People dream of being able to see the world, and traveling abroad is a major bucket list item for many. Experiencing a new culture, tasting different foods, and broadening your horizons are just a few of the reasons to take a trip outside your country. Although you may be ready to pack your bags, there are risks every traveler should be aware of when visiting a foreign country — especially if you don’t know the local customs or the areas to avoid. Add the possibility that there might be a major language barrier in the country you are visiting and it really can be a recipe for disaster. Many unfortunate travelers end up in some seriously bad situations while far from home, and these real-life travel stories may have you second-guessing what’s on your next itinerary!
46. Don’t let your guard down.
The train stations in Rome are filled with teenage pickpockets. Two different groups made attempts at us in five minutes. It was actually fun to watch once we realized their strategy.
45. Homelessness is heartbreaking.
The sheer number of people sleeping on the street, on footpaths, and under bridges in Mumbai and Pune, India. Whole families. I just got back and am still thinking about it. There was a lot to love about India, but we saw some heartbreaking things too.
44. Some stereotypes are true.
As a general rule, I enjoyed my (brief) visit to Paris. However, I did have a couple of times when I’d visit a shop and the workers would just be mean to me. I speak French, but I’m a bit slow, and I’d try to talk in French and the shopkeepers would basically laugh in my face and talk about me to each other when I was standing in front of them.
43. No love in NOLA.
Some friends and I drove to New Orleans last year for Voodoo Fest. We met up with one of our friend’s high school buddies that was stationed there. He showed us around and we drank all night. Around 3AM we split up and went back to the hotel. The next morning my friend’s phone is ringing off the hook, so I wake her up and tell her to get it. She goes out in the hall to talk and is out there for awhile. I go out to check if everything is ok, and she is hysterical. Turns out the friend we met up with was arrested 30 minutes after we left him. Needless to say it ruined our vacation.
42. He said, she said.
Went to Italy for two weeks with my best friend (we were about 20 at the time). She met a guy on the second night and went out with him every night for the rest of the holiday. I could have lived with that. But all day, every day all she did was talk about him and analyze every single thing he said and did.
41. It’s supposed to be hotter than hot.
The day after Christmas when I was in fourth grade or so my family drove many hours from our cold mid-west home to spend some time in Florida’s sunshine. When we got there it was so cold we wore our winter coats the entire time and news broadcasts were advising locals to wrap their pipes and not leave their pets outside. We still had a nice time since it was vacation and all, but it does stink that we got such crappy weather. We could have just stayed home for that!
40. Not the eyes!
1984. We drove from British Columbia to California. I was 8 years old. My brothers were six and two. We went with another family. Kids aged 10, 7 and 5.
All the kids got chicken pox. By the time we got to Disneyland, we were too sick to go. Spent vacation in travel trailer with bad chickenpox, my brother even had them in his eyes.
39. Not spy material.
A couple years ago I was at the beach and my parents close friends were there too. They had a really hot daughter and I decided it would be a good idea to take a picture of her and send it to my friend because he didn’t believe I was here with her. Well it turns out that my flash was on. She looked straight at me and the only logical thing I could think of doing was to run. I ended up running into a screen door and ripping a huge hole in it. I still cringe at this memory every time I think of it.
38. Just plain awkward.
Was on vacation with my dad in San Diego when I was in 6th grade. Got my period for the first time and freaked out since I didn’t think of it being my period and I thought I was dying. I didn’t tell my dad and waited until I got home and sobbed to my mom about how I was dying. She had a great laugh.
37. There’s always other tourists.
36. No means nada.
Belize was amazing. All the things I did were incredibly fun and I never felt scared of anything. However, I never met a single guy who I didn’t feel was creeping on me. Middle-aged men were all nice, but I felt like none of them respected any girls (literally wouldn’t listen to a word we said unless a guy repeated it) and when they talked to us it felt like it was only to hit on us. But beyond that, everyone was very nice and I loved the experience as a whole.
35. Even the food is magical.
I went to Disney World with my parents and little brother when I was six. On the second day we went to Epcot, where everyone in the family but me decided to eat pizza, and shortly thereafter everyone in the family but me got food poisoning. To top it off, it rained buckets nonstop for the next three days, and we were staying in a camper on a nearby campground. (Could have been worse. We watched tents float away.)
So for the other half the trip, we sat in a very small camper, me trying to stay out of the way while the other three took turns running to the camp bathroom in the midst of some kind of half-hurricane to empty their poisoned digestive systems.
34. The sweet smell of bile.
I went to Switzerland for the weekend. I vomited on myself because driving up the mountains made me car sick. (3 full vomits into my hand/scarf, I was too frozen to move). The next day I walked around nauseated and with a plastic bag because I thought I could vomit at any second. I also could not wear my jacket because it was vomit filled so I was wearing a thin sweater in Switzerland in February. The next day I spent the day in the hostel barfing every 15 minutes instead of frolicking throughout the mountains.
I was so happy to go to Switzerland however it could have went a hell of a lot better. I still look back positively though, I was able to see some of the alps and I also went canyon jumping (Definitely thought that might make me vomit again).
33. Way to ruin paradise.
Kiawah Island, SC, when I was about 12. No complaints about the hotel, area, or anything. That’s a beautiful part of the US.
I had some intestinal issues and due to the ‘remoteness’ of the island late at night, had some serious mudbutt at a random hotel resort bathroom, which I later discovered was supposed to be out of service. I made one gross mess of that bathroom and feel terrible about it, but it had to be done.
I’ll never go back.
32. Silent but nearly deadly.
I went to North Carolina for a week, and we didn’t know that we chose the week where thousands of stingray were going to be all around the area. On the 5th day, I had stepped on something slimy and it jerked. I try not to think about things like that so I kept on swimming around. Not 5 minutes later, I see blood everywhere and a sting ray had stabbed my mother in her wrist. A “nurse” told us to put an ice pack on it (The worst thing you could possibly do) and we had to wait for the ambulance to come. This was a private beach with no lifeguards so it took a while for a beach patrol to come and give my mother basic treatment. But some idiot parked a truck in front of the emergency access and complained that he had to move his car so it took forever. Eventually my mother made it to the hospital, and her wrist has a giant scar from where she was stabbed.
