Vacation time! Time to pack those bags and set off for a fun new adventure. Sometimes that travel adventure goes from a dream trip…to a total nightmare. Catching the sights and exploring a new culture turns into becoming lost, threatened, or even worse. Here are some travel horror stories that might make you rethink sitting on your couch and staying put!
When my friends and I were in Spain, we ran out of toilet paper. We thought we’d just use paper towels, as we only had one day left of our trip before heading back to London. We didn’t see the point in buying a whole pack of toilet paper for just a day. Big mistake. As it turns out, paper towels don’t dissolve that well in water and the toilet drains in Spain are small.
Our toilet flooded the next day. The whole apartment was overflowing with poo water. It wouldn’t stop, no matter how many times we mopped it. What was even worse was that the neighbors below us started complaining about water dripping from their kitchen ceiling. We didn’t have the heart to tell them it was toilet water falling into their kitchen.
The landlord was swearing at us in German when we called him about it.
This occurred when I was in Poland back in the early 90s. I was walking up the stairs to the ticket booths at the central train station in Warsaw. All of a sudden this dude started falling down the stairs. He finally came to rest a few stairs above where I was standing...and that’s when I saw it. The guy had a long screwdriver sticking out of his abdomen.
I was traveling by train around Europe with two other guys. We were on a very tight budget. We needed to take a very early train out of Munich, so we decided to sleep overnight on the upper concourse at the main train station. The area was pretty large with about 20 or 30 people sleeping there as well. Occasionally a few people walked through, but it was pretty quiet.
My two friends got to sleep quickly, but I just couldn't sleep. In the early hours, I heard shouting so I looked down to the lower level where there was this incredibly creepy guy picking fights with random people. He was pretty tattered, but the weird thing about him was that he had on a surgical neck brace with a large, white dish-shaped support for the back of his head that someone had drawn a scary face on.
The commotion lasted for a while as he picked fights with everyone and anyone until German officers intervened to take him out of the train station—but my nightmare wasn’t over yet. I was even less able to sleep now. My two buddies continued to snooze away obliviously while I kept watch. An hour or so later I heard fast, heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. The creepy guy was back but this time on our level.
He bent down to take a close look at some of the sleepers one-by-one before seemingly selecting one at random. He shook the guy awake. As the poor snoozer sat up, the creepy guy punched him hard in the face, shattering his nose. There was blood everywhere. Officers were quickly on the scene to grab the creepy guy for a second time that night.
The guy with the broken nose was treated by paramedics on the scene for a short while before being taken away. Meanwhile, my buddies slept through the whole thing. I didn't sleep a wink all night after that. There was still a large pool of blood on the concourse for me to show my friends when they did finally wake up to prove I didn't dream it!
I was traveling in Nicaragua when I got lost and ended up having to take a taxi at 9:30 pm back to my hostel. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, the driver locked the doors and told me that I had misunderstood the fare. He claimed I owed him $100 which was several times more than we had agreed upon. I tried to pry the doors open from the inside but was completely trapped.
Thankfully, he let me out of the taxi after taking all the money I had on me. The hostel workers told me I was incredibly lucky. A few days earlier, a taxi driver had kidnapped another young female, assaulted her, then dumped her barely conscious body in a field outside town thinking that she was dead. A few local schoolchildren found her on their way to school in the morning.
I was in Paris with my brother a few months after the Charlie Hebdo attack. We were up the Eiffel Tower for a couple of hours. When we came down we were walking towards where we were meeting a friend. Suddenly what felt like 100 people were running and yelling. I started running as well, out of instinct, with my brother grabbing the hood of my jacket.
As it turned out, it was only officers scaring away the gypsies.
I was in Seychelles and was warned prior about the taxi drivers quoting one price then demanding another. Of course, I got very tipsy the first night there and had to take a taxi even though I rented a car. The taxi driver and I agreed on a price to go to my hotel. When we pulled up he said I owed him $150, not rupees. I refused. He said he was going to call his boss to make me pay.
What do you know, his boss just happened to be there and walked up as were arguing. I came up with a plan. I threw what I owed him in the front seat, turned my body, and booted the locked door open. When I got out, the two of them try to grab my arm. I gently pushed them out of the way and walked to my hotel while they threatened to call the cops. Of course, no one came, and the doorman to my hotel was laughing.
I was on the red-eye and had stopped for a layover in New York. My friend and I were half asleep, sitting across from each other. That’s when we woke up to a disturbing surprise. A homeless guy snuck into the train, pulled his pants and underwear down, and tried to sit with my friend, encouraging her to "help him out."
