Worst Travel Experiences

travel horror stories

I asked some travel bloggers, “What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on a trip?” I received some awful (in a good way for this piece) answers.

I’m pretty lucky; I think the worst thing that’s happened to me was coming down with the most terrible cold of my life. I was sneezing, blowing my nose, and coughing the whole plane ride home and received some pretty nasty looks from other passengers.

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Gina of Jet Set and Forget had a rather unforgettable Sahara experience.

Watch where you step (and sleep).

When you look at social media feeds of people who visit the Sahara Desert you see beautiful images of sand dunes, camels, and sunsets. This was not even close to what we experienced on our Moroccan desert tour.

There were a multitude of things that went wrong, but there was one particularly “crappy” situation we had to deal with.

We paid for a tour that (supposedly) provided a proper bathroom, but upon arrival, we were told that in order to use the bathroom you had to dig a hole in the sand. We were then advised to look for pieces of toilet paper sticking out of the sand to avoid using the same “toilet” as another guest; oddly, we were also not told to bring any toilet paper and you can imagine how that became a problem.

This may upset most people, but this was not even the worst situation. Not only was the campground covered in poorly buried human excrement but it was also covered in CAMEL feces. It was too hot to sleep inside of the tents so you were forced to sleep on top of the feces and it was EVERYWHERE.

With all the feces surrounding us and no place to wash our hands, we can only assume the guides also prepared our dinner with their filthy hands covered in feces as well, which opens Pandora’s box on getting people severely sick.

Needless to say, we will NOT be returning to the Sahara Desert any time soon!

Worst Travel Experiences

Camel poo was everywhere – photo credit Gina Bambinelli

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Talek of Travels with Talek, tells us about the dangers of fruit hygiene.

A dumb mistake I’ll never make again.

We were at the bus stop in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik on Croatia’s Adriatic coast just outside the Old City. The bus was leaving for Split in about 10 minutes; I was starving.

I looked around for one of those little convenience stores you usually find around transportation hubs but the only thing I found was a fruit stand that featured a big, beautiful peach nestled amongst a fruit display, so I bought it. It needed washing but I figured by the time I used sign language to communicate “wash fruit to the Croatian clerk I might miss my bus so I boarded with my peach and proceeded to devour it. It was pretty good.

When I got off in Split I started to vomit, but it was the type of projectile vomiting that resembled Linda Blair in the Exorcist; great exhausting heaves accompanied by gags and then a fire hose of bile.

We had to park ourselves in a hotel and wait it out. I saw very little of Split but became very familiar with the lavatory in our BandB.

We do learn from our mistakes. I am living proof. I will now wash fruit to the point of obsession before I eat it.

Worst Travel Experiences

Dubrovnik

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Nate from Travel Lemming had to deal with a burglary.

Lock all your doors and windows.

I’ve been to almost 60 countries, and I usually find the good even in places that others don’t enjoy. But, to be honest, Belize just didn’t sit very well with me.

Setting aside the heat, the mosquitoes, and the fact that the “beaches” largely consist of sharp rocks, a thief broke into my rental apartment in the middle of the night while we were sleeping and stole my friend’s phone.

My friend was more than a little agitated by the loss. To make matters worse, the local police station was entirely indifferent to our plight – insisting that we had to go to another island two hours away just to file a report. So my friend made it his mission, with the help of a couple of friendly and amazing local women and some CCTV footage, to track down the thief. I thought it was a lost cause but he insisted that it was a small island and that the thief had to be somewhere.

Incredibly, he was right and ultimately recovered the phone! So, while the story has a happy ending, it definitely punctuated a very rocky time in Belize for me. With that said, I know many others loved Belize and so I may well give it a second chance.

Worst Travel Experiences

Belize

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Jason from Where’s Jason? reminds us to always have a Plan B.

Expect the unexpected.

It was a dark, chilly night. I was walking with my big a$$ luggage into the tube station, on my way to Heathrow international airport. Yup, you guessed that right. I was in London. My 10 day trip had come to an end. I used up my last credit on the Oyster card. I heard the “mind the gap” announcement as the doors opened. Then I went in.

After several minutes, I arrived at the airport terminal. I entered and looked for my check-in counter. I found it and there I saw a scary line – a long line of passengers.

It was nerve racking because I was a chance passenger that time. And my visa would expire the day after tomorrow. I need to get out of this country to save my a$$ from being deported, or banned, or from being absent at work.

As I inquired about my chance with my non-revenue ticket… they told me the worst news I could hear.

“Sorry, you can’t board the plane. It’s overbooked.”

They said that with a stern-looking face, quite apathetic.

I knew there’s always risk of being bumped-off with this kind of ticket. But I didn’t expect it that moment. I was caught off-guard. I thought there was enough space. Oh well…

Surfed through my phone to find the cheapest flight back home – the cheapest one was a little more than 600 USD, which is not cheap at all. I keyed in my credit card details and purchased it on the spot. I swore my wallet cried that night.

Always equip yourselves with a Plan B. And as they say, be ready to expect the unexpected.

Worst Travel Experiences

No one likes to be at the end of a long line

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Jeremy of Coming Home Strong suggests we know what we’re getting into before getting into just any car.

Check the exchange rate before you get taken for a ride.

Many people love Vietnam’s capital.

I don’t.

We travelled to Hanoi in 2008 when we were on an early flight from Thailand, following a few ‘buckets’ the night before. After catching up on some sleep on the short flight, we landed in the vibrant city with our first task to find a ride from the airport to the old quarter. With a slightly blurry head, we were offered a lift from a nice, albeit very persistent man and his friend who said they would give us a good deal. Many people had told us that Vietnam was very cheap, so we quickly accepted his ride.

The three of us piled in the back and settled in for the 30 minute journey in an un-marked black car. This is where we faced Vietnamese hospitality for the first time.

We re-did our calculations, only to figure out that we had agreed to a $200 USD taxi ride. It should have cost a fraction of that. With our limited Vietnamese and the drivers limited English, we tried to renegotiate. The driver and his friend started yelling at us and slammed on the brakes. From what we could manage, we figured out they were not happy to say the least. The last thing we wanted was to come into conflict with what very well could have been a version of the Vietnamese mafia.

No-one knew where we were, and who knows what they could have been packing.

Finally, it ended well. We managed to sweet-talk our way out of the situation and negotiate an outer-city drop-off. Stinking of last nights drinks, we were more than relieved to reach our hotel after another taxi – this time in a marked car, running on the meter.

Worst Travel Experiences

Vietnam

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Will from Monkey Steals Peach suffered from a lack of communication.

The worst part was that nobody seemed to care.

Besides martial arts, another big passion in Asia for me is tea. While spending a year in South Korea, I heard about an annual green tea festival held in Hadong, a small town in the mountains of Jirisan known for producing high quality “wild tea”. It is also the first place in Korea to cultivate tea, almost a thousand years ago. Well, this festival was advertised online, with a snazzy website in several languages, there were also plenty of Youtube clips showing the festival, which looked like good fun and a chance to learn about tea culture in ancient Korea.

The festival was hosted by a large tea museum at the foot of the mountain, just below Ssangyesa Temple. I arrived there with my wife and her parents, having told them how awesome this festival would be for the whole five hour train journey there, only to find the town incredibly quiet. Besides a few old people hiking, and a few smiling monks wandering the street, it was basically empty.

I went to the museum, and sure enough, was empty. I found a small shop with a lady serving tea to a couple of customers, and my wife (who speaks Korean) asked them about the tea festival. The casual reply we got was “Oh, it’s been cancelled this year.” She continued to serve tea. What!? We’d just taken a train five hours, and booked accommodation for the weekend! I eventually found someone else in the museum, who gave the same disinterested, casual reply. I asked why there was no announcement on their site and got the reply, “Oh, the announcement was on the Korean language version.”

We were still able to try some tea and enjoy the mountains while we were there, but it was no festival.

Worst Travel Experiences

Ssangyesa Temple – Photo credit Will Wain-Williams

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 Thea of Zentravellers also had a terrible experience with fruit.

Have to get right back on that horse (or mountain).

There are few things more challenging than scaling a 4,321m mountain after a near death experience, but that is exactly what I did in Uganda. While on an extensive jaunt through the Pearl of Africa I set out to climb Mount Elgon.

Prior to the hike, I headed to the trailhead in the tiny village of Budadiri and met with my guide Moses. Getting prepped for the hike took a few moments so I decided to explore the sleepy village. While out, I bought a few snacks in the market, including some jackfruit which would prove to be a near fatal mistake.

The next morning I violently voided my entire stomach contents. I hoped that the sudden spell of nausea would pass quickly but was woefully mistaken. For the next twelve hours, I purged every time I lifted my head. I couldn’t even keep water down and was running a fever. The owner of where I was staying was so worried that she called the local doctor who dispensed two shots in my rear and gave me some mystery pills to take.

Obviously I did not leave for the hike that day, nor the next. Eventually I set out on the journey but, was it ever difficult. Moses and the crew urged me on with an enthusiastic “Uganda power!” chant until we finally summited beautiful Mount Elgon. While hiking after jackfruit poisoning is more than challenging, the memories made were worth the pain. I also learned that when the going gets tough, “Uganda power!” will get you through!

Worst Travel Experiences

Uganda – photo credit Philip Turnbull

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Worst Travel Experiences

Comments 5

  1. I heartily enjoyed reading your post. While some “in retrospect” sentences were genuinely funny like “I will wash fruit to the point of obsession”, I could empathize with some of these incidents since I caught a stomach bug in Turkey and spend most of my time in the loo. Not all vacations and travels are rosy and we should always be prepared for plan Bs and alternative arrangements! Thanks for sharing these tales.

  2. I can totally relate to the getting-horribly-sick-right-before-a-trek experience…happened to me in India. Glad to hear you powered through and I hope all the posters here have at least *some* positive memories of these places!

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