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Scott and I have often joked that we could write an entire book about our travel fails and when travel has gone wrong for us.

We’re totally disaster-prone!

Travel fails can be minor or epic, life-changing or infinitesimal, funny, scary or just total palm-to-the-face moments.

They can be because you haven’t researched a destination or culture fully; or completely out of your control so it doesn’t matter how prepared you were anyway.

Everyone has likely experienced some kind of travel fail or travel disaster story in their lifetime (unless you’re particularly lucky; in which case, we really want to know your secret!) 

So we thought we would work with some fellow travel bloggers to share our most epic travel fails with you… to shock you, to make you chuckle and we don’t mind the occasional palm to the face on our behalf either.

Are you ready? There are some absolute belters coming up!

Travel Gone Wrong Stories: 21 Travel Fails To Make You Laugh, Smile & Maybe Cry

Africa Travel Fails

A surprise night in a Mozambican brothel

– Shared by Jacquie from Flashpacking Family

Mozambique Travel Fail

“Ed and I had been together for 6 months when we decided to take a career break and travel the world for a year. 

We spent the first 4 months of our trip travelling overland through Africa. 

We took all forms of public transport and thought we had navigated the often intermittent and always overcrowded services pretty well. 

That was until we took a bus from Blantyre in Malawi to Beira in Mozambique. 

We were assured it was the right bus but it seemed that they changed their itinerary partway through the journey. 

Shortly after we crossed the border into Mozambique, we were dumped on the side of the road and told another bus would come along.

We were in the middle of nowhere and after 3 hours we decided to hitchhike to the nearest town. 

This time, we were told there would be an ATM in the town, which we desperately needed because we had no Mozambique currency.

The town turned out to be a border town, which was essentially just an enormous truck stop for cross border truckers. There was no ATM and no obvious place to stay.

But there were plenty of brothels!

As luck would have it, Ed found a local lady of the night. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have been too happy with this, but this lady was the only lady in the whole of the town to understand that we needed to change money. 

There were no smartphones in those days and no way to check exchange rates, so we exchanged $20 and got back around $5 worth of Mozambican metical.

It was enough to get us a bed for the night in one of the brothels and a bus ticket out of there the next day. 

The room was beyond unpleasant and the linen far from clean. Thank goodness for sleeping bag liners! 

After very little sleep we were kicked out at 6am because they said a bus was coming in a few minutes. 

We spent the next 3 hours waiting for a bus to come! We think they secretly needed the room.

We didn’t generally have many travel mishaps during our 12 months but any that we did have bizarrely seemed to happen in Malawi (or on the Malawian border). 

We were tipped out of our canoe by a hippo into crocodile-infested waters and had a snake land on our bed from the ceiling. 

Don’t let that put you off Malawi though. It really is a fabulous country!”

A gunfight in Lesotho

– Shared by Heather from Conversant Traveller 

Sani Pass - Lesotho

“My hubby and I were driving with our guide up Sani Pass, the precipitous route between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. 

Having passed the South African border, we were in ‘no man’s land’ until we reached the Lesotho checkpoint. 

It was eerily quiet and we were enjoying the scenery of vertical peaks and steep ravines on either side of the valley. 

Then suddenly an exchange of gunfire from up ahead shattered the silence; the sound bouncing off the rocky cliffs all around. 

Things often don’t go quite to plan on our travels, but we love embracing the unknown, since it’s just all part of the adventure.

However, a gunfight was a first for us! 

Deciding to cautiously investigate, we edged the vehicle slowly around the corner.

I hid in the footwell whilst my hubby and our guide took off their seat belts in readiness for whatever was to come. 

In the middle of the road, a truck stood abandoned, doors flung wide, with the retreating backs of its former occupants plunging through the bush in an attempt to escape the force of the law. 

The driver hadn’t been so lucky and a lone policeman stood pointing his gun at a prone figure on the ground. 

The officer signalled that he needed help, so the men ventured out to assist whilst I kept an eye on the valley in case the bad guys returned. 

It turns out the policeman was off duty and didn’t have his handcuffs, so we helped restrain the guy on the ground whilst the officer radioed for assistance.

