February 28th, 2024

How to beat the crowds and have the most authentic travel experience

After a brief setback during the global Covid pandemic, mass tourism seems to be back with a bang. Popular destinations like France, Greece and Italy, to name only a few, are reporting an increase in tourist footfall, especially during the peak travel seasons. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The majority of travellers will make their pilgrimages to all the must-see sites, from the Taj Mahal to the Great Wall of China. Others who have already crossed these iconic places off their lists will venture further afield in search of new destinations and more authentic travel experiences.

If you’re tired of getting caught up in the crowds of travellers flocking to popular – and newly popular – destinations, then this guide is for you. We’ve put together a list of things you can do to help you avoid the hoards and enjoy a more authentic experience. So get ready to be curious, step outside your comfort zone and rediscover the spirit of travel.

  1. Travel off-peak – or go exclusive

Firstly, make sure you dedicate time to researching and planning your trip. Consider the time of year you’re thinking of going away: Is it peak season? Will you be jostling for space with young families on their mid-term holidays? Or competing for a spot on the beach to lay down your towel with groups of over-enthusiastic sun-seekers fleeing the European winter? Where possible, plan to travel during quieter periods at your destination. For example, staying away from Mexico City at the start of November, when the popular Day of the Dead celebrations attract thousands of visitors to the city every year. 

If, however, you still want to experience the Michelangelos on the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the Northern Lights, for instance, – and why wouldn’t you – then make it exclusive. Call in the experts (that’s where Hans Travel and Lifestyle comes in) to help you organise your own private adventure, away from the crowds.

  1. Avoid review apps like the plague

When you’re carrying out your research, you would do well to avoid taking tips from popular review sites and apps like TripAdvisor. Such sites can be useful tools in helping you filter through a myriad of available options – you, and the rest of the thousands of travellers heading to the same destination. Plus, a restaurant that’s amassed enough five-star ratings to earn it a top spot in the ‘best places to eat’ rankings isn’t necessarily the authentic dining experience you’re after.   

  1. Consider the local language

A useful tip we’ve picked up over time is to make sure to include words in the local language in your online searches. For instance, if you want to eat excellent local sushi in Japan, then it’s a good idea to input the Japanese word of sushi restaurant, 鮨屋. This will return a more authentic list of results.

  1. Stay in a local neighbourhood

The majority of tourist accommodation is usually located centrally, in the vicinity of the major sites and attractions. Despite the convenience, it does mean that most tourists tend to miss out much of the local culture of a place. When you’re booking somewhere to stay, consider locating yourself in a neighbourhood where the real locals are: cross the river, ride a bus, walk. You’ll be surprised what you’ll discover. 

  1. Get going early

When it comes to beating the crowds, it’s the early bird that catches the worm. Most hotels and cafés serve breakfast from as early as 7 a.m., so grab yourself a strong coffee and get ready to reap the benefits of forfeiting a lie-in.  

  1. Ditch the FoMo

The Mona Lisa. The Sistine Chapel. Machu Picchu. The Burj Khalifa. Travelling can sometimes feel like a long checklist of must-sees and must-dos. Yes, these top attractions do have their merits, – and let’s face it, we’re all prone to a bit of travel FoMo – but the reality is often very different to the romantic ideal. Think: standing in long queues, being herded down masterpiece-lined corridors, elbowing your way through drifting groups of tired travellers and dodging selfie-sticks. Instead, try looking up, take a wrong turn, visit a train station or a public library. Very often, the most beautiful places are the ones we least expect. If you really must visit the sites, however, reserve your tickets in advance or book a private tour to get the most of your time there.

  1. Hire a local guide

If you’re not confident about going off the beaten track, then it’s a good idea to hire a local guide to show you around. Set your expectations early and be clear with them what you’re after. Some organisations offer tailored experiences, from slum tours to grape-picking, which can really add to your impression of a place.

  1. Be prepared to walk away

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid the crowds. If you’re travelling to popular destinations like Venice or Paris or Como, you’re likely to always encounter other tourists at some point. Try not to let this ruin your holiday. And if you feel, for any reason, that the queue to the museum is too long, the piazza too crowded, the café you’ve always dreamed of packed to the rafters with fellow thirsty travellers, then be prepared to walk away. Take the road less travelled – it might lead to unexpected experiences. 

To help you plan an unforgettable trip to the destination of your dreams, far from the crowds, get in touch with our team at Hans Travel on leisure@hans-travel.com