Travel is supposed to fun. Depending on your expectations, that time can be exciting, relaxing, chill, oker anything in between. But sometimes, travel goes wrong. And it does, additional challenges can turn the unfortunate events into travel horror stories. From being in remote destinations, lack of shared languages, differences in health care levels, to administrative hurdles, and other inherent travel factors, all these hurdles can make the actual problem even worse.
We asked fellow travel bloggers to share their own travel horror stories. Some will make you laugh; some will make you cry. Be ready for bone-chilling reading!
A Long Bus Ride to Laos
This happened during a bus trip from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, Laos. We were told it would be a 12-hour trip. I settled in with a book on my iPad.
We stopped at a side-of-the-road place that looked like a picnic shelter. Mealtime, one hour break. Stretch the legs, get some lunch… later on, I see three locals with black, greasy hands working on the bus with the hood up. Not a good look.
Hours passed. We’re under shelter and there’s plenty of food and water, so it’s just annoying at this point. What was supposed to be a 12-hour trip was quickly turning into a thing that might end up arriving in the middle of the night…
The bus eventually got fixed a few hours after lunch, and we were back on the road. After hours of being on a bumpy dirt road, we come to a stop — a tree has fallen, and a dozen men from vehicles on both sides are hacking at it with machetes… They eventually chopped it into movable pieces and moved them off the road.
We arrived after nearly 17 hours, around 2 am, and chose the first-world, one-hour flight back to Vientiane.
One Night in a Tijuana Jail
It was Halloween, 1995. A group of friends and I decided to travel to Mexico for some boozing and fun. Midway through the night, the team decided to locate some illegal substances. After successfully finding and partaking in these substances, we were accosted by a local store security guard who called the local Tijuana police.
Upon arrival, 2 out of the 4 of us (including me) were arrested and taken to a local holding facility to be processed. After a brief appearance before what we think was a magistrate, we were whisked away to a local jail. While waiting to be processed at the jail, we, being the only two white people, were informed by a friendly prisoner that they were going to put the gringos in women’s part of the jail so we wouldn’t get raped and killed. Wait…what!?
We were in full-on panic mode and fully sober now. But he was right. We were placed in a private cell in the women’s part of the jail where we were to spend the night. Our wingmates, in adjacent cells, were prostitutes.
At this point, we did not know what the future held. Would we be released the next day? Ever? We could do anything, so we just waited. A few hours later, we were escorted from our cell to be released and were greeted by our other two friends who’d NOT been arrested. They’d gone back to the States, found someone who spoke Spanish, got some cash, and had been driving around TJ looking for us. After spending several hundred dollars and a gold watch, they were able to find us and get us released.
We were overjoyed and literally kissed the ground after crossing the border into the US. Haven’t been back since. And don’t plan to. The moral of this story? Don’t do illegal stuff – especially in a foreign country. This travel story could have been a lot worse than the terrifying night it was. We were fortunate to come away with what is now a funny story and not much worse.
Mother Falling from an 8-Foot Cliff in Jamaica
I screamed a noise I didn’t think I was capable of making as I watched my 65-year-old mother from an 8-foot (2.5-meter) cliff.
We were in Jamaica on a mother-daughter trip celebrating my 40th-birthday. The place we were staying was a bit off the beaten path but had everything we wanted – including being waterfront. However, this waterfront property didn’t have a sandy beach, but instead a cliff where you could scramble down the rocks into the water. Since there was little else around, we decided to walk along the cliff (it was all field on the other side, so it didn’t seem dangerous), to find new swimming spots.
At one point, the rock wall that was the cliff disappeared, and there was a small-ish gap of a few feet you either had to take a very big step across – almost a jump – or climb down and then climb back up.
Oh yeah, my mom also had a broken collar bone, so climbing wasn’t the best option for her.
Once I was on the other side, I helped her across the gap, no problem. However, on the way back, the angle was different. I quickly realized she wasn’t going to make it across so I let her drop onto what I presumed would be sharp rocks and her inevitable death.
Fortunately, she happened to land in the only patch of water that could safely catch her. She had some scratches and a broken finger, but by some miracle didn’t hit her head or have any super severe injuries. Despite this traumatic experience, she is still keen on traveling – albeit with fewer risk-taking adventures.,
Butt-Frostbite in Tibet
On our honeymoon, we ticked Tibet off our bucket list. We traveled east of Lhasa and then headed out west, the further west we went, the colder it got. We were well prepared in our clothing for the freezing temperatures, just not so much the toileting in such climates. Squat toilets are a given throughout Asia, no surprises there; nor that in some cases there was simply a hole in the ground with no walls around.
What was a surprise, was that the locals were so intrigued by a gigantic foreign woman, they must have found watching me go to the toilet, somewhat entertaining? It seemed that I never had enough time to ‘go’ to the toilet without privacy. It had become the norm for my husband of 6 weeks, to hold a sarong up in front of me on the side of the road so I could squat.
One day, on our way to another remote village, we found a rocky spot where I could get myself some privacy; I thought I’d won the lottery – a rock formation that looked just like a toilet. I proceeded to ‘go to the toilet’ with success, in my own time, with no one around. Once I was finished, I made my way back to the vehicle, feeling a whole lot better, except for the fact that my butt-cheeks were rock hard, literally. I had frostbite on my bum from sitting on rocks in subzero temperatures. I applied first aid as best I could in a remote village of Tibet, it was painful, and when we reached Kathmandu, the next major city, I had to see a doctor. It had blistered, turned purple and scarred – it took months to recover fully, but it finally did.
Travel Tip: Don’t sit on rocks in subzero temperatures for extended periods.
Robbed at Knife Point in Pamplona
My travel horror story happened several years ago. I went to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. I was backpacking and going wherever my mood took me, so I didn’t make an accommodation reservation. Pamplona is not that big, and thousands of people descend upon it for the weeklong festival. Needless to say, all of the accommodations were fully booked months in advance. They did have an enormous room for storing luggage at the train station, so I decided to do what plenty of others were doing and leave my luggage there and sleep in a park. The city had its own plans and watered the parks with sprinklers throughout the night to prevent people from getting too settled.
After two nights of almost no sleep, I decided to try a park a short walk away from the center of town. I managed to get a few hours’ sleep, but when I was on my way back into town around 5:00 am, walking along an empty street, a group of young people came up to me out nowhere. I immediately had a bad feeling. They quickly surrounded me; one of them pulled a knife out and demanded that I give them my money. This was in Spanish, but it was very clear what they were saying. Stupidly I started shouting for help (in English) and tried to run away. A guy grabbed my fanny pack and slit the strap with the knife, then they all ran away. They got my cheap camera and a train ticket. Fortunately, they didn’t get my passport, cards, or most of my money because that was all stashed in a money belt hidden inside my pants.
There are most definitely some lessons that I learned: book accommodations in advance for popular events, don’t sleep in a park, don’t walk the streets alone late at night or early in the morning and always keep your valuables hidden underneath your clothes (and get travel insurance – I was able to claim for my stolen camera)!
Seasick in Panama
I had been in Panama for more than a month. I was on a long term backpacking trip across Central and South America, and I was ready to move on to the next country, Colombia. There is no land border between Panama and Colombia, so unless I’d take a flight, the only way to cross would be by boat. I had heard that the San Blas islands were marvelous, and the Kuna Yala one of the last remaining indigenous communities in the area, so I was keen on doing the boat crossing. Besides, I thought of myself as a real adventurer.
Pity that I had not considered the possibility of getting seasick on the boat.