I told him to find another place to sit and he pulled his pants up and moved, only to try the same thing to another woman, who was extremely vocal about it all.
In 2016 I went to Brussels on a school trip. We visited the train station before leaving for Germany. Several hours later all of our moms began calling and texting us asking where we were. As it turned out, there was an explosion at the train station in Brussels. It’s crazy to believe that the devices were probably already planted when we were there.
I'm paranoid of losing my wallet, so I'm always checking myself. I was on the Paris metro when someone shoved me into another person and tried to convince people I had knocked him down. I realized I had been pickpocketed and, well, they messed with the wrong person. I started making a bigger scene than the pickpockets were.
I actually stopped the train from leaving the station. One of the other passengers left to get the conductor and security. I guess that didn't sit well with the pickpockets, so they gave me back my wallet and took off running.
I was walking through the Tiergarten in Berlin, enjoying the park alone. I saw this guy standing on the edge of the walkway just looking off into the distance. I knew something was off about him—and sadly, I was right. I passed him and when I was about 20 feet away when he turned and followed after me, keeping pace. I started to take a very meandering path, even leaving the park and entering again. The guy stuck with me the whole way.
Eventually, I got to a place with some sharp turns and heavy greenery and was able to put myself up against a corner. I'd just bought a pocket knife from Switzerland, so I opened the blade and held it inside my jacket pocket. I stood there, waiting, and the guy came walking out of the path confused and obviously trying to see where I went. When he finally spotted me, he jolted.
He played it cool and continued walking as if he hadn't followed me there. He stopped a little ways ahead, and I kept watching him. I wanted to confront him, but since I was a visitor in the country, I thought better of it. Instead, I waited until I saw a big group of people leaving and fell in with them. He started to follow me, but I finally lost him outside the garden. It unsettled me because to this day I have no idea why he was following me.
My girlfriend and I were flying into Calgary from Kelowna. It's a short flight, so we're in a small plane. When we got to Calgary there was a lightning storm that was preventing us from landing. Our first attempt at landing was called off because of how violent the wind was. On our approach, we hit some severe wind and turbulence. We were being tossed around in the sky like a leaf.
A couple of times we hit dead air and just plummeted. I have flown many, many times and experienced my fair share of turbulence, but this was something else. I had to brace myself to prevent myself from exiting the seat when we inevitably hit dead air. People were screaming. It was the first time that I had ever truly felt that I was in danger while flying.
I was staying at a hostel by myself in Barcelona. I woke up in the middle of the night—and what I saw chilled me to the bone. There was a man staring at me while I was sleeping. He was looking over one of those wood-dividing screens that the shared room had. I pretended to still be asleep. I was afraid of what he would do if I moved or confronted him, and I didn't know if there was anyone else in the room.
He stared at me for almost two hours, until my alarm finally rang. I put all my stuff in my bag and left.
I was hiking in Peru and was told to watch my gear as locals, and apparently, foxes might make off with items left around the campsite. So my party and I made sure to clean the campsite extra well, packing all of our gear in the tent and inside the fly. After a long day hiking, we were off to bed. In the middle of the night, our tent started shaking like crazy.
I woke up freaking out thinking we were getting robbed. I started yelling and screaming. Part of the tent got pushed in really far. I managed to get outside and started swinging when I came face to face with a cow. It had wandered into the tent ropes and got startled. We were pretty lucky that it didn’t step down into the tent and hit us.
I was 22 and traveling through Italy alone. At the end of my trip, I was staying at a hostel in Rome and decided to make a day trip to Naples and Pompei. When I told the hostel employees my plan they all freaked out and said I shouldn’t go alone. Feeling confident, I shrugged off their worries and decided to make the trip anyway.
I took the wrong train and when I realized my mistake, I got off at some random stop in the outskirts of Naples. I figured there would be another train going back soon. Shortly after, local dudes started showing up on the opposite side of the tracks gesturing at me, muttering to each other. One even hopped down across the tracks and started pacing on my platform.
I had a pocket knife in my coat that I was grasping the whole time. It felt like forever before the next train showed up. Thankfully nothing happened but I was in panic mode and couldn’t wait to get out of Naples.
I was walking around a town in Algeria. I had wandered into a neighborhood, and noticed that there were hardly any people out. I started to feel a little uneasy. Then I saw an extremely tall man walking straight towards me, obviously with intent. He got closer, and I saw an older gentleman with a long grey beard wearing a grey tunic. I stopped.
He came right up to me and said, in pretty good English, “You’re not safe here, we need to get you off the street.” I said, “Okay,” and he told me to follow him. We walked a few blocks and came to a door. He told me to wait for a minute while he went inside. He opened the door again and invited me in. When I got inside, there were about a dozen men there.
They were all dressed in black and were staring at me. The man with the grey beard laid into them, and began getting very worked up. One of the younger guys went into the kitchen and brought out some tea and cookies, and offered them to me. I was drinking tea and trying to smile when one of the young guys asked where I was from.
When I told him I was from the States, he started talking about the CIA. Soon we were laughing, talking about smack about foreign policy, and drinking tea. After a bit, the older man invited me back to his apartment. He had a huge library. I gifted him a book that I had finished. That’s when I learned the terrifying truth about what had happened earlier.
He told me that his little brother, who was one of the younger men, was the leader of a radical group, which consisted of all the other men I had met. He had overheard them getting ready to kidnap me. Instead, he had shamed them for not being good hosts and for disrespecting him because it was his house. He said that I would be safe from then on.
I was on a three-hour taxi ride on the way to the airport from a rural part of Southern India. We were approaching a busy scene with loads of people standing around something. A guy had been hit off his moped. The bottom half of his body was completely mangled and blood was running through the streets. We all thought he was gone, but all of a sudden he lifted his head off the ground and started yelling.
I was on the verge of vomiting, but our driver was just shaking his head like it was a small annoyance and drove right on by without even an ounce of concern.
Back when I was a kid, my dad used to lead groups of college kids to Central and South America to build houses. One year he decided we should ride the chicken bus, but from Guatemala City to Mexico City. It was a long trip. When we got to the border, a man with a very large automatic weapon got on the bus and looked around.
He saw that we had about 15 college girls on the bus, and then went and talked to someone on the phone. About two minutes later, a bunch of armed men got on the bus and informed us that all the males had to get off the bus and line up in front of it. We all complied. The men then crammed into the bus while we waited in fear.
They finally got off the bus and we got back on and away. I remember my dad looking very pale and sweating bullets.
I was visiting Chicago from Seattle for a week. I had booked an Airbnb with a gentleman with the understanding that I would be in a household with maybe five other people. The Airbnb was marketed as close to trains, in a decent area, and the house looked clean with many useful amenities. When I arrived at the house, I found it run down, unclean, with only the sheets being changed by the maid.
On top of that, many appliances were broken and there was no potable water. Next, there were upwards of 15 people staying in the house. No one in the house knew about the other rooms from the listing. I dropped my things off to explore the city and noticed that the neighborhood was a bit sketchy, but thought nothing of it.
When I came back one of the other guests was sitting waiting for food delivery because he was too terrified to walk down the street and get food. The night before I arrived, three people in the house were mugged while walking five minutes from the train to the house. That night, eight of us sat on the floor of the living room and heard two separate occasions of shots fired a block away. I immediately moved to a hostel.
I was traveling by van through the mountains in the Philippines with a friend that is a really big guy. We came upon a checkpoint with army men searching cars. The guys were all wearing mismatched clothes and did not have any insignias on their uniforms or trucks. They searched all of our bags and were asking questions of the driver in Tagalog, which we did not speak.
We heard them say American and we were the only two Americans on the bus. They talked for a little while and finally waved us through. Later, we found out the disturbing truth. They told the story to another American and he said we had gone through a Guerrilla controlled area where Americans had been kidnapped for ransom lately.
They all agreed they did not take us because of the size of my friend. I think we got really lucky that day.
When I was 17, I was in a public restroom, near the Colosseum in Rome. I was taking a leak at a urinal when some dude rushed into the urinal right next to me, looked over the partition at my junk and he started fondling himself extremely violently. I had to go something fierce, so I was trying to cover up, avoid the guy, and not get pee all over myself.
Suddenly law enforcement officers came bustling in. They grabbed the guy who was pleasuring himself and started yelling at me in Italian very loudly. I zipped up my pants and threw my hands in the air and simply said, “English” and “American.” They demanded to see my passport and then hauled the guy off. Definitely, not a good experience.
I'm a single female and found a cheap ticket to Aruba, so I decided to use it as a chance to get my advanced diver certificate. While there, I went on a horse riding trip where the tour picked up a group in a minivan. On the way back, the driver skipped my stop and dropped off the last riders at their hotel. I was unsure of my surroundings but felt this was odd, so I asked why we drove past my place.
The driver told me he was taking a different way. I said, "That doesn't make any sense. The traffic is fine. It's more direct this way. Can we just go back?" He was quiet and kept driving, and now my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears. He said, "There's a great beach down this way; not many tourists."
