20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia

This article looks at the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis of Over-Tourism, you may go ahead to 5 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

Tourism was one of the most impacted industries by COVID-19. Lock downs and travel restrictions brought the industry to a grinding halt for much of 2020. According to UNWTO, global tourist arrivals fell from 1.5 billion in 2019 to just 381 million in 2020, a staggering 74% decrease. This shift led to massive losses for companies operating in the hospitality and travel sectors, resulting in losses, layoffs, and shutdowns in unprecedented numbers. According to ECBM, at the peak of the pandemic, the hospitality industry reduced its workforce by over 18%, equating to a loss of 62 million jobs around the world.

Despite this, the tourism industry managed to wither the storm and began to show signs of gradual recovery in 2021. Since then, the resurgence of tourism has picked up momentum, aided by the fact that the WHO has declared COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency as of May 2023. In 2023, global tourist arrivals recovered to approximately 88% of pre-pandemic arrivals. Moreover, revenue generated by the industry reached approximately $1.4 trillion, 93% of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

Based on these trends, it is anticipated that 2024 will be the year in which global tourism surpasses pre-pandemic figures, in terms of both tourist arrivals and revenue, therefore asserting that the industry has well and truly recouped from the aftermath of the pandemic. However, the revival of global tourism might prove to be a double-edged sword as it brings forth the threat of over-tourism.

Over Tourism

The resurgence of global tourism brings with it several new, and old, challenges. One such challenge is the issue of over-tourism. Over-tourism is essentially the idea of a greater than optimal number of tourists visiting any given area. If left unchecked, excessive tourists can have economic, social, and environmental repercussions that impact the longevity and sustainability of any destination.

In recent years, the use of travel platforms such as Booking.com (a project of Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG)) and Airbnb Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB) have made it incredibly convenient for tourists to customize their vacation itineraries. Using these platforms, tourists are able to obtain cheaper accommodations, knowledge regarding the best rated excursions, and all-inclusive packages. However, such convenience has resulted in an inflow of tourists into popular hot-spots without accounting for the fact that many of these destinations do not have the infrastructure to accommodate a high volume of tourists. Consequently, many such destinations are being rated as the most overrated travel destinations in the world.

One of the most evident cases of over-tourism is Hawaii. In 2023, the islands welcomed 9.5 million visitors who brought along $16 billion in tourism revenue to the islands. However, the insane demand for tourism has caused a sharp rise in housing costs over the last decade, consequently making it impossible for the native population to afford homes.

Apart from social distress, New York Times suggested that Hawaii’s housing crisis might have far wider environmental implications. Referring to the 2023 wildfires which claimed the lives of 96 individuals, the article suggested that the ongoing housing crisis has increased the homeless population on the islands, many of whom cook outside, which in turn increases the risk of wildfire ignitions. In response, the governor of Hawaii recently proposed a $25 tax on all tourists, with the proceeds being used to ensure the islands’ sustainability.

Similarly, Airbnb Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB) has faced fierce criticism and reprimand for fueling over-tourism. Many European countries have introduced strict regulations on rental accommodations. From July of 2024, Vienna has placed a citywide restriction on house rentals meaning that owners can only rent out units to tourists for 90 days per year. Berlin, on the other hand, introduced a complete ban on Airbnb Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB) and similar platforms in 2016, however, this was later relaxed in 2018. Instead, owners must now obtain permits in order to rent out their accommodation.

As more and more governments introduce regulations on travel and tourism, platforms like Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG) and Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) are looking to adapt accordingly. In 2019, Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) launched the UNESCO sustainable travel pledge with the objective of providing travelers with visibility into travel companies committed to sustainability. Both Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) and Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG) joined the Travalyst coalition in 2019 which aims to promote solutions that will make travel more sustainable.

Over Tourism and Asia

In comparison to the rest of the world, tourism in the Asia-Pacific region has not been able to revive at the same pace as the rest of the world. In Asia-Pacific, tourist arrivals in 2023 were only 65% of pre-pandemic levels. Despite this, countries are showing concerns for the sustainability of tourism in their regions.

According to Bloomberg, tourist arrivals in Japan recovered to 25 million in 2023, approximately 79% of arrivals witnessed in 2019. Despite this, the tourism ministry recently revealed plans to counter over tourism which includes mechanisms to draw tourists towards lesser-known destinations. In addition, Euronews reported in November that the city of Hatsukaichi has implemented a tourist tax on visitors to the Itsukushima Shrine.

In Indonesia, the alarm bells already seem to be ringing as the country looks to avoid the pitfalls of over-tourism. Bali alone saw the arrival of 5.3 million foreign tourists in 2023 and was criticized as being one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. This accounted for nearly 46% of Indonesia’s 11.7 million foreign tourists in 2023. According to the Bali Sun, Indonesia Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies announced that the country would be taking stern measures to develop quality and sustainable tourism in Bali.

