Guaranteed Disappointments



David Whitley takes a look at the things that you’re bound to encounter on your travels but are never, ever good.

Part of the joy of travelling is that – most of the time – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Sometimes the things that seem a bit dull turn out to be wonderful; the small-scale effort that ends up being a treasured memory. Then there are the big set pieces that, pre-departure, you’ve earmarked as inevitable highlights of your trip. Some of them, alas, turn out to be a bit of a damp squib; overshadowed by something nearby that has the majesty without the hype. Some things come with an absolute guarantee, however. And you can rest safe in the knowledge that any of the following will be utterly rubbish. 

A tour that includes a stop at a Hard Rock Café
Hard Rock Cafés are an astonishing phenomenon. They’re basically pubs draped in minor rock memorabilia that serve food that’s only slightly above Wetherspoons standard. But they also have shops selling Hard Rock Café T-shirts. And, for some reason, people buy them. What is even more incredible is that Hard Rock Cafés try to bill themselves as tourist attractions (any tourist voucher book will offer a 10 to 20% discount at a Hard Rock Café), despite them being pretty much the same wherever you go. Thus, if a tour company has been lazy enough to fall for this, you can pretty much guarantee that the rest of the tour will be lazy, soulless and thoroughly ungratifying as well. If it stops at a Hard Rock, book with someone else.

Anything �?folkloric’
The words �?folklore’ and �?folkloric’ are idiot traps. Sign up to anything described using these turns, and you will be served up a load of old toss. This applies to souvenir shops and those terrible open-air museums where you basically wander round a load of wooden shacks and someone in a costume is in one of them weaving a basket. In particular, it applies to shows. Go to one, and it’s a fast track to boredom, surrounded by pensioners who have got such low standards that some of them find it a reasonably pleasant way to pass two hours.

Cultural villages
These are almost exactly the same as folklore shows, except that they take place in �?traditional’ huts. The rigmarole goes as follows: People dress in silly costumes, then bang drums and do a dance that someone once did a hundred years ago and sensibly stopped doing because it was rubbish. There may also be some attempt at audience interaction. Then you might get a bad meal consisting mainly of slop to eat. The moment the ignition on the bus is switched on, the �?traditional’ locals get back into their jeans and football replica shirts, and organise a proper night out on their mobile phones.

Any food bought either in or within 300m of a major train station
The target market for any eatery within this radius is people who are A) in a rush, B) will never come back or C) are so desperately hungry they’ll eat anything. This does not lead to an emphasis on quality.


Can you think of anything else that RTW travellers will encounter that is always irredeemably awful? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.