At this point, he was driving through the backside of a shopping complex. There was nobody in sight and it was dusk. I was considering whether or not I should try to jump out of a moving vehicle, but because I'd get stranded in an empty parking lot, I thought it would be all too easy for him to grab me again. Instead, I came up with a different plan. I said, "I can't.”
I told him, “There are people waiting for me. I just texted them saying I'm in the car on the way home and will be there in a few minutes. I'll be late if we don't go back now." Somehow that worked, he turned the car around and his whole attitude changed. He started telling me how he had a wife and kids. My heart was thundering.
I had zero cell phone reception and the story about the text was a lie. I had no way to phone for help if he had called my bluff.
When I was 16, I took a high school trip to France and Italy. While in Florence, we went into a disco as a group of six teenage girls. We were all separated pretty much immediately by the dudes there. I had some Italian guy grab me, slam me against the wall, and try to make out with me. I pushed him back hard and kneed him in the crotch.
He left yelling at me, but I didn't care. I tried to find the other girls. We got everyone back together except for one. We went searching for her. We found her outside walking back into the club, non-communicative, and missing half her clothes. She wouldn't talk at all and it was pretty clear something horrible had happened. She refused to go to the hospital and we found her sweatshirt and bag in the alley but nothing else.
She didn't talk for the rest of the trip and she switched high schools immediately after that when we got back home.
I was working in a small village in Romania helping to build an extension to a school. At around dusk, I decided to go for a short walk to the local shop for some water, when a car drove past me. They suddenly stopped and reversed down the road and stopped beside me. They told me to get into their car, as they want to show me their cool things.
They kept slowly curb crawling me, demanding I get in the car. I got back to my group whereby they sped off. For the next couple of days, what looked like the same car kept driving past and stopping outside where we were staying, and I was staying a good hour away from the village.
It was my first solo trip abroad. When I was 19, I traveled to a sea turtle conservation program in Costa Rica. I was prescribed Lariam as an antimalarial. It is not something that is prescribed anymore…because the side effects can be dramatic and terrible. Not just headaches, but things like psychosis, and feelings of dread.
There was a group of about 30 of us who were living in a jungle on the Caribbean coast, then trekking to the beach for the turtle project in rotating shifts each day. I was a week into the program when I started to get the feeling that something was "off," but couldn't figure out what it was. Everyone was super nice and the project was pretty well-run.
I started having these truly awful nightmares that were just terrifying. I would wake up drenched in sweat, not just from the heat and humidity, in a near-panic. The jungle there was COMPLETELY pitch black. It’s so dark that the whole place just closes around you. About two weeks into what was supposed to be a three-month trip, I was consumed day and night with this feeling of dread.
I was certain this was going to be the end for me. There was no logic to it, and it was terrifying because I couldn't find any reason to feel the way I did. One night near the beginning of my third week there, my cabin was out on beach patrol looking for nesting turtles, and eggs to bring back to the hatchery for safekeeping. We got back and the whole place had been robbed.
There were no passports taken, but toiletries, clothing, some money, and other basic supplies were gone, including my bag, which had the Lariam in it. I told the coordinator I couldn't stay, got on the bus back to San Jose a few hours later, and caught a flight back to the US two days later. I spent a couple of nights in an airport hotel having the worst screaming nightmares.
Ultimately, since my Lariam was stolen, I was back to normal within about a week and a half.
I was in Guatemala traveling from Antigua to Guatemala City. Apparently, there is a shortcut called “The Trap” that we took. It was terrifying. We plowed over rivers at about 45 mph because bridges were out, and were flung to the side of mile-high sandstone cliffs going about 80 mph. My buddy passed out due to the trauma. I asked why we were going so fast. The driver replied, "It's a trap after the sun goes down."
I didn't fully understand. At around sundown, he stated that there were no monsters on the trap, only the chicken bus. There were no lights and he told us we would need to pull over and camp until daylight. It seems that on this stretch of road, chicken buses would often run people off the roads at night without a care. I was hesitant to believe it at first but saw the carcasses of several SUVs like ours along the river on the road we were on.
I was walking to a pharmacy down a busy avenue in Rabat, Morocco. It was the Feast of the King so most people had off work and school, hence the avenue was empty. Two other females and I were walking and chatting when two guys on a motorbike passed us the opposite way. They drove over the median and pulled up beside us. The guy on the back got off.
He walked toward us and pulled a machete out from underneath his flannel. One of the girls threw her purse, and the second threw her phone. Both went running. The guy came after me and I wrapped my hand around my purse which had my passport, wallet, phone, etc. He held the machete up to my neck. I said a few choice words to him in Arabic, essentially, “Shame on you by Allah.”
The saying was something I was taught by locals to keep the kids I was working with at the orphanage in line. The guy got spooked. He went after the dropped phone and purse, and I started running the rest of the way to the pharmacy, where I met the other two girls I was with. People started to congregate. Some witnessed what had happened while driving by, and others were trying to translate for us.
A woman said she would drive us home after speaking with the security guard at the pharmacy. We agreed and got into her minivan. We thought our ordeal was over—we were so, so wrong. I provided directions in Arabic and the woman drove right past the house, blowing stop signs and ignoring traffic lights. We realized we were about to get kidnapped. One of the two girls reached forward, opened the door of the van, and we jumped out while it was moving.
I arrived in Athens on a train from the north and got into a taxi. The taxi pulled over at the end of the railway station driveway and four guys jumped out of the bushes and into the car. The thing that saved me was a bunch of other angry cab drivers that descended on my taxi because they thought he was trying to get the jump on free rides without waiting in line.
Hands down the scariest travel moment of my life.
I was on a volunteer trip to Guatemala and we took a day trip to see some Mayan ruins on a small island. My friend and I were looking for a bathroom. Several locals pointed us in the direction of one at the top of the mountain. We found a small building with no door and one toilet. My friend said I could go first while she stood watch.
I started going about my business when I heard my friend saying that I should hurry up. I heard a man’s voice shouting something in Spanish about “permiso.” Out of nowhere, he barged in while I’m mid pee, pointing a very large pistol at me. He had some sort of uniform on so he may have been law enforcement, but I wasn’t sure. I pulled up my pants, completely paranoid, grabbed my friend, told him “Lo siento”(I’m sorry) over and over.
I ran as fast as I could down the hill. He was shouting after us but didn’t follow. Although nothing happened I was terrified and my poor friend still had to pee!
I was in a small fishing town in Mexico with a class. We were living with families in the town so we could learn about their culture and how to speak Spanish. I was sitting on the curb waiting for my host family to come out of the grocery store when a homeless man came up and sat next to me. He told me his entire life story. Considering what happened next, I wish I’d gotten up and left.
I thought it was a genuine interaction, however, I was not surprised when he proceeded to ask me for money. After saying no and trying to walk away, he grabbed my ponytail and pulled me down to the ground. The father of the family I was living with walked out and saw what was going on. He ripped the guy away from me and beat him upright on the street.
I was eating with friends at a restaurant in Bali. It was about 10 pm and we had had a long day of travel and surfing. We were enjoying ourselves when we noticed a couple of men walking up and down the street with white robes and big swords. One of them made the restaurant owner turn off all the lights in the building, and then, more and more of the robed men started showing up.
It was getting frantic as they were running from place to place getting all the lights shut. They were even breaking windows to get into locked stores whose owners had gone home for the day. Cars were being herded off the road, and we were told not to drive or we could be hurt. People were talking of animals being sacrificed and spirit gods on the loose.
We were a 15-minute drive from our rooms and we only knew one way there. We began brainstorming on the best course of action, which turned out to be to start walking and see if we can find it. Even in a city, it can get dark when the lights are out. The place we were staying at was a typical Balinese-style building with a swimming pool in the middle that had a temple built into it.
It was our second night in Bali and we were looking into a nicer place to stay for the rest of the trip but this place was clean, and right now I just wanted to be there. I kept scanning my memory trying to imagine a route that we could use to walk home. Climbing fences and crossing dark fields were in that plan. We were scared but ready for the adventure that we were facing. Slowly, yet vigilantly, we walked down the sidewalk
Suddenly, I saw the Wayan. He was the westernized local guy who helped us get our rental car. He told us that indeed the spirit of Kali had to find a new mask, which meant goats and chickens were being sacrificed in the streets. He also told us that there was no electricity, cars included, that could be used during this ritual of sorts. He did not want us to leave the rental car at the restaurant, so he said he would drive us home in our car.
We hopped in the car and he began driving with no lights on. He said we could go around the happenings, but he didn’t buy into the religious beliefs of the white-robed men and decided we could drive straight through past them. I was scared again. They stopped our car. The local guy had some words with the armed guys and then he punched the gas.
Our car was slow, so the guys swamped our car and started pounding on it! The car finally gained enough speed and we were able to break free. We all made it out alive. Later, I asked how often such a thing happens, meaning when was the last time Kali needed a new mask? "Never in my lifetime," was the old man’s response.
My best friend and I went on a Caribbean cruise a couple of years ago. Well, my friend didn’t bring any cash, so I was left paying for everything on the islands since not many of the little local shops took credit cards. We got off in Jamaica and decided to take a bus over to Doctors Cave Beach, a private beach that you have to pay to gain access to.