The minute I got on, I knew the experience wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful as it was described to be. There were 10 of us on a 40-feet (12-meter) boat. Too many, if you ask me. Space was constrained, to say the least. But I decided I wouldn’t mind.
After all, as soon as the boat started moving, I had to mind on something completely different: my terrible seasickness. It was so bad that I could not stand. It was so bad that when the others put on sunblock, I’d get sick. It was so bad that I couldn’t take the smell of their tuna and tomato sandwiches without having to relieve my stomach. It was so bad that even on a sunny, hot Caribbean day I shivered as I was so cold, covered as I was with my sleeping bag.
It took us 12 hours to get from Portobelo, our departure point, to the first protected bay, near the island of Porvenir, in the San Blas archipelago. 12 hours of hell. Although it was pitch black, I announced that I’d get off there and then. I asked the captain to please take me to shore on the dingy, and I’d look for a room in one of the two hostels he said there were.
As soon as we made it to shore, two or three locals came towards us. One of them was the Chief of the island. He said we didn’t have permission to land. I told him it was an emergency as I was sick, and could I please sleep at the hostel. He said I had to leave; all hostels were full. I begged him to let me pitch my tent under a tree somewhere. He started quoting articles of the Kuna Yala Constitution I had been breaking. I asked him whether there was not an article that stated that you should help those in need.
I finally got through to him.
He made me pitch my tent. It was dark, I could barely stand on my feet, but I did it in no time and crawled inside. Nothing else would bother me. I was safe then.
Then it started raining.
The day after, I caught a speed boat to Carti and a 4×4 back to Panama City, where I boarded a flight to Cartagena. I never set foot on a sailboat since then. The only thing I have left from that trip is a sunrise photo that I managed to take before fleeing.
Our 3-Year Old Wandering in Uruguay
We were exploring the town of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It was a picture-perfect day. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze blowing off of the ocean, artisans were selling their wares in the town square, and from the Street of Sighs, a Spanish guitar was strumming tunes that perfectly matched the glorious day. As my family wandered into a sandwich shop for some lunch, we noticed things were a little quiet. D, our 3-year-old, was no longer with us.
Annoyed at first (he is a bit of a wanderer), I stepped outside to call to him. But there was no answer. So I walked around the building, and still, there was no sign of him. That is when the panic started to hit me. Through 10 countries, we had never had an issue with our kids wandering off for more than a minute. But this time seemed different.
I called to my wife Christina and my 5-year-old, C. Together we began calling out and running through the town square searching wildly. Nothing.
I went over to the artisan market and began showing people a photo and asking, in my broken Spanish, if anyone had seen him. They all came to look at the photo, and one by one, they all left their stalls to help look. Christina and I separated to search through different alleys. For 15 minutes, seemingly everyone in the town was wildly calling his name.
By this time, I was feeling crushed. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for how completely empty I felt as thoughts of the worst situations began creeping into my mind. It was then that I saw Christina and one of the artisans walking toward me. Beside them was a tiny little man with a great big smile on his face.
He had heard that Spanish guitar and walked two blocks to hear him play. I grabbed D and pulled him into my arms. I’ve never held onto someone as tight as I held on to him.
Forced Solo Trip in Morocco
Everyone probably knows the situation when you start planning a holiday with friends, and one after another, all of them drop out. This happened to me – but unfortunately only a week before our scheduled and booked trip to Marrakech Morocco! All of my friends suddenly came up with last-minute university work. However, I couldn’t cancel my flights anymore, and I was actually looking forward to the trip.
For a few days, I was pretty desperate and didn’t know what to do. Until I finally decided to move ahead with the trip, even if it’s by myself. At this point, I never traveled solo before, and I was very anxious and scared about the situation, but I just didn’t want to miss out on it just because of the unreliability of my friends.
Long story short, I boarded the plane to Morocco all by myself, had a great time with fun people I met at the hostel and never felt lonely just for a minute. Right after the trip, I booked my first longer solo-backpacking trip (Southeast Asia for two months), and until this point, dozens of solo adventures followed and ultimately led me to the start of my travel blog!
Hotel Scam in New Delhi, India
It was my first hour in India, in its massive capital city of New Delhi. While I had made arrangements with my budget hotel to pick us up from the airport, I was disappointed to find that they had not made it. Armed with only a screenshot of some directions since my SIM card wasn’t working yet, my boyfriend and I made our way onwards to the metro- our only other option. Everything was moving along nicely- until we walked out of the station, that is.
The area we had gotten off didn’t seem easy to walk in, and with our massive backpacks, the cheap rickshaws begging for our service seemed like a better way to get back. Or so we thought. The rickshaw driver first brought us to a gate being guarded by heavily armed police. They insisted that the budget area we planned to stay in, Paharganj, was closed due to “violence” and “riots,” and if we wanted to pass through, we would need clearance from the tourist agency. So we drove along to the agency, feeling a bit confused but without a map or phone service we figured we couldn’t do much but take their word for it. In hindsight, we were the perfect victims.
The official-looking “agency” reiterated that Paharganj was in fact very dangerous, closed and, was the only place where cheap accommodations existed in the city. They gave us two options: book a night at a very expensive 5-star hotel or continue to our next destination in the mountains with their taxi service. We chose the latter and ended up getting a driver who literally fell asleep at the wheel 4 hours in.
Within a week, we soon learned the reality of what had been a massive scam. Paharganj is always open and particularly dangerous. The phone calls the agency made had been faked. And the price of our perilous taxi ride? They up-charged us nearly 300%! Although these scammers made me lose a bit of trust in people and gain some anger, the dozens of incredibly friendly and helpful Indians we met after made up for it and then some.
This incident didn’t derail me from returning, (I’m actually in India as I write this) but I wouldn’t leave the airport again without some type of cell service or offline map- if only we had been able to use Uber, this horror story could have been completely avoided.
Scombroid Poisoning in Bali
It’s been a real blessing to never had allergies. I always brushed it off as something not so serious. My thinking completely changed when I was in staying in Bali and got a terrible reaction. Scombroid poisoning is a weird word that I had never heard of in my life before. It occurs when you eat fresh, canned, or smoked fish that has a high level of histamine after improper processing or storage. Basically if fish is frozen and unfrozen several times, it goes really bad. Particularly the black part by the center. My travel horror story in Bali started out as a romantic sunset barbecue with my wife on Bingin beach. We went over to select our fish, it was barbecued to perfection, and we washed it all down with a Bintang beer.
As we left, I started feeling itchy and flushed. We got back to our villa, and it got a little worse, we narrowed it down to sunburn. My wife took a shower, and on the return, she found me on the floor – skin red as a tomato, eyes totally bloodshot. It’s the same as having an allergic reaction even though you’re not allergic to anything. The villa reception luckily offered us a ride to a hospital in Nusa Dua, where I was put on a drip for around an hour.
After this scare, we understood how important it is when traveling to know where your nearest hospital is and how to get there. Even though we had the right medication in our medical kit, we didn’t know what to take, so the hospital was the only option. If the villa staff refused to drive us, we would have been screwed because we were staying really off the beaten track. Another tip, keep the receipts for insurance.
Seven Stitches to our 7-Year Old in Costa Rica
Traveling with children and ensuring their health and safety is an enormous responsibility for parents. You need a constant, heightened sense of awareness, and this can be mentally exhausting. We do all we can to keep our children safe; we practice safety scenarios, use safewords, and the children carry identification lanyards. Plus, we always do a ‘safety sweep’ of any accommodation or vehicle we use, such as checking for exposed wires, loose windows, working seat belts, etc. And then something unexpected happens.
