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Don’t Travel to These Tourist Hotspots Before You Learn These 11 Things

Picture of Tara Jessop
Updated: 24 October 2017
This summer saw residents of some of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations such as Rome, Dubrovnik, Barcelona, and Lisbon take to the streets to say they’ve had enough of the effects of tourism on their city. But rather than seeing an outright ban on tourism, locals want visitors to be more conscientious of the economic, social, and environmental impact of their stay.

Try to stay in apartments in less touristy places

(Barcelona, Mallorca, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin)

Why?

Companies such as Airbnb and HomeAway have made it possible for millions of people to travel in a whole new way, often staying in locals’ homes. However, they’ve also enabled lots of people to rent flats online and make huge amounts of money on short-stay tourist rentals. As a result, fewer and fewer flats are available for long-term rentals for residents and prices are soaring.

What you should know

Staying in a tourist flat is fine, but make sure the flat you’re renting has a proper tourist license or that it complies with local laws regarding rentals. By renting from somewhere which is approved by the government, you’re supporting efforts to keep a tab on how many such flats are available in the city.

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Barcelona apartment | © Pixabay

Leave the selfie stick at home

(Milan, Amsterdam, Vatican City, Paris)

Why?

Seemingly inoffensive – if endlessly narcissistic – selfie-sticks can actually be incredibly annoying bordering on outright dangerous in some instances. There have been reports of people getting seriously hurt in an attempt to take extreme selfies, but more often than not it’s the fact that people are more concentrated on their camera than the people around them that is causing a nuisance.

What you should know

Everyone likes a good holiday photo and there’s no reason you should miss out. Rather, ask yourself if you really need 50 pictures of your time in Rome or whether one or two really nice ones would be enough. Also, if you want a photo of yourself, why not go down the old fashioned route of asking someone else to take it for you and strike up a conversation with them along the way.

Forget the selfies CC0 Pixabay
Forget the selfies | © Pixabay

Ditch the tourist sites

(Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik)

Why?

Imagine trying to go about your daily life, getting from your house to your workplace for instance, only to find there are some 5,000 tourists crowding the street. That’s precisely what happens nearly every day during peak holiday season in many of these cities and makes life difficult for local residents.

What you should know

Plan ahead and think of when would be the best time to visit your favourite monuments. Cities like Venice have even introduced live ‘people counters’ updated on the city’s website so you can monitor how crowded certain areas are. Also, consider an ‘alternative’ tour of the city, missing out some of the most typical sights for some more modern or unusual ones instead.

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A crowded Trevi fountain, Rome | © kirkandmimi / Pixabay

Leave those tacky souvenirs where they are

(Everywhere)

Why?

A recent survey showed that the most sold tourist souvenir in Barcelona was – wait for it – a Mexican sombrero. But that penis-shaped straw that reads ‘I love Lisbon’ is really no better either. Tacky souvenirs aren’t just tacky, they also help cheap tourist shops thrive and drive out local businesses. Entire neighbourhoods are lined with nothing but trinket shops selling to tourists with little left on site for locals who live there.

What you should know

Favour handicrafts by local artisans instead, or buy an edible gift from the market for something which boosts the right kind of local economy. Your mum, partner, or colleague is probably much more likely to appreciate it than the usual cheesy t-shirt.

Think about your souvenirs CC0 Pixabay
Think about your souvenirs | © Pixabay

Pick up your litter

(Venice, Rome, Florence)

Why?

This one is just common sense and good manners. You may have just been enjoying a picnic and forgot to pick up after yourself, but when thousands of people do that every day it becomes a problem. Cities like Florence have contemplated measures such as hosing down church stairs to discourage picnickers because of how bad the littering problem has become.

What you should know

Be more conscientious of where you choose to sit and eat. Are you in front of someone’s home or a place of worship? Are you getting in anyone’s way or preventing someone doing business? And don’t expect anyone else to pick up after you – you made the mess, clean it up.

Re-think your hotel choice

(Barcelona)

Why?

Similar to the problem with tourist flats, property developers are driving up rent prices for locals and in some cases making it harder and harder to find flats in certain parts of town. As a result, the social fabric of these neighbourhoods is threatened as they become no more than sleeping parks for tourists.

What you should know

Ever heard of Sants in Barcelona, Testaccio in Rome, or Oosterdok in Amsterdam? The point is there are so many more cool neighbourhoods to be explored in these cities than the ones in your guide book. By staying in a lesser known neighbourhood you’ll most likely have a more authentic experience and will also support the local economy in a fairer way.

Choose your hotel wisely CC0 Pixabay
Choose your hotel wisely | © Pixabay

You’ll get a lot more respect if you learn the local language

(Everywhere)

Why?

Because, sure, most people speak some English these days, especially people who work in major tourist destinations. But does that really mean you shouldn’t make any effort to learn the lingo? Relying on others to do the hard work is just plain lazy and also quite disrespectful.

What you should know

By picking up even the most basic language skills you’ll get a lot more kudos from the locals. Language is not just a way of communicating, it’s an important part of local culture. You’ll get a much better experience of a place if you make the effort to learn its language.

Cruise ship limitations are fine

(Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Mallorca, Venice)

Why?

The world’s largest cruise ship can now carry 6,360 passengers. Venice, a city of 55,000 residents, can see up to 30,000 cruise ship passengers disembark on its streets in one day during peak season. Aside from the crowding problems, think of the impact of the waste created by these visitors on the city’s infrastructure and natural environment.

What you should know

The first thing to ask yourself is, are you really going to be able to genuinely experience these cities if you’re there for just a day or two alongside thousands of other people. And if you are going on a cruise, why not sign up for a tour that takes you out of the city centre? Also try to book your cruise with a company that monitors its carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Don't all cruise together CC0 Pixabay
Don’t all cruise together | © Pixabay

Keep the noise down

(Barcelona, Rome, Milan)

Why?

Over 50 percent of Barcelona’s population live with daily noise levels that exceed what’s regarded as safe. If most of this is the sound of motor-vehicles and the usual hubbub of daily life, the sound of tourists shouting outside their bedroom at 3am doesn’t do anything to help either.

What you should know

You may be in an area lined with restaurants and bars, but it’s likely people live here too. Also remember that in some areas flats won’t be equipped with double-glazing, and if it’s warm chances are the window is open. You might be on holiday but the person whose window you’re standing beneath might need to get up to go to work tomorrow. Just keep noise to a minimum after dark.

Think local and get real

(Everywhere)

Why?

Because Barcelona may be in Spain, but flamenco is as native to here as it is to Paris. Italy may be the birthplace of pizza and pasta, but there’s a lot more to local cuisine than just that. By creating demand for the most cliché things to come from a country, you’re contributing turning cities into nothing but theme parks for tourists. And this means locals lose out on restaurants and shops which cater to their real, everyday needs.

What you should know

Do a little research into what local specialities there are where you’re visiting and you’ll probably have a much more authentic experience. If something isn’t native to where you are, chances are that anywhere you find selling it will be catering to no one but tourists.

Buy a gift which supports local business CC0 Pixabay
Buy a gift which supports local business | © Pixabay

Forget MacDonald’s

(Everywhere)

Why?

Eating the same food you can eat at home is boring and does nothing to support the local economy. Save the fast-food chains for when you’re at home.

What you should know

If you fancy a burger, chances are there’s a local restaurant you’ve never even heard of that serves an epic quarter pounder with (local) cheese. The point is, seek out local restaurants to get a taste of something authentic and support small businesses instead of the global giants.