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The truth about travel destinations that disappointed me

by Flitter Fever
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Did you ever visit a travel destination that disappointed you? Places that you would not rush to get back to ever again? Negative? Nah, this is getting real and honest, which can be harsh sometimes. You cannot like everything everywhere. Life of a traveler is not always as shiny and plastered as it may seem on Instagram.

Sure, whether or not you like a certain travel destination is also a matter of taste and circumstances. So many people, so many experiences. Take my advice for what it is worth. Maybe nothing, but I am certainly not planning on going back to these places. The travel destinations around the world that left me – along with numerous other travelers – feeling disappointed.

In some cities the pool is more enjoyable than sightseeing
In some cities the pool is more enjoyable than sightseeing – Bucharest

On alphabetical order.

Bucharest

Ugly, uglier, Bucharest. Ceausescu and his relentless communist regime did not only ruin millions of lives. He also ordered to erase most of Bucharest’s original beauty and historical architecture. In return, a collection of grey, boxy communist buildings that hurt your eyes fill this filthy city. Lots of trash on the streets and in the parks. Not to mention the alarming pollution levels in the largest city of Romania, that only patriotic Romanians affectionately call ‘Little Paris’.

I have visited Bucharest at least four times, often for a week or so – not for pleasure. To conclude that Bucharest is underwhelming as a tourist destination is an understatement. Someone told me: “Bucharest is hard to understand”. After several attempts to discover the sunny side of Bucharest, I stopped trying and preferred to enjoy the hotel’s pool instead. I’m done. Bucharest is an ugly, dirty and noisy city that I prefer to avoid. Although I do cherish my memories of hummus with chicken at Sharkia.

Ugly graffiti tags in Bucharest
Ugly graffiti tags in Bucharest
One of the few nice looking buildings in Bucharest
One of the few nice looking buildings in Bucharest

After meeting so many locals in Bucharest, I have to say there are friendly people and disgruntled, depressing people. Locals may come across rushed or inward-looking, minding their own business. Probably inherited from the communist era, when neighbors may snitch you if they suspected you of conspiring against the regime. Food is cheap, but the service in restaurants is often dreadful slow.

Beggars and street dogs are the least of your problems. Taxi drivers are the biggest thieves, consistently overcharging. A pity in a city so spread out that you regularly need one. Pick pocketing is another common risk for tourists in Bucharest. And I cannot recall a night out that did not include the offerings of ‘services’ from a sex worker or her pimp. Ingredients of a disappointing travel destination…

Bucharest should not be mistaken for Budapest, Bucharest cannot compete! Bucharest’s historical center is nice for a stroll, but other Romanian cities like Brasov or Cluj Napoca offer a better, more authentic experience with nature and farmland nearby. “There are more outdoor toilets in Romania than mobile phones” a local once told me. Romania’s country side has its charm, but also lots of issues, like poverty and a lack of decent highways due to corruption.

Hotel: Park Inn by Radisson Bucharest Hotel & Residence

Fundatiunea Universitara Carol I Bucharest
Fundatiunea Universitara Carol I in Bucharest
Ugly block flats behind orthodox church in Bucharest
Ugly block flats behind an orthodox church in Bucharest

Frankfurt

Although Frankfurt am Main is an international financial hub, it’s nothing like metropolises London, New York City or Tokyo. ‘Mainhattan’ is much smaller and far less exciting. No lederhosen, no charming old town, only one nice square with a circle of old houses. Mainly skyscrapers and a lot of bankers and lawyers. Frankfurt is not pretty nor is it ugly, it is just non-descript, bland.

Frankfurt lacks famous tourist attractions and most historical buildings were destroyed in WW2. Other German cities like Munich and Berlin, but also Cologne for example, have much more charm and things to do and see as a visitor. Munich has its beer gardens, festivals and nearby mountains. Berlin has the history and admirable, impressive buildings. Hamburg has the connection to the sea and a hip, artsy vibe.

Career wise, Frankfurt may offer perspective – for a select group of people that is. The gap between rich and poor is very visible in Frankfurt. An obvious example is when you come out of the Hauptbahnhof. The first thing you will see is the seedy Bahnhofsviertel, the area around Central Station. A sharp contrast between suited bankers, homeless people, shady drug dealers and porn shops. I have been to Frankfurt 3 or 4 times and every time the large amount of unemployed immigrants hanging around strikes me. At a 5 minutes’ walk from where millions a minute are made.

Not all of Frankfurt is like this, but it gives an impression. Frankfurt held hold the dubious reputation of being the country’s crime capital, but crime is going down. Many Germans do not like Frankfurt. Frankfurt is one of the richest city and most expensive German cities to rent. The prices of rental houses are outrageous compared to other German cities. Hotels are expensive and business oriented. Shops are closed on Sundays.

Hotel: Le Méridien Frankfurt

Frankfurt's Central Station area does not impress
Frankfurt’s Central Station area does not impress positively
Skyscrapers in money making machine Frankfurt
Skyscrapers in money making machine Frankfurt

Helsinki

Boring, boring, boring. I cannot explain this any differently. Helsinki is just really boring. Without a doubt Helsinki is one of the most tedious cities of Europe. Blandness, bad weather, depressing, no nice food, expensive, quiet nightlife… Apparently Helsinki is known for its heavy metal scene. Now this is exactly my cup of tea – ehhh, no. Better visit Finland’s country side, which is beautiful, with the lakes and breathtaking forests. Finnish men can be good-looking too, they brightened up my Helsinki trip.

The lack of old buildings and tourist attractions in Helsinki disappoints many. They can basically be counted on the fingers of one hand: Senate Square with Helsinki Cathedral, Uspenskin Cathedral, Old Market Hall and Central Station. Other Nordic cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm have much more to offer. I can imagine you may visit Helsinki for a couple of hours during a stop-over on your way to Finnish Lapland. Or when you cannot resist hopping on that 2-hour ferry ride from lovely Tallinn to get a glimpse of Helsinki. Just don’t plan on staying longer than a day or so, to avoid fatal boredom.

Hotel: Lila Roberts

Helsinki Central Station on a rainy December day at 4pm
Helsinki Central Station on a rainy December day at 4pm
Helsinki Cathedral seen from Vantaa River
Helsinki Cathedral seen from Vantaa River (photo Tapio Haaja)

Krasnoyarsk

Visiting Krasnoyarsk, Russia in 2017 felt like an adventure and an interesting experience. However, I have no intention of ever going back to Krasnoyarsk, the third-largest city of Siberia. Krasnoyarsk is characterized by a gigantic aluminum factory, which causes serious air pollution for the city and surrounding area. Krasnoyarsk Krai is still responsible for 20% of Russia’s gold mining. Author Anton Chekhov must have been drunk when he said that Krasnoyarsk is the most beautiful city in Siberia (or other cities are even uglier?).

Coming here in March probably did not help. Cars so dirty the license plate became unreadable, melting snow, barren landscape. No flowers or green to brighten up the city that more than 1 million people call home. Sometimes very nice people I must say, but often also depressed and grumpy folks. Krasnoyarsk has dozens of universities, parks, museums and restaurants, yet it looks-like one big communistic concrete jungle – or should I say urban hell? No wonder people get depressed. The sight of countless rows of ugly flat blocks and a dozen factory chimneys is hideous. The big holes in the road, the ancient Lada taxis – Russian charm or sad?

The Kommunalny Bridge across the Yenisey River and Paraskeva Pyatnitsa Chapel are on the Russian ten-ruble banknote. The chapel is a popular spot at night to watch the city lights. If you happen to find yourself on the Trans-Siberian Express one day and plan on making a pit-stop in Krasnoyarsk, I’d suggest to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Stolby Nature Sanctuary. For travelers interested in Russia, I’d suggest to visit St. Petersburg in the northwest and/or Krasnodar in the southwest.

Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Krasnoyarsk

Lada in residential area of Krasnoyarsk
Lada in a residential area of Krasnoyarsk with block flats
Krasnoyarsk evening view with Yenisey River
Krasnoyarsk evening view with Yenisey River (photo credits Alexandr Purgin)

Kuta

Bali is a beautiful island, popular among backpackers, luxury travelers and digital nomads. My experience behind the earlier article Bali ABC: All the reasons why you should go! is genuine. However, Kuta is a place on Bali that I would recommend to skip. There is not much left of what used to be a small modest fishing village with a few surfers having fun with the waves. Flooded with tourists, not a single trace to be found of the authentic Indonesia that I love.

Nowadays, Kuta is Bali’s no. 1 party town. People hit the bars and clubs of/around Jl. Legian to get drunk, 24/7. Overpriced restaurants, sports bars with huge TV screens, shops selling T-shirts with prints like ‘I shit on fat chicks’. Classy. Stop searching here for that tropical crystal clear sea that you might have seen in a travel magazine or travel series. Kuta beach is one disgusting plastic soup.

I couldn’t have agreed more with fellow travel bloggers Nomadic Matt and Adventurous Kate that Kuta Beach is a sad place that is not worth visiting. Kuta is that typical travel destination that will disappoint you, unless your main priority is to party and get drunk. Would recommend staying in Sanur, Semanyak or Ubud instead.

Jl. Legian a.k.a. Legian Street in Kuta, Bali
Legian Street gets crowded at night (photo credits Shankar S.)
Vodka bottle and plastic waste on Kuta Beach
Vodka bottle and plastic waste on Kuta Beach

Malta

When I think back about our trip to Malta last year, I get a bad feeling in my stomach. Overall, Malta felt like one big disappointment. We drove around the entire island, visited all the tourist attractions, like St. Julian’s, Marsaxlokk, St. Peter’s Pool, etc. But every time we arrived we felt like: is this it?! Maybe we have seen too much of the world? Perhaps we were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Too high expectations? The weather did not help, with several rainy and windy days. The color of the sea was nice, but the beaches were covered with piles of seaweed.

