Social Media are brimming with beautiful and dreamy pictures and inspiring travel stories of the perfect trips motivating us to set off for our own journey.
Little do we see about epic fails or creepy situations that we encounter during our travels.
And I assure you, the more you travel, the greater is the chance to find yourself in awkward situations, especially when you are in an unfamiliar country and you don’t speak the same language.
Those stories are what make the trip worth living. Because they take out the best in us and allow us to connect with the people and their culture.
In this post, I have gathered some short funny travel stories from different travelers who were kind enough to share their travel adventures with us.
How Could I Not LOVE YOU, New York!
by Martina Grossi @ The Global Curious
My last night at the Big Apple was going to be grand, and I was ready to nail my very own empire state of mind -can’t skip a classic NY cliché right!?
Things were planned to a T. I’d been in New York for 10 days, then Boston for a week, and back to New York for just 1 night before it was time to fly home.
What awaited was a night at the Williams Hotel in Brooklyn, catching up on Broadway’s cheap last-minute deals, and heading to that tiny jazz club for the ultimate NY farewell. I’d be ready to hit the streets by 2 pm, not long after my bus Boston-New York had arrived.
Or so I thought so…
Let’s skip the fact that the bus left Boston 2 hours late. Let’s ALSO skip the fact that the subway wasn’t working, so I took the -wrong- train, not once but twice, only to find out that trains don’t stop in all stations -oh-how-fun!
Nevermind my huge suitcase and backpack jam-packed with stuff my friends bought on Amazon, putting a solid extra 10 kgs on my luggage. Luggage that I had to carry up and down the metro stairs countless times.
Also, nevermind that my suitcase’s handle broke, so I ended up dragging it while its wheels kept hooking my snickers and taking them off.
All along, what kept me going was the expectation of a nice hotel and the amazing night ahead.
I guess I should’ve seen it coming -considering my luck that day.
When I got to the hotel’s address, it was a tool shop. You know like…, not a place where you’d sleep, but where you’d buy drills and nails. NO ONE in the area knew anything about the Williams Hotel -you have got to be kidding me!
I had no budget for paying another hotel. And no energy to take a stroll with a broken suitcase. And I was hungry as hell.
All I could do was to shed tears of anguish while eating a cheeseburger at Burger King. Then calmly hop on the train again, head to the airport, and wait for my flight onsite.
What followed was the best ‘airport-blues’ of my life. I tried to make a bed with napkins -not as comfy as one would think. I also listened to a woman play the cello, ate a Campbell’s Soup, read a book about a girl who wants to date a guy, and slept sitting on a chair with the straps of my backpack wrapped around my legs.
The following morning I said to myself…whatever, I’ll just roll with it! I only have a 6-hours flight to Los Angeles, then a 6-hours layover, then a 14-hours flight to Sydney, another 13-hours layover, and a 3-hours flight to Christchurch! Easy-peasy!
So you can imagine after a trip home that took about 72hs, I was stoked to get to Christchurch only to find out my partner had fallen asleep and wasn’t there to pick me up!
In a parallel Universe, I did get to the hotel, Broadway, and the jazz club. But I missed the joys of budget travel, broken suitcases, non-existing hotels, long layovers, and shedding a tear or two over what I knew was going to be a good travel story. Till the next time NY!
Getting Stuck in Delhi Airport
By Dave Chant, @ davechant.com
I was stuck at Delhi International Airport. My return flight back went Kathmandu to Delhi to Mumbai to London. I didn’t mind the extra stops and I had the time to do it.
Except I missed a tiny detail, with a massive consequence.
Landing in Delhi and then taking a Delhi to Mumbai flight meant that I had to transit from the international to the domestic terminal and take my bag with me.
That meant officially entering India. And to do so I needed a Visa. I did not have one, nor was there in 2010 anyway of getting a Visa on arrival. I was officially stuck.
Since I could not clear passport control, I had only one other option. An international plane flight out of Delhi. I don’t remember the sequence of events 10 years on, but I do remember there was a Jet airways desk before the International transfers channels and I do remember having to buy another flight direct from Delhi to London.
