What better way to celebrate Halloween than to share our travel horror stories. Discover what disasters travel bloggers have faced, and learn how to avoid these horror situations yourself!
I’ll admit it, I love checking out some good travel horror stories on reddit, but almost all of us have tales of our own.
My own personal travel horror stories include losing phone in Malaysia, having a monkey steal my camera in Bali and Justin leaving a bag with all our travel documents – including passports – on a train! Yup, travel bloggers are in no way immune to holiday fiascos.
So, this Halloween I thought I’d get together with some travel blogger buddies to share our scary travel experiences and offer advice on how you can avoid getting yourself into a similar situation. So go on, grab yourself a cuppa, have a laugh at our expense and learn from our mistakes…
Travel horror stories – being scammed in Morocco
On our first visit we were naïve, and although we have since come to love Marrakech, we returned home after our inaugural trip feeling violated. We fell for one of the most common scams, where a guy offers tourists free directions in return for practicing his English. We wanted to visit the tanneries and were lost so accepted.
We eventually arrived at the tanneries where the guy gave us a free tour, before showing us the way out and disappearing. We thought it was strange that he didn’t want paying, yet on exiting we found ourselves in a dingy shop, walls piled high with carpets. We were ushered in, served mint tea and shown lots of rugs. Feeling trapped and uncomfortable we ended up buying a rug, which we didn’t want, for $180, just so we could leave.
Moral of the story
To avoid this happening to you, never accept an offer of free directions in Marrakech. Always assume payment will be required, and negotiate this beforehand. If it’s your first time, we recommend hiring an official guide to show you around. If the hassle persists, head to the main square and find the tourist police who are on hand to help.
Travel horror stories – getting stuck in Zimbabwe
Derek – Robe Trotting
My travel horror story started off with an unforgettable safari from Johannesburg, through the gorgeous landscape of Botswana to the natural wonder of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. At the conclusion of the trip, my partner and I planned to visit Cape Town for an extra four days in South Africa. When we left our Victoria Falls resort for the airport, we were excited to see Cape Town – but things didn’t pan out as we had hoped.
When we arrived at the gate agent to pick up our boarding passes, I was told that I couldn’t board the plane. I wrongfully assumed that this may be an attempt to extort a bribe or additional payment, but it was not.
South Africa has a specific passport requirement for all tourists to have two consecutive, blank passport pages upon entry. Although I qualified for visa-free entry and recently flew into South Africa with no issues, I received a few poorly-placed stamps during our safari. As a result, I no longer met the passport requirements to enter South Africa and couldn’t board the plane.
After about 90 minutes at the airport, speaking to all the available staff from the airline, I had two options: fly to Harare, Zimbabwe on Monday and visit my embassy or rebook our flights home.
We opted for the later and made the most out of our extra time in Zimbabwe. The extra time meant we could enjoy more Victoria Falls activities like white water rafting, bungee jumping and zip lining across the gorge. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but our travel horror story had a somewhat happy ending.
Moral of the story
Always check and double check international travel requirements, especially around visas, passports, inoculations and safety alerts.
Secondly, be adaptable to unforeseen events that can interrupt your travel and make the most of them.
Travel horror stories – bed bug nightmare
Carrie-Ann – Should Be Cruising
After a week-long expedition cruise in Glacier Bay, Alaska, I was looking forward to spending a few days in Juneau.
I usually prefer independent hotels over chains, and when I noticed that Juneau has a century-old hotel with quirky period details and even a few ghostly legends, I knew exactly where I wanted to stay.
A few hours after checking in and exploring the town for a bit, I decided to lie down and have a quick nap before heading back out.
An hour later, I woke up feeling a little itchy. I was covered in bed bugs! They had crawled up my shirt, into my jeans, everywhere, biting as they went.
As a frequent traveller, I’ve encountered plenty of creepy-crawlies in my travels. Spiders, ants, and mosquitoes don’t bother me. I’ve encountered a scorpion on my hotel balcony, and a giant palmetto bug once crawled up the shower drain to greet me.
But bedbugs? Now that’s a different story. We’ve all heard about people who unsuspectingly take a few bedbugs (or their eggs) home, causing an infestation that’s incredibly difficult to eliminate.
I was lucky enough to find another hotel and not take any bugs (or their eggs) home with me. But I’m now super-careful about choosing where to stay!
Moral of the story
My lesson learned? Always search accommodation reviews for the terms “bedbugs” and “bed bugs” before deciding to book.
After checking in, put your suitcase on top of a luggage rack or a hard surface while you inspect the room for bed bugs. Search soft surfaces like the mattress and any upholstered seating for evidence of the bugs and their eggs.
If you see rust-coloured spots on the mattress or sheets, it could be evidence of crushed bugs. You might also notice tiny black spots (bed bug excrement), small yellowish casings (skins shed by bed bug nymphs), or even the bugs themselves. Check the mattress seams especially for signs of an infestation.
