Your Worst Travel Experience

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 8th, 2011

Last week, I lost my passport. It was by far the worst thing that has happened to me while traveling. Sure, getting hospitalized due to food poisoning in Costa Rica was pretty bad but emotionally, losing 9 years of stamps is worse. So I thought it only fitting that has we get half way through the series on reader travel experiences, this installments questions would be “What’s the worst thing that happened to you while traveling?” Here are the other traveler’s worst moments on the road:

“On my first visit to New York, I soon found out that the hostel I had booked was not in fact ‘Upper West Side’ as advertised, but in the depths of Harlem. This wouldn’t have been too much of an issue except that I arrived at 2am and there was no one at the hostel to let me in, despite the racket I was making! Let me tell you, I don’t want to recommend being a single woman alone in the middle of the night in Harlem to anyone! I thankfully survived til sunrise, but not without hearing multiple gunshots, being harassed by a gang and having to make a run for it with a giant suitcase.” – Nicole

“The most memorable one was in Latvia when I had some weird ‘stalker’ who kept touching me up on the bus, and then when I got off the bus early to avoid him, he followed me through the forest for three hours before I eventually lost him. It was a shame I never got to see the Castles I originally went out to see because of him.”- Rob

“Either getting robbed in Bali, or struggling with getting a ticket for a 12 hour train ride in Thailand. We absolutely had to be in Bangkok and left it until the last minute to buy a ticket for the sleeper train. The only tickets they had were for 3rd class ‘Standing.’ We had to stand up for 12 hours on a cramped train all the way.” – Slice

“We had just crossed the state border of Northern Territory and South Australia. Though it’s the middle of the desert, it was pouring rain. Despite trying to find somewhere to pull over and stop for the night we hadn’t been able to find anywhere for a few hours of looking. We hit a large puddle of the road, and it felt like a tire had blown on the RV. We pulled over to check the tires, and although it turned out that they were fine, we sank almost to the chassis in the soft mud on the side of the road. My poor husband had to dig the caravan out of that shoulder in the twilight and the rain, while I kept the kids occupied and happy in the car. We kept driving and came to a road house not much further along the highway. We pulled in, but because the roads were so slippery with the rain and the fuel on the ground, the back end of the RV clipped a truck window.” – Amy

“Having to leave before I am ready to go. ” – Maria

“In 2010, I went quad biking in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was going great, right up until the moment where one of my tires hit a rock and I lost control. I flew into a ditch about two meters deep, and the bike turned over onto its side. If I hadn’t been thrown clear, chances are the side of the ditch would have taken my head off. As it was, my worst injury was a banged up knee and a long strip of road rash along one arm. I had to pay $400 for the bike damage, another $75 to get cleaned up at the doc’s, and get some antibiotics and painkillers to make sure I didn’t get an infection, then had to take a night bus to Sihanoukville, still wearing the same clothes I’d crashed in, trying my best to hold my sore arm away from the other passengers to make sure nobody banged it!” – Susan

“Witnessing the point blank assassination of 3 drug dealers at a bar in Puerto Rico.” – Mike

“I came down with swine flu when I was traveling in Turkey. One of the biggest advisories during the season of swine was to not get on a plane while ill, but I was stuck in Istanbul and needed to get home. I was petrified that the airport would have a fever-detector and I would get detained and not be able to leave – thankfully that didn’t happen. It was still a pretty miserable experience though.” – Allison

“My sister’s car blew a head-gasket by Death Valley in August, where the temps hovered around 123 & we had about $50 left because we were due back to her home in a day. There was no Western Union, signs were posted to not leave your car at night due to rattlesnakes & not to leave your car if you run out of gas. This while showing a skeleton holding a gas can. The message was that in the very hot desert we would die within a day or so from dehydration. It took us 5 days stranded in the desert before we got back to her home in Santa Cruz.” – Joy

“Waking up with a cockroach on my face.” – Jemma

“A week before Spain’s dictator Franco died, I was wondering round a corner in Madrid admiring the architecture. A soldier appeared from no-where, stuck a machine gun in my face and demanded I go with him. Young, cheeky and foolish, I argued with him. He pushed the gun closer into my face. I obeyed. He takes me to Las Ventas Bullfighting Ring and demands I buy a ticket for the fight.” – Sonia