I was badly paid, and strapped for cash and winced at spending another £400. But it had to be done.
And the next flight out was just less than 24hours later. Finally, I was armed with a boarding pass and thereby allowed to enter International Departures.
I had a tin of Pringles crisps and an ice tea, and no Indian Rupees. The hours were stretched out before me. Luckily, Delhi International Airport had just been rebuilt and looked fantastic. Unluckily, it was so bright there were no comfortable dark corners to hide and sleep in.
24hrs went slowly. I read. I dozed fitfully.
I rationed Pringle Chips over 18 hours like a castaway on a desert island. There are free water fountains in the airport which keep me hydrated. Every couple of hours I do a lap and get water to ease the boredom.
With 6 hours left, I was starving and decided I needed to eat. I found a breakfast buffet for 349 Indian rupees. I had no idea how much that was.
Times were simpler when you didn’t have a smartphone, and I didn’t even have a card that allowed me to get by without foreign transaction fees.
Needs must. I had an amazing breakfast, eating everything in sight, and later found out on my credit card statement I’d spent about $6 US Dollars with fees.
After a day stuck in Delhi Airport, I eventually got on a plane, much to my relief. I’ve never been back but I learned a valuable lesson that day – always check Visas on connecting flights!
Awkward negotiation with Uganda policemen
Lara @ Both Feet On The Road
My friend and I bribed the Ugandan police with a tray of peanuts.
When my friend and I rented a car in Uganda we were stopped by one of the many police checkpoints on the roads.
We had heard and read all kinds of horror stories about what could happen at those checkpoints.
Up until then, they had always just let us pass without even stopping us, but not this time.
Before you continue reading this story, remember that you only find the horror stories online.
In our experience, Ugandans are extremely friendly and it’s perfectly fine to drive around by yourself! Even if you are stopped by the police, as we were.
From what we had heard, if they do stop you, you just don’t know what is going to happen.
It could be a friendly chat and you only need to show your license. Or they could go nitpicking and find something that’s wrong, which would end up in you having to pay in order to pass.
So when they stopped us, obviously I was a bit nervous.
We were just two girls driving a rental car, so it was obvious we were tourists.
Also, the police wear guns in Uganda, which is something I am absolutely not used to in the Netherlands.
Whenever I see someone holding a gun it makes me feel unsafe, instead of safe.
Anyway, the officers had a look in our car, didn’t really say anything besides “Hey, how are you” and out of the blue one of them said
“We are hungry.”
We were so surprised that we had no idea how to respond.
But we didn’t really have any food for the ride.
So my friend just put on a straight poker face and said, I’m sorry we don’t have any food.
But they were standing right next to my window. I was nervous, and I am a terrible liar, so in a panic, I offered the only food we had for our ride, a huge tray of peanuts.
They accepted it and allowed us to pass through the checkpoint.
It wasn’t quite the horror story we had found online.
The whole experience was funny, we literally bribed the Ugandan police with a tray of peanuts. But at the same time, it’s also sad if you think about the fact that peanuts could make them so happy.
A laundry faux-pas from Myanmar
Adriana Plotzerová from Czech the world
This is a funny story from our backpacking in Myanmar. One day we decided to go to quite a distant and non-touristy area in Rakhine state – Mrauk-U. When we came to the hostel, a very kind old lady greeted us. She spoke just a few words in English.
We noticed that there was a washing machine for guests at the reception, and because we were traveling already for more than two weeks it was time to do laundry. So, we brought a bag of our clothes. The lady pointed to her husband and told us that he will take it. And then it happened. The man and woman started a very loud Burmese conversation. We didn’t understand a word.
Her husband threw the laundry bag back to us. And the angry women started pointing to us, first to my boyfriend and later to me but we still didn’t understand the situation, so we just took our clothes and went back to the room.
Well, we were so surprised but very curious about what happened that we started to google it immediately, and we found the reason after a while! Burmese are very superstitious and believe that a man can’t touch a woman’s underwear because they believe that touching a lady’s underwear will “sap them of their power”. So the poor lady thought we want to hurt her husband!
