Travel: What Makes Bad Places *Bad*?

MikeachimThe Everyday60 Comments

One of the nastiest experiences of my life was having coffee at the Paragon Train Station in Hull.

Sounds like I’ve led a sheltered one, I know. But that’s the thing about bad experiences: they’re entirely relative. And there were circumstances. I was suffering from mild food poisoning. I didn’t know what I was doing with my twenties, other than squandering them. I’d just found a hole in my pocket where a ten pound note had been (which was a lot of money back then), and I’d just that morning worked out that the girl I fancied was after one of my friends instead- which explained her interest in me. And there I was at the train station (this is before it was refurbished), with time to kill and just enough money for a fortifying coffee in the cafe.

At least I think I ordered coffee. Perhaps my memory is dimmed by the years, and I actually asked them for a cup of tepid battery-acid topped with a frothy squirt of Toilet Duck. If so, I owe that coffee house an apology, as I’ve spent years thinking they got my order wrong.

This experience completely wrote Hull off for me for a number of years. “Hull? It’s a dump. Seriously, if you’re on a train to Hull, pull the emergency cord. They’ll understand when you’re in court. Hull is a total s***hole with no redeeming features except the road out of it. In Hull’s case, we should have been cheering the Luftwaffe on. We should have drawn arrows in the landscape for them to follow.”

Now Hull is just a place I’m rude about because it’s funny to be. But I don’t mind Hull. I know it better now. It’s just a large British city. It’s not a slightly-misspelt Netherworld. It’s just a place, like any other.

And it’s given me a fascination for how we label places “bad”.

(But I’m fascinated even more by places that get labelled “bad” by people who have never been to them. That’s really interesting).

So why do places become bad to us?

  • They’re ugly. The most obvious and most instantly affecting reason – they’re an eyesore. Aesthetically, they offend. (Except…ugly places are untouristy places. Hey, there’s that “off the beaten track” thing everyone talks about).
  • We had a bad experience there. Want to hear my Iraklion story? Here’s my Iraklion story. I get off the ferry, heavily sunburnt shoulders making every movement agony. I’m 2 miles away from my hotel, with a rucksack I can’t carry except in the traditional way. No taxis. Can’t leave my stuff to go find one, and anyway, I’m out of cash. No choice. I drag my arms through the straps and – almost beyond conscious thought with the agony – stride my way through Iraklion’s streets (where I took the above photo). Ten steps – screaming agony – sparkly vision – short rest. After a while it gets easier as my shoulders lose the ability to feel pain, but later I discover they’re stripped raw. In my utterly nondescript hotel at the other end of the town, I lapse into a fever that lasts 24 hours and ends with a truly dreadful complementary breakfast in the rooftop restaurant. Yes, Iraklion – I hate you. It’s not fair, but hey, there it is.
  • They’re the end of the line. This one depends on what kinds of experiences you thrive on. Like being in the thick of things, interconnected, all roads leading here? Then you want to be core, not periphery. Find yourself in a remote, sleepy town with one bus service (yes, the bus stop is over the bridge and down the hill opposite the fishing tackle shop, there’s no sign, you just have to know it’s there, oh but it’s doesn’t run today, sorry) and your piqued interest can very easily wane into hatred.
  • They’re for passing through. Take Doncaster. Doncaster is a small, unassuming South Yorkshire town that just so happens to be a major point of transit. There’s even a Wikipedia page for “Transport in Doncaster“. Most famously, it has a train station that all British trains seem to go through at some point. All of them. I’ll even bet the Hogwarts Express passes through Doncaster. And for many people, that station is Doncaster: a draughty place you linger while waiting to go somewhere else. Doncaster? What a dump.
  • They’re soulless, inauthentic-feeling, have had the character strip-commercialised out of them. “Disneyland”, Rachel suggested to me on Twitter when I asked for examples. Industrial-sized machines designed to process human beings into revenue – sorry, “make dreams come true“.

  • Civil rights problems, violence, lawlessness. Well okay then. No arguments. If your sources are  reliable, of course.
  • Really bad coffee. I’m a big believer in this one. Really, it’s just beans in a cup. Get it right, people.

So, what about you?

What was that last place you visited and took a powerful dislike to?

And is there anywhere you’ve never visited and never want to visit, for similar reasons?

