Traveling to another country can be exciting and fun. Whether it’s for work, a study-abroad program, or simple leisure, there are many reasons people find themselves venturing overseas and exploring places they have never been before. Spending time in a different country can also be a little strange—unsettling, even. You are in a place far from home and with that, naturally, often comes some uncomfortableness. Sometimes it’s simply the food or language that takes you out of your comfort zone and takes a little getting used to. Other times, though, you’ll find yourself in situations or circumstances that are more than just unfamiliar; they’re downright creepy.
No matter who you are, where you’re coming from, or where you’re going, traveling can usually offer an interesting experience (at best) or an altogether nightmare (at worst). Just take it from these travelers, who have shared their creepiest experiences in a different country.
45. Last Minute U-Turn
I went to visit Ukraine with my parents because they wanted to see the small villages where their parents were born. We have no family in the area so we hired a guide to take us around since the country can be a bit corrupt. As we were driving around on a highway we suddenly were stopped in traffic (literally middle of nowhere). The guide gets out of the car and takes a look, then quickly jumps back into the car, does a U-Turn and drives off telling my mom we can’t go to her mom’s village. We ask why and he says that was some kind of Russian millitant roadblock. This was during the whole Crimea thing.
44. Talked About Screwed
1992 I was walking up the stairs to the ticket booths in the Warsaw, Poland central train station. All of a sudden this dude is falling down the stairs coming to rest a few stairs above where I was standing. Dude had a long screwdriver sticking out of his abdomen.
43. Bound in Budapest
Last summer me and my friends interrailed across Europe and during our short stay in Budapest, I ended up being kidnapped and tied up to a wall. Escaped by running shouldering one of them when they untied me to take me back into the car.
42. Need To Unload
I’d been doing the hostels/Europe thing and was staying at some YHA dump in London. I met a guy from NZ who had an extra ticket to a Beck concert at Wembly arena and bought it off him for cheap.
I spent the afternoon just checking stuff out along the way to Wembly and came across a Pizza Hut. Now it’d been 3 or 4 months since I’d had pizza and I thought, what the hell. I was really craving some US junk food at that time. I gorged on a bunch of mediocre pizza and continued on my way.
Within a couple of blocks of Wembly I felt the first twinge of GI distress. I stopped in about 8 or 10 shops looking for a safe place to unload, but every shopkeeper claimed to have no bathroom. Desperation was taking hold and I asked a cop where the closest john was. I followed his directions, clenching and shuffling like Charlie Chaplin the whole way.
The restroom had been appropriated by a bunch of drug users. Needles hanging out of arms, legs tied off to get a vein, gear all over the place. They were shocked to see me and clearly expected me to make my excuses and leave them to their vice. But there was no turning back. I weaved through them and opened a stall only to find some guy curled up around the stool, half naked and blue. I went to the further of the three stalls and the bowl was completely full of shit and smeared all over the seat. So back to the middle I went. I destroyed the toilet. There are junkies and a sleeping/dead guy laying on the floor and I’m unleashing the loudest, most agonizing, shit I’ve ever experienced. I actually feel bad for putting these guys, who are killing themselves feet away from me, through this.
Of course, the TP is completely soaked with piss and whatever. I’m not ashamed to say I was wearing fewer layers of clothes when I got out of the stall than when I got in. I apologized to the junkies. The ones that were still conscious looked at me with disgust and amazement. I left feeling like I had a giant void in my midsection.
I made it to the arena about 45 minutes later and cleaned off in a slightly more civilized setting. I found my seat and the Kiwi. We watched the show, smoked, and rode late night buses, top deck, front seat back to the hostel. One of the better experiences of that trip.
41. Pickpocketed in Paris
Got pickpocketed by a group of 3 on a Paris metro. I’m paranoid of losing my wallet, so I’m always checking myself. When I realized it was missing, I made a bigger scene than the pickpockets were making (they shoved me into their friend and were trying to convince people I knocked him down). I stopped the train from leaving the station. One of the other passengers left to get got conductor and security. I guess that didn’t sit well with the pickpockets, so they gave me back my wallet and took off running.
This event still freaks my wife out.