On closer inspection, we saw the abandoned vehicle was stuffed full of thousands of pounds worth of drugs, ready to sell on to the South African market and beyond in Europe. 

I felt some sympathy for the guy on the ground, but drugs are a huge problem in South Africa, so trafficking is quite rightly treated very seriously over there. 

Eventually, a car with several other officers arrived, and after a bit of banter, we were finally able to continue our journey into Lesotho…

Where we found our room at the Sani Top Pub had been double booked and we ended up spending the night in a goat shed. But that’s another story.”

Lost car keys in the Sahara Desert

– Shared by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel

Morocco Sahara Desert

“Our biggest travel fail to date was when we lost our rental car keys in the Sahara desert. 

It wasn’t until a whole day into our 2-day camel trip across the desert that Max realised our rental car keys were missing. 

Our car was parked at the hotel where we started our expedition, about 8 hours from the nearest town. 

All of our valuables were locked inside including our passports and all our clothes. 

So, we knew this was not going to be an easy fix if the keys weren’t found. 

With that in mind, Max and our tour guide decided they would drop off our stuff at the camp just ahead and then head back through the desert in hopes of finding the keys. 

We had suspected that the car keys must have fallen out of Max’s pocket somewhere between our lunch stop at the oasis and our camp. 

However, what we weren’t expecting was that moments after Max and our guide started retracing their steps, a sandstorm started to kick up. 

Sand was flying in every imaginable direction, and waiting for them at camp, I knew the keys would surely be buried now. 

However, more than that I was fearful Max and our guide wouldn’t be able to find their way back to camp in the chaos of the swirling sandstorm.

Luckily, I was wrong. 

They returned shortly after, albeit without the keys… but that didn’t seem to matter. We were just happy to be safe and back together. 

We eventually made it back to the hotel where we left our car and called our rental company who sent a truck to tow us to the closest town. 

Given that we were locked 8 hours away from the closest van rental office, we got off pretty easy. The tow truck and key replacement only cost us $250.

Just remember, the Sahara desert is a harsh and unforgiving place. Take it from us, it’s crucial that you always keep your belongings in check!”

The time we got stuck in Zimbabwe

– Shared by Derek & Mike from Robe Trotting

Derek & Mike at Victoria Falls

“Last summer, we flew into Johannesburg and did a 10-day safari through Botswana, which finished in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 

It was incredible, and at the conclusion, we booked 4 days in Cape Town before flying home.

We travelled to Victoria Falls Airport to board our flight back into South Africa when I was told we could not be issued a boarding pass. 

I panicked, assuming it might have been an attempt to extort a bribe.

But it was legit. 

South Africa is visa-free entry for Americans, but they require two consecutive blank pages for all passport holders. 

Even though I only needed a stamp, I no longer met that requirement after getting a blank page stamped in Botswana and a full-page endorsement in Zimbabwe. I no longer had two consecutive pages so I had to stay in Zimbabwe.

My options were to wait until Monday and fly to Harare, the capital, to work with my embassy or reroute our flights. 

We decided on the latter and spent a few more nights in Victoria Falls and booked some additional excursions. 

It was an expensive mistake but we were happy to be stuck in a beautiful and fun destination.”

Asia Travel Fails

A laundry faux-pas in Myanmar

– Shared by Adriana from Czech the World

Myanmar Travel Fail

“This is a story from our backpacking in Myanmar. 

Me and my boyfriend always try to read about the local culture and learn a few words in the local language, so as to be prepared and adapted to local habits. 

But this surprised us a lot!

We decided to go to quite a distant 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, so we brought a bag of our laundry later in the evening. 

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. 

That man threw the laundry bag back to us. And the angry woman 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 our room.

We were curious and started to search the internet. We found the reason after a while! 

Burmese people 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 wanted to hurt her husband!

Actually, there was even a campaign by a Thai-based group (back in 2007) called ‘Panties for Peace’ in which supporters were encouraged to send women’s underwear to Burmese embassies to weaken the regime’s power!”

A ninja thief in Indonesia

Shared by Carly and Agung from We are Sumatra

“After several years of living in a remote jungle area of Sumatra with zero travel fails, I considered myself quite the pro. 