I didn't have enough money to get us off the bus that took us to the beach. Some kind stranger loaned us $5, but that meant I needed cash to pay these people back. We stopped by an ATM to pull out money, but it didn’t work. Next to it was a lady on her cell phone, so we asked her where the nearest ATM was. She told us it was at the airport, which was a good walk.
She then said she could get us cash if we followed her. She said that she owned a shop, and we could use a credit card to pay her $40 worth of credit, and she would just give us the cash back so we could continue on our way. I was wary, but my best friend is trusting to a fault, so we went. She led us to a tiny out-of-the-way marketplace which was a little worrying. People were milling about watching us.
The area was impoverished and after a while, I could barely hear the street traffic. We got to her shop and a “friend” of hers had followed us from the main road, beckoning us to come to her shop as well. We said thanks, but no thanks, rebuffing multiple requests. We milled around in the store while the shopkeeper found her card reader. She kept suggesting things for us to buy, so we bought a few keychains.
While we were looking, a man came into the store and wrapped a bracelet around my wrist, saying how beautiful it looked. The shopkeeper took one look at him and said, “That's not free, he wants you to pay for that.” He quickly took the bracelet off and took off. She finally escorted us back to the main road and the entrance to the beach.
I was traveling in Costa Rica with two flashy businessmen who were looking to purchase a club. We were staying at a nice hotel and asked the concierge to get us a cab to the club. We got in and made sure that the driver knew where we were going. We were told it was a 10-minute drive. About seven minutes in, I realized that we were not in a touristy part of town at all.
When I looked up, I began to feel a creeping sense of dread. The driver was whispering into his phone in Spanish and staring at us in the rearview mirror. I got uneasy and looked at my companions, who were clearly feeling the same way. We asked if we were almost there. He replied, “Oh si! Uno momento.” Then, there was more whispering. Ten minutes had passed and we were now in a sketchy residential area.
My partner opened up his briefcase and handed me a pen and told me to stab someone if I needed to. He passed another pen to the other man. My partner who was sitting directly behind the driver took out his gold pen and held it to the driver’s jugular and screamed, “TAKE US BACK TO THE RADISSON RIGHT NOW.” The other man snatched the driver’s phone and hung up. I was just clutching the pen. Luckily, we made it back to the hotel.
It was my first night in Canada and I was spending it in a cheap hotel in Montreal, before continuing to Quebec City the next day. The place smelled of smoke and I could hear people making noise in the other rooms. It had an ensuite, free Wi-Fi, and a TV, and I had been traveling all day, so I didn’t care. While I was sleeping, the bathroom door opened and the light switched on.
I was too scared to get up and confront the person, and besides, I was sleeping in the buff. Through half-closed eyes, I could see a person standing at the door of the ensuite facing me. They stood there for about 25 seconds then switched the light off and disappeared. I checked my phone. It was about 2 am, and somehow, after that, I fell back asleep. The next morning I checked out and got out of there, never mentioning it to anyone.
My friend and I took a wrong turn on our way to a museum while in Bogota. We were looking at a map to try to find the way. All of a sudden I was against a wall with a knife at my throat. They took everything we had on us, but for some reason one of them went through my wallet and gave me back all my credit cards, ID, and passport. I guess he was a good guy mugger.
I was in Iceland and was driving around the ring road with a friend. We stopped for the night at a cabin called the "Lambafell Hotel." I had a horrible nightmare while staying there. I dreamt that I was being pulled underwater in some weird, Icelandic lake. It was one of those realistic dreams that caused me to jump up gasping for breath.
We continued the drive the next day, but my friend insisted on stopping and hiking up a beautiful waterfall called Systrafoss. We pulled over and hiked up to its water source. That’s when I made a horrifying realization. This lake was exactly like the one in my nightmare. I mentioned that I had a terrible dream about this same lake.
We got close to the water’s edge and saw a sign that told the history of the lake. It told how a medieval monastery used to be there and was moved after nuns kept going missing in the lake as they bathed. An eyewitness of the time said she saw a hand offering golden shoes to the nuns and would pull them under once they got close enough.
The lake was called Systravatn. I had the same nightmare again at the next stop. I just wanted to get as far away from that island as possible after.
It happened while on a mission trip to El Salvador in the late 80s. Our group decided to stop by a small seaside village for sightseeing. The village seemed deserted but didn't think much of it, since it was early Sunday morning and most Salvadorans would be in church. When we tried to approach the cliff overlooking the ocean, we were stopped by armed men.
