We’ve all been there. Traveling abroad means exploring new places, seeing new sites, and learning new things. As a traveler, you need to be willing to encounter the unknown and make a few mistakes along the way. So why not get a good laugh out of it all?
Some travelers make bigger mistakes than others, and people who work in the hospitality and tourism industry are usually there to witness it all. We’ve found some of the most embarrassing questions shared with travel professionals worldwide and compiled them in a list from ridiculous to bizarre to downright laughable.
They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question. They’re wrong. If these ones teach you anything, let it be that you can never be over-prepared for your trip. You can never research too much about the area you’re visiting, or know too much about its geography or history. You can, however, know far too little.
The biggest and most glaringly obvious issues raised in the questions below involve a terrible understanding of geography, history, or even basic common sense. You would think that if you’re old and wise enough to get yourself on a trip to the other side of the world, you’d have some understanding of how the world works.
If you ever find yourself knowing absolutely nothing about the place you’re visiting or the sites you’re seeing, consider investing in a guidebook – or better yet, embarking on a trusty google search. In the meantime, check out these questions for a good giggle.
22 Who’s Performing at The Piccadilly Circus?
This innocent yet deeply ignorant question was asked to a representative of a British travel company in London. The Piccadilly Circus is a historic London road that connects Regent Street and Piccadilly with an open space like an Italian piazza. Plenty of travelers ask about it daily, because it’s a major tourist attraction. It’s not actually a circus as some tourists imagine, though: it’s a public square with fountain and statue of Eros in the center and shopping options surrounding it. It’s kind of like London’s version of Times Square, so the only circus you’ll find there is the busy madness of shopping tourists.
21 Can We Have the Beach to Ourselves for My Proposal?
We hope that you all find someone romantic and thoughtful enough to ask this question on your behalf. It would be so sweet to have a proposal on a little privately-owned beach in some exotic destination! Unfortunately, the beach in question was not little OR private, landing this question on our list.
The tourist who asked "I want to propose to my girlfriend, can we get the beach to ourselves for the afternoon?" was not in a private resort or secluded island. He was in Miami, asking a hospitality worker if they could just clear out an entire beach. Nope!
20 Where Can I Buy Some Totem Pole Seeds?
British Columbia, Canada is so stunningly spectacular that the province's motto is "Beautiful British Columbia." It's got mountains, beaches, and (perhaps most impressively) giant redwood trees. Towering forests provide wood for local First Nations Canadians for carving totem poles, massive and meaningful symbols used to signify landmarks or commemorate significant people/events.
While British Columbia's trees DO grow, totem poles do not. But you already know this. Believe it or not, at least one ignorant visitor had to be told by a very patient Canadian that no, BC does not actually sell totem pole seeds. There is definitely no such thing as a grow-your-own cultural artifact kit. (Duh.)
19 Is This Man-Made?
Pausing to let this question sink in...and...yes you read it right. Tourists actually ask travel professionals if THE GRAND CANYON is MAN-MADE. And they ask this all the time.
It has taken multiple millions of years of wind and water to erode the rock formations that make up the Grand Canyon. It's a natural wonder of the world! You would think that people who choose to visit this major landmark have taken the time to learn why it's such a huge tourist draw, but you'd be surprised how many of them show up with no clue whatsoever. Grand Canyon park rangers have to deal with more than 100 questions like these on a daily basis, and we don't envy them.
18 Where is 'Dusk?'
Everywhere? Nowhere? Somewhere between daytime and nighttime? The 'twilight' hours? Maybe if English isn't your first language, you could consider this a fair question. Otherwise, you're really asking something that you shouldn't expect anyone to be able to answer with an exact location.
According to a zoo employee who welcomed visitors to a daily Penguin Parade, tourists would often inquire about the large sign out front that said 'The Penguins Come In at Dusk.' He says they would ask "where is this place called dusk?" on the regular. The language barriers (or general ignorance and confusion) are too real, people.
17 Can I Fish Off the Cruise Ship?
Would you like to try? How long is your fishing pole? Our responses to this question would definitely not be as polite as those of the hospitality professionals who actually have to deal with the people who ask it. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, it's one of the most unusual frequently asked questioned they received throughout 2017.
Some people really love to fish! And the oceans that cruise ships cross are certainly full of vibrant and diverse sea life. The thing is, cruise ships are usually moving pretty fast - often 30 knots per hour. Try fishing off a 250-foot high ship moving at that speed and the ocean will probably catch you.
