You never really know what you’re getting into when you travel to a new place, and that’s why you have to do some research AND keep your wits about you once you’re there.
But even if you’ve done a ton of prep work, you still can’t be 100% prepared for what’s coming your way in a strange land.
AskReddit users shared their travel horror stories and they are some doozies.
“The worst hotel I ever stayed at was in Daraa, just over the border in Syria. This place didn’t look too sketchy at first glance. I crashed out in bed but woke a couple of hours later COVERED in bed bugs and bitten all overl. I end up sleeping on the floor. In the morning I go to the loo and it’s like the Apocalypse in there, as if a prison dirty protest had been taking place for 10 years.
Horse-sized cockroaches everywhere and somewhere beneath the smeared p*op and detritus was possibly a hole in the ground where you’re meant to go to the bathroom. It was so bad that when Trainspotting came out in the cinema a year or two later, I laughed at the toilet scene because it was so tame compared to what I’d seen in Syria.
I also stayed in a really sketchy hotel in Cairo, with mice running along the skirting and bare wires protruding from the wall just above my pillow.
After a couple of days I wanted to find out whether the wires were live, so I touched them together and shorted out three buildings. The toilets were better though.”
2. A whole lotta Belize
“When I was in Belize, I got robbed by basically every single local that I encountered on my walk back to the cruise port (about 1 mile away). It’s a long story, but basically, my friends and I took a cab to go to some clubs, more inward in the island. I was really sick and just didn’t feel up to it, so I ended up walking back as our personal cabbie we threw a bunch of money to drive us around all day wouldn’t drive me back.
Long story short, I’m lost trying to find the port and basically walking through the worse ghetto you could imagine in America times 10. Every single fre*king person on the streets is looking/pointing at me, and every single fre*king person I had to walk by demanded money from me while holding a knife.
I was never so scared in my entire life. Even though it was complete daylight/sunshine, it was just rundown building after the next, with groups of guys outside at every corner.
After the first guy took all my money, the next guy with a knife demanded my sunglasses, then the next guy with a knife, 20 yards down the road, demanded my shoes. I was so fed up at this point – lost, tired, and scared as ever. I just wanted to find my way back and I couldn’t.
After about 20 minutes of walking and now reduced to tears, I turn a corner and about 50 yards away I see the most beautiful thing I could have ever seen.
I honestly thought I was going to die, so seeing what I saw next was nothing short of amazement for me.
All the weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew this nightmare was finally over with.
I saw two overweight gray-haired white ladies wearing fanny packs.
I dropped to my knees I was so overcome with emotion. I knew right away I was safe.
I jogged over to them and at this point just didn’t wanna be alone anymore. I asked them when they were going back to the port and they said after they were done shopping. I looked around and realized I was on the edge of the tourist area pretty much as I saw spatterings of other white-fanny pack-wearing people in my line of sight, and down further was the main area and I could now see the port.
I ran back.
I will never go to Belize ever again.
Friends of mine say: ‘Dude, you can’t judge a country based on a couple bad seeds.’ But I beg to differ…” “
3. Scary stuff
“My family took a trip to Sudan (to visit my dad’s family). My brother came back with a severe rash all over his back.
The rash persisted for a few weeks, and the doctors had no idea what it was. Then, we were at the park one day and he started complaining about the rash to our mom, saying it was starting to hurt more.
She ignored it, thinking he must have rubbed it on something by accident when he fell to the floor screaming with pain, and literally, hundreds and hundreds of flies came flying out of a single hole at the base of his neck.
He was 8.
Apparently, some sort of African fly had laid eggs (or more likely cocoons or something) in his back when we slept. They hatched when we were back in England.
“Anyone who has been to the bus station in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) will understand.
I (as a female) was traveling with my sister. Unfortunately, our taxi driver from the ferry to the bus station was less than legit. Being somewhat trusting, he asked us where we were going and we told him Moshi. He gets on the phone and is speaking Swahili but I distinctly hear him say something about us being ‘white people.’
He drives us into a sketchy alleyway beside the bus station and his friend pressures us super hard to buy bus tickets for a bus I have never heard of at 3x the regular price. They both get upset when we refuse so we escape to the bus station. There is not a single tourist in sight, and worse still, no other females in a crowd of hundreds of men.
We, of course, start getting harassed right away and a security guard comes to our rescue and took us to the hotel in the terminal.
