A trap many tourists fall into when coming to the U.S.A., is thinking that we don't know our own faults. Look closely and you will learn that we know we have many faults, we speak openly and loudly about those faults and we do, in time, make changes for the good of the majority.
This man, if you look closely you will see his is not white nor is he rich, simply, a war veteran, who had a grievance against the United States of America, his country, a country he fought for, sits peacefully alone on the steps of the United States Capitol building, without fear, to announce to all passing that in his opinion, (and probably in fact) his government had failed him.
He sat there the whole day holding a sign describing the details of his complaint. He was not asked to move, he was not forced to move, he was not hidden from public--domestic or foreign--view, he was not arrested. He had perennial HOPE that his nation would hear him, and a change would be made. This man represents, to me, the power and perennial HOPE of my country.
One of the world's "finest" ripp-offs is the USA Railpass for overseas tourists. In 90-s it was a decent value and I used it several times. Later it became more expensive. But what does qualify it for a major ripp-off is that it essentially cannot be used for travel at all. While Eurail passes are a very poor value, they still allow the passholder to travel by train. On the other side, a USA Railpass is useless for most travels and for all travel in the high season. As Amtrak web site states:
"Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats for USA Rail Pass passengers may not be available on your desired train. Non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost."
What Amtrak web site does not tell: only seats in the lowest bucket are available for the passholders. These seats sell very quickly and in general are unavailable during the Summer.
Hence: buying the 30-day railpass for $599 (that is, $600) means: overseas traveler made a gift to Amtrak valued at $600, ooops, sorry, $599. Do I hate these 99999-s!
2011 UPDATE: Amtrak changed the rules of the USA Railpass. Now it became cheaper and there is no quota system.
Thank you, Amtrak!
Unique Suggestions: Do not use the railpass at all. I am not sure, is it possible to invalidate it - but please do try at a major station before it is being used.
2011 Update: relax, the new USA Raipass is much better!!!
Fun Alternatives: Buy regular Amtrak tickets with good discount (search secret coupon codes, AAA/Automobile club discount, student discount on ISIC, etc.) Also look at alternative ways of transport: Jetblue, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines are "no-frills" airlines with reasonable prices even on short notice.
2011 Update: relax, the new USA Raipass is much better!!!
Everyone has their own style of traveling and certainly everyone has different expectations about what they want to see and do in a particular place. One person just has to do that carriage ride around Central Park in NYC and another snickers at the absurdity of paying so much when a walk would accomplish "the same thing." I've certainly spent my life in the latter category but if everyone did the same thing, we'd all be traveling in a very crowded place with the result that we would all be subjected to a huge tourist trap.
Unique Suggestions: As with most things in life, the earlier you get somewhere, the less crowded it is. Plain and simple: most people want to sleep in when on vacation so if you get up early, you'll have even the most crowded places sometimes all to yourself.
Fun Alternatives: Look for a spot perhaps a little bit away from the "main" viewing area. Even in the Grand Canyon, just a few hundred yards can mean the difference between a scrum and a relatively peaceful sunset.
When making hotel/motel reservations, or obtaining a room at the desk if you did not have a reservation, DO NOT mention any possible discount privileges (such as AARP or AAA, employer, age, etc.) until after you have been quoted a room rate. Otherwise, you may get an inflated initial price with the discount leaving you worse off than you otherwise might have been.
I thought would be easy..get there and take a place for my tent and lets go ..but buffff such a deal !! I mean so so hard to get a place in a campground (Yellowstone, Yosemitee) almost unaffordable, acutally i couldnt and i slept inside my car (into the camping as illegal)... i guess the best option is make the reservation beforehand.. not many space, so many people and there arnt the usual staff as many other campgrounds (a reception stall) .. u have to pay in a wood box and take ur paper with the reservation.. so weird !! but u must do this at 7am or so early in the morning to avoid lanes ..and i was there 2nd and 4th week in september..!! i dont want to figure out how could be in July or August.. so take a look on the webpage and reserve there!!
Unique Suggestions: other weird thing that Rangers dont allow is overnight in the national park except in a lodges or campgrounds.. and i say what a load of bollocks.. its impossible to get a place in a camping and u neither can sleep in the national park.. so under their stupid point of view you have to go out and go in every day!!! so i didnt.. i didnt mind their rules.. and i slept in a car parks located in visitors centers like in Yellowstone or a small resort at the end of the valley in Yosemitee. Grand canyon was a liitle bit tricky to get a place because i watched so many rangers patrolling.. so i quit for a night but i didnt have any problems in Wyoming or California
Its not real or i dont think so that gas in US are cheaper than in Europe or other places.. the point is that a gallon is 3.8 litres and the normal cost in northern states or California are 3 bucks as average.. ok sounds good just reading that !! But the reality is that a normal car (not a 4wd) like i had (Hyundai sonata) with 16 valves and 2 exhausting pipes consumed so so much.. i couldnt drive fast for this reason.. so u can figure out that is not so cheap as we think abroad.. a 4WD or a RAM with more than 300 horse powers (usual) can consume so much even.. among 6-8KM/litre !! insane !!!
It seems that here in the United States, at least along the highways, the more signs you see advertising souvenirs the more likely you are to get ripped off. Along I-10 in New Mexico you will find a couple of shops run by the Bowlin's people. If you want to get authentic Native American crafts try the reservations. Not Bowlin's.
Unique Suggestions: Feel free to stop and look; but you may want to buy elsewhere. The Bowlin's on the continental divide offers a free liter of water so try that one. At least you get some water.
Fun Alternatives: Buy your Native American crafts and souvenirs from a reputable place on or near a reservation.
