People dream of being able to see the world, and traveling abroad is a major bucket list item for many. Experiencing a new culture, tasting different foods, and broadening your horizons are just a few of the reasons to take a trip outside your country. Although you may be ready to pack your bags, there are risks every traveler should be aware of when visiting a foreign country — especially if you don’t know the local customs or the areas to avoid. Add the possibility that there might be a major language barrier in the country you are visiting and it really can be a recipe for disaster. Many unfortunate travelers end up in some seriously bad situations while far from home, and these real-life travel stories may have you second-guessing what’s on your next itinerary!
25. Night Out Gone Horrifically Wrong
I was scammed at a nightclub in Istanbul. I met some other travelers and I joined their private table for most of the night. At the end, I was left with a $4,000 bill. In reality, the cost should have been in the $400 range, and I was prepared to contribute to the bill. The whole club was full of people in on the scam. So when the bill came, the place cleared out and I was escorted to the ATM machine. My life was threatened along the way. The ATM denied me, so I was forced to call my credit card company. They denied raising my credit limit to pay the club. At the end of the day, I convinced them I had another credit card at my hotel. They escorted me to the hotel, I told the front desk what was up and they locked the doors and called the cops. Turns out the group that had me was recently busted with large amounts of money, substances, and weapons.
24. Open Door Policy
I got robbed in Barcelona. It was my last night there, I got back to the apartment which was locked, and every valuable was gone (but they left our passports and U.S. money). They even took my suitcase.
I still think it was a set up from the people renting us the apartment. Police could do nothing. Funny thing was that whoever stole our stuff resold it because a picture of two 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.
Despite all of that, the police were very nice, and they actually came to inspect the locks which showed no sign of forced entry. I still enjoyed my time in Spain, but it’s a weird feeling to be violated like that.
23. One Father’s Horrifying Travel Experience
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.
22. Heartbreaking Homelessness
The sheer number of people sleeping on the street, on footpaths, and under bridges in Mumbai and Pune, India. Whole families. I just got back and am still thinking about it. There was a lot to love about India, but we saw some heartbreaking things too.
21. When In Rome
Ah, Rome. I was there with a girlfriend. One morning at the hotel breakfast the receptionist, uninvited, decided to sit next to her. He used 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 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.
20. First Night Gone Horribly Wrong
On our first night in Iceland, a bartender in Reykjavik slipped a drug into our beverage.
We started feeling woozy and quickly left the bar.
Next thing I knew, it was a few hours later, and I’m somewhere in downtown Reykjavik at 11 p.m., with no idea where my friends were. After wandering around for two hours looking for them, I remembered that iMessages could send over WiFi, so I found a bar to sit in and tried to text my friends.
Steve came to at 1 a.m. and found himself running through a residential neighborhood bleeding from his forehead with no idea what had happened. He found a hotel (he couldn’t remember where our AirBnB was) and got a room. The hotel had WiFi, so he got my messages. He sent me a picture of his battered face and told me the name of the hotel and his room number. Neither of us had heard from Bob.
I took a screenshot of the directions from Google Maps, then started walking. By now I was convinced Iceland was super dangerous; we’d been here less than 24 hours, already this happened! My semi-incapacitated self decided the best way to avoid danger was to look scary. So for the next hour, as I walked the four kilometers to the nearest hotel, I growled loudly. It did work, though. The few people who saw me crossed the street to the other sidewalk. It’s a wonder no one called the police on the crazy American.
Finally, I saw the hotel sign, walked inside, and asked the front desk how to get to room 318. He starts laughing and says they only have two stories, and I’m at the wrong place. He kindly called around to other hotels asking if they had a guest named Steve. Turns out his hotel was six kilometers away. It’s now 2:30 a.m. and my phone is at 3%. There’s no way I’ll make it on foot, so he called a cab for me.
I’ve never been happier to see Steve than when he opened his hotel room door. We talked briefly, decided to sleep for the night and look for Bob in the morning. Right as I’m drifting off, my phone lights up with a message from him asking where we are. He’s at the apartment and insists we come back. Fine. We take a cab back.
Bob tells us that he’d woken up three hours earlier from sleeping under some stairs in a random building with a man screaming at him in Icelandic. The guy picked him up by his shirt and threw him outside. He wandered hazily through the city for an hour trying to get his bearings. Whatever was in his system must’ve still been affecting his brain, because he thought that he was in Germany (where he grew up). He didn’t know how he’d gotten there, but he wanted to get back home to America.
A bunch of cabs were parked outside of a bar, so he got in one and asked to go to the airport. The cabbie gave him a weird look, and said it was almost two hours away, but he’d go if Bob really wanted. Bob said yes. Ten minutes into the ride, he realized this wasn’t Germany, and panicked. He took out his phone and found his itinerary, complete with the address of the apartment. The cabbie re-routed, and Bob was safe inside. An hour later he remembered that he wasn’t in Iceland alone.
The next day I looked through my phone searching for evidence of what happened while I’d been blacked out. I’d been all over Reykjavik, as evidenced by my blurry photos. There were several photos of me holding a large orange cat and in different parts of the city, so apparently, I’d abducted it temporarily. No idea why.
Later we discovered that the bar had charged Steve’s credit card $300 for the two beers he drank before we passed out. Jerks.
19. The City Of Lights Has Some Serious Attitude
As a general rule, I enjoyed my (brief) visit to Paris. However, I did have a couple of times when I’d visit a shop and the workers would just be jerks to me. I speak French, but I’m a bit slow, and I’d try to talk in French and the shopkeepers would basically laugh in my face and talk about me to each other when I was standing in front of them.
18. Living In Vietnam Really Is Like A Box Of Chocolates
I was an exchange student in Vietnam. Wonderful experience, but my less-fond memories include: people literally chasing me up a mountainside trying to sell me coconuts and shrimp flavored Pringles (14 of them, one of me); eating breakfast when I felt something pull on my leg (a beggar with no limbs had rolled under my table and was biting my pants); children defecating on the steps of the Hanoi Opera House; tour buses full of Australians throwing cans at people from the windows; almost dying multiple times while traveling on the scariest roads I’ve ever seen; and, finding out that the windshield in our microbus had been sold and replaced with regular glass when a chicken flew through it (lots of stitches involved from a very sketchy doctor).
Speaking of healthcare, I got a first-hand look at the hospital system after contracting intestinal anthrax. I lost 24 pounds in five days and my hair fell out, along with two teeth. I also came back home with tapeworms.
In spite of this I really did have a great experience while studying there and highly recommend it as a travel destination.
17. No Means No
Belize was amazing. All the things I did were incredibly fun and I never felt scared of anything. However, I never met a single guy who I didn’t feel was creeping on me. Middle-aged men were all nice, but I felt like none of them respected any girls (literally wouldn’t listen to a word we said unless a guy repeated it) and when they talked to us it felt like it was only to hit on us. But beyond that, everyone was very nice and I loved the experience as a whole.
16. It’s Not Paradise For Everybody
The number of homeless people sitting along Kalakaua Avenue in those little pergola areas in Waikiki, Hawaii.
15. Don’t Let Your Guard Down
The train stations in Rome are filled with teenage pickpockets. Two different groups made attempts at us in five minutes. It was actually fun to watch once we realized their strategy.
14. Land Of The Not-So-Friendly Strays
There are a lot of stray dogs in Peru. I’ve heard that stray dogs are kind of the norm in Latin American countries, and most of the ones I encountered didn’t want anything to do with anyone passing by. However, there was one stray that I passed frequently while walking to a project that I was working on and he was extremely aggressive to the point that I started carrying rocks in my bag in case he chased me. He would follow me for blocks, remaining hidden in a yard until I passed by. He’d bare his teeth and growl, and he also slobbered a lot. I didn’t think it was rabies, but I’m also not 100% convinced it’s not rabies.
13. Beyond Aggressive Salesmen
I’ll never go back to Rome, Italy. 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.
12. A Very Trashy Situation
Bosnia is full of trash. I love that country, but it’s 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.
11. Competition Is Fierce Among Street Vendors
The amount of children in Peru selling you stuff in the streets. At any one point, you could have five different kids competing with each other to sell you the exact same keychain. Seeing poverty at that level shatters your perspective.
Spiders in Japan are huge, have crazy colors, and make scary big webs.
9. The Worst Place To Get Jumped
Broke a rib after getting ganged up on in a bathroom in Serbia after one of the guys thought I was looking at his girlfriend.
8. Some Tourists Have No Respect
7. Pyramids And Excessive Pollution
Egypt is the most polluted country I have ever been to. It is like living in a landfill.
6. This Is Kind Of A Big Problem Everywhere
There’s an obscene amount of catcalling in Indonesia, but mostly in the bigger cities around more tourist-dominated areas.
5. That’s Just A Tad Harsh
When I fell down a flight of stairs in Hungary and broke my back not a single person stopped to help me while I screamed in pain.
4. The Land Down Under Isn’t What It Seems
Not too many people are happy to hear Australians shoot and kill kangaroos on a regular basis. Or that we eat them. Or that they are primarily pet food..
3. Road Safety Is Definitely Not Priority
When you go to Southeast Asia, one thing you are struck by is their carefree approach to road safety. 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.