Turns out he wasn’t a security guard and tried to blackmail us into buying bus tickets for his company saying he knew what room we were staying in. We run off, and go out to buy tickets 2 hours later and get separated in the crowd of men yelling at us and pushing us/putting their hands where they shouldn’t be. Eventually, we buy tickets after a huge ordeal (we had wanted to buy tickets from a legitimate bus line, but these men somehow threatened the workers from that bus line and they refused to sell to us).
Anyways, long story short, the ‘security guard’ from before asks us to buy tickets from him again and gets super angry when he finds out we had already bought tickets.
He starts screaming at us in Swahili and, more or less, chases us into the hotel. We lock our hotel room, but we hear him in the hallway yelling and banging for some time. This was around 11 in the morning. We stayed in our hotel room until 5 am the next day, with only half a bottle of pop and one stale m*ffin between the two of us. Our room was also crawling with cockroaches and our toilet didn’t flush.
Needless to say, we were both extremely relieved when we 1) got on the bus (we were convinced our tickets were F*ke), and 2) left the city limits of Dar Es Salaam.”
5. What a story
“I had just married my current wife. She had a daughter in middle school. I had bought a camper a few months earlier, so my new wife, my new 13-year-old stepdaughter, a friend of hers, and I headed to the mountains with our 2 dogs. We were in an SUV pulling the camper (small pop up).
I’m going to go into some details that are very important to the story.
So we get to the campground in the mountains. It is hot down in town, but it was cool and in the 70s (Fahrenheit) at the campgrounds and I park in the shade. There is another dog running around the campground, so I tell my dogs to lay down in the back of the SUV as they were both very well behaved. I left the gate up and the SUV was turned off.
Even though both dogs were in good health and very active, the oldest, Jeannie, was 14-years-old. We had only been there for 15 minutes and my step daughter’s friend says that Jeannie isn’t moving. She was dead. Here we were, 5 hours from home on our first vacation, 15 minutes in, and the family pet dies.
Everyone flips, naturally. My wife is screaming at me to do something, my stepdaughter is screaming – what to do?
Well, after an hour of that, I get everyone calmed down. We start talking about what to do with her. My wife decided she wanted her buried in the mountains. So, I go back down to the office and ask the owner if I can borrow a shovel.
This is obviously a strange request and he asked me why. I told him why and even though he was a super nice guy, he didn’t know me or the circumstances, so he says that he didn’t want to get in trouble for anything and he doesn’t want me burying the dog on his property. He tells me that there is a vet down the street and that I can just drop the dog off outside and the vet would take care of it for me.
So, I go back and tell my wife. She says that it is ok but she wanted to know what the vet is going to do with her. I call the vet and he tells me that he could take care of it but begins to tell me prices and it was expensive. We were already on a tight budget and it was the first day of a week-long vacation, so my wife and I decided we didn’t want to spend the money.
I talk to the owner again and tell him that I will wait until after dark and go off of his property to bury the dog. He agrees and gives me a shovel. By this time it is almost dark and the dog was already starting to smell.
So around 9 pm, I head out, dead dog and shovel in tow. I start driving around looking for a good spot.
My wife told me it needed to be somewhere that we could visit. To be honest, I was not looking forward to digging a hole big enough to bury an 85 lb dog and I briefly considered leaving her beside the road in the woods somewhere but didn’t want to disrespect my wife’s wishes.
Finally, I remember a Christmas tree farm down the road, so, I find the farm and walk up the side of the mountain a ways.
I find a nice flat spot a few hundred yards from the road and start digging. It takes a while. I go back down and get the dog and head back up the mountain. I can’t find the hole I dug as I didn’t have a flashlight. Finally, after several minutes of walking around carrying this heavy, stinky dog, I find the hole by falling in it.
Once she is buried, I locate a car wash with a carpet cleaner and A LOT of air freshener and I spend an hour or so trying to get the dead dog smell out of the car. I didn’t realize they start to smell so fast. I get back around 1 am totally exhausted.
The next morning, I get up and everyone is very down.
I cook breakfast and try to cheer everyone up. After breakfast, my wife says we should go see where I buried her. So, we get in the SUV and head down the mountain. When we go around the curve, COPS EVERYWHERE. I had buried the dog in the owner of the Christmas tree farm’s front yard. I step on the gas and we get the heck out of Dodge, never to return.”
6. East Africa
“I spent some time backpacking across parts of East Africa with a small group of friends last summer.
One of the main portions of the trip was a couple months of volunteer work in northern Tanzania – we worked as English teachers in orphanages.
