Travel Horror Stories: Part 7
You have all heard of the horrors that could happen while traveling. I asked around for some stories, here are real stories that actually happened to people. I hope you enjoy!
To take a look at mine go here .
1. Bus Ride From Hell
WHACK- went my head.
The sweater and scarf I was using as a pillow did not soften the blow of my head slamming on to the bus window after the vehicle took an aggressive swivel around a curve.
“Oh my god,” I may or may not have said out loud. I was too sleep deprived to know and couldn’t hear my own thoughts over the sound of an infant screaming behind me.
I checked my watch.
I saw the blue shadows of night begging to slither away as the sun began to slowly crawl back up from below the horizon.
I have 8 hours left….
The bus left Cusco at 6pm the night before, a ride I thought would be as innocuous as all the other bus trips I had taken throughout Latin America.
I had been traveling for 5 months at that point. I booked a one way ticket to Mexico City and slowly made my way down through all of Central America, Colombia, and ended in Peru.
Those 5,000 miles had been broken up between smaller excursions – 6 hours from Mexico City to Oaxaca, 8 hours from Playa del Carmen to Belize City, 16 hours from Guatemala City to Nicaragua, 16 hours from Lima to Peru.
After a while, I started enjoying my long bus rides through the Mexican and Central American landscape- maybe it was a form of transportation Stockholm syndrome- I fell in love with my captor.
I love the feeling of being in motion and having a constantly changing backdrop of lush jungles, deep canyons or the soft peaks of sleeping volcanoes.
I had one last long one to go. I was in Peru and needed to take a 14 hour ride north to Lima from Cusco to catch my flight home to the States. I booked a night bus ( which I always felt was a two for one- why just sleep and stay in the same spot when you can wake up in a new destination!), but was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see what was around me. Nevertheless, I bulldozed my way onto the bus, claimed a single seat, made my cocoon, and curled up for the night.
Everyone else shuffled in, a mix of older men, a woman and her infant baby, and a few Aussies joined our small cabin. I watched them play a standing game of Twister as everyone worked their way through the narrow aisle and attempted to put away their bags in an orderly fashion before they grab a seat.
Once everyone was settled in, the bus took its first lurch forward and we were off. I turned my head and gazed out the window to watch the sun scorch the Andean mountains in red shadows for the last time and when it would return, I would be in the desert.
The bus began the steady incline up the mountains and the sky turned one shade darker.
From the moment we started, we felt it would be rough. The bus caught every pothole, squeezed through narrow passageways, and would jostle back and forth on the zig-zagging inclining road.
It seemed like a road that had no patience for errors.
Now riding on unpaved terrain is one thing, but it’s the driver that’s ultimately in control, and both were terribly mismatched ( or daringly matched) for this hike out of the Andes.
It felt like the driver was living out his dream of being in the Indy 500 and unfairly making the rest of the bus live out that fantasy with him.
I could just imagine what his thoughts were narrating a car race, “ Express bus makes a hairpin turn, makes an aggressive pass at a carbon emitting, rucksack of a car, just nearly misses a tire slipping over the edge of the Andean mountains, and pushes back into its lane- 500 miles to go!”
I could feel how close were were onto the precipice of the mountain when the bus would lean a little to long and heavy on one side, like a newborn baby just getting in its first lopsided steps.
“Holy shit” I thought. For once I’m glad I can’t see outside.
As I tried to be rational and calm myself over the cultural differences of safety, I heard the beginnings of a soft blubbering.
The infant baby behind me was also not enjoying this ride and instead of keeping its opinion to itself, it let everyone else know exactly how it felt.
It began with restless murmurs, an occasional yelp, and then silence.
“Ok, phew.” I thought. Just a little sleepy whimpering.
Then another yowl, this time longer but followed by a longer silence.
Then the cries began to build up like the rhythmic pulses of a cat that is about to vomit all over your new shoes….. and then silence, like the feeling of when you think you are going to sneeze and then don’t.