16 Are There Pianos in This Part of the World?
File this one under the 'random but true' travel question category. Deepthi Amarasuriya is from Colombo, which is the capital city of Sri Lanka. If you've ever been to South Asia in general, you'll also know that it's a thriving region that's given us plenty of today's most popular advances in medicine, science, and technology.
Many of its most beautiful sites are ancient relics from long ago, but the actual civilizations living there in modern day are...well, modern. Unlike the traveler who asked Deepthi how he could be a pianist if he was from Sri Lanka, explaining that he didn't "know there were pianos in this part of the world." Yikes.
15 How Do the Deer Know Where to Cross?
This wildlife-related question was asked to travel writer Mark Sheehan while working in Australia. When a traveler saw a 'deer crossing' traffic sign for the first time in their entire life, they were pretty confused. They asked him how in the world the deer knew where these designated 'deer crossing' parts of the road were.
Short answer: They don't. Long answer: Deer cannot read or understand traffic signs. Deer walk wherever they want to walk. The signs are for the PEOPLE, people! You are more likely to see deer in the general proximity of these signs than elsewhere in the world, but it's the signs that mark where the deer are, not the deer who follow the signs. Hilarious.
14 It Rains Here?
Portuguese local Mariana Ferreira Albuquerque shared this story on a travelers' forum:
"I was calmly walking around Barcelona a couple weeks ago or so. So, as I’m about to enter the train station in Plaça Catalunya: 'It rains here? I thought it didn’t rain in Spain?'
I turn around and stare at the American lady who had just said that. I kept my mouth shut, but I was baffled with that woman’s ignorance."
Spain is a big place, and all of its diverse regions experience rain from time to time. Contrary to the saying, the rain in Spain does NOT stay mainly on the plain. It basically rains wherever the storm clouds end up, like everywhere else in the world.
13 Where Do You All Live in Winter?
This question was asked to SherylnShawn Dauphney from Nova Scotia, Canada. How are we not surprised that somebody asked it in Canada? The 'Great White North' is often misunderstood by international travelers who think that it's some kind of vast frozen wasteland.
Canada is vast, and many places freeze in the winter, but most Canadians live in their houses every month of the year. Nova Scotia's winters aren't even Canada's worst! This coastal province has mainly mild seasons and major cities that hustle and bustle all year round. Thankfully when winter does come, Nova Scotians are prepared. Don't worry, tourist! Mittens exist.
12 Can I Catch a Train from Fiji to New Zealand?
According to staff from Australia's Sunlover Holidays, tourists ask them plenty of questions that make them scratch their heads. One standout was someone who called and asked: "Can I catch a train from Fiji to New Zealand?" No, ma'am. You cannot.
You can't take a train from Fiji to anywhere. You also can't take a train from New Zealand to anywhere. These places are surrounded by the ocean because they are made up of islands. We suggest flying into New Zealand and getting to Fiji by water for a fabulous exotic vacation.
11 Will I End Up in Holland?
At least one tourist has been caught asking if they'd end up in Holland if they drove through the Holland Tunnel in New York City. It's yet another question inspired by a deeply insufficient grasp on world geography.
NYC's Holland Tunnel is less than 2 miles long. Holland and New York City are thousands of miles apart - 3,662 miles to be exact. If you were willing to put that kind of mileage on your car to get from one to the other, you'd still be facing the slight obstacle of the entire Atlantic Ocean. The Holland Tunnel is just named after the guy who designed it (Clifford M. Holland) and will take you as far as New Jersey. Happy travels!
10 Do You Paint the Glaciers?
This is a question asked to former tourism industry worker Suzanna Sagar. She says that people used to often ask her: "How do you guys keep the glaciers white during the summer? Do you have to paint them?"
"Of course, I would always answer yes to this common yet amazing question," she explains. "Job creation, I'd say, keeps us all working during the summer."
We imagine that workers with less patience and a worse sense of humor would have to tell tourists the hard truth - glaciers are not painted at all. They are their own beautiful palates of snow and ice reflecting water and sky. No person could paint that.
9 Where is the Tulip Factory?
If you ever get to the Netherlands (not by way of the Holland Tunnel) you'll notice that tulips are kind of a big deal over there. They are such a big part of Holland's cultural identity that 'Tulipmania' is the name for a real-time period from their nation's history.
Tulips grow all over, with both cultivated fields and wild gardens overflowing with them each spring. Rosina Shiliwala, of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, says her office was asked where the factory that makes the tulips could be found. In reality, they don't come from factories, just flower seeds.