But during a trip to the gorgeous island of Pulau Weh at the top of Sumatra, I was “schooled” by the most unexpected teacher.

My boyfriend Agung and I happened upon an overgrown path through the jungle that led to an idyllic, deserted white-sand beach. 

There wasn’t a soul in sight. 

We left our bags on a log by the sand while we swam and explored the rock pools – only taking our eyes off the bags for a few seconds, I swear!

When we returned, Agung’s bag was still there with his phone perched on top. 

Mine, however, was gone. 

In confusion – and with increasing panic – we searched the area. 

No footprints, no signs of life, but my bag was gone – complete with the only things of value I possessed: my smartphone and BOTH my credit cards.

As we walked up the path we saw two motorbikes that hadn’t been there before and assumed these were the thieves who had targeted only my bag because I’m a tourist.

Cue the mad dash to the homestay to try and track my phone on a computer (no luck as I had no local data!) and cancel the credit cards, followed by an afternoon at the local police station reporting a theft.

Two sad phoneless days later and Agung pushed for us to go back to the scene of the crime. 

He said he had a feeling. 

We were at that beach for less than five minutes before I wandered into a grove of bushes and saw some familiar items on the ground – papers and medicines from my bag. 

I followed the trail and found my bag with all the zips open and contents spread across the ground – including my phone, credit cards and cash.

It was one of the most joyful moments of my travel life. The only things missing were some anti-diarrhoea capsules, which had been mysteriously munched on with little teeth marks in the packaging.

We deduced that the world’s sneakiest monkey must have snatched my bag and run for it for the few seconds we looked away, leaving no trace. 

Anyone who has visited southeast Asia knows that macaques aren’t shy – but this one must have been a true ninja.

So, there’s at least one monkey in Pulau Weh who probably couldn’t poop for a week, I got my phone back and spent the next month trying to get a new credit card sent to the jungle.

Life lessons learned:

  • Always keep a backup credit card stored somewhere safe back in your room
  • Swim with your phone in a waterproof case around your neck even if you think you’re alone
  • And I always, always, trust my boyfriend now when he has a “feeling” about something.”

The time we picked up the wrong bag in Bangkok

Shared by Nick & Kia from The Danish Nomads

Bangkok Travel Fail

“We were in the midst of a round-the-world trip and had just arrived at Bangkok International Airport. 

Being severely sleep-deprived after a 10-hour flight, we were tired and hungry. We just wanted to get out of the airport and into the city as quickly as possible. 

The dream scenario was a nap in a real bed and, initially, everything went smoothly. 

We travel pretty much on a full-time basis, so we pride ourselves in being time effective at the airport. 

This was no exception. 

Although there were plenty of people, we managed to clear immigration, get our stuff, buy a local sim card, withdraw some cash and catch a cab within an hour of landing. 

However, as soon as we arrived at our hotel, everything went to sh**. 

Thanks to that famous Thai hospitality, we had barely touched our bags since the conveyor belt at the airport. 

Now, as the concierge arrived and handed them over, we noticed something was very wrong indeed. 

One of the bags was identical to ours – but it most definitely wasn’t ours! 

This was a men’s edition Osprey backpack, a huge one, which was characteristically heavy. That fit the description of our bag perfectly, only this one had a tag on it with a girl’s name! 

Why hadn’t we checked the stupid name tag in the airport? We are the biggest amateurs we thought to ourselves (and rightly so!)

We had stolen another person’s luggage! 

What to do now? 

We called the airport, got in another cab and started making our way back. We hoped our bag would still be in the airport and that whoever waited for this one wouldn’t be too pi**** off. 

As we were driving, we were checking out a few social media channels to see if we could find the girl whose name was on the bag. 

To our amazement, we succeeded. 

She answered our Facebook message but was, in fact, quite confused. It turns out, she hadn’t even noticed. 

Apparently, she had stolen our bag in the same way that we had stolen hers! She hadn’t looked at the name tag either. Phew, we aren’t the only idiots in the world. 

But there was a new problem…

She had made her way across Bangkok to the second airport that is used mainly for domestic connections. 

