Dark Tourism

Venturing into a darker form of tourism, hence the name, dark tourism. It looks at things like war and memorial tourism, but also natural disaster and slum tourism, which has caused some controversy in recent years. It also looks at drug tourism, where tourists travel to places like Amsterdam where certain drugs, which are illegal in their home country, are legal.

Drug Tourism

Drug Tourism

Drug tourism, at its most basic level, is travel with the intent of buying or using drugs for recreational purposes that are illegal or unavailable in one’s home country or state. It generally involves going to a different state or country in order to buy drugs such as marijuana, which may be illegal, or items like tobacco or alcohol, where the legal age may be lower. Drug tourism is relatively safe, and doesn’t receive the criticism that other types of dark tourism receive, but problems can arise, especially if travellers attempt to smuggle drugs back into their own country.

Pros and Cons

Drug tourism raises obvious safety and health issues.

Anytime you engage in drug use there is a risk to your health, even if it is in a controlled and relatively safe environment. Some places, like Amsterdam, have excellent police and the drug use is safe and relatively mild. Travelling to other places, however, for the purpose of doing drugs may involve higher risk. Some people may be tempted to smuggle drugs back to their home countries, which brings about serious legal repercussions if they are caught. Smuggling drugs is a violation of numerous international laws, and punishable by long term imprisonment in most countries. Still, for those looking to engage in drug use legally, drug tourism is a very popular option.

Popular Destinations

drugs3 The most popular destination in the world for drug tourism is Amsterdam. The liberal attitude of the Dutch toward cannabis possession and use makes it a hot spot for tourists wishing to smoke. Recently, the Dutch government announced that it would ban tourists and non-Dutch citizens from entering Dutch coffee shops (where marijuana is sold), but as of 2014 this law has not been enforced. While weed and “space cakes” are the most popular drugs, Amsterdam is also known for its stimulants, which offer similar effects to opium and MDMA. For Americans, popular destinations include Mexico and Canada, because the drinking age is much lower than it is in the United States. Thus, 19 year olds can go to Canada for the weekend and go out to bars and clubs, something they would be unable to do in America.

The Road Less Travelled

Perhaps surprisingly to some people, South Australia has a very liberal approach to marijuana, and attracts a lot of interstate drug tourism, especially from New South Wales and Victoria. Other destinations include Malana in India, where Indian hashish is produced and Amazonian villages in South America where a liquid called ayahuasca is made. drugs4 It is a mixture of psychedelic plants and provides a unique out of body experience. Recently, with the states of Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana, interstate road trips to each state are becoming more and more popular for Americans young adults.

Costs and Savings

Using Amsterdam as a model, the price of hash or weed in a coffee shop ranges from $10 to $70, depending on the amount or quality. It is strongly suggested that you only buy weed at a coffee shop and never on the street. Of course, the real cost is the trip to Amsterdam. Tickets from the United States cost over $1000, and you will need to factor in accommodation and general living costs as well.

Slum Tourism

Slum Tourism

Slum tourism is an increasingly popular type of tourism that involves touring impoverished areas. It was made popular in the 19th century when wealthy upper class citizens would visit the slums in London and Manhattan, and in recent years has regained popularity thanks to films like Slumdog Millionaire. Slums have long tempted the imagination, and are sometimes idealized as places that display the authentic human life with flourishing culture. Slum tourism has received criticism, however, with some people suggesting that it exploits the locals who are experiencing severe poverty.

Pros and Cons

Some people criticize slum tourism, calling it disrespectful and irresponsible because they are essentially viewing these peoples’ homes.

Others claim that slum tourism brings money into the local economy while also promoting awareness of the extreme poverty these people are facing. The mixed views on slum tourism are also evident among the locals, with some feeling ambivalent towards it, while others claim that they lose their dignity when tour groups come. Some tour companies, such as Reality Tours, do not allow tourists to bring cameras and only bring in small numbers of people at a time. They also donate money to the local community center and school. Increased tourism to these areas does lead to increased income for the locals, but due to corruption and crime this revenue may only improve the lives of a small number of people.

Popular Destinations

slum3 Slum tourism originated in London during the 19th century, and was also popular in Manhattan. Today, the most popular place is Mumbai’s Dharavi. The tour group called Reality offers three different Dharavi tours: a short tour, a long tour, and a sightseeing tour. Each tour involves walking through the Dharavi slum and allows tourists to see other sights along the way. This is one of the most popular tours in the world, with tourists calling it a life-changing experience. Slums in Brazil and South Africa have also become more popular over the past several years.