Photos: comedynose and Mike Sowden.
With Twitter input from: Kat1124, mikebarish, meggroff, nerdseyeview and ZipSetRachel.
  • It’s so difficult to listen to other’s opinions on cities or countries as it’s often simply a matter of where they stayed or who they met. I do think it’s important that if you have a bad experience early on to try to stay open minded.

    Interestingly enough I was in Ecuador 2 months ago and it wasn’t anything special to me but I’ve returned and I see it in a new light – a much better one. But then again it’s a matter of where I’ve stayed and who I met the second time around.

    • Mikeachim

      Yep, agreed. Subjectivity is rife. Everything ‘bad’ is to be suspected. Also, everything ‘good’. Which places all these “10 Best etc etc.” lists on very, very shaky ground….

      When you say Ecuador wasn’t anything special, was it a negative reaction to it or just a non-reaction to it the first time? As if you’d somehow missed seeing it the first time?

      Got to say, with the amazing journey you’re having, you might be a very different person at the end. (Your 6 months state-of-the-Ayngelina post suggested as much). So it’s no wonder you’re seeing things differently when you go back…

      Anywhere so far on your travels you’ve actually loathed?

  • Holyhead, Wales. I was there in March and got off the train to get my connecting ferry to Dublin only to find it was canceled and the next ferry wouldn’t be along until 3AM. Not one to waste an opportunity I stopped in to the tourist office next door to find myself something to do for the rest of the day. The answer I received from the girl behind the counter, “This time of year there actually isn’t anything really to do, and the fog will be in in about an hour. There’s a cinema but I think it shuts early this time of year.” I spent my remaining time 10 hours in a freezing open air ferry port with a highly intoxicated and stoned cockney girl and Scottish man playing a game of wtf did they say.

    • Mikeachim

      That certainly qualifies as a Bad Experience. And it’s the other end of Anglesey and therefore not somewhere you’d usually go except to get to somewhere else (Dublin) – so, End Of The Line AND Passing Through. Nasty.

      But I’m intrigued now. I share Vicky’s attraction to places labelled by others as a bit grim.

      But that does indeed sound grim. My sympathies, Jessica.

      Dear Holyhead Tourist Board: please use my contact form to find my e-mail address for any threats of legal action. Thx.

    • oh Jessica, that’s some bad advice. The girl couldn’t have been a local :) ONly discovered Wales a few years ago, and the residents of the Isle of Anglesey adore their island. And it is lovely, even in the rain. 10 hours: you could have gone to nearby Beaumaris, at least – with the imposing UNESCO-listed Beaumaris Castle and an adorable little village.

  • Liv

    Don’t forget “stupid people.” Morons ruin places for me faster than no other. Please – no morons tonight!

    P.S. I didn’t like Las Vegas; didn’t see the appeal; Disneyland for grownups? I don’t like Disney land for kids. Cold, ugly, flashy, and the food was nowhere near as good as I’d been led to believe it would be. Fuck Las Vegas. Fuck it in its face.

    • Mikeachim

      Yep, that’s one that needs adding. Hell (or Hull) is Other People.

      The thing that puts me off Las Vegas is not only do people regularly get killed there, they turn it into a flashy light-hearted crime investigation TV show airing for 45 minutes on a weekly basis. I hear they’re doing the same kind of thing in Miami and New York. That’s just sick. These are people, people.

      So it was the artificiality of LV that turned you off it? The (apparent) inauthenticity of the place, the food, the people…? And if Las Vegas is at one end of a scale, what place would you put at the other?

      (Yes, Mike and his tricksy questions. Feel free to throw something).

  • Oh dear, Liv! I almost feel sorry for Vegas.
    Interesting topic, Mike.
    I must admit when someone else writes a place off as awful, it oddly often makes me want to go myself. This is particularly the case with cities. When a place is big enough, there is bound to be somewhere or someone offering the antidote you need to whatever it is you don’t like. For me, that’s a bit of a thrill. But granted, that’s a little odd and a lot of people don’t want to go digging beneath the surface on a short holiday.
    I hated Singapore when I arrived years ago. It took me ages to admit to myself that it was just the shock of the humidity combined with being absolutely covered in itchy mossie bites picked up the day before in another country (In Indonesia, which remains one of my favourite places – hardly fair, is it?) People weren’t that friendly to me in Singapore either, but in hindsight probably because I had a look of thunder on my face the whole time.
    This is my public apology to Singapore.
    Hindsight is an interesting thing for a travel writer. You need to have the ability to step back and put subjectivity to one side, but there’s also a danger of rose-tinting a place. If you think readers could experience the same thoughts/problems, it’s better to be honest. However, if you stub your toe and leave your passport in the hotel safe, take a deep breath before you put your fingers on the keyboard.

