Cue Card Sample

IELTS Cue Card Sample 485 - Describe a trip which was not up to your expectations

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Describe a trip which was not up to your expectations. (or)

Describe a journey that did not go as planned.

You should say:

  • where you went
  • what you did
  • what happened during the trip

and explain why the trip was not up to your expectations.

[You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you're going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish.]


Model Answer 1:
Last year, I took a trip to one of the most beautiful places, with the most beautiful tea gardens in it, of my country. It was supposed to be a fun and exciting trip, as my tour guide had told me, but instead, it actually became a boring affair in the end.

Anyway, I had planned for this trip well in advance since I don’t really get much vacation time from my job. To make the trip really smooth and fun, I even contacted a famous tour organizing agency of my country who was supposed to manage everything, from booking the hotel to deciding the food menu, on my behalf. For all these arrangements, of course, I had to pay some good amount of money to the touring agency, but I didn’t really mind it much since they assured me of a fun and exciting trip.

Now, everything was alright with my trip up and until reaching our destination. After all, the bus, which took us to the destination, was nice and comfortable, but things started to become a bit messy and unpleasant as soon as I arrived at my hotel. In fact, the hotel, chosen for our stay, was spreading foul smell. To make things a bit more complicated for me, the hotel manager told me that I would need to share my room with another guest (a person who was touring with me also to visit the tea gardens), apparently because the hotel didn’t have enough rooms for all the guests. However, the worst part of the tour was that my visiting period to the tea garden was cut short due to the forecast of some bad weather.

The trip indeed wasn’t up to my expectation since the touring company didn’t collect enough necessary information from its partners (i.e. hotel) to ensure an enjoyable experience for its customers. Besides, the touring agency didn’t have any contingency planning either to deal with bad weather. All in all, this was not what I was expecting from my trip after spending so much money.


Sample Answer 2:
Right, I’m racking my brain to think of a good example for this one. Often when I set out on a trip or mini-adventure, I try to keep an open mind, to be flexible and make the most of whatever experience presents itself. I think if you embark on things with very fixed expectations that can end in disappointment. Then again, sometimes it’s pretty clear that you have a reasonable expectation that, for example, a bus will take you from one place to a particular end destination, or your outing to collect a purchase from a certain shop will pass largely unremarkably. So a trip doesn’t have to be anything especially adventurous, just in this instance something which didn’t pass in the way I’d expected it to… Hmm, hang on, I’ve got one, I think it’s a good example, perhaps even a comical one too – I wonder what you will make of it. I’ll tell you where I went, what I did, what happened, and why the trip was not AT ALL what was expected…

Some years ago I celebrated my fortieth birthday by booking an exotic holiday. I saved up for a very long time so that I could afford to go, and it was certainly special. I was to spend some time in Tanzania on safari and then immediately afterwards travel on to the Island of Zanzibar for a two days extension on the beaches there. The holiday itself was absolutely amazing, and when I got to Zanzibar I couldn’t believe how lovely it was. Beautiful beaches, friendly and welcoming people, and extraordinary architecture. The city seemed to me to be out of a fairy tale. A labyrinth of passageways with tall ancient walls and enormous Morocco style solid wooden doors towering over the narrow streets, which were heaving with local people going about their daily business. Now, the first thing that happened in Zanzibar, was that I heard from my travel agent, that there was a problem with my return flight back to the UK. They were very sorry, but I’d have to stay on for three extra days – at their expense of course – in a luxury hotel! I couldn’t believe it! This wasn’t a hardship at all, I felt as if I was in paradise, and the hotel suite I was staying in was bigger than my own flat at home, this was really no inconvenience at all, I felt as if I’d won the lottery! However, this is not the unexpected trip I want to tell you about, although it "I", the cause of my embarking on it. Finding myself with some extra days to fill in an unknown location, I met up with some other travellers in the same situation and we planned what we could do together. One of them had read about a really amazing restaurant in the city and suggested we all go there together. The problem was that gorgeous as Zanzibar undoubtedly was, its main centre really isn’t a city to explore at night. The winding maze of lanes with its mix of Swahili and Islamic influences were beautiful certainly, but also nigh on impossible to navigate. The streets were unlit, and although most people were law-abiding as naïve comparatively wealthy tourists we were warned we would be at risk of the pickpocket or worse if we ventured out unaccompanied. However, there was an easy solution. The hotel said that if we just stepped outside, there would always be some enterprising local person who for a dollar between us, would take us safely to wherever we wanted to go. By employing them, we would be safe from other touts or pickpockets, and could easily walk to where we wanted to go, plus contribute a bit of money to the local community. This sounded like a good plan and we all agreed on this trip to the favoured restaurant.