After a week or so, we figured it was time to check out the local nightlife, as there were a couple bars in town. So we started drinking at the house – and the couple drinks we planned on having before we left turned into about 6 or 7.
When we finally stumbled out to hire a taxi, we were met by a man who claimed to be a cab driver. Mind you, none of the taxis are marked in any way, the only way to tell if a cab is officially registered is the color of the license plate.
We never bothered to look as most of the people in town working as cab drivers never bothered to actually register anyway.
So we began to negotiate price. We quickly agreed to pay 10,000 schillings total, or about $6 USD.
That’s a pretty fair price in the region for a ride that short. So we hop in, and we’re on our way. After about a minute or so, the driver leans back and says:
‘My friends, 70,000 shillings.’
My stomach sank.
Among the few of us, we barely had that much. We only brought enough to have a couple drinks and hire a cab back to the house, as we were already pretty wasted. I wasn’t sure we would have enough to cover a cab ride back if we paid him what he wanted.
Now, in most parts I’ve been to in Africa, everything is up for negotiation, but this was the first time I had someone change the price after we agreed.
At this point, I was a little scared. I’ve traveled all over the place, and I’d never been that genuinely scared before. After a few minutes of arguing back and forth, I realized we weren’t going where we needed to be.
I looked out the window and saw he was starting to drive in circles – he wasn’t going to take us where we needed to be until we paid what he was asking.
Instead of being held hostage in his car, I told him to stop.
I really didn’t think we had much of a choice – if we had given him what he was asking, we might not have had enough to get back to the house again. He tells us to get out.
So we did. Standing at the side of the road, I did my best to come to a price that would allow us to at least get a ride home again.
Without warning, he just sped off. I looked around, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I realized he had dumped us off in the bad end of town. Being wasted and white in a small group in the middle of an African slum at night is a bad idea – a very bad idea.
We also had no way of getting home.
There wasn’t another car on the road. He had taken us F*rther out than I thought. We quickly drew a crowd. Several people immediately approached us, and a couple guys were yelling at us in Swahili. A couple people spoke decent English and asked what we were doing here.
One man jokingly said: ‘You’re brave people, being here.’ I noticed another man picked up a cell phone and says a couple sentences in Swahili and somehow I just knew he was telling someone about us being there.
Another group of men started yelling at us: ‘Come with us! Get away from those people!’
The man who told me I was ‘brave’ pipes up and tells me not to go with those men, they’re trying to lure me away so they can rob us.
He told me he was going to protect us from the ‘bad people.’
I didn’t know what to do, neither did my friends. I began to notice the group began to not only surround us but now there were people getting in between us.
I might have been out of it, but my instincts began to scream to not let these guys separate us. I tried to get back toward the others, but one of the men put his hands on my shoulders and told me: ‘It’s ok.’
I just yelled out for my friend.
He yelled back: ‘I can’t get to you!’ Right then, I just about had a heart attack. This was turning really bad, really fast.
One of the only cars on the road must have seen the commotion, and thankfully pulled over right in front of us.
The man that had me by the shoulders let go of me, and a few of them walked over to the car. The men and the driver begin yelling back and forth, and the driver told us to get in. I didn’t know what to do.
For all I knew, this might have been the guy the man on the cell phone had called earlier, it might have been part of the plan. But the man that was on the phone just happened to be one of the men yelling at the driver, so that put my mind at ease.
The man in the car kept yelling with increasing haste:
‘Get in! Now!’
So we did. I felt a little better when he began to yell at us as we pulled away in really good English for being idiots. He asked us how we could ever get ourselves in a situation like that, and asked us where home was.
When we got there, we offered him money for saving us, and he refused to take it. He just told us never to go into that area again. I ended up throwing a good chunk of the money I had on me at the time into the car as a thank you.
He tried to give it back to me, but I wouldn’t take it back.
He left, and I never even got his name.
So to the man that pulled us out of that crowd seconds before the situation got even worse, thank you.
I can’t thank you enough.”
7. Not a good trip
“I went to Florida. We stayed at a hotel – wasn’t bad and the beds were nice until later that night we realized the thermostat was stuck and the heater was on high. It was also summer at this time so it’s humid and hot already.
I ended up catching a really nasty flu and needed a doctor and medicine.
We managed to drive to Key West, but then on the news on the radio we heard that there was a huge storm coming, we turned around and abandoned any plans to go anywhere.
On our way back, everything was pretty flooded, our rental car was pretty much bumper deep in water but we managed to get back to the hotel.
