“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” —Susan Sontag
I don’t know about everywhere, actually. There are some places that just don’t pique my interest. And while I’ve never been one to follow the crowd and do something just because it’s popular, sometimes I do want to see for myself what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, this leads to disappointment more often than not!
My blog is meant to be positive, and I never want to bash any one, any country, any culture; I always want to find the good and the positive. However, my blog is also about being helpful, and sometimes that means recommending what NOT to do. This post is formed from personal experience, which may not be the norm, but it was the reality for us! Take a look at the most overrated destinations we’ve visited, and then head over to my post about underrated destinations to start planning your next trip!
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “WHAT?! Bali is paradise!” But is it really? Our experience was anything but paradise! The traffic is the worst in the world. I have driven in D.C., New York City, L.A., and Honolulu. I have been a passenger or pedestrian in Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and more, and I have never experienced traffic like Bali. The 7-mile trip from the airport to our accommodation in Canggu took three hours, from 11:00pm until 2:00am.
Aside from the traffic, simply walking felt incredibly dangerous. There were open, deep holes in the sidewalks, if there was a sidewalk at all. The 5-minute walk from our accommodation to the beach felt unsafe in every way, with cars, motorbikes, mopeds, and more all buzzing around us.
Oh, and once we got to the beach, the sand was grayish-brownish and littered with trash cigarette butts, used syringes, and more, much of which was washing up with the ocean water. The same ocean where a surfer ran into Steve’s head the one time he tried to get in for a swim.
We tried to actually go somewhere–the Monkey Forest–but we were told it would take too long and cost $60 USD, plus more per hour we were gone. Oh, and they only take perfect Balinese money; if it’s torn or frayed or faded, shop owners will not accept it. So much for a budget-friendly destination. We don’t recommend Bali.
Where to go instead? Hawaii
It gorgeous, they care deeply about the environment, the people are the kindest in the world, and you can actually drive around most of the islands in the time it takes to go 7 miles in Bali in the middle of the night!
More here: Bali or Bust?
I was super excited to visit Bangkok. Temples, golden statues, history, The King and I, I wanted to see everything! But the constant badgering from conpeople on the streets (oh, that temple is closed, so just follow me! Oh, you have to buy this covering before you go into the temple!), plus the polluted Chao Phraya River, plus the trash in the streets made for a less than positively memorable experience. I’m glad we went, but I’m glad I don’t feel like I need to go back.
Where to go instead? Siem Reap, Cambodia
It’s beautiful, there’s far less pollution, the temples are larger, and we didn’t encounter any scams while we were there! As a woman traveling alone I never once felt threatened or in danger. And then meeting up with another women friend and traveling with her, we both felt very safe.
Keep reading: What to Eat in Bangkok
I wanted to love Barbados. I went on a Caribbean cruise with a friend several years ago, but unfortunately, the memories I have are of rude people, feeling unsafe, and wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. We asked our cab driver to tell us some things about Barbados, and he told us to go look it up. So much for showing interest in the locals! I don’t recommend Barbados, especially when there are so many other friendly, beautiful islands to choose from!
Where to go instead? St. Kitts and Nevis
They have twice as many green monkeys as there are residents on the island, it’s beautiful, the locals are friendly, and my friend and I both felt safe, even traveling as women!
Read on: Caribbean Cruisin’ on Barbados
So many people go back to Cancun again and again. They have a great time. I did not have a great time. The people at my hotel almost didn’t let me check in, they charged me to use the gym, and they told me I couldn’t use the beach chairs. Oh, and it took me hours to find an ATM that would actually give me pesos instead of $20 USD bills. It was one thing after another. I did actually meet some friendly locals working in some of the restaurants and shopping centers in town, but overall, I won’t be going back.
Where to go instead? A Caribbean Cruise
You will definitely see more places on a cruise than you would going to just Cancun. If your cruise does happen to stop in Cancun, you can hit the highlights without having to deal with a resort or their staff trying to keep you (and your American dollars) on the property.
Get the details: Cancun: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The changing room attendant at the Blue Lagoon made me cry. There was a miscommunication, and I think she may have gotten the impression that I was breaking the rules (was not), but basically she threw me out. Luckily enough, we’d already spent a good couple of hours at the Blue Lagoon and I was already dressed and on my way out, but it was a horrible way to start a trip I was so looking forward to, and that Steve had been excited about for months.