From memory, I think there were about half a dozen of us. We stepped outside our hotel, and just as we had been advised a potential guide approached us and agreed to take us where we wanted to go for just a dollar. We handed over our fee, and he set off – at quite a pace. We jogged behind him through the dark maze of narrow lanes. It was exciting being out at night, the main town – called Stone Town with good reason – was even more spectacular and spooky at night. We marvelled at how our guide was able to take us down hidden rat-runs on seemingly un-navigable shortcuts. At one point one of our members lost his nerve. He became convinced that this man was trying to lure us to a secret location where we would all be mugged and robbed away from spying eyes, but the rest of us laughed at his ridiculous caution! After some half an hour or so, our guide announced we were at the restaurant because we had already paid him, he then vanished into the dark. After a few seconds, we realised it wasn’t where we had wanted to go at all! It was a completely different restaurant, perhaps one where he got a commission for bringing tourists. Nevertheless, it looked very good, and laughingly we decided to eat there anyway. The food was absolutely excellent, and with the exception of our more cautious fellow traveller who feared treachery at every turn and was indignant that we’d been tricked in this way, the rest of us found it hilarious. After all, we’d enjoyed our night tour of the streets of Zanzibar, and there was no way on earth we’d have had the courage to do that on our own. In any case, we had a delicious meal so where was the harm.

After our meal, it slowly dawned on us that we now had to find our way back to the hotel, and we had absolutely no idea where we were. This wasn’t looking so good. We paid our bill, and managed to ask at the restaurant for directions ‘home’. We showed him the card with our hotel’s details on it. The restauranteur looked really confused. At first, we thought he just didn’t understand what we were asking, but eventually, he took us to the door, pointed down the road, and there was our hotel. It was within sight, we were perhaps 300 metres away from where we started off. Our guide it seemed had taken us round in a big circle, ending up almost back where we started!

So to summarise, the trip was a guided excursion to a restaurant, so that is where we went. What did I do? Employ a guide to take me and some others to a recommended eating place. What happened? Well, we had a magical mystery tour that ended up somewhere else entirely. The trip didn’t meet my expectations because strictly speaking, we didn’t end up where we were supposed to, not even close! However, it honestly didn’t matter. I really enjoyed my tour through the pitch-black maze of streets in Zanzibar, I still had a delicious meal with new friends, and for just a dollar that adventure was worth every penny! All’s well that ends well after all, and it was a great mini-adventure.

It just shows that things might not always work out quite as planned or as expected, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that things end in disaster. Far from it, I think I get more pleasure from this traveller’s tale than I would if everything had gone exactly as expected from the outset!

[ Written by - Lucy Marris (2016): Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam) ]


Sample Answer 3: 
Travelling is my hobby and from my travelling experience, I have gained both pleasant and disappointing experiences. Luckily my delightful experience outweighs my unpleasant experience. Today I will share one unsatisfying experience of mine that was in Acapulco, Mexico, in the last year. 