The Golden Tulip Vivaldi Hotel is outdated, has poor breakfast, impersonal staff, a pathetic pool and uncomfortable beds. Not sleeping well makes me moody. Most buildings on Malta look-like they’re unfinished. I know that in Egypt, you don’t pay tax as long as the house is under construction. Not EU worthy. Malta actually emerges as the EU’s next problem child, plagued by corruption. This already led to a journalist’s murder, who researched the sales of EU passports by Malta.

Meeting friendly locals is usually one of our trips’ highlights. On Malta, we did not meet any friendly people. The food at the local restaurants was disappointing. Countless unsocial fellow road users. The cherry on the cake was the speeding ticket we received when we got back home, disillusioned. Only Mdina and Gozo, a nearby sister island that can be reached by ferry, have stuck in our minds as “nice”. My friend Elizabeth did like visiting Malta though. So you see, experiences can differ.

St. Peters Pool Malta
St. Peter’s Pool @ Malta
Yachts in St. Julians Malta
Yachts in St. Julian’s

Naples

I went to Naples three times. Three times I had the same feeling: I want to escape! This place is a mess. Dirty, ugly graffiti, bad maintenance, the smell and sight of piles of rotting waste… Illegal immigrants trying to sell fake leather bags, pickpockets, taxi drivers ripping off tourists. Indeed, big city problems. But Naples has an additional immense problem: mafia wars.

And let’s not get started on the bad manners of many Neapolitans. Especially in local restaurants, where the food is often (almost) as bad as the attitude. Not a friendly “prego” or thank you, no sincere smile or service. I love Italy A LOT but it just never worked out between Naples and I. Naples has the worst quality of life of Italy. Naples is definitely one of the destinations that disappointed me and I don’t want to revisit.

For a more extensive explanation of why I do not like Naples, check out the article Naples: the bad and the ugly of the Italian city that is hard to love.

Many doors look like this in Naples
Many doors look like this in Naples
Naples waste problem photo 2
Naples has a huge waste problem

Paris

Many people fantasize about visiting Paris one day, have all kinds of romantic visions of how it will be. Well, I have been to Paris twice, so I did try. My second time was for an absolutely amazing Madonna concert at Bercy, but the rest of the trip sucked (again). Paris never stole my heart. It’s not my city. And I am not alone in this negative opinion about the French capital. Not a week goes by without seeing hate speeches of people sharing their disappointment on social media after visiting Paris.

Paris is one big terrible tourist trap. Overhyped and overpriced. Parisians have the notorious reputation of being brisk, rude, elitist and disrespectful to tourists. Like anywhere else in France, rarely anyone wants to speak a word of English. Paris needs an attitude adjustment. Hours long lines to get into places like the Eifel Tower or Louvre Museum. If you have not already boarded an illegal taxi, you may end up with a few days of strike by public transport or airport personnel.

The streets are flooded with illegal immigrants selling stolen goods, pick pocketing and fist fighting. Street artists scam hundreds of innocent people every day. There is a game called Balle Balle scammers play together acting like normal bystanders, but it is a fake set up. These scammers are a whole gang all together making 10s of thousands of euros. By fooling tourists who can never win the game, because the players cheat.

Young gypsy women acting like they are handicapped or blind (video below). Asking for money for a “good cause” (yeah, right). To help kids with disabilities, or money needed for tumor operation. It is all fake! This kind of stuff makes me feel sick, what a disappointing travel destination Paris is!

There are also men in the center of Paris who actively approach solo female travelers on the streets and in the parks. For example they offer to take a photo, try to make conversation. Be very careful, what may seem like a friendly guy may end up as trafficking. The movie Taken is not based a real-life story but human trafficking certainly happens, so be on guard in a big city like Paris.

Hotel: Hotel du Louvre – Unbound Collection by Hyatt

More disappointing places

Oh and there have been more travel destinations that disappointed me. Hue in Vietnam, Kanchanaburi in Thailand, Istanbul in Turkey and Belgrade in Serbia for example. I might write about those disappointing travel destinations another time…

Oh and that stupid train ride in Ushuaia, Argentina everybody was raving about It turned out to be one of the most boring things I have ever done in my entire life. But I do hope to re-visit Ushuaia one day. To jump on an expedition ship to Antarctica!  

I also hate visiting certain big cities that have become too crowded. Crowds make it hard to see their charm, as I imagined they would be. For instance I had this when visiting Florence, Rome and Madrid. Those are travel destinations that disappointed me. However, do I consider revisiting them one day, to give them another chance.

Don't you just hate those sellers on the beach - Kuta Beach, Bali
Don’t you just hate those sellers on the beach? (Kuta Beach, Bali)

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I hope that you found this article helpful. Do you have any travel destinations that left you with disappointment? Please share your experiences in a comment box below.

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Last Updated on 11/26/2020 by Flitter Fever

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