Tourist traps lure in unsuspecting tourists. They try to fool you into thinking they offer a good representation of what the country has to offer and what the locals eat all the time. Tourist traps might look appealing from the outside, but they usually leave you with empty wallets and unfulfilled appetites. You might be saying to yourself, “I’ve traveled a lot, I can definitely spot a tourist trap.” However, they aren’t all chains with big, flashing lights, t-shirts for sale, and frozen drinks. Here are 6 ways to spot a tourist trap in any country.
1. There’s a Large, Eye-Catching Menu Out Front
Typical in big cities. Most restaurants on some main strip will have big menus with pictures of the entrees. If you see mostly fried food, run away. Restaurants that advertise “American” food like cheeseburgers and pizza are definitely not authentic. If the menu is lit up and looks like it’s competing with its neighbors, it’s a tourist trap. Move on if the menu offers a deal, like a baguette, fries, and a coffee for 7€. If the catchy menu looks too good, it’s probably a tourist trap.
2. The Host Stands Outside Trying to Entice You Inside
You know who I’m talking about. The host or hostess stands in front of the restaurant trying to talk you into coming inside, usually spitting out some nonsense about being a TripAdvisor or Yelp top-rated restaurant. They might offer you a free drink, free appetizer, or even free bottle of wine if it’s a slow night and there’s a lot of competition nearby. A free bottle of wine might sound too good to pass up, but the price of the entrees won’t make up for those 4 small glasses of wine. If they have to convince you that it’s a good restaurant, it probably isn’t a good restaurant.
3. Everything is Translated Into English
If you do happen to stumble inside a tourist trap, you’ll know it as soon as you look at the menu. In cities, menus will usually have the native language plus English on it, but if the menu is completely in English, they’re expecting you. If it’s in perfect English, that’s even worse. Authentic restaurants tend to stay authentic both in their food and their language, however the servers can usually help you decipher the menu. In fact, just ask the restaurant staff what they recommend and go with that!
4. Most of the Patrons are Tourists
The best way to find an authentic restaurant is to find out where the locals eat. You can ask a store owner or other local, or just walk by any restaurant and look inside to see if the patrons are locals or tourists. Find out where the locals go and follow their lead. If a place is full of English-speakers, pass it by.
5. There’s a Line of Restaurants in a Row
If you’ve ever stumbled onto Restaurant Row, you’ve found the tourist section of the city. It’s usually well-lit with plenty of souvenir shops and restaurant after restaurant with menus or hosts out front. If you’re still not quite sure, check your comfort level: if you feel overwhelmed with too many people trying to force you into their restaurant and start avoiding certain areas of a city, those are the tourist traps. The local, authentic restaurants are usually tucked away down a side street or hidden under a non-lit sign. If it looks like someone’s home, it’s a keeper. If it’s one of many, avoid, avoid, avoid.
6. The Restaurant Offers Stereotypical Foods
A lot of times, the locals don’t eat what is stereotypical of the country. Americans don’t eat cheeseburgers every day, Italians don’t eat pizza every day, Mexicans don’t eat tacos every day, and Spanish don’t eat paella every day. In fact, stereotypical foods are best made at home and locals don’t go out to a restaurant to order it. If a restaurant says it’s voted #1 for best paella, it’s probably a tourist trap.
Have you fallen into the tourist trap? Do you know if a restaurant is a tourist trap and don’t care? How can you tell if a restaurant is a tourist trap? Let me know in the comments below!
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