Every attraction we wanted to see was basically closed because this storm was pretty nasty.
So I was still sick, the hotel was blazing hot and management didn’t do anything about it, outside was essentially a nightmare and all our plans got canceled, what else could possibly go wrong?
Got a call from a cousin back home that our grandmother passed away, my mom was now sobbing tears as much as there was water outside. My mom desperately wanted to go back, so my dad and I had to book the next flight available when the storm cleared up (which was about another 4 days away).
Worst vacation ever.”
“On a train or elsewhere in India, as a foreigner, it is a generally accepted fact of life that people will stare at you. Often these stares don’t carry any malice or even real interest, but 40 sets of eyes following you down the road tends to have an effect.
This can go the other way as well. It is not uncommon for a complete stranger to offer you dinner, ask where you are from and show you pictures of their ‘girlfriend.’ An interesting sidenote is the number of Indian men that Christina Aguilera seems to be engaged to.
But like all things, you get used to it.
So when a hungry white boy, three months in India, finds a grossly overweight Indian man sitting adjacent to him on a boiling train offering him a packet of chips, he doesn’t think twice. Chips are chips, and hunger is hunger.
I like chips!
We share the basic small talk that is so common when traveling, including where I am from, what I do back home, and the fairly standard question: ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ In the time since this fateful trip has passed, I’ve been given the chance to think about this question and his subsequent reaction when I said: ‘No’.
He may have been altogether too satisfied with my response. No, he was without a doubt gleeful with my response, but amidst the delicious taste of ‘Spicy Tomato Mad Angles’ I was oblivious.
Towns rush by the side of the train and gradually the heat of the day winds down.
Seats are folded, beds are made, and while not asleep, we retire to where we will roll around in extreme discomfort in the dark for hours on end. From the cunning vantage point his bed, my predator stares at me when he thinks I am not looking.
Using the light of a mobile phone, I wade through the drivel of some now-forgotten magazine bought for 50 rupees at New Delhi train station. While this brilliant piece of literature is informing me how I can survive a fall from an airplane mid-flight, I glance occasionally to see a guilty face quickly avert his gaze to the wall above me, clearly looking at an incredibly interesting piece of chipped plastic.
No, I’m not really bothered, but I am aware that my large friend is staring at me in what he thinks is the darkness.
High on the weirdness meter, but after sleeping under the feet of a holy man with a flatulence problem of gastronomical proportions, what was once a 9 on the same meter tones down to a 3. Either way, it is not until the wee hours of the next morning that this perverse elephant of a man makes his move.
Folding down the beds, and sitting side by side, I find myself in the perfect position (depending on whose perspective of this gross tale you find yourself sympathizing with). I feel two fingers, pressed lightly against my upper, outer thigh.
‘Oh well,’ I think ‘there isn’t a lot of space.’ Moments tick past, and the fingers transform to worms, slowly wriggling around in an attempt to get my attention. Naive, and still assuming his innocence at the time, my reaction is simply to move slightly away, in the opposite direction.
A futile move, however, as our antagonist is too persistent for me. Two fingers turn to three, turn to four, and without further ado, I find an entire palm resting perilously close to my backside.
And this, friends, is where things get strange.
As I internally mount my counter-attack, this repulsive invader of personal space pulls what is undeniably the oldest trick in the oldest book ever written. Yawning loudly, his pudgy arm arcs around in a semi-circle, finding itself somehow under my shirt, resting near my kidneys.
At this point, I can take a hint. Terrified, confused, and somehow bemused and bewildered that such a situation would ever happen to someone such as myself – I don’t feel as if I am quite the cream of the crop when it comes to potential assaulting victims – I am desperate for an escape.
In the heat of the moment, the most obvious solution escapes me. I would like to be able to tell you that I alerted nearby passengers and named and shamed my assaulter, but what I would like to tell you would be a complete fabrication.
The spirit of Crocodile Dundee empowers me, and as quick as I was able, a rather sharp, and admittedly rather small knife appears in my fingers. No witty catchphrase was uttered, however, and I began to clean my fingernails in his general direction, the tip of the knife flicking tiny specks of dirt on his white shirt.
The presence of the knife proved to be enough, as from this distance if I dropped the knife it would end somewhere in him. And simple as that, his poorly executed plan (I prefer to be wooed over a course of weeks than roughly groped in the heat) comes to an end.
And lo and behold, my station is the next stop.
Truly fantastic stuff.”