And okay, sure, that was one negative experience. I wasn’t going to let that ruin the whole trip. But there’s more. Iceland is incredibly expensive, you most likely won’t get to see the Northern Lights (a major tourism draw) unless the weather is absolutely perfect, and if you stay anywhere or go anywhere outside of Reykjavik, it’s going to be a lot of desolate driving. Iceland has also reached its tipping point on tourism, and while that’s probably not the case during COVID, when real life starts back up, it will be overrun with touists all over again. They have been trying to manage tourism in the last few years, but they also don’t want to lose the tourism dollars.
Where to go instead? Norway
Norway was actually much more beautiful, in my opinion, than Iceland! The people were more welcoming, they have fjords in addition to glaciers, and you have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights in northern Norway than in Iceland!
If you don’t smoke, gamble, or have a ton of money to drop on shows, Vegas is not for you! We did find some fun things to do, but overall, there are better places to spend a weekend if the first three things I mentioned don’t excite you. There are some nice hotels, and if you can get one off the Strip, it might even be non-smoking and sans-casino. The other thing that got on our nerves was the tip culture–everyone who smiles at you has their hand out for a tip! It’s not charming. Skip it!
Where to go instead? Nashville
Looking for nightlife, live music, incredible food, and legendary famous people sightings like Steven Tyler, Carrie Underwood, and Kid Rock? Nashville is the place to go! You won’t leave hungry, you will make new friends, and you will hear amazing live music for FREE right on Broadway! Oh, and locals sometimes call it NashVegas!
Essential Info: How to Have Sinless Fun in Vegas
If you’re obsessed with Hollywood, filming, actors, or movie history, by all means, spend a day in Hollywood. But that’s about all there is worth doing in L.A., and a day is more than enough to do and see everything you want. Besides that, L.A. is mostly traffic, crowded beaches, and a great big advertisement about just how imperfect you and your body are compared to the surgically modified bodies all around you.
Where to go instead? Disneyland
It’s the happiest place on earth! And it was genuinely fun to spend a couple of days here, just my husband and me. You can get your movie fix, fun fix, foodie fix, and sunny So Cal fix all in one place!
It hurts my heart to have Morocco on this list because so many of the people we met were very happy to have us, incredibly kind, and extremely welcoming. Overall, however, this trip deteriorated into one disaster after another. Everywhere I looked–on blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc.–people were having these epic experiences in Morocco. They were wearing flowing gowns in endless deserts. They were having fun shopping in the souks. They were taking gorgeous photos at the #1 hotel in the world!
There’s a reason “Instagram vs. reality” is a thing. Because Instagram is most assuredly not reality. We did get scammed once (but thankfully not too badly). I got violently sick for the first time in 9 years. Oh, and we got nearly kicked out of our hotel, La Mamounia, for simply taking photos like the ones we kept seeing on Instagram. I will never go back to La Mamounia, and probably never back to Morocco.
Where to go instead? Qatar
Get a taste of the Middle East in one of the friendliest countries in the world! The people I met there went above and beyond to make me feel welcome, and you can experience the peak of luxury here. Everything I ate was delicious, experiencing the desert and the ocean all together was epic, and I never ran out of things to do and see!
Never Stay Here: Why I Will Never Recommend La Mamounia
People who love San Francisco are devoted to San Francisco. They will defend it to the end. But every time I’ve visited, I’ve been less than impressed. The homelessness is incredibly sad, but also unsightly and smelly, thanks to normal bodily functions. One weekend I was there, the crowds were so thick we could hardly move. Many of the sites people want to visit are far apart, plus it’s famously hilly, so walking around gets exhausting very quickly. The litter on the streets doesn’t do the city any favors either.
Sorry, San Francisco lovers. It’s not for everyone!
Where to go instead? Sacramento
Nearby Sacramento is cute, historic, and far cleaner! They may not have a Gihrardelli store, but they do have cuter coffee shops. They may not have Painted Ladies, but they do have a charming old town that will make you feel like you’re back in 1849! They may not have the Golden Gate Bridge, but they do have the Gold Rush!
More here: What to Eat in San Francisco
Want more recommendations on places I do recommend? Have a look at my post on the World’s Most Underrated Travel Destinations!
Want more? Check out my Travel Tips Page!
Love this post? Pin it for later!