So many times we go on a trip full of excitement and ready for adventure. Usually, it works out in our favor and we have a great vacation. However, there are other times when things don’t exactly go according to plan. We find ourselves in locations that make us uncomfortable, grossed out, offended, and sometimes even scared. Luckily, there are people out there willing to share their horrible travel-gone-wrong experiences, so we don’t have to make the same mistakes they did.
35. Cambodian Nightmare
Poipet, Cambodia. It’s basically an awful trap that was built to milk cash out of anyone trying to enter Cambodia by land from Bangkok. In my case, I was taking a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap en route to Angkor Wat. I got trapped in Poipet for a few hours and I can’t remember a lot of angrier days in my life. It starts with sketchy quasi-legal casinos that stand in no man’s land between the place where you get stamped out of Thailand and the immigration office letting you into Cambodia. Then you get to immigration and they shake you down for a bribe in order to get your visa faster. There’s no queue; they’ll just make you sit in the waiting room for an hour or more if you’re unwilling to pay them like $10 extra. Then they force you to go to a bus depot that charges rates to Siem Reap that are probably ten times the going rate. In my case, they assured me that the bus couldn’t go to the small street my hostel was on, but that they’d include a tuktuk ride with the bus fare direct to my destination. The tuktuk driver was noticeably wasted at about noon and tried to shake me down for more money, then when I gave him a firm no because the ride was included (which he verified before we got in), he broke into our room to try to harass us into paying.
34. One Man’s Paradise Is Another Man’s Trash Heap
Naples, Italy. It’s literally a pile of trash. Like, trash piled three-feet along every road and sidewalk. It’s just a mountain of trash. We nope-d out of there immediately and went to Sorrento.
33. Racism Taken To The Next Level
Qatar. I had a 24-hour layover in the ad-hoc Doha airport. If you’re in Qatar for over 12 hours, you get a free tour of the country. At the beginning of the tour, I wasn’t super aware of the class disparity, what is essentially the slavery of foreign workers and the altogether trying-too-hard nature of Doha. It’s a very cool looking city, but it reminded me of something someone would build in Minecraft when they’re playing on creative with no stakes. About halfway through the tour, our Bengali guide was telling us that every Qatari citizen gets a beach house and a regular house for free by the government, built by foreign workers who may or may not die from heat stroke (and either way who cares). Meanwhile, he lived in a tenement apartment with a lot of other people.
The tour guide was doing his best to talk about the grandeur of the city and the people, it was just pretty easy to read between the lines.
32. Attacked By Scammers
Marrakech, Morocco. The city itself is pretty and has a bit of charm even though it feels cramped at times. But Marrakech is a tourist city and the people that live there know it.
I have never been so swamped by people trying to scam me or get me to buy stuff I said I did not want. It says something when the only times I had fun were when I left the city to visit the areas outside. I felt like a piece of bread that fell on a cockroach-infested floor.
31. Dad, Are You Just Going To Stand There?
Northern India as a woman (even with my parents and I was 16) was horrendous. This excluded where we went up near the border near Nepal, because that was beautiful and the people were more relaxed. But the rest, don’t get me wrong, the ancient architecture, peacocks, and food are amazing, but men following you around in groups and taking videos and pictures of you on their phones (even with my dad there), and barely no women in the streets of towns, made me very uncomfortable. Plus a lot of the people are arrogant and think they’re better than you or try to rip you off.
30. All About The Hustle
Havana, Cuba. Whatever romantic ideas I had about communism, Che, Fidel, etc. got a nice little rude awakening. Most restaurants are empty, most stores are empty. The streets are empty. Outside of the main plazas, it’s like someone abandoned the city a long time ago. Everyone was desperate trying to hustle me, and some succeeded.
If you go there, go with cash and be firm with hustlers. They are small-time hustlers though. They just want a few dollars.
I went there for two days thinking $200 would be enough, but it was gone in a day. They have two types of currencies: the peso for locals and the CUC for foreigners. The exchange rate for dollar-CUC is insane.
So, $200 was gone in a day. I was like “no problem, I’ll go to the ATM.” Well, the adventure in Cuba began at that point. There are few ATMs, and the ATMs only worked with cards with a Visa logo. I used my last $50 to call Citibank and confirm this.
29. Never Go Back
San Francisco. I used to live near there and will never go back. Forget the homeless people littering the street, openly sharing needles and defecating a few feet from where they sleep. The traffic is in constant gridlock up and down insane hills. The prices are crazy high, even for California. There are no good beaches, and the weather is cold and damp. The food is good, I’ll give them that, but again three times the price you could get in a nearby city.
It’s just an awful, awful place to be.
28. Getting Into A Stolen Taxi
Honduras. My girlfriend and I got into a “taxi,” but looking back it was probably someone who had stolen the taxi or worse. In the footwell in the rear of the car were lots of spent bullet casings. When the driver was fighting for position in the six lanes of traffic (on a two-lane street), he was shouting out the window at his rival traffic fighters and holding up bullets and shouting more. Very Grand Theft Auto.
27. Civilians With More Weapons Than The Army
I spent six months working in Saltillo, Mexico, during the peak of the Zetas and Gulf Cartel wars. If the gun toting guards at the airport were not enough culture shock, my experience leaving the airport really opened my eyes to what I had gotten myself into.
I was picked up at the airport by a local co-worker. We turned out of the airport and came to a stop next to a truck with 10-15 guys wearing full body armor, armed with a wide variety of weapons.
“Is that the Mexican army?” I asked. The driver, chuckling, responded, “They are way too well-equipped to be the Mexican army.”
26. The Creepiest Beach Of All Time
Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I thought I was going to a cool beach town. Turns out it’s the epicenter of the child trafficking industry in Cambodia. Tons of old German guys were walking around looking super shady. The beaches were littered with trash. I give it a zero out of ten.
25. A City Without A Soul
Calgary, Canada. There is nowhere I’ve ever been that is as soulless, dull, and depressing as Calgary. It’s a tiny city center in the midst of an enormous sprawl rivaling the greater Toronto area, you can’t get anywhere without a car because the public transit is awful (and horrifyingly expensive— a month pass there for bus and light rail is over $100! In Montreal, it’s around $80, but you get bus and metro that run a lot more often). All there is to do is go to malls and try to find interesting places, but Inglewood (one of the neater neighborhoods) is tiny and expensive. Plus, due to the oil boom, everything is massively overpriced and there’s a lack of affordable housing. I hate Calgary so much.
24. Harsh Rules, Bro
Saudi Arabia. I’d been working there for 18 months. The place is horrible. The racism and treatment of foreign workers is deplorable. And a Saudi is always right. He crashes into you in a car, and it’s your fault. Their driving, in general, is dangerous and almost terrifying. Their treatment of women, in general, is wrong. The no alcohol is a ridiculous rule. I respect their right to their religion, but to outright ban alcohol is ridiculous. Their way of ‘management’ in business is Victorian and doesn’t function in today’s society. Censoring the internet so forcefully is ridiculous. The food is terrible, everywhere. I dislike it wholeheartedly.
23. Apparently Not A Safe Place For Women
Nairobi, Kenya. I ended up on a stopover with a group of women (I’m female). We all had stuff stolen, all blatantly overcharged, all experienced sexual abuse, and all ended up staying in one room while random men were coming into the rooms. I should point out that all of these men had keys for these rooms, so the hotel was involved. Finally, we all confronted the manager in his office and refused to let him out or his friends in to help him. We managed to get all our drinks and food refunded. What a weird feeling, as he was actually scared. Obviously, he couldn’t see us shaking. The following day, we were forced at gunpoint to put all our remaining currency into “charity” bins at the airport. Never again.
22. The Land Of Groping
Cordoba, Argentina. I was stranded there for a week due to a bus strike. My friends and I (all young women) were harassed by the local men every time we stepped outside. There were packs of wild dogs everywhere, dirty streets, lots of clubs and bars, but as women, you were guaranteed to be groped at all of them. I tried to go on a hike at one point, but an old lady stopped us because people had been disappearing on that trail. We ended up staying in our hostel most of the time.
21. Gritty SoCal
Honestly, my biggest let-down was Hollywood, California. It was seedy. The whole place was just this false, sickening, soulless mess. I stayed in a gritty hostel, I slept clutching my possessions, and I got up and went to the bus station as early as I could. My only memory of LA was just wanting to be anywhere else. I hated everything about the city.
20. Cultural Landmarks Hidden By Grime And Bad Manners
When we landed in Beijing, the first thing I saw was the airport public toilet with feces all over the toilet itself (someone had obviously squatted over it and went to the bathroom all down the tank). It was disgusting. Beijing has some amazing cultural landmarks, but beyond that, the city was filthy and filled with rude people. The men would blatantly stare down my top. People would shove into you and cut in lines.
19. What Happened To My Wheels?
Cleveland, Ohio. I went in to pay for gas and came out to a rental car with no wheels on it. The cashier “didn’t see nothin’ and the cameras were broke.”
18. Not Worth The Crowds
We just visited Rome last week, and I was very surprised at the number of people trying to swindle tourists. Even if you indicated you weren’t interested, they were still scarily persistent, and I was constantly afraid we’d get pick-pocketed or mugged. I’ve been to several big European cities in the past, and Rome was completely on another level for people vulturing tourists.
17. Like LA Vomited On NYC
Sao Paulo, Brazil is only worth visiting as a layover hub or if you know people who live there. Admittedly, I never went to Rio, and some issues may be amplified there, but at least there are beaches and vistas to temper the drabness. Sao Paulo is quite awful and I can’t think of another non-third world city I’d consider worse. Anthony Bourdain described it perfectly: “It’s like LA vomited on NYC.” The traffic is apocalyptic and public transport is surprisingly lackluster for such a large city. People spend most of their time hustling and in traffic, just to lock themselves away in their gated apartment complexes as a reward at the end of the day. Why gated? The crime, of course. Almost everyone has a story of being mugged. And it’s so, so expensive. I live in Switzerland and I found prices for most things to be surprisingly high even by my standards. I don’t know how the locals afford it.
16. A Cold Welcome
Back during the cold war my uncles were travelling around Europe by train. From what my mom told me, they fell asleep and the train personnel didn’t notice them and they ended up in a Soviet run country. Apparently getting them out was scary.
15. There Are Worse Things Than The Bermuda Triangle
Bermuda. I went last year for work and was there for about a week. Due to the nature of my job, I saw most of the country (it’s small), ate at a lot of different places, interacted with most of the culture. In short, I really do feel like I got a pretty accurate survey of the place. While it is pretty there, I found it to be nothing more than a boring watering hole for rich British tourists. There is literally nothing to do on that island except drink and eat sub-par, overpriced food. Their only industry is tourism. There was also a really obvious divide between white people (usually the managers or bosses) and black people (usually the laborers or hourly employees). I know you could say the same about some parts of America, but it was uncomfortably stark in Bermuda. It just felt like a bunch of rich white British tourists being waited on hand and foot by underpaid black locals.
14. Keep Your Valuables In Close
Belize City. I got off the cruise and decided with my husband that we wanted to actually see the city, not just the tourist-centered port area. We went out, got a cab.
The driver proceeded to take us around the scariest city we’d ever seen (which I know says a lot about how scary our choices get, but then my husband has seen a lot of former Soviet block countries, and he is on the same page with me). Anyway, the fear-factor might have been amplified by the fact that our driver was taking us to all these places that he hangs out, like a convenience store where we each bought a beer, made sure the lids were still sealed, and then we held onto them in case we had to use them.
I’ve never been more concerned for my personal safety and the potential of being mugged or taken hostage like I was in Belize City.
Seriously, stay in the tourist area.
13. Don’t Go To Istanbul Without Your Husband
Istanbul, Turkey. I’m a female, and I went there with female friends. I never felt so uncomfortable in my life just walking down a street, and I won’t event mention using public transportation. I didn’t wear anything revealing or “inviting” in any way (not that I think that any kind of clothes should be considered an invitation), but the comments, random men hugging me and touching me made me feel really uncomfortable and insecure. I would like to visit again because I think it’s a beautiful place, but this time with my husband.
12. It Should Be Called Boring, Mississippi
Tunica, Mississippi. I went with my fiance’s family about five years ago when I was too young to gamble and agreed to watch his little brother for some of the time when the little kids’ camp was closed. That part was fine, but literally, the only things to do there are gamble, eat at the disgusting buffet, golf (which I don’t do), or swim in the crappy pool. I’ve never been so bored in my life. The only non-casino food was a fast food joint 30 minutes away. So when everyone was at the casino gambling and his little brother was in the daycare, I was alone in the hotel.
We went to eat at the buffet one night. It was Paula Deen themed. I got food poisoning. NEVER AGAIN.
11. Watch Out For The Peeping Toms
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My sister had just moved there and I flew out to visit. She’s an eternal optimist so she had really nice things to say. There was a fifty-story empty apartment building being constructed across the street from her apartment building, essentially just a shell with window holes, and one night I stood looking out from her thirtieth-floor balcony window to the surrounding area, whereupon I noticed lights on at the very much under-construction complex. Floor after floor of randomly lit rooms, with silhouettes of men staring out the windows. That’s when it hit me: they were voyeurs breaking into construction sites to watch people in our apartment building who left their windows open at night. As I asked my sister, “Sis, do you leave your blinds open at night?” I pointed directly at a man at eye level across the street, who immediately ducked down and turned off the light to the room he was occupying, resurfacing two floors up to stare out of a darker-lit room. Once her roommate woke up seemingly having been assaulted and roofied at some other construction site, she decided to get out of there once and for all.
10. A Lonely Venice Hater
Venice, Italy. I’m probably alone with this opinion, but this city just did everything possible to make me never want to visit it again. Everywhere I went there was an endless amount of people. I didn’t expect the streets (or walkways) to be empty, but in comparison to other Italian cities, there were so full. This feeling was probably induced by me carrying my DSLR camera and being afraid the whole time that someone would try to steal it. I wasn’t alone with that feeling, so some of my schoolmates and I walked in formation the whole time.
9. Las Vegas, Trashy? You Don’t Say.
Surprisingly, Las Vegas. Yeah, the strip was cool to see with all its glitz and glamor, and I stayed at the Venetian, which was lovely and over the top, just like all the other massive hotels. But I felt like wherever I went, people were trying to take my money or take me. I’m a 21-year-old girl and I had several creepy older fellas as well as some foreign dudes try to convince me to hang out with them upstairs. One guy started to talk to me by grabbing my arm, not my favorite situation. Also, I felt like the strip was pretty trashy for the most part. There were homeless people everywhere, and everyone was hammered throughout the day, which I guess I get because if you’re not hammered, it’s not that exciting. Plus, Fremont Street was a major disappointing mess and made me incredibly uncomfortable.
8. Slumming It
Jakarta, Indonesia. I was a 23-year-old woman traveling solo and had been to about 30 countries at this point, including most of Southeast Asia. I never had a problem or felt remotely threatened.
On the train, the entire view for probably an entire hour was slums. I got off my train in Jakarta and immediately people start staring. Men were pressing up against me and muttering in my ear.
I went to get a taxi, and around 40 men start surrounding me yelling prices and pulling at me trying to get me in their cab. Finally, I got so overwhelmed, I just jumped into one with no idea if it was real or not. We started driving through the city in the half-open cab, and I could barely breathe with all the exhaust and smog. As soon as we passed a stand selling police uniforms, I knew this was a mistake.
7. Murder Capital Of The World
Gary, Indiana. I was driving back from Kentucky with some friends and didn’t want to stop in Chicago, so I decided to take the next exit. I didn’t know anything about Gary, but a police billboard was still up that said it was the murder capital of the world. The problem is that I had to stop for fuel. All four of us just stood awkwardly around the car and then two people went and paid while two people waited there. I wouldn’t recommend.
6. You Call This The First World?
Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. It smells like literal human feces everywhere, and there are syringes lying on the sidewalks. My dog almost stepped on one, and I immediately went back to my truck and got right out of there. It’s no wonder they shipped all of their homeless off to another nearby city before the Olympics came, because the sheer gross factor would have driven the tourists away. I’d never recommend that to anyone.
5. A Last Resort
I went to Detroit a few years ago for two residency interviews. After driving around Detroit, I said to myself that this place would be a last resort in terms of getting into residency.
The second interview was at a very large Detroit hospital. They paid for my room at a boutique hotel. It was a nice place, but I felt like it was haunted. The place was decorated like a typical funeral parlor.
I decided to walk around and look for something to eat for dinner. I found a pizza place about one block away. I have never seen a pizza place with bullet-proof windows before. They had to put the pizza into a box, lock their side of the box, which then unlocked the box on my side, and I could slide the window up and grab my pizza. The only other place I have seen this was at the post office.
I went in the next morning to my interview, gave a minimal performance, and got out of there as fast as I could.
4. A City In Shambles
Flint, Michigan. We drove through on our way to Indiana, and wow, that place is in dire straights. The main road? It was a potted cobblestone street more akin to driving over a pile of bricks than a road. Every business along this street was closed save maybe two, and a group of day-drinkers had set up chairs on the lawn of what looked like a government office.
3. Too Scared To Go Outside
Caracal, Romania. I lived there for a year and was terrified to go out the door. It honestly looks like the Cold War never ended. One time, I remember I had to pee really bad, saw a tunnel-looking thing near the sidewalk, and figured there was a restroom down there. I took one step down the stairs and saw that I was stepping on about 2000 used, dirty needles and about 500 pounds of garbage. That was scary.
2. AKA Trash Beach
Daytona Beach. It was pretty disgusting, with garbage all over the beach, people doing illegal substances in the public beach bathroom, and a really creepy guy in a speedo that wouldn’t stop staring at my kids. We spent ten minutes there, packed up, and left.
1. A Bad Way To Start The New Year
Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I went one year when my girlfriend, her brother, and his girlfriend were visiting her dad in New Jersey. He took us to a Broadway play and a fancy sushi dinner and we parted ways with her dad and step mom so we could head over to Times Square. It was awful, terribly crowded and loud and we couldn’t even get close enough to see anything. After a while we decided to just give up and we went to a Korean barbecue instead.