They said that the cliff was unstable, even though they were parking their jeep on it. After they left, they were relaxing on the opposite side of the large cove about a mile away. One of the missionaries decided to pull out some binoculars to take a look at the cliff we were just at. That's when we realized what had happened—it was so, disturbing, it’s impossible to forget.
The missing villagers weren't in church at all. They were in a pile at the bottom of the cliff, dead. The army had rounded up the entire village and killed them all.
I was in Romania when a woman kept a one-sided haggling conversation in her language all the while shoving the tiny child at me. A swarm of young children kept touching me and my clothes. I had to raise my voice to put a stop to it. I walked away and went back to the village where I was staying. After telling my hosts the bizarre tale, they proceeded to inform me that the child was most likely stolen from somewhere else in Romania.
Apparently reselling newborn kids to international tourists was a local racket.
My husband had a month-long job in Japan, so we decided to join him for the last week of his stay. My husband, daughter, and I had made reservations to go to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, which was about an hour by train outside of Tokyo. We left earlier than planned because he had to get back for a business call. We would continue up to Harajuku after his subway stop.
Two stops before we were to get off and part ways, the train came to an immediate stop. There was a frantic Japanese voice that came over the speaker. Shortly after that, the car started rocking. It kept rocking and rocking for about ten minutes. After about half an hour, the car slowly crawled to the next station. We saw people taking out their phones and start texting, something you never saw on the subway there, so we knew it was bad.
A friendly English-speaking woman informed us that there had been a bad earthquake, and the trains were shutting down. We walked two miles back to the hotel. We had to stay in the lobby for eight hours while maintenance checked the building for damages before we could go up to our rooms. The aftershocks continued for the next five days before we flew back home.
I was getting nervous when they started talking about us taking iodine pills because of the power plant emissions.
I was traveling from Pereira to Buga in Colombia to visit the massive church there. Law enforcement there doesn’t pull people over, they just stand on the road and wave people to the side. They waved at us and asked for ID. I didn’t have my passport, only my driver’s license. My girlfriend’s dad had both his and her Colombian IDs. I broke out my NJ license.
The officers took it and went back to talk. My girlfriend’s dad told us that we were basically about to get shaken down. They came back and told us that if we paid them 200,000 COP (about $65) that we would be able to pass. I refused and showed them my officer’s badge. That seemed to shake them up. They got nervous and let us go on our way.
Part of my time in Zambia was spent in a very isolated village called Lubwe in the northernmost province of the country. It was about a 12-hour bus ride to the closest established city or village with any sort of infrastructure. The bus was overstuffed, had cracked windows, and stunk because people were allowed to bring small livestock with them. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
The front door was being held closed by a towel tied to the handrail on the bus stairs, and it stalled three times before even leaving the station. The members of my group and I were uncomfortable. Though late, we finally got out of the bus station and onto the road where we had to make a wide right turn. The bus stalled yet again, cutting off traffic.
Among those we cut off was a small army brigade, and they were angry with our bus. They started flagging the bus to pull over once we got back up and running. We didn’t. The group mounted the curb in their truck and started screaming and waving for us to stop. Our conductor opened the door and let them know we were going to continue.
That didn’t go over well. They dismounted the curb and made sure our bus didn’t go any further. Our conductor, the driver, and a coach hand got off the bus with a few other passengers and a huge screaming match began. The bus crew got pulled onto the truck and proceeded to get beat up. I had the unfortunate luck of being seated where I could see everything unfold.
After a moment, I saw three new guys get on our bus and it took off without any warning, leaving the old crew stranded and my group in a panic. It was now getting dark so none of us knew where we were headed. We thought that we were being taken, but then we started to make stops and realized that it was some backup crew from the bus line. Most stressful bit of travel in my life.
I fell asleep on a long-distance bus ride in Greece and woke to a toothless old woman running her fingers through my hair. She kept repeating something in Greek over and over. The other riders found it hilarious but wouldn't tell me what she was saying. Unfortunately, I couldn't get off the bus, so I had to make her get away from me. I then sat there mad and embarrassed for the remaining 90 minutes of the trip.
I was in Hong Kong for a weekend and was excited. One day we were waiting to cross the street. It was raining heavily and all of a sudden an old lady was running across the road and got hit by a car. I saw it, I heard when the car hit her, and I heard it when her body hit the ground. I heard her family screaming and crying, running to her along with random people trying to help. It was terrible.
My family and I were on a long-awaited trip to Hawaii. On the first day there, my brothers and my father went surfing, while I stayed on the beach with my mom playing in the water. After about two hours, we were wondering what was taking them so long. I saw my father swimming while my brother lay on the surfboard. My brother tried to stay on his board when a wave hit him and his foot scraped along a coral reef and hit a sea urchin.