31. Wear sunscreen, kids.
I got 2nd degree burns during a trip to Clearwater Florida.
My shoulders turned into two large sacks of white-yellow goo. The worst part though was the insatiable itch. It was worse than any pain I’ve ever had and after taking the medication from the hospital it remained in spurts that made me thrust my body away from the affected area. I fell asleep shivering.
And it was my first vacation with my longtime girlfriend, her sister and father. I felt horrible.
30. Too close for comfort.
It wasn’t so much a vacation but going to a family reunion with my grandparents. My parents couldn’t get off work and I wanted to go (it was summer) and they figured at least I could meet some extended family. I was told to beware that my grandfather would choose the cheapest hotel he could find though (he refused to impose on family)… so we ended up in a rundown hotel on the side of the road that had roaches. I ended up sleeping in the bathtub with the drain closed since it seemed safest… and can I say one room, two double beds, and my grandparents, me, and two cousins all having to share.
29. Maybe it’s time for a staycation.
My family has bad luck with holidays. Something always goes wrong. We went to Thailand when I was 6, Dad got food poisoning and spent all holiday in bed. Went to Australia when I was 7, it had been a 3 year drought and as soon as we got there, it rained for the entire holiday (the locals thanked us). Went to the Maldives when I was 8, experienced a Tsunami & came very close to death. Went to Cuba when I was 9, there was a tornado and (unrelated) the hotel swimming pool was incorrectly looked after and my mum and lots of people got sick. Went to Amsterdam with my boyfriend last year and he passed out in the bathroom, spent my birthday in a hospital while he got his face stitched up again. Went to Tenerife with him and I was sick for 3 days. I’ve pretty much accepted I’ll never experience a ‘normal’ holiday.
28. On the wrong side of a scam.
I was scammed at a club in Istanbul. I met some other travelers and I joined their private table for most of the night. At the end, I was left with a $4,000 bill. In reality, the cost should have been in the $400 range, and I was prepared to contribute to the bill. The whole club was full of people in on the scam. So when the bill came, the place cleared out and I was escorted to the ATM machine. My life was threatened along the way. The ATM denied me, so I was forced to call my credit card company. They denied raising my credit limit to pay the club. At the end of the day, I convinced them I had another credit card at my hotel. They escorted me to the hotel, I told the front desk what was up and they locked the doors and called the cops. Turns out the group that had me was recently busted with large amounts of money, substances, and weapons.
27. Open door policy.
I got robbed in Barcelona. It was my last night there, I got back to the apartment which was locked, and every valuable was gone (but they left our passports and U.S. money). They even took my suitcase.
I still think it was a set up from the people renting us the apartment. Police could do nothing. Funny thing was that whoever stole our stuff resold it because a picture of two strangers showed up on our cloud storage from the tablet. Also, my mom had her wedding ring stolen. The one day in her life she decided to wear a different ring.
Despite all of that, the police were very nice, and they actually came to inspect the locks which showed no sign of forced entry. I still enjoyed my time in Spain, but it’s a weird feeling to be taken advantage of like that.
26. When in Rome.
Ah, Rome. I was there with a girlfriend. One morning at the hotel breakfast the receptionist, uninvited, decided to sit next to her. He used high-grade Italian charm. He told her she should come spend the day with him, go to a club he knew, dance, watch the sunrise at the Forum, then make love. She declined and said she was with me and pointed to me sitting aghast (and mildly amused). He took a sneering look at me and said something like, “What?! You’re with this English pig?! You should be with me… Valentino!” He flounced back to his desk and stared daggers at me until we left. Kind of ruined the expectations of the place, but go. It’s great.
25. Don’t pet those doggos.
There are a lot of stray dogs in Peru. I’ve heard that stray dogs are kind of the norm in Latin American countries, and most of the ones I encountered didn’t want anything to do with anyone passing by. However, there was one stray that I passed frequently while walking to a project that I was working on and he was extremely aggressive to the point that I started carrying rocks in my bag in case he chased me. He would follow me for blocks, remaining hidden in a yard until I passed by. He’d bare his teeth and growl, and he also slobbered a lot. I didn’t think it was a disease, but I’m also not 100% convinced it’s not a disease.
24. Holiday in a hospital.
Went on the once in a lifetime family vacation to Hawaii that my parents always wanted. Had an amazing vacation set up, planned to visit all of the islands one by one.
On the plain trip there my father suddenly became very ill. When we finally landed he was taken to the hospital to find that he had advanced polycystic kidney disease and that his left kidney had failed, and was so severely damaged that it needed to be removed immediately.
He spent almost every day of the two weeks in the hospital. Everything was pre-paid for, the condo on the beach in Maui, all the events they booked. All the stuff that we did not get to experience, they did not even get their money refunded for. We never got to experience any of the other islands, and we just stuck hanging out at a hospital on the main island the whole time.
Thousands of dollars gone on one of the most depressing vacations ever.
23. Nature’s out to get you.
Nearly 6 years ago, I attended the midnight release of the 6th Harry Potter book, and my family was scheduled to head on up to the beach (I forget which in particular but it was only an hour or two from home in Tampa). At some point during the day I had caught a stomach bug that made me horribly ill, and I had to leave early from the midnight release. After not getting enough sleep as a result of my attempts to finish the book once my friend brought it back for me, we left for the hotel.
When we arrived, we found out that Red Tide was in full swing. For those of you who don’t know, during Red tide, algal blooms will cause massive fish die offs, and these dead fish wash up on the beaches to sit and rot. Needless to say, my stomach issues didn’t get much better. It was a pretty bad vacation, and I didn’t finish the book till the day after it came out, the longest it had taken me since book 2, and that’s because I didn’t go to that midnight release.
Oh, and to top things off, that first day was my birthday, or as my family liked to call it afterwards, my Barfday.
