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Planning an International Trip? New Tourist Restrictions and Taxes Mean More Advance Planning

More destinations are implementing visitor-control measures in an effort to balance tourism with protection of cultural and historical sites

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Want to visit a popular destination? Make sure you don’t have to pay a fee or tax prior to arrival, as Greece, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, among others, are trying to limit overtourism.
Gregory Reid/Gallery Stock

When Linda Kuhlmann of Washington state visited Germany and Hungary last year, she found the Christmas markets so packed that she could barely move.

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Last fall, Linda Kuhlmann of Washington state enjoyed a glass of wine in Seville, Spain. She and her husband, Jim, often choose to visit second-tier cities to avoid crowds.
Courtesy of Linda Kuhlmann

“They weren’t limiting the crowds,” says the 73-year-old, who has visited more than 70 countries, “but I almost wish they would have.”

That may change. While tourism-control measures — from Amsterdam to Zambia — aren’t new, they’re increasing as places become overrun by visitors.

More cities and countries are implementing tourist taxes, capping the number of visitors at popular sites, limiting cruise ship stops and even charging fines for bad behavior to help offset negative effects of so-called “overtourism,” enhance residents’ quality of life and protect cultural and historic landmarks.

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Such measures, however, also raise the cost of travel for tourists and require planning further ahead with no guarantee they’ll be able to visit everything on their wish list. But some travelers also see the need.

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Susan Black and husband, Moshe Castiel, of New Jersey, weren’t aware of tourist restrictions when they visited Peru’s Machu Picchu last fall. If they hadn’t hired private guides, they would have had to plan six months in advance.
Susan Black

Susan Black of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, thinks capacity controls in many places make sense to protect sites “as long as it’s not fleecing travelers.”

“If these places don’t have the infrastructure to handle the influx for popular sites, it puts too much pressure on local communities and travelers,” says Black, 66, who has visited more than 30 countries. “Who wants to wait in a five-hour line?”

Here are some new tourism measures for 2024 and beyond:

The Netherlands

In January, Amsterdam increased its tourism tax, the highest in Europe. The per-night tax, which went from 7 percent to 12.5 percent, applies to any overnight stay. The tax on a €175 ($189) room, for example, is €21.90 ($23.60). Cruise-ship passengers must pay €11 ($11.86) per person per day.

Iceland

In January, Iceland resumed charging an accommodation tax, which was suspended during the pandemic, and extended it to cruise ships. The tax, which aims to generate funds for sustainability efforts and protect its unspoiled scenery, ranges from about $2 per overnight stay to slightly over $7, depending on the lodging.

Indonesia

Since Feb. 14, each foreign visitor to the idyllic island of Bali must pay a new tourist tax of about $10. The tax can be paid upon arrival, but the Bali government recommends paying it beforehand on its tourism website.​

Greece

In April, Greece is scheduled to launch a booking system to further limit the number of daily visitors to Athens’ Acropolis (from up to 23,000 now to 20,000) and other archaeological sites to tackle overcrowding and protect its most famous landmarks.

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In January, Greece replaced its bed tax with a “climate resilience levy” to fund reconstruction after forest fires and flooding. Visitors pay the per-night tax, ranging from €1 to €10 ($1.08 to $10.77), at their lodging upon arrival during peak season, from March to October.

Italy

Starting in April, the city of Venice, which struggles with some of the world’s worst overtourism, will charge day-trippers an entry fee of €5 ($5.40) on 29 dates through July during the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. peak hours. Visitors can pre-pay on a new website to get a QR code. Visitors staying in overnight lodgings are exempt but still must register. In June, Venice will limit the number of people in organized tour groups to 25.

Both measures aim to help regulate crowds and protect the fragile lagoon environment.

Spain

Barcelona is adding a city tourist surcharge on top of an existing regional tax. On April 1, under the city’s second phase of an increase, the fee will rise to €3.25 ($3.50). Visitors will pay up to €6.75 (about $7.30) in combined per-night taxes up to a maximum of seven nights, depending on the lodging type.

Valencia, which is about 220 miles south of Barcelona, plans to introduce a tourist accommodation tax later this year. It will range from about 50 cents to slightly more than $2 per night up to seven nights.

More changes are in store beyond this year.

In 2025, Denmark plans to impose a tax — it will average 100 Danish kroner ($14.37) — on air passengers to help fund its airline industry's shift to greener practices. Transit flights stopping over at a Danish airport will be exempt.

Also in 2025, the European Union plans to require travelers from about 60 countries, including the United States, to apply for travel authorization, which will cost €7 ($7.55). Adults age 70-plus don’t have to pay.

Such measures haven’t stalled global travel, which are expected to return to prepandemic levels this year. The U.N. World Tourism Organization has predicted the number of international tourists will reach 1.8 billion by 2030, up from 25 million in 1950.

“There’s no evidence that a tax situation is making tourists unhappy,” says Megan Epler Wood, managing director of Cornell University’s Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program. “I think they’re most concerned about crowding and delays in traffic,” which can “ruin someone’s vacation.”

Wood thinks travelers will see more tourist control measures, especially since many cities are using tourism tax revenue to fund infrastructure like roads, improve neighborhoods and protect their environment and landmarks. Some of those efforts also will elevate travelers’ experience.

How to bypass the crowds

Some travelers are responding by changing how they travel. Here are some tips to avoid crowds.

Plan ahead: Planning way ahead is necessary as many attractions are issuing a limited number of timed tickets that must be reserved in advance. “You have to learn to play the game,” says Kuhlmann, who with husband, Jim, wants to visit the Anne Frank House on a visit to Amsterdam in July. “We can only get tickets six weeks ahead of time. I will set my alarm at 1 a.m. to get up … because they release them at 10 a.m. Central European time.”

Change visiting hours: Consider visiting sites in the early morning or late afternoon. Visit Iceland provides an online planning tool to help visitors avoid crowds at certain sites. It shows that 3 p.m. is the busiest time at Reynisfjara, a famous black sand beach.

Avoid peak seasons: Avoid traveling during the peak times of July, August and around Christmas.

Find lesser-known destinations: A 2022 survey by travel site Booking.com found that 61 percent of travelers are willing to skip popular tourist destinations or attractions to disperse the impact of their visit.

Instead of the Greek island of Santorini, consider the nearby islands of Naxos or Paros, which remain undiscovered by cruise ships, suggests Dimitris Tzimos, co-owner of Asimina Tours in White Plains, Maryland.

Still, “when you have someone arriving at a destination for the first time, it’s not easy to bypass these brand names,” he says. “It’s a once in a lifetime trip – say, to Santorini. How can you resist?”

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