But then, with a sudden swivel of the searing wheel, possibly to avoid a vicuña, who have a penchant for jumping out into the road like their North American brethren I was used to, the baby prima donna began bawling out her aria.
I started counting her screams like a metronome
– 8 beats- pause- 24 beats with a crescendo pause- 8 forte beats- 8 piano beats-32 forte beats long!
There were some points I was impressed with its pitches and ability to hold notes, but there was no talent; it was like going to an opera where the prima donna audaciously believes that she can go onstage without warming up her vocal chords.
I was trapped. There was nothing I could do. The mother seemed to be doing the best she could.
What was once my cocoon now felt like I was mummifying myself.
Unable to sleep, I felt my body + mind begin to calcify, every joint hardening and crystallizing.
If I didn’t know she was Peruvian, I might have thought she was Italian with that performance.
And by that I also mean, it was an opera that never fucking finished. That baby screamed directly behind me for the remaining 12 hours of our clunky bus ride and needless to say once I got off the bus my chakras were out of alignment.
I was haggard, bags under my eyes and arms, and the screams of the baby reverberating in my skull even when I was finally surrounded by desert silence.
Now, when I’m boarding a bus, I scan for children, babies, obnoxious teenagers and attempt to put a sleeping spell on them for a quiet journey ride.
2. Lost PIN in London
It was summer break at the University and I was all set to travel to the United Kingdom for two weeks of touring and learning about British Children’s Literature.
I could not have been more thrilled!
Having already been abroad, I prided myself a seasoned traveler. While I preferred traveling solo, this would be my first group trip experience. I knew the ropes of overseas flights, foreign currency conversion, and packing the perfect suitcase. Nothing could go wrong.
Or so I thought.
My boyfriend at the time knew all about which credit cards had the best overseas transaction fees.
“Just take your debit card,” he said. “Skip the cash. You won’t have to exchange it. And, Credit cards charge your more per purchase than the fees for just withdrawing money from an ATM once you get there.”
I would skip the expensive cash and credit card fees, bring only my debit card, and who needs travelers checks anymore? Those things are so outdated!
With confidence in my cleverness, I packed my bags (and lean wallet), boarded the plane, and headed to London.
We arrived with little hoopla.
I excitedly got off the plane the next day and headed for baggage claim. By this time, I had met up with most of my classmates. Albeit jet lagged, we couldn’t wait to sightsee.
I grabbed my bags and looked around. An ATM! Perfect, I can grab some cash while everyone else waits for their bags.
I plugged in my card. Words flashed on the screen. “Please enter your PIN number.”
Maybe it was the jet lag from waking up in a different country after an overnight flight. Or, maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t used my debit card in awhile. Either way, I could not remember my PIN. It was simply gone.
Panic set in.
Was it 3469? Or 6953? I know there’s a 3 in there. I began punching numbers frantically.
More words flashed on the screen. “You have exceeded the number of attempts to enter your PIN.” My debit card was frozen.
I was in a foreign country with no cash, no credit cards, no travelers checks, and a frozen, useless debit card.
This was the only time I was thankful for traveling in an organized group. For the next couple of days, I bummed cash, food, and international calling cards off my teachers and classmates. I felt like the annoying, tag along little sister. I borrowed an international calling card and called my bank as soon as I got the chance.
Of course, they couldn’t give me (or anyone else) my PIN number. The best they could do was unfreeze my card which would allow me 3 more attempts to recall my PIN.
“Call us back if you need us to unfreeze it again” I heard the sympathy in the bank reps voice. “Good luck!” Now, I either had to magically remember my PIN, or else find it on a piece of paper.
Only I wasn’t home.
I called my parents next. “Mom, tear my room apart. Do whatever you need to do. But find my PIN!”
Of course, no one could call me back since I didn’t have an international phone either.
I had to wait.
Anxiety loomed over me as I walked around London trying to focus on the sights while simultaneously searching the uttermost corners of my mind for that elusive PIN.