40. Unusual Turbulence
Was on a flight once going into Orlando that hit some unexpected turbulence. This was no ordinary turbulence. We went from 0 to 100 in an instant. People literally flew out of their seats, luggage fell from the overhead bins, people screamed like they were going to die. There were several sudden drops in elevation strong enough that people’s arms flew up in the air and my butt came out of the seat. I’ve flown quite a bit and sometimes it gets bumpy. This was the first time I seriously thought something bad was going to happen.
39. Outsmarting a Stalker
I was stalked by a guy while walking through the Tiergarten in Berlin. I was walking a path, enjoying the park alone. I saw this guy standing on the edge of the walkway just looking off into the distance. I passed him and when I was about twenty feet away, he turned and followed after me, keeping pace. I started to take a very meandering path, even leaving the park and entering again. The guy stuck with me the whole way. Eventually I got to a place with some sharp turns and heavy greenery. I was able to lose the line of sight and put myself up against a corner. I’d just been in Switzerland and had bought a pocket knife, so I opened the blade and held it inside my jacket pocket. I stood there, waiting, and then this guy comes walking out of the path confused and obviously trying to see where I went. When he finally spotted me, he jolted and since I had the drop on him, he played it cool and continued walking as if he hadn’t followed me there. He stopped a little ways ahead, and I kept watching him. I wanted to confront him to find out why he’d followed me, but since I was a visitor in the country, I thought better of it. Instead, I waited until I saw a big group of people leaving and fell in with them. He started to follow me, but I finally lost him outside the garden. It unsettled me because to this day I have no idea why he was following me. I’m a guy and at the time I was in my early twenties, pretty fit, and had a sour disposition, so I didn’t seem like a prime mugging target. But, maybe he thought otherwise.
38. Staring While Sleeping
I was staying in a weird hostel by myself in Barcelona, woke up to a man staring at me while I slept. He was looking over one of those wood dividing screens that the shared room had. I pretend to still be asleep because I was afraid of what he would do if I move or confronted him and I didn’t know if there was anyone else in the room. He stared for like 2 hours until finally, my alarm rang cause I had to take an early train, so I put all my stuff in my bag and left the room. As I left I told the owner, but I was really in a hurry and didn’t ask what he was going to do with the guy.
37. Crazy Cow on Campsite
Hiking in Huaraz Peru, has been told to watch our gear as locals (and apparently foxes) might make off with items left around the campsite. So we made sure to clean the campsite extra well, packing all our gear in the tent and inside the fly. And after a long day hiking, off to bed. Middle of the night our tent starts shaking like crazy, I wake up freaking out thinking we were getting robbed, I started yelling and screaming. Part of the tent pushes in really far. I manage to get outside to start swinging and come face to face with the cow that had wandered into the tent ropes and got startled. Pretty lucky that it didn’t step down into the tent and hit us.
36. A Bus To Be Worried About
In India our bus rounded a corner in the mountains and another bus was on the other side of the curve. Both busses skid to a stop about 1 foot from one another. Both drivers started laughing and poking fun at each other. We saw a bus from the ’80s that fell down the mountain about 15 minutes later. Hella intense.
35. Barely Missing The Mindfield
We went on a family trip to Croatia and on our way to the Beach we pulled over to the side of a road for a pee break. So we opened the car door and like always our dog jumps out first. He ran into the field right next to the Street. Then suddenly my mother starts screaming the name of our dog, because 10meters away from our car was sign that said: Stay Away, old minefield. Thankfully nothing happened
34. Saved By A Sizeable Friend
I was traveling by van through the mountains in the Philippines with a friend that is a really big guy. We came up on a checkpoint with soldiers searching cars. The guys we’re all wearing mismatched clothes and did not have any insignias on their uniforms or trucks. They searched all of our bags and we’re asking questions of the driver in Tagalog, which we did not speak. We heard them say American and we we’re the only two Americans on the bus. They talked for a little while and finally waved us through. Later we told the story to another American and he said we had gone through a Guerrilla controlled area where Americans had been kidnapped for ransom lately. They all agreed they did not take us because of the size of my friend. I think we got really lucky that day.