In a few hours, she was going to fly to the island of Koh Samui and she had already checked in our bag onto the flight! 

This was truly bad news for us because we ourselves were supposed to fly in the opposite direction to Chiang Mai the very next day. 

We did our best to explain our problem to the taxi driver but he spoke very little English. From what we understood, he was on his last drive of the day and lived near the international airport. 

He wasn’t particularly happy about having to turn around!

We managed to convince him but Bangkok is notorious for its heavy traffic and today was no exception. 

We made slow progress towards the airport, but as we eventually reached it, traffic slowed to a complete halt. 

We could see the terminal building from the highway, but with just 30 minutes left, we had no time to wait. 

We got out of the taxi, on the freaking highway ramp, to try and make a run for it. 

There were just a few hundred metres left, but the backpack was so heavy, the sun was scorching and the humidity was suffocating. 

It required every bit of energy we had left, but eventually, we reached the check-in counters.

Guess what? We didn’t make it in time! 

Oh, the shame. 

We were so angry at ourselves, and you can be certain we’ll never, ever, forget to check the name tag on our bag again! 

We don’t usually mess up when travelling, but this was a real eye-opener for us that you need to stay vigilant at all times. 

Never feel too comfortable when you are on the go and be extra careful when you are tired. Even “professional” travellers mess up once in a while – and this probably won’t be the last time.”  

A tale of flat tyres and sea gypsies in Koh Lanta

Shared by Veronika from Travel Geekery

Sad monkey in a spooky resort

“A few years ago, my husband and I spent a few weeks in Koh Lanta, a beautiful island in the south of Thailand. 

While exploring the more remote areas on a rented scooter one day, we came across a spooky resort. 

It appeared abandoned at first with rundown bungalows in strange shapes such as boats and caves, shabby yet colourful statues of dinosaurs, goddesses… 

Then we discovered a few cages with sad monkeys, a peacock, some quails and a waiter in a bar, who barely spoke English and had no drink to sell.

We were quite spooked out and the strange vibe of the place gave us the chills. We couldn’t wait to hop on the scooter and get away!

But just as we did so, our scooter suddenly got a flat tyre. We were quite far from any villages with just the jungle surrounding us.

After a difficult hour-long walk, we noticed someone by the road who waved us down and led us to a village not far from the road. 

He took us through a long street lined with simple houses built on water. Nobody spoke English and people looked curious to see us.

An old man got a handle on our scooter and had the job finished in an hour. The whole time, we just waited, watched in awe, feeling we’re at a place we’re not supposed to be at.

Later, we found out it was the Sea Gypsy village. Poor Thais who live simple lives off the sea call this village a home and tourists are not usually welcome there. 

But thanks to being invited in, we got the unique insight into the village and I even got to watch local kids play with rocks. 

It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of that whole trip!”

Getting surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team in China

– Shared by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

Labrang Monastery

“My husband and I were in the remote Gansu province in western China, on our way to visit an important Tibetan Buddhist place of worship called Labrang Monastery. 

While not part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, many ethnic Tibetans live in this part of China. 

We didn’t speak Chinese and couldn’t figure out why the bus drivers wouldn’t let us on their buses. 

Eventually one of them did, but then he forced us out of the bus on the outskirts of a random town, long before we had reached our destination.

With no other choice, we started walking in the direction the bus had taken, hoping to find onward transport. 

But after just a few minutes we heard sirens – and suddenly – we were surrounded by Chinese police officers with SWAT badges on their uniforms. 

They took us to the local foreign affairs official, who, lucky for us, was a very kind Tibetan gentleman who spoke English. 

He explained that the area was temporarily closed to foreigners. 

We discovered later this was because the Chinese authorities didn’t want foreigners to see the ongoing protests by ethnic Tibetans living there. 

The kind official took us out to lunch before driving us back across the border himself in his own car. 

Ten years later, we finally made it to Labrang Monastery – and it was worth the wait.”

The time we camped in the Oman mountains

– Shared by Daisy from Oman Travel Guides

Oman Travel Fail

“Oman is a beautiful country. Other than the handful of things to do in Muscat, Oman is also known as a camping haven. 