22. High speed chase.
I went to Kuala Lumpur with a friend of mine last May. Although the hotel we chose looked awesome on the website, it was a total dump in a bad neighborhood (you get what you pay for). After we refused to let a taxi driver rip us off, he floored it WHILE I was getting out of the car and my best friend was still in it. I ran after them and threw my water bottle at the back window of the car so hard that it nearly shattered and he stopped. I pulled my friend out of the car and we took off running as he was taking pictures of us with his camera phone. We hoped in another taxi and had to duck as he passed the first taxi which was still sitting in the middle of the street. We ended up having to go somewhere else as we told the first taxi driver where we were going when we first got it. To top things off, on the way home I got stopped and questioned by both Malaysian and Chinese customs because I’ve lost some weight since taking my passport photo and they were sure that it wasn’t me. EVENTUALLY, they both let me go.
21. Blowing chunks.
Went to Boston and ended up whale watching. We were on a mid-boat, and for the most part it was fun. But then the waves got really choppy and stupid 8 year old me decided it would be fun to jump on the boat as it rolled with the waves. Threw up in 5 minutes, there were Little Bite Brownies all over the deck. The next hour proceeded with mostly everyone on the boat throwing up (including 4 of my family members). I even remember one guy kneeling just hugging the trash can. Eventually we saw some Minke whales and humpback whales and it was pretty neat. But then one of those wannabe fish hit our boat, making it rock even worse and once again Little Bites. When we finally finished we had New England Clam chowder for lunch.
20. Hindsight is 20/20.
Back when I was a kid I went with my family on a weeklong sightseeing vacation through various scenic nature hikes and tours in Southern China.
On the second day I got into a quarrel with my sister in a boat, so naturally she ripped my glasses off and threw them into the lake.
My first instinct was to jump after them but it immediately occurred to me that I wouldn’t find them because I can’t see anything, and I’d also be wet.
As far as the rest of the vacation goes, it was all a blur.
19. Vietnam is like a box of chocolates.
I was an exchange student in Vietnam. Wonderful experience, but my less-fond memories include: people literally chasing me up a mountainside trying to sell me coconuts and shrimp flavored Pringles (14 of them, one of me); eating breakfast when I felt something pull on my leg (a beggar with no limbs had rolled under my table and was biting my pants); children defecating on the steps of the Hanoi Opera House; tour buses full of Australians throwing cans at people from the windows; almost meeting a terrible end multiple times while traveling on the scariest roads I’ve ever seen; and, finding out that the windshield in our microbus had been sold and replaced with regular glass when a chicken flew through it (lots of stitches involved from a very questionable doctor).
Speaking of healthcare, I got a first-hand look at the hospital system after contracting a disease. I lost 24 pounds in five days and my hair fell out, along with two teeth. I also came back home with tapeworms.
In spite of this I really did have a great experience while studying there and highly recommend it as a travel destination.
18. No fun allowed.
Pretty much every vacation I took with my parents as a kid. My mom would explode in anger throughout our trip if things didn’t go EXACTLY the way she wanted. Every single memory I have from family vacations is terrible except the couple where my mom wasn’t there.
Some examples are:
I was 16 and had my own money from a computer business I was running and wanted to rent a jet ski. I had a driver’s license and everything and just needed my parents to sign off on it. Dad said it was OK and when I went to mom, she refused it saying it was too dangerous and went into hysterics when I assured her I’d be safe and I was old enough to handle it.
Dad got lost (through no fault of his) on the way to a cabin we were borrowing for the weekend – mom flips out and screams at him that she’s tired and just wants to get there.
We get to a campsite in a motorhome we rented and Dad asks us if we want to go for a walk. Mom flips out saying she doesn’t do walks and wants to go shopping in town.
17. Abandoned in Paris.
I went to Europe on a school trip. When in Paris, we were supposed to stay in groups of 5 or 6. None of my friends came on the trip so I was put with a group of the popular kids.
We were looking around a boutique when I went to check out some hoodies (in the same store) whilst they were looking at undergarments. Anyway, we promised to meet out the front of the store at 2pm. So at 1:50 I’m at the front of the shop waiting. By 2:10, I’ve checked both levels of the shop and realized they’ve left me here. Alone.
So I wait next to this massive security guard who keeps asking me things in French (I only know very basic French). I realize they’re not coming back. I then leave and wander the streets of Paris by myself for half an hour. I’m pretty sure that someone’s following me and I’m terrified. I run and wait in a coffee shop for awhile until finally I see the teachers and stay with them for a while.
After awhile with them we run into my group. They blamed me for getting lost, they weren’t even punished. I was only 15. I was bullied a lot during that trip, and it made the whole experience miserable.
16. The ocean’s awesome power.
Almost died in Mexico being an idiot. It’s like 9pm and they tell us that the waves can get dangerous, so of course we think it’s awesome. It’s super dark, right outside the hotel with my Dad and a girl I’ve known since I was a toddler. Waves are pretty nuts just crashing at the shore. I get too close and get dragged out. Got repeatedly thrown onto the beach and dragged back out.
The water went further than it did normally and the sand dropped off to a much steeper incline. So it was like climbing up a steep hill that you sink into, while under a time limit before the next wave hits you. No one could get close enough to reach me. Waves became about 10ft wall straight up from the sand where I am. Never seen anything like it, but watching it tower over me I was sure I was going to die. This happens a few times, and I keep ending up underwater, not knowing which way is up until I crash onto shore only to be dragged out again.
Eventually I got thrown far and hard enough to be rescued by my Dad, who then gets sucked in himself for a round or two, he makes it out alone because I’m half unconscious. My swim trunks were gone. So I’m naked, dizzy, embarrassed, with bleeding nose, ears, and eyes. Taken back to the hotel room where I spend the rest of the vacation in pain, with the worst headache of my life.
15. Sounds like torture.
My (now) fiance and I had just started dating and wanted to go to Rhode Island / Connecticut for 4th of July. It’s about a 5hr drive from where we are and we love road trips, but we now refer to this as the worst vacation we’ve had…
About a week before this trip I suddenly get strep and it hits me like 2 tons of bricks. The doctor actually described it as the worst case he’s seen. So I’m pretty much dead leading up to this trip and can’t prep at all. We still decide to go because we’re young and stupid.
