We’ve all heard that Paris is beautiful and NYC is overwhelming, but there are honestly some things that didn’t live up to the hype for me. And there are also a few things that are completely underrated! Here are a few travel opinions that I have that go against the common advice/views in the travel world.
Johannesburg > Cape Town
“You’ll love Cape Town!” “Be careful in Johannesburg but Cape Town is amazing!” “Don’t bother going to Johannesburg, but check out Cape Town!” These are all things I heard when I told people I was traveling to South Africa in November of 2015. These are things I heard while I was IN South Africa as well, on my safari in Pilanesberg. Honestly, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. While Cape Town is nice, you’re doing a disservice to yourself to not see Johannesburg.
I found Johannesburg pretty, interesting and downright fascinating with all of its history. From Sun City to the Apartheid Museum to the Hector Pierson Memorial to Soweto to Nelson Mandela’s house, I would have missed so much if I listened to people and didn’t travel there. Not only did I enjoy myself, but also never once did I feel unsafe. We stayed in the Radisson Blu near the Nelson Mandela Square and even while venturing out by ourselves, we never had any issues. On the other hand, we had a safety concern on our very first day in Cape Town, which I blogged about here.
São Bento train station in Porto isn’t exactly the most beautiful one in the world.
When I traveled to Porto, one of the main sights to see is the São Bento train station. Rave reviews abound on the Internet, calling it the most beautiful train station in the world. When my friends and I arrived at the train station, we were a little confused. The train station has a Great Hall, leading to the train tracks. The ceiling and walls are painted – however nothing in that train station suggests that it’s the most beautiful in the world. Having been to several train stations in the world, I would argue that Paris’ Gare de Lyon or New York City’s Grand Central Station are far prettier. If you’re short on time, feel free to skip this one.
London is the pits
Everyone gets mad at me for this one – but I’m not a fan of London. I’ve been to London 4 times and each time I haven’t been very impressed. London has a lot of history – there are many things to see and do, but beyond enjoying the Tower of London (seriously, it’s awesome), I’m not a fan. London is extremely pricey – from the transportation (getting to/from the airport using trains, getting around via the tube and don’t forget the expensive taxis) to the food – you’ll always end up spending way more than you budgeted. Part of that is due to the $ to £ exchange rate – which could be changing due to Brexit. I wouldn’t mind how expensive the food is, if it were any good. I’ve only had one good meal in London, and that was on my 2nd trip, where I asked for recommendations. Out of all the recommendations I received, only one restaurant wasn’t fully booked for days on end. In addition to the poor food, the weather is also not great! Between the rain, London fog and gray skies – I’ll pass on the weather there.
I could go on for pages about my distaste for London! But I will say that since I’ve moved to Paris, I like London a bit more. Being so far away from home, London soothes my homesickness a little bit, since the cultures are similar in a lot of ways. Shout out to Marks and Spencer Food and all the British people I’ve met in Paris 🙂
I love staying in hotels.
A lot of people will tell you that in order to be a “real traveler” or to experience a city “like a local” you have to stay in a hostel or Airbnb. While I’ve stayed in both, I actually prefer staying in hotels.
When on vacation, I like to feel like I’m getting away from it all. The point of vacation is to relax, right? So why am I buying groceries, cooking breakfast and making my bed everyday? Staying in a hotel is a true luxury and a good way to feel pampered, even if just for a few days. I always say, if I wanted to make my bed everyday, I’d stay at home!
Some of my favorite hotel stays have been at the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach, Florida, the Mondrian in West Hollywood, the Sofitel in Los Angeles, the London NYC in New York City and the late great Waldorf Towers at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
I’ve stayed in great Airbnbs in Montreal, Peru, Paris and Croatia and great hostels in Iceland and Lyon, but nothing beats the vacation vibes of staying in a hotel. AirBnBs are great for group and family trips – or places where the hotels are exorbitant or the rooms are tiny. Hostels are great for solo travel or party trips.
No Interest in Cuba
Black Americans seem to be flocking to Cuba, ever since the travel ban was lifted in 2015. As for me, I don’t really have a huge interest in it. People have tried to convince me that I should head to Cuba “right now before it changes!!!” but I’m not too concerned. For starters, Europeans and Canadians have been heading to Cuba for years, so I’m not sure why everyone thinks Americans will ruin it. I’m also not a huge tropical climate person, so that aspect isn’t creating appeal for me. Cuba will be more appealing to me once Americans are allowed to pay for things with a debit/credit card, as I have a few friends and acquaintances that got into sticky situations by running out of cash on their trip. I’m sure I will go to Cuba someday, but it’s not very high on my list at the moment.
