Yesterday I was sucked in by one of those slideshow stories SmarterTravel.com put out meant to make you click through a dozen pages so they can pump up their visitor numbers. Fine, lots of other media companies pull the same tricks, but it was the content that was so far off the mark. In a piece called “10 Places to Go While They’re Still Cheap,” the writer included Tasmania, Australia.

Australia?!

To get a visual sense of what this is so patently ridiculous, here’s a look at the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar to the U.S. dollar over the past decade. Apart from a little blip in there, it’s been a steep climb. It’s similar vs. the euro, plus the minimum wage is $17 an hour, so imagine what that does to the price of everything.

Australian dollar U.S. dollar

So for anyone coming from anywhere else in the world, Australia is one of the most expensive travel destinations in the world. It makes France look like a bargain. To get a confirmation on that, just ask someone who has been there in the past two years. Anyone.

Sydney and Melbourne are now rated as two of the fiveĀ most expensive cities in the world, just behind wallet killers like Zurich and Tokyo. Sure, Hobarts is lower than those, but in the way that Nagoya is a tad less than Osaka.

I’m sure what happened is people sat around a table deciding who to put in based on news, page hits, and buzz. Australia is popular, so they put it in, actual prices be damned. I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over, from the biggest travel magazines to CNN to Sunday newspapers. In this case, by a once-independent travel content site now owned by TripAdvisor.

Sole bloggers may not have a team of fact checkers at their disposal, but a lot of them have authority. They know what they’re talking about, so you can trust what they say.

A person writing a blog on family travel is usually traveling regularly with a family. One writing about Spain each week is usually living in Spain.

If you really want to know where the cheapest places to travel are, the blog of a guy who has written four editions of a book on that subject might be a good place to start. I’ll tell you that from their list (here’s a one-page version), Nicaragua and Cambodia are truly “cheap,” while Turkey, Ukraine, Panama, and Sri Lanka can be a good value depending on the where and how. Korea and Croatia cost just a shade less than travel in much of the U.S. I live on the Gulf Coast of Florida — not a bargain.

If you land on a site and see lots of top-10 lists and slideshows with picks that make you scratch your head, beware. That article may have been written by an unpaid volunteer (Huffington Post), someone working for almost nothing at a content farm (Examiner.com), or an intern who has never left the USA. You probably could do better yourself.

Or you could just throw darts at a map and made up your own slideshow. Put a number next to it and watch the clicks roll in!

If you want to read real stories about travel, go to a site with good stories on destinations the writers have actually spent some time traveling around. If you see a top-10 list, beware.