The Road Less Travelled

For those looking to stay closer to home, New Orleans has become a popular place for dark tourism, both because of Hurricane Katrina and its numerous slums. The hurricane left New Orleans in pieces and many people homeless. It is a popular destination for disaster tourism, but is slowly becoming known for its slum tourists as well. Brazil and South Africa are also becoming increasingly popular places for slum tourism, particularly Rio. slum1 Although caution should be taken before viewing these slums because it can be extremely dangerous.

Costs and Savings

The price of slum tourism depends on whether you wish to venture through the slums alone or go as part of a tour group. Going off of Reality’s Dharavi tours, the price ranges between $3500 and $8500, depending on the type of tour you wish to go on. These are private tours for groups of up to 5 people. Individual ticket prices cost between $700 and $1500, again depending on the type of tour. This does not include travel expenses and accommodation, which can easily add up to over $3000, making slum tourism one of the more expensive travel experiences out there.

Disaster Tourism

Disaster Tourism

Disaster tourism is the act of visiting the site of some sort of disaster as a tourist. Some people believe it is a form of dark tourism, which typically involves travelling to sites associated with tragedy and death. Others claim that disaster tourism should have its own separate category from dark tourism, mainly because the incident needed to be intentional in order to qualify as dark tourism (war, for example). Disaster tourism can involve visiting sites of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, or man-made disasters, like the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

Pros and Cons

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who are suffering from various disasters often don’t appreciate tourists witnessing their grief, or travel companies profiting from their pain and loss.

Disaster tourists are often criticized because people believe they are objectifying the suffering of others and using it for their own personal gain. Tour groups can sometimes get in the way of clean up efforts, further angering locals and rescue workers. Disaster tourism is sometimes encouraged, however, especially if its part of a larger rescue or aid mission. Often disaster tourists get accused of voyeurism, but generally disaster tourists come to learn more about the difficulties the local people are going through and how they may be able to help.

Popular Destinations

disaster4 The Chernobyl Power Plant is one of the most popular sites for disaster tourists. The world’s worst nuclear accident resulted in the displacement of over 300,000 people and thousands of deaths. The Ukraine based company SoloEast Travel runs daylong tours through Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone”, which has been deemed safe by experts. The tour gets you within 1000 feet of the number four reactor. New Orleans is another popular destination because of Hurricane Katrina. As the city recovers from the devastation caused by the hurricane, tour groups offer tours to the remaining damaged sites, which has been a point of controversy in recent years. Perhaps the most famous disaster in history, millions of people still visit the ruins of Pompeii in Italy after Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

The Road Less Travelled

The Lakehurst Naval Air Station just outside New Jersey is the site of the Hindenburg disaster which occurred in 1937. disaster2 The disaster, which saw 37 people die, was one of the biggest news stories of its time. The site of the crash is marked with a bronze plaque and there are public tours of the Historic Hangar One. This is where the aircraft was stored. Thousands of people visit every year. A more recent disaster, the Chelyabinsk Meteor, is beginning to become popular among disaster tourists. The asteroid exploded 14.5 miles above Russia’s southern region, and injured more than 1500 people. While there is no memorial, visitors can still see the destruction caused by the meteor.

Costs and Savings

For those who wish to view disasters on their own, there is generally no admission or entrance fee. All you have to do is find your way to whichever site you wish to visit, and be willing to risk any potential danger that may still exist. There are also numerous groups available, which generally cost in the hundreds of dollars depending on where you wish to go. It may be difficult to find accommodation in a disaster zone for obvious reasons, so it is likely you will have to stay out of town and find some form of transport to get inside.

Memorials

Memorials

Recently, dark tourism has become an increasingly popular tourism trend. Generally, dark tourism involves travelling to sites associated with tragedy and death. Memorials fall under this category, particularly war memorials. A memorial is an object that serves as a focus for memory of a particular event or person. They are typically landmark objects, but sometimes take the form of fountains, statues, or even entire parks. Visiting memorials is one of the safer, and therefore most popular, forms of dark tourism.

Pros and Cons

War memorials are often politically controversial, which is one of the biggest negatives. Some memorials, for example, are dedicated to convicted warm criminals or dead dictators.

Memorials can be negative for other reasons as well. Some people may not be mentally equipped to handle certain events, perhaps because they were involved or had family members killed. Visiting these memorials can be extremely difficult and even trigger PTSD in certain people. It is advisable for people to ensure they are completely ready, both mentally and emotionally, to visit a memorial. For those that are, however, visiting a memorial can be a truly rewarding and enlightening experience. They are often beautifully designed and kept in great condition.

Popular Destinations

memorial2 One of the most popular memorials in the world is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Germany. It memorializes the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II. Located on 4.7 acres of land in Berlin, tourists walk through a thicket of 2,711 concrete blocks, some of which are as tall as sixteen feet high. It is truly a thought-provoking and moving experience. The Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania is another popular memorial, which was where a large battle during the American Civil War was fought. It saw 51,000 people die but is now home to the Soldiers National Cemetery and granite neoclassical Pennsylvania State Memorial. Not far away, you can also see where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City is another very popular destination.

The Road Less Travelled

There are seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs located in Prague in the Czech Republic, each of which appears more weathered and decayed than the previous one. memorial5 It is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, and the statues symbolize the dehumanizing toll of four decades of Communist rule. Goree Island in Senegal is home to the House of Slaves, which are slave quarters built by the Dutch. They are both a museum and a memorial, and serve as a reminder of the millions of Africans sold into slavery.

Costs and Savings

The cost of visiting a memorial varies greatly, depending on the memorial and where it is. The 9/11 Memorial, for example, costs $24 for adults, but has numerous special consideration groups. FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD members can get in for $12, while 9/11 Family Members get in for free. It also has free admission Tuesdays, where admission is free for all visitors from 5 p.m. to close. Some memorials are free to visit while others may have a small entrance fee. The costs add up when factoring in accommodating and travel expenses, but in general visiting memorials is very affordable.

War Tourism

War Tourism

One of the increasingly controversial forms of tourism in the modern era is dark tourism. Dark tourism has been defined as travel to sites historically associated with tragedy and death. One form of dark tourism is war tourism. There are two different types of war tourism; the first involves visiting a place that was devastated by war many years prior. These places often have memorials or war museums which are popular attractions. The other type it sees is tourists going into current war zones. While the first type is much more common, the second is increasing in popularity and has become a source of controversy.

Pros and Cons

Visiting places that were once torn apart by war has both positive and negative consequences. For some people, seeing memorials or locations where hundreds or even thousands of people were killed, or other atrocious acts were committed, can be too difficult and disturbing. There are some people who even believe it is disrespectful to tour these places. Still, others claim the history is important, and it offers lessons in human nature at extreme levels, which people can learn and benefit from. Visiting places that are currently in conflict is obviously extremely dangerous, and even if extreme caution is taken, things can still go horribly wrong. It can be very rewarding, however, to interact with people and families who are going through this conflict and help learn from their experiences.

Popular Destinations

war4 One of the most popular destinations for war tourists is Srebrenica in Bosnia, where in 1995 over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered. There is a very popular memorial and museum located there. Many people also visit Vietnam to see the National Defense Shooting Range. This place actually allows you to fire bullets from the AK-47s that the Vietnamese used against the United States in the Vietnam War. And, perhaps most famous, the concentration camps in Germany (like Auschwitz) attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

The Road Less Travelled

For some tourists, visiting memorials or places where wars happened years ago isn’t enough. For them, they prefer to visit current conflict zones. Some areas are considered too dangerous to visit, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but there are some tour groups out there that are willing to take people through these countries. Some countries that attract this type of tourism prefer to bring tourists to more peaceful sights, war3 away from where the conflict is (or was), to help distance themselves from the violence. At the moment, the Gaza Strip is a destination that these kinds of tourists may be looking to visit, but it is currently classified as too dangerous to visit.

Costs and Savings

The tour groups to conflict zones tend to be very small (around 8 to 10 people) and are usually expensive. For a nine-day trip to Israel and Palestine, the price is around $5,000 per person (not including airfare). This trip is advertised as a “walk through Bibleland”, and the tour includes visiting Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea. The Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t mentioned in the description, but it is likely to see some fallout from the conflict. There are also tours to Afghanistan and Iraq available, but these too are very costly.