“Someone come into my room WHILE I was sleeping and stole 2 cameras, $250, an mp3 player and a watch. It was the creepiest thing to know someone came into my room while I was asleep.” – Hopscotch the Globe

“Experiencing last year’s 4 minute long, 8.8 Chilean earthquake only 50 miles from the epicenter. And then spending the next 5 days sleeping outside, never without my Swiss army knife and a golf club because of all the escaped convicts from the nearby prison that fell down. Fun times!” – Tia

“Randomly decided, en route from Morocco to Greece, to catch a bus all the way up rather than flying. Unbeknownst to me, I had contacted some sort of marine bacterial infection in my eye while surfing. Ended up in 4 days of excruciating pain on a crowded, non-stop bus, only to get to Paris and be told that “I would be permanently blind in one eye.” The bad? Two weeks of quarantine, a missed flight to Greece, and a ban on further travels for awhile. The good? I recovered my sight completely, and being trapped in Paris started my love affair with the wonderful city.” – Yolanda

“Being stuck on a train with Nomadic Matt for 5 days while traveling through Canada!” – Andrew

I asked my readers a series of 6 questions about travel. Read their answers to the other 5 intriguing questions:
Why did you start traveling?
What is your greatest travel memory?”
What’s the one item you can’t travel without?
What advice would you give to new travelers?
What is your greatest regret?

comments 13 Comments

damage98

Oh, Matt, let me tell you a story of a 3 hour tour. Me and 4 other dive buddies from the UK were on a lads vacay in Thailand, diving was the focus but we had to party too, so we figured after the debauch in BKK we would catch the night train to Surat Thani and then the ferry to Koh Samui. So we are waiting for the ferry at the docks and it is raining and a little breezy. We all board, and as we are headed out the river mouth or whatever, I notice that the palms trees in the distance, toward the ocean, are bending sideways in the wind. The ferry ride once we hit the gulf became a prelude to disaster. You hear all the time about capsized ferries in SE Asai amiright. Well we had waves higher than the ferry, people panicking. My mate and I were sat beside a mother and daughter from Holland and they were terrified. We assured them that the ferry captain has done this all his life and we would never be out here if it was not safe. haha. So we arrived in Koh Samui, it is belting down rain and blowing force 3 or greater and people are waiting on the dock to take the ferry to Panghan. Well, as we disembark we are like ‘do not get on that boat’. They cancelled the ferry to Kho Panghan anyway, and we took a truck to town, soaked and driving through rivers. I was never so glad to be back on land. The good part of the story starts at the Green Mango, but that is not family friendly. Suffice to say, Drunk friend, ladyboy, rescue from an alleyway etc… :)

David

About the Allison’s story about knowingly getting on a plane when she had swine flu… that’s a selfish and just plain shitty thing to do. You endangered other people and quite possible made some number of them very sick (potentially fatally) just because you would rather be at home. Turkey has excellent hospitals and medical care and you should have canceled your flight as soon as you knew where sick.

How would you feel if you found out you caught swine flu and went through all that suffering and risked your life because some jackass was sitting on a plane next to you with it because they couldn’t wait it out in a foreign country??

haha these are all great… well, bad, obviously, but great! :D

Kimberly

Traveling with my HS drill team. One of the chaperons was a world class bigot. I think he forgot his robes back in Houston. He would go on and on and on about Greeks not speaking English like civilized people. I remember looking at another chaperon and saying “He knows we are in the cradle of Western Civilization right?”

At a folknight thing we were handed shot glasses of “water”. The guy actually thought it was water and made us take them. I dumped it out discreetly. Then he tasted the “water” and figured out it was ouzo. Then he freaked out on those of us that had been smart enough to “spill” it on the path to the restaurant.

Part of the tour was that we were performing on a cruise ship. The first night the seas were to rough. The 2nd night was Holy Saturday. The Lenten and Easter Holy days fall on the same days in both the Eastern Orthodox and Western RC/Protestant churches. So we are performing and our music is drowned out by this other broadcast. It was funny because all the Catholic girls froze – we couldn’t understand a word but knew the sound of Mass.

A staff member explains they have to broadcast Easter Mass (it was just midnight) and we would have to stop. Well you would have thought they said they were going to sacrifice us to the devil. Mr. Bigot got in the face of the Captain. Yelling that he had to turn that heathen service off because he had good Christian girls in our group and they were violating the 1st admin.

The captain was short, bigot over 6 feet. Captain got right into bigot’s face and told him that the 1st admin. had NO POWER IN GREECE, that he should go home and stay there because bigot was the reason people thought all American’s are horrible people. We girls applauded him. My friend who was Jewish whispered “Guess I’m not a good girl” I replied, “At least you don’t worship Idols.” (I was raised Catholic).

Sadly this did not get him booted from being a chaperon. He was kicked out the following fall for calling a bunch of Catholic students idol worshiping papist and baby eaters.

Cured me of ever wanting to go on a group tour again.

Thanks for the mention Matt! I think that Adventurous Kate’s shipwreck on Komodo Island in the middle of the night could make this list. http://www.adventurouskate.com/adventurous-kate-gets-shipwrecked-in-indonesia/

Also, I forgot to mention the time that our tour guide in Ha Long Bay thought we tried to kill him by burning his hotel room!

Cool list, the Swine flu Flight is a bit dodgy though! No wonder it spread!

Definitely watching my plane fly over my head while I battled through crowds of railway workers protesting in Italy, who blocked the road to the train station and the airport. Worst moment being as I began the 7km walk with an oversized suitcase in 35 degree heat towards the airport and one of the suitcase wheels broke… shortly followed by an Italian tv crew asking if they could interview me. No, was my (censored) answer.

Dorian

@squarko,

I’m sorry but I can’t stop laughing, in a “I feel bad for you” way.

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HAHAHAHA! That could be retribution for having a rolling suitcase, use a backpack :)

Dorian

I don’t know where to start and where to end..lol…

Way too many to share.. I’ve had some painful ones

Getting lost in a rainforest in Guatemala with my sister last summer until some ungodly hour of the morning probably takes the cake, yeah. That was, until all the people we were teaching English to sort of mobilized and found us. Those guys were awesome.

I’m hoping to change that soon, though, with this expedition I’m going on with my family starting later this month. The bad parts always do make the best stories, amiright?

Dusty

Bear with me, this gets a bit TMI…

I was sixteen years old. I had an immune system of steel. I hadn’t been sick in years. I was just about to head over to the United States for three weeks, the first time I’ve ever gone overseas, and being from Sydney it was literally on the other side of the world.

You guessed it. I started feeling unwell on the plane, and a few hours after arriving in LA the virus suddenly went into full swing and I was incapacitated. It was easily the worst illness I’ve ever had my entire life. Long after my stomach was empty my body continued to try and throw up every five to ten minutes (yes, that frequently), and because of that I was seriously sore. I threw up in public, we were watching a mediaeval show with horses and I couldn’t leave the bathroom because as soon as I smelled the horses I was sick again. We had to walk about a mile back, too.

It was so bad my parents were woken up in the middle of the night (this was about 2-3AM AEST) with a phone call asking for insurance details so a doctor could be called. They told them it would only cost about $100 or so, two hundred bucks tops. The doc showed up and gave me an injection in my ass which he said would take 45 minutes to work because of my small frame, and a few pills.

The injection took six hours to work and cost $600. I was falling asleep in between my body still trying to throw up, having not slept on the 14+hr flight (and that’s not including the NZ stopover). My poor, poor roommate. Finally at around 4-6AM Tuesday I got some peace and slipped into sleep. It was the worst, and literally longest Monday of my life.

Thankfully, the rest of the trip was a blast and in spite of having no appetite at all for three days (I lived on juice and lemonade until I finally got hungry again) it died down completely.

Today I think about it and grin about what a great story it makes, but I still can’t smell horses anymore without feeling sick.

sally1233

hi nice,but im already visit there,now im planning to visit rather than Cambodia or Vietnam next 2 months, does anyone know how to apply visa? I’m google around and came across http://www.evisaasia.com, does anyone try this website before? Is it reliable?

NomadicMatt

just apply at your local embassy.

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