Okay, I'm not sure if this should be in Tourist Trap or not; but there are numerous tourist shops along the main road in Sedona. There does not seem to be much difference in a lot of them except the people inside. I have no doubt the prices are higher in Sedona than you would pay for the same thing elsewhere. I don't know if the guy inside was named Joe but he did not seem that grumpy.
Unique Suggestions: Buy your Sedona specific souvenirs here and your general Arizona and Native American souvenirs elsewhere.
Fun Alternatives: It's fun to at least walk through the shops and look. The shop in the picture caught my eye.
There is this book called "Roadside America" and it celebrates our tourist traps. I find myself looking them up whenever we are on our way somewhere. Earlier this year, we went to see "The Thing" in Arizona as we were making our way across the country. This summer, we stumbled upon "Foamhenge" in Virginia, saw the worlds largest fire hydrant which is in Columbia, SC. Up the road a bit is the Worlds Smallest Police Station. As I mentioned in a previous tip, I love when something can claim to be the best, largest, smallest, only whatever in the world--especially since there are quite a few of its kind that claim the same title. These things are laughable and picture worthy. Later, you can brag that you did indeed see the largest frying pan ever made. Who wouldn't be jealous? ;-)
Unique Suggestions: What? If you HAVE TO? Who has to? It's more "if you're fortunate enough to get this great opportunity...", isn't it? hehe:)
Fun Alternatives: Oh, there's no alternative. If there was, then how could these places claim to be the best of its kind? All are must sees. Well, with the exception of the worlds largest strawberry near Rockingham, NC. I've seen larger.
Sport stadiums and arenas often serve at least fair to middling cuisine at stadium restaurants and/or concession stands. The trouble is, vending contracts with the owners of the stadium or arena often allow them to charge confiscatory prices. For example, at Richmond's Diamond (where the minor league Richmond Braves play), a simple soft drink costs $3.50. Folks, that dog won't hunt. The drink had better be gold-plated for me to spend that much. If that isn't enough to curdle your nacho cheese, part of the agreement between the stadiums and the concessionaires prohibits folks from bringing large containers into the stadium so you can't smuggle in your own food. This captive audience phenomenon enables them to gouge the public. The last time I went to the Diamond, the drinking fountains were also disabled to hoodswankle folks to the concession stands.
Unique Suggestions: A little strategic preplanning (see below) should keep you from having to pay the confiscatory prices.
Fun Alternatives: There are a couple of ways you can get around this. First, eat a big meal at home before you go or at a restaurant near your local stadium or arena. Second, have a tailgate party in the parking lot a couple of hours before the sport event begins.
I work near Faneuil Hall, a place writhing with tourists. I, however, have never seen the appeal. From the overpriced marketplace to the nauseating throng of the masses traipsing along like a herd of sheep, Faneuil Hall hardly represents the authentic Boston. The marketplace is basically an outdoor mall with a sprinkle of street performers. The indoor food court is not the best place to sample Boston’s specialties. The food is decent but you would do better off trying clam chowder at Legal Seafood, where you don’t have to stalk people for a table.
The best eating in Faneuil Hall is at Kingfish Hall. The overly popular and historic Durgin Park is cheaper than Kingfish but doesn’t hold a candle to quality. I would recommend eating in the neighboring North End instead.
Unique Suggestions: I wouldn't reccomend spending more than an hour or two in Faneuil Hall / Quincy Market. There is so much within walking distance to see.
Fun Alternatives: Although the Freedom Trail is touristy, you’ll see more of Boston than you will by spending a day at Faneuil Hall. Boston is blessed with a rich history-don’t waste your time shopping for tacky doodads and battling crowds. Go out into Boston’s neighborhoods instead such as the aforementioned North End.
I won't say that it isn't cool to see, but Times Square in New York City is pretty much for the tourists. Like any other tourist trap, there may be plenty to feast your eyes on, but you won't be getting anything other than some eye candy and the chance to buy cheap souvenirs.
The price of souvenirs at the actual tourist attraction or at the airport is almost always higher than when bought elsewhere, but the real trap is not the price. The real trap is the origin of manufacture. This is true for cheap plastic items and for expensive imitation Navajo blankets. Also beware of the existence of fake brand name items, especially if purchasing off the street or at a flea market.
Unique Suggestions: Look carefully for the 'made in the usa' label if you want something made in the usa.
Fun Alternatives: Traditional American handicrafts are available, but do not expect bargain prices.
Before it became a haven for tourists, Waikiki was a swamp. Nowadays it is all hotels and buildings catering to tourists in order to suck as much money out of their pockets as possible. As far as a Hawai'ian experience that is true and pure, you won't really find it right in Waikiki.
Unique Suggestions: Take a surf lesson on the beach. Get some sun.
Fun Alternatives: The Polynesian Cultural Center.
A drive around the island to it's nooks and crannies.
For some reason people just flock to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It's a ridiculously fake place with cheesy stores and things to do that have nothing to do with San Francisco. I guess it is the place that people go when they have no desire to learn about the true San Francisco and just want to immerse themselves in something different from their own world and are happy to do it in a place that lacks substance.
Unique Suggestions: See the sea lions. See the fleet of national historic landmark vessels at Hyde Street Pier (all the way at the far end closest to the Golden Gate Bridge).
Fun Alternatives: The Haight/Ashbury district which still has a lot of touristy qualities, but a lot more local personality.
If your pocketbook can afford it, the Sherry-Netherland is one of New York's poshest luxury hotels....more
There's no doubt this hotel, provides a level of luxury and convenience, that many travellers will...more
From the moment I arrived, I felt totally at ease with the thought that I could escape the strip...more
see all United States of America member meetings