The entire ride up I’m nauseous and we’re in terrible traffic. We booked a super quiet hotel but somehow there were 2 weddings that weekend there and people were running up and down the halls all night and I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t really eat this whole trip. We got a couple’s massage where the guy sprained my fiance’s neck and he was in pain the rest of the weekend. Our one nice dinner took 2 hours to come out and it was still ice cold. We went to the tennis hall of fame because my fiance loves tennis and it was super underwhelming. We stopped at a water park on the way home and I puked my guts out from food poisoning.
14. Sustaining an injury.
Dislocated my shoulder playing volleyball in Thailand, my first touch of the game. I’ve done it before, so it’s weak in the socket. I over extended, out it popped. Sat on the beach for an hour trying to convince myself I’d just strained it whilst I waited for my friends to finish playing. It’s wet season now so by the time they finished it was pouring it down, had to walk up some make shift wooden walk way across the cliff to get back to town. A masseuse saw my shoulder sticking out funny and told me he could fix it, we all asked and he said he knew what he was doing. He did not. So after half an hour of that, I went to the travel clinic.
5 doctors stood and tutted whilst a nurse restrained me and another doctor just pulled it in every direction. They gave me 2 injections for the pain, neither worked, so I got a 40 minute Tuk Tuk ride to the city to get to the hospital. They sat me in a mass casualty ward, people were literally dying in the beds next to me, mould on the ceilings, stray cats walking in and out of the place. They gave me an X-ray and then a nurse strapped me to the bed, tied a plastic tube round my arm, and stuck a big needle in me. I asked her what was happening, she said I would sleep for 20 minutes. They must have messed up the dosage because I did not sleep, then the doctor came on over and effortlessly popped it back in for me. They gave me a bill and told me where to go, in my sedated state I decided to shuffle out the door and leave instead. Do not go to Krabi hospital.
13. At least it’s someone else’s family.
I went on spring break with a friend of mine and his family. The family was pretty old school Italian and could not communicate in any other form other than screaming at each other.
We drove a full sized van from Michigan to South Carolina. The screaming, boredom, tone-deaf singing and slight nausea due to the poor driver all made for a terrible road trip.
The first day there, we spent around 12 hours on the beach. By the end I was sunburned on every part of my body except for the bottom of my feet and swim trunks area. The sunburns made every part of the tip painful, sleep, showering, and the entire trip we were outside.
Every time we sat down to eat, my friend wanted to order the most expensive thing on the menu. We’d spend 30 minutes before every meal with my friend and his dad arguing. Finally, on one of the last days there, he got the Alaskan king crab legs. He proceeds to get bored doing all the work after two or three legs and wants to leave. The rest of the group leaves while my friend, his dad and I finish the rest of the plate.
My friend’s sister was constantly trying to flirt with me during the trip. I was 14 at the time and not ready for it. I also did not find her particularly attractive. Another weird thing about her is she had this thing for peeling the dead skin from my sunburned body, which I found particularly creepy.
The golf was a lot of fun. Hiltonhead has some beautiful golf courses. I also got to try a lot of seafood that I have never tried.
12. Vacations bring out the worst in people.
A few years ago my folks decided that they wanted to do a family beach vacation. They’d never priced rentals and mom insisted that most places were 500/wk. Well, it was 1500 and was a long walk to the beach.
My brother and his girlfriend showed up, they lived nearby. The folks thought that he deserved a vacation as his company had cut his hours from 60 to 40 with no compensation for it. They had a queen, the other half and I, with our daughter, got 2 doubles off of the kitchen.
Night one went ok, the morning sucked as my brother and his girlfriend were up at 5am fighting. He wanted to go fishing, she wanted to sleep in. Then he left, doing a burnout in the street. She sat in the living room crying loudly. Drama queen.
We woke up, ate, went to the beach. Did the same daily, only returning around dinner time. At lunch out, left my phone off so as to not get calls.
Wed PM rolled around, mom decided to cook so she did. After dinner I started cleaning up as she was complaining about her feet being sore. She yelled at me to “get out of her kitchen”. I said that I’d do the dishes, she could rest. No, “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Damn lady, I’ve done dishes before. I then pointed out that there was a dishwasher, she got even more upset and started screaming at me. “There is no need to use one of those”. I look over at 2 full sinks of dishes and say “it will make it a lot easier”. She then threw a wash rag at me then went downstairs crying. Everyone piped in then, saying that she should allow us to help. Minutes later she came upstairs crying and screaming, telling me that I had no right to tell her what to do. I looked around, the rest of the group sat there with blank looks. I told her that I wasn’t telling her what to do, instead pointing out out that there was a dishwasher. More yelling, I had enough so I walked out of the room.
After everyone went to bed I packed up and as soon as the sun rose we left.
That was the end of our relationship.
11. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When I was about 7 or 8 my family took a vacation to Disney World in Florida. My parents, ever frugal, got our rooms at a discounted rate. All we had to do in return was go on a short tour of investment property.
Yep, it was a scam. They tried to sell my parents swamp land along with pretty much every one else in the hotel. We all had to pile on this big bus and then they took us somewhere (I can’t remember, just driving forever). The parents were then given the option to leave their kids at some day care. My mom was having none of that. She wasn’t leaving her babies with someone she didn’t know. So, while all the rest of the kids got to stay somewhere and play we were the only ones forced to go along on this tour.
Needless to say, it took the entire day. We did, however, eventually make it to Disney World. We ate some dinner and I got sick and don’t remember anything else about it besides having to wait for hours while my dad and brother rode space mountain. On the final day, my brother and I were playing out in the lobby of the hotel. There were these big, square, brick flower bed things that were like 2 feet off the ground. Being a kid, I thought it was cool to run around trying to balance on the brick. I lost my balance and fell, landing on my knee right on the edge of the brick. That resulted in a scar that I still have to this day.
After that, we drove the 13 hours back home. That was by far the worst vacation ever and the only time I’ve ever been to Disney World. In a few years I hope to take my kids and I hope they have a better time than I did.
10. Not the kind of hurricane that comes in a glass.
It had its good parts, but the last half of my honeymoon was not fun.