Getting out of the shower in a bathroom in Costa Rica, our 7-year-old son slipped and badly cut his head on the edge of the tiled shower tray. I will never forget the thud as his head hit the ground. It sickens me even today. As with any head wound, there was a lot of blood, and it was clear that he urgently needed stitches on his head. We managed to arrange a taxi to drive us the one-hour journey to the nearest open clinic where our little boy had two injections into his head, followed by seven stitches. We will always be grateful for the wonderful help we received from our accommodation. We had to clean his head wound daily and a return a week later to have the stitches taken out. Our son now has an impressive ‘Costa Rican scar’ on the back of his head. It could easily have been so much worse if he had suffered skull damage.
I was very shaken by this accident as it made me realize how you can plan and prepare for any eventuality and you can still not fully protect your child. The tiniest thing can happen that can change everything.
It also made me realize the risks of traveling to a rural area with no language skills!
By Sinead from Map Made Memories
Witnessing a Knife Attack in Chile
About 15 hours out of a 24-hour ferry ride from Puerto Chacabuco to the beautiful island of Chiloe, Chile, we headed to the restaurant to meet with the other backpackers after an afternoon on the deck admiring the beautiful the Chilean fjords and looking for marine mammals.
A few games of cards later, a movement of panic-filled up the room instantly. One of the girls was standing with a guy behind her, his hands around her neck. He was choking her. After a brief moment of incomprehension, a few men jumped up and managed to free the girl while also attempting to restrain the attacker. It’s only then, we noticed him twirling a knife in the air trying to reach anyone close enough, but fortunately, they managed to kick the weapon away.
While a group of men attached the attacker to a pillar, a couple of girls and I ran to find the victim and see if she needed any help. As I found her, I asked if she was hurt. She mumbled she didn’t think, but as she raised her shirt, we saw blood dripping from the side of her chest. One of our friends held her and applied a piece of clothing to the wound, and the rest of us went looking for help asking passengers and crew to find a doctor.
Throughout all this confusion, the crew behaved very badly, shouting at us insults and accusing “the foreigners” of drinking on the boat and causing the fight… The crew and captain finally understood that we had nothing to do with the fight except trying to save our friend from that man nobody knew. He had sat there for a while, staring at the card game and not talking.
Thankfully for the girl, the attack happened only one hour away from the town Melinda situated on an island. At the harbor, the police boarded the boat and arrested the attacker. Two doctors transported our friend to the clinic on the island where she was cared for. The attacker was judged a few days later in Chiloe and placed in prison immediately.
This was a very moving event which reminded us to be a bit more aware of our surroundings – something we had kind of forgotten in Patagonia where we felt so safe.
Breaking my Leg in Thailand
On our last trip to Phuket, Thailand, I slipped down a small step into the shower stall and managed to break my leg! Not that I knew it was broken at the time, but the horrific ripping sound I heard and the fact I couldn’t move even a millimeter without intense pain told me something major was wrong.
This happened in the evening, so my husband talked to the hotel reception about getting a doctor. Due to the nature of the injury, they recommended going straight to the hospital instead. As I have young children who were in bed and I couldn’t get myself to the hospital alone, I had a long night lying in bed trying not to move at all.
The next morning, we headed to the international hospital in Phuket. They took an x-ray, but it was difficult to do right as I couldn’t straighten my leg at all. I needed an MRI but couldn’t get in.
We rung our travel insurance who put us on the next flight back home to Australia for more tests. They were great. I was able to speak to an Australian doctor for advice, and they flew me in business class home so I could be more comfortable. Back home, I found out I had broken a bone in my knee and caused ligament and other damage too.
This completely ruined our trip, although the pain of that was eased by travel insurance. Seven months later, I am still recovering, but it has not stopped us traveling at all. Don’t ever travel without travel insurance! Freak accidents can happen!
Surviving Dengue Fever
It was my worst fear; getting seriously sick during a solo journey. I’d been terribly sick on a trip before, but that time my travel mate helped me tremendously. And I couldn’t even imagine taking care of myself back then. Needless to say, when on my latest adventure, the diagnose Dengue rolled out of my blood test, I jumped straight into a nightmare.
It started with a light fever and nausea but quickly led to immense body pain and fatigue. Visiting the local hospital, at least 90 minutes from my residence, was a challenge not to take lightly. When the doctors –after more specific testing- told me I didn’t have the deadly serotype; dengue hemorrhagic fever, I was obviously relieved but completely exhausted.
It took about a week of suffering, deliria, extreme weight loss, and regular check-ups before I felt good enough to start thinking about traveling again. Taking the long 14-hour overnight bus journey to the capital city –and proper hospital care- nearly killed me as I couldn’t even walk the stairs of my hotel without assistance. That the staff welcomed me with fresh fruits and sliced bread still feels like a blessing today!
After experiencing Dengue and facing my worst fear, I can only say; by all means, protect yourself from this mosquito-borne disease. It’s not only super challenging to battle the disease, but it can actually kill you. To recover from Dengue completely will take several weeks, sometimes even months. So it’s definitely a trip-waster. Check your travel destination for Dengue and always use a mosquito repellent to keep those tiny killers on a safe distance. Ideally, one containing DEET. Additionally, wear long sleeves and trousers and sleep under mosquito nets always.
By Priscilla from Discover World Places
Bus Crash in Myanmar
Recently I jumped on an overnight bus from Yangon to Mandalay in Myanmar. I paid for the most expensive bus in hopes that this meant a more comfortable and overall safer bus journey, but it didn’t matter in the end. Around 4 am, I woke up to the bus hitting something hard and then steering out of control. The front right side of the bus hit the back of a large pickup truck and then went out of control crossing three lanes of tracks as well as the median and a steel barrier.
When we tried to exit the bus, it was clear that the entire front corner of the bus was crushed inwards. Unfortunately, a person was sitting in this place, and he was also crushed.
The rest of us were fine (minus a couple of bruises), and we exited the bus through the emergency exit. A few people tried to pry the man out, but it was no use. We had no choice but to wait for emergency services to arrive. When they did (over an hour later), it was too late, and the man had passed. It was a hard situation to be a part of.
This made the rest of my trip to Myanmar extremely hard as I had a fear of traveling by bus. Bus travel is the main way to get around in Myanmar, so I found myself heading to locations I could reach by train instead.
The truth is, accidents happen. They can happen anywhere in the world – but they are more common in countries where strict safety rules are not enforced. Taking buses during the day (as opposed to the night) minimizes risks as it is less likely the driver will be fatigued and visibility is better. And the best advice of all, book a bus that has seatbelts whenever possible and WEAR IT!
Hospitalized for 7 Days in Prague
I’ve been backpacking around the world for four years, and the biggest scare I had was when I was hospitalized in Prague, the Czech Republic for seven days. I took a flight from Scotland to Prague and felt extremely ill when I landed. I went to my friend’s house and immediately asked him to call the ambulance. I was running a fever and had a red rash all over my body.
The medics arrived and put on full-body suits before putting me in the ambulance, which made me think I had something very contagious like meningitis. They took me to the Intensive Care Unit, and doctors started attaching catheters and IVs to me. The doctors didn’t speak a lot of English, so I still had no idea what was wrong with me but trusted that they would get me better. After two days, I was transported to another room, and no longer needed intensive care.
