“I Lost All My Money”: 33 Travel Stories That Will Make You Cringe
We’ve gathered real-life tales from seasoned travel bloggers and adventurers to bring you their most cringe-worthy moments while navigating this big, wild world.
Whether it’s an epic tale of surviving terrifying flight turbulence or hotel staff trying to break into someone’s room while they are inside, these travel stories will make you think twice and pay attention while traveling.
They will give you valuable advice that could help save you when exploring new places. So, here are 33 harrowing tales of travel gone wrong.
1. “Someone Tried To Break Into My Hotel Room While I Was Inside”
I traveled to Wyoming, for a work assignment. From my hometown at the time to my destination was a four-and-a-half-hour drive. So, I decided to drive there the day before my meeting and spend the night. I selected (what I thought was) one of the “nicer” chain hotels off I-80. I got to my hotel, relaxed, and worked on homework. It was a typical night-on-the-road type of evening.
The following day, I got up and hopped in the shower. Shortly after, I heard my room door try to open, but it got stuck on the security latch that is there in addition to the lock. I thought it was the cleaning crew, so I yelled, “I’m still in here. I’ll be done in a few. Thank you.” But the person did not stop. They got aggressive with the door and were trying to break in.
I jumped out of the shower in my towel, slightly confused and terrified, and then they were gone. This was at 7 am in the morning. The cleaning crew shouldn’t have been trying to come in that early.
Thankfully, whomever it was couldn’t get into my room. But someone was trying to get in!
Always use the extra metal latch that slides over the door. You never know the intention of people with keys to all the rooms.
By Ashlee Fechino | The Happiness Function
2. “Take Turbulence Seriously,” True Story From a Flight Attendant
One of my worst travel stories was when I was working as a Flight Attendant. We hit unexpected turbulence, and the airplane dropped!
I was in the galley with my food cart away, and the sudden drop lifted me up in the air, making my head hit the ceiling. I was trying to reach for my food cart as it was about to hurl down the aisle and hit passengers, but luckily it toppled over next to me.
It felt like I was on a rollercoaster – the whole cabin was visibly shaken, with many passengers also sustaining head injuries as they didn’t have their seatbelts on. We then proceeded to get hit several times by lightning. It was one of the only flights where I thought we could possibly die, but of course, we had to keep a brave face on for the passengers who were understandably looking to us for reassurance.
That was one of my first flights, and it really taught me that life is so fragile, so short, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Flying makes you feel invincible, but that day certainly taught me first-hand why we should always have our seatbelts on. Always.
By Catrina | 24 Hours Layover
3. “I Accidentally Fell Asleep and Missed My Flight Home From Turkey”
I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps throughout the years, but my worst travel experience happened during my first solo trip outside of the European Union. My trip to Turkey trip was amazing, but then things went wrong hours before I was supposed to fly back home.
After packing my suitcase during the night and just before heading down to the lobby to catch the airport shuttle, I decided to lie on the soft bed one last time. And, of course, I fell asleep.
I woke up three hours later and instantly panicked. There was no way I would make it to the airport on time to catch my flight, and I felt helpless. I was terrified of being stuck in Turkey and had no idea what to do.
After calling my family back home, tears running, I eventually headed down to the lobby. And while the staff could not help me, a local approached me to ask what was wrong.
The local proceeded to help me by calling the Turkish hotline of the airline for me. To my dismay, there was nothing they could do. But then the wonderful stranger looked up new flights back home for me.
Thanks to the kindness of this stranger, I managed to make it home that very day. And it made me realize that you are never truly alone, even if you are solo traveling. After all, there are amazing people everywhere that are happy to help when you find yourself in a bad situation while traveling.
By Steph Kloeckener | A Nomad’s Passport
4. “Instagram Hype for Heaven’s Gate Is Not Real”
There are many times when reality is better than pictures – this story is not one of those times. I’m talking about Heaven’s Gate in Bali.
You may have seen the iconic Bali landmark featured all over Instagram, featuring a person standing against the gates of Lempuyang Temple, seemingly suspended between heaven and earth. In reality, this is one of the most disappointingly engineered photographs I’ve witnessed.
Like many popular tourist spots, I was expecting that a visit to Lempuyang would be equal parts of culture and great views, but the reality was far from it.
When I arrived, I realized I had to queue up to have my picture taken by one of the photo helpers whose sole job was to sit in the middle of the square in front of Heaven’s Gate and take photos.
The picture you see is from one specific angle where a reflective tool is used to cast a reflection of the sky onto the ground, which in reality, is concrete.
During my visit, I had to wait more than an hour in the rain to get my picture taken. Afterward, I realized there wasn’t that much to explore in the temple, so we headed straight back to Ubud.
I rarely ever describe something as a waste of time because I believe you can always find beauty anywhere, but this trip ended up costing a private car rental and five hours round trip. I went to Lempuyang thinking it’d be a place to learn more about Balinese temples and take a few awesome pictures, but I was blindsided by the fact that it was a total tourist trap. Had I known my trip would entail multiple hours to spend 30 seconds taking a picture “for the gram,” I would have skipped and spent my time elsewhere.
Don’t get fooled by images on Instagram.
By Jina | byjinalee
5. “Ouch! I Got a UTI in Iceland”
We were in Iceland, doing a campervan road trip, and having the time of our lives. Well, that is, until we arrived at the Skaftafell Glacier, ready to go on a five-hour-long hike. I woke up from a nap to the undeniable symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI): an intense, frequent need to use the bathroom and a burning sensation when I did.
Recognizing what was happening, I panicked. The hike was on exposed ice, in a group, wearing a harness, and now suddenly, I was going to need to use the bathroom every ten minutes. I was SUPER nervous about peeing my pants but didn’t want to miss the adventure!
I drank water to dilute the infection, used the bathroom a few times, prayed for the best, and went on the hike. And thankfully, it went well because hiking the glacier in Iceland was one of the coolest travel experiences I’ve ever had!
Unfortunately, this was a temporary respite, and the next day was worse. Thankfully, visiting a doctor in Iceland wasn’t difficult. We searched online for an office, visited, and had an appointment within a few hours. It cost about $100 for the visit and another $30 or so for the antibiotic – which, honestly, considering I was a foreigner with no insurance, was not bad at all.
By Stephanie | The Unknown Enthusiast
6. “My Rental in Puerto Escondido Was a Scam, But That’s OK”
During my first attempt at the digital nomad life, I headed to beautiful Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I booked an Airbnb close to the beach for a month. It had air-conditioning, a swimming pool, and strong Wi-Fi with plenty of 5-star reviews. I thought I hit the jackpot!
The day I arrived, my taxi dropped me off outside the locked gate of a strange building, and my host was unreachable. For two and a half hours, I sat in the scorching heat until a housekeeper opened the gate. She let me into my apartment, and my heart sank. The pool had wildlife, there was no air-conditioning or Wi-Fi, and my bedroom door was locked.
The housekeeper mumbled something in Spanish and wandered off when suddenly the bedroom door opened, and there she was! She had popped the window out of the wall and climbed through the opening. She handed me a rock (no key) to prop the door open and disappeared.
Here I was in a strange town with the sun setting, no Wi-Fi, no cell signal, terrible Spanish, and nowhere safe to stay. Fortunately, I found a beautiful boutique hotel nearby to call home for a week before changing my plans completely. What was going to be a month on the beach turned into a seven-week adventure around Mexico and one of the best trips of my life.
By Ashlea J. Russell | She Roams About
7. “I Saw Someone Meet Their Maker in Wadi Shab, Oman”
In 2019, I spent 10 days in Oman with my partner. We were visiting Wadi Shab, a beautiful canyon home to crystal clear natural pools that you can swim in. Above the pools, there are also hiking paths.
We were relaxing inside one of the pools when we suddenly heard a thump. We looked up and watched with our own eyes as a young man fell from the top of the canyon and hit a big rock at the bottom, right next to the pool we were in.
Along with other people, we ran over to see if we could help him, but it was too late. He hit his head and passed away on impact. We watched helplessly as his relative waded her way over to him while screaming at the top of her lungs.
There wasn’t even a signal at the spot we were in, so someone had to run further down to call emergency services while the rest of us waited with his relative, who couldn’t stop wailing.
From what we could gather, the poor man was hiking off-trail because the part of the canyon he fell from was not on the designated hiking path.
If we could take anything away from this heartbreaking tragedy, it’s the importance of following the official trail while hiking. Always stay on the trail.
By Jiayi | The Diary of a Nomad
8. “Road to Hana in Maui, Not for People Who Get Car Sick”
During our first trip to Maui, we were on a mission to tick off many of our bucket list adventures. One that ranked high on our list was driving the Road to Hana.
The Hana Highway is famous for its curves and one-lane bridges. It meanders the east coast of Maui, known for its unstable weather, lush beauty, and waterfalls. But we underestimated how unstable the weather could get.
It was pouring rain when we started the drive, so much so that we could hardly see where we were going. We persisted, hoping that the sky would clear. But then the curves started. Our two girls in the backseat, who were six and eight at the time, couldn’t hold it any longer… and soon after, neither could I.
We had packed carefully for our trip, but motion sickness tablets were no match for the Road to Hana. And the only thing we didn’t bring was plastic bags or buckets. So, we opted for an alternative use of our baseball caps until we could pull over. We didn’t make it to Hana.
Our best advice for visiting would be to rely on the weather forecast. Showers on the windward side of Maui are known to be more intensive and lengthier than your average tropical shower. So, pick a day with dry weather, give yourself plenty of time to drive this stomach-turning road, pack Dramamine, and bring plenty of plastic bags, just in case!
By Sarah Vanheel | CosmopoliClan
9. “I Lost All of My Money in Berlin”
My worst travel stories have revolved around losing money. In Germany, at the Berlin Wall, there were pickpocketers; in Vietnam, at our hotel, a cleaning lady found my wallet and dug in; in Australia, my bag was looted from the beach.
I made some mistakes that ultimately led to these incidents. As a result, I learned some hard lessons and changed the way I travel. I’m much more vigilant about my belongings. Valuables in my hotel room are always locked in the safe, and I invested in a new travel wallet to protect my money, travel documents, and identity.
By Sanjana | The Female Professional
10. “Nightmare Quarantine Cruise From Puerto Rico, We Made the Best of It”
My family’s worst travel experience was an attempt to gather everyone together for a holiday cruise to celebrate Christmas. I have one daughter going to vet school in the Caribbean, so the brilliant idea was for the whole family to take a Caribbean cruise so that we could all see her during the holidays.
We left the port of Puerto Rico after two fun-filled days hiking in El Yunque National Forest and wandering the streets of Old San Juan. We enjoyed our time in Puerto Rico and look back fondly at those memories before boarding the cruise ship. Fate had other plans for us after that, and we ended up getting quarantined in separate cabins on the second day of the cruise.
On day two, we got news that two of my family members were being taken away to quarantine. The rest of us were still confined to our own cabins due to close contact. The next day, two more family members were put in quarantine cabins.
The following day was Christmas Eve, and we were all very sad to be separated. We made the best of the situation. We adopted all the holiday festivities that we were looking forward to. We ordered room service for our holiday dinner and chatted back and forth on WhatsApp to see how fast the order was delivered and which dinner looked the best! We were all still dressed in our holiday dresses and suits. We took photos, not together, but we still had the photos to paste into a collage. Finally, we FaceTimed so that we could see everyone open gifts while sitting on the cabin couch in front of the virtual fireplace on the tv.
We now cherish all the holidays that we DO spend together and laugh about how we spent the quarantine cruise in separate cabins.
By Michelle | Moyer Memoirs Empty Nest Travel Adventures
11. “Bangkok Traffic is Insane, I Ran Through the Airport 27 Weeks Pregnant”
My worst travel story happened while I was 27 weeks pregnant, and my wife and I were on our way to the airport in Bangkok. We got stuck in traffic for three hours, which left us with only 40 minutes left before our plane departed.
Desperate for help, we begged to be allowed onboard and had to throw out all liquids from our large backpacks to make it through security. The next 30 minutes felt like an eternity as we ran with 26-pound backpacks across the entire airport in a frantic dash against time. Thankfully, the plane waited for us, but not without serious concerns that I may go into labor due to all the stress and running with such a heavy load.
When we returned seven years later, we made sure to book our last night at a hotel much closer to the airport. That decision saved us so much time and stress, especially since we were now traveling in Bangkok with two kids in tow.
I recommend staying close to the airport to make sure travelers don’t miss their flights. Bangkok traffic is always hectic and sometimes even horrible, so it’s best to be prepared.
By Babs | Mums on FlipFlops
12. “Do Research Before Visiting Nepal, the Roads Are No Joke”
My trip to Nepal with my husband was a complete disaster. We took a tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, which was a grueling 10-hour ride with terrible road conditions.
The bus was poorly maintained, and we felt like our lives were in danger as we saw several accidents on the way, and at times we were just mere inches from oncoming vehicles.
Upon arriving in Pokhara, we were checked into a hotel with rooms that had a strong odor of insecticide. Despite our inquiries, the staff insisted that the smell was due to fresh paint, which was clearly not the case. This unpleasant odor made it difficult for me to sleep and even caused my throat to close, adding to the discomfort of the stay. To make matters worse, we were taken to see elephants being forced to perform for tourists, which was a deeply traumatic experience.
The flight back to Kathmandu was also a nightmare, with holes in the plane and turbulence making it a terrifying experience. My husband even got food poisoning from a local restaurant. The only positive was that we flew back in business class as a treat after all the issues we faced during the trip.
In hindsight, we should have done more research on the conditions in Nepal before making our travel plans. Our trip was a complete disappointment, with a series of unfortunate events making it a terrible experience.
By Cory Varga | You Could Travel
13. “Canceled Flights to Utah, a Blessing in Disguise”
We have three young kids (all below the age of seven) and planned a trip to Moab, Utah, for a week of hiking and exploring Arches National Park.
The morning of the flight, we woke the kids up just before 4 am and got everyone into the car. As we pulled out of the driveway, we pulled up our flight itinerary to find out it was canceled. We were in shock as we tried to figure out how to tell our three very excited kids that we needed to get out of the car and back into the house.
Quickly, we called the airline and began a six-hour wait on hold. When we finally got an agent, she explained that the next available flight didn’t leave for two days! At this point, it didn’t make sense to go on the trip anymore.
We quickly pivoted our trip and changed our hotel to a beautiful resort in Puerto Rico. The agent on the phone said she could move all our flights to Puerto Rico at no additional cost leaving the very next morning.
Turns out a relaxing beach vacation was just what our family needed!
By Julie | Family Trips and Travels
14. “I Lost My Designer Purse in Amsterdam”
When it comes to flying, most flyers know the basic rules of travel, such as never leaving baggage unattended and what items can/can’t be stowed in the cabin. In my case, after thoroughly enjoying a break in Amsterdam Beach areas Zandvoort and Ijmuiden, sipping cocktails in the various beach bars, exploring WWII sites, and racing at Zandvoort F1 circuit, these basic rules of travel were far from my mind as I crammed my belongings into my travel backpack to fly home.
I took the short train journey from Zandvoort to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, where upon arrival, I used the toilet facilities before browsing the shops, stocking up on my favorite stroopwafels and tucking into some poffertjes (tiny Dutch pancakes) at the Dutch Kitchen restaurant. Upon gathering my belongings to check my boarding gate, I realized my designer handbag containing my passport, phone, digital camera, and jewelry was missing.
Beside myself with panic, I frantically ran through the airport, retracing my steps to try and locate my missing bag. After some searching, I discovered a help desk in the airport and was greeted by two ladies who noted my concerns and asked me to describe the lost bag, the contents inside, as well as the location of where the item was last seen.
The lady behind the help desk smiled as she said, “you are a very lucky lady,” before reaching under the counter to hand me my lost bag! Lesson learned!
By Jasmine Buckley | The Life of a Social Butterfly
15. “I Was Burglarized at the Hollywood Sign”
For spring break, my husband and I took our three kids to Southern California for the first time. The day after we arrived, we went on the Hollywood Sign to do the famous hike.
After parking our rental car near the trailhead, we began the 6-mile trek that would end up behind the iconic Hollywood Sign.
After a few hours, we ended up back at our rental car to find the windows smashed. Glass was everywhere, and all my valuables were stolen, including a designer purse with my wallet, driver’s license, credit cards, cash, car keys, and my son’s iPhone.
We were unable to contact the police because the cell phone reception was bad. So, we headed to the Hollywood police station with broken car windows to report what had happened. On the way, I contacted our bank and credit card companies to find that they had already spent thousands of dollars on our cards!
We had difficulty getting a replacement rental car. And trying to fly back home without a driver’s license was not easy. Plus, after landing back home, we had to get a locksmith to come out since our keys were stolen.
Never, ever leave your purse or valuables in your car. Always take them with you. This experience was an absolute nightmare I would never want to happen to anyone else.
By Kim Swanson | Traveling Swansons
16. “We Were Almost Trapped in Another Country During a Global Emergency”
We all remember the first-week governments across the world locked down in March 2020, and the world started panicking. My husband and I were in Goa, India, at the time, and our flight and visa for my husband to my home country of Austria had been planned months in advance.
His visa date was from Saturday, the 21st of March, onwards, but the countries announced lockdowns on Friday, the 13th. I called the embassy in India to help me, but they just told me that I should get out of India NOW without my husband.
I refused and started to track every piece of news, especially once the European Union took over the outer borders. I tirelessly refreshed the airline websites looking for flights, and I was quick enough to re-book one of the last seats on the last airline leaving Goa.
One of the emergency (and super helpful) embassy workers suggested that I print out marriage documents, visa documents, and the newest EU border laws. These documents came in handy during check-in because the airline wouldn’t let my husband on the plane. They eventually did, and we got to Vienna.
The border police wouldn’t let us through because laws had changed overnight. The fact that we had been married for over 10 years and that the official had some common sense got us through. We then proceeded to travel from Vienna to Salzburg by train across an empty Austria to get home.
In a special case like this, I learned to be ready for the worst. Print out all possible documents, understand the emergency laws, follow government official websites (not the media), contact the emergency hotline of your embassy, refresh your browsers, and pack within 30 minutes. If you are not fast, alert, and persistent, you won’t get through a horrible travel situation.
Keep your head clear and hope that with a little luck and compassion from an official, you will get through.
By Marina Helene | Paulmarina
17. “There Was a Fire at My Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal”
After my first night in Lisbon, Portugal, during a solo trip, I woke up early to explore some of the popular sites around sunrise. When I got back to my hotel a few hours later, I was greeted by fire trucks, police, a TV crew, and the hotel staff and guests crowding around the entrance. The hotel had a fire after I left that morning.
While no one was hurt, all the guests were asked to pack up their rooms because we had to be relocated. Packing up all my stuff in the dark with smoke everywhere was awful! To this day, I’m not entirely sure I got everything.
We were all instructed to drop our luggage off at a sister hotel property a few blocks away, and then the staff started working to find us all new rooms elsewhere. Unfortunately, I was one of the last guests they found a new room for, and I was homeless in a strange city, alone the entire day.
I spent the day worried that I wouldn’t have a room to go back to, and I had a hard time enjoying the day because of the anxiety and uncertainty. But man, I’d never been so happy to check into a hotel that night!
Thankfully, I can laugh about it now, but it was a sobering experience because it could have been a lot worse. I was so grateful no one was hurt and that all my belongings were safe. This is also why I never travel without insurance!
By Sam | New England Wanderlust
18. “A Pickpocketer Got in My Face in Barcelona, Check Scams Before Traveling”
When I was 20 years old, I studied abroad in England. During an extended break from school, my girlfriends and I traveled to Barcelona to see the incredible city in person. I had studied Spanish in school but was hardly fluent.
After an outing to see La Sagrada Familia, we arrived back at the hotel. As my friends headed inside, I was stopped by a woman with a young child.
The woman stood there, holding a hand with a coin up to my face, and started raising her voice at me. I was extremely confused. Why did this woman, who appeared to be begging, want to give me this coin?
She was speaking so fast; I couldn’t understand what she wanted with my limited Spanish knowledge.
As she pushed toward me, I finally took a step back. But my purse didn’t come with me.
It turned out that her yelling and shoving this coin at me had been a diversion while she used her other hand to try to rifle through my purse covertly. My passport was in my purse!
She didn’t give up even after I knew what she was doing. She wouldn’t let me past her to get into the hotel. Someone from the hotel staff finally came out and rescued me.
I got lucky that day because she scared me enough that I took a step back from her. If she hadn’t been so aggressive, I fully believe she would have gotten away with my passport and whatever else I had in the front pocket of my bag.
Turns out this was a common scam. I just didn’t know it because I hadn’t thought to investigate scams and safety. I learned a big lesson that day, and even now, I always check the common scams before visiting a new place.
By Jenny | Traveling In Focus
19. “Know Your Travel Companions,” Adventure in the Dolomites
I spent about two years planning my first-ever hut-to-hut hike in the mountains of northern Italy. It’s a special kind of sustainable travel adventure where you hike anywhere from 6-15 miles a day through majestic spires and pinnacles in the Dolomites, carrying a backpack and staying at family-owned high-elevation huts.
The huts are little hotels or hostels perched atop 9,000 feet cliffs, serve 3-course meals, and have saunas on the deck. They are very hard to book, and you must reserve them months in advance.
The problem, or the blessing, is that they’re only accessible by hiking, and it’s hard. My 11-year-old daughter wanted a friend to go with us so she wasn’t hanging out with boring Mom. Her friend came along, and on the first day of the first mile, she started complaining. I took her pack. I pushed. I pulled. I bribed.
After only making it three miles in seven hours, we gave up and returned to the trailhead due to safety. I cried a little as I resigned myself to losing the entire adventure because you can’t just take a taxi to the top of a mountain peak.
Fortunately, her sweet mother drove eight hours overnight to pick her up. My daughter and I started again the next day at 7 am. We hiked the equivalent of two days in one and caught up to our hut reservations.
It was the best trip we’ve ever had. We learned that a bigger group is not always better and that having quiet on the trail makes it easier to get in touch with awe and wonder.
We learned the hard way that it’s important to do pre-hikes with anyone considering a hiking vacation. Almost everyone can do them physically, but it’s the mental challenge that stops most people, and that’s an internal fix.
By Morgan Fielder | Crave the Planet Travel
20. “I Survived a Millipede Infestation in a Bangkok Hotel”
One of my worst-ever travel experiences was in a hotel in Bangkok. I had an early flight in the morning, so I booked a hotel near the airport to make it easier.
When we arrived, we were given our key and told to find the room ourselves. The building was shabby, but I didn’t think too much of it. We entered our room, and at first, it seemed decent. It had everything we needed – a comfy looking bed and a clean bathroom, so I was happy.
My happiness soon turned to horror when I set down my suitcase to unpack and noticed a dead millipede on the floor. I was disgusted, but I was tired, so I put it in the trash and tried to forget about it. Ten minutes later, to my horror, I saw another millipede crawling out of the air conditioning unit. I watched it as it fell from the ceiling onto the floor.
As the night went on, several more millipedes showed up, so I decided to ask the staff if I could switch rooms. Unfortunately, when I got there, the desk was empty, and there was a sign saying the staff had left.
There was nobody available to help me, and it was already late, so I headed back to my room and had no choice but to stay there all night with the millipedes making a ‘thud’ sound every now and again.
By Megan Jones | Traveller’s Elixir
21. “Don’t Rely on Google Maps, I Got Lost Driving in Sicily”
I learned the hard way not to put too much faith in Google Maps, especially when traveling abroad. One winter night while driving in Sicily, I entered my destination into the app and, without much more thought, got on the road.
Past experiences had conditioned me to believe that the GPS would take me on the best route to my destination. Unfortunately, Google Maps is not always reliable in other countries, and Sicily just happened to be one of those places.
Halfway to my destination, I found myself on a narrow, unlit, winding road heading uphill. At times, the road I was following wasn’t even paved. Recent rains had led to large amounts of mud on the road and deep ruts where other cars had driven through.
Slowly and carefully, I maneuvered my car around the largest divots, praying I wouldn’t bottom out and get stuck in the middle of nowhere — or worse, end up down a cliff.
Thankfully, I made it to my destination in one piece, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson: never rely solely on technology to guide you, especially while traveling in unknown locations. Before setting out, always take the time to study your route and identify major highways. You never know when you’ll lose connection, be rerouted, or simply take on a late-night adventure along dirt roads. Google Maps and other GPS apps can be a great asset to travelers, but never let them replace your own common sense.
By Tamar | World by Weekend
22. “We Rented a Mouse-Infested Houseboat on Shuswap Lake, Canada”
Renting a houseboat on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia was the worst vacation of my life. Houseboat rentals are expensive, so we expected a premium experience.
Before driving to Shuswap, the tour operator informed us we couldn’t bring soap, shampoo, or cleaning products. The company supplies environmental items to conform to rules as water goes into the lake. We were assigned a boat infested with mice.
During the seven-day vacation, the operator refused to change the vessel, so we endured mice eating our food and going to the bathroom on our plates and in our pots and pans each night. One night, a mouse crawled over my son, which caused him to scream!
Without disinfectant, we worried we could catch a disease. We safeguarded our food by putting what we could in the fridge and disposing of items touched by mice. We documented the experience with videos, filled a jar with caught mice, and got neighboring vacationers to witness the disgusting conditions.
In the end, we demanded a full refund, which we received due to our vigilance in the documentation. Later, I learned mice are common anywhere on or near water. So, if you intend to rent a houseboat, take traps and mouse-proof containers.
By Karen | Foreverkaren
23. “We Found Ourselves in a War Zone in Khorog, Tajikistan”
I was over halfway through a 12,000 km bike ride from Shanghai to Istanbul. After spending a leisurely lunch in the Pamir Mountains, a small group of us got back on our trusty steeds and made our way downhill to Khorog, our home for the night.
We rolled into town, stopped for cold drinks with other riders, and headed up to our rooms for a shower and a quick walk around the local market.
The next morning, as we opened the door to exit our guesthouse, the owner told us we were required to stay inside – and that the entire town was to as well. Apparently, there was a problem between the locals and government officials. Shortly after, we could hear the whizzing of bullets in the air outside our window – as locals in the hills battled the police. At least, that’s what we were told.
We ended up leaving the village during a ceasefire and walking to a hotel outside of town, where we used my roommate’s cell phone to connect to the Afghan cell network to call embassies.
After a stressful couple of days, some of us were airlifted by helicopter to the capital, Dushanbe, and others traveled in an escorted road convoy.
The silver lining – my roommate is now one of my best friends, even though we live on different continents.
I’m so glad my roommate had a cell phone, and since then, I always make sure I have a phone with me and a local SIM (not just Wi-Fi). I also take more time to research destinations and their political climate, so I’m prepared for anything and can change plans if I feel uncomfortable.
By Candice Criscione | Mom in Italy
24. “I Survived a Train Derailment in South America”
Ten years ago, I was backpacking solo around South America. About two months into the trip, I boarded my first train. I was traveling from Villazón, a town in southern Bolivia, on the border with Argentina, to Tupiza, an off-the-beaten-track city surrounded by red rock canyons, cactus-filled valleys, and arid deserts.
The scenery was incredible, but about halfway through the journey, our train derailed. Luckily no one was hurt, and the train staff dealt with the circumstances incredibly well. My broken Spanish wasn’t equipped for the situation, but I understood that we would spend the night on the train and, at first light, set off on foot.
If you’ve visited Bolivia, you’ll know the high altitude makes walking a few meters tough, but we had miles to go with our luggage in tow.
It took several hours, but we made it to the next town and were able to get another train to our destination.
The silver lining, I met two British couples as we walked through the desert, and the experience bonded us. We ended up spending the next five weeks traveling around Bolivia and Peru, knowing we would have each other’s backs if needed!
By Roshni | TheWanderlustWithin.com
25. “We Had to Find a New Place to Sleep in Sydney, Australia, ASAP”
I arrived in Sydney, Australia, and booked four nights in an Airbnb that had received positive reviews. It was in Wooloomooloo, exactly where I needed to be. When we arrived, the guy showed us around, but we thought it funny that all the windows were open, as well as the front and back doors. That night, when the place was closed up was when we realized what a nightmare we had booked.
It smelt of wet dog, had a filthy carpet, and broken fixtures that only became evident when we tried to use them. The bedroom light wouldn’t stop flickering, and there was no curtain on the patio door meaning anyone could see in.
On the first evening, drunks and druggies used the alley beside the bedroom window as a meeting place. It was noisy and frightening.
There was a silver lining after the first night when we moved to the super hip Ovolo Hotel down the road. We told the staff our story, and they became like a family to us. They even gave us champagne to get over our horrible experience on our first trip to Sydney. I never got my money back, but at least I could enjoy my remaining time in Sydney.
If you feel unsafe anywhere, then get out and find somewhere else to stay! Trust your gut instincts.
By Angela | Where Angie Wanders
26. “I Could Have Drowned in Laos Kayaking”
I didn’t think much about safety when I signed up for kayaking in the small Laotian town of Nong Khiaw. I had kayaked many times before, and going downstream on a calm river didn’t seem challenging. So, my friend and I skipped the life vests when boarding our boat.
The float started off easy, but soon enough, we noticed everybody was overtaking us, including the guide! It was so hard to kayak, and we laughed at ourselves, wondering why we were so weak.
We had lost sight of the whole group when we noticed our kayak was filling with water. Soon, we were in the middle of a wide river, our kayak dangerously tipping, threatening to overturn at any moment.
I jumped out to try to pull it to the coast, but both shores felt so far. Nobody was around, and the sun was setting.
My friend joined me in the water as the kayak had overturned, and we were swimming towards the shore. Luckily, the current wasn’t strong.
After about 10 minutes in the river, somebody from the shore noticed us and saved us with a boat, it wasn’t even our guide!
Despite being good swimmers, it was incredibly reckless not to take the life vests in an unknown environment – a mistake I will not repeat.
By Natali | She’s Abroad Again
27. “Mountaineering in Patagonia Is Not for the Faint of Heart”
The first thing anyone tells you when traveling to Patagonia is to expect all four seasons, usually on the same day. And they are right. You can start a hike on a balmy 50-degree day and end up soaked in a rainstorm or blizzard hours later. This makes planning a trip to Patagonia especially difficult, as you must factor in days where hiking might not be the most optimal.
When my husband and I decided to visit Patagonia in 10 Days, we knew this was the gamble we had to take. What we did not expect was being stranded on the top of Fitz Roy in a sudden snowstorm having to wait hours huddled together until the storm cleared to be able to head back down. It was incredibly terrifying as we couldn’t see our hands in front of us, hadn’t seen another hiker in hours, and were terrified we’d be lost in the cold.
It was hands down the worst travel experience we’ve ever had- but also, on the other side, one of the best. Patagonia is a wild place, and being at the hands of nature in such an extreme way was a very spiritual experience for both my husband and me. And we got to see some incredible rainbows on the trek out.
By Alex | Delish Knowledge
28. “Rental Gone Wrong in Costa Rica, But I Made a Friend for Life”
One of my worst travel stories occurred on my very first visit to Costa Rica. Not only was it my first time in the country, but it was also my first solo trip. I had booked what looked like an incredible Airbnb in Santa Teresa. The ocean view was incredible, but the magic stopped there.
I quickly discovered that the entire “unit” was open air with NO locks for security anywhere. Everything was caked in dust. The hostess I was supposed to be staying with was unavailable, and I’d be sharing the space with a stranger instead. I spent my first sleepless night looking for different accommodations for the next three weeks. I even considered leaving Santa Teresa entirely.
At the last minute, I found a newly listed Airbnb. I wrote to the host, who had hundreds of positive reviews across different cities. She was a Tica herself, and the pandemic had brought her back to her country from London. We became fast friends, and I ended up staying with her for three months instead of three weeks! We remain friends to this day, and I’ve visited her again since then, too.
By Nausheen | Globe Gazers
29. “My Wallet Was Stolen in Paris, France”
Paris is often described as one of the most romantic cities. Hardly anyone mentions the hard truths about visiting the French capital. And unfortunately for me, I had to learn the hard way.
While studying abroad in Paris as a teenager, I became one of the many other people who had their wallets stolen. In my case, it was in the flurry of a busy metro station.
I knew exactly when it happened because my heart sank, and a sense of panic overcame me. And as soon as I looked down in my purse, all my cash, ID cards, and credit cards were gone. In a flash, I became stranded without money while solo traveling abroad for the first time – you can imagine the tears that followed.
When I finally composed myself, I filed a police report for the sake of filing an insurance claim back home. What saved me was my new friends from school. They were willing to loan me money until I could get a new credit card shipped.
Ultimately, everything was okay, but the ordeal served as a harsh reminder to always stay vigilant!
By Kristin | Global Travel Escapades
30. “My Wallet Was Stolen in Bogotá, Colombia”
I had just graduated from university, put all my money together, and left for a four-month trip to Colombia by myself. I didn’t know Spanish. Not the best idea, but if you’re 23 years old, you think you can do anything.
It was hard. As it turned out, Duolingo isn’t the same as speaking with a local. That meant that once I tried to get some food and drinks in Bogotá, Colombia, I was busy trying to understand the other person and figure out the currency. I didn’t notice someone stealing my phone from my backpack while waiting in line.
I tried asking people, but they didn’t understand me. I tried talking to the police, but they wouldn’t help me. My heart sank, and at the time, it was the confirmation that I wasn’t ready to travel alone.
Luckily, I found someone who knew someone who could speak English and would take me to a specific mall to buy a new phone. I’ve happily used that phone for four years, and I’ll never forget what it showed me. Even though bad things can happen, I will always be able to find a solution. I had the best time traveling in Colombia, one of my favorite countries to date.
By Marjolein | Radical FIRE
31. “I Got Trapped in a Bathroom in Israel”
During a business trip to Israel, I was excited to take some day trips from Tel Aviv on my days off. I stopped by a bank to get cash for small purchases and decided to use the restroom.
I closed the restroom door, locked it, and hung my purse up on the purse hook. After I finished, I washed my hands, grabbed my purse, and unlocked the door. But it wouldn’t open! I turned the lock to the left and the right multiple times, to no avail.
I started knocking loudly on the door and calling out ‘slicha’ which means ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me,’ but was the most relevant Hebrew phrase I knew. Two English-speaking bank employees came over and told me to turn the lock to the left, and the right, which still didn’t work.
Then the male employee said, “turn the other lock.” What? As it turns out, what I thought was a purse hook was a self-locking door lock. I opened the door, mortified, and left the building as quickly as possible.
Takeaway – evaluate situations from a different lens when traveling, as everyday items may be configured differently in other countries. Also, it’s good to know at least a few phrases in the local language!
By Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones
32. “Paris Rideshare Gone Wrong”
My worst travel experience was when taking a rideshare from Paris to CDG airport. As a female traveler, I stay alert to my surroundings. I noticed that the driver didn’t stop at the departure drop-off point and instead kept driving.
I asked where we were going, but the driver didn’t speak very clear English. We pulled up to a parking garage, where he took out a card to get access, but it wasn’t letting him in. He got out his phone and started calling someone, but I felt uncomfortable in the situation, so I took my bag and got out.
I’m not sure what the driver’s intent was, but I just trusted my instinct. Luckily, I quickly found two airport employees who helped me get to the airport departure check-in. I later reported the incident to the company since it was a potential safety concern.
It’s important to always trust your instincts when traveling. If a situation feels off, leave. Another tip is to keep aware of your surroundings and make sure to know the country’s emergency number in case you ever need to call for help.
By Amber Hunt | Get Lost in Wanderlust
33. “It’s 2023, Places Need To Be Handicap Accessible”
After the pandemic lockdowns, my family and I went on a vacation. Our rental house was filthy. And I mean dirty Band-Aids in two bathrooms and a coffee pot too dirty to touch.
The activities on the lake turned out to be extremely overrated and not for true outdoors people. The lake got crowded early in the day to do any water activity safely.
When we tried land activities like hiking and miniature golf, there weren’t even disability-accessible parking spaces for my family member who is disabled, let alone any ramps for a wheelchair.
We have a wheelchair that can be taken on rough terrain, and we take our son on paths and trails often. He’s been to all the canyons and parks out west, and we navigated him around with ease. But the place we were staying couldn’t accommodate him.
By Lisa Lightner | A Day in Our Shoes
Don’t Let These Travel Stories Happen to You
As we have read, the worst experiences that travel bloggers have encountered on their journeys around the world can range from the mundane to the truly terrifying. While no one should ever be afraid to explore and experience new cultures, it is wise to be cautious when traveling. Plan ahead, pay attention to your surroundings, know who you are interacting with, and always trust your gut. While some things are unavoidable, at least you can mentally prepare for the worst – and, of course, the best!
This article was produced and syndicated by The Happiness Function.
Where indicated, some images courtesy of Depositphotos.com.