Travel photos on social media give us all a little bit of an itch to hop on a plane and see new places. However, what people don’t post are the true stories about the places that left them disgusted, dismayed, or worse, scared for their lives. There are plenty of places around the world that many say they would never return to, and their reasons are far from petty.
34. One And Done
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Khmer Rouge turned an inner-city high school into a torture chamber. Implements of torture are on display like some medieval dungeon. Photos of tortured and prisoners line the walls. Relatives come to grieve. It is extremely depressing.
But everyone should see it once.
33. Life Behind Bullet Proof Glass
Flint, Michigan. Something tells you you’re not safe when you have to order your $5 Hot n’ Ready through 3″ of bulletproof glass.
32. The Most Fake City Of All
Dubai. There is absolutely no culture. I never thought I’d be put off by diversity, but Dubai did it to me. It is just fake, fake, and fake. There is nothing genuine in that city and even the people are like carefully handpicked to represent what that city stands for: an unbridled, forced, and insulting form of consumerism. And the locals are like zombies, lifelessly shuffling around in their luxury cars and doing nothing interesting, just consuming and loafing. That city is just wrong on so many levels.
31. Don’t Judge A City By Its Red Light District
Frankfurt, Germany. It is a bleak city full of hard-looking people. My impression might be exaggerated since my hostel was located in their Red Light District, and in the area, sometimes I had to walk in the middle of the road cause people were sitting on the sidewalk using substances, etc. The first night, I had to walk around before I could get into my hostel since there was a fight outside the entrance.
30. Crowd Haters In The Big Apple
Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I went a few years ago and it was awful. My girlfriend, her brother, his girlfriend and I ended up leaving after about two hours trying to get at least a small view. We spent the New Year in a Korean Barbeque place instead and it was a much better experience.
29. When You Don’t Want To Be Treated Like A King
Kuwait, even if you have someone to show you around and you go in February. The whole thing just made me feel so uncomfortable. Everyone below a certain income (and that’s basically 80% of people you meet) is East Asian, and they are absolutely treated like dirt, but they treat you like a king. It’s horrible. It makes the gap between ultra-rich and poor (really, there’s hardly anything in between) painfully obvious, and I just couldn’t stop myself from saying “No, no, it’s alright,” every time they offered to do something for me. They are so submissive and they have to be. It’s awful. I couldn’t look them in the eye; it made me feel so ashamed.
28. Trash Can Island
I recently went to Jamaica as part of a Caribbean cruise. In particular, Montego Bay. While it is a very beautiful place, I feel like the whole place is a scam to get your money. At no point did I feel safe anywhere we went. Every place we were taken on a tour required us to spend money on something. And despite the fact that it is very beautiful, the whole country is treated like a public trash can. There is garbage everywhere. It is very sad that things have gotten so bad there.
27. Don’t Stop (No, Really, Do Not Stop) In Camden
Camden, New Jersey. It’s the only place in America I’ve ever felt so immediately threatened that I abandoned all traffic laws. I made one wrong turn headed back from the aquarium, and in less than five minutes I was in what looked like a war zone. The minute I came to my first stop sign, I was approached from three sides by “locals.” It was snowy, so I put it in four-wheel-drive and got out of there, strategically avoiding any more stops, for any reason.
26. Stick To The Legal Cabs Or Else
The Republic of Georgia. I was the victim of an attempted kidnapping by an illegal cab service set up to kidnap and sell people. He told us we had to keep the shades drawn and was funnelling only young attractive women into the cab while turning away men. Then he forcibly tried to hold us in when we tried to get out. The only thing that saved me was situational awareness and the time it took him to try to fill the van instead of taking (only) the five of us.
25. Crime Is Not A Smiling Matter
Auschwitz, the primary concentration camp in Poland. I would at least wait a while before going back again.
The stifling amount of tourists taking smiling selfies beside the gas chambers made me sick. I couldn’t stand seeing little kids running around and playing tag on the same paths that so many innocent people were forced to do death marches upon.