He had 63 quills in one foot. He was wheelchair-bound for the entire trip.
I was on a road trip with friends driving on Route 50 in Nevada, AKA The Loneliest Road in America. I was sitting in the backseat and we were all laughing and joking until my friend who was driving said that the car had run out of gas. There was nothing for miles. Luckily, one of my friends had one bar of signal and was able to call for a tow truck.
We were stuck with no AC, one bottle of water, and one bag of chips for six long hours waiting on the tow truck.
I had just settled into my hotel in Egypt. It was starting to get late and the sun was about to set. I wanted to head out and explore my surroundings for a bit while I was there. As soon as I stepped out, I heard automatic fire not too far away. There were screaming women and people running towards me. I quickly turned around, walked back into the hotel, and went back to my room.
I went to visit Ukraine because my parents wanted to see the small villages where their parents were born. We have no family in the area, so we hired a guide to take us around since the country can be a bit corrupt. As we were driving on the highway, we suddenly were stopped in traffic. It was the middle of nowhere.
The guide got out of the car and took a look around, then quickly jumped back into the car, made a U-turn, and drove off telling us we couldn’t go to the village because of a Russian Army roadblock.
I got my phone pickpocketed on the subway in New Delhi. I was able to grab one of the thieves but he didn't have my phone. That’s when sheer chaos broke out. A mob of random commuters beat him up at the next stop. Law enforcement arrived and continued to beat him with cricket bats. We took him to the station, told him to call his friend who had the phone.
His friend wouldn't come. The officers proceeded to close the door to their office, with the thief inside. I’ll never forget the sounds I heard. Just near-constant screams. I waited and waited, the officer brought the thief into my room with a black plastic bag. He threw him on the dirt ground, opened the bag, and pulled out my phone from a bag of curry—but the punishment didn’t stop there.
He threw the curry on the ground and made the thief eat it. He even gave him a spoon.
I was in New Zealand trekking Fox Glacier with my boyfriend. We were getting towards the end, but still at least about a half a mile to go. All of a sudden there’s a loud CRACK. The stairs collapsed beneath my boyfriend and he plummeted. I grabbed his hand and screamed out to him to hold on, but the glacier had made us wet, numb, and slippery.
His fingers slipped through mine, and I watched him fall down the crevice, about 30 feet. He rolled and hit clumps of ice until his body stopped just before a cliff that was held up by a wedge of ice. He is now my husband and still gets shoulder and knee pain from the accident, but he is whole. I will never forget the sound I made screaming out his name down the crevice.
My wife, sister, daughter, and I were on a train from Paris to Portugal. The overnight portion was in Spain, and we ended up sharing a sleeper car with a nice couple from New Zealand. Around dinner time, my sister and I checked out the cafe car. There was a table full of guys that seemed pretty inebriated. When we went to sleep, the man from New Zealand and I slept in the top bunks.
When we woke up in the morning, my sister said to my wife, "Did you hear someone try entering our car last night?" As it turned out, he and I were the only ones who hadn't heard someone frantically trying to open the door during the night. I jumped down and checked the door, which was locked. I then went out into the passageway and made a gruesome discovery. There was blood all over the walls.
It looked like someone had been cut pretty bad and was perhaps trying to find help or maybe a bathroom or something. Imagine being on a moving train while your hands were covered in blood and moving from car to car while trying to maintain your balance. I ended up going to the bathroom and grabbing napkins to open doors and such.
No one explained anything, no one cleaned anything. Just another day on the rail with blood all over the walls.
We went to Thailand and got picked up at the airport by a guy who we thought was from our hotel. We were standing together as a family waiting for our pick up and someone must have said my name loudly and the guy probably overheard. He came over and said my name and asked “Party of Four? Hotel pickup? Ahh yes yes yes…just confirm for me which hotel.”
I showed him my reservation and he improvised from there. Between the language barrier and jet lag, I just wasn’t thinking straight. We got into the car. He drove us for about 15 minutes before we ended up in some random alley. He started yelling at us to get out. Two more young guys were in the alley, opened the doors on both sides, and forced us out.
They didn’t even have guns, though one guy had a knife. It was completely terrifying. Originally they wanted us all to strip. My husband and my dad looked particularly disturbed by that and were ready to fight it out. The guys shifted gears and took our jewelry, wallets, passports, phones, and drove off with our luggage still in the trunk.
There we were, literally penniless, phoneless, and ID-less just an hour after getting off the plane.
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