The language barrier was tough because I felt okay and wanted to go home, but I had no idea how long I’d have to stay in the hospital. The bed was very uncomfortable, the food was inedible, and there was no wifi or a way to stay entertained. Luckily, I had one local friend who visited me each day at the hospital. After seven days, I finally was released and happy the doctors got me better. Also, the hospital was very affordable and only cost US$700. If I were home in the USA, then I would’ve been bankrupt with no insurance hospitalized for that long.
Grounded by an Erupting Volcano
It was nearly the end of our family holiday in the Algarve in Portugal, when the news broke about the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupting in Iceland. All UK flights were grounded, and people were left stranded all over the world. Mark was due back at work on Monday, and if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid, so we had to get home!
All the phone lines for ferry companies were inundated or even closed down due to the high demand. And this was back in 2010 when internet cafes were usually the only way to get online on holiday. I finally managed to find a different phone number and actually spoke to a person who found us five spaces on an early morning sailing from Calais to Dover. It gave us just 48 hours to get there.
We could rent a car in Portugal and leave it at Calais, but the fee would be an eye-watering £1,500 (1,850 US$) for two days’ hire of a little Skoka Fabia.
We squished all of the luggage into the tiny boot and the three boys in the slightly bigger back seat. Unfortunately, I hadn’t got my driver’s license with me so that Mark would be driving the 1,400 miles (2,300 km) on his own. Meanwhile, I navigated with a fold-out paper map, instead of having the luxury of Google Maps plotting the course.
And there’d be no stopping off in hotels overnight or relaxed meals with a glass of wine. We stopped for a couple of hours at San Sebastian, and a few more hours in a truck stop somewhere near Le Mans.
Finally, we arrived at Calais ferry terminal late in the evening before our ferry home. Mark was exhausted, and the boys were bored after two days in the back of a car. We still faced another night’s sleep in the car before we could head back to the UK. But at least we had places booked on a ferry, unlike many of the people sleeping on the floor in the terminal.
Since then, I always book ‘catastrophe cover’ so our costs will be covered if we have a similar experience. And I always take an extra credit card with plenty of credit to cover this kind of eventuality.
Oh, and after all of that, we arrived back just in time to hear that UK airspace had reopened. If we’d just waited a few more days, we could have flown back!
By Sally at Sally Akins
Boat Rescue in Thailand
The universe listens. If you sincerely wish for something the universe will eventually provide. You should, therefore, be very careful with what you wish for. We learned this the hard way on our overnight trip to Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.
We had been backpacking Southeast Asia for a couple of months already and started to get very comfortable with the road. As a result, we were longing for more adventures, more surprises, more thrill. And boy, did we get all of that!
Having spent a wonderful weekend in Khao Sok National Park floating bungalows, it was time to hit the road and get back to civilization. A strong tropical rain was delaying our departure. While blissfully waiting for the rain to pass, we noticed the little slow boat which was supposed to take us to the shore started sinking. Although the boat was rapidly rescued, the seed of fear and doubt had been planted. We still laughed when the staff informed us we needed to travel on that boat in the middle of the storm, but the laughter was a nervous one. Is this really happening?
Oh yes. Five minutes after departure, the boat engine stopped. Then smoke started coming out of it. The engine was on fire. In the middle of the storm. The engine next to the can of fuel supplies. On the lake infested with king cobras. Oh dear. Are we going to die? Is this one of those sad stories people are going to read in the news about? We screamed for help. Hysterical laughter broke out as, completely terrified, and in shock, we contemplated what might happen to all of us.
Luckily, we were not meant to die that day. Eventually, we safely made it to the shore, albeit overdosed on adrenalin. Hey, we got exactly what we’d asked for.
Airbnb Scam in Paris
My wife, 10-month-old son, and I climbed six flights of stairs with all our bags to our Paris Airbnb. The young guy was nice enough to help us bring our bags in but then once we were inside the apartment (that didn’t look much like the pictures) he says that we have to pay him cash because he can’t get money from Airbnb due to local bank issues. We said, “no way!” and he said, “you can’t stay here unless you pay cash.”
By that time, it was 6 p.m., and we were exhausted, so we reluctantly paid cash for one night. Big mistake. The bed, shower, and lights were broken, and there was yelling and screaming all night. We didn’t feel safe at all. The icing on the cake was when we called Airbnb, and they offered to put us in another place, but that place happened to be hosted by the same scammer in the same building!
To avoid this happening again, I recommend never booking with someone who has zero reviews and only book places with at least fifty 5-star reviews. Anything less than a 5-star average will likely lead to a problem. Communicate with your host before you arrive and make sure there is nothing fishy. Lastly, never transact outside of the Airbnb platform.
Hurricane in St. Lucia
Most people go on their honeymoon expecting things to go smoothly as a successful start to their marriage. Our honeymoon in St. Lucia certainly started off that way, until it turned into a travel horror story for us. Hurricane Tomas hit St. Lucia near the end of our trip in October of 2010. While it ended up being downgraded to a tropical cyclone by the time it hit St Lucia, you wouldn’t know it from the destruction it caused. Given its location, hurricanes are rare in St. Lucia, and it doesn’t have the infrastructure to support natural disaster. We woke up the morning after the storm hit to fallen trees and debris all over the property, along with damage to several other buildings. The worst of the damage was experienced throughout the island, with several deaths from landslides, and no running water or electric across most of St. Lucia.
Our flight out of St Lucia was not only canceled, but the main airport was in shambles. Once it was up and running, the roads to get there were still closed from landslide damage. With the help of our travel agent, we ended up having to leave from a small island hopper airport. After an overnight stop in Antiqua, followed by flights to Puerto Rico, Atlanta and eventually Pittsburgh, we made it home. We made it back four days later than planned, with US$500 in telephone bills in a country that doesn’t support toll-free numbers (In addition to many other, unplanned costs.) We rarely use a travel agent, but with access to the internet at the time, I’m so glad we did! This trip reinforced the importance of travel insurance for costly vacations and having at least one extra credit card as a backup for unplanned costs.
My Not-So-Great Camel Trek into the Sahara Desert
Wait until you get to Chinguetti in Mauritania, the overnight camel trek in the Sahara will be so much more authentic.
That’s what I said. To myself. Because I didn’t want to be one of those people who go glamping and then hollowly proclaim how a comfy trek into the desert changed my life. Besides that, glamping in Morocco was out of the budget range.
First off, the camel driver spoke no English, and barely any French. So communication was nil.
At our stop for lunch, he tossed a baguette at me, and a small can of tuna. Then he made a lazy-ass version of nomad tea. I mention the lazy tea because I know the foam code, and he was making it pretty obvious that he didn’t like me.
In this grand scheme, I hadn’t realized that the distance to the nomad camp was almost 10 miles (15 kms) each way. When my back started hurting, I’d get off the camel. When my legs grew exhausted from walking in the sand, I got back on the camel. Back and forth, until we finally arrived at the nomad camp.
After a babbling, exhausting introduction to a family that didn’t understand a word I was saying, I collapsed in my tent. (The white one on the right in the picture). Dinner was a flavorless plate of rice, and with no communications, I could do nothing more than observe. I didn’t mind that. I like to learn.
However, bedding down at 8:30 pm ultimately led to me seeing a bazillion stars – as I was hiking out to pee on the side of a dune at 2:00 am in the very cold desert night.
The ride back the next morning was equally grueling.
Yes, I got my truly authentic camel-trekking-overnight-in-a-nomad-camp experience in the Sahara Desert. It didn’t change my life. There were no revelations. The universe did not tell me its secrets.
But I do have one piece of advice – take the short camel ride.