My friend and I decided to camp on top of one of the tallest mountains in the region – Jebel Shams. It overlooked miles of mountains, small valleys and had a beautiful view of the sunset. 

Unfortunately, this supposedly cute getaway did not go as smoothly as we hoped. 

On the day we decided to trek up the mountains, it was scorching hot in Muscat. 

We thought a nice tent, a warm blanket and a sweater each would be sufficient for the temperature drop on top of the mountains. 

After driving mid-way up Jebel Shams, we realised that we were off with the climate calculations. 

Nonetheless, it was late and we decided to wing it.

It got colder as we drove further up. By the time we reached the peak, I was surprised that we were not already back in Canada. 

But it only got worse during the night. 

Luckily, we had a few items in the car from previous camping trips. I dug out every last item including all my dresses, t-shirts and scarves and bundled up. 

The best part was that we thought it’d be a great idea to set up by the cliff so we can catch the sunrise. 

Our fire kept on getting blown out and the tent almost got blown away while we were trying to keep the fire intact. (Imagine chasing a tent near a cliff in the middle of the night!)

We had to put a huge rock inside the tent but later decided to opt for the car instead. Neither of us slept that night.”

Europe Travel Fails

That damn passport validity rule in Europe

– Shared by Destiny from Appetite for Adventure

Europe Travel Fail

“I’m getting ready to take the trip of my life: driving from Tampa to Miami to get on a flight with my best friend and her boyfriend (my boyfriend was coming a few days later) to do a big Euro trip.  

After the four hour drive to Miami, the excitement is bursting through us as we hand over our passports to be scanned at the check-in counter – and the attendant begins shaking his head. 

We figure something is wrong with the computers… nope. 

My best friend’s passport expired in three months; to travel to Europe, your passport must be valid for six months. 

Who knew?

After desperately asking numerous times what we could possibly do to get her on the flight, there was only one option aside from not going.  

Casie would have to go to the passport agency in Miami to get an expedited passport. 

But, more bad news – it was Friday and they didn’t open until Monday.  

And on top of that, the passport agency is usually so backed up, there was no guarantee that she would even get her passport.

So, after debating what to do, we said goodbye for now to Casie, and me and her boyfriend (who luckily was one of my besties so it wasn’t too awkward) headed to Barcelona.

Casie stayed in Miami Sunday night so she could line up outside of the passport agency before they even opened… and there was already a huge line.  

She spent 10 hours there waiting in line until FINALLY it was her turn and she got in! 

She got her passport, and the next day, was on the flight headed to us!  

Then, my boyfriend’s flight got messed up… but that’s a story for another day.

In the end, we reunited before our music festival, which was the highlight of our trip, and we appreciated our time together even more!  

You could definitely say I am disaster-prone, but I’m never lacking good stories from my travels!”

The time we had to hitchhike at the top of the world (aka Northern Norway)

Shared by Megan from Megan & Aram

Hitchiking in Norway

“One of the biggest travel fails I have ever had was on a trip to Northern Norway with my blog partner, Aram.  

We had a rental car for most of our trip around the Arctic but had planned to take a bus from Norway’s North Cape to Hammerfest to catch a flight back to Oslo.  

The local tourism office had given us a time and place to wait for the bus on a Sunday during the middle of summer.  

Long story short… we waited for the bus only to discover that the times she gave us were completely incorrect – and I had failed to double check!

We had a late evening flight out from Hammerfest and the city was 3-4 hours away by car from Honningsvåg where we were stranded. 

Airports in this part of the world are tiny and last minute tickets are completely unmanageable or unaffordable.  

It was a Sunday so no customer service centres were open to attempt to move our tickets to new dates.  

So… we opted to hitchhike and take our chances at begging for rides at the top of the globe. Take mind, the roads are completely empty in a place where reindeer outnumber residents!

An older Dutch couple picked us up in Honnigsvåg and drove us south a bit to where the road meets to go west to Hammerfest.  

They dropped us off and we hung around a service station for an hour with a sign looking for our next ride.  

