"The Reality Couldn't Be Further From The Stereotypes": Travelers Are Sharing The Surprising Realizations They Had About Popular Destinations

One of the most exciting things about traveling is that every trip is full of surprises. When you visit a new destination, you're bound to experience new things you never expected — for better or for worse. So, here are some surprising things about popular destinations around the world, according to Redditors and members of the BuzzFeed Community who love to travel.

Angelina Jolie in a chic beige cape, planting a kiss on a man's cheek, while another man stands by a boat in Venice
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1."I went to Spain when I was 15. My dad ordered a beer, and the waiter looked at me and asked, 'Two?' I was totally shocked. My brother was allowed to drink on the trip since he was 18. No one ever asked for his ID. It made me realize just how strict drinking laws are in the US."

Two people dining with tapas dishes, bread, cheese, and red wine on the table. Hands visible, no faces shown
Solskin / Getty Images

2."The gondola ride experience in Venice was definitely not what I expected. It was all smelly water, crashing gondolas, and the 'drivers' cursing each other in Italian. There was nothing romantic about it."

Two gondolas with gondoliers in the foreground and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background
Laurie Chamberlain / Getty Images

3."I was surprised that Newfoundland was so wild and beautiful. It knocked my socks off. I figured it would be pretty, but holy smokes, it was like nowhere else I'd seen before."

Isolated house on a small island with surrounding water and distant hills
Watching The Sun Shine Down On Q / Getty Images

4."That Romania is a hidden gem in Europe. So many beautiful castles, museums, and churches. It's ridiculously cheap compared to the rest of Europe, and the food is amazing."

Spring landscape with blooming trees and village houses on a hillside
Danm / Getty Images

5."Singapore is unbelievably clean. As soon as I stepped out of the plane, I swear I did not see a single speck of dust at their airport. Even the toilets were squeaky clean. Every day, I went out to explore the city by foot and came back to the hotel with almost no dirt on the soles of my shoes."

Sunset view of a city skyline with an iconic building and waterfront park
John Seaton Callahan / Getty Images

6."When I was visiting Germany, I bought a beer in a convenience store and they offered to open it for me so I could enjoy it on my walk."

Hand holding a champagne bottle in a park with people sitting on the grass in the background
Copyright Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

7."New York is exactly as advertised...and that was surprising. Everything I see on TV shows and in movies is exactly the same in real life. I've been to a lot of places, but New York is the only one that exactly matched my expectations."

Flatiron Building with traffic lights and yellow cabs at an intersection in New York City
Bjarte Rettedal / Getty Images

8."I lived in South Korea for about three years. I was amazed at how long you could leave your phone, wallet, and keys on an unattended table in a crowded bar, and it would not be stolen. In the US, you bet any valuables are getting taken as soon as you look away."

Bustling street market with various stalls and signage, no individuals identified
Maremagnum / Getty Images

9."That certain advantages are given to pregnant people in Portugal. I was pregnant with my daughter when I was there, so I was excited to see that there's special parking, you're allowed to skip the line (I learned this at the car rental), and there's even a special line at customs in the airport!"

People in motion in a city with a tram and historical building in the background
Borchee / Getty Images

10."The lack of cash transactions in China was startling. Almost every store and vendor — including places like tiny street food markets and produce stalls — use mobile payments instead of cash. You quite literally never had to take out money from an ATM."

People shopping at a bustling outdoor fruit and vegetable market with various produce on display
Danielvfung / Getty Images/iStockphoto

11."That in the southern US, you actually need a car to get anywhere. Having a car doesn't just make life easier; it's nearly impossible to go places without one, even if you're in a major city."

Skyline of Miami with buildings, palm trees, and vehicles on a highway by the water
Flory / Getty Images/iStockphoto

12."There were heated sidewalks in Finland! This was an absolute lifesaver for me, who had no idea how to walk on ice. There was no trash anywhere, either."

A bustling city street with pedestrians walking, buildings in background, and a bright sun glare
Marco_piunti / Getty Images

13."In France, I was surprised by the city of Montpellier. This destination in the south of France was an absolute delight. I only went because I found a bargain fare, but the town was lovely and had nice architecture. It was small enough to walk around but offered a variety of places, bars, and restaurants to visit. There weren't many 'famous' sights, but the experience was much more relaxed and pleasant than a big city trip. Visiting Montepellier sparked my interest in seeing other small, less well-known destinations."