Travel horror stories – a hostel dorm intruder
Inessa Rezanova – Through a Travel Lens
I was canyoning in Bovec, which is in Triglav National Park, Slovenia, and decided to stay for the night in one of the local hostels, in a mixed dorm for four people.
There was a party in town, which I didn’t go to, but it seemed like the rest of the town did. I woke up in the middle of the night with a feeling that someone was standing next to my bed. It was dark, and at first, I thought I might be dreaming. But then I saw the dark figure right next to me. It bent over and started touching the blanket where my feet were. By this time, I was paralyzed with fear as I was caught completely off guard.
As I was trying to pull myself together, the figure moved to the next bed and bent over a sleeping guy in it. I could swear he woke up, too, but remained silent.
It was then I realized it was a very drunk girl. She was barely standing straight, moving slowly, and obviously disoriented. I stopped freaking out. I remember guiding her to the reception. The next morning, the guy at the reception told me the girl got to her room safe, and he was kind enough to offer me complimentary coffee for helping out a guest.
Moral of the story
I don’t mind the hostels. In many countries, they were a lifesaver as well as a great place to make friends. From now on, however, I’ll be sticking to private rooms with locks.
Travel horror stories – scammed in India
Samantha – Intentional Detours
My worst travel horror story took place mere moments after arriving in New Delhi, India in 2018. After dreaming about visiting India for nearly a decade, I was finally there and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Having successfully taking the metro from the airport to the city centre, my boyfriend and I emerged onto one of the craziest streets either of us had ever seen in our lives.
A rickshaw driver immediately approached us, and we quickly discussed which hotel we were heading to and agreed on a price. Though I had purchased an Indian SIM card, it would take six hours or so to activate. As such, we were cruising without data and – even bigger mistake – without an offline map.
Suddenly, we came to a stop at a gate and were greeted by a very official-looking man holding a rifle. “This area is closed,” he said sternly. “You need permission from a tour agency to enter.”
I was confused – why was the area closed? We were supposed to be heading to Paharganj, a backpacker-friendly area where our cheap budget hotel was located. Having not done much research on the area, stunned with a bit of culture shock, and running on too few hours of sleep, I acquiesced and continued to look out at the madness of Delhi as we trundled along towards the tourist agency.
The place ended up looking official enough – offices, computers, desks and a legitimate sign were all in place along with a handful of other tourists.
As soon as we entered, one of the employees explained to us that there had been riots in Paharganj and the area was in fact closed. He then proceeded to “call” the hotel, where we heard someone on the other line “confirm” what they had been telling us.
The man proceeded to call other hotels in the area to show us that they were all in fact booked – with the exception of the $175 a night Hilton in the most expensive part of the city. Since we had only been planning to stay in Delhi for a night or two before moving along to Parvati Valley some 20 hours away in India’s Himachal Pradesh state, the employee gave us another option; we can take a private taxi they would arrange straight there. Exhausted and exasperated, we agreed… and saw ourselves handing over $325.
Our driver was quite a character to say the least. He ended up nearly falling asleep at the wheel on night one before we insisted that he stop for the night at a shady motel. Nevertheless, we ended up arriving at the mountainous valley safely the next day, confused, a bit shaken, but overall happy to finally be out of Delhi.
What we soon learned from fellow travellers was mind-blowing, to say the least. Paharganj was never closed. The tourist agency was fake, and a private taxi from Delhi to Parvati should never cost more than $100. After jumping onto Google, I discovered that many other travellers had been scammed in this way too. If only we had done our research or had some data…
Moral of the story
To avoid this fate, never EVER take a rickshaw in New Delhi unless it’s hailed from an app like Uber. Keep in mind that Delhi is a relatively safe city and Paharganj – which is actually a massive neighbourhood –has never closed.
Apps like Maps.me are ESSENTIAL when touching down in a new country, and honestly so is phone data! I successfully visited Delhi again the following year, thankfully without issue, and in all travels since I’ve ensured that one of us always had access to a working mobile phone in case of emergencies. Despite all this, I still love India and plan to return, with the lessons from this damned first voyage never to be forgotten.
Travel horror stories – losing your wallet after an expensive dinner
Alexx – Finding Alexx
Four months into an indefinite solo round the world trip, I managed to lose my wallet with all my cards in Switzerland, one of the most expensive countries on the planet. Rookie mistake.
That morning I’d paraglided in Interlaken before walking 20,000 steps around the lakes. After a big day, I sat down for a solo dinner at a nice restaurant, and when I went to pay for my fondue, I realised my front pocket of my bag was empty. No wallet to be seen.
Luckily, I was able to pay with Apple Pay before heading back to my hostel to problem-solve. I contacted my bank asking for an urgent replacement from the UK, and they automatically cancelled all my cards, meaning Apple Pay was no longer an option.
It was a Friday evening so no Western Unions were open until Monday and I knew no one in Switzerland. I even asked around my hostel and all the local bars to see if anyone was with the same UK bank as me so I could transfer money to them and get cash out, but no luck.