To our surprise, a younger Norwegian man stopped with a vintage Swedish car and drove us half-way to Hammerfest.  

Our next attempt to catch a ride wasn’t so easy as we waited for hours watching very few cars go by at the top of the world.  

Finally, an older man from Hammerfest stopped and took us the rest of the way.

Once we arrived in Hammerfest, I was tired and opted to go to the airport while Aram wandered the city for a while as we were there on a project for Fodor’s Travel.  

Low and behold, he managed to see the ‘Russian spy whale’ that made international headlines and was named ‘Hvaldimir’ (hval means ‘whale’ in Norwegian).  

He got to photograph the famous beluga whale while I miserably sat at the airport missing out on all the action.

This trip from the North Cape to Hammerfest may have not gone in our favour, but it ended up being one of my best travel memories at the end of the day – and I am lucky I missed that bus even if I didn’t feel like it at the time.”

USA Travel Fails

A disastrous camping trip ends in revelation

Shared by Jenny from Campsite Vibes

USA Travel Fail

“In 2014, my boyfriend and I decided to go camping. This was going to be my first camping trip and I’d never really hiked more than a mile or two. 

At first, we were going to go to Catalina, then Big Sur. But the night before, he calls me and says: “Scratch everything, we’re going to Mt. Whitney.”

I have no clue what I’m getting myself into but I’m equally excited as I am nervous. 

I was still in college and living at home at the time. My mom made me bring a light jacket (my boyfriend said don’t) and she made me bring a heavy sleeping bag. 

If you’ve backpacked before, you know weight matters, but I didn’t know what I was doing; neither did my boyfriend.

To give some context, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the lower 48 states, standing at 14,505 feet. The hike from Whitney Portal out of Lone Pine, California is a 22 mile round trip. 

We drove up after I got off work that afternoon, camped in Alabama Hills, and in the morning, set off on the trail. 

It was a lovely start, hard but lovely. We dropped our things at Outpost Camp about 3.5 miles in where we planned on camping for the night, took a light pack and kept going. 

At the start of the 99 switchbacks (yes really), right above Trail Camp which is 6 miles into the hike and 5 miles from the summit, I couldn’t move. 

I’d reached a point of exhaustion. 

My boyfriend said he wanted to make it to just the top of the switchbacks and to Trail Crest, which is 2 miles from the summit. 

He left me with some food and water and ran up those switchbacks. They’re far from easy to walk, let alone run. 

I don’t remember if it was an hour or two that went by, but clouds started rolling in and I started panicking. 

I started asking everyone coming down if they’d seen him. There’s no cell reception there, so I couldn’t just call him. 

Everyone kept saying no, but then I ran into a ranger. 

I explained to her what was going on and I was worried. Just as she was about to page a different ranger further up on the trail to look, I saw him running down in a bright green t-shirt. Running down the 99 switchbacks. 

At this point, it also starts hailing and we have no jackets. We figure hey it’s August in California, it will be warm. 

Turns out on a 14er, you never know. 

The ranger had extra jackets she let us borrow as we all hiked back down to where our tent was at Outpost Camp. 

It was hard getting one foot in front of the other just to make it back. But we did; we were so exhausted, we couldn’t even cook dinner. 

I was nauseous all night and he had a fever. It was a combination of minor altitude sickness and exhaustion. 

In the middle of the night, I crawled out of the tent and saw the peaks above glowing under the full moon.

In that moment, even with the misery, I was hooked. 

From there, this experience has snowballed into me diving into hiking and backpacking, training and hiking some of the hardest trails in California and other locations, and starting my hiking blog that empowers and inspires others to get outdoors and overcome personal challenges to do so. 

In that misery, I found light.”

South America Travel Fails

A broken down jeep and no phone signal in Bolivia

Shared by Kristine from Wanderlust Designers

“Me and my husband Michal like to say jokingly that whenever we travel, we always take Mr Murphy (you know, the guy who likes to make things go haywire) with us. 

Simply put, something always goes wrong during our trips. Our honeymoon in December 2017 was no exception. 

We spent a month in South America and a part of the adventure was taking a private 3-day tour from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to Salar de Uyuni and altiplanic lagoons in Bolivia.