A few more facts:
Back in 2007, there was a campaign by a Thai-based group – ‘panties for peace’ in which supporters were encouraged to send women’s underwear to Burmese embassies to weaken the regime power. Read the news
Scary Adventure in Ukranian airport
Alexander Popokov from Engineer on tour
I traveled to Ukraine with a Russian passport! I was kinda aware of political tensions, but not really. I live in Finland and don’t follow the news. So, we landed in Kyiv in the early morning.
At the customs, my friend, who has a passport from Finland, went through. But for me… they told I have to go for an interview. After lots of questioning, they concluded: “You didn’t provide us enough evidence that you came as a tourist, so we are escorting you back to Finland”.
They took my passport and told me to wait in a certain area of the airport, and that later they will escort me to the plane. After some time, I can hear my name announced, they tell me to go to the gates number… Well, I didn’t get the number, because the whole thing was in Ukrainian.
I guessed that it is the gate for the return flight and went over there through the whole airport. And, there is no one at the gate. I thought I misunderstood Ukrainian and went thought the whole airport back. There was no one.
While I was coming back, they announced me 3 times. Later I saw security running around the airport looking for me.
- Where have you been?! We announced to you three times!
- Guys, I don’t speak Ukrainian
I got my passport back only when my plane landed. Later I got some of the money back from insurance. After all… that was fun.
Adventure in a “different” beach
Lauren from The Expat Chronicle
Three years ago my family accepted an expat assignment and moved abroad from the U.S. to Barcelona. We were so excited about this new adventure and what we would experience living overseas. Sure, we expected language barriers, different holiday celebrations, a variety of new Spanish foods, and meeting people from all parts of the globe. But what we’ve also gained as expats are some rather unexpected lessons and downright hilarious stories. One, in particular, comes to mind during a weekend trip from Barcelona to Tossa de Mar, Spain. Our family, which includes my husband and three young toddlers, decided to take a camping trip and escape city life for a few days. We stayed at a gorgeous seaside camping site called Camping Calle de Llevado (highly recommend it for anyone into that sort of adventure). One sunny and crisp morning, we decided to head down to one of the three very private coves near to our resort. Each cove was a paradise of speckled pebbles and crystal clear waves crashing onto the jagged rocks which were formed from steep mountain cliffs. We felt as if the day was ours and ours alone. We were the only ones enjoying the cove that morning – or so we thought! While the kids were busy exploring dark caves and I was occupied snapping endless photos of the picturesque scene, we hardly realized that a family had arrived. Thinking nothing of their presence we continued about our business. It wasn’t until our three-year-old wandered a bit too far and I ran to chase after her that I had a stark realization. The family we noticed earlier were busy making themselves comfortable – and when I mean comfortable I don’t mean beach blanket and suncream. Instead, they were all completely nude – full birthday suits and nothing more (other than a hag or sunglasses! That’s when it occurred to me that this was a NUDE beach – bare all or bust! In a panic, I grabbed the baby and quickly found my husband and two toddlers. I frantically explained to Tony that we had ventured into unfamiliar territory and had better exit immediately! Disheveled, we grabbed our belongings and ran (in the awkward uncoordinated way that one runs through sand/pebbles) fearful that our toddlers would catch a glimpse of the bare-skinned bunch! Back then, it was startling. Today, it’s a hilarious memory my husband and I love to laugh about. The experiences of being an expat will surely influence you – one way or the other. And this story has absolutely influenced us to read the very obvious warning signs before entering any beach in Spain.
A day at the police station in Seoul
Cassie from Cassie the Hag
Back when I was a newbie solo traveller and used to wander around airports looking like a lost sheep, I was an easy target for phone thieves. Indeed, in Seoul Incheon Airport two years ago, my phone disappeared when I’d barely got through immigration.
After spending the night on a cozy bench, I got sent to the airport control room after visiting the lost property desk. I was escorted by about four men with guns and honestly was worried they thought I was lying or there’d been a miss translation! Thankfully, behind the scenes of airport security were two skinny guys watching CCTV. Phew – I’d been escorted to the friendly computer nerds! Yas, this I could handle.