    • Mikeachim

      “I must admit when someone else writes a place off as awful, it oddly often makes me want to go myself.”

      You and me both. Geographical character-assassinations draw me like flames draw moths. There’s the challenge of finding the silver lining that someone else missed (which is what travel-writing is all about, arguably, that ‘road less travelled’ about a place), but also…the fluid fickleness of how we experience things. That’s always fascinating. How we fool ourselves into strong opinions.

      As a travel journalist, do you find a conflict between the need to be fair and balanced, and the need to convey the emotional experience of a place, the thrill of it, to an audience that wants you to? (The latter being on the side of what Gary Arndt described as “travel porn” at TBEX ’10).

      Because it seems to me (subjectively, opinionatedly)…that what’s really gathering eyeballs in online travel circles these days is heavy subjectivity. The rants, the wild enthusing, the madly happy and the bitterly snarky. Informed, but very much opinionated. You could argue writers like AA Gill set the trend off, so it’s not just an online phenomenon, but it seems to be to be popular trend. Subjectivity is hot.

      And that’s often how ‘bad’ places get labelled as such…?

  • Kim

    We just left Cairo and I took an instant disliking to it. It felt like I was being leered at and ripped off at every turn. I couldn’t have a decent conversation with a local without being lured into their shop. The sights were overrun with big tour buses. The amount of air pollution, garbage, and poverty saddened me.

    I agree with Vicky that I initially wanted to go to Cairo because I had heard how turned off others were about it. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. The place is still fresh in my mind, so my feelings are still unaltered. Maybe when I look back later, the city won’t seem quite as bad as I remembered.

    • Mikeachim

      Thanks for your thoughts, Kim.

      Did you have a strong expectation of what Cairo would be like when you arrived….one that Cairo failed to live up to?

  • Jimbo

    Recently promoted to the top of places I hate: Bristol Parkway.

    This is because First Great Western decided to dump the entire contents of an overcrowded inter-city train there at 23:30 (a train that was already a mere 2.5 hours late) and then tried to get them to their final destinations using three coaches. 700 people – 3 coaches. It was like the last chopper out of Saigon.

    Thus I hate Bristol Parkway. And First Great Western. Yes, First Great Western Trains are CR*P.

    Thanks for letting me rant Mike, I’m sure you can tell I wasn’t bitter when I got to my hotel in Cardiff at 01.40 having paid for a taxi from Bristol…

    • Mikeachim

      Ranting is one of your gifts. (Particularly remembering one obscenity-strewn example in Orkney. We all know the one).

      “Last chopper at Saigon” made me spit coffee, by the way. You owe me 10 minutes of writing-time in which I had to get it out the carpet with a damp cloth and some Vanish. I’ll bill you.

      Overcrowded trains and buses are truly ugly experiences. (Part of me wants to add “…for an English person”, but I’m sure it’s the same for everyone. But we’re obsessed with privacy in this country, and so very quickly get shirty when it’s breached). Certainly the worst mood I’ve been in was on a 3hr service from Coventry that was so packed I was standing the whole way, just inside the door, because I’d only managed to move a few feet into the train when I got on. Utterly awful.

      That FGW site is the work of a truly dedicated person. And it’s telling that their work hasn’t gone unnoticed:


      I have to listen to Jeremy Vine at work. Really, I do mean “have to”, I tried pouring molten lead into my ears but they wrestled me to the ground and said I was overreacting and if I did it again they’d withhold my yearly paycheck (14s 9d). So I get to listen to all those British people who ring in for a really good moan, often ending with the phrase “this country’s gone to the dogs”, and then they ring off and you realise that both they and Jeremy Vine have been speaking in generalisms so general they’re utterly useless. (This was when I got my lead crucible out and they had to kick it away).

      Ranting is fun. It’s creative, and it’s good for the balance of the bodily humours. I like ranting. But moaning? (“Ranting without wit, charm or the intention to make a serious point”). Not a great British trait, that one.