No one seemed to mind me mooching off them, but after awhile they started to seem rather put out. I borrowed another phone card and called my mom again that night. Please God let her find my PIN!
“Ok. I found something that might be your PIN. Try 4623 and call me back.” She sounded hopeful.
I ran to the nearest ATM and entered the numbers. Nope. I tried two more combinations of those numbers. Again, nothing worked. And, my card was frozen again.
My situation looked bleak. I borrowed the calling card from my classmate once again. The slight roll of her eyes told me I was a bothersome burden.
“Keep searching through my room. It may be in a box of papers in my closet,” I told my mom.
Next, I called my bank for the second time, asking them to unfreeze my PIN.
“Ok. You’re all set. Good luck!” I felt like they were all cheering me on.
I waited until the next day to call my mom back. Seven hours of restless sleep later, I heard her say:
“I think I’ve found it! Try 3269.”
Shoulders hunched, I headed for the ATM and slowly entered the numbers, expecting nothing to happen.
Then, miraculously, money began pouring out of the ATM. It worked!
I’m getting that PIN tattooed on my hand, I thought. Relief washed over me like a tsunami in the desert.
The moral of the story? Don’t listen to stupid advice and always bring a backup financial source when traveling.
I learned my lesson and that was the last time I found myself stranded with no money in a foreign country.
Brooke Bent lives in Bozeman, Montana with her childhood sweetheart and two kids. She uses her degrees in Spanish and English Literature to write about her life experiences. She blogs at www.fruitscakesandnuts.com and has been published in works such as Chicken Soup for the Soul.
3. Never Let Your Guard Down
This frightful travel experience happened while I was only a month into my 14 month round the world trip, but it was an important reminder to always keep my belongings close when travelling. Now I consider myself a fairly seasoned traveller and have taken many a sketchy bus ride in my day, but nothing encountered in Ecuador compared to some of those crazier experiences. In fact, I thought that the buses in Ecuador ran in a reasonably orderly fashion and they seemed safe enough. I also found the overwhelming majority of Ecuadorians I met to be incredibly kind and helpful, so I started to let my guard down as I travelled through the country. As I boarded my 8 hour long bus from Quito to Lago Agrio, I noticed that there were a lot of empty seats with only 2 other passengers besides us. Not wanting to spend all 8 hours clutching our belongings close, my husband and I put some items on the empty seat beside us then stretched out and enjoyed the relative comfort of this “Firts Class” bus. It featured Wi-Fi, movies, air-conditioning, and type-o on the seat covers aside, it very much seemed like a first class bus.
Shortly after leaving the city, we stopped to pick up two people from a small town who were trying to sell us some packaged nuts and other things, as seems to be the tradition on buses in Ecuador. I have seen these bus-salespeople in other parts of the world and have always found them to be relatively harmless, but in other instances they simply walk the aisle once or twice and then get off before the bus leaves to its next destination. In this case, these two stayed onboard and once they didn’t make a sale, they sat down immediately behind the seat where we had put some of our stuff. This seemed a little odd, I mean, they could have sat anywhere in the entire bus, so why sit so close to us and our stuff? Still, I wasn’t too worried about my handbag since it has a locking zipper and I had put my coat on top of it. Nevertheless, I could see them acting a bit suspicious and stealing glances at me out of the corner of my eye. Travelling in Ecuador had felt extremely safe up until this point and I chalked my uneasy feeling up to my overactive imagination. I carried on reading for a short while until what I was seeing was unmistakable: my coat was moving seemingly by itself! Rather, one of the would-be nut-sellers was trying to squeeze his hand through the seat to open my handbag and help himself to the contents while the other kept a lookout.