Being influenced by the scenic beauty, by one of my college mates, of the beach in the city, Acapulco, I commenced the trip. I fact, Acapulco is a beach resort in Mexico. But the city is filled with high-rise buildings than scenic beauties. Now the town got a shape of the resorts and attracts tourists around the world but earlier it was primarily used as a seaport and a colony of Spain. The naming of the town has a history and the city also achieved fame for its enriched nightlife. Diving under the sea is one of the most attractive activities here in line with other leisure activities.   

I went there as a tourist with the intention to enjoy the natural views and get engaged in the leisure activities available there. So, I did a lot of things there but had some unwanted experiences (will talk about that soon). Among the activities I performed there, the notables were – taking a sunbath, diving on the sea, having the fresh seafood, wandered through the beach and more others. I liked the sunrise and sunset scenes more than the other things. The seafood was delicious indeed. Besides, I went to visit the other tourist spots in the city and came to know about the past history of the city and how the population here survived. 

Everything went well but some of the experiences were not up to the mark. Despite being the oldest beach resort in Mexico, there are lots of chances for improvements in every sector of the city. In a majority of the visiting spots, the services are unsatisfactory. The entire city has been divided into two parts – the north end and the south end. Discriminatory treatments are a common issue there. If you are rich, you would get a royal reception. On the other sides, if you are an ordinary tourist like me, you are to get disappointed. The services will be minimal though you are to pay higher than the ordinary expenses. 

I am dissatisfied with the journey. My flight got delayed for eight hours. It could not land at the Acapulco International Airport at the scheduled time. It was also difficult to manage a taxi. I booked a single room in a hotel (not naming that) but once I reached there, they said to me that the hotel was full of guests. So, I picked another one after spending a couple of hours on the Acapulco streets. But the accommodation system was not high standard and they charged me more than usual. The restaurant was unable to meet my requirements for cleanliness and thus I took my meals out of the hotel, as long as I stayed there. Moreover, I expected to enjoy a great vacation here, but the surrounding environment forced me to leave the place on the third day of the visit. So, the trip could not fill my expectations. 

More Ideas to talk about this Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card topic:

Topic: Describe a trip which was not up to your expectations.

1. Visiting the tourists' spots in Greece was always attractive to me but this time I could not enjoy the trip out there. I went to visit the most remarkable places in Greece but I was not lucky enough to have spaces for me. The entire places were crowded and people from home and abroad appeared there to see the wonders. I actually expected that I should get some calm and peaceful place but I was wrong.

2. The last trip to Indonesia could not give me a complete sense of joy. I went there to enjoy the natural views and particularly the sunset scenes. But I failed to enjoy my planned activities due to foul weather. In fact, I could not observe the sunrise for a single day. The entire sky was filled with dark clouds. So, the sun rays could not land on the planet and it was my bad luck. I had plans to take some exclusive pictures of the sunrise and sunset scene for my personal exhibition but I could not do that.

3. Expected that the trip in India would be interesting but in reality, it was not up to the mark. I heard lots of amazing stories but the real scenario is different. I went to check some of the noted tourist spots but could not find the charm. Besides, the excessive crowds on the spots were highly irritating to me. So, I returned on the halfway. In fact, I had a plan to take 10-day tour in India and I completed that within four days. Therefore, I cannot consider it a great trip for me.

4. An exciting issue indeed to talk about but the memories of the last trip are making me sad. I had several negative experiences when I went to Singapore. I went for some business purposes but something bad happened to me. I lost my wallet, my cell phone and other necessary documents together. It became tough for me to get back home. Somehow, I managed the situations but will never forget the events that I experienced in the country. It might be my luck that did not suit the trip this time.

5. Rarely I make a trip because of lack of time. But this time it was in Vietnam and I was forced to make it for my wife. She went for some research works and I had to accompany her. I thought she would take me with her in the research fields but I had to pass boring moments near the hotel swimming pool. She had spent round the day in collecting data and information with the local associates and I just passed some dull moments inside the hotel boundary where we stayed in Vietnam. So, it was not a good one this time.

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