33. Creepy Curb Crawlers
I was working in a poor community in a small village in Romania (helping to build a small extension to a school), at around dusk I decided to go for a short walk to the local shop for some water when a car drove past me. They suddenly braked and reversed down the road and stopped besides me, telling me to get into their car as they want to show me their cool things (radios, cars, knives) they kept slowly curb crawling me and demanding I got in the car until I got back to my group whereby they sped off. For the next couple of days the same car (I believe) kept driving past and stopping outside where we were staying (for 30 minute intervals several times a day) and I was staying a good hour away from the village.
Creepy as all hell and I still believe it could have gone badly.
32. The Frightening Malaysia Flight
My buddy and I were flying into Malaysia from Vietnam on the day that MH370 went missing. We were at the gate watching the whole thing unfold about it going missing. It was playing on virtually all the TV’s in the airport. We were flying Malaysia Airlines. The tickets were expensive (for a backpacker’s budget) and they weren’t offering any refunds. Told ourselves that maybe they’d be extra cautious now so we’re actually more safe. Definitely puckered up for 2 hours until we touched down.
31. Deadly Domestic Dispute
Was checking into an AirBnB/Apartment Complex in London. The guy said don’t mind the police, there was a murder the night before, but not to worry, it was only due to a domestic dispute.
30. A Tragic Trip
It was my first time visiting New York City. My aunt and uncle who both work in FiDi (Financial District) took the whole week off to show me and my family around Manhattan. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and we just had our photos taken around Wall Street when the first plane crashed into the WTC
29. Almost Pushed Off The Train
On a train in Athens traveling alone, a group of men tried to push me off the train with them at a stop. Three women started yelling at them and pulled me back. It happened so fast I didn’t know until the one that spoke English explained they were trying to take me. They made sure I made it back to the hostel and told me not to wear what I was wearing ( shorts and a tank) while alone.
28. A False Alarm
Was traveling in France with my family shortly after the London Transport Bombings (2005) and in the airport on the day of departure, there was a bomb scare. Very militarised police showed up along with bomb squad as they rushed to get everyone out – turned out just to be unattended baggage.
27. The Toothless Hairdresser
I fell asleep on a long-distance bus in Greece and woke to a toothless old woman running her fingers through my hair. She kept repeating something in Greek over and over; other riders found it hilarious but wouldn’t tell me what she was saying. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get off the bus, so I had to make her get away from me, and then sat there pissed off and embarrassed for the remaining 90 minutes of the trip
26. Just Missed The Explosive
I was in a bar in Athens in 1985 when someone left an explosive device there. Of the 50 plus people injured, I was luckily not one of them. My ears rang for a couple days and I spilled my beer but that was it.
25. Down to the Bone
I got jumped coming out of a pub in London. Got a seven-inch long gash in my face, down to the bone. It was the first night of my first International trip, ever, and I was traveling alone.
24. Rotten Kids
My family lived in Mongolia for a couple years when I was younger. The second year we lived in an apartment of all Mongolian families (the first year there were other American/foreign families in our building). One family in particular really disliked foreigners and unfortunately they lived directly above us. The four boys would always pee on our clothing that we hung out to dry on the balcony since dryers weren’t really a thing and since Mongolia is a desert, clothes dried pretty quickly. Those boys learned that my brother and I loved dogs. In Mongolia (at least, in the early 90s when we were there), dogs were not seen as pets and there were tons just roaming the streets. My brother and I would always pet them and go play with them. One day when we were playing out in the yard in front of the apartment building, the brothers brought us a puppy and let us play with it. We were pretty excited, being 8 and 6 years old, and enjoyed the little guy. Then the boys took it from us and smashed its head against the wall and threw rocks at it until it died. I don’t remember this, thankfully, but my mom says we were pretty upset.
Mongolia’s not a bad place, I don’t mean for anyone to get the wrong impression. Just those boys were pretty mean.
23. The Good Mugger
Got mugged in Bogota. My friend and I took a wrong turn on our way to a museum, and were looking at a map to try to find the way (hot tip: try not to look as much like tourists as we did). All of a sudden I was against a wall with a knife at my throat. They took everything we had on us, but for some reason one of them went through my wallet and gave me back all my credit cards, ID, and passport. Good guy mugger?
