Travel is amazing, but it’s time to ‘fess up. I have a few travel horror stories to tell. Sometimes travel sucks. It can be hard, exhausting, dangerous, boring or just plain icky. If you are squeamish or don’t like reading about matters lavatorial, maybe this isn’t the post for you.
Here are some of my worst, or best, of our travel horror stories from a lifetime of travel, the last 5 years being travel horror stories with kids. Don’t be put off, we got through it all and looking back makes us smile, mostly.
Travel Horror Stories
Travel Horror Stories With Kids – Where the Kids are the Horror.
We’ve visited hospitals in too many countries!
My kids’ holiday isn’t complete without a visit to A&E. Very scary croup in Wales, prolonged vomiting in London, a dislocated elbow in Perth, blood tests in Laos and a very horrible hospital experience in South Africa.
That, and suspected glandular fever in Florida, but at $800 to see a GP, we didn’t go.
We lived in Australia so maybe it doesn’t count, but we’ve had concussion, fevers, worms, nits and Giardia . Read about what fun impetigo or school sores is by clicking the link. It’s another joy of tropical living, it’s not only the kids that get it, this time they gave it to me.
Children can also be grumpy, uncooperative, argumentative or tired, they can easily spoil your plans and be their own adorable little travel horror story. It’s best not to get too hung up on plans.
Occasionally they make our lives more difficult, but they’re beautiful, fun, amazing little human beings and I wouldn’t have our lives any other way,
The Worst Public Toilets
I have no problem with squat toilets, they’re fine and, to be honest, we rarely encounter them, but sometimes things are just weird.
In China, Tibet and Cuba some public conveniences had no doors, no cubicles, no privacy.
Squatting over a channel with a toilet attendant tapping me on the head wanting payment for using her facilities was a new and interesting experience.
Or there was the pig toilet in an undeveloped part of Goa. A squat toiled, a hole in the floor really, with a porcine snout a few feet from your nether regions. I know it’s recycling, but it was a little unnerving.
Toilets on long distance Indian trains can be a horror story in their own right, but, you get used to it. Train toilets in the UK aren’t a bed of roses either, remember that before complaining too much.
No Toilets at All
Squatting by the roadside when I was cycling across Cuba. The cane fields were too snake infested to venture off the road. We would all line up together at rest stops. You get used to it, it becomes a sociable activity.
Or turning up to catch a bus from Nepal into India, it was a few hours on the roof, no toilets, nowhere to hide. I hung on for a very long time. Girls are much better at this than boys, in my experience.
Stories of Sickness While Travelling
Touch wood, I’ve never had anything too nasty in the way of sickness, but Chef had 5 days of terrible tummy bother in Varanasi and Calcutta.
It’s really boring hanging around while somebody else is sick!
Luckily, no doctors needed and I was a good nurse, I didn’t give him a hard time.
He had another bad dose in Laos, again, the rest of us escaped.
There was also the small matter of his surgery in Thailand. He’s more trouble than the kids!
Travelling and Boredom. Yes Travel is Boring Sometimes
Ever spent a whole day in Mt Isa, Queensland waiting for a bus?
Once you’ve been to the flying doctor museum, and it’s tiny, that’s it. Not one of my most exciting travel horror stories, just a very long day spent in KFC.
Or did you ever put up with the most boring man in the world and his halitosis on a ten hour flight? You’re a captive audience and it’s hard to feign sleep when travelling with a baby.
Then there was that time in Fort Lauderdale airport, 15 hours of waiting in possibly the least interesting airport on earth.
Strangely, I don’t get bored on buses and trains, so long as I can look out of the window I’m a very happy traveller, we’ve spent days and nights on moving vehicles, all good.
Tales of Danger While Travelling
So much scary stuff. White knuckle moments on buses are common with the Himalayas providing the ultimate in terror. Then there are those horrible foot bridges on the way up to Everest, but there have been a few notably intense stand-alone incidents.
Trekking in the Himalayas on the Annapurna Circuit and finding the mountain side had recently been taken out by a huge land slide was memorable. It was a week’s walk back down, or we had to cross. Picking our way across deep, sticky mud praying it wouldn’t all start moving again wasn’t nice. Despite that, and a couple of nearby avalanches, trekking in Nepal is one of our best experiences ever.
Or there was the time I was alone, separated from my dive group, not a boat in site, while scuba diving the Yongala wreck off Townsville. This is an area known for tiger sharks. It was seriously terrifying!
Once, in a motel in Lake Tahoe USA, we had a gunman and armed cops running around outside. Actually, we just though that was cool and didn’t see the danger at the time.