  • Cam

    Ah. At first I could not think or anything and then I saw someone mention Vegas. I was only there for two days and I loathe the place. I can’t see the appeal in it for anyone whose interests lie outside the realm of prostitutes, intoxication and gambling but I can’t honestly say that I gave it a fair chance.

    Here in Georgia I can’t say I have yet encountered a place that I truly loathe. I thought I hated Kobuleti but after being here for a couple more months I don’t think I do–I just had inflated expectations. I think that I would actually like it if I go back.

    • Mikeachim

      Vegas is getting a good bashing in this comment thread. :)

      Interesting to note that Las Vegas is on the verge of an almost 100% water shortage:

      Anyone charmed by LV for the same reasons other folk loathe it? Love your thoughts…

  • sharon Miro

    Orlando. Really. Land of the BIG Disney in the sky. Orlando, beacsue it has none of the charm of Las Vegas–and I don’t like Las Vegas because it is charmless.

    Orlando because every plane flying to it has BIG ears on the side and you are ususally going there to walk for three days in 4″pumps and smile at people you don’t really care about.

    Orlando because they have the audacity to tout their family friendly atmosphere with strip clubs right next to the local family friendly hotel. And speaking of that hotel, a famous chain, mind you, no clocks in the room, no housekeeping staff and the chairs were bolted to the floor.

    Orlando, definitley.

    Hmm..Budapest…but that’s for another time.

    • Mikeachim

      So what would make Orlando into a good place, in your opinion? What would you do to it, given a near-infinite budget?

      And…Budapest? ‘Fess up.

      • sharon Miro

        Take the theme parks out of the swamp and stop having conventions in a town that cannot be gotten to by any direct flight except from Tampa. In other words, nothing, I am afraid.

        Budapest? Well, we went in March. Cold, rainy and it seems still in a bad mood from being run by the Russians for too many years. Too much cement and too many non-verbals shrugs of indifference. We left early for Vienna. But I learned two things: Site seeing in the rain is only good in Venice, and I do not do well in a country where the culinary call to fame is flour and water boiled until its weight, and shelf life, is equal to plutonium.

        Will I go back? Maybe. I have always said that I do things twice-just to make sure that I don’t like them.

  • Anne

    I found this quite funny … Hull, Holyhead and Bristol … I cannot say anything about Hull, as never been there, and have no reason too, .. Holyhead not been there either , but they can be soooo rude to the English , I am sure the female would of been local as they most probably would not employ outside .. and as for Greatwestern railways … !! They do not give two hoots , they should wear Jobsworthy Caps .. they do not have a clue about customer service. The best people who have ever helped me , are the men (there were no women about) working on the Victoria line Tube Station …. .. amazing.

    • Mikeachim

      Victoria Station? How so?

  • Riyo

    Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    So many jokes that are just so deserving.

    • Mikeachim

      That’s dangerously inspecific of you. ;)

  • belly

    oooooooh, i remember that cafe. on the left by the big doors from the bus station.
    enough to put even the strongest off the place.
    those were the days pal. they made you the man you are today. (i think that’s good?)

    • Mikeachim

      The thought that that cafe is part of my personality makeup in some way is enough to raise goosebumps of horror. Thanks for that.

      Yes, a hideous place. Yet in a prime position, with a massive floor area. Full of potential. But yes. In fact, I often get it mixed up in my memory with Rick Deckard’s place of work in Blade Runner. If Ridley Scott popped in for a coffee in the early ’80s, much is explained.

      You’ve probably been back more recently than I. What’s there now?

      • belly

        it’s quite nice now, considering. completely redesigned. there is a coffee place, but it serves a reasonable latte. in fact i think there are 2! one of which is coffee republic or Costa or something.
        still kept the facade of course, but no more queueing outside for the buses, all indoors with sliding doors that only open to the outside when the bus is ready to take passengers. kinda swish really.
        called The Interchange.
        yeah baby!!!

  • I’m spending all this week in Thurrock, Essex, speaking at Primary Schools there.
    It’s been a long week. Let’s just leave it at that.

    • Mikeachim

      A sea of enthusiastic, hopeful faces, all brimming with goodwill and fun…

      Chilling thought. ;)

  • Does Detroit count? Or is it just a given that Detroit is going to suck?

    • Mikeachim

      Oh, Detroit is *faascinating*. I mean this non-ironically, despite this being rare for both me and for anyone praising Detroit. I wrote about it a while back at WebUrbanist:

      Michigan Central Station is a wonder. I’d love love LOVE to pootle around that building. (Given the state of it nowadays, I’d probably fall through 6 floors and end up in traction. Another one for the “Unfortunate travel” category, then).