We were in Kauai, Hawaii for a week. Hotel was paid for. About 3 days in, we are doing a half day dive. It is gorgeous, and one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Even better, tomorrow we are doing a full day dive at Niihau – the forbidden island.
That didn’t happen. We get a call when we get off the boat. Hurricane Ike is heading for the coast. Our flight home is cancelled and we have to either stay 3 days later, or come home 3 days early. We don’t have either the money or the vacation time to stay, so we don’t really have a choice. We cut our honeymoon short for a hurricane.
Here’s the worst part. Wake up in the morning hopscotch to Oahu. 8 hour layover (we did get to check out Pearl Harbor at least). Then a 12 hour flight to Houston… in the middle of the hurricane evacuation.
The airport is slammed from all the reschedules. No ATMs have money, no place is open for food, no place has gas. I had to catch a ride on a different parking bus, then walk a mile to get to our car, because the bus for our lot was out of gas. Then, the drive that normally gets us home in an hour and a half, takes 12 hours. It was near 100 degrees that day. The gas light came on in the car about 2 miles from home.
It was a heck of a day. Starving, and awake for nearly 24 hours, in a car for 12 of them in 100 heat.
9. You had us at “Christian Youth Shelter.”
I was in Amsterdam by myself. I’m not religious, but accidentally booked a hostel that turned out to be a Christian youth shelter. I came back one night after partaking in some of the green stuff. I was scheduled to return to the U.S. the next day, and I fell asleep right away.
The room had five beds, but no people. At 4 a.m. I woke up because some guy stumbled into the room, turned on the lights, and woke me up to ask if he could use my phone. I looked and saw his stuff was on one of the other beds, so I knew he was a fellow visitor. This guy was not okay. He went to his bed and laid down; then the night terrors started. He was screaming primal sounds like I’ve never heard uttered from a human being. This guy was out of his mind, and sounded like he was in serious pain. I thought he was going to hurt himself.
And let me remind you, I was at a Christian hostel and didn’t feel comfortable in this place to begin with.
I called out to him, tried to calm him down, but he barely acknowledged my presence. Occasionally my yelling would soothe him a bit, but he would always flare up again, completely out of control. I was glued to my bed the whole night, because I thought approaching him would be dangerous.
After a solid two hours of this — probably the two longest hours of my life — he stood up, rushed to the corner of the room (a meter from my head), and was sick in the corner. He went to sleep after that.
Once I was sure he was asleep, I gathered my things and booked it. No one was behind the front desk as I left either. Not a fun place.
8. Blackout in Germany.
I went to Germany for a “work” trip. (I put it in quotes because it was company-affiliated, but it was for a fun competition between several teams around Europe and the US.) Our first night there, I went out with a buddy of mine, hitting a few small places after dinner. I had a few, but was pretty sober, and I was taking care of my friend who was not.
At the last bar, we each ordered something, and halfway through it I suddenly felt woozy. From sober to very blurry in half a minute. My mind must’ve already been out there, because I basically ignored it, and I let my friend walk off back to the hotel by himself when he told me he wanted to leave. In any ordinary situation I would’ve gladly gone back with him then. The next thing I know, I’m waking up on the sidewalk outside somewhere, with my wallet (over 100 Euro in it) and cell phone gone.
Pieces of what happened start to come back to me, and I see flashes of three or four people while they were taking money from me. I am pretty certain that the bartender(s) are responsible for putting something in my drink and robbing me. Afterward, I remember finding a police station and trying to explain to them what happened, but they treated me like a public nuisance and literally pushed me out of the police station.
I finally stumbled my way back to my hotel (I have no idea how I made it), and I was in a very paranoid state. I eventually hit my bed and slept for about 20 hours.
7. Brazilian band camp.
My sophomore year of high school our band was supposed to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We had a week planned out filled with sightseeing tours, small concert performances, and lots of relaxing on the beach. Since our group was so big, half of the group flew to Atlanta while the other half (my group) flew to Miami from Minneapolis before taking off for Brazil.
We get to our first destinations okay and then board the plane to go to Brazil. The plane gets delayed due to mechanical issues, so we are stuck in our seats waiting around. An hour goes by, then two, then three. At this point the plane is getting really stuffy and we are all starving. Finally they tell us that the air traffic control workers in Brazil have decided to go on strike so our plane can’t take off.
We get off the plane and are stuck in the airport for the night trying to rebook another flight. It is pretty late at this point and we still have a big group of people so the airport assigns us an empty conference room to nap. The people out in Atlanta couldn’t get a hotel because they were all booked due to the Final Four tournament going on at the same time. The room was FREEZING and all we had were our carry on bags and the uncomfortable pillow and paper thin blanket to sleep on. In the morning we are still trying to book a flight but it’s not looking good. Thankfully the weather was nice in Miami so we sat outside for a while. After spending a whole day hoping to get a new flight our directors are unable to book us a new one.
So now we have to figure out how to get home. Well, the only flights open are from Orlando to Minneapolis. So they book us a hotel in Orlando and we get a coach bus to ride there. On the way the AC breaks and it feels like a sauna on this ~3hr bus ride. When we get to the hotel we are able to relax, but still only have the clothes we wore (I didn’t pack an extra change of clothes with me) and no other belongings. We finally get a flight back to Minnesota, but without our luggage because it still got sent to Brazil! We later find out the strike that prevented us from going was only 24 hours long.
6. Insecurity guard.
Anyone who has been to the bus station in Dar Es Saalam (Tanzania) will understand my trauma.
I (as a female) was travelling with my sister. Unfortunately, our taxi driver from the ferry to the bus station was less than legit. Being somewhat trusting, he asked us where we were going and we told him Moshi. He gets on the phone and is speaking Swahili, but I distinctly hear him say “moshi” and “mzungu” (white person).
He drives us into an alleyway beside the bus station and his friend pressures us super hard to buy bus tickets for a bus I have never heard of at 3x the regular price. They both get upset when we refuse so we escape into the bus station. There is not a single tourist in sight, and worse still, no other females in a crowd of hundreds of men. We of course start getting harassed right away.