Aerial view of a historic town with dense buildings and two prominent church towers
Rosshelen / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14."Mexico City is totally different from the stereotypes associated with it. I went expecting the city to be dirty, congested, and unsafe. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Of course, it's a huge city and it depends where you go, but the Mexico City I experienced was clean and had amazing food, lots of galleries, and green space and parks. It's a place I once avoided but ended up being my favorite city in the world, hands down."

Street lined with trees and residential buildings, some trees have purple flowers. No people visible
Wariio / Getty Images/iStockphoto

15."I visited Albania and was surprised to discover there wasn't a single chain store or restaurant. It was a strange experience to be in a large city and be completely unable to find a McDonald's, Subway, KFC, or Starbucks."

Seafood meal with a tropical island view
Leonid_tit / Getty Images

16."The food scene in Bologna, Italy was more amazing than I ever expected. It's possibly the best food city in arguably the best food country. I will never forget the tortellini al brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, and panna cotta I had there."

A slice of lasagna with melted cheese on a white plate
Giovanni Bortolani / Getty Images

17."Visiting Banff, Canada literally felt like stepping into a snow globe. It was even more beautiful than the pictures made it seem. I will be going back often."

Canoes at a mountain lake with a person standing on the dock and two people in a canoe
Gunter Marx Photography / Getty Images

18."I was so pleasantly surprised by Georgia. Tbilisi's architecture is mindblowing, and the mountainous areas are like a raw, trapped-in-time version of the Alps. The cuisine is top-tier, especially the cheese-based dishes. And the whole country is cheap."

Aerial view of Tbilisi with Narikala Fortress, cable car, and historical architecture
Hans Neleman / Getty Images

19."The landscape of Antigua, Guatemala was absolutely enchanting. I had little to no expectations, but I completely fell in love with the city. There was something about the combination of the cobblestone streets and the surrounding volcanoes that made it feel magical."

Cobbled street with Santa Catalina Arch and Agua Volcano in the background, Antigua, Guatemala
Kryssia Campos / Getty Images

20."In Spain, Granada was the biggest surprise. I was traveling around visiting Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, and all the well-known places, but the city I fell in love with was Granada. There is so much history, cobblestone paths leading to miradors where you can take in views of the whole city, amazing parks, and so much greenery. The food blew my mind (especially the tapas you get for free when you order a drink). I really loved this city and would recommend it to anyone."

View of Alhambra palace during sunset with trees surrounding the structure
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

21."Paro, Bhutan was a special surprise. Everything about the country was magical, but this city was truly special. It's set in the middle of a valley laden with rivers, cherry blossoms, rice fields, beautiful monasteries, and dzongs. It's a great place to travel for nature and adventure tourism, thanks to its amazing treks and mountain biking trails. I cannot emphasize how beautiful and wholesome this place is."

Person walking towards a small pavilion with prayer flags among trees, scenic outdoor setting
Kristen Elsby / Getty Images

22."Amsterdam was so different from what I was expecting. I thought it would be a shady city after heating about coffeeshops and the famous red light district. One business trip there changed my mind completely. Turns out it is a safe and family-friendly city with so much to offer. I've been back a half a dozen times since and it’s always a good time."

Vintage-style bicycle with a front cargo basket parked beside a lamppost on a sunny street
Tim E White / Getty Images

23."I was blown away by how quiet Japan was. No one talks on public transportation, and there's barely any noise in the streets. There are no horns honking or loud music coming from cars or stores. I learned that being polite and considerate is just a big part of Japanese culture. Case in point: Silent mode on Japanese cellphones is called 'manner mode.'"

A person's hand grasping a subway strap surrounded by similar unoccupied straps
Stefania Besca © / Getty Images

24."When I visited Brussels, I was expecting a relatively quiet government town, but I was really surprised by the city's vibrancy, grit, and diversity. I had some of the best Ethiopian food there, and I loved all the street art and the beautiful plazas."

Historic European square lined with ornate buildings and cobblestone streets, bustling with people
Massimo Borchi / Getty Images

25."People talk badly about Pisa, Italy with its touristy areas and busy historical landmarks. But I drove down to the coast and left behind the hustle and bustle. The coast feels like a sleepy beach town where white stones dot the sand along turquoise seas. It was picture-perfect and I loved it there."

Seaside with white rocky foreground, buildings along the shore, and people at a distance
I Just Try To Tell My Emotions A / Getty Images

Do you have something to add? What is something that surprised you about a travel destination you've visited? Tell us in the comments or drop it into the Google form.