How to navigate countries ‘off the tourist path’

Mostar old bridge bosnia

One of the joys of travelling is the excitement that comes with exploring new places and seeing different things. We particularly enjoyed stepping away from some of the more popular and well known destinations, revelling in the feeling of discovery when we visited these ‘off the tourist path’ locations. We believe everyone travelling should at least consider some of the alternative travel destinations, with some of these turning out to be real hidden gems and trip highlights.

Some of our favourite ‘off the tourist path’ destinations included:

  • Lake Ohrid (North Macedonia)
  • Transylvania (Romania)
  • Kas (Turkey)
  • Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
  • Gjirokaster (Albania)
  • Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • Himare – Albanian Riviera (Albania)

Travelling to these lesser known destinations can often come with a sense of unknown. You may not have heard much about these locations (maybe you read a blog like ours once). It is fairly likely some people around you will questions why you are visiting, and worry about the safety of these destinations. It’s not unusual to have a little bit of anxiety mixed in with the excitement of visiting. This is all normal, and something that we experienced multiple times during our travels. We have put together a few recommendations below to help you mitigate these fears, reduce your anxiety, improve the safety and mitigate against the potential ‘chaos’ that some of these destinations involve.

*Please note: we don’t profess to have travelled to really obscure and unsafe destinations like some travel bloggers. These are general recommendations, and we acknowledge others will have more experience in these matters.

Recommendations to help you navigate ‘off the tourist path’ travel destinations:

  • Research before you arrive: Spend some time working out what to expect when you get to this destination. This make include looking up travel blogs, government safety websites, YouTube videos and more. We generally like to find out some information on safety, transport options (e.g. bus vs train vs private transfer vs taxi) and of course the the best coffee!
  • Stay in a hotel: When stepping away from conventional tourist routes, staying in a hotel brings a number of comforts and conveniences that we recommend. Firstly, hotels generally have 24 hour check in, making it a lot easier if you arrive late. Additionally, if you are catching a taxi, it can be a lot easier to give a hotel name rather than trying to explain an AirBnB street in a foreign language. Hotels can also store luggage for you after check out, and arrange tours and transfers for you. We also like trying to find hotels with gyms included. For these reasons we chose to stay in hotels when visiting countries likes Bulgaria, Romania and North Macedonia.
  • Expect delays: When visiting countries that are less popular, don’t expect things to always run smoothly. Particularly, transport options like busses and trains will likely be delayed. There will likely be minimal explanations as to why things are delayed, thus understanding that this will potentially happen in advance can help you adjust to these situations.

  • Have your guard up: The locals in many of the less touristic countries and destinations are often very friendly. However, we have read about regular tourist scams in some of these countries, and advise you to have your guard up. Countries like Morocco the locals may attempt to befriend you and then expect payment from you for a small amount of help (e.g. giving a direction etc). You may also have people attempt to lead you astray of your destination and into their shops. ‘Kickbacks’ are very common in a lot of these countries, especially on tours, so be aware of this. Some countries will have imposters posing as police officers to try and see your passport, then bribe you for money. Additionally, taxi ‘scams’ and pickpocketing are very common. This isn’t to scare you from visiting some of these wonderful destinations, but more to help you be aware of some things that can occur, especially if you don’t have your guard up. We were well prepared for these kinds of encounters, and thankfully haven’t had any big issues as yet.
  • Read your local government website (and google the safety): Safety is important when travelling to an unknown country. We would regularly check the Australian Smart Traveller website ( along with a Google search about the safety in each location.
  • Arrive during the day if you can: This is something we didn’t do, and would change in future if possible. When flying into Bulgaria and Romania at night, it added a little extra element of uncertainty, especially when trying to find our hotels and get dinner in a foreign city. Bucharest and Sofia were both much edgier at night, and felt completely different during the day. Arriving during the day allows you to get a feel of the place and is likely a lot safer to explore initially.
  • Google translate is your friend: many of locals in these ‘off the radar’ locations don’t speak English. This can lead to a variety of issues, but even things like simply ordering at a restaurant, or talking to your accommodation host, can be come challenging. Google translate is your friend!
What recommendations do you have to others looking to visit countries ‘off the tourist path’? Comment below!

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