22. Dream of Drowning
I was in Iceland and was driving around the ring road with a friend. We stopped for the night at a big cabin called the “Lambafell Hotel.” I had a horrible nightmare while staying here that I was being pulled underwater in some weird, Icelandic lake. It was one of those really realistic dreams that caused me to jump up gasping for breath. Anyway, we continued the drive the next day but my friend insisted on stopping and hiking up a beautiful waterfall called Systrafoss. We pulled over and hiked up to its water source which was a lake exactly like the one in my nightmare. I mentioned that I had a terrible dream about this same lake. We got close to the water’s edge and saw a sign that told the history of the lake. It told how a medieval monastery used to be there and was moved after nuns kept going missing in the lake as they bathed. An eye witness of the time said she saw a hand offering golden shoes to the nuns and would pull them under once they got close enough. The lake was called Systravatn. I had the same exact nightmare again at the next stop. I just wanted to get as far away from that island as possible after that.
21. Field of Dogs
I took a tropical field biology trip through the Costa Rican Rainforest. This was through Braulio Carillo Park, not open to the public. We ran across a group of men with guns and dogs one day. There were a few tense moments since we had a park ranger with us (they were obviously poachers). In the end they pretended to be lost and we “helpfully” pointed out the way to the park boundary.
Side story: we found one of their dogs a couple days later and it stayed with us the rest of the trip.
20. Forced To Shelter
Was in Israel for 3 weeks. The first week was great but then the rockets started coming. Every hour, sometimes less, the sirens would sound and you had to find shelter.
19. The Heroic Train Inspector
I was on a train in Rome and the ticket inspector came round checking tickets, as they do. He took my ticket and kept insisting that it was wrong and I needed to come with him because I had the wrong ticket and it was really wrong. I knew it wasn’t but eventually I went with him because I couldn’t seem to get through to him. He then informed me that the men in the carriage with me were known pickpockets and had been known to get violent when caught.
18. Fatal Gassing
A friend of mine went on a trip to Thaïland, staying at a relatively inexpensive hostel. In the middle of the night, my friend was violently woken up by hotel staff and moved to a different floor.
Turns out the hotel was gassing the rooms on that floor to deal with a bed bug issue. The hotel accidentally gave guests rooms on the floor they were gassing, and didn’t notice until they killed a couple.
17. Mountain Monkey
My sister got dragged down a mountain by a gorilla, so that’s a thing.
16. Woman In Mirror
When I was in Ireland I walked into my hotel room and saw a woman in the mirror above the beds. Scared me so bad I turned and ran down the hall to my boyfriend’s room but I actually entered a complete stranger’s room while sobbing and scared the hell out of them. I was 17.
15. A Worrisome Warning
I was in France with my best friend and her mom (who grew up there). I was 16 at the time. We went to Paris for a day and decided to take the train. As we were planning out where to get off, some old guy came up to her mom and pointed at us…
“DO NOT get off at this stop. Your daughters won’t be safe there.”
14. Creepy Bridge Crossing
I was crossing a small footbridge in Vietnam, in a big city but a non touristy part of town. There were a group of women and children, sitting on the ground and huddled together under blankets, and a couple of guys that looked like they were “guarding” them and another couple guys at the front of the bridge. I have never felt my stomach do so many flips and turns.
13. Not-So-Nice-Gesture After All
Whilst in Morocco I was accosted by some guy at the bus terminal who was trying to get me to pay him to carry my bags to the bus. After refusing numerous times he became aggressive and threatened to plant hash in my luggage and call the police. Luckily I got away unscathed.
12. The Beach Watcher
I was traveling in Iceland, pretty far away from the nearest town and decided to take a nap on the beach. I woke up pretty disoriented and had a feeling of being watched. I looked over my shoulder and there was a man standing 5 feet away, staring at me… He says “gotcha!” And then runs off into his car and drives away. I was completely spooked!!
11. Making Sure Beds Are Made
I had a pack of wild dogs chase me from my bus stop to my hotel at 3 am in Kosovo. I also had an old woman yell at me in Russian about not making my bed right on the train and then watched over my shoulder til it was to her satisfaction when I was on my way back to Bucharest from Moldova
10. Hidden House
Not me, but a friend of mine encountered some crazy stuff while traveling in Taiwan.
This was around Taichung. There were four of them, Her with two other girls and one guy. Hopped in a Taxi and gave driver the destination. He goes the right way for a while, then abruptly pulls off into a side road. Still driving along, my friend asks him in Mandarin where the hell he’s going, since they’ve been to this place before and they know wherever they’re going now is not what they asked for. Driver says nothing, gets on the celly and speaks to someone on the other end in Taiwanese. No one in the car understood this language, the mystery was in how the driver figured this out since they were all Asian and could have easily passed for natives visiting home for the holidays. The car pulls into an open field, surrounded by trees in every direction with only a single house in the middle of it. He parks right outside, and it appears people were emerging from the building. Several of them. Driver pauses for a brief second, starts the car up again, and commences driving along. A few minutes later, the group find themselves on the side of the main road as the cabbie drives off.
What the three girls in the back of the car did not know at the time was that upon stopping outside that house, their fourth member sitting up front pulled out his knife and held it right above his knee. Making sure it was in plain view of the driver. Once the cabbie saw this, he started the car up again. No doubt realizing the dangerous situation he inadvertently found himself in. They never figured out what the driver planned on doing, but anything even close to kidnapping couldn’t have been good. Cabbie was reported to the authorities, but they left for the states before finding out anything further.
9. Booking It Off The Bus
I boarded a bus in Hue, Vietnam for a trip to Vientiane, Laos to celebrate Loa New Year. The bus I ended up on was smuggling heroin and I sat in the back while the driver and his buddy in the passenger seat argued about whether or not to kill my girlfriend and me. Drug trafficking in Laos is punishable by death, so, ya know, better safe than sorry. It was a very long bus ride. Eventually, they pulled in to a house on the outskirts of town and the one who was arguing for our release opened up the garage door open 3 feet, threw our backpacks under it, and said, “you go now!” We booked it out of there.
8. Too Much To Drink
Moscow; I accidentally spoke English without an accent loudly while wasted outside a club. Two officers, knowing I was foreign, threatened to jail me for being wasted in public, so I “paid the fine” up front after explaining my flight was the next morning and playing scared. It cost me about 1000 rubles (30 USD), but I realized then that I was a long, long way from home and the legal system is not the same.
When I was in Indonesia, I was walking from my guesthouse to grab some dinner one night, and a group of 4 men started catcalling and yelling what were probably inappropriate things at me. I just ignored them and walked very quickly into the nearest building, which was a department store type place. They followed me in and I was trying to just ignore them hoping they’d leave. I figured I was safer in a public, well lit sort of place. They grabbed me and I spun around and started screaming at them (in English, so they probably didn’t understand, but I reckon they got the feeling). They laughed, but eventually left. The worst part was all the people in the department store, including other women who were working there just giggled when they saw this happening. These men probably could be dragged me out of the store and no one would’ve done anything… I left Indonesia the next morning.
6. Do Not Shoot
Not me but my dad. He used to be a professional photographer. He was one of the types who would do anything for a good photo.
Anyway, he’s in Mexico on a business trip. During some time off, he rents a car and goes outside the city looking for good pictures. He sees some young children playing in the street and starts taking pictures of them.
A few minutes later, men and women start shouting and running toward him. He jumps back in his car but they surround the car. More villagers arrive. Soon there’s a mob around his car. They’re screaming, beating on the windows and trying to overturn his car.
Moments later police arrive and he’s arrested…and in doing so they probably save his life. They take him to the station and interrogate him. He tells them he’s just a photographer from America taking pictures as a tourist. Obviously, he’s as confused as you can imagine and scared shitless.
The police believe him and then tell him that a gang/cartel has been in town taking pictures of children and then kidnapping them. The villagers thought that he was part of the gang.
5. A Traumatic Taxi Ride
I was traveling in Nicaragua several years ago when I got lost and ended up having to take a taxi at 9:30pm back to my hostel. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, the taxi driver locked the taxi doors and told me that I had misunderstood the fare. He claimed I owed him $100 USD which was several times more than we had agreed upon. I tried to pry the doors open from the inside but was completely trapped. Thankfully, he let me out of the taxi after taking all the money I had on me.
The hostel workers told me I was incredibly lucky. A few days earlier, a taxi driver had kidnapped another young female, assaulted her, then dumped her barely conscious body in a field outside town thinking that she was dead. A few local schoolchildren found her on their way to school in the morning.
4. Unexpected Scam
Rural mountain road in Nepal. A little girl (maybe 8 years old) tried to jump in front of our car. Before I even realized what was happening our guide jumps out and starts yelling and trying to catch her.
Guide told me that parents sometimes encouraged young children to jump in front of cars in order to get some sort of settlement money from travelers. Scary shit.
In the Yucatan (southern Mexico) my brothers and I told a local in a bar we were looking for mota. We were in some super small town, where everyone gets home at 4 from work, gets loaded and is passed out by 8. This character says he’ll take us to the town dealer, and since we were wasted, decide to go along. This isn’t your friendly suburban stoner who slings baggies out of his parents garage. This was next level narco stuff, with fighting cocks in cages outside, a tall gate and razor wire all around the house -which, by town standards was a mansion but by American standards was a big thirty year old house that wasn’t maintained. My most wasted brother decides to go for it while we wait outside. In a few minutes I hear laughing and he’s being the life of the party, acting like the jolly wasted American speaking Spanglish. He was in there half an hour but since we didn’t hear any bad sounds, like yelling and fighting, it was ok. He gets escorted out and says wasted goodbyes and pulls us along back to the bar by our pension. He tells us that was the most scared he’d ever been, there were two dudes with machine guns (that he could see) and he was sat down in front of some big wig with gold teeth. It was like a movie set and he wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a tiger in the basement to eat people. This area is known for kidnapping tourists as well as hanging the headless bodies of competitors and law enforcement from bridges. He didn’t realize how bad it was until he got in and saw he was interrupting some kind of party. Everyone was pretty messed up, though, and he just tried to be goofy and amazed at all their shit so they’d like him. They wanted him to party but he said his brothers were waiting and he had to bring us a little weed or we’d worry. He used the language barrier to leave against their request to stay and do god knows what. Sober us realized the next day it could have turned out terrible. And the weed wasn’t very good.
2. You Buy
I traveled to Paris when I was 17 with a group of students from my high school. We were told to keep our money packed away safe and to never talk to the street vendors, especially those who were making bracelets on tourists’ wrists. (These men make bracelets and then charge exorbitant fees, and if you don’t pay them what they ask they will threaten you or physically stop you from leaving the area).
I was paired with another young girl when we were traveling to the Sacre Coeur and a man approached us wanting to make a bracelet for us. We declined, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept bothering us and following us up the hill while we’re still saying no. At one point, he grabs my wrist and starts trying to work. I grab onto my friend, and he’s pulling me in the other direction. He starts screaming at me and pulling me harder and I’m not sure what to do at that point.
My friend starts screaming for the police and he took off. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to one of the other students who didn’t understand that the man was not going to let him leave without paying 20 euros. The student tried to leave but the man was threatening to follow him and kill him, kill his family, and do all sorts of terrible things. The student took a picture of the man and the man snatched his camera and took off.
1. Messy Scene
I was in Colombia a little less than 10 years ago. I was on a road trip with my uncle and cousins, and we were on a long stretch of road in the mountains. It was pretty early in the afternoon and it was a beautiful sunny day, so this was the last thing we expected to see.
There was a bus pulled over on the side of the road. There were a few cop cars surrounding it and two or three motorcycles. There was also a lot of blood. Blood on the pavement. Blood on the bus windows. A few bodies covered by bloody sheets. It’s important to keep in mind that my uncle’s car was old and crappy, so he was driving pretty slow, giving us a chance to get a really good look at this crazy incident.
We find out the next day that some dudes on motorcycles hijacked the bus and tried to rob the driver and passengers. One of the passengers wasn’t having it, so he pulled out a gun and tried to shoot one of the robbers. They got angry and shot a bunch of people on the bus. I don’t remember what happened to the robbers themselves, but yeah it was pretty messed up.