At the hostel I had to ask for a replacement key (that I had no way of paying for) and ended up crying to the team at the front desk. Solo travel is HARD when things go wrong! They gave me a hug and a free beer (essentials, obviously) and I went to bed prepared to trace all 20,000 steps the next day.
I got up at 7am after minimal sleep and walked downstairs to see the hostel manager waving my wallet in front of my face! A bus driver had found it that morning down the side of a seat and had gone off course to drive to the hostel since my room key was in the wallet.
Absolute emotional rollercoaster. Once I’d thanked my lucky stars I headed to Lindt and bought little gift bags for the hostel team and the bus driver.
Moral of the story
Aside from don’t lose your wallet (obviously), NEVER have all your cards in one place. Split your cards/cash over two places, like your handbag and a suitcase, and leave one emergency credit card somewhere super safe like in a zipped suitcase pocket or with your passport.
Travel horror stories – hurricanes and creepy critters in Greece
Ferne Arfin – The View from Chelsea
I had promised my niece endless sunshine and mild autumnal weather when I invited her to join me for her first ever trip to Greece at the end of September.
So, imagine our surprise when we arrived in Athens to gale force winds. We were just in time for a “medicane” – a very rare Mediterranean hurricane – and the epicentre was due to settle over Kalamata at the same time we were.
Two days later, after battling driving rain to our mountain top accommodation, we settled into rooms that were full of rustic charm… and an armada of millipedes.
Hundreds of them, driven out of the ground by the torrential rain, made their way under the leaky door of our character digs and spread out all over the duplex suite.
They crawled up the walls like inchworms and made their way onto our beds. We spent the rest of a sleepless night crunching them underfoot, picking them off our blankets and stuffing towels under the door to keep them out (without much success).
It turned out – one of those facts that no one who promotes Greece bothers to tell you – that these creepy, crispy critters are very common in the southwestern Peloponnese and that locals call them “mani worms”.
Here’s a video from before the storm really got going when we stopped for lunch in Kalamata. Listen at full volume for the full effect of the rain.
Moral of the story
There are locally available products to treat properties for this. If you are staying in rustic accommodations, avoid the ground floor.
Ask your hosts whether walls and floors have been treated for millipedes and hope they tell you the truth. Otherwise, sleep fully dressed, keep your shoes close and bring your sense of humour.
Travel horror stories – late-night taxi stand-up
Laura – Ladies What Travel
Our flight into Sorento a few years back landed at almost midnight so we’d booked a taxi to pick us up at the airport and take us straight to our hotel. Thing was, it never showed up and we had no way to contact them.
We spent about an hour trying to find someone who spoke English to help us, eventually stumbling across a lovely travel agent who, after another half an hour, found us a taxi driver called Nino who was willing to drive us the near hour-long journey to our hotel.
He was lovely and spoke very little English, but that didn’t deter him from trying to have detailed conversations with us the whole way there. We found out all about his family and how many grandchildren he had.
Oh, and he also drove at literally 100mph on the tiny Amalfi coastal roads, which was terrifying! I’m happy to say we arrived in one piece, shell-shocked and shattered…
Moral of the story
I would absolutely double and triple check your travel bookings, especially if you’re arriving somewhere at odd hours. Make sure you have a contact telephone number so if you can’t find someone you have a way to reach them.
I’d also recommend downloading a translate app before you go so if you do find yourself in a situation like this, you’re much more likely to get help quicker!
Travel horror stories – caught at customs
Catriona – 24 Hours Layover
Last summer I took a flight from Australia to New Zealand. Coming into land I was given a customs form – as a former flight attendant I knew these forms were serious and you can get into a lot of trouble if you forget to declare any food items. I quickly thought back to the night before when I was packing – yes definitely I hadn’t packed any food in my case – and signed that I had nothing to declare.
After landing I was walking through the airport and saw big signs everywhere saying it would be an instant $400 fine if you were carrying undeclared food items. I remember thinking how stupid someone would be to NOT declare anything!
I handed in my form to the customs officer and was almost at the arrivals hall when a sniffer dog came near me. The officer told me to stop as the dog was signalling that I had something. I looked at the dog and he was looking at my handbag.
That’s when I remembered. I had dog treats in my handbag from when I’d walked my dog that morning. I couldn’t believe it, how could I forget these were in there?
The officer asked to see my bag and I broke down in tears and told her I’d completely forgotten that I had dog biscuits in my bag. I explained I was ex-cabin crew so I knew the seriousness of the matter and I was so sorry.
I think because she could see how absolutely mortified I was that she let me off paying the fine and just recorded my details down. But this does NOT happen often. I was extremely lucky.
Moral of the story
Please, before you confirm you have no items to declare, always think about all of your bags (not just your suitcases) and evaluate each one carefully. Especially women like myself who seldom clear out their handbags. It might just save you a lot of embarrassment, delays and a big fine to pay!
Travel Horror Stories (and how to avoid them yourself)
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