9. Work trip
“Well, I went to Germany for a ‘work’ trip. I put it in quotes because it was company-affiliated, but it was a fun competition between several teams around Europe and the US.
Our first night there, I went out with a buddy of mine, hitting a few small bars after dinner.
I had a few drinks but was pretty sober, and I was taking care of my friend who was drinking pretty hard.
At the last bar, we each ordered a drink, and halfway through it I suddenly felt trashed. From sober to wasted, in half a drink.
My mind must’ve already been messed up because I basically ignored it, and I let my friend walk off back to the hotel by himself when he told me he wanted to leave. The next thing I know, I’m waking up on the sidewalk outside somewhere, with my wallet (over 100 Euro in it) and cell phone gone.
Pieces of what happened start to come back to me, and I see flashes of being held down on the ground by three or four people while they were taking money.
I am pretty certain that the bartender(s) are responsible for poisoning and robbing me. Afterward, I remember finding a police station and trying to explain to them what happened, but they treated me like an idiot, told me to take off, and literally pushed me out of the police station.
I finally stumbled my way back to my hotel (I have no idea how I made it and found it), and I was in a very paranoid state the whole time.
I eventually hit my bed and passed out for about 20 hours.”
“Bangkok – red light district: I got lured upstairs to an exotic club by a ‘No pay for anything, only one drink’ line, having been told specifically NEVER GO UPSTAIRS IN THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT. Bought the drinks, eventually noticed we were the only ones in there.
I went to leave, suddenly surrounded by fat streetwalkers and the manager demanding £80, threatened to bring ‘their man’ in. So we paid got the eff out.
Morocco: I climbed Mount Toubkal, the second highest mountain in Africa.
We were too stingy to pay a guide, took a wrong turn. Boulders gradually became sparse, the ground was so unsolid we started slipping down the mountain. There’s no mountain rescue around there and this was too high up even for donkeys.
Hearing our screams, an actual climber heard and came to the rescue. He vanished to help the others before I had the chance to thank him but to this day, I’m convinced he was a guardian angel.
I bawled like a baby when I was safe, the only time I’ve ever genuinely thought I would die.”
11. Out of contact
“Back in 2006, my mom (doesn’t speak English) and my 10-year-old self were going on a trip from Brazil to Madrid. On our original route, we experienced a delay on our first flight of 3, and after some stressful 2 hours, the airline managed to find us a new flight.
The new route would take us to Paris and finally Madrid, and everything went well until we got to Paris (we were about 6 hours late now).
When we got there, we were very tired and we were not able to contact to my father who was waiting for us in Madrid. But then there was an emergency evacuation of the fre*king airport due to a massive threat, and the fre*king airline didn’t give us any guidance.
We were very lucky to find some nice Brazilian people that were able to help us as they were in the same situation.
We spent about 4 hours in the airport until we were able to get a new flight to Madrid.
When we got to Madrid, we were 12 hours late and still couldn’t contact my father. So we went to the hotel he was at and could not find him, as he was wandering the streets thinking something wrong might have happened with us.
That was the only time I saw my father cry like a baby. It was horrible…”
12. Accident prone
“Went to Rome and ended up in the hospital with a liver infection and no English speaking doctors.
Went to Cambodia and got mugged by a group of guys on motos and my local friends decided to chase them with meat cleavers and machetes that I didn’t previously know they owned.
Went to Australia and got third degree burns on my foot on the last day of a festival I was volunteering at. Then I got a ton of morphine and my Brazilian friends found a trolley to wheel me back to my hostel in after.
My most recent travel album on Facebook was titled: ‘That time I went abroad and didn’t end up in the hospital!'”
13. Duck boats
“When I was roughly ten, we were riding The Ducks, a type of vehicle that is also a boat. I love the water and sight-seeing, so this was awesome.
We passed a dam, and not 10 seconds after the boat left the dam behind, a speedboat came flying over the top of the dam and landed upside down on the concrete below.
They quickly brought us back to the tour station and we saw EMTs carrying body bags out of the ambulance. Later found out on the news that the driver of the boat was a very wasted young woman.”
14. Too much sun
“Got so badly sunburnt in Thailand every time I smiled my face bled.”
“In Ecuador my wife’s bag was stolen, she lost all three of her passports. In Botswana, I was hitching a ride in the back of a truck which ran off the road. In Morocco my train derailed. In Israel, my friend fell down a mountain and was taken to hospital by helicopter. But in every case, everything turned out fine. Travelling is awesome!”