Luckily, a security guard comes to our rescue and takes us to the hotel in the terminal. Turns out he wasn’t a security guard and tries to blackmail us into buying bus tickets for his company. He also knew what room we were staying in. We go out to buy tickets 2 hours later and get separated in the crowd of men yelling at us and pushing us, getting their hands where they shouldn’t be.
Eventually we buy tickets after a huge ordeal (we had wanted to buy tickets from a legitimate bus line, but these men somehow threatened the workers from that bus line and they refused to sell to us). Anyways, long story short, the “security guard” from before asks us to buy tickets from him again and gets super angry when he finds out we had already bought tickets. He starts screaming at us in Swahili and more or less chases us into the hotel (not secure, clearly).
We lock our hotel room, but we hear him in the hallway yelling and banging for some time. This was around 11 in the morning. We stayed in our hotel room until 5 am the next day, with only half a bottle of pop and one stale muffin between the two of us. Our room was also crawling with cockroaches and our toilet didn’t flush.
Needless to say, we were both extremely relieved when we 1) got on the bus (we were convinced our tickets were fake), and 2) left the city limits of Dar Es Salaam.
5. Leaving Las Vegas isn’t easy.
Business trip to Vegas 400 miles away. I take my own car. Halfway there my transmission starts to go. By the time I get there I cannot make my car go over 20 MPH. It is under warranty though, so I take it to a dealership there. It’s Friday. They cannot fix it until Monday. I am completely broke and the company only gave me enough money for one night and one day.
I didn’t know what to do, so I called my ex. He is going out of the country for two weeks, but gets me a bus ticket home, it leaves at midnight. Go all day walking from casino to casino until midnight (with no food). Go to bus station and they have no record of the ticket. My cell phone is dead. I break out crying at the ticket counter and a bus driver hears. He is driving to a station 50 miles from my town. It’s better than 400!
Of course, the bus breaks down half way in the middle of nowhere. Have to wait for a new bus in the desert in January. Still no food. Replacement bus arrives, but I have no ticket. Have to wait with broken down bus with the driver until another arrives at 6 am.
Get to the bus station 50 miles from home at noon. Still no food. Get my dead phone to turn on long enough to get a friends phone number who lives nearby. He does not accept my collect call from the pay phone. Call my sister collect, she three-way calls him. He agrees to pick me up. I ask him to bring food.
He shows up 2 hours later sans food. I am grateful he picked me up so I do not complain. I can eat at home. It is only 50 miles away. I can wait another hour.
But no, he has a meeting he has to be at in an hour so I have to wait until later to be taken home. I ask to be left at his house, and if I can use his shower and help myself to his kitchen. He is a bachelor and has no food or clean towels. That’s fine. I can wait to shower, but I need food. Agrees to buy me Taco Bell. But he does not know where one is. I keep telling him I will eat anywhere but he insists on buying me Taco Bell.
By the time we find one he is almost late for his meeting. I will have to wait in the car. But I have food. I am grateful. 3 hours later he is done with his meeting. But now there is traffic. It takes 2 more hours to get me home. I get home, plug in my phone and there is a message from the mechanic. My car was ready for pick up on Saturday morning.
On our first night in Iceland, a bartender in Reykjavik slipped something into our beverage. We started feeling woozy and quickly left the bar.
Next thing I knew, it was a few hours later, and I’m somewhere in downtown Reykjavik at 11 p.m., with no idea where my friends were. After wandering around for two hours looking for them, I remembered that iMessages could send over WiFi, so I found a bar to sit in and tried to text my friends.
My friend Steve came to at 1 a.m. and found himself running through a residential neighborhood with an injured forehead with no idea what had happened. He found a hotel (he couldn’t remember where our AirBnB was) and got a room. The hotel had WiFi, so he got my messages. He sent me a picture of his battered face and told me the name of the hotel and his room number. Neither of us had heard from Bob.
I took a screenshot of the directions from Google Maps, then started walking. By now I was convinced Iceland was super dangerous; we’d been here less than 24 hours, already this happened! My scared self decided the best way to avoid danger was to look scary. So for the next hour, as I walked the four kilometers to the nearest hotel, I growled loudly. It did work, though. The few people who saw me crossed the street to the other sidewalk. It’s a wonder no one called the police on the crazy American.
Finally, I saw the hotel sign, walked inside, and asked the front desk how to get to room 318. He starts laughing and says they only have two stories, and I’m at the wrong place. He kindly called around to other hotels asking if they had a guest named Steve. Turns out his hotel was six kilometers away. It’s now 2:30 a.m. and my phone is at 3%. There’s no way I’ll make it on foot, so he called a cab for me.
I’ve never been happier to see Steve than when he opened his hotel room door. We talked briefly, decided to sleep for the night and look for Bob in the morning. Right as I’m drifting off, my phone lights up with a message from him asking where we are. He’s at the apartment and insists we come back. Fine. We take a cab back.
Bob tells us that he’d woken up three hours earlier from sleeping under some stairs in a random building with a man screaming at him in Icelandic. The guy picked him up by his shirt and threw him outside. He wandered hazily through the city for an hour trying to get his bearings. Whatever it was must’ve still been affecting his brain, because he thought that he was in Germany (where he grew up). He didn’t know how he’d gotten there, but he wanted to get back home to America.
A bunch of cabs were parked outside of a bar, so he got in one and asked to go to the airport. The cabbie gave him a weird look, and said it was almost two hours away, but he’d go if Bob really wanted. Bob said yes. Ten minutes into the ride, he realized this wasn’t Germany, and panicked. He took out his phone and found his itinerary, complete with the address of the apartment. The cabbie re-routed, and Bob was safe inside. An hour later he remembered that he wasn’t in Iceland alone.
The next day I looked through my phone searching for evidence of what happened during the times I couldn’t remember. I’d been all over Reykjavik, as evidenced by my blurry photos. There were several photos of me holding a large orange cat and in different parts of the city, so apparently, I’d abducted it temporarily. No idea why.
Later we discovered that the bar had charged Steve’s credit card $300 for the two beverages he drank before we left. Jerks.