Apart from over-tourism, many tourist destinations in Asia tend to provide a disappointing tourist experience on account of pollution and safety concerns. In other cases, tourists fall victim to scams by locals. Even though such scams tend to impact only a minor proportion of tourists, they yield massive negative publicity which impacts on the reputation of any destination. Recently, in Tokyo, tourists who had booked a luxury accommodation using Booking.com found out they had been scammed on arrival as the hotel they were supposed to check into never existed.

If you plan on visiting Asia, you might be interested in finding out which popular destinations are likely to provide a disappointing experience. Join us as we look at the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Alternatively, if you’re interested in finding out about Asia’s unexplored gems, check out our list of 20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia. You might also find our list of 20 Cheapest Asian Countries That You Can Travel To Affordably to be insightful in this quest.

20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia

20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia


To develop our list of 20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia, we began by combing through similar lists on the web. We compiled over 15 notable sources such as The Travel, Times of India, and Business Insider, to develop a preliminary list of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Using these lists, we also developed a scorecard with 2 metrics.

The first metric was the frequency of destinations in our sources. The second metric was a ranking factor based on the average position of the destinations in their lists. This was calculated by first dividing the position of a destination in each list by the total number of destinations in the list. For lists that did not rank destinations, an average score of 0.5 was used. Our ranking factor was calculated as the average of these scores (across all sources) for a particular destination. By accumulating the frequency and ranking factors, we calculated our Insider Monkey scores. Once sorted in descending order, the first 20 destinations were selected as the 20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

Here are 20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

20. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Insider Monkey Score: 2.23

There are several reasons why Kuala Lumpur is considered to be one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. The capital city of Malaysia was once renowned for its unique culture and heritage, however, due to urbanization and development, much of the city’s traditional sites have been replaced by contemporary attractions. Thus, it has become incredibly unlikely to obtain an authentic cultural experience in the city. Moreover, the feature attraction of Petronas Twin Towers, albeit beautiful, has become a hassle to visit. Since tickets are limited, many tourists are unable to visit the towers and even the ones who do have to deal with the fact that this viewing experience is quite expensive.

19. Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Insider Monkey Score: 2.48

The coastal city of Sihanoukville features Cambodia’s premier beach attractions. Many of the tourists who visit Cambodia for its incredible historical landmarks often save a day or two to visit Sihanoukville for beach side activities. However, the city tends to be extremely congested due to a mixture of excessive tourists and continuous road closures due to construction activities. Moreover, it has become increasingly notorious for littered beaches and unhygienic accommodations. The city is also considered to be unsafe for tourists due to a high crime rate.

18. Da Nang, Vietnam

Insider Monkey Score: 2.57

The coastal city of Da Nang is famous for its beaches, historical landmarks, and cultural excursions. Since the city has everything that tourists seek in a perfect vacation, it has become an increasingly popular travel destination with approximately 7.4 million visitors in 2023, per VietnamPlus. However, this surge of tourists has made the city’s popular attractions, such as the Golden Bridge, extremely crowded. In lieu of sustainable tourism practices, rapid commercialization in the city and its coasts poses a threat to the natural beauty of Da Nang and makes vacationing in the city an extremely overrated experience.

17. Manila, Philippines

Insider Monkey Score: 3.29

Manila sees much fewer tourists in comparison to other capital cities in the region such as Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta. Despite this, Manila’s infrastructure already seems incapable of managing current tourist volumes. The city is polluted to the point that tourists with any form of respiratory condition should reconsider their visit. There are also safety concerns which mean that several localities in the city are considered unsafe to tour. Overall, while the city does house many notable landmarks, it is one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia.

16. Hong Kong, China

Insider Monkey Score: 3.33

Hong Kong is one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia due to the fact that it is one of the most densely populated areas in the entire continent. According to the government of Hong Kong’s website, it had a population density of 6,740 people per square kilometer, as of mid-2022. Therefore, any trip to Hong Kong tends to be ruined by traffic and over-crowdedness. Moreover, the destination is extremely expensive, even when compared to metropolitans in Europe and the rest of Asia. Even without considering excursions, the cost of food, transport, and accommodation is enough to price out most budget-conscious travelers.

15. Kyoto, Japan

Insider Monkey Score: 3.41

In comparison to other destinations on the list, Kyoto is a city where residents have more of an issue with over tourism than tourists. Kyoto is set to reach pre-pandemic levels in terms of tourist arrivals, and the city has introduced several regulations to deal with the threat of excessive tourists. According to the NZ Herald, the city has restricted tourists from visiting several private streets in the city. Moreover, the city’s new mayor has vowed to introduce a 2-tier transport system under which tourists would be charged higher fees. Although the city claims these measures are being used to make tourism sustainable, the reality is that tourists continue to rush into the city, with the only change being that their experience is now more expensive than it used to be.

14. Fiji

Insider Monkey Score: 3.47

Fiji is famous for its pristine beaches and mesmerizing corals. However, the destination is incredibly expensive in terms of accommodation. Resorts and hotels in prominent locations such as Denarau Island tend to be quite costly, and downgrading to more economical alternatives forces you to significantly compromise on amenities. Moreover, a vacation in Fiji can prove extremely unsatisfying depending on the weather. The wet season can often prolong into the early weeks of summer, meaning that the vacation is often disrupted by intermittent or heavy rainfall. Many of the beaches are located in a cyclone-prone region which can cause serious inconvenience.