      I want to see Detroit. Even though some of it will indeed suck.

  • Jim

    I guess that’s the joy of travelling,- you’re gonna strike it rough sometimes. Exploring off the beaten track places will sometimes land you in boring, ugly, soulless places. Makes the contrast with the great places and times just so much better. And part of the reason we travel is to extend and challenge our senses, both ways.
    Worst place in the world, most soulless, most Disneygrotesque, to be avoided at any cost has just got to be Dubai.

    • Mikeachim

      Thanks for popping by, Jim…

      So you’d agree there are definitely places that can be said to be ugly and soulless and boring in a general sense? Or even a universal sense?

      I was wondering when Dubai would enter the conversation. ;) The land of excess. Air-conditioned beaches, more bling than a clone army of Mr Ts, 57 swimming pools in one building…the list goes on. Disneyland for adults, you could say.

      And yet…one of the most commercialised and modernistic cities in the world, a test-bed for cutting-edge architecture, an economic wonder…in the Arabian Desert. An incredible act of human defiance.

      And yet…rumours of human rights abuses with construction labourers, sewage dumping in the desert, an environmental catastrophe in the making….

      And yet….


      Complicated place, Dubai. (Must go). And I’d love to hear a resident argue for it, since it’s such a widely vilified corner of the world…

  • Awwww you guys are killing me! I grew up in Orlando, and let me tell you. When I suddenly was forced against my will to move to Albuquerque as a teenager, where there’s nothing to do but hang out in the Subway parking lot, Grad Night at Disney World and weekends at Wet ‘n’ Wild seemed like a dream. For a vacation as an adult? I mean, come on. Why would you do that. Leave Orlando for the kids. No need to bash it. Vegas. I love Vegas; it’s been good to me. I’m a journalist, so I appreciate the odd characters and endless stories. It makes my life almost too easy! I have the best restaurants, shows, spas, shopping… And I don’t have to live in Manhattan anymore where my rent was twice as much for a studio apartment, it’s cold, and it’s rarely sunny. (That said, I love NYC. LOVE.) HOWEVER, before I moved to Vegas, I had never been here. When I go on vacation, I choose to head to the tropics or some other faraway land, not a nightclub. But for all the people in middle America who look forward all year to the one weekend in Vegas where they get to dress up and go to a nice dinner, show and maybe a nightclub… before nursing their hangovers in the most amazing spas. Well, cheers to them. They know how to have a good time.

    • Mikeachim

      Being British I’ve no idea what Wet ‘n’ Wild is, and I refuse to Google it in case it’s not something tawdry. (I prefer my illusions about the world to be of the outrageous kind).

      Agreed. Different audience, different response. Different needs.

      And I loved that you listed bad reasons to go to NYC before saying that you loved it. That’s it: sometimes the negative factors completely fail to offset the magic of a place. Sometimes they’re even part of it, in a slightly twisted masochistic sort of way. If our only criteria for a Good Place was comfort, everyone would agree that Dubai is the best place in the world, surely. But surely we’re not machines: you don’t feed a list of things about a place into us, and a few minutes later have us deliver a good or bad verdict. (eg. A single deeply personal factor can make everything else irrelevant). That’s not how we work. And we all work differently.

      Of course, you have to explain about Albuquerque now. Go on. Dare ya.

  • One of the main things that annoys me about some travelers is that they pass complete judgment on a place (good or bad) on just a little time there. Hell, I have lived in the US for over 40 years and barely feel like I have a handle on it. I love this post, because it hits on the basic humility of understanding why we think and say some places are good or bad…. it is just the collection of experiences you have in a place. There are usually great things to see in every country, but if you have a bad experience or two there, your tint of bad memory is likely to be much more pronounced than if you went somewhere at met a friend that you still keep in touch with.

    For me, the “bad” country was Ethiopia. I just had a series of bad experiences there. That being said, it is an amazing county. Pretty much everyone I know that has been there has loved it. There are wonderful sights. The food is interesting. Long history. And so on and so forth. I’d never try to discourage anyone from going there — but when I am asked about my least favorite places, I try to say it was there, but that it was just that I had a bad few weeks there. Go, enjoy…. and the coffee was damn good.