24. Just Missed The Plague
Madagascar. I went in the middle of the plague epidemic that I didn’t know about until I came back home. I learned that there’s a plague outbreak every year. It just so happened that 2017’s was bigger than usual.
23. It Is Nothing Like Vegas
Reno, Nevada. What a dump. You’d think with its reputation of being mini-Las Vegas that it would at least have some of that Vegas glitz to make it feel like a tacky carnival or something. Nope. There’s a small cluster of casinos on the main drag, and besides that, it’s all slums and run-down businesses. There are so many displaced people and abandoned buildings. The city reeks of gambling debt and desperation. I got food poisoning from bad Mexican food. I am never going back.
22. Don’t Take Me To Marrakesh
Marrakesh, Morocco. There is insane heat—the bottoms of my shoes melted due to the heat of the pavement, and everywhere there were signs of animal cruelty. There were horses with scars on their backs, monkeys in chains posing for tourists, and hedgehogs in tiny cages all exposed to the heat of the midday sun. On top of this, the ‘magic of the souks’ turned out to consist of around five shops duplicated a thousand times with all the same touristy stuff for sale.
21. Thank Goodness He Had Muscles
Belize. Maybe it was once a decent place, but now it’s a desperately poor place. A few steps (less than 100 actual steps) and I was already being asked what kind of substances or company I wanted. That may be a thing some people want, but at no point did I feel actually safe aside from me being a big, muscular man alongside two of my friends.
20. Full Of Dust And Sadness
Bundaberg, Australia. I traveled around Oz with my friend for a year. We were in no rush, had a lot of savings, and figured we’d take our time. We bought a hop-on-hop-off ticket for the long-distance bus and decided we’d stop at pretty much every stop. Tour guides tried to tell us just stick to Fraser Island, Cairnes, Byron, etc. I remember specifically mentioning we’d go to Bundaberg and the travel agent said, “Don’t go there, it’s horrible and there’s nothing to do.” We ignored her and were determined to see it all for ourselves.
Now, from someone’s who’s been there, don’t go to Bundaberg. The whole place is full of dust and sadness because any travellers are just there to work on farms. We had one good night out, through pure luck, when we hung out with some male strippers, and won a Polaroid camera. But even they, as Bundy natives, told us not to stay long.
19. Literally Putting Salt In Their Wounds
The Great Salt Lake. I parked next to the beach and walked across the mile-long beach only to finally arrive at a shore that was black with flies and a lake that continues on the same slant as the (nearly level) mile long beach. After finally getting far enough out to float, every cut, scrape, or other openings on my skin had now been filled with salt. The only relief I found was the showers back at the parking lot on the other side of the beach.
18. What Did You Expect?
North Korea. The entire time, you’re being chaperoned. Even when you’re alone, you can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching (because they are).
You’re only shown very specific parts of the city which have been carefully crafted to make them look like a prosperous nation. In reality, you know it’s all fake.
The anti-American propaganda is both hilarious and terrifying.
17. What You Didn’t Know About West Texas
The entire region between El Paso and Dallas, Texas. Those cities are great, but that trip between the two is a 10-hour drive of nothingness, punctuated by oil fields and dusty towns. You could film a Fallout movie on the cheap at Odessa.
16. A Dump Of A City
Athens, Greece. Perhaps it was the destinations I traveled to in Athens, but it was extraordinarily hot with garbage piled higher than houses on every street corner. The whole place wreaked of hot garbage juice. Every restaurant we went to was dirty and I witnessed how “clean” the dishes really were with an open view of the kitchen. I thought drinking from the old glass soda bottles was super cool (& eco-friendly) until I saw the waiter refill them from one table to another without even rinsing them.
15. The National Bird Disgracing The Nation
Homer, Alaska. I went to visit my uncle who lives there, and I have to say, for a town that has such a tourist-designated area (the Spit), the people there are beyond unfriendly. It just seemed like everyone is perpetually rude and in a bad mood.
I also got a kick out of my uncle insisting we go see the dump so we could see bald eagles rummaging through trash. He has a weird sense of humor, but sure enough, there were bald eagles eating garbage. A bit surreal to see the national bird eating trash.
14. Even Worse Than Paris
Hamburg, Germany. I went to four or five other places in Germany and absolutely loved them, but was really disappointed with Hamburg. The whole place is covered in graffiti. Some looks kind of cool, some doesn’t. The streets have so much garbage in them, tons of drink bottles broken everywhere. I was in Paris a week or two before and some people say Paris smells bad. Hamburg smelled ten times worse. Not the worst place in the world but definitely won’t be going back again.
13. Ghost Town Vibes
Mitchell, Oregon, population 130. I was on my way to Wallowa Lake and was running on fumes when I saw the sign. If you’ve ever been that far east in Oregon, you’ll know it’s literally straight prairie and canyons for miles. You’re lucky if you see a house or another person on the road. Anyway, I zipped into the “town” hoping there’d be a gas station. There was, and it looked like a rusted out piece of junk from the ’50s. The town was dead. Literally. There was absolutely no one there. It had the creepiest, old western ghost town vibe.
And what was more, in the middle of the town, right there next to the “gas station,” was a 12-foot covered cage with rusted out bars. I’m not joking. A cage. The thing was huge. Then this creepy old lady appeared out of nowhere to pump my gas and told me to come stay at her “hotel.” It was dusk and the house she pointed to had an orange light in the window. I politely said no thanks. She kept insisting and I told her I wanted to make it to the next town by that night. She shrugged and went into the “hotel,” which looked like a regular house. I tried making a phone call but of course, no service. I looked up and jumped because the woman was inside the hotel, illuminated in the window, watching me. I got out of there as fast as possible and don’t ever want to go back. I still wonder what in the world was kept in that cage though.
12. What Poverty Does To A Holy River
Varanasi, India. I also traveled to New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, and in all those cities I saw so much poverty and garbage, and it feels like an entirely different world. But Varanasi takes the cake.
When I went there, I couldn’t even comprehend what I was seeing. It’s on the Ganges River, which is the most sacred and holy river in Hinduism, and Varanasi is the holiest city to them. I respect that. But holy cow. The gnats. The garbage. The poverty and sickness. I saw a lady covered in sores all over her body. Children pooping in the street. Men scooping up garbage from the sewers with their bare hands. People bathing and washing clothes in the river just a little ways from where they dump people’s ashes. I just couldn’t comprehend it.
I’m sure there are beautiful places in India (it’s a huge and diverse country), but I’m not sure if I’d go back.
11. Is That A Man Or A Bag Of Money?
Budapest, Hungary (sorry Hungarians). When we got off the underground Metro on our last day, my family and I got waylaid by an official asking to see our tickets. Even though we’d validated our ticket on the tram not 15 minutes earlier (time stamp proved this), we were still penalized because we hadn’t stamped it again going down to the Metro. The attitude of the official made it worse. She gleefully called several coworkers over when she realized she caught us and spoke rapid-fire broken English about how we had to pay a fine (160 euros for all of us). They actually escorted us to an ATM when they realized we didn’t have that much cash on us. My father was furious. The only solace was one onlooker who mouthed “Sorry” at us as the crowd swept her away. Even though the trip before that had been great, it was awful to be treated as some sort of money bags.
10. If You Don’t Like The Heat, Stay Out Of Egypt
Cairo, Egypt. It is so incredibly hot and dirty, with a ton of scammers. The Nile is one of the filthiest, smelliest rivers I’ve ever seen. There are oil slicks and floating poop in it. I was at a 5-star restaurant on the Nile, and I had an excellent view of a group of old men doing their business into the Nile about 25 feet upriver. 25 feet downriver was a group of women doing laundry.
You have to make sure everything you drink comes from a sealed container. My buddy got travellers’ sickness from a glass bottle of Coca-Cola bought outside King Tut’s tomb. We found out afterward that it is common for street merchants to find bottles in the trash, fill them with knock-off cola and place a cap loosely on them.
Did I mention that it is unbearably hot? To do the whole ancient Egyptian thing, you have to wake up at like 5 am to get your tourism in early and then from 10 am until sunset, you stay indoors because of the heat. London’s ancient Egyptian museum was a much more pleasant experience.
9. Finding Dystopia
Honestly, London. And I’ve been to a lot of places. London just feels sad and depressing. Most of the modern architecture outside of the nice areas just feels like something out of a dystopian future but with Cold War styling. I literally get depressed every time I’m visiting London because of how sad it feels. I’d hate to be poor and live there. The rest of the UK is fine, although Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, and basically every big city has these depressing ghettos, which are even more depressing on the inside.
8. It Almost Got Violent
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We decided to go there because the oceanfront hotel suite w/ a kitchen was like $70/night. I’m from Massachusetts. Here’s why I won’t go back:
We went out on the boardwalk at night and it was so humid we couldn’t enjoy ourselves. I’ve been to Florida hundreds of times and never felt humidity like this at 9 pm in mid-September.
There were cockroaches all over the boardwalk. At 29 years old, I witnessed my first racial confrontation. Complete with all the racial slurs and everything. It almost got violent. EVERYBODY MOVES SO SLOW. It took 20 minutes for the guy at the ice cream counter to make us two cones. We’re lesbians. We held hands walking down the boardwalk. We had to stop doing that after the disapproving looks because it felt uncomfortable.
7. R E S P E C T
Saudi Arabia. As a woman, I’ve never felt so uncomfortable/disrespected in a country before and since. Men literally stopped and stared at me on a regular basis. I wasn’t allowed to enter or eat in certain places because I’m a woman.
If I hadn’t been with my male cousin, I’m certain that I would have been assaulted or something. It sounds dramatic, but there were times where it almost seemed like it was happening or about to happen, until my cousin would walk over.
6. Budget Travellers Beware
Reykjavik, Iceland. Everything is ungodly expensive. We were reduced to eating at Domino’s and after price conversions, one large pizza cost us $26.99. FOR A DOMINO’S PIZZA!!!! The more annoying part is that you can buy a tub of caviar for two dollars. I’m never going back.
5. An Active War Zone Would Be Better
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been to a lot of places. I have been in active war zones, post-disaster areas, and impoverished areas. Everywhere I have been, I have met pleasant people and found something to like. Except for Philly. The nicest things I can say about Philly are that my Uber driver didn’t talk and that I made it back out again.
4. Not That Beautiful After All
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It has that beautiful landscape we see on TV and all, but most of it is only propaganda. If you leave the “rich” neighborhoods (Copacabana, Ipanema, or Leblon), it instantly smells like poop, pee, and throw up.
Also, it’s not even close to being safe. Unfortunately, many military police officers are corrupt. The buses are full of homeless people in the back. The locals are either very nice or will try to play smart and fool you, like insist on selling wristbands/necklaces and get upset once you tell them you don’t want it.
3. You Fancy, Huh?
Monaco. I was in southern France in 2012 and decided to take a quick bus ride over to Monaco one day just because I heard it was almost like a paradise. I was thoroughly disappointed with the place. Nothing but high-end clothing stores, extremely overpriced and terrible food, and yacht docks. There was a complete absence of anything interesting. It seriously felt like a place for ultra-rich people to sit around and praise each other.
2. Wasting Time In Paradise
Cancun, Mexico. It is so Americanized, like a mini Vegas but with over-priced, over-populated tours. I’ve been to a lot of places and this one is one I wouldn’t care to ever go back to. I went on a catamaran tour. The boat ride was fun, but then where we went snorkeling was awful and congested with boats everywhere. It was over-priced and a waste of time.
1. You’re Not Welcome Here Anymore
Barcelona, Spain. It was incredibly clear that the locals didn’t want tourists. I saw a mock-up of one of those cardboard cut-outs that you take pictures with. The place where you stand had a speech bubble about you being a mindless tourist, feeding gentrification, and ruining the neighbourhoods.
I hadn’t realised before I got there that they were so anti-tourist or I never would have gone in the first place.