When we think of travelling we might imagine hiking serene paths, relaxing on a beach, partying until dawn and ‘sunset selfies’. It might never occur to us that travel fails and mishaps on the road can occur, especially when travelling to more off-beat and unusual destinations.
I love an adventure and have solo travelled extensively over the years. I’ve hiked through the Australian outback, scuba dived off Thai islands, backpacked across Canada, road tripped in America, got lost in rural Bosnia and sipped cocktails on a rooftop bar in Palestine. There has been various travel fails and mishaps on the road including missed trains, a bout of cholera, a broken arm on day one of my trip and several harrowing encounters with border control, but I have managed to stay in one piece somehow.
If you think your holiday mishaps were bad, check out these stories of travel fails and mishaps on the road, medical emergencies and unexpected nudity from some of the best travel bloggers around.Check out these stories of various travel fails, medical emergencies and unexpected nudity from some of the best travel bloggers around! Click To Tweet
I woke up my room at the riad I was staying at in Fez, Morocco and groggily found my way to the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror to wash my hands this is what was staring back at me:
The night before, as I had been hanging out on the roof of a building drinking mint teas with some new friends, I have been vaguely aware that there were some bugs around. It was dark, I swatted them away and didn’t think much about it. When I showed the bites to the riad owner and asked for a pharmacy she insisted I see a doctor instead.
‘We don’t want to deduct from your credit card today but please put the number on this form – just in case.’ With that, it was time to start a tour of the Tuscan countryside, and the younger of the guides handed me the keys to an antique Fiat 500. With one guide in front and the other behind me in equivalent cars, what could go wrong? Little did we know that those words weren’t going to age well.
After a scenic drive that took in sinuous roads, rolling hills, Chianti vineyards and olive groves, it was time to head back. We reached a T-junction where the lead car took a left turn. I looked to my right – all clear. I turned to my left, and, good lord, another car was barrelling towards me. Why, why did I try to creep across? I was about to become another ‘Asian driver’ meme.
I scrunched my face, dreading what I’d hear – or feel – next. BEEEEP. THUNK. Then silence. I’d completed the turn. Good, I still had all four wheels, so I pulled over to survey the damage. Surprisingly, the car was fine, apart from a scuff on the bumper. That would still cost a pretty penny – and it was going on my card.
The other driver, an older gentleman, soon joined us after turning around. His skills meant that my mistake didn’t result in more damage; however, his car’s rear wheel fairing took a chip. While the paperwork took an aeon to complete, I could only put my hands on my head as I reflected on what could’ve been. The gentleman seemed surprisingly gracious about the incident. ‘Attenzione,’ he said as he wagged a finger, but we still shook hands. Too shaken to drive further, I rode shotgun in the lead car. Good wine and prosciutto were waiting at the end of the journey and, boy, did all of us need some!
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Last May, my husband and I decided to go back to Nepal for a long trek, so we chose to spend 28 days trekking the amazing Himalayas. After a week, we had a horrible day which we thought would result in our trek ending. After one day of trekking, after 8 hours to be more precise, I started feeling some pain in my left calf. I had my knee protections on and my long trousers, so I didn’t bother checking my leg, I just thought that it was hurting just because of the long day. However, when we reached the homestay in the afternoon, I felt that somebody had smashed my leg.
I instantly took my trousers off and that’s when I realized that my ankle had swollen. I started to take my knee protection off, but the pain was unbearable. After some screaming, I managed to free my leg, and that’s when I saw the horror. My calf was completely red and swollen and had around 5 or 6 signs of insect bites.
Yes, I am allergic to insect bites, but seriously, did this have to happen now? Who would expect to have this kind of problem at high altitude in Nepal? I usually take all the necessary precautions when we travel in tropical areas but I didn’t foresee this. I couldn’t put my leg down, so I started to think that we needed to get back to Kathmandu.
Luckily I had my antihistaminic medicine with me and after one day of complete rest, my leg was better. I eventually got a shot with hydrocortisone in a village but only after a week or more did my calf return to its natural shape and colour. We finished the trek and returned safely to Kathmandu and I learnt that you should never leave your guard down when it comes to your health!
I love hiring a car when I go travelling so that I can get off the beaten track to explore. But whilst I was in Greece, I got a little TOO far off the beaten track! My friend and I hired a tiny little old Daewoo Matiss, our ‘helpful’ satnav decided to take us accidentally off-roading!
Looking at google maps we decided it was as easy to go forward as to retrace our steps. But as we turned around a steep corner, the road crumbled away! Reversing was no good so we had to inch our way down the road slowly, balancing the car by both sitting on the same side! The clutch was smelling horrendous and the car very nearly rolled but we somehow made it out alive and were back on the road again counting our lucky stars.
We reached our destination – a great sunset spot overlooking ‘Shipwreck Bay’ on Zakynthos and got carried away taking in the beautiful view so we were amongst the last to leave. Getting back to the carpark as it went dark, there were only two cars left. We jumped in ours and to our dismay, it wouldn’t start! Really?! Could we have any more bad car luck in one day?!