    • Mikeachim

      As luck would have it, I’m right this minute drinking Ethiopian Longberry coffee, ground from beans. And it is indeed damn good.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. Nicely put.

      Passing judgement is a risky business. And yet we’re kinda taught to do it. As travelers and as writers, we’re encouraged to simmer our experiences down until they’ve boiled down to something less complicated that will fit in one paragraph or short blog post. And if we say that it’s too complicated a place to pass judgement on, we get labelled wishywashy, fence-sitty liberals. ;)

      Passing judgement (non-ironically, I mean) is very fashionable. Which makes me despair a little. And you too, it sounds like.

  • I went to Bolivia and I hated it. I had a really bad experience there, not just one but many, both big and small. It added up and now that is my least favorite place I’ve visited. However, others have had great experiences there and loved it. That’s why I’d rather visit a place with an open mind rather than listen to what someone elses experience was there. You don’t know what their criteria was and how it relates to your own.

    • Mikeachim

      Were they experiences you think you might have again if you returned, or just a freak run of bad luck? Or can you see yourself returning and just avoiding having them happen again?

  • I’ve gpt nothing for you, Mike. O’ve found something in every place I’ce been so far. I loved Ecuador. Liked Bolivia. Didn’t like Vegas but was fascinated with watching the people. I never saw so many victims in my life.

    • Mikeachim

      Victims, eh? Back to the CSI people and their improbable numbers of electronic devices that emit blue light?

      Oh, the other kind of victim. Right.

      I beg to differ, though – as in other comments you’ve mentioned a disliking for London because of its pigeons and their statue-painting habits…? (If my memory is correct here?)

  • I agree with Ayngelina. I think it has a lot to do with what each person experienced while they were there. I try not to have a negative attitude about Australia, even though I got a unwarranted speeding ticket while I was there. I think it’s easy for us to think negatively about a place if we had a bad experience there. That being said, I do still like Australia, I just don’t plan to go back very soon. :)

    • Mikeachim

      Big place, Australia. ;) Where did you get booked?

      And what did you like about Australia?

  • I used to hate Brooklyn, but I’d never even actually been there. Just never heard anything good about it. Then, I let myself be open to getting to know it and now I love it. NYC in general of course, but specifically I’ve found Brooklyn has a lot to love.

    I strongly dislike 90% of the state of Ohio here in the USA. But, that’s because most of the worst things to happen to me during my lifetime happened there: including my husband (now ex) cheating on me and asking me for a divorce. It’s all perspective. As you pointed out.

    • Mikeachim

      Ack. Experiences don’t get a lot badder than that…

      What enamoured you to Brooklyn – and how did it conflict with what people had been telling you beforehand?

  • OMG, I’m laughing so hard, I would totally label a place bad if it had bad coffee hahahaha. I didn’t think anyone else in the world would! :)

    Usually I try to find something positive about every place I’ve visited. I really haven’t disliked a place yet!!!

    • Mikeachim

      I’ve just Googled “places in the world that don’t have coffee” and I’m drawing a blank.

      It’s a planet designed for you, Andi. Go nuts. ;)

  • Orlando for sure. I’ve lived in Florida for eleven years and I can’t even tell you the amounts of bad service, crappy food, and the thousands of idiotic drivers on their cell phones that almost killed me while driving. That’s why I’m leaving to go back up north in the next 2 years.

    • Mikeachim

      *wince* So…don’t hold back, now. Say what you really think of the place. ;)

      So where are you escaping to? Where’s the anti-Orlando, anti-Florida for you?

  • I hear you about the bad coffee, and can’t help but judge an entire place from a single cafe experience. So far I’ve had cruddy coffee in Paris, Sicily, Istanbul, Mexico City… Hasn’t turned me off those places overall, but definitely didn’t help!

    I’ve been at Bristol Parkway, there are so many reasons not to like that station!

  • Mikeachim

    And they are…? ;)

  • I have never been to Hull. I have always been curious about it, after one of the Deputy Managers at a mine I worked at, had a breakdown and was apparently found at the dock looking for fishplates. I think he wanted them for the underground rail track. After reading this article I am even more attracted to the idea.

    The inclusion of Doncaster brought back memories of an interview for NCB Doncaster Region. I remember that railway station. It was cold when I was there too. Perhaps the Hogwarts Express does go through there and a couple of Dementors that were following the train felt at home and stayed not just at the station but in the town as well. I did not get the position and even though I was still unemployed as a result but was glad in a perverse sort of way.

