I’m not a fan of TripAdvisor for the most part. They have some worthwhile information and deals for travelers, but the crowd-sourced reviews are awful.
I was reminded of my dislike for the travel site after reading The New York Times opinion piece “Don’t Let TripAdvisor Kill Adventure.” The argument Seth Kugel makes is that the site and others like it take away from the fun of discovery while traveling.
While I enjoy stumbling upon great restaurants and attractions, there is still a need for planning. Sometimes there are restaurants and bars that I absolutely must try, and I plan part of my trip around that.
My main problem with TripAdvisor is also a Google problem. If I search for things to do in whatever destination, TripAdvisor user reviews are at the top of the search results. If I wanted to look at those user reviews, I’d go directly to TripAdvisor. The point is, I don’t want those reviews. I’d prefer to find information from local sources.
Case in point: while living in Taipei, I wanted to find new restaurants to try. I may maintain a long list of restaurants on my other site, but I still didn’t know most of the restaurants in the city. That’s when I searched for “best restaurants in Taipei.” I only listed a few of the great restaurants in my Taipei travel guide.
I took a look at TripAdvisor at the time to see what was rated well in the city I called home. The top 10 restaurants were Indian restaurants owned by the same people and different locations of Din Tai Fung. There may have been a couple other restaurants mixed in, but the point is that these ratings were garbage. How are half of the best restaurants in Taipei Indian cuisine? I like Indian food, but I know those restaurants aren’t the best in the city.
The most recent rankings for Taipei have the Indian restaurant ranked twice in the top 10 and Din Tai Fung didn’t make the list. There are also two hotel bars and two Taiwanese restaurants (three if you include a hot pot restaurant that isn’t specifically Taiwanese, Chinese, or Japanese).
I also checked the site a couple times for restaurants and destinations in other parts of Taiwan. I wasn’t impressed with the results. And when looking at Venice, Il Paradiso Perduto is nowhere to be found despite it being a popular restaurant with Italians.
Every time I see TripAdvisor as a recommendation for finding restaurants and activities, I think of how messed up the site is. Last year, a South London man managed to trick the site into listing his backyard shed as the top restaurant in the area.
The flaw that was manipulated is that TripAdvisor allows anyone to rate and review a restaurant, hotel, or attraction without verifying that the person has been there. Some companies will even pay for fake reviews. All this does is inflate the reputation of a place. And then you end up with a load of garbage rankings.
I’ve found that the best advice I get for restaurants or sights in a new destination is from the Twitter travel community. I can usually find a connection that has been to a city to recommend the best places to go.
Message boards and travel guides even do a better job than TripAdvisor. There are so many better ways to plan a trip than with that site that is so easily manipulated.