When we think of travelling we might imagine hiking serene paths, relaxing on a beach, partying until dawn and ‘sunset selfies’. It might not occur to us that there are many travel horror stories out there.
However, the minute you start talking to travellers, you will find so funny travel fails and mishaps on the road.
Anything can happen when you travel from the wacky, funny, absurd, to the downright scary. Especially when travelling to more off-beat and unusual destinations.
Travel horror stories
Bad travel experiences
If you think your travel mishaps are bad I have a collection of 19 funny travel horror stories curated from some of the best travel bloggers in the game.
If you need a giggle then check out these stories of travel fails and mishaps on the road, medical emergencies and unexpected nudity from some of my fellow travel writers. It is guaranteed to make you chuckle.
If these travel fails don’t convince you that you don’t need decent travel insurance when you go on a trip then frankly nothing will.
Bug bites in Morocco
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, pictured below 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.
Medical assistance in Morocco
Car crash in Italy
‘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.
Crashing a rental car in Italy
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.
Driving in Italy
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.
Car hire insurance
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! Chose by Rambling Feet
Seasickness in Panama
I had been backpacking for 3 months across Central America and was finally ready to move on to the South.
As there was no land border between Panama and Colombia, the only two options I had were either an easy flight to Cartagena or a sailing trip that would take me across the gorgeous San Blas archipelago.
I had no doubt, the adventurer in me would want to sail. After a bit of research online I found what appeared to be the most suitable boat.
Getting a boat in Panama
Seasickness was hardly a concern, a girl like me, from Sardinia, pretty much grown up on water, would never get sick on a sailing boat. Or so I thought.
The minute I got on the boat, the gentle rocking made me nauseous. As soon as we left the protected Portobelo bay to sail on the Atlantic, nausea had the better of me.
I was in agony, all I could think of was getting to the first island, as soon as possible – which on a sailing boat was easier said than done.
We got to Porvenir late at night. The minute we did I asked to be taken to shore as I could not face one more minute on the boat.
As soon as the dingy touched the ground, the chief of the island came to see me.
Instead of welcoming me, he started accusing me of being in breach of several articles of the Constitution of the Kuna Yala, the indigenous people living in the archipelago.
Boat back to Panama
I had to beg to be allowed to pitch a tent before finally breaking through his toughness when I asked whether the Constitution did not have an article that recommended helping those in need?
I ended up having to go back to Panama City via a combination of a speedboat and 4 x 4 car, and eventually caught that easy flight.
It turns out, sailing is not really my thing and it’s a total travel fail that I will never forget. Chosen by My Adventures Across The World
Allergic reaction to insect bites in Nepal
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.
Insect bite allergy
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’m not one to listen to dangerous travel stories, I prefer to experience things myself.
I couldn’t put my leg down, so I started to think that we needed to get back to Kathmandu.
Insect bite treatment
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! Chosen by Our world to wander
Car breaking down in Greece
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.
Getting stranded in Greece
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!
Driving in Greece
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. Chosen by Globetrotter GP
Suspected heart attack in Switzerland
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.
Helicopter rescue Switzerland
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 at my boyfriend’s worried face.
I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life that night, painted across the sky above the Alps. It was definitely an amazing spot for travel photography if I wan’t so ill of course.
But between chest pain and worry for how much this scenic tour would cost, I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much.
Hospital in Switzerland
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.
Caught in a snowstorm in New York
A couple of years ago I decided to visit New York on a budget. At the time, I used to Couchsurf everywhere that I travelled, so I got in touch with some members of the New York Couchsurfing community.
New York was naturally in high demand, but I did manage to get a few replies. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my inner voice and agreed to stay with someone who deep down I suspected would flake on me. It was a predictable travel gone wrong story.
Accidently stayed with a nudist
Although he didn’t actually flake, he wasn’t able to host me. I arrived at his apartment to find his landlord evicting him for hosting “bedbug-ridden strangers”.
Now both of us needed a couch to crash on. Thankfully, he knew somebody who was always happy to help. There was just one thing I should know about him: he was a nudist. Would I be okay with that?
‘Frugal Me’ immediately said yes, convincing ‘Cautious Me’ that this was supposed to be an adventure. So what if the guy didn’t wear clothes?
Funny Couch surfing story
Then there was the making conversation with norms like myself. While my host was definitely a 5-star courteous and wonderful host. It must get tiring dealing with strangers who are intent on 100% eye contact.
However, it was definitely an adventure though and, even if it made the trip a little more awkward than necessary, I did come home with a funny travel story to tell. Chosen by World Wide Shopping Guide
Motorbike accident in Thailand
Khon Kaen, Thailand: a random weeknight. I’m biking home after a quiz night and a few beers (let the record show a few beers isn’t even enough to get me buzzed).
I’m rounding a corner on road I’ve biked lots of times… the next thing I know I’m over the handlebars and land on my back onto a grassy spot under a street light.
Stunned, I sit up and do that classic check. Legs look ok, the bike looks ok (the basket was a little bent), left arm OK, right arm… erg. My forearm was floppy.
The shock hadn’t worn off and the pain hadn’t set in, even as I was slowly coming to realize both bones in my forearm had been broken.
As fate had it, I was literally across the street from the hospital, so off I went to their emergency room.
An awkward call to my wife later, I begin coming to grips with reality. I eventually got some surgery under local anaesthesia.
This wasn’t painful but still not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. I had a couple of steel bars put in my arm and amazingly, it doesn’t set up the metal detectors at the airport.
I now have two scars on my right arm from my travel horror story, that I’ll have the rest of my life. Chosen by One weird globe
Getting dengue fever in Thailand
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.
Dengue fever treatment Thailand
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 this scary travel experience. I now always use insect repellent when I travel to a tropical country. Chosen by 197 Travel Stamps
Lung infection in Bosnia
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.
Lung infection treatment
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! Chosen by Ireland stole my heart
Bag stolen in Guatemala
If losing my passport, iPhone, ID, bank cards, and $200 cash on the 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 of 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.
British Embassy Guatemala
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! Chosen byHats off world