13. Shanghai, China

Insider Monkey Score: 4.62

If you plan on visiting China for a vacation, there are a myriad of locations to choose from. In comparison to other cities in the country, Shanghai is one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Despite sufficient infrastructure, the city is as expensive as it is vast. According to USGS, the city’s population crossed 24 million in 2023. Owing to rapid urbanization, getting cheap accommodation in the city is extremely difficult, and vacation costs are further aggravated by the sheer distance you are required to cover in order to enjoy the city’s best attractions.

12. Jakarta, Indonesia

Insider Monkey Score: 4.65

Indonesia features some of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, however, its capital city of Jakarta is one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Whilst it may be the economic backbone of Indonesia, the city does not offer enough attractions and infrastructure to adequately cater to its large population. According to StraitsTimes, in a survey of 390 global cities in 2022, Jakarta was the 29th most congested city in the list. Further, it was also the 9th most congested city in Asia. In comparison, many of Indonesia’s islands offer a much better itinerary and value for your buck.

11. Penang Island, Malaysia

Insider Monkey Score: 5.47

Penang Island in Malaysia is home to several tourist attractions such as the heritage sites of George Town and the picturesque Penang Hill. The area is famous for its vibrant and diverse blend of cultures along with its culinary delights. However, it has now transformed into an expensive and overrun hot spot, making it one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. The Penang region is one of the most densely populated areas in Malaysia, and a scarcity of land suitable for construction has resulted in a steep increase in rents. Last year, Penang Hill was named Asia’s worst tourist trap by USA Today.

10. Boracay Island, Philippines

Insider Monkey Score: 5.69

In the last decade, Boracay Island has faced massive interventions in the hope of sustainable tourism. In 2018, the government of the Philippines shut the island down for nearly 6 months, attempting to enforce regulations to ensure the destination did not end up becoming a cesspool. Ever since there has been a struggle to find a balance between sustainable tourism and maintaining revenue. Lately, many of the policies introduced by the government have been relaxed due to protests by the local community, whose livelihood is compromised by any reduction in tourists. As a result, the government has increased caps on the number of tourists permitted to the island, despite the fact that pollution from illegally pumped sewage and littered beaches continues to spoil the tourist experience.

9. Pattaya, Thailand

Insider Monkey Score: 6.24

Pattaya is the party capital of Thailand and is known for its vibrant (and often ominous) nightlife. Apart from sex tourism, there are several islands off the coast of Pattaya which offer outdoor excursions and watersports. Pattaya is regarded as being Asia’s sin city, however, in all other respects, it is one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Pattaya’s beaches are overrun with garbage and unfit for swimming. Its famous Walking Street is notorious for the exploitation of escorts which tends to be off-putting for many tourists, and if that is the case you won’t find anything else to do on your vacation in this city.

8. Hanoi, Vietnam

Insider Monkey Score: 6.36

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and is considered to be a pleasant vacation destination. However, if you’re looking to go to the city in hopes of touring its traditional attractions, you might find it to be one of the most overrated travel destinations in Asia. Although the city has a variety of tourist attractions, one of its most prominent destinations is the Old Quarter. Owing to its popularity, this area of the city is consistently overcrowded and chaotic, leading to an underwhelming experience. Another factor is that Vietnam is home to many other tourist destinations that tend to offer a better vacation experience than Hanoi. If you’re interested in exploring these, check out our list of 20 Most Underrated Travel Destinations in Asia.

7. Maldives

Insider Monkey Score: 6.43

It would be wrong to classify Maldives as an overcrowded or disappointing holiday retreat. It is home to some of the most extravagant hotels and some of the most pristine beaches on the planet. However, the islands of Maldives are insanely focused on luxury tourism, meaning that unless you have the financial resources to afford its expensive resorts and excursions, there isn’t much you can get out of your vacation other than sunbathing. In comparison, there are many beach destinations in Asia that offer budget-friendly vacations with comparable itineraries. Another issue with Maldives is that because of commercialization throughout the archipelago, it is impossible to get an authentic experience in which you can immerse yourself within the local community.

6. Tokyo, Japan

Insider Monkey Score: 6.51

Although Tokyo has a clean and vibrant vibe, with an extremely welcoming community and beautiful city scape, a vacation to the city has several underlying problems. Firstly, due to overcrowdedness, the entire city seems to feel claustrophobic. This includes the city’s public transport as well as its attractions. Moreover, attractions such as Disneyland have turned into a hot-spot for over-tourism, meaning that each ride has a waiting time of an hour, no matter which season you visit. Further, owing to rapid development and urbanization, the city has lost touch with its cultural heritage, meaning that you are unlikely to get an authentic cultural experience.

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Disclosure: none. 20 Most Overrated Travel Destinations in Asia is originally published on Insider Monkey.

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