Before your next visit to a major tourist attraction, brace yourself -- for better or for worse -- by learning what you're really in for.
The Great Wall of China is STEEP.
One trekker recalls ascending 4,000 stairs just to get to the lowest possible entry point for a walk along the Wall. Sure there’s a gondola, but that’s beside the point -- we would just wish someone had told us what a monster the thing was before we decided to hike it.
There's a Pizza Hut at the Pyramids.
...and it's right on top of a KFC, which means the views of Giza are priceless. Watch out for the camel handlers outside, though: they've been known to pitch a modest price for a ride, then make you pay exorbitant amounts to get down from the camel.
The "Mona Lisa" plays hard to get.
A line divider keeps visitors far from the painting itself. Stuck behind hordes of camera-wielding tourists, you'll be even farther.
You can touch stuff at Pompeii.
If the "Mona Lisa" is so off-limits, you'd think ancient ruins would be encased in a massive glass box. Yet you can touch, stand and sit on many of Pompeii's remnants.
Dead Sea salt will fry your eyeballs.
"Fry" might not be the correct medical term, but it will indeed burn like crazy. The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, so you should avoid shaving your legs a few days before your dip and make sure you don't dunk your face -- it'll hurt. And "if you swallow seawater, request help from the lifeguard."
Iguazu Falls can be... brown?
When imagining "one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world," cascades of turquoise blue likely come to mind. But be warned: the water is closer to the tone of rich Brazilian coffee in some spots due to deforestation and during times of heavy rainfall.
There's a quicker way up the Eiffel Tower.
Ascending the Parisian jewel is no easy experience: it's not unusual to wait hours for an elevator. Sneaky shortcuts include buying tickets online to pre-book an arrival slot or climbing the stairs to the second level instead of taking a lift from the bottom like most tourists.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa isn't "leaning" as much anymore.
"Straightening out" is the more appropriate verb -- the tower recovered almost an inch of its vertical incline between 2001 and 2013. Visitors also complain that there's not much to do in Pisa itself (though some would disagree). Most guided tours drive you in, let you snap some photos, and bus you right back out.
Lady Liberty is exclusive.
You must reserve a spot ahead of time to enter the Statue of Liberty's headpiece. There's a maximum of four crown reservations allowed per order and only one reservation per person during any six-month period.
The Gardens of Versailles are better than the Palace.
This isn't the dinky plot of flowers behind most castles -- the gardens and park spill over almost 2,000 acres of fairytale-ish fountains, grottoes and pathways. Don't skip them!
You can't just "go see 'The Last Supper.'"
Da Vinci's famous painting is in the refectory (aka dining hall) of the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in Milan, but don't you dare think it's possible to just saunter in. You'll need to reserve a visitation time up to two months in advance, and you can only stay inside the refectory for 15 minutes. If tickets are sold out, risk it by going standby, or consider joining a guided tour that includes the painting as a stop.
Old Faithful isn't very faithful.
You could wait around for almost two hours before that big guy erupts.
Photos are forbidden in the Sistine Chapel.
Even sneaking a shot is near impossible.
The Grand Canyon doesn't take drop-ins.
It's a stunning sight from the rim. But if you're craving more, don't count on a casual jaunt to the Canyon floor. The National Park Service warns there are no easy trails into or out of the Canyon: "the difference between a great hike or a trip to the hospital is up to you." Day hikes exist, but can be long and might include unpaved trails, icy conditions or a total absence of water stops. Don't forget that coming up takes twice as long as hiking down.
Solo shots at the Trevi Fountain are RARE.
Photos come easy for Lizzie McGuire, but you'll have to fight for yours. Do you SEE those crowds?!