The most overrated and underrated travel experiences right now

UNDERRATED EXPERIENCES WHEN YOU FLY

PREMIUM ECONOMY

Flying Qantas? Then premium economy is definitely worth it. The food is great, the extra leg room is welcome, the service is a step up. Going with Virgin? It's still pretty good. Plenty of other airlines, however, charge a lot more money in premium economy for just a few very small improvements, and will never be worth splashing out for.

MIXED CLASS AIRFARES

Mix'n'match airfares, where you travel different parts of the journey in different classes – for instance economy for one leg, and business for the longer, less comfortable overnight leg – can be a godsend. Now easier to book than ever before, they allow us to save money where we can but then splurge when we most need it.

DECAFFEINATED COFFEE

Why is it so hard to order decaff coffee on a plane, where the flight attendant fervently hope passengers will drop off to sleep and not annoy them? Instead, they feed us the full caff versions meaning most of us sit, glassy-eyed, unable to relax, fidgeting, staring at the screen for far too long and pushing the help button whenever we can think of an excuse.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS

Rostov-on-Don, Russia - September 11, 2018: Passengers leave the shuttle at bus stop at the airport Platov
 sunoct14cover - Under Rated & Over Rated
Airport transfer
Credit: Shutterstock

Passengers leave the shuttle at bus stop at the airport Platov. Photo: hutterstock

You might be a hard-core world traveller, but is there anything as nice as being picked up at the airport by your hotel after a long flight to a foreign country? And not having to deal with Uber, or taxis, or buses, or trains when you've barely had time to get currency, or work out where you are.

OVERRATED EXPERIENCES WHEN YOU FLY

ECONOMY CLASS AIRPORT LOUNGES

Once hailed as a great luxury, to get far from the maddening crowds, their day is now done. They're usually crowded, with not enough seats, noisy and worn, and with rudimentary bad food choices and plastic knives. At a time when most airports are more sleeker and more customer-focused than ever, the lounge is becoming a poor alternative.

DUTY-FREE SHOPPING

Airport duty-free stores are having a laugh. They might not charge tax, but they're still rarely significantly cheaper than anywhere else in the local area. This is especially true for wine – you'll pay less at Dan Murphy's. Unless these stores are selling something you desperately need and can't find elsewhere, you're better off avoiding them.

UNDERRATED EXPERIENCES WHEN YOU TRAVEL

SELF-DRIVE SAFARIS

MB5G02 lioness looking into a car of a self driving tourist, Panthera leo, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, Africa sunoct14cover - Under Rated & Over Rated - Ben Groundwater
Credit: Alamy

Lioness looking into a car of a self driving tourist, Panthera leo, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Most people who go on safari will do a tour. They'll take a multi-day overlander with a big group, or they'll stay at a luxurious camp and be driven around by guides. And that's fine. But there's a better way to safari, a more exciting and interesting way: drive yourself. For an African experience you'll never forget, hire a car and a tent, grab a map and some supplies, and set out on your own. Adventure awaits.

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LONG-DISTANCE RAIL JOURNEYS

We're in an awful hurry these days, zooming from A to B before swiftly departing for C. But there's a better way to travel, and it's more soothing for the soul: the long, slow rail journey, which imprints the place we're traversing onto our psyche so that we can mentally digest – in real-time – where we've come from and where we're going. It's a soporific mode of transport, a methodical unveiling of the destination even as we glide through it.

HOMESTAYS

This is the way to travel. This is the way to see the world from a new perspective, to gain an insight into the place you're visiting, to meet locals, to eat their food, to stay in a normal home and do as they do. From sleeping in mudbrick homes in Oman to beachside shacks in Cuba, from apartments in Spain to farmhouses in Italy, there's no better way to break up the hotel-hostel monotony than with a homestay.

LONDON BUSES

LONDON- NOVEMBER, 2017: London red buses and shoppers at Oxford Circus, London. An iconic landmark at the busiest shopping area of the city.
 sunoct14cover - Under Rated & Over Rated
Rob McFarland
Credit: Shutterstock

London red buses at Oxford Circus, London. Photo: Shutterstock

London's bus system used to be an unfathomable mystery known only to secret agents and the capital's pensioners. Now, thanks to apps like Google Maps and Citymapper, any traveller can unlock its secrets and easily get around on what is arguably the best bus system in the world. Taxis or the Underground might be quicker but nothing can match the view from the top deck of one these bright red icons.

HIKING IN HONG KONG

Many travellers are surprised to discover that Hong Kong, a destination known for dazzling skyscrapers and glittering malls, also has fantastic hiking. Highlights include the seven-kilometre coastal trek from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island; the thigh-burning ascent to Lantau Island's 869-metre-high Sunset Peak; and the much-lauded Dragon's Back trail, where you can finish with a swim in the beautiful bay of Tai Long Wan.

OVERRATED EXPERIENCES WHEN YOU TRAVEL

SEGWAY TOURS

EGW682 Tourists on Segway tour of the Belem quarter in Lisbon, Portugal, Europe sunoct14cover - Under Rated & Over Rated - Ben Groundwater
Credit: Alamy

Tourists on Segway tour of the Belem quarter in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Alamy

It doesn't matter where you are or what you're seeing – if you're doing a tour on a Segway, you look ridiculous. You're also, probably, pretty annoying. The idea of these two-wheelers is that they don't take up much space, and therefore allow people to move through busy cities like Rome in the same way a normal pedestrian would. That, however, assumes the pilots can competently control them. Which they can't.

INSTAGRAM-INFLUENCED 'HOTSPOTS'

You shouldn't be persuaded to visit the Algarve because a woman has used it as a backdrop for her bikini shot; nor should you be induced to visit Playa del Carmen because a man is standing stark naked on the beach. As most PRs will attest, Instagram's travel influencers are generally less successful at promoting a destination than they are at promoting themselves.

CONTRIBUTORS

Brian Johnston, Rob McFarland, Catherine Marshall, Craig Tansley, Kerry van der Jagt, Sue Williams, Ben Groundwater

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