YOUR Most Disappointing Travel Destinations

Last week I told you about my dismal time spending New Year’s in Time Square, and asked you what your most disappointing travel experiences are. I got a slew of answers! Some were passionate, some unsure and some completely contradicted each other. Bottom line: you guys have a lot of complaints!

Some of your complaints were pretty straightforward:

My worst travel experience was visiting London for a week in 2009. I was disappointed by the lack of late-night public transportation and spent much more time walking than I was accustomed to. The London Eye was terrible and the weather was gloomy everyday. To make matters worst, bed bugs came back with me which just completely ruined the entire trip.

–       leslie

Toronto, Canada. It felt so run down in much of the downtown area. I was staying next to the harbor near the convention center and felt like 2 blocks in any direction quickly became sketchy. The museums were nice. The rest, not so much. Windy and rainy didn’t help.

–       ehalvey

The Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam is surely my biggest travel disappointment. They have been transformed into a little Vietnam War Disneyland, complete with firing range and what our guide termed “VC KFC” – aka a place to eat the cassava plant that Viet Cong soldiers lived on for months at a time. At least the tour only cost $5…


A lot of your complaints seemed based on mitigating factors:

My biggest travel disappointment was the whole city of Dublin…nothing felt Irish about it at all and people were rude as hell. BUT I’m willing to give it a second chance…a lot of my feelings probably stem from the fact I picked up a stomach bug while there and I was miserable. If I do ever make it back to Ireland though, I want to see much more outside the city.

– Candice

My biggest travel disappointment was easily my hungover adventure to Rio de Janeiro. I was spending a month living with my Brazilian friend in Belo Horizonte and we stayed up until 6 AM after a long night of drinking cachaca. We fell asleep only to be woken up 30 minutes later for our trip to Rio.

We arrived tired, hungover and distracted. We were only there for 2 days and I spent most of it sucking on a bottle of life-giving H2O. Needless to say, next time I’m in Rio, I’ll do it in a much better state of mind!


My biggest travel disappointment was when I went to Detroit (from Japan) for a weekend (yes, that’s right…. my flight time combined was longer than I had on the ground) to visit a man I thought I was in love with. Turns out, I wasn’t in love with him, he wasn’t in love with me… and I was in Detroit. Uggh. Oh, and some Taiwanese woman stole my cookies (Mint Milano cookies, mind you!) on the flight back. Bad, bad, bad trip!


Some of you completely disagreed: there was quite a debate going on regarding the merits of Austin, Texas:

Austin, TX. Everyone keeps raving about it. It’s supposed to be such an up-and-coming city. Well, maybe if I were 21 again and into the whole clubbing/bar scene. We did see the giant bat flight at twilight which was cool (though again with the long wait in uncomfortable…this time HOT…weather). But basically to me Austin was just another city with nothing particularly memorable about it. A college town that might be cool if I were still in college.


Ok so the Austinite has to chime in – Austin definitely requires a plan and that includes outdoor activities. Canoeing, seeing the 5 highland lakes, going west into the hills for camping/cookout, seeing the music and food anchors in the city, the French legation, TexMex, all 5 campuses, various spas, the bookstores and coffeeshops, the local stores…as some one mentioned, maybe Austin now requires a tourguide. I’d say try again another time, but not in college mindset. It would be disappointing if yer not 21 and trying to drink on 6th street.


Some of you questioned the very idea of being disappointed while traveling:

I’m never really disappointed when I travel because the sheer act of traveling is always a thrill.


There’s no such thing as a place unto itself…unless it’s a postcard. The underwhelming food, cloudy views, and boring people are still essential to the journey. It’s taken quite a few trips, but I’ve finally been able to just GO and experience without holding on too tightly to how I think everything should be. Not ALL travel is sublime. In a way, that’s sort of the point. You just do and take it for what it is. It’s never the place or the weather or the circumstances that disappoint, it’s the expectations that you bring to it.


A lot of conflicted and conflicting opinions in the end.  Actually, I think my favorite piece of advice from the whole conversation came from ReidonTravel on Twitter.

Didn’t care for Chiang Mai. Must go back. In travel we must question our own impressions too.