3. I don’t work here.
I was walking down the stairs to the subway in Korea when I noticed a bunch of cameramen rushing by. Curious, I walk back up and see what the commotion is about. I realize that there’s some celebrities and so I stick around. I didn’t understand everything they said, but they said to go to this one place for the Olympics for some sort of event. It was late at night, but wanting to join in the fun, I decided to go. I arrive at the subway stop and then realize I don’t know where on earth to go. At this time, the subway is beginning to shut down so I can’t just go back home.
Realizing my stupidity, I decided to go to the ATM to grab money in case I needed a taxi later. However, I was withdrawing money around 11:55 at a train station and as the money was processing, it hit midnight and apparently those machines close at that time, so the money never comes out. I freak out not knowing what to do because I thought I just lost $200. I try calling the ATM people and they say they’ll call about 15 minutes later. So I sit on the floor waiting in a virtually empty station.
Then this man around late 30’s to mid 40’s comes over (I’m only 17) with a friendly smile. I assume he works for the train station so I explain my problem in broken Korean and he nods. I get a call back from the ATM people (who happen to have very good English) and they tell me to wait some more. When I hang up, the man’s expression suddenly changes from nice and caring to devious.
He then proceeds to ask me if I want to go out with him. However, I mix up the words he’s saying with water (mul), and I think he is asking for some water. I give him a confused look, then proceed to pull out my half-empty water bottle and offer it to him. He looks at it for a second, begins laughing, and then proceeds to explain he wants to buy me a different type of beverage. I give him a dumbfounded look as I just explained to him that I had lost my MONEY. So I say I don’t have any money.
He then proceeds to tell me it’s okay, and that HE has money. Being bad at confrontations, I just pause for a really long time. He then asks, “You don’t want to?” I look at him like he’s an idiot, because really… am I going to go drinking with a stranger? In my head I’m like “no duh” but I just say, “Yeah, I don’t want to.” He then leaves, but I was left feeling creeped out and unsafe.
Instead of waiting for the ATM people to call me back I found a cab and the driver told me that the place I was in is rather dangerous because that’s where all the female “workers” are. That’s when I realized what a dangerous situation I put myself in. That’s when I also realized why that guy was asking me to drink. He probably thought I was working.
2. Machete after midnight.
Was studying abroad in Thailand and went with a friend to an island (Koh Samui) for the weekend. Soon after checking into our hotel, we rented motorbikes and cruised around the island, quickly getting lost on back roads. No big deal. We found a little tiki bar and celebrated the night away, thinking, “We’ll figure out how to get home — eventually!!”
Fast-forward to about midnight. We’ve had enough that motorbiking back to wherever we came from suddenly seems like a good idea. It’s an island, right? Who gets lost on an island!? So we set back in the general direction of the hotel. After about an hour of zig-zagging around dirt roads, we passed something that smelled terrible and I turned back to make a sour face at my friend.
In a flash, I went off the side of the road and smashed the motorbike off an embankment and into what I assume was a swamp… of the town’s sewage. By the time I realized what happened, I was almost fully submerged and trying to account for my bodyparts, let alone wipe my face and mouth clear of the revolting slush.
I scrambled out, scratched, bruised, and shamed, but all in one piece. The motorbike was stuck half submerged, so we yanked it out and (somehow) got it running again, then limped back toward our hotel.
We eventually made it back to the hotel, must have been at least 3am. I stunk and had a plethora of scratches and bruises that had been marinading in it for over an hour. So I sprinted to the hotel room shower like my life depended on it. After a few minutes of obsessive scrubbing, I emerged to an empty room. No friend in sight. So I went over to my suitcase to get dressed and look for him. It was practically empty, save a few t-shirts and undergarments. Strange. Went for my backpack… nowhere in sight. My friend’s backpack… not there. We were robbed.
Frantically, I threw on a shirt and underwear and ran outside to find my friend banging on the door to the lobby, already aware that our stuff was missing. Feeling disgusting in multiple ways, I sprinted over and joined him, banging and throwing rocks at the window until somebody responded and helped us report the crime.
Before long, a little old Thai man poked his head around from the corner of the building. We yelled for his attention and he darted away. We chased. He re-appeared, this time wielding a machete. He shouted something in Thai, and we bolted as far as we could from the property, running until we were absolutely certain he couldn’t find us.
We ended up far away at another beach resort with no idea what to do. We had no hotel, no passports, no clothes, and our wallets/phones were back at the recently robbed hotel room, where a little old man was waiting for us with his machete. Defeated, we passed out on the resort’s beach chairs and allowed the mosquitos to feast on our helpless bodies until the sun rose.
That morning, we limped back to the hotel, snuck into the room, and grabbed all that was left of our possessions (thankfully we weren’t robbed twice). I bought a bathing suit to wear over my underwear, and we swiftly got off that miserable little island.
1. TL/DR: Bye bye baggage.
I went with my family of 4 on this trip where absolutely everything went wrong; and yes, it’s a two-parter.
PART 1: ITALY
Do you guys remember that massive snow storm that hit Europe last winter? Airports were closed and all that jazz? Well I had a trip scheduled a week after all that bad weather had passed. They were non refundable tickets and I had already spent a boat load (over 20k) on the trip so I had to go for it. Anyways, I get to Europe from USA and everything is peachy but as soon as I touch down in Amsterdam, things started to sour. Pro-tip: Don’t ever EVER fly with KLM EVER.
Apparently the airport was still backed up from the snow storm from a week earlier so the airport is packed. I end up missing my flight but my bags don’t. Bye bags! I have to spend a few hours till the next flight to Italy, not too bad but it sucked. Anyways I am assured that my bags will reach Italy safe and be there waiting for me. The plane ride there sucked, small seats, fat person sitting next to me, kid behind me, the works. I get to Italy and I wait for my bags. 30 minutes pass, no bags. I go to the Lost Bags area but since it was like 4 am and very few flights were arriving at that time, nobody was there at the counter. Whatever, I wait more. 2 hours pass and a lady finally comes to the counter. I first hit the language barrier. I swear to god, if you don’t speak and understand proper English, don’t work in an international airport. I struggle through telling her my bags were lost and after 30 minutes of efforts, she locates them on the computer system. Apparently some moron in Amsterdam misplaced my bags and sent them to Egypt (my next destination in a few days) instead of Italy. Well, I’m stuck in Italy, wearing just a light full sleeve shirt and jeans and apparently the epic snowstorm hadn’t fully passed through Milan so it was snowing. The rest of my family are just wearing a shirt and long pants so we are truly screwed. She assured me that they would pay for all the clothes I had to buy so that was a little plus.
Since I was getting my bags, I was out of the main airport section so I couldn’t go to the international shopping area they have in the airport unless I had a ticket. There was luckily one store in the exit portion of the airport so I went in and grabbed a jacket and some gloves for everyone. We get to the hotel and sleep.
Next day I get up and first thing I call the airline to see where my bags were. They said they didn’t exactly know where they were but they were most definitely somewhere in the Cairo Airport. I wait. Day 2 in Italy, now I’m at Pisa sightseeing and stuff. Still no bags, they did confirm they found the bags in Cairo and they will send them to Italy ASAP but since we were leaving Italy in a day, it wasn’t really worth it so I said keep them in Cairo. BAD move. Day 3, I drive up to Rome, do some sightseeing and sleep for a few hours. Flight is at 3 am so I get on my flight and go to Cairo. Remember, me and my family STILL DONT HAVE THE BAGS. I had done some shopping in Milan to get me through my stay in Italy but it sucks.
PART 2: EGYPT
Day 4, Egypt. It’s a mess but thankfully I had booked the trip with a travel agency so I had the whole trip planned out for me with a guide. I get to the airport but the terminal I got out of doesn’t have a KLM help center so I had to go to another terminal to get to their help center. Now, here’s the funny part, to get to the help center, it’s inside of the airport past the ticket area and security checkpoints so my tour guides had to bribe, yes, bribe the security guards there to let us go through without a ticket. Now, I just want to say, these travel agents are SAINTS. I don’t know who raised them but oh my god, without these two guys I had gotten, I would have self destructed. They saved me a lot of pain and trouble. Anyways, I get to the KLM Help desk and they are 5 minutes from closing time so they won’t help me. They get into a huge fight with my tour guides (more than 5 minutes long) but all they throw us is a little bone saying that we can talk to Delta.
Now there’s a little backstory to this about Delta. I had booked my flight through Delta from USA (Dallas – NCY – Amsterdam) to Amsterdam but they had used KLM for the flight from NYC to Amsterdam, not Delta.
Anyways, I talk to the manager at Delta and she says it’s not Delta’s problem but KLMs since KLM lost our bags in Amsterdam so we have to wait ANOTHER day to speak to KLM.
Day 5, I get up, go early morning to KLM and talk to them. Let me just say, I had the worst hotel in Cairo EVER. It was in some corner, far away from the mainstream hotels and was some local hotel. The room was bad and the food was even worse. Anyways, I get to KLM and they said they have only 3 of our bags (THANK GOD) out of the 7 bags they had lost. They say that the other 4 bags are still lost and don’t know where they are but they are pretty sure it’s somewhere in the airport. They were still backed up from the snowstorm in Europe and had to sort through all the bags. Anyways, we spend the day in Cairo and let me tell you, the Pyramids and Sphinx suck. Its nothing as we imagined it as being far away in the desert. No, its literally a stones throw from the main city. It was a huge let down but compared to what I had been through, at least it was something.
Day 6-10 we start our Nile Cruise to see Luxor, Aswan and all that other cool stuff. We told Cairo to keep the bags if they find them in the airport and then to send them to Sharm El Sheik after our cruise was over so we could finally have our bags there. I didnt want the bags to be chasing the ship at each city and get lost in transit. We bought more clothes and made them last through the cruise.
Now about the cruise, oh god it sucked. The food was awful and I immediately got a food poisoning and was bed ridden for most of the cruise. I did muster up the strength to go see Luxor and the cool stuff there but like Cairo it was a let down. Too touristy, too polluted etc. It was definitely not like they portray the temples to be like all secluded and private. The tours were ok I guess but way below my expectations. I didn’t get to see the Valley of the Queen/Kings because I was just too sick to leave the bed but I’m sort of thankful I didn’t go because mid-day there was a huge sandstorm while my family was at the Valley and they got caught up in it and it ruined their day. They had to rush back to the ship and they didn’t get to see much either. We also saw the Aswan High Dam and though it’s huge, what they did was evil. The Egyptians displaced all the Nubians living at the dam because it flooded their land. As a token, the government gave them a small area near the dam to live and basically be beggers to the tourists to run the boats to and from the Abu Simbel. The story of Abu Simbel is cool because apparently when they made the dam, that temple was flooded under water so the government had to save it and move it to a different place where it was safe from the water. They claim that they built it properly as it was before but you can never be too sure.
Day 10, end of cruise and I get a bit better. We fly back to Cairo to head to Sharm El Sheik to stay in the AMAZINGLY beautiful and expensive resort for 3 days. We did finally get our bags but the horror doesn’t end there. By now it is New Years Eve and the next night the resort has a New Year’s party going on and they FORCE ALL GUESTS to buy a 200 a person ticket to go to the party even if you don’t want to attend. In addition to paying over 500 dollars for our room, we now had to shove over another 800 dollars (yes, USD) for that stupid party. And let me tell you, it was stupid. They had some lame American band play first and then some local dancers and DJ. The food was the same food they had in their cheap buffet restaurant which meant it was crappy. Their decoration and presentation was nice but that was about all that was nice. What an utter waste of time, we only went because well if we are gonna be paying 800 dollars for something, might as well enjoy it. The stay was nice and relaxing from the chaos that was Egypt and Italy.
Thankfully our vacation didn’t end there but our “worst” part had. We then flew to Jordan and spent a week there. It was fabulous and blew my socks off. Not only were their monuments well taken care of and clean, the hotels were gorgeous. It was Jordan that saved the trip and if I ever had to make the choice to go to Egypt again, NO. So yeah that was it, I get home and tried to forget all the bad parts of the trip. Just to recap, I had no clothes and bags for 5 days and then for the next 4 days, it was only some of the bags.