The 10 most annoying words in travel

Don't some words in travel get your goat? It isn't so much the clichés – though that is bad enough – but that they're used so often that they have become almost meaningless. Sometimes, they're simply wrong. Here are 10 of the most annoying examples.


This an insult to any customer who has coughed up thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money for a holiday. Unless a company is simply giving away an airline ticket, hotel breakfast or shore excursion to anybody, like a sample on a street corner, it ain't free. You had to book an entire package tour to get it. The tour company can at most call it complementary, but the reality is you've paid for it.


Must we really? Says who? Not someone familiar with our personal interests, that's for sure. Nor someone with any imagination or longing for adventure. Those must-sees have already been seen by almost everyone. So what? I'd rather be drinking beer in a Berlin bar than must-seeing some recreated Cold War checkpoint. And it's the must-see attitude that has caused the overcrowding that destroys monuments and enrages locals. Time to see something else.


It's funny how travel companies promise to show you gems so hidden they're visited by tour groups with departures on a weekly basis. But backpackers are just as bad, claiming they've secret discovered places nobody else has ever heard about. All this indicates is the self-absorption and narrow vision of the western tourist. Hint: I'm pretty sure millions of local people have no problem locating these supposedly hidden places. Unless you just discovered Atlantis.


Travellers who claim certain destinations or experiences aren't real or authentic are basically saying they don't conform to their own narrow expectations and national stereotypes. Which usually means places aren't old-fashioned, traditional or poor enough for their liking. But foreigners don't have to live a certain way just to keep tourists happy. And what is authentic culture anyway? If cultures didn't absorb foreign and modernising influences, we'd all still be living in the Stone Age.


This overused word is sprinkled all over tour brochures and descriptions of cruise ships and hotels. But what does it actually mean? Hard to say. After all, one traveller's idea of luxury is another's slumming it. Some may be satisfied with their Egyptian thread count, others will scratch like the princess with her pea. Better describe what you're offering instead of using vague words that mean different things to different people.


This word isn't so much meaningless as badly used. If you spot one, a parrot is certainly an exotic bird in Norway. But other people's cultural habits, deities and food aren't exotic, they're perfectly normal in the place you'd expect to encounter them. As for applying this adjective to people of varied ethic background, it implies they don't belong, and is offensive and racist. Best banish this word, unless you're referring to wildlife.


But is it? Or is this just the term privileged tourists use when talking about some place not many white people go for beach holidays? I recently saw this description used about the Mekong River in Vietnam, which has a population of millions, modern infrastructure and several millennia of history. Not exactly the unbeaten track, then. Nor unfrequented by white people, either, who float back and forth in river-cruise ships. Huh.


As every travel business, hotel and (no joke) airline jumps on the bandwagon and declares their green, sustainable and eco-friendly credentials, these terms become more and more meaningless. Do they refer to their entire business? One part of it? Or just an uncommitted hope for the future? As greenwashing is now rampant, these terms aren't just meaningless but sometimes deliberately misleading. Check that those making these claims have proper, internationally recognised eco-certification, or treat with caution.



Not to nit-pick, but a word that means 'in its original condition' doesn't apply to a beach with a resort hotel. Nor to anywhere on this poor planet whose every corner is affected by global warming, plastic rubbish and human intrusion. The problem with the words 'pristine' or 'unspoilt' is that they imply tourism carries no consequences. And, while I'm not against tourism, I'm all for tourists being more aware of how to tread lightly.


I imagine something quirky is either odd or unexpected. But you'd presume Japanese festivals, say, are planned in advance, and come around yearly, so are hardly unexpected. Those charming Turkish coffeehouses aren't unexpected either – the Turkish like coffee. And they aren't odd either. Most Turkish coffeehouses look just like that. So I guess 'quirky' really means something doesn't look Australian. Or corporate. But hey, maybe Starbucks looks quirky somewhere in the world. We can only hope.

See also: Good riddance: Seven things in travel that won't be coming back

See also: Grounded: Seven things we don't miss about air travel