The problem was now we were stranded in a remote area of the island in the dark with no reception on our phones! But then, fortunately, we saw the final group of people heading back to their car and went to them for help only to find out they were Russian and didn’t speak English! A lot of miming about off-roading and one of them had fixed our car and we were on the way again!
It didn’t put me off driving around the whole island the next day by myself as my friend wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay at the hotel. Though my phone battery died and I had no idea how to get back so I had to drive along the coast all the way home so I could find my hotel on the beach! My friend wasn’t too impressed that she couldn’t get hold of me! Oops. Being naturally clumsy, I have many travel disaster stories which I wrote about recently. Check them out on my travel fails and hilarious stories post.
I’m not the sportiest person I know, but when living in Switzerland one feels spurred on to become the hiker they never were. My boyfriend and I were hiking an easy, lower elevation trail in the Swiss Alps when I started to experience chest pain about halfway through the hike. I kept thinking I must be so out of shape. We paused numerous times to allow me to catch my breath, but by the time we were nearing our cabin for the night I started to feel panicky and desperate. We finally made it to the cabin which was a shared cabin for hikers with a host. After sitting and resting the pain was getting stronger and my breathing heavier.
The pain started inching its way towards my left arm and I had a flashback from my emergency medical training of signs of a heart attack. (As if the squeezing chest pain wasn’t enough of one.) Longer story shorter, my last view of the cabin that night was from a helicopter, watching all the other hikers at the cabin staring up in awe and my boyfriend-now-husband’s worried face. I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life that night, painted across the sky above the Alps. But between chest pain and worry for how much this scenic tour would cost, I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. Four days in the hospital determined it wasn’t a heart attack but a viral infection affecting the lining of my heart, mirroring the symptoms of a heart attack. Though insurance helped, the helicopter ride remains the most expensive “tour” I’ve ever taken.
During my exchange semester in Bangkok, we spent a weekend in Nakhon Phanom in the Northeast of Thailand. Back then, I didn’t really mind about mosquito bites and never used any insect repellent. About one week after I got back to Bangkok, I suddenly developed a very high fever. The next day, I headed to the doctor who ran a malaria test on me. And thank god it was negative. But the fever was still there. The doctor told me that I most likely had dengue fever, also called breakbone fever because of the joint pains it causes and that I should come back to the hospital as soon as the fever stops.
I spend the next 5 days at home, sweating with incredible pain in my limbs. And the worst part was that I couldn’t eat. I didn’t feel sick but I just couldn’t mentally swallow anything. After 5 days of fever and no food, I decided to go to the hospital again. As they took my temperature, I was in shock – 40.9 °C (105.6 °F). Initially, they told me they would keep me overnight, in the end, I spent four days in the hospital as my dengue fever had developed into a hemorrhagic fever. After I was released it still took a couple of weeks to regain my strength and all the weight I had lost. But I have definitely learned something from the story, now I always use an insect repellent when I travel to a tropical country.
I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps on the road but the worst was in 2014 in Mostar, Bosnia. I was staying in a hostel that had a great atmosphere and location but wasn’t exactly clean. At all. In fact, there was a patch of mould on the wall that backed onto the bathroom. It was gross, but figuring I was only there for a couple of days and would only be in the room a few hours for sleeping, I ignored it. Bad idea.
A week later I felt like a horse was sitting on my chest. I had a wicked cough and struggled to breathe. By then I was in Ireland seeing friends who forced me to go to the doctor. After a few tests, the doctor then sent me to the hospital. Turns out that my ‘just a few hours of sleep’ in that mouldy dorm room was just enough to give me a lung infection. Thankfully it was relatively mild and I just had to take antibiotics (9 a day) for two weeks. Needless to say, I inspect every room now and will refuse to stay somewhere with mould again!
If losing my passport, iPhone, ID, bank cards, and $200 cash on my FIRST day of my 9-month trip isn’t a travel fail, I’m not sure what is? After a 20 hour journey, I landed in Guatemala City at midnight and went straight to my accommodation in a taxi. When I got out the car, my clutch bag (the bag with everything in… the bag that I absolutely could not lose) fell onto the busy road. Within seconds, it had gone.
What followed was a lot of tears, trips to the British embassy and the Guatemalan immigration office. Immigration was the worst, no one spoke English and I was told in Spanish to hand over my new emergency passport and come back 8 hours later. I wasn’t sure if I understood them correctly, but I was on my own and didn’t know what else to do. So I waited.
It was the longest 8 hours of my life, I was both bored and terrified that my emergency passport would never reappear. Luckily, 8 hours later, I got my passport back with the immigration stamp. This got me to Colombia where I could apply for a new passport from the UK.
The no-phone and the no-bank-card situation was also pretty rubbish, although I managed to pay people initially via PayPal. A friend then came to visit 3 weeks later and brought a replacement phone and new bank cards for me. It felt like Christmas! It wasn’t exactly the best start to the trip but I managed to get everything back, and I didn’t have to go home. Now I feel invincible (although I never take my money belt off!)