I’ll take a city over a beach any day!
As I mentioned above, I’m not really into tropical climates. When I travel to warm climates such as Morocco, Peru and the Amalfi Coast, I normally do it in the shoulder seasons, when the temperature is a bit more moderate. I rarely travel within the Caribbean because the concept of lying on a beach all day is not really for me.
I would love it for an hour or two but after that I’d get bored and want to explore. For that reason, I love cities. There’s so much to see and do! Museums, concerts, people watching, shopping, and tours – you never run out. The ideal beach vacation for me is a beach that can be combined with a city – like the Amalfi Coast, Lima, Peru and Dubrovnik, Croatia.
I love the Hop On Hop Off Bus!
I know a lot of travelers that wouldn’t be caught dead on a tour bus – much less a hop on/hop off bus – but I love them. On my first day of landing in a new city, I like to buy a 1 or 2-day pass for the bus. It’s a great way to orient yourself to your new surroundings as well as cheap transportation! I generally ride the entire loop first without hopping off and then ride again to hop off at the stops of interest.
The buses can be expensive, but when you think of it as transportation to different parts of the city, it’s worth it! The most popular company is Big Bus Tours – they have buses worldwide and I’ve taken many of them! L’Open Tour in Paris even includes a boat ride, which is always a good activity in Paris.
Couldn’t pay me to visit Venice again
Venice is a highly romantic city – as a matter of fact, I’ve planned two honeymoons to Venice! I went to Venice in June of 2012 and you couldn’t pay me to go back there. As a part of a Eurotrip with my sister, we stayed for 2 nights in the Hotel Ca’Vendramin. I was in trouble the minute the landed.
Due to all the water in Venice, they have large and aggressive mosquitoes. 5 minutes after landing, I got a mosquito bite on my face. Throughout the rest of the trip, mosquitoes stalked me – my repellant didn’t help. Our hotel often kept the windows open to air out rooms, thus, I had to hide under the covers whenever I was in the room. I went to sleep completely covered by the sheets, while mosquitoes buzzed outside of the breathing hole I created for myself, waiting for an opening.
If the mosquitoes day and night weren’t bad enough, the smell was pretty bad too. The sewage system in Venice is old, much like most of Europe. However there was an overwhelmingly bad smell from the canals. I’m sure the June heat made it worse. Italian food is my favorite type of food but Venice did not deliver. The restaurants were extremely touristic – high prices for poor quality.
During the day, Venice is crowded from the cruise ship patrons, coming for their day trips. Slow walkers are on the streets en masse – the city doesn’t become tolerable until they leave around 5pm. And what else did I hate? Due to all the water, rats run the streets at night. If I wanted to see that, I would have stayed in NYC or Paris!
What I did enjoy about Venice were the islands of Lido, Murano and Burano. If you go, make sure you make time to see those lovely places. Much less crowded, better food and more to see.
Cruises aren’t terrible
This is another thing I’ve seen online, where people say that cruisers aren’t real travelers because they’re only in a destination for about 12 hours. Travel shaming regarding cruises is ridiculous in my opinion. While the ships may be ostentatious (they are literally little cities on water!) it’s a great way for people with limited mobility to see the world.
Even if you don’t have limited mobility, I think cruises are an excellent way to get a “taste” of a destination. When I went on a Mediterranean cruise in 2011, I spent only 12 hours in Rome. Many would say that’s not enough to say you’ve “been” to Rome. However, it was a good taste of the city and I fell in love. I knew that I’d return back to the city for a longer stay, and I have gone back 3 times since then.
Cruises are also very affordable for families. The online travel groups seem to be populated with mostly singles, so I think this plays a part in the shaming. For a family of 4, a cruise provides easy and affordable lodging and food options as opposed to packing up the family and heading to Aruba on your own.
Safari life isn’t for me
For my sister’s 40th birthday, she wanted to do a safari in South Africa. I had never done one before, so I was totally game. Safaris are a beautiful way to see animals in their natural habitat – a very different experience from going to a zoo. It was amazing to see the elephants, rhinos and cheetahs up close.
However, I’m not cut out for safari life. The early wake up call at 5am, the bugs, the freezing cold on the beginnings of your trip, the bugs, the fear when your guide pulls up close to lions in the pitch black, the bugs, unpredictability of animals, the bugs, the lack of activities when not on safari, the bugs! Are you sensing a theme here? While I enjoyed the experience, I’m not keen to do one again so soon.
What are your unpopular travel opinions? Sound off! I’d love to hear them.
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