In the two hours that followed, I had to watch every moment of me passing through the airport on CCTV as the guys tried to ask me questions over a translation app. ‘So, what time did you get stolen?’ they asked. ‘Did your bag ever phone you back?’ Safe to say, the only progress I made at this stage was concurring that, yes, I did in fact look exactly like a lost sheep on CCTV.
Next stop? The Korean police. They basically sat around smoking, eating donuts, and randomly brushing their teeth at their desks (hey, at least it’s a good habit) while I patiently waited around for the rest of the day. It’s not like I’d recommend the police stations as a number one attraction in Seoul or anything, but some backpackers out there would properly congratulate me on seeing the city beyond the tourist traps. Hashtag ‘live like a local’.
The good news is that I did eventually get a police statement for my insurance. The bad news is that I left it in my hostel.
When visiting a Tibetan Monastery is not a good idea
By Wendy Werneth @ The Nomadic Vegan
It was our first time traveling around China and we didn’t speak any Chinese, so the remote Gansu province might not have been the best choice. But my husband and I really wanted to see the Labrang Monastery, one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhists. We couldn’t understand why none of the bus drivers would let us on their bus, though.
Eventually one of them did, but then he forced the two of us to get off in some random place before arriving at our destination.
Bewildered and frustrated, we started walking in the hopes of reaching another bus station soon. But after just a few minutes we heard sirens, and two police cars came to a screeching halt in front of us.
The Chinese cops who got out didn’t speak much English, but they had S.W.A.T. badges on their uniforms, and we were pretty sure we were in trouble.
They brought us to the local foreign affairs official, who luckily did speak English, and even more luckily was a very kind Tibetan man. He explained that the area we had entered was temporarily closed to foreigners.
Supposedly this was for our own safety, but in reality, it was because the Tibetans living there were protesting against the Chinese government, which was not something the government wanted foreigners to see.
The foreign affairs official bought us noodles for lunch before driving us back across the border himself in his own car. Ten years later, we finally did make it to the Labrang Monastery, and it was definitely worth the wait.
Losing a backpack
by Alya & Campbell @ Stingy Nomads
After seven years of traveling, losing my backpack with all my clothes and gear in the middle of nowhere is still my biggest travel misadventure that turned out to be one of our favorite travel stories.
It happened during our one-year trip through Latin America that we started in Mexico and went all the way down to Patagonia using local buses and hitchhiking.
Chile was one of the best countries for hitchhiking.
We were traveling along the Carretera Austral when we got a ride from a Chilean family that was on their way to their summer cabin where they were going to spend the holiday.
Their truck was loaded to the top with a stove, tables, chairs, suitcases, kitchenware, it looked like they packed their entire house, but they still stopped to pick us up.
We were very happy because it started raining and there were very few cars on the road.
We threw our backpacks on the top of the back and jumped inside the pickup truck.
The family was going all the way to the town we wanted to get.
We had one of the best and funniest rides ever, spent hours talking and laughing.
About four hours later we arrived in our town.
When we stopped, we only saw my husband’s backpack on the back of the truck.
My backpack was gone, it was a huge shock!
For about 10 minutes I couldn’t believe it actually happened, all my clothes and gear was gone.
I had only one pair of pants, a T-shirt and a pair of hiking shoes that I was wearing.
Luckily the town where we ended up had a couple of stores including one or two second-hand shops.
I ended up with a turquoise color fleece, grey and purple rain jacket, huge black and pink trekking pants, and a couple of way too big T-shirts.
The couple that gave us the ride felt very sorry for us; they didn’t know how to help.
In the end, they gave us their sleeping bag that was enormous, more like a thick duvet.
The sleeping bag was so big that it was pretty much the only thing I could fit into my new 70L backpack.
We spent one more month hiking and camping in Patagonia, and all that time my husband and I slept in one sleeping bag. Luckily it was quite cold at night.
Misadventures in South Africa
by Derek Hartman @ Robe Trotting
One of the craziest situations we ever faced while traveling is now something we laugh at all the time.
In the moment it wasn’t nearly as funny and it was when Derek couldn’t board a flight from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Cape Town, South Africa.
We began the journey in Johannesburg and did a fantastic safari through Botswana that concluded in Victoria Falls. After a full day exploring the falls and saying farewell to our safari group, we headed to the airport.
