We are all guilty, we saw the door and walked right through it. The door as we know today as the "tourist trap." You over spent, it was a waste of time, and the common "I had no idea....." Well no more to wasted dollars, and time to avoid the tourist traps.
You see the gimmicks in many cities, often the same. Surprisingly the tchotchkes you see in Prague can be found in Paris, Tokyo, and Mexico — surprise you didn't buy that local treasure you were hoping for! So how does one avoid tourist traps? Given they're rampant and annoying, here are five ways to avoid tourist traps:
1. See Near, Buy Far
Often near the tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Times Square in NYC, the street vendors are marking up the prices and selling typically "made in ___." My advice is to go see the sites, but buy far away. Head to local shops that are on the outskirts and not near major tourist stops.
2. Food Confusion
See multiple vendors selling the same food? Do a few price checks before committing to one. I made this mistake in NYC when buying a pretzel — the guy on the corner of Central Park/Columbus Circle sold me one for $4, well two blocks into the city it was only $2. Almost double the price, and my loss. Always scan your options.
3. Concierge, Your New Best Friend
Head to the concierge desk at the hotel. Ask specific questions like, "where do locals go," "where should we go for a romantic dinner," and be sure to emphasize the word local. Often they will feed you straight to the tourist spots out of ease, but if asked more personally, you'll find out where the locals would go.
4. Skip the Tchotchkes
Often known as dust collectors, these what were once trip reminders turn into pieces thrown in the corner or ever worse, the garbage. Skip these all together, and find out what the region is known for selling.
5. All of the Lights
I think this is the one that always gets me, obnoxious signs, bright lights, and the guy peddling you on the corner to come in for a show, all because he has a "special price" for you. Stay away! The good and authentic places don't need the extra works to bring in visitors.