8 When Do They Turn Off the Waterfalls?
Niagara Falls locals know that this is a surprisingly common question asked by the city's most uninformed tourists. Workers know that tourists have the best intentions when they ask it. They want to make sure they don't miss out on seeing this massive and spectacular landmark! If they knew a bit more about the landmark, though, they wouldn't need to worry at all.
The Niagara Falls does not turn off. Day and night, year after year, it pushes more than 61,000 gallons of water over its edge EVERY SINGLE SECOND. Every second! Imagine for a second how much work, strength, and planning it would take to make that stop each night. It's just not a thing.
7 When Do They Turn On the Northern Lights?
A similarly uncontrollable natural phenomenon is aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. They aren't some kind of projection beamed up from a concert stage, and there's absolutely no way to make them appear when you want them to.
Janath Corso Vesna had to tell that to some tourists who asked him "what time do they turn on the northern lights?" What makes this worse is where Janath says the question was asked.
"I worked in the Toronto tourism sector," he explains. If people wanted to see these majestic night lights, being in the southernmost part of Canada was their first mistake. Try Iceland instead.
6 Why Did They Build So Many Broken Castles?
"Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?" was one challenging question posed to industry professionals at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire. This is real life, and that is a real question that somebody asked.
As if you need telling, they did not just decide to build broken and ruined landmarks throughout Great Britain. The landmarks were not broken, to begin with. Just like the passage of time makes your hair grow and your passport expires, it also erodes rocks and makes buildings crumble. Some of England's coolest castles are hundreds of years old. Give them a break!
5 When Do They Feed the Loch Ness Monster?
All of the questions so far have involved real places and landmarks. This one breaks the mold and deals with a completely imaginary creature, helping it to edge into our top five most ridiculous tourist queries. Asking about the Loch Ness monster's existence is sweet, but skipping the existence issue and just asking a logistical question about it? That's nuts.
For a tourist to assume that this prehistoric creature of the deep has a feeding time, the creature would also have to be tame. Might they be confusing the Loch Ness monster with an aquarium show? We get it as much as the Loch Ness monster gets fed. (Not at all.)
4 Which Beach is Closest to The Ocean?
This question was asked to a worker at the Miami Greater Convention & Visitors Bureau. Miami is a city built on beaches, with mile after mile of soft sandy shoreline. It's also a majorly popular tourist destination, resulting in it landing twice on this list of ridiculous questions. With 15.8 million visitors last year alone, it's understandable that this city would host way more than one uninformed traveler.
We don't need to tell you that every single one of Miami's beaches touches the ocean. That's kind of the point of beaches. They are all equally close to the ocean. Please never ask about it.
3 How Much Does That Mountain Weigh?
Mountains can inspire awe and wonder. Travelers come from far and wide to bask in their tall shadows and experience the splendor of steep cliffs and high peaks. When you visit a mountain range, lots of questions could come to mind. You could ask how tall it is. You could who's climbed it. Just don't ask how much it weighs.
"I got that question many times while working in Lake Louise," shares Alan Meltzer, "along with 'Is that real snow on that mountain?'"
There is literally no way of knowing how much one single mountain weighs. Unless you've thought of a way to slide a scale underneath thousands of feet of solid rock, consider keeping this query to yourself.
2 Do You Know of Any Undiscovered Ruins?
This question is so out of touch that it almost made it to our number one spot. It's the kind of thing that makes us wonder if some people ever listen to themselves speak. Do they hear what they're saying? Do you know what your question means?
Someone spoke without thinking when they asked this question to a guide at Mesa-Verde National Park. We bet that the tourist wanted to go somewhere more exclusive and secluded than the typical ancient architectural marvels that people often visit. Unfortunately for them, if a place is undiscovered, nobody knows what it is or how to get there. Not even tourism professionals have those answers!
1 Can I Bear Spray Myself?
Visitors to Banff National Park often need to be schooled in how to interact with the park's wildlife. Bears are cool to observe from afar, but no traveler should want to get close enough to one to take a selfie with them. While this often happens, it's not actually the most ridiculous mistake that tourists make around bears.
One Banff tourism representative was asked if the bear spray was for bears or for people: "Do I spray it on myself, like bug spray?" Bug spray DOES keep bugs away when sprayed on a person, but we really can't say the same for bear spray. Believe us, and just DON'T DO THIS.
References: Telegraph.co.uk, Quora.com, LonelyPlanet.com, Goodreads.com, EMGN.com, Traveller.com.au