After reaching the ticket desk only one of us was issued a boarding pass.
We were informed that Derek could not travel to Cape Town because he did not meet the passport requirements.
This was puzzling because we qualified for visa-free entry and had no problem flying into South Africa a little over a week before.
Then we were informed that while we qualified for visa-free entry, South Africa requires all tourists to have two consecutive, blank pages in their passports on arrival.
Derek did not meet the passport requirements to enter the country and could not board the plane.
When we entered South Africa, both of our passports were fine, but some ill-placed stamps suddenly made Derek’s invalid to enter South Africa again.
Because of the stamps from Botswana and Zimbabwe, Derek no longer had two consecutive blank pages, even though he had plenty of room for a single stamp.
After panicking for an hour or so, we decided to return to the resort, were able to reroute our flight home and spend the extra time in Victoria Falls instead of Cape Town.
We were able to enjoy some great Victoria Falls activities like white water rafting and bungee jumping, and we have a great story to tell today.
Careful how you speak in Australia
by Danielle Lawson @ Live in 10 countries
A year or two ago I took a working holiday visa to Australia and started my adventure in Melbourne, Victoria. I was fresh off the plane, bubbling over with excitement at the thought of meeting new people, checking out new places, and just generally living my travel dreams. Hopefully, you can laugh along with me at my total lack of local knowledge, and general foolishness, because I just assumed things wouldn’t be too different in Oz and didn’t really do a lot of research! The biggest cringe-worthy area was the local slang because, boy! was I a pomme who didn’t get it! During my first week, I went out hunting for a job and had to ask for directions plenty of times. Some central Melbourne streets are signposted ‘Lt Collins’ and so I asked where ‘Lieutenant Collins’ Street was. People doubled up, because ‘Lt’ actually stood for ‘little’. I took a job as an au pair and when I took the kids for a day out at the pool, one of the parents approached me and started telling me that her son had some problems. She said ‘he can’t help it, whenever he’s in public he always cracks it’. I kept looking for ways to escape her because I didn’t know what that meant and it sounded pretty dodgy! She asked me if the kids I was looking after were the same and I just mumbled like an idiot. I’m glad to say that it was all in my head because the expression ‘crack it’ only means to get angry! There were plenty of other terms that I made a fool of myself with – I heard things like “sang” for “sandwich” or the expression ‘fair dinkum’ and always awkwardly tried to suss out the meaning. In hindsight, I think it’s better to admit ignorance and be a blank slate with no pre-conceptions about a country. Either way, you’ll have a great time in Australia!
Tension at border crossing
by Stephen Schreck @ A Backpackers Tale
Imagine making your way across one of the tensest borders in the world. A border that separates two countries that have had somewhat of a hostile history that counties even to this day. Not only that, but the country you’re trying to get into and your home country are on pretty crappy terms. Now imagine you’re a 6 foot tall, stocky ginger driving a beat-up car between these turbulent borders, and you’ll have some idea about how I felt pulling up to the mini fortress that separates Georgia from Russia.
The guard motioned with his AK47 for myself, and my compatriots to disembark from the car, and go towards the tollbooth-Esque passport control.
My buddy Alex, a citizen of the United Kingdom, went first. He slowly slid his passport under the glass window. The agent in charge barely looked at his visa before waving him through. A wave of relief washed over me. Maybe this border was going to be easier than I thought. Next up was Norbet, a U.S citizen – like myself.
And once again the border patrol seemed more interested in his computer than his passport, and Norbert slid through without problems.
Feeling pretty confident, I strutted up to the window and slid my passport through. The agent opened the picture page, then flipped through the pages to find my visa. Then quickly flipped back to the picture page. Then he started to religiously flip through my passport. Odd, I thought, but nothing to worry about. The next moment I went on high alert though as he picked up the phone and started speaking loudly in Russia (Russian always sounds aggressive).
The agent motioned me to the side wait.
And there I stood nervous as after a few minutes a guard came down and started chatting with the agent as they peered at my passport. Nerves shot through me as the guard grabbed my passport and stepped out of the booth.
