Tourist traps are an unfortunate reality for many travelers. These scams and overpriced attractions prey on unsuspecting visitors who are eager to experience the highlights of a new destination. Falling for a tourist trap can put a major damper on your vacation, not to mention your wallet. Luckily, there are ways savvy travelers can identify and steer clear of these schemes. This article will provide tips and advice for avoiding the most common tourist traps, allowing you to better enjoy your next adventure.

What are Tourist Traps and Why You Should Avoid Them

A tourist trap is any establishment, activity or attraction that greatly overcharges tourists while providing little value in return. They often appear to be an authentic cultural experience but are actually low quality and overpriced. Tourist traps can include overpriced restaurants, shoddy souvenir shops, fake cultural displays, pushy street vendors, and rigged games, among other scams.

No traveler wants to waste their precious time and money on lackluster experiences. Beyond just being a waste, tourist traps can sour your perspective of a destination and the local culture. You may come away feeling like you were taken advantage of rather than having an enriching experience. Avoiding these pitfalls is key to getting the most out of your trip.

Common Types of Tourist Traps

To steer clear of tourist traps, it helps to know what to look out for. Here are some of the most common varieties:

Overpriced Restaurants and Bars

Restaurants and bars situated in extremely touristy areas tend to be overpriced and low quality. They bank on the convenience of being located near major sights. Review sites before choosing a restaurant to ensure good value.

Souvenir Shops with Low-Quality Goods

Shops near big tourist attractions often sell cheap souvenirs at inflated prices. Quality souvenirs can be found in other parts of town for a fraction of the cost.

Fake Attractions and Tours

Some tours and attractions are complete shams meant to overcharge tourists. For instance, a “historic” house may be constructed just for show. Read reviews and dig deeper to determine if an attraction is authentic.

Rigged Games

Games like shell matching, ball tosses, and shooting galleries are often rigged against tourists, making it impossible to win. Don’t waste money trying to beat these games.

High-Pressure Sales Tactics

Markets, attractions and tours may employ pushy vendors who pressure you to make purchases or sign up for activities. Don’t give in to demands and walk away if needed.

Transportation Scams

Unethical taxi drivers, tuk tuk and motorbike drivers may quote outrageously high fares or take circuitous routes to drive up prices. Arrange pricing ahead of time to avoid this.

Currency Exchange Scams

Dishonest currency exchange vendors may advertise favorable rates but then pull tricks to shortchange tourists. Use airport kiosks or ATMs to get fair exchange rates.

Expert Tips for Avoiding Tourist Traps

With an understanding of what tourist traps entail, you can now avoid them with these pro tips:

Do Your Research Before Visiting

Reading travel guides and blogs can provide insight on legit versus scammy attractions. Tourist trap warnings are often provided. Online reviews are hugely helpful for identifying overpriced restaurants and low-quality tours.

Be Wary of High Pressure Tactics

If a vendor gets too pushy about you making a purchase, see it as a red flag. Politely walk away rather than give in. Reputable businesses won’t pressure you.

Avoid Overly Touted Attractions

Heavily advertised attractions with billboards and flyers everywhere are likely tourist traps. Discover more authentic activities by asking locals or consulting blogs.

Don’t Take the First Option

Taxis, tour guides and more will often approach you offering services. Don’t take the first one. Shop around to find better value.

Use Technology to Find Fair Prices

Apps like Google Maps, Rome2Rio and currency converters can help you determine if you’re being overcharged for transportation, attractions or exchanges.

Head Off the Beaten Path

Avoid prime tourist zones whenever possible. Just a few blocks away prices often drop and quality improves. Dine, shop and explore where more locals are.

Trust Your Instincts

If a deal seems too good to be true or a tour feels fake, listen to your gut. Don’t ignore red flags just because you’re on vacation.

Ask Trusted Locals for Advice

Hotel staff, guides, bartenders and shop owners can provide recommendations to help you avoid tourist traps. They know where locals go versus just tourists.

By staying savvy and following these tips, you can recognize and avoid tourist traps during your travels. Don’t let overpriced gimmicks put a damper on your trip. Spend your time and money on authentic cultural experiences that provide true value. You may have to work a bit harder to find these gems, but it will be worth the effort.

Common Tourist Traps to Avoid in Popular Destinations

To give you an idea of common traps around the world, here are some to watch out for in major tourist destinations:


  • Bateaux Mouches boat tours – Overpriced and poor views
  • Montmartre portrait artists – Aggressive and overpriced
  • Champs-Elysées area restaurants – Low quality and high prices


  • Gladiator photo ops – Scam charging fees per photo
  • Restaurants near tourist sites – Jack up prices for captive customers
  • Street vendors around monuments – Sell cheap trinkets at high markups


  • Piccadilly Circus pubs – Overpriced drinks and food
  • Shopping near Buckingham Palace – High-end stores catering to tourists
  • Fake “guards” near attractions – Charge for photos with impersonators

New York City

  • Times Square area restaurants – Subpar food at premium pricing
  • I Heart NY souvenirs – Cheap quality sold at high prices
  • Counterfeit handbag vendors – Sell knock-off purses as real luxury items


  • Bulldog Café – Overpriced cannabis-themed café
  • Sex shows – Seedier than advertised
  • Canal cruise buffets – Low quality food for a high fee


  • Khao San Road – Backpacker street with overpriced bars and shops
  • Tuk tuk rides – Drivers take you to shops that pay them commissions
  • Gem stores – Sell low-quality stones at inflated prices

Wherever you travel, always be on the lookout for tourist traps that can put a dent in your wallet. Follow the tips provided to identify and avoid these schemes. With smart travel habits, you can make sure your dollars stretch further and your experiences are more authentic. Don’t let the tourist traps ruin your next amazing adventure.