    Bristol Parkway and Holyhead are two places that I did not enjoy waiting at. I don’t think it is possible to go to Holyhead ferry port without finding at least one drunk person. It does not help that every shop, and café closes at a ridiculously early hour, leaving you to fight the boredom and cold. Not too far away there are the delights of Holyhead mountain, ancient hut circles, standing stones, Roman signal tower remains and South Stack lighthouse with its RSPB Bird Reserve. I’m sure there are equally interesting places near to Bristol Parkway. It’s not too far from Bristol in any case.

    I think that there is no such thing as a bad place, but obviously there are bad experiences. It is all down to how we feel. In most of the scenarios you and other comments, have painted, the feelings of things not going as planned come over strongly. Also, the feeling of being forced to be at a place you wouldn’t choose to be at. This even extends to Las Vegas and Disneyland if you can see that they exist as a means to part you from money you have worked hard for. Even ugly is subjective. Wind farms are heavily criticised, but they lift my heart, yet I don’t enjoy view of HT electricity lines strung out on pylons. There is even one through the Royal View near Loch Lomond in Scotland. But I am a little weird as I enjoy Industrial Heritage as well as mountains, lakes, rivers and the sea. Our memories are tagged with locations, bad coffees, awful food and music. What music was playing in Hull as you sipped your drink: Cliff Richard, Motorhead, Terry Wogan?

    Why do places get labelled as bad by people who have never visited them? I suspect all that is being said is that the person in question does not want to go there. The place in question does not fit in with their ideal, whether it be Las Vegas, Blackpool, Disneyland, Hull, Holyhead or Doncaster. I spend a lot of time in a city described as boring by many people who have not visited. What does that say about them?

  • To tell you the truth, I can’t say that I have travelled to a place that I would say is “bad”. My wife has differing opinions though, and likes to tell me that my opinion is wrong. It is all relative.

    The one place I would classify as “bad” would be the city I lived and worked in, and felt like I wasted numerous years of my life until I woke up. It most def fell under the “soulless” category, and I sort of dread every time I have to go back thru.

    I agree with you as well that coffee is a must, but I couldn’t classify a place as bad because of it. In Bolivia for a month I struggled with instant coffee until finally someone steered me to a cafe with an espresso machine.

    Thanks for the post, it makes you think how we label places as “bad”. Cheers!

  • Couldn´t be paid to go to Juarez, Mexico at the moment with over 50 murders in three days. Drug Wars are bad for most businesses. I also don´t understand the recent urge for some travelers to wan to visit the site of the Chernobyl incident. I understand cool photo ops, but the of-chance I´d turn into radioactive man without the bonus of gaining any super powers is a real turn off.

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  • Hull? yes, Doncaster? yes, but otherwise it is subjective…

    Many years ago I arrived into KL by train and very early in the morning. Totally washed out and tired the only place we could find open was a small cafe down a side alley, which thronged with local Chinese factory workers. The food looked quite tasty and they had tea (Chinese) which I could just about face. Having tried to explain that we would like some of this tea – plain and simple – it came in a mug (which should have been a warning), and to suit or perceived western tastes had been made entirely with condensed milk… I nearly hurled…
    I held this against KL for quite a number of years, it is of course entirely different now.

  • Really interesting read. As someone who has travelled a lot in the past but has just resigned from my job to REALLY go travelling, I am like a sponge with information about where to go and what to see. But you’re right, asking others might not be a great idea because, like you point out, it’s all relative, it depends on the type of person, where they’ve been and how they view the world. I might avoid Budapest because my heart was broken by a Hungarian or avoid Hull because of a recent story I read… Would I tell people not to bother with those places? Well, Hull maybe….
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Well, I’m a bit late too the party, but still.

    Toyota, Japan. That’s my no go. I visited there to see the famous Toyota car factory only to be told that there are no tours that day (in a very unkind way, which is even worse when you’ve been in Japan for a while). And on top of that it took us three hours to leave that damned city as the navi kept pointing us in circles. I hate it, there you have it. Sorry if you live there, but then you probably share my opinion anyway.

  • Lily Lau

    You’re totally right, those are usually the things all the countries they don’t recommend us in any guide have in common! But I guess we need these places in compensation for having these other ones! :) I won’t say a word, the photos will speak for me: