Traveling, whether it be for work, pleasure, or some other reason, is mostly an enjoyable experience. We get to see new places, try exotic foods, and meet people who are different from those we’re normally around. However, it isn’t always all good. Travel long enough and you are bound to have at least one or two experiences that are anything but fun. Awkward and possibly dangerous situations are always going to arise when you’re in a place you’re a complete stranger to.
The stories below were shared by world travelers. These stories describe the negative experiences they had which they kept mostly a secret until now, opting to tell their friends and family only the good times they had instead. Here, for the first time, are some of the bad travel experiences these people have suffered through.
45. Night Vikings
I don’t know if this was just a one off experience unique to me, but Icelandic pople seemed to be transformed by the night.
They went from friendly, warm, articulate, and all around welcoming folk you’d happily live amongst during the day, to drunk, belligerent vikings at night who would happily bump into you, elbow you, stand on your feet to try to provoke you into a fight. At night, I had to restrain myself so many times. I saw maybe 5 or 6 fights in the space of one evening in Reykjavik, and someone got bottled outside the apartment I was staying at when I was trying to get off to sleep.
Lovely place, though, and I learnt to go with it after a few nights.
44. Roman School Of Five Bells
The train stations in Rome are filled with teenage pickpockets. Two different groups made attempts at us in 5 minutes. It was actually fun to watch once we realized their strategy.
43. Expensive Help For Lost Travelers
There were people pretending to be “customer service” in Rome. They stood outside the Trenitalia booth and answered questions.
Rome’s Termini is pretty huge, and I needed to know which platform to go to. I approached the booth and a “helper” came over. Not fishy yet — this is a legit practice in NYC.
The helper takes me and my party to the platform (binario). It was all the way across the station and a huge help.
I gave the guy 3€ (like $5). He told me he wanted at least 20€ per person. Immediately, I knew something was up. I told the guy the money was a courtesy — not a fee.
He was menacing and refused to leave us. He would say things like, “I know where you’re going.” Finally, the Carabinieri (police) made their way to our platform and he ran away.
42. Last Day Robbery
Got robbed in Barcelona. Last night there, got back to the apartment, which was locked, and every valuable was gone, but they left our passports and USD. 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 Spanish people 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.
41. Almost Cujo
There are a lot of stray dogs in Peru. I’ve heard that strays 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 I was working at. He was extremely aggressive, to the point that I started carrying rocks in my bag in case he chased me. This dog would follow me for blocks, remaining hidden in a yard until I passed by. He’d bare his teeth and growl, also slobbering a lot. I didn’t think it was rabies, but I’m also not 100% convinced it’s not rabies.
40. Hawks Everywhere
Hawkers everywhere. No matter where you go, tourist area or not, you will be accosted by a huge number of hawkers aggressively trying to sell you something.
39. Lovely Path, Ugly End
Bosnia is full of trash. I love that country, but it is littered. If you’re hiking in the countryside and you see a small lovely path, don’t take it, it leads to a dump. Almost every village has one.
38. Friendly But Shocking
Mexico is beautiful, the people are incredibly welcoming and will help a stranger with no expectation of recompense (hoy tú, mañana mi), but the light switches WILL electrocute you.
37. Everything Is A Bed
I was shocked by the sheer number of people sleeping on the street, on footpaths, 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.
36. Red Plaster
When you go to South-East Asia one thing you are struck by is their carefree approach to road safety. From your tuk-tuk, it’s typical to see a whole family on a single motorbike, none wearing helmets, zipping through congested traffic without a worry in the world. As a tourist you know the whole thing is dangerous, but it all seems to work in its own way and it’s even a little charming and exhilarating to experience.
On the way to the airport in Thailand, we drove past the carnage of a motorbike accident. No helmet, of course, the rider was plastered across the road. I try not to relive that memory when talking about the trip.
35. Parental Respect
I generally tell my stories, because I want to share what the experience is really like and help other travellers make safe decisions.
That said, my parents will never know that I got robbed in Jerusalem. I still love the city but I was definitely on my guard for the rest of the visit. I just don’t want them to think less of me.
Oh, and the guy had returned to the same place when I brought the police, and he still had my stuff, so I got it back, which is nothing short of a miracle. He wasn’t the brightest criminal.
34. Shrimp Pringles?!
I was an exchange student in Vietnam. It was a wonderful experience, but my less fond memories include: People literally chasing me up a mountainside trying to sell me coconuts and shrimp flavored Pringles. Fourteen of them, one of me.
Another time, I was 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.
33. No Thanks Does Not Mean Ask Again
Went to Portugal and guys would follow me the length of a street or courtyard offering me a list of drugs and/or sex services. It’s decriminalized there, but I simply don’t want any.
It doesn’t bother me at all to see people working a street, but I don’t like being followed.
32. Good Samaritan
In Amsterdam, the hostel I was at had co-ed dorms. So it wasn’t uncommon for people to be having sex or whatever. New guy moves in next to me on third day. Third night he CARRIES in a totally unconscious girl and proceeds to undress her, it was definitely going in a very bad direction.
I went and got the hostel supervisor because my German is bad and I was in the rare mood at 19 where I didn’t want to get into a fistfight.
By the time we’re back in the room (about 45 seconds), he’s getting her pants off and her shirt is gone. The hostel guy starts questioning him. He says it’s his girlfriend, etc. But when we ask him her name he doesn’t know it. He’s furious, starts throwing things all over the place and gets ejected.
We moved her into a private room, the only one in the hostel, and I slept by the door that night. When she woke up in the morning I told her what happened and she broke down. It was awful.
I’ve never told anyone that story because Amsterdam was amazing otherwise and assault stories don’t make for a fun tale.
31. The Land Of Opportunities
Did a tour of the West Coast of the US and loved almost all of it, but was really shocked by the homeless population in San Francisco. The first thing I saw leaving my hotel was a guy doing drugs on the street at 4 in the afternoon. Not many people talk or seem to know about it outside the U.S.
30. Fears For Exotic Beauties
When my family was holidaying in Egypt, some tour guides tried to kidnap my sister in Luxor. She and I are red-haired, pale, and she is blue-eyed. They loved her, but that was scary for us. I met lots of very beautiful women, though — not in a sexual way — and I will never forget the eyes of one young lady who helped me with my wheelchair. She was stunning.
But the way men acted towards me and my sister was scary. My mother is dark-haired and she didn’t get any harassment. I think they just found us exotic.
29. Peruvian Keychain Sellers
The amount of children selling you stuff in the streets in Peru is alarming. At any one point, you could have 5 different kids competing with each other to sell you the exact same crappy keychain. Seeing poverty at that level shatters your perspective.
28. What Used To Be
Portugal was like a ghost of a once a magnificent empire. Cities are empty, and working people, heck there are no working people… Beautiful place with a lot of homeless people and empty urban areas.
27. Festival Of Bore
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany was dirty, overpriced, and overcrowded to the point of not being fun at all. For some reason, it never occurred to me what a tourist trap it would be.
I should clarify: I loved Munich wholeheartedly besides the festival. Beautiful city.
26. Violence Afterhours
I was surprised by the nightlife violence in Australia. Aussies love to binge drink, get wasted, and then fight, especially when they are in groups. So after hours, street violence is a real issue in many places where there is a nightlife.
25. A Sculpture Not On The Brochure
I was in Rome, outside the main entrance to the Vatican at a nice cafe enjoying an espresso. I had to take a pee. The waiter pointed me towards the stairs that went to the basement.
The toilet bowl was broken and lying in a few pieces on the ground, and the plumbing had been disconnected. Despite that, people had continued to drop deuces “in” the toilet. It was a pyramid of crap. The last five people unfortunate enough to have no other choice than to use it must have been hanging from the ceiling. Otherwise they would have been standing/climbing on raw sewage.
It was like a crap sculpture really.
24. Speak The Language
I had a great time in Israel, but definitely super racist. We were traveling with a local most of the time, which made a big difference. But also I figured out the secret: just be super rude right back at them. In fact, be rude from the time you first open your mouth. They seem to respect that.
23. So Sorry You Could’ve Died
When I was in Italy, the ceiling in my parents’ hotel room collapsed. Luckily no one was in the room. When we told the man at the front desk, he apologized, handed us a trash bag, and said “have a nice day.”
22. Didn’t Do Much…
In Morocco, you don’t really want to associate with strangers that speak English or try to help you get somewhere. They will get you more lost and then they will try to extort you for money to get you back to where you were.
While I know this sounds terrible, if you are traveling with women, don’t stay out too late. I was out with the owner of our hostel and two girls that I had met at the hostel, going to a local bar for food and drinks. Not only did we stick out like a sore thumb because we were the only Americans, they were the only women there that weren’t blitzed out of their minds on drugs. As we left, we were attacked by a group of people attempting to mug a taxi driver and me and one of the girls were almost abducted.
As far as a lot of people know in my life, I just did some hiking and shopping.
21. In The Name Of “Development”
The first time I went to the Cayman Islands, there was this wonderful small hotel on the far side of the island, well away from the hustle and crowd of the 7-mile beach (which is so crowded and bland you may as well have gone to Miami instead).
Since they weren’t begging for attention enough to import sand, there was a wonderful small reef system within wading distance of the shore. While there, I ran into several kinds of stingray, spiny lobster, numerous tangs and angelfish, and a resident school of tarpon. We essentially had our own private reef. It was awesome. We stayed there a week.
We usually end the story by saying the place had been torn down. Unfortunately, it expanded, attracted attention, started having competition, and eventually had the reef torn out for those “perfect” sandy beaches everyone seems to want but are so terrible for marine life. Imagine a mom and pop diner becoming a shady fast food chain.
20. The Stray Solution
I lived in various parts of Guatemala for a few years. Once in a while the police would set aside a certain day or days to cull the stray dog problem because they couldn’t deal with the sheer number of dogs out there. They’d make an announcement to keep your dogs indoors and then roll up on all the strays and shoot them. I walked by a police truck once with a bed filled with dog carcasses and swarming with flies. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
19. Tipping Culture
Just back from NYC. Awesome city. One thing though: the amount of people you come across who offer bad service and expect a tip is enormous. The amount of people who treat you like crap when you don’t tip due to this is even bigger.
18. Not The Smell Of Romance
The romance of Venice is almost completely ruined by the odor. The canals are filthy and smell, and it isn’t helped by everyone in Italy being a smoker and leaving butts everywhere.
17. Casanova Wannabe
Ah Rome. I was there with a girlfriend. One morning at the hotel breakfast the receptionist, uninvited, decided to sit next to her and try it on. He used weapons-grade Italian charm. He told her she should come spend the day with him, go to a club he knew, dance, drink, watch the sunrise at the Forum, then make love.
She declined and said she was with me and pointed to me, sitting there 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 gave me daggers until we left. Kind of ruined the expectations of the place but go, it’s great.
16. Like An Infection
I spent months in Rome. It’s my favorite place in the world. Met people of all sorts, even spent a night talking to a kid who escaped from Syria after his village was destroyed. I expanded my worldview a lot.
But I don’t tell people that you will very quickly begin to hate gypsies. They annoy you, you hit them. They’re laying face down in the street, you walk by them. No one cares. It’s very sad, but they do not stop annoying you and trying to steal from you.
It’s an interesting conflict. I became so much less ignorant and more accepting of people from all walks of life. Except the gypsies. I hate myself for it, but I never met a single one who was anything but trouble.
15. Insectile Invasion
I never tell people about all of the bugs in Costa Rica: scorpions, rhinoceros beetles, fire ants, tarantulas, snakes, roaches the size of your palm, millipedes. Don’t get me wrong, it makes for interesting hikes, but when a tarantula crawls up the bar you’re drinking at, or when you turn on the shower and a huge scorpion runs out… Really not cool.
14. Children In The Trees
Haiti was the worst I’d ever seen. I was on a cruise (can’t remember the company) but they had their own little area of Haiti fenced off. The ship docked, we got out and had a great time on the beaches and in the sun. Nothing out of the ordinary until lunch time.
It was an all you could eat buffet served by the ship’s crew. We were told not to throw any food over the fences to the children, or else we’d have to go back to the ship. And that was when I noticed them. Scattered in the woods everywhere were little Haitian children crouched down trying to get anyone’s attention so we might throw food to them. That was the first and last time I saw true poverty, and it made it so much worse that the whole time I was basically flaunting my wealth with my fancy cruise ship and all you can eat buffet.
13. Good Ride Gone Bad
I was on a train in Romania. We rushed to the station to catch a train about to depart and bought tickets. If you have been to Romania you’ll probably know most of the ticket office ladies don’t speak English, so this woman helped us buy our tickets. Turns out she was getting on the same train.
We rushed with her to the train, and when we got on I asked if we’d have any service on board because we had no water or snacks for the 4 hour ride. She told us there wouldn’t be any, but would see if her friends, who were meeting her, could drop some off at her stop.
Fast forward to when we get to her stop. She told me that her friends were here with stuff for us. I go to the door and sure enough her friends are there with 3 litres of water, and loads of snacks that they just bought from the shop. I tried to give them money but they wouldn’t accept. It made me realize how great Romania is, especially the people.
About an hour later our train hit someone in a rural area. The doors opened when the train had stopped and people were looking out. My friends and I looked out too and saw a man under the train, his severed hand and foot at the side. The ambulance came and took him away in about 20 minutes. The train just carried on moving.
No police, no closure. They just carried on like nothing had happened. It was one of the worst and best train rides. But nothing can make me forget seeing a severed hand and foot.
12. Bloody Dog Fight
When I lived in Moldova, outside of the hostel where I was staying I heard a massive fight between groups of dogs, followed by a loud whimper, silence, and then howling. I ran into that dead dog the next day and it was just ripped apart. When I lived in Russia, the stray dogs were always friendly, but in Chisinau they were pretty vicious.
11. Selling Over The View
I wanted for my entire life to see the pyramids at Giza; went there and was consistently and frustratingly harassed by vendors.
I couldn’t really enjoy seeing them as I was interrupted every 90 seconds by someone selling crap.
Egypt was an overall good experience, and the people were wonderful in general, but wow! Leave me alone to marvel at one of the greatest achievements of humanity.
10. Ingrained Pessimism
Romania is a beautiful country that is incredibly safe, full of natural resources, and is literally developing before my eyes. And the people are some of the most diehard pessimists you will ever meet. Try to tell a Romanian something nice about Romania and they will go into a long tirade about how terrible it is, how it will never change, and how much better your country must be, except that your people are stupid for [insert terribly overused stereotype]. Romania is a much nicer place than most people think, and it will probably be even nicer when Romanians start to think so too.
9. Unexpected Population
Denver has a TON of homeless people. I went there last weekend to experience the dispensaries and go snowboarding. I read on the Denver page on Wikitravel that “Denver has a lot of homeless people.” but being a native of New York City, I didn’t think anything of it. Boy was I wrong. They are on almost every single block. Even the nice, downtown part of Denver on the Mall. Some corners will literally have little tent forts that a bunch of homeless people live in. Beautiful city, but I did not expect that at all.
8. Subway Sloshed
I was surprised by drunk people actively still drinking on the tube in London. Overall it’s an obviously wealthy, posh, cosmopolitan 21st-century city… if you don’t mind sitting next to some guy who smells like he just peed his own pants with an open can of Strongbow in his jacket pocket.
7. Sadly Common Delays
I studied abroad in Switzerland and I never told my parents about how it’s common for people to jump (or have someone assist) in front of trains to commit suicide. I was in a train headed to Munich and was delayed 7 hours because someone jumped in front of our train.
6. Psycho Panhandler
I absolutely loved Montreal when I visited, but I always leave out my encounter with a panhandler there. When the group I was with and I blew him off since he seemed to be psychotic, he proceeded to call us ‘dirty Americans’ and followed us down the street for at least a mile.
5. Stark Contrast
My first day in India brought to mind the phrase that India is a land of contrasts.
The driver was taking me to the office. We pass by some blocks where there are modern multi-story glass fronted buildings. Then a block or two over you see absolute poverty. Little huts made from old trash bags and such. The kicker was a big pile of trash by the road. As we passed by it, I could see a chicken scratching on one side of it, then a dog digging through it, and finally on the other side was a man pawing through the same pile of trash.
4. A Losing Lottery
When I was in Vietnam, there were young children selling lottery tickets in my face everywhere I went. They sell lottery tickets as a way of making money for their families. They walk up to you and stand by you while you eat outside. It is so sad. They walk miles everyday. One child told me she had to sell them all or her parents would beat her. I found myself buying the whole booklet at times. But word traveled fast and I was surrounded by the children almost everyday
3. Istanbul Nightlife
I was scammed at a night club in Istanbul. I met some other travellers and I joined their private table for most of the night. By the end, I was left with a $4,000 bill. In reality, the cost should have been in the $400 range.
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 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, and I told the front desk what was up. They locked the doors and called the cops. Turns out the group that tried to rob me was recently busted with large amounts of money, drugs, and weapons.
2. “I Slipped”
When my father came back from a business trip to China, he had a broken leg. He told us that he had slipped on some stairs.
It was only many years later that I found out the Chinese military police had thrown him off a bridge and left him for dead.
He was part of an arbitration team that had been brought in on a legal case against the government for negligence. I don’t know why he kept it secret from us for so long, but it certainly changed the way I saw China.
1. Filth And Beauty
I was on a small island off the coast of Cambodia, not sure the actual name but I believe it was referred to as monkey island. It was the most picture perfect place I had ever been. Perfect water, white sand, no electricity, no roads. Literally a very small fishing village and a few huts for people to rent.
There was a tributary (that’s what I’m calling it) that ran out of the island that flowed with black water. It mixed with the crystal clear water and eventually faded to nothing. But we hiked to the other side of the island one day and the black water was coming through the village’s trash pile. It was a perfectly painted micro picture of what we’re doing to the world, in my opinion.