I didn’t have time to think about how to react before my lizard-brain took over and I jumped up and screamed “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???” at them. The sneaky-handed guy pulled his hand up and showed it to me with an open palm as if to prove his innocence while the other one stared at the ground, averting all eye contact. We grabbed our stuff back and checked it over and fortunately they had not managed to take anything, but he had gotten past the lock on my handbag. I suspect that he may have done this kind of thing once or twice before. While we were immensely relieved that nothing was taken, it was nevertheless a frightening experience because I don’t think that I have ever come so close to having my belongings stolen while travelling.
The two bad salesmen and even worse thieves slunk off at the next stop as the remaining passengers shook their heads at them. Afterwards, they asked us if they took anything to which we were mercifully able to reply no. They then counselled us to always keep our belongings close. Even when travelling “Firts Class.”
4. Cheaper is Not Always Better
It all started back in 2014 when I was studying abroad in Greece. I was island hopping (as you do in Greece) and, because your girl was ballin’ on a student budget, I chose to take the cheapest ferry option possible. This meant taking the slower moving, traditional ferries and not the high-speed, catamaran options. What I didn’t realize was that these “traditional” ferries tended to not have stabilizers. I grew up spending weekends on pontoon boats and never had any issues with seasickness, so I figured I’d be totally find on these ferries. Boy was I wrong! About an hour into the trip, I suddenly got very seasick. It was like a scene from a rom-com where the girl has to vomit over the edge of the boat, only I was nowhere near the dreamy man typically there to hold the leading lady’s hair back. The railing became my friend for the remainder of that first ferry ride, and dramamine became my best friend for every future ferry ride during my tenure in Greece. Moral of the story: always pack medicine for seasickness, even if you think you won’t need it.
5. When Paris Wasn’t the City of Love
You always hear stories of how gorgeous Paris is. The city of love. I was in the Netherlands for three months and we decided to visit Paris for a weekend. I was obviously super excited to go. We went as part of a tour group and a 6 hours bus drive later we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. The crazy rain storm that just came out of nowhere and had me soaked 10 minutes after getting off the bus was the first sign that this weekend was going downhill.
We strolled around the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and got some food before the tour bus took us to our hotel. It was dark by the time we got there so we showered and hopped into bed. The next morning I woke up with a super scratchy throat with a view of a graveyard. Yep, our hotel had a gorgeous view of a graveyard. Back on the tour bus we went to go sight-seeing and we went to some hot tourist spots like the Eifel Tower and the Notre Dame. At some point I managed to get some strepsils at a drugstore for my throat. The day ended with dinner at an Indian restaurant. Yep you read right, we ate Indian food, in Paris. Not even the proper kind because it was served with fries (who eats curry and fries) After dinner the tour bus did an extra “Paris by Night” drive and we decided not to go. This is when they left us right there with little instruction of how to get back to our hotel.
We managed to find the subway station but the ticket station was no where to be found. And we all know that no one in Paris wants to help you if you try and communicate in English. Taking the subway was a bust. I broke down crying in a bench. We were lost in Paris. Eventually we managed to flag down a taxi that got us back to the hotel at a very hefty fair. You would think this is the end of the nightmare but it wasn’t.
That Sunday morning I woke up with full blown flu (probably the rain together with breathing other people’s germs for hours in the bus) I decided a hot shower will be the answer and as I got out I slipped and fell. I broke my toe and my butt in the process. Yep, I fractured my coccyx in Paris. I don’t know how I managed to get through the day. I just remember sitting in that bus was SO painful. Back in the Netherlands I went to a Dr but nothing could really be done about a broken butt and toe and it just had to heal over time.
That was the last time I got into a tour bus!
You can find Lizna on her website and social medias:
- Blog: www.withelizabethh.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/withelizabethh/
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Thank you to everyone who contributed!!!
Stay tuned for Part 8 Travel Horror Stories! If you have a travel horror story please contact me! I would love to have your story in one of my articles!
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Chasa is a travel blogger who has been writing since 2016. She has traveled domestically and internationally since 2013 and resides in the state of Alabama, where she pursues her passion for helping people see the beauty in other states and countries through her own accounts.
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