in the neighboring city of Gatineau, Quebec. I went to Parliament Hill and did a tour and I explored Byward Market, but those were all just kind of meh for me. It made me sad, because I’ve always been a travel optimist and able to find something I like about every place I visit, but I couldn’t do that with Ottawa.
I do dislike leaving things on a negative note, so I’ll say that I went to Ottawa for a second visit about a week after my first trip. My second trip I was less stressed (I was working on my first trip so that might have clouded my impression of the city). I also went Couchsurfing, and I think connecting to the locals helped me get a better understanding of Ottawa. I can’t say I loved Ottawa, but my second trip was definitely an improvement on the first. Maybe in a few years a third time to Ottawa will the charm.
– Alouise @ Take Me to the World
If you’ve read my travel blog, you know that my goal is to travel to thirty countries by the age of thirty. So far, I have been to thirteen countries. I was asked an interesting question recently, which was, “of the places you’ve traveled, which one was your least favorite?” To be honest, that was an easy question to answer: Xi’an, China.
I spent three weeks in Xi’an on a volunteer trip. There were four things that made Xi’an my least favorite place, which were: the locals, the food, the air quality, and the toilets.
China doesn’t rely on tourism so the locals will treat you differently than a lot of the neighboring countries. Whether I was practicing my Chinese or lost in transit on the bus, I felt like I was constantly irritating the locals. I didn’t feel welcomed but more of a constant pest.
The food was also extremely difficult for me. Yes, I am a picky eater, but I witnessed even open-minded people struggle with the food. I have never ate more Pizza Hut in my life than my three weeks in Xi’an.
When people had mentioned the air pollution in China, I didn’t realize that they meant I would have a cold for three weeks. The “fog” outside, AKA the thick layer of pollution that remained in the air at all times, resulted in nonstop sneezing, sniffling, and sore throat, which made my time even more difficult.
Lastly, I don’t want to come off as snobby because I am more than willing to go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground if necessary, but I like to be prepared. I wasn’t aware that most of Xi’an still used the squatting on the floor toilets. I also wasn’t aware that most people can’t aim, so not only am I squatting but I’m standing in someone else’s urine. Not fun.
Throughout my negative feelings and overall tough experience, I focused on the good. China has a lot to offer in terms of things to see. Between the Great Wall, the Famen Temple, and the Terracotta Warriors, the unforgettable sites made the trip worthwhile.
– Katelynn @ 30 Before Thirty
Prague, Czech Republic
I’m embarrassed to admit it but my husband I didn’t love our first visit to Prague. We had built up this destination for years in our minds as one of the best places to explore in Europe. To us, it was beautifully preserved, inexpensive and off the beaten path enough that our families and friends would be impressed with our adventurousness. We even considered it as a honeymoon destination for a while. Let’s just say that when we finally arrived, our expectations were sky high.
When we finally arrived, it was March and it was cold, and it wouldn’t stop raining. I remember trudging to our centrally located hotel expecting that all would be more cheerful in the morning, but then it kept raining. It was the kind of cold that chills your bones – damp and dreary.
We did our best to shove off the damp, throwing ourselves into walking tours and lots of pints of pilsner and discovering the great modern artist David Cerny who has crazy art all over the city. We ate our fill of bacon-y dumplings and sausage and took breaks every afternoon in our hotel to warm up and dry off. The key to our pleasure in Prague was being able to see beyond the weather – admittedly easier said than done sometimes – and understanding that our ups and downs is what makes travel so special. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns, and it doesn’t have to be. Once we got that, we relaxed into the city and got another pint of pilsner to drink in the rain!
– Julie @ Drive On The Left
Rarely will you find me speaking poorly of any city I travel to. I feel that most urban areas have at least one quirk that lends character, makes an decent impression or at least gives you a fun conversation piece.
So it was with that sort of positive attitude that I set out determined to see what Vientiane could offer in the form of a memorable experience that would change it from a frustration inducing hellhole to a place I could recommend as a fine stopover while traveling through Laos.
My initial impression of the city was fouled by having to spend my first day pedaling a shitty rental bike to places that didn’t exist. Let’s just say that the town’s cartographers aren’t keeping things up to date. Still I wanted to give the city a chance.
Vientiane boasts its own version of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s the only place in town it seems where one can find some shade. The wide boulevards of this city would be pleasant to meander down if the heat radiating out of the concrete wasn’t stiflingly oppressive. Traipsing around Vientiane is akin to casually strolling through a brick kiln.
I found the city to be lacking in any character of its own, Sure there are temples but after three months in Southeast Asia I was templed out. Vientiane is a place as dull as a butter knife where a cold beer brings relief only when consumed in quantities. If you’re not here to visit an embassy or futilely attempt to find the FedEx office there’s barely a reason to pause.
One upside was visiting a sculpture park about an hour outside of town which houses statues of deities constructed out of Asia’s favorite building material – concrete! The park was started in 1958 by “priest shaman” named Luang Pu, who later fled the country, unsure of how the communist Pathet Laos would react to his unusual artistic license. I have to hand it to my man Luang Pu (yes, you can pronounce it ‘long poo’ if that amuses you), he created a novel attraction definitely worth escaping the central environs for Vientiane for.
But I’m not going back.
– Frank @ Travels Without Pants
Being massive fans of all things Italian, we were saddened by how much we disliked Naples (or Napoli). For us, it had the potential to be something grand – it has the famous Mt Vesuvius, Napolitana Pizza, a harbour and so much more! Yet, it immediately fell short of our, admittedly high, expectations. We had been warned about the ‘state’ Naples is in from friends who had visited previously, but we honestly thought that it could be maybe a slightly more crowded and dirty version of other Italian cities. We were wrong. Dirty is an understatement, with literal piles of rubbish on many street quarters. Granted, we walked through the Latin area, but still, you could not ignore the smell and dirty appearance of the streets. We even saw a little old lady throw her half-eaten sandwich and rubbish on the street as she walked past us!
Traffic was also an issue, with teenagers speeding past on their mopeds without wearing helmets and, in some cases, shoes! Pedestrian crossings and traffic lights are more of a suggestion to drivers, generally ignored, and be prepared to be stuck in traffic if you are taking a taxi anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful parts of Naples, with delicious food and restaurants, and it is definitely a good base to do visits out to Vesuvius or Pompeii. In fact, the food was some of the best we had in Italy and Pompeii is a must visit! Possibly with some expectation management (for example, do not expect La Dolce Vida here!), Naples could be enjoyed by some, but to put it simply, we just didn’t like it!
– Kim-Ling & Guy @ Travel-Ling
We visited Budapest as part of our 7-week backpacking trip throughout Europe. So many people had raved about it, so we felt we just had to go, but we learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t our cup of tea. Having taken an overnight bus from Prague, we arrived at the earliest hours of the morning and desperately hunted for our hostel. We were in dire need of sleep and a hot shower. When we arrived at the address provided by the hostel staff we’d spoken with before our trip, we were alarmed to find ourselves standing in front of a rather dilapidated stone building. Too tired to consider this thoroughly, we buzzed ourselves in and made our way up several flights of stairs.
Step after step, we wound our way up against the outermost wall of the building toward the 6th floor where we thought we’d find our hostel. Copious amounts of rubble were scattered across each step. Confused, we peered up to find that both the ceiling and 6th floor had completely caved in, exposing the blue sky above us. Where in the heck were we?!
Frantic, we knocked on one of the doors we found on the 5th floor to politely ask where we could find our hostel, but unfortunately met a non-English speaker. After several attempts at all kinds of weird sign language, the man burst out laughing, likely unable to figure out what we were trying to say. Disgruntled, we headed back down the winding staircase, and back out into the dirty street, nearly bumping right into an old man pissing in plain view on the sidewalk. After confirming with a few passersby that we were, indeed, at the address listed on the hostel website, we spent the rest of the day trying to find a new place to stay the night.
The rest of our trip was mediocre, at best. Despite trying to entertain ourselves with a trip to the baths and a boat ride down the Danube river, we admitted out loud to being disappointed. Budapest just wasn’t for us, and for the first time on our trip, we looked forward to leaving.
– Holly @ The Brave Little Cheesehead