5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares

Have you ever dreamed of sipping champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower, climbing to the peak of Mount Everest, or drinking in the sun as it sets over the Pyramids?

If you’re like most travellers, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

But what happens when the reality of your travel bucket list is a far cry from your most tempting travel fantasies?  The truth is that some of the world’s most sought-after travel experiences run the gamut from “sort of a dud” to “this-was-a-complete-and-utter-travel-nightmare.”

But don’t worry. Once you’ve turned these must-see’s into must-avoid’s on your travel bucket list, there’s an entire world of venture-worthy sights to take their place.

1. Climbing The Eiffel Tower

5 Bucket List Debunks - 5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares - The Wise Traveller - Climbing The Eiffel Tower

There I am, sipping champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower with my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
Why ex, you ask? Because we’re about to get in a huge fight about wasting hours upon hours of our trip to Paris standing in line to climb that stupid Eiffel Tower.

Over a period of ten days in May, we tried to climb the tower ten different times. Every time we arrived, there was a line longer than my face upon seeing it.

We tried going early.  We tried going late.

Whenever we went, there were thousands of other tourists already in line. On the last day, we bit the bullet and waited three hours to buy tickets, only to have to climb the tower on foot because the line to take the elevators was even longer.

Skip it. The view from Montmartre is better anyway.

Editors Note: Many attractions, like the Eiffel Tower offer 'skip the line' tours and tickets.  If you can afford it the cost is worth every penny.

2. Hiking Mount Everest

5 Bucket List Debunks - 5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares - The Wise Traveller - Hiking Mount Everest

If you have snowcapped visions of yourself conquering the top of the world surrounded by pristine peaks of snowy nothingness, think again.

The circuits leading to and surrounding Mt. Everest are so packed with tourists during high season that it feels like you’re on a hiking expedition with 7,000 of your closest friends. The sea of trekkers move at a snail’s pace, and it’s impossible to drink in the incredible views without accidentally photo bombing someone’s selfie.

3. Seeing The Pyramids

5 Bucket List Debunks - 5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares - The Wise Traveller - Seeing The Pyramids

In the same way that you have to “earn” a visit to the top of Tour Eiffel by waiting in line FOREVER, you have to put up with a fair amount of crap to see the Pyramids in Egypt.

Getting there from the city is a pain in the butt, and inevitably involves a cab driver trying to scam you. Listen up – you do not have to ride to the Pyramids on horseback, and you can take a taxi all the way to the site itself. Consider yourself warned!

Once you get there (by cab, not horse!), the scamming doesn’t stop. Vendors and tour guides are relentless in selling you things you don’t need, and notorious for not delivering if they do talk you into buying a tour. For those who’ve experienced this kind of hustling in Cambodia or Nepal, it’s 10x worse in Egypt.

My recommendation is to hire a private guide before you visit the pyramids and pay him or her to keep all the other stalkers away from you!

4. Viewing The Mona Lisa

5 Bucket List Debunks - 5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares - The Wise Traveller - Viewing The Mona Lisa

Are you starting to see a common theme developing among all of these bucket list-busts?

It’s the crowds. Sometimes a destination is amazing but the experience gets ruined by the hordes of other people who think so too.

Such is the case with the Mona Lisa on display at The Louvre in Paris.

With some 70,000 art pieces displayed over 60,000 square metres of gallery space, you’d think people would be drawn to other areas of the museum besides Ms. Lisa’s portrait.

But no. No, they’re not.

The second you enter the Louvre, there is a tidal wave of movement that rushes upstairs towards the Mona Lisa at a breathtaking pace. When you arrive at the shockingly tiny painting, you have to elbow through 20 metres of photo-snapping bodies in order to get a halfway decent look.

5. Visiting Angkor Wat For The Sunrise

5 Bucket List Debunks - 5 Travel Fantasies That Can Be Travel Nightmares - The Wise Traveller - Cambodia - Sunrise - Angkor Wat

“You’ve got to see Angkor at sunrise” say the guidebooks, the guides, and your cool hipster friends who know about these kinds of things.

So you wake up at 4am, hire a tuk tuk driver to take you there, and proceed to wait in the darkness with 3,000 other bleary-eyed tourists who’ve also been duped.

As majestic and breathtaking as Angkor Wat is, there’s nothing majestic about thousands of flashing camera bulbs illuminating the sleep-deprived faces of monks who are standing in a line to make people’s photos look more “authentic.”

If you want Angkor sans the crowds, try going in the middle of the day when it’s a bajillion-degrees in the shade. You’ll sweat your butt off, but you’ll also get a moment alone inside the ancient temples.

And that is a travel bucket-list moment that’s truly not to be missed.

Editors Addition - Taj Mahal Evening Tour

If you are visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal, be wary of the 'night/evening viewing' tour option.   The Taj is not lit up at night, relying on ambient light of the moon and stars, so on a normal misty Agra evening the Taj is very difficult to see. You are booked into a fixed time, by ballot usually, which may be as late as midnight.  You are not permitted to take a tripod, therefore normal night photography is almost impossible and you are confined to a very small section near the entrance. As an alternative we would  recommend visiting in off season and visit the Taj during mid morning and late afternoon with a VIP level ticket generally available through your hotel concierge or travel agent.

Rebekah Voss is a freelance travel writer and the creator of TheHappyPassport.com.