This southwestern corner of Bolivia is a place of otherworldly beauty. 

It is also a place with high elevation (hint: oxygen is sparse here) and situated, literally, in the middle of nowhere. 

One could say it’s not the best place for your jeep to break down… I guess you can see where I’m going with this. 

My brain, fighting between processing the breathtaking landscapes of the Bolivian altiplano on one side and a worsening case of altitude sickness on the other, suddenly got a third stimulus – that of our jeep going increasingly slower and slower. 

I wished it were just that Silvio, our driver was giving us more time to enjoy all the beauty of the unique landscape. 

But the reality was harsher – the car’s engine was clearly refusing to work. Not the kind of thing you want to experience when you are in the middle of nowhere and out of any cell phone coverage.

Silvio reached for the satellite phone and called for help, and two hours later, a replacement jeep picked us up. 

Because of this delay, we missed the rest of the day’s programme. The salt mines in Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest deposit of salt on Earth surely would have been interesting, but on the other hand, the delay made us arrive in the salar just as the sunset. 

The light was simply perfect and the whole scene of the vast salt plain looked incredibly beautiful. 

Watching the sunset originally wasn’t part of the programme, but in the end, we were really happy to witness it.

Michal managed to take this picture:

Bolivia Travel Fail

What to say? Any car can break down – the main thing was that the situation was handled professionally. 

We were happy we chose a reputable agency that uses cars equipped with a satellite phone and extra oxygen (good for piece of mind). 

My altitude sickness was really no fun. In case you wondered – by the end of the tour I couldn’t get out of the car because of nausea, but it’s fun to think about walking around a barren desert landscape looking for a hidden place to throw up.”

Illness in Chile could have been a travel disaster story… but wasn’t!

Shared by Simona from Travel OFF

Guatin Travel Fail

“My husband Miles and I are pretty good travel companions, though sometimes we too have had to face some travel failures together.

One, in particular, happened during our trip to the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile a few years ago. 

I had never experienced altitude above 2500 metres above sea level and was a bit worried that my low blood pressure could give me problems.

However, the first two days we had been travelling by car visiting volcanoes at 4000+ metres and I felt perfectly fine, so I thought I was over it. 

I was wrong. 

On the third day we had booked a guided day tour to the El Tatio Geysers located at 4300 metres above sea level. We left super early to get there before sunrise; the best moment to see the geyser steams. 

Despite in the area the day temperatures usually hitting 30+ °C, I had read some reviews and was aware that in the morning it could be pretty cold. 

Still, we didn’t expect -9 °C!

After a walk around the geysers, we were given breakfast and afterwards we had some free time to enjoy the hot pools. 

Though the pool water was not that hot in reality (24 C°), Miles and I are the type of travellers who never hold back, so we jumped in, took a swim and then got back on the bus to return to San Pedro.

The tour included one last stop on the way back to Guatin – a lovely canyon dotted with giant cacti; a true oasis in the middle of this deserted area.

Just before getting there I started to feel dizzy, and by the time I tried to tell Miles I was not well, I collapsed and found myself a minute later laying on the bus aisle with a Spanish participant holding my feet up.

I then realised that my fragile stomach probably didn’t like the cold water after breakfast and I had a sort of congestion that, matched with the high altitude, had knocked me out.

Nothing serious luckily, but I had to stay on the bus and miss this beautiful place, which turned out to be a true highlight of the trip.

Miles was so disappointed that the following day he decided to drive me there, though he didn’t know the name of the place nor had any directions. 

Luckily, he has such a good sense of orientation that we finally got to Guatin and I was also able to see it. Plus we were on our own, so it was even better!”

And Now For Some Of Our Travel Fails!

And finally, some of OUR most epic travel fails up to now… we’re sure there will be plenty more in our lifetimes!

A dreaded hammam massage in Morocco

Morocco Hammam Massage Gone Wrong

If you’ve followed our blog since the beginning then you would have heard the story about our Moroccan Hammam Massage before. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s still our most epic (and hilarious) travel fail of all time!