We were in a fairly large earthquake in Peru, the hotel shook but the Inca buildings were rock solid. The Incas were incredible builders. We’ve felt many, many after shocks in Nepal too, they’re scary. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be there for the big quake, but we saw the devastation just a few months afterwards.
There was once a green mamba in the shower cubicle at St Lucia Wildlife Park in South Africa. Lovely rangers saved me, but I rather like snakes and honestly it was great to see one.
I once saw live rabbits being skinned for the pot in a market in China. I can cope with most things, but that had me in tears. I know worse things happen at sea, but I’m a bunny hugger.
Rats, We See Them All the Time While Travelling
Now , I actually don’t mind rats at all and the kids find them fascinating but I get that some people are freaked out by them.
We see rats a lot, in London, in New York, in Australia, all over Thailand and just about everywhere else. But some rat encounters are more unusual than others.
There was that time we had a few hours to wait in the middle of the night at Chennai train station. People were sleeping all over the platforms with rats creeping between the bags and bodies.
I stood up the whole time and collapsed onto that train when it finally arrived.
Also in India we saw a food cart, bread omelette, my favorite, locked for the night. The rats were scuttling about inside the glass cabinets, all over the plates. Could you still order food there?
Or there was the rat as big as a labrador puppy that once wandered through the restaurant in Sri Lanka,
“Don’t worry, all restaurants have rats Sir” said the proprietor.
He was probably right. One climbed straight up the wall in front of us in a restaurant in Saigon.
Last year in Hoi An we were there for the flooding and annual rat exodus. Only once did one run over my foot but they were everywhere for the preceding weeks and much diminished afterwards.
Do We See Spiders Often On the Road ?
I really don’t like spiders. But we run into big ones less often than you might expect.
I once went elephant trekking early in the morning through the jungle of North Thailand. On elephant back you are just the right height to go directly through all the golden orb spider webs slung between the trees. That’s those things pictured up top. They are as big as my hand and one ended up on my arm. I freaked, shut my eyes and waited for it to all be over.
Stopping for a food break on an all day bus trip in Vietnam, from Sapa to Hanoi, we found the whole place, ceiling, walls, totally overrun with large arachnids. No way could I go in there, I went hungry instead.
Also in Hoi An, where we lived for 6 months, we had huntsman spiders in our rooms twice.
The tarantula in the featured image was in my back garden back home in Port Douglas.
The toilet hut in one of the villages we stayed in during a Hill Tribe Trek in Thailand had so many spiders I couldn’t go in there . My poor friend, got hit by tummy bother that night. She said she was on first name terms with all of them but so sick she just didn’t care.
Yuk, Bad Food Experiences During Travel
Having to eat food to be polite is hard for some of us sometimes. Meeting a family of nomads in Mongolia was an incredible experience but I have a strong aversion to milk which made sipping mares milk tea, complete with flecks of blood, pretty unpleasant.
The home made biscuits that came with the tea were good, if full of horse hair. But we were perfect guests, we did what we had to do and smiled politely.
I hope to God that nobody ever expects me to drink butter tea as it’s my worst culinary nightmare.
Finding a dead cockroach in the bottom of my soup, in Lao wasn’t too good, but the soup was great.
Ouch, Accidents and Injuries
A lady dropping her bottle of spirits on my head on an aeroplane, a fellow traveler spilling hot coffee all over me, sunburn, mozzy bites, sore feet, scrapes from a scooter crash, sore back from trekking and carrying a pack. There are lots of ouchy moments.
I had THE bag stolen at Cairns Airport when we were emigrating. The one with the paperwork, cameras, photos, jewelry and insurance. It was horrible, very traumatic and it still upsets me now to know that somebody just took my valuables and threw all my photos of the kids and our wedding in the bin.
It’s always the hurt that gets to me more, we had two petty thefts in Malaysia, nothing too valuable, but I can never believe that someone would do that to me and the kids.
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Yet, we carry on, despite the travel horror stories
Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we LOVE it.
We just keep on coming back for more.
The good far outweighs the bad and a lot of the bad is kind of good , in a way. It makes for amazing memories and stories.
You’ll find more on this theme in the post “My Biggest Travel Regrets“, a post I was tagged to write by Bethaney at Flashpacker Family. It was hard, I’m not good at having regrets.
Don’t worry, all this happened to us over 20 years of travelling, 5 years nomadic. You’re unlikely to run into any difficulties on your next trip. Have you got any good travel horror stories to share?