Expired Visa in Thailand
One of the most stressful things that have happened to me on my travels was in Thailand. I had been working in the country for eight weeks, and I had a full business visa, so everything was above board. However, when I checked in for my return flight back to the UK, I was told that my visa had expired and if I wished to depart, I would have to pay a hefty fine.
Despite explaining that this couldn’t be correct, there seemed very little I could do. Things got worse when I found an ATM, but none of my five cards seemed to work in the machine.
On returning to check-in and phoning my company, a lengthy conversation took part with Emirates, the outcome being that immigration must have stamped my passport incorrectly upon entry into Thailand.
I now had to try and explain this to immigration, not an easy task. I was taken into a small room, and all I can say is my heart was pounding. I’ve seen these types of situations on tv where people get held at immigration for reasons beyond their control, and now it was happening to me.
Cutting the story short, thankfully, the issue was resolved in 45 minutes. An official came and explained that they would have to delete my entry into the country, then re-enter me and then they could stamp my passport as departed. So they literally crossed out the original entry gave me a new arrival stamp and then stamped it with left.
I’ve never taken any notice of what passport stamps say in the past. My business visas usually take up a whole page in my passport so I would have thought the type of visa would be evident to an official.
However, mistakes obviously happen, so now I make a point of checking the stamp before leaving immigration. If you look closely, you’ll see it gives the last possible date of departure as well as the time you arrive.
The whole ordeal was incredibly stressful, and part of me wonders if it is a scam, as I would have paid the hefty fine if the cash machine had given me the money.
Rough Cruise in New York City
We went on a cruise near the end of the year that departed from New York City. The weather was less than ideal, being that it was in the middle of the winter, but that was the only time we could travel that year. During the trip, the wind was so strong and rocked the cruise ship so much that we could barely walk straight. People were getting seasick, including my husband, which made eating the gourmet French cuisine that we craved so much prior to the cruise an impossibility.
During the night when the cruise was cruising at full speed, the waves were so big that we felt like we were on one of those drop tower thrill rides. At one moment, we would be lifted up by the wave, and then without any warning, the ship would drop and hit the ocean. Therefore, nobody was getting any sleep.
After this experience, I definitely will think twice and check the weather conditions before I book another cruise. Oh, and pack lots of motion sickness remedies.
Moneyless in Thailand
No money, no problem. That’s what they said.
While I was traveling in South East Asia starting with Thailand, my bank suddenly changed its procedure to access money abroad. And now, it didn’t spit cash in the time I needed it most.
In the previous years, I had no problem withdrawing money from my ATM whenever I’m abroad. I tried it in India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and had no problems getting money. I’ve long accepted the fact that I’m a magnet of mishaps and have tried all possible ways to counteract it.
So I know beforehand that this might happen to me. Good thing I bought a spare ATM/Debit Card from another bank. At a time where people just stare (or laugh) at you on your misfortunes, the spare card was my saving grace.
To those who are about to embark on that big dream travel destination, make sure you have multiple ATMs and a few friends who will bail you out in case something horrible happens.
By Grasya at Grasya.com
Rats! I Smell Smoke
Surviving three months of colicky infant, hubby, and I took a spontaneous vacation to Hawaii. The baby was now happy to sleep anywhere in her stroller/crib, and we knew how to find cheap accommodation quickly. How hard could it be?
Arriving in Honolulu at 10 p.m., we began searching for a room. By 10:30 p.m. we had accommodation, twice as expensive as anticipated, but it was only for one night. At midnight, the elevator directly outside our room developed a bad case of emphysema and began wheezing steadily as it delivered the first in a series of party animals.
At one a.m., the air conditioner crapped out, and by two a.m., when the stifling room temperature became too much, we opened the window. Car horns and emergency vehicle sirens drowned out the elevator, although they didn’t cover the couple arguing in the next room.
The baby slept on.
Bleary-eyed the next morning, we scanned the local newspaper searching for beach cottages. Bingo! The sprawling, decades-old North Shore bungalow had character – white paint peeled off the screened-in veranda and the brown carpet was a little threadbare – but it was quiet.
That’s when the argument started. I wanted to pay for the rest of the week; hubby only wanted to pay for one night. I fumed, not so silently. Hubby relented. He’d seen a cat coming out of our bungalow… with a rat in its mouth.
By eight p.m. we had our money back and were on the road again, heading straight towards Waikiki’s high-rise hotels, baby sleeping soundly in her car seat. We got a room on the 38thfloor.
When the fire alarm sounded at midnight, we stared at each other in disbelief. Ten floors down, smoke began wafting into the emergency exit stairway. Panic started spreading among the growing numbers of guests fleeing the building. Clutching baby closer, we scurried down the remaining flights of stairs.
Standing on the street, we listened to the chatter. Candle… open window… curtains… sprinkler system… fire’s out.
We’re thinking, next time, we’ll book ahead.
Robbed in Havana
I was just embarking on a backpacking adventure with no return ticket. I was aiming for a 3-month trip, but my trip first ended after almost two years in Latin America. I’d just arrived in Cuba and had spent three wonderful days in Havana. I got to know this Colombian guy in the hostel where I stayed, and we decided to head to our next destination together. This really benefited me, as I didn’t know a lot of Spanish and getting around on the cheap is easier if you speak the language.
We were told we could catch a bus further up the road from where we were. It started to get dark and this boy, probably about 18 years old, came up to us and offered to show us where exactly the bus stop was. When we reached a bus stop about 5 minutes later, the boy ripped my daypack out of my hands and ran. We threw our big backpacks off and started to run after him, but soon realized it would be impossible to catch him. He was gone, and with him, my passport, phone, camera, travel papers and so on. At this point, I was freaking out.
After gathering myself for a while, we jumped in a taxi and asked them to take us to the closest police station. We later found out they definitely didn’t drive us to the closest one, but that didn’t really matter at the time. We spend half the night with the police, at two different police stations. They found out that there was a Norwegian embassy in Havana and I got the address so that I could go the next day. They even made a digital sketch of the robber and helped us find affordable accommodation for the night.
The next day I went to the embassy and started the process of getting a new passport. Luckily I had travel insurance that covered all my loses and got to continue my travels. This experience didn’t stop me from being adventurous and continue my solo travels, but I definitely learned to be less naive.
A Nightmare of a Hotel Stay in Pittsburg, USA
My husband and I were traveling with our 4-month-old son. It was our first time traveling with a baby, so we were stressed and tired. We traveled by plane all day to get from California to Pennsylvania. Because of flight delays, we ended up arriving at the Pittsburgh airport in the middle of the night. Once we arrived at the hotel, we checked in. I had verified that the hotel had a pack-n-play available, so we didn’t bring ours. However, the person working overnight didn’t have access to the room where the pack-n-plays were stored. We were told tough luck on getting on that night. By this time, it was about 2 am, so we ended up putting our son to sleep on the floor with a play mat under him. Thankfully, he was still young enough that we didn’t have to worry about him rolling or crawling away.
Well if that wasn’t stressful enough, we woke in the morning to the sound of rain. Rain isn’t unusual in Pennsylvania, but what seemed odd was that we were hearing it from our hotel room door which opened into a hallway. Curious we opened our door to find it raining into the indoor hallway right outside our room. Upon further investigation, we discovered that it was also raining in the closet, and the bathroom ceiling was leaking. We didn’t stay around long enough to find out what it was raining inside.