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20 thoughts on “YOUR Most Disappointing Travel Destinations”

  1. I took an across country train trip to California when I was 21. With my mom, who is afraid of flying. First of all, there are a lot of older people who take trains. And they like to walk in on you in the bathroom. Secondly, don’t let “deluxe car” fool you. Every room on a train is a tin can. You will be strapped into a bed and bump your head a few thousand times.
    When we finally got there, I decided to hate the Bay Area. I found the people to be snotty and the weather very unCalifornian. We spent more time on the god awful train than in the city itself. But yes, I think my own expectations were part of the problem. I now have a good story and a lot of laughs.

  2. Don’t agree with them all, but it is annoying when that happens. Mine personally was Vatican City. Art and architecture was beautiful, but it just made me sad to think that this is where all the religion’s money went at the time, with so many people starving and homeless.
    .-= Bobbi Lee Hitchon´s last blog ..Chapati rising =-.

  3. I think I’ve been more disappointed with myself or a situation during a trip than the trip itself. Like sand scratching my eye on South Padre Island, too hung over to meet Selaron in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro or not flinging poo at some loud mouth tourist who hit all the stereotypes.
    .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..2012 A New Beginning =-.

    1. I can understand that. I have some travel regrets too, like not experiencing the nightlife in Belgrade more fully or being too sick in Amsterdam to… you know.

      1. Cornelius, what a great distinction! I wanted to say I was hugely disappointed with Montreal – and I was (What is the big deal about that city!) but I really think your way of describing it……disappointed in ourselves for not better handling a bad situation.
        Note to self: More patience!

  4. I think I most agree with Joel. I’ve done my best to always find the silver lining no matter where I find myself. The mere act of travelling and being out of your element is addicting. So maybe this is why I don’t get it when I’ve heard people complain (by the way, I live in Florence, Italy) along the lines of “This isn’t how we do it at home”. If we’re unhappy when we’re at home and we’re unhappy when we’re somewhere new, when will we ever be satisfied?

    1. I think if I lived in Florence I might be more satisfied :).

      For me most dissapointments have occured when a location doesn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it. Still, a dreary rainy day in Venice is better than most days elsewhere.

  5. Love this idea Stephanie – I wish I would have thought of it! I lived in Dublin for a summer, and loved it. My newest theory is that the longer you stay somewhere, the more you start to love it. My most disapointing place was probably Venice, Italy. I think you are right though, very circumstantial. Rainy day, short trip, etc.

    1. Yeah I was a little disappointed by Venice as well. I think your theory holds some water- the more in depth you get to experience a place the harder it is to hate it!

  6. It’s all perception. Sickness, exhaustion, or expectations all play into it. I heard Dublin isn’t worth a stop (nice, Candice), but there’s some romantic notion in my head about it. Gotta let that go. A bad day on the road is 20 times more interesting than where I’m sitting right now (office, inert, bored).
    .-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Gypsy Wednesday – My Travel Pillow Book =-.

    1. oh god you are so right. I’d rather be just about anywhere then my office right now. Except maybe Baltimore.

  7. I so agree with Joel, above. I’ve never been disappointed in any city I’ve been to because I find it fascinating to explore a new destination. I loved London more than anything; loved being on the eye and seeing all of London spread before me. I felt almost like one of London’s famous pigeons. London at night was so beautiful. And what would London be without some rain 🙂
    As for Toronto. Hmm..I’m taking that one rather personally since I live here. And I live about 2 blocks from where ehalvey talks about. I’m not too sure what time of year they were here, but the harbourfront is one of the nicest things about Toronto. It’s clean, has a lovely boardwalk, marina, parks, a wetland, and it is so safe that I would walk home at 2 or 3am and not even think twice. Of course there are parts of every city that are dodgy but they are not in the area that ehalvey described.
    Sorry, had to jump to our defence:) and I so agree with Cari , above !!

    1. It’s okay, I know people say the same thing about Pittsbugh, and I used to live there. I went in September, and I felt like it was dodgy to walk from the Westin to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The museum itself was in a nice building, but walking near empty lots and under overpasses was a little disconcerting. The harborfront was nice, but I thought that it was odd that no one was walking around in that area. It was pretty dead during the day and evening.

    2. I’m totally with you on London; it’s my favorite city of all time. Different strokes, different folks I guess…

  8. My past just won’t leave me alone!

    Steph – great piece! Thanks for bringing us into the fold.

    – Garrett
    .-= Garrett´s last blog ..Real Backpackers Shirt =-.

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