Why it’s not ok to whip out your iPad in the Colosseum and at Machu Picchu

One of the greatest bugbears of modern travelling, for me at least, is the sight of an ignorant tourist whipping out their iPad to document a world-famous landmark. The combination of stupidity and arrogance is enough to make my blood boil, as they ditch the prospect of using a camera or, God forbid, their eyes, to record memories.

Peru iPad
“Just updating my LinkedIn profile to add ‘trekking’ to my skills…” – an imagined conversation at Machu Picchu.

Such is my loathing, I figured it was time to take a closer look at why this is so offensive and what you should be doing instead, to look a bit less obvious if nothing else. I’ve taken two prominent locations as examples – in each one I’ve spotted people freely using this gadget to a worrying degree…

Peru Machu Picchu Sun Temple
My shot of the Sun Temple and Wayna Picchu couldn’t have been taken with an iPad.

Camera quality isn’t the iPad’s strong point

First thing’s first: anyone who says they’re only bringing out the iPad for its camera is lying through their back teeth, because we all know it’s pretty shoddy quality. For a gadget that’s so good at multi-tasking, the camera is a huge drawback to the iPad’s functionality, leaving everything looking grainy, and not in an Instagram way. Video quality is a little better, but not exactly working wonders either. This begs the question: why don’t all these tech-savvy people shell out a mere £50 for a bog-standard digital camera with 10MP or, even better, a sophisticated model for around £150?

The protesting Apple addict may argue that they find other technology too difficult to use, but digital cameras are blessed with ridiculously straightforward modes to help you out, including the beginner’s favourite, Auto, which will pick the best setting for you and adjust accordingly to the conditions. You can then buy a camera-to-iPad lead and transfer your photos if you get desperate to return to the comforting Apple screen, or you just want to share your images when you return to the hotel. My lead was a total godsend in Peru and meant that I could easily annoy my relatives by clogging up their inbox with my photo diary every few days.

Rome Colosseo
Thickening crowds gather inside the Colosseum.

You’re a walking target for thieves

Another aspect to my hatred of tourists brandishing these things is the obvious risk in showing off your wealth. Anyone passing will know that you’re rich enough to wander around with a £300 gadget in your hand (whilst paying no attention to your other valuables or, indeed, your children) and with nothing more than your jet-lagged grip separating a thief from your precious cargo.  Let’s face it, when you’re angling up the perfect shot, you’re also much less aware of what’s going on around you.

Having been robbed on the streets of Havana only a few months ago, with absolutely no idea there was anyone behind me, let alone someone with criminal intent, I can testify that it’s no good thinking such things will never happen to you. They can, and they will, happen when you least expect them, which may well be when you’re trying to get a decent shot using your terrible iPad camera. This is especially true in Rome which, whilst being an utterly lovely city, is sadly known for its pickpockets.

Peru Machu Picchu Llama
Snap one Peruvian icon, get one free.

There are no WiFi hotspots to take advantage of

Unless I’m mistaken, Machu Picchu’s main visitor incentive isn’t its amazing Wi-Fi, though feel free to correct me. My own iPad usage consists of traipsing around trying to find relevant Wi-Fi zones, namely because I’m too stingy to cough up for a monthly sim card plan. All this aside, I do realise that some people may be rich enough to afford a sim and be keen to make use of their unlimited access by finding a cosy little spot with enough phone signal to clog up everyone’s Twitter feed during the minute-by-minute account of their guided tour. However, what those people need to think about is: If this place doesn’t have Wi-Fi, what does that say about its visitors – perhaps they don’t need it to survive? They might even – gulp – enjoy not being connected to the outside world… And what does it say about me if I’m bypassing the enforced techno cooldown period and not really soaking up my surroundings?

I think it’s a great rule of thumb that, if a prime location isn’t interconnected and is nudging visitors towards actually enjoying their time in the great outdoors, perhaps we should all just be a bit more relaxed about the whole experience. Sure, take some excellent photos and maybe an Instagram or two to post later on, but just equal your photo-call time with the same number of minutes spent looking at what’s really there. Honestly, you won’t regret it.

Rome Colosseo Interior
Why on earth would you be playing on your iPad in these unique surroundings?

You look like an idiot

There is no nice way to say this, so here goes: you’re basically rocking up to one of the most significant and fascinating places in the world and then seeing it through a pixel-filled screen rather than with your own eyes. You’re like a bull in a china shop, trying to take in a timeless wonder using a battery-dependent thing that bleeps when you get a match notification from Tinder (mad props if you get one at Machu Picchu, though – now that would be a great ‘How we met’ story). Surely being in this place should be enough?

What’s more, because you’re not really engaging with what’s going on around you, you’re just as likely to be adding to your idiocy by talking at an inappropriate volume, overstepping barriers or walking into other tourists, all of which will make things more awkward for you and the unfortunate people nearby. Is that really what you set out to do when you booked this trip? Slow down, have some respect for the past, and realise you’re in the presence of an iconic sight where, in the case of both the Colosseum and Machu Picchu, people died.

Peru Machu Picchu reflections
Members of my tour group reflecting beside the mountains during our Machu Picchu trip.

I do understand that some people are addicted to their gadgets and others are just too stubborn to learn how to use a proper camera, but in my world there’s no excuse for iPad reliance when you’re out and about on holiday, let alone taking in famous and possibly sacred landmarks. Put it down and realise just how lucky you are.

3 thoughts on “Why it’s not ok to whip out your iPad in the Colosseum and at Machu Picchu”

  1. I feel the exact same. It’s so incredibly rude and pretentious, not to mention they really don’t take great pictures so there’s no reason for it at all.

    1. So glad you agree, Danielle! I just keep seeing people getting out their iPads at these tourist attractions without batting an eyelid and it really baffles me. Think next time I will go and challenge them about why they’re doing it!

  2. Love this! I would put a limit on camera phone shots allowed too. I’m so bored of people visiting me in Rome, coming with me to see the sights and making me stand around while they upload the photo to Facebook!

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