For those of you not familiar with the story, we’ve written all about the disastrous affair here

But a long story short is that it involves Scott and I having a mud wrap slapped across us in front of strangers while in our underwear, swimming in our underwear and then the massage part really was FULL BODY!

Moral of the story? Always do your research if having a massage abroad. And always wear swimming gear (just in case!)

The time Justine got ‘Bali Belly’ on our honeymoon

Island hopping - Gili Islands

For those of you who have travelled to Bali before, you’ll know that ‘Bali Belly’ is VERY REAL! 

I managed to get it several times while on our honeymoon (not so romantic). 

And this was despite not drinking the tap water, checking restaurant reviews beforehand and washing my hands regularly.

And hey! Did we tell you about the time I got Bali Belly when we were about to board a boat for 3 hours to get to Gili Meno

Yeah, that was fun… and boy am I glad we packed some diarrhoea tablets. They really work!

Our hell of a trip to Iceland and New York City

Top of the Rock, New York City

Once again, if you’ve followed our hilarious and epic mishaps over the years then you’ll already know all about our hell of a trip to NYC and Iceland.

Long story short; we experienced:

  • 2 cancelled flights
  • 1 delayed flight
  • 1 last minute airport change
  • 1 (almost) missed flight
  • 1 last minute flight and terminal change
  • 2 lost suitcases

Yep… this was all on one trip and mostly before we’d even left the UK. You can read the full debacle here if you want.

We never made it to Iceland that time but we did get an extra night in New York so that’s something. 

And we were able to recoup most of our costs thanks to excellent travel insurance… phew! Otherwise this could have really been one almighty travel horror story!

The time Justine nearly ran someone over while sandboarding in Dubai

Another hilarious travel fail was the time we tried sandboarding in Dubai during our honeymoon.

Scott was awesome at it (as per usual!)

But me? 

I nearly ran someone over on my way down… and it was all captured on video of course! 🙈

The time when we REALLY had to think on our feet to make our Belgium trip happen

We’ve been on several trips now where we’ve almost missed flights or connections. 

Believe it or not, it’s NOT because we’re late to airports or bus terminals. Thanks to me, we’re always early! 

But there’s often something unexpected that crops up.

Take the time we went to Belgium for instance. 

Particularly awful traffic on the M4 from Bristol to London (we’re convinced an accident had happened somewhere!) meant we were definitely going to miss our Eurostar to Brussels if we stayed on the coach until Victoria Coach Station as we’d still have to get a tube across London from there to St Pancras.

Thanks to some last minute quick thinking (and a very friendly bus driver!), we were able to hop off at Euston Road Station and get a tube straight to St Pancras. 

We made the train with just a few minutes to spare… and had one of our most favourite city breaks ever!

Grand Place Brussels

The time we got lost in a London hotel after a rogue fire alarm

Time for one final travel fail from us – otherwise this blog post itself will turn into a book!

During our Harry Potter weekend in London, we were getting ready at our hotel to go to the theatre to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child… when a fire alarm went off in the hotel.

We dropped everything and followed the signs to the evacuation point. It didn’t last long and the hotel staff had no idea why it went off.

So we trotted back into the hotel to go get our bags and theatre tickets… 

Only to find that the hotel had mysteriously changed and our hotel room was no longer where we left it.

Somehow, and to this day we still don’t understand what happened, we had managed to merge into an adjoining hotel when evacuating and hadn’t realised until the third time of trying to retrace our steps and find our room. 

I was in the lift when it stopped on a floor that smelled strongly of chlorine and I thought: “Our hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool in it!” 

And that’s when I saw the hotel signs everywhere referencing a completely different hotel!

So we walked out and down the road a few metres…

And low and behold – there was OUR HOTEL. 

This has got to be the most surreal experience we’ve ever had, and safe to say, we laughed about it all the way to the theatre!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


We hope you’ve had fun reading through these travel fails! Have you got any epic travel fails of your own? We’d love to hear them so drop them in the comments below…

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One thought on “Travel Gone Wrong Stories: 21 Epic Travel Fails

  1. Kristine says:

    Hey Justine,
    This article is amazing! Such funny stories. And it’s very nice to see that we’re not the only disaster prone travellers 😀

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