There wasn’t much we could do to avoid the ceiling leak besides choosing higher quality hotels. However, I now always call the hotel the day of arrival to verify that there will be a pack-n-play in the room for us, which has prevented this problem from occurring again. I use a Family Travel Planner to make sure that I don’t forget again.
Passports Stolen (and Food Poisoning) in Tenerife
It was our first day in Tenerife, we’d hired a car and had grand plans to explore the island. We’d just been up Mount Teide in the cable car and were falling in love with the incredible volcanic landscapes. It was a short while later, during a quick stop in a layby at Montana Blanca to take some photos, that it happened.
Our car was broken into, and all our belongings stolen from the locked boot, including cameras, money and our passports. It was broad daylight, and there were lots of other cars and tourists around. Nobody saw anything; these thieves were professionals. It was the only possessions they took, no-one was hurt, yet we felt violated. And then the panic set in as we realized we couldn’t get home without our passports. So we spent the rest of our trip making reports at the police station, filling out applications and driving all the way up to the British Consulate in Santa Cruz to collect our emergency documents a few days later.
It was touch and go whether they’d process them in time for our flight home (and if we missed that, we wouldn’t be able to head out to Kenya as planned a couple of days later). Oh, and we both had food poisoning on top of all this. We eventually made it home (and to Kenya after a frantic dash to the UK passport office in Glasgow to pick up new passports at great expense), but that wasn’t the end.
Filling out the insurance claim was a nightmare, and disappointingly, we only received a fraction of what our losses were worth, resulting in us being out of pocket by about £1500. Not a trip we’ll forget in a hurry, and we’re never going to leave anything in the boot of our car again.
Poop in Sipadan, Malaysia
A quick lesson you learn, when you travel often, is to manage your expectations. Being flexible and rolling with the punches has turned many potentially lousy trips into an adventure. Ideally, this is our travel mantra, but sometimes you just end up with an experience that is a complete bust.
The first time we traveled to SE Asia together, we country hopped for about 6-weeks. The trip was really fun for the exception of a short stay in Sipadan, Malaysia.
The only goals for Malaysia were getting sun and swimming. The only accommodation we could find was an Airbnb listing. The listing advertised beautiful tiki bungalows over crystal blue waters. The number one reason we booked with them was that we were told you could dive directly from our bungalow and snorkel for free.
Many countries, and islands, of course, deal with their waste in different ways. We have been all over the globe and are not fussy when it comes to things like this. Sipadan however, was a nightmare. Their toilets were just giant holes over the water that we were advertised to snorkel in. The bathrooms smelled worst that any public toilet I’ve ever encountered and stunk up the whole room.
The water surrounding all the bungalows, that was advertised for diving and swimming, was infested with human waste. I do not judge a country by their lack of infrastructure but swimming straight from our bungalow should have never been advertised in the listing.
With poop infested waters and a room that smelled just as bad, we were not very happy. We decided to cut our losses and get the first boat out… two days later.
The one positive note is that every trip we have taken since; any hiccups don’t seem as bad. If we miss a flight or lose a bag, we say “at least we not on poop island.”
Train Ride in India
A few years back, when I was new to travel, I faced a bad situation on a train journey in South India. I had a very annoying man sitting right opposite to my seat and had to interact with him inevitably. He started out doing harmless pun like gulping down my entire water, having food from someone else’s plate, laughing while listening to songs and such silly things. But at night, he started bugging me by asking personal questions. When I did not respond kindly, he started telling me about himself.
I was so scared that night as he was right next to me in the middle berth. I could not sleep even a wink. The next day as soon as the train stopped at my destination, I literally ran away. This is a reserved compartment, and you usually have to stick to your seat for the entire journey.
Unfortunately, as a solo female traveler, you will need to be very careful in public transportation because even though most men are decent, some rowdy elements make the entire journey horrible. If you have the option, try to book in a ladies coach. Or even try to swap seats with a generous soul so that you can sit with other women.
Pumping Nightmare in Paris
My husband and I were gifted a free trip to Paris, France from his work company when our first baby was six weeks old. At six weeks postpartum with my first baby, I was NOWHERE in the condition to be going on such a huge trip and traveling so far from my newborn. My body was still very much recovering, my hormones were all over the place, and my baby was exclusively breastfed, so I had to pump enough breastmilk for him to have while we were away and I also have to pump on his schedule during our travels.
At his age, I had to pump every 2-3 hours ALL DAY LONG and on EST, which was quite a large time difference from the local time in Paris! I pumped breastmilk all over Paris. At the Louvre. During the Moulin Rouge show. In the disgusting public bathrooms. I also had to set the alarm and wake up all throughout the night to pump my breastmilk on schedule.
Now that I’m done having children, I feel I deserve a re-do of our Paris experience! It was such a nightmare to be dealing with pumping and storing the milk and having to cope with all the hormones I was experiencing while also trying to soak in such an incredible travel opportunity.
A free trip to Paris was too good to pass up, and while I don’t regret going, I will never forget the nightmare of a pumping mother traveling to Europe at six weeks postpartum!
An Allergic Reaction Left Me Looking Like I’d Been Beaten Up
Back in 2008, my new boyfriend asked me if I’d be interested in going to Silverstone to watch the Grand Prix with him. Formula 1 and motorsport, in general, weren’t my idea of fun, but I liked the sound of a weekend away, so I agreed.
It was July, and very hot when we arrived at the track. I caught the sun during the day but wasn’t burnt as such. That evening, we arrived at our hotel and ate in the hotel restaurant.
We went to bed as normal, but when I woke up on Monday, my face was swollen beyond recognition. I literally looked like I had been attacked in the night. My eye was swollen shut, and so red, it looked bruised.
The looks we got from the hotel staff as we checked out were awful. They were looking from me to my boyfriend as if he had beaten me up. I found myself explaining that though I’d had an allergic reaction to the bedding as I assumed they used biological detergent. The hotel receptionist slipped me a note asking me to text her if I wanted her to call the police as we were leaving. I was mortified, as was my poor boyfriend.
Once we got home, I went to the doctor who agreed it was a severe reaction. I was prescribed strong antihistamines, which left me too tired to drive for a week. Thankfully the swelling and redness went down within a few days, and I am happy to report my then-boyfriend has been my husband since 2010! Needless to say, I always pack my own pillowcases when we travel now!
Drunk in Osaka, Japan
It was one of my first trips outside of the United States, and I ended up at a bar in Osaka that had “all-you-can-drink” alcohol for two hours. I like a good deal, so naturally, I drank a lot of alcohol very quickly to get “full value” out of the experience. After two hours of drinking, I left my friends at the bar to go outside and get some air.
As soon as I walked outside, I blacked out!
When I opened my eyes, it was two hours later, and I was walking around in an unfamiliar alley. My hand was in pain, and I felt like a zombie. People were yelling at me in Japanese. I took a moment to take in the situation and noticed that I knocked down A LOT of bicycles with my hand. The alleys in Japan are narrow and have bikes parked along with them.
I quickly make my escape.
I stop a cab and ask them if they can take me to my hotel. The cab driver did not speak English. I closed the taxi door and continued walking. With no phone or sense of direction, I just keep walking and walking.
Another hour of walking and I somehow found my way back to the hotel! My friends were there awake and worried.
What I learned from this experience: Don’t get super drunk even if it’s a good deal. But if you do, make sure you get the hotel business card, so you have the hotel address.
GoPro Left by the Side of the Road
Our trip to Mallorca was ill-fated from the start. We stepped off the plane, expecting to step out into the balmy warm, Spring temperatures Mallorca is known for. Sadly we arrived in the middle of a thunderstorm – and that set the tone for the rest of the trip!
By far, the most stressful moment of our week in Mallorca was at the end of a long day of shooting. Normally, we try and finish at a sensible hour but, due to the horrendous weather, we’d decided we needed to cram as much into this one day of good weather as possible. As a result, our cameras and GoPro were jam-full of gorgeous footage of Mallorca bathed in sunshine.
Only, as the sun sank lower in the sky, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the GoPro! Where was it?
With a sinking feeling, I suddenly remembered that I’d had to take it off the mount to switch cameras. So… yes, I must have left it by the roadside at the bottom of the mountain we were now at the top of…
As anyone that loves to take photos can imagine, I suddenly felt sick. Would someone have taken it? It had been at least two hours since we were at the bottom of the mountain… We raced down – and yes, thankfully there it was! Sitting patiently on a concrete block by the side of the road!
I have never been so relieved in all my life! Lesson learned: less haste, more speed!
Child Scare in Hong Kong Theme Park
Our first family overseas holiday was to Hong Kong, and the kids were 5, 7, and 9 years old. We were about a week into our holiday, and I had started to relax and get used to local people approaching the kids and wanting to talk to them. We were at Ocean Park, a massive theme park on Hong Kong Island. Keira my 7-year-old was walking on the edging of a garden bed. I saw an Asian male run upside her and lift her down and was about to apologize for her walking on the garden when he turned and ran off with my child.
Keira was stunned and was looking at me over his shoulder, I was panicking as we were walking at the rear of our group and it was noisy, and I wasn’t sure I had got my husband’s attention. In a split second I decided to ran after Keira, the man ran for about 260 feet (80 m) and handed her to a group of mainland Chinese tourists who wanted to take some photos with her.
Once I realized what was happening, I started to settle down. I was relieved they only wanted photos as it could have been much worse. When my husband realized what was going on, he wasn’t as forgiving. While we were trying to get Keira back from the ‘just one more please’ ladies, I turned around to see they had grabbed my son and were taking more photos.
Unfortunately, we had to be a bit aggressive with them as they had frightened the kids, but they didn’t seem to notice that and were following us and taking more photos. My husband eventually politely but firmly asked them to stop taking photos. It was all harmless in the end, but I, for one, got the fright of my life.
I love national park travel – any outdoor travel, really. I love hiking, camping, and exploring all the natural wonders the US (and the world!) has to offer. Do you know what else loves the outdoors? Ticks.
My travel horror story has followed me around for ten years, and now, I’m obsessed with educating others so they can avoid the same pain. I’m talking about Lyme disease, which I contracted from a tick bite after a hiking trip at a US national park. Long story short, I’ve dealt with the fallout ever since. It’s not been pretty, and I don’t wish it on anyone!
So, fellow outdoor travelers, please take precautions — but definitely, don’t stop exploring! The steps you can take to protect yourself are relatively simple:
Tuck pant cuffs into your socks when you’re hiking – not the most fashion-forward thing in the world, but it helps keep ticks from getting inside your clothing. Wear long, light-colored attire, so the little critters can be easily spotted and removed from clothing when you’re done hiking.
Cover yourself with bug spray. (In general, I’m a pretty anti-chemical gal… but, having experienced Lyme, I’ll take the DEET any day.) Then, check your entire body and take a shower soon after every hike. You’ll have to look closely because Lyme ticks are as small as a pinhead, but if you find one, remove it from the head (don’t squeeze its body!) with tweezers only.
I’ll never stop exploring the world’s natural wonders and encouraging others to do the same. But my exploration and encouragement now come with a list of safety precautions!
Hotel Fire in Antwerp, Belgium
As I woke up to the smell of smoke, I thought to myself, how romantic, the couple next door is burning candles in the middle of the night! But when I opened my eyes, and the room was flooded in the orange light of sirens. Something was clearly wrong, and the couple next door had nothing to do with it. The mellow sound of the fire alarm in the distance was a clear indication of it. I instantly jumped out of bed and woke up my husband. We were on the 7th floor of a hotel in Antwerp, Belgium.
While my husband got dressed, I turn into the female version of Flash – I put on my clothes and packed our luggage, grabbing every one of our belonging in passing (all the way to the €0.30 toothbrush!). The next thing I remember, we were rushing down the emergency staircase. It wasn’t until we arrived in the parking lot where the other guests started to gather that I realized the insanity of my actions. Most of the people there were in PJs, robes, and some didn’t even have their shoes on.
Luckily, nobody got hurt, and the fire was contained to the kitchen. An hour later, we were allowed back to our rooms. Understandably, no baked goods or warm dishes were served for breakfast in the morning. Kids, do not try this at home or any hotel room! Ever! I have to say years have passed, but I remained sensitive to the smell of smoke to this day. My nose is better than a fire detector! On a side note, there are SO many quirky things to do in Antwerp, and you should definitely visit this beautiful Flemish city.
Stranded in Romania
“Well Romania has dirt cheap flights, should we go there?”
While Romania isn’t exactly a top “Girls Trip” destination, especially when toting along with five small children, my friends and I all decided to give the country a shot, and the crazy cheap Ryan Air flights made it all that more appealing. As frequent travelers, despite the fact that two of us were pregnant, that we had five kids under 5, and that Ryan Air had been striking all summer, we decided to give it a go.
However, as we waited at the gate, just minutes prior to boarding, an announcement (In Romanian) came overhead. As everyone around us groaned and got up, we knew it wasn’t looking good.
Instead of landing back home in a few hours, we found ourselves stranded in a small town in Romania that literally had zero hotel rooms left (since Ryan Air was striking left and right apparently, leaving dozens of flights canceled).
After a long night of town-hopping in a taxi, we finally found a late apartment still taking bookings, only to see that there were no flights out for days… if at all. So, grabbing all five little ones (5 under 5!), we all found the closest train station and began what was the longest, most convoluted train ride home possible.
And, as if being seven months pregnant in July wasn’t hard enough, both my son and I got a stomach bug, that we then had to deal with in the small confines of Eastern European trains! It was as if we just couldn’t catch a break! However, at the end of the day, we knew we only had one option; get home….somehow! It wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t convenient.
But in those instances, all you can do is grab your luggage and say, “Let’s figure this out.”
Back in 2006, we booked a last-minute camping trip to Bakewell in the Peak District on August Bank Holiday. I left the booking to my Husband (mistake #1) who booked the last campsite he could find with availability on the top of a very big hill. We took our new tent which we had purchased from eBay at the bargain price of £150 (US$190) for a 9-man (I know, what did we expect?) We wanted space to spread out with Will, our 5-year-old at the time.
We pitched the tent easily and were impressed with our efforts until we saw the black clouds rolling in, and the wind began to build. Sure enough, a night-long storm came in, and our new tent began to ‘dance,’ we tried to stay positive and played card games and hoped for the best. That’s when it started . . . Drip, drip, drip . . . The tent began to leak. Our brand new pots and pans were spread out around the tent to catch the drips which turned into actual running water.
As the wind grew stronger, the poles began to bend, and the tent was blowing down onto us, we became more wet, more tired, and more frightened by the minute. In the end, we retreated to our VW Transporter – at least we knew it didn’t leak, but it certainly rocked in the wind. By morning, the tent was still there, just. It looked like it had seen better days. It had certainly seen it’s last day with us. We drove into Bakewell to the Millets Camping Show and bought a Vango Diablo 600 which served us well for many years.
The moral of this story? Bargains are not always what they seem!
Catcalls in Sri Lanka
It was in 2016, as I was walking along the shores of Unawatuna beach with my boyfriend – I couldn’t help but notice all the malicious stares and catcalls I was receiving. Yes, I was wearing a bikini just like everyone else on the beach, but it wasn’t too skimpy. I even have a sarong wrapped around my waist. We’ve been traveling around Sri Lanka already, and this is the first time that we have encountered this.
In the evening, while we were having dinner, I saw a drunk tourist girl with locals swarmed around her, she was with a female companion who was also equally drunk, as I watched closely, I saw one of the locals touching her while his other hand inside his pants (he was masturbating over this – we know because of the movements). I tried to stop it and call the girl’s attention, but there were too many locals surrounding them that she couldn’t hear me. There were no police or local authorities around. After the local got off, they left the two tourists.
I still get nightmares because of this because being a female traveler, this is the last thing that I want to happen to me. I also wish that those two tourists will take care of themselves because something worse could have happened to them. And I don’t mean to generalize, but because of instances like that, locals may think that what they did was absolutely normal.
UTI in Madrid
About a year ago, I had visited Madrid for the third time, and everything was perfect up until two days before my flight back home. I woke up and could feel it coming; a woman’s nightmare which is, of course, UTI. At least I didn’t have to face any embracement because the woman I had been staying with was out of town and I was alone in the apartment.
Obviously, I couldn’t do anything during these last two days in Madrid, but I was lucky enough to have the proper medicine. About one year before my trip to Madrid, I had visited South America, so I had some subscribed generic antibiotics at home. I normally don’t take this type of pills when I’m traveling to Europe, but this time, I had them with me. After taking the first pill, I already felt better and wouldn’t have survived the flight back without the antibiotics.
“Hoteless” in Greece
Last summer my partner and I spent ten days in Greece. We traveled in and out of Athens and three islands (Sifnos, Santorini, and Mykonos). Because we began the trip with my best friend and his Greek parents, we booked the trip in stages. We spent one night in Athens and then Sifnos with him and his parents. Next, we went to Santorini with him and then Mykonos as a couple. Finally, we spent two nights in Athen together before flying home.
Planning was also done in a scattershot way. My friend’s parents booked the Athens and Sifnos hotels and our first ferry. I booked the remaining hotels and our flights, while my partner booked our remaining ferries. Complicating things more, we also did the planning long distance (we live in Denmark, they live in Washington, DC).
Because of the confusing way that everyone had a piece of the planning — we never booked a hotel in Athens for our last two nights. We drank most of the day in Mykonos, made our flights to Athens. n arrival, we looked in our emails for a hotel reservation confirmation, and neither of us found one. Of course, we panicked, but we were luckily able to book one online last minute at 1 am. Regardless, it was scary.
When we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist said, “all of our check-ins have arrived.” We then explained that the reservation was made 30 minutes ago and he checked us in. We now keep a very detailed google doc to record all of our travel planning in a shareable live itinerary. Lesson learned the hard way.
Derelict Apartment in Budapest
On our last day in Budapest, we booked a hotel room close to the Great Market Hall. On the given direction, at around 7:00 a.m., we encountered the closed door of a residential building even though the booking site stated the place had a 24 hours reception. With the help of a restaurant owner, we found out the person in charge was going to be in the area at around 1:00 p.m.
The “hotel” ended up being a derelict apartment on the 4th floor. The person in charge greeted us and told us straight to our face that there was no space for us in the apartment. He offered us to sleep on the hall floor for free. No kidding! We left and spent hours looking for a place to stay. The situation ended up being a waste of time and money. We spent the last day of our vacation in complete stress.
Back home, I reported the situation to the booking site. They returned the money paid and opened an investigation. Even though I do not agree with the findings (a mistake on the property owner), I learned several valuable lessons.
First, a hotel is obligated to help you find alternative accommodation if they cannot honor your booking (big booking sites require this). Also, take a close look at the accommodation amenities and photos. You may find discrepancies. Reading the fine print at the bottom is important too.
Make sure you read several pages of reviews even if the place is rated above average. On the 4th page of reviews of this place in Budapest, I found somebody that experimented the same situation as us.
Engage in electronic conversation with your hotel (or apartment) a couple of days before arrival. Ask pertinent questions. Lastly, have all hotel contact information at hand.
Crash in India
India is a spectacular place that enthralls and challenges in equal measure. In fact, many travelers to this amazing country will come home with stories of things gone wrong, which luckily are often quite entertaining in hindsight. Our story was set on India’s notorious roads. We were spending two weeks with a driver seeking out the highlights of Rajasthan – palaces, forts, temples, beautiful cities, and incredible food. We loved everything, apart from driving.
Our reasonably priced driver came highly recommended and was a lovely man and in all probability a decent driver. But from very early on we were a little nervous in the passenger seats of his Ambassador (a 2004 built car based on a 1953 platform). He would drive around roundabouts the wrong way and then have to drive on the wrong side of a dual carriageway for a couple of kilometers before he could duck onto the correct side of the road. And one day he drove into an open manhole – not really his fault, but we still needed some help from passersby to get out.
But we were most nervous overtaking trucks. Our car, with a top speed of 80 kph (50 mph), would drive at full speed up to the back of a truck (top speed 40 kph/25 mph) and then at the last possible second simply pull out to pass, regardless of oncoming traffic or blind corners. This strategy worked brilliantly for a number of days until the time one truck inexplicably braked when we were about 2 meters (0.7 feet) behind it, and before we had had a chance to pull out into the oncoming traffic.
Our driver braked heavily, causing the nose of our car to dive and bury itself under the rear axle of the truck. Once the crash was complete, the truck sat on top of our bonnet, three-quarters of the way up to the windscreen.
About half an hour later we were back on the road, having jacked up the truck, backed out the car, stood on the front bumper and kicked in the bonnet so it would (mostly) shut again. Half an hour or so after that, with not a single word said in the meantime; our driver told us solemnly that these things happen in India. “It’s not my fault; it’s not the truck’s fault; these things just happen.”
Hospital Visits in Myanmar
During a 7-month trip to Asia, a lot can go wrong. Therefore, we didn’t worry too much when my partner suddenly got hemorrhoids short before crossing the border to Myanmar. After a 14-hour bus ride, we spent under a broken and way too cold AC, however, not only he started feeling worse, but also I seemed to get sick. So, while we were at Inle Lake, we tried to find a doctor who could help him. At our guesthouse, the owner described us the way to the hospital. But after arriving, we started to wonder whether this was actually the right place. The reception was unoccupied, while medication and syringes were freely accessible on the desk. At the end of the corridor, we saw two women cutting vegetables on the floor. However, when we tried to approach them, we were cut off by two growling stray dogs passing through the corridors of the hospital.
After about an hour, finally, a nurse arrived, but she decided to completely ignore us as she attended everyone else in the waiting room. When we approached her (assuming it might be a language-issue), she told us in perfect English that we could not be treated there while she was filling syringes that had been lying around without any kind of wrapping without using gloves or washing her hands. – Maybe it was better to leave in the first place.
She gave us the address of a private clinic on the other side of the city. But even there nobody could or wanted to help us. Instead, we were given the address of another hospital, which was about an hour away by taxi. During the trip, I felt worse and worse and started to get a fever. However, the third hospital was far better equipped than the two before and had a much better quality and hygiene standard. Read the whole story here.
What about you? Any incredible travel stories to share that turned your trip into a nightmare? Let us know, we would love to hear from your experiences!
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