He started walking towards me. His face concrete.
Now we need to take a pause in our tale for me to tell you a couple of fun facts about me. First people have chuckled at my last name – Schreck – which is pronounced like a certain famous green monster that has started in multiple hit movies. And I’ve heard all the jokes… you’re not green, where’s donkey etc.
Second, this has always driven me nuts.
But as he approached, his face broke out in a smile. “Schreck…. really!”, he chuckled.
Usually, people making fun of my last name bothers me a bit, but in this case you can imagine the wave of relief that washed over me.
The guard, cracking himself up at his own cleverness chimed in…. “Where Donkey?” Without thinking I pointed to my buddy Norbert, who was standing by our car – which was currently being swept from bombs.
The guard burst out laughing, showing a mouthful of gold teeth, before shoving my passport into my hand. “Welcome to Russia, Shrek”, he said as he motioned for me to join my friends.
Playing Pictionary at a hospital in Laos
Elisa @ World in Paris
One of the MUSTs in Laos is a Hill Tribe Trek in the region of Luang Namtha.
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the ethnic groups in Laos while enjoying gorgeous landscapes during multi-day hikes.
The chosen hike was very nice, going through beautiful forests with thick vegetation and learning more about the plants and the tribes inhabiting this area.
During the climbing I touched by accident a caterpillar that left many thorns in my finger.
Back to the hostel, at the end of the hike, my finger was red and slightly swollen so I thought it would be a good idea to go to the local hospital for a quick look.
The hospital was a small and old structure, with a reception and a “Resurrection Room”.
Inside, there was a receptionist and a man who was killing time there, chatting with the receptionist.
The receptionist told us with signs to sit and wait for the doctor (was he resurrecting somebody?).
When the doctor showed up, I knew by his face that he did not speak a word of English . . .
What could I do to explain to him what happened to my finger? Play Pictionary!
The doctor seemed confused with my drawing so the receptionist and the man killing time joined the group trying to guess what happened to me and what terrible beast attacked me.
Of course, I completed the drawing with some sounds and signs.
In the end, it was the man who guessed well. He was also the one who “prescribed” me what to do to heal my finger in one-two days. Yay!
Unexpected stop in Uganda
Dani Ward @ Diapers in Paradise
Our honeymoon was a 7-week whirlwind of adventure, and one of the best parts of that adventure was the time we spent in Uganda. Although, things did not all go according to plan!
We came to Uganda for gorilla trekking, a bucket-list item, and one of the most ethical animal tourism experiences out there. But getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest from the airport in Kampala is no small feat, involving driving 208 miles over rough, pot-holed roads.
The drive was terrifying, as the roads were often narrowed down to one lane, with cars were flying in both directions at top speed. We were run halfway off the road several times, and so it was no shocker when the driver’s car suddenly broke down!
We were in the middle of nowhere when the engine started smoking. Luckily, the driver was able to navigate us far off the main road and into a tiny town.
This town, the name of which we never learned, is far from the tourist circuit. It’s off the road enough that drivers wouldn’t swing through for lunch or a pit stop. There were no foreigners in this town, and no one there spoke English. The driver informed us that the engine repair would take all day, and we were on our own!
So I stepped out of the car, this white lady with a bright pink mohawk, and all eyes were instantly on us. People gathered around to point to my hair and ask the driver about it. Some took pictures of us, some glared and grumbled, some ran up to rub my head.
We ended up stranded in the town for almost 8 hours, wandering aimlessly around. Ordering food turned into a challenging game, as the whole system is different there. We spent hours trying to communicate with the children who followed us around the entire day. We climbed to a quiet hill only to be swooped upon by hordes of bats. We were so far out of our element, and ended up getting to our lodging late at night, but it was an experience that we will always remember.
For further reading
- The coolest glamping spots and amazing homes in the world
- The most awkward and funny travel stories
- How can we support the travel industry when the world is on pause?
- The 27 Best Travel YouTube Channels To Follow
- The 6 most spectacular cenote diving in the world
Your Basic Travel Resources
- Book your transfers between destinations on the trusted booking platform Bookaway
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Compare car rental prices at Auto Europe, Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed