If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, or Statue of Liberty, you should know that you’re likely to come across hordes of slow-moving tourists taking selfies at any popular tourist attraction.
This week, the Louvre in Paris was even forced to close for a day due to its overcrowding problem. (Some union representations at the museum have said tourists have stifled the Mona Lisa renovations, crammed them into tight and impassable spaces.)
Although it is not infallible, it are some effective strategies for avoiding tourists while visiting popular travel hot spots; Just be sure to book your tickets in advance and use the city-pass option at your destination.
Book in the off-season or off-season
If you plan ahead, the easiest way to avoid the crowds of tourists is to visit during the low season, which depends on where you’re going.
In Europe, the high season is summer and the low season is generally from November to March. (“Shoulder season” occurs during the transition months from high season to low season and vice versa). During this time, Australia’s peak season is between December and February, when weather conditions are optimal, and the low season is from May to August.
If you’re going on a trip to visit the Statue of Liberty, USA Today recommends going there in the fall or winter, when the lines should be shorter. Visit the Eiffel Tower? You should expect wait times of up to two hours in the summer and less than 30 minutes on weekdays in the off-season and off-season, writes SmarterTravel.
Still, it’s important to understand whether visiting during the off-season is in fact value there to avoid the crowds; maybe the dead winter in New York seems miserable, or the attractions have limited hours or are completely closed. (You should research all the attractions you want to visit online well in advance.)
A good compromise might be to book during shoulder season, as recommended by the points manager, when the weather might not be an issue; during the off-season and off-season, you can usually expect to pay less for things like airline tickets and hotel accommodations.
Buy tickets for attractions in advance and go early
Before even booking a flight, you might want to take a look at the availability of popular attractions; as the New York Times writes, tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, which require a ticket to visit, can be booked months in advance.
For this reason, you’ll want to purchase a ticket as early as possible, which can usually be done online for major attractions. By booking in advance, you won’t have to worry about standing in line to buy a ticket.
“Many popular sites, like the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, sell advance tickets online that guarantee admission at a certain time (often with a small booking fee that is worth it),” writes Rick Steves on his website. “Given how precious your vacation time is, it makes sense to get reservations for all the must-see sites that offer them – it’s worth giving up some spontaneity.”
You may find that some cities offer whole city passes to visit a number of attractions. Buying a Madrid Card, for example, will allow you to access a number of the city’s attractions and avoid all the queues. (Some cities may offer combination tickets for museums which also work the same way.) You should research all ticketing options by searching online for the tourist office at your destination, for example.
If you have the option to select a time when purchasing a ticket, you should try to book the option earlier. The earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to encounter tourists. If it’s a place like Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, this advice is also fine. You will probably encounter fewer tourists at 5 a.m. than at 5 p.m. visiting places at late hours can also prove to be crowded. Some museums, like the Tate Modern in London, are open late at weekends.
Also make sure you book through legitimate websites (not tourist bait scams); NYT recommends looking for official attraction websites on popular travel platforms such as Lonely Planet.
Book a guide
If you want a guided tour, your host will probably know the best time to visit to avoid the crowds. They can also have an “in” with the attraction and allow your group to skip the lines.
“At the Vatican Museums, going on a guided tour allows you to find your way around (this also works in other places, like Versailles or the Colosseum),” Steves writes on his website. “In Milan, you can sign up at the last minute to take a bus tour that includes an easy stop at Leonardo’s Last Supper, normally booked more than a month in advance.”
For this reason, you may want to consider booking a guide during your trip. You can use platforms like TripAdvisor to find reviews from local tour guides.
And if you just can’t avoid tourists everywhere you go, go for the less popular attractions! I recently did a “weird attraction” tour through Tokyo, which wasn’t exactly weird, as it was a tour through less familiar parts of the city. You could learn more about a city from its less familiar attractions and have a real time to breathe, away from tourists taking selfies.