Although the connotation for the words “tourist traps” is often times less than appealing, many of these places are actually interesting on a less than mainstream kind of way. There are people in this world that would rather enjoy quaint, off-road, eccentric places than the most popular tourist spots. Tourist traps, as a rule, are roadside or tourist attractions that have acquired bad reputations. And this reputation has been steadily drilled into public consciousness by unscrupulous individuals who are after a quick buck. Their main victims are unsuspecting out-of-town visitors or overseas tourists who would not dare raise issues for fear of upsetting the locals’ sensibilities. These days, tourist traps have become synonymous with cheesy out-of-the-way places that offer nothing more than cheaply made trinkets with exorbitant price tags. More often than not, these places are surrounded by small stores offering food, beverage and even a sampler of the local brew. Interestingly, these small stores make a substantial income from tourists who just want to get away from the madness of the place. And yes, all these places have rest rooms – the one consistent element that makes them attractive to passer-bys. Unfortunately, some of them ask for a certain fee for performing normal bodily functions.
Tourist traps originally started as innocuous roadside attractions. There was a time when long distance traveling on solid ground became all the rage among erstwhile travelers – think for one moment of pre-commercial airlines flight period. These places were (and still is) frequently advertised all throughout main thoroughfares. Huge billboards and even haphazardly staked signs were created to catch the attention of tourists without planned itineraries.
These “places of interest” were considered as brief interludes to a traveler’s journey – except that some of these places had very little to offer, or in some extreme cases, were outright shams. These places usually charged for entrance fees, but their main bulk of income was from selling merchandise promoting the place. Postcards, cheap shirts and even cheaper caps were the norm. However, there had been other unique pieces like rocks harvested from the area, beaded jewelry made by the locals and other unique curiosities that you would most likely see in another part of the country (at a fraction of the price.)
These days, tourist traps remain virtually the same. Some of them evolved from previously respectable tourist attractions which became so outdated people wonder why they still exist. Others are places specifically created to attract more visitors to a certain location; great examples of these are establishments with novelty architecture (buildings with unusual shapes like a giant tea cup house or a large doughnut-shaped bakery); and small town places with one unique product (like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.) Others yet, are legitimate tourist attractions that are overrun by commercialism and unchecked tourist population.
Not all tourist traps are gateways to a prolonged hell, though. There are enough activities in some of these places; enough so that some of then are dubbed unofficially as “family attraction stops.” There may be services that offer arcade games, carnival rides, pony rides, thematic restaurants, and even wax museums. However, if you would rather not work the trails of the tourist traps, here are some suggestions as to how you can differentiate legit tourist attractions and tourist traps – and eventually, avoid them altogether.
There is a fine line as to what tourist attractions and what tourist traps are. Most legitimate attractions simply succumb to the call of commercialism; or rather, the entrepreneur minded individuals around the area take advantage of the glut of tourists, and inadvertently creating a tourist trap.
One great indication of a tourist trap is the price. If everything seems to be swimming in inflation, from the entrance tickets, to the merchandise and even the food offered in the place (anything at all that can be rightfully constituted to highway robbery,) then this is probably one heck of a tourist trap. If a specific location is just too much for your wallet, then it would be better to try your luck somewhere else and the first thing to do would be to lookup phone numbers of other feasible packages. This is probably one of the best reasons as to why one should not subscribe to the offered packaged tours. Inadvertently, one of them will include a tourist trap; and since it’s a packaged tour, you really cannot bail out of it.
Another indication can be measured by ratio. If there is a balance between the ratio of interesting things to see / do / experience versus the merchandise being sold in the place, then you are probably in a legit tourist attraction. Naturally, there will always be merchandise sold in these places, but its main focal point is the structure or architecture it represents. Tourist traps, on the other hand, have very little to represent, and they thrive on selling merchandise. It therefore goes without saying that in order to keep the economy afloat around tourist traps, entrepreneurs have to sell merchandise and price them expensively too.
Nevertheless, this ratio is not universal. There are some tourist attractions that are simply overrun with merchandise and hawkers. Take for example the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a truly magnificent place to visit; but with the number of people coming and going, the place can sometimes be choked with so many small-time hawkers that you can hardly experience what its like to be on the bridge.
There is really no way to counter tourist traps, other not paying for the fees and not buying any of their proffered goods. Most likely, if you find yourself in one, you should just go with the flow. Making an issue about it will only ruin your vacation. The very least consolation you have is that you now know what places to skip.