Notes

First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

Your Worst Travel Experience
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Readers recall the most dreadful time they had while traveling. If you have a particularly notable example of your own, please send it our way: hello@theatlantic.com.

Show 7 Newer Notes

A Trip Through Eastern Europe Turns South

A reader’s memory of a hellish trip to Istanbul still sounds fresh:

In the early ‘90s, my young husband and I thrived on traveling as frugally as possible. We were traveling from Scandinavia and our goal was to make it to Istanbul. On a train from Poland to Romania, we were warned by a fellow tourist not to change money on the black market, because the undercover police “may arrest you.”

Armed with that information, we arrived at the train station on a Sunday, eager to purchase our tickets to Istanbul and leave Romania as quickly as possible. The “Official Money Station" was manned when we approached to change our currency. “No money,” he shrugged and waved us away. With no Romanian currency, we had no money for food, lodging, or train tickets.

A friendly young Romanian man approached offering to help us change money on the black market. He promised he was not a police officer.

A bunch of Atlantic readers in this discussion group are exchanging their travel horror stories. (If you’d like to sharing your own, please send us a note: hello@theatlantic.com.) A short anecdote from the group:

I caught bronchitis when I was in Germany for a business trip. Spent the plane ride home sitting next to a strange drunk man who kept talking at me. Intolerable Cruelty starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones was the in-flight movie. I wanted to die.

Another reader shares that sentiment:

I was stuck in the snowbound Omaha airport with a three year old, a chihuahua, and a small carryon bag, for TWO DAYS. That was the ninth circle of hell. I wanted to die.

This next reader nearly did, for real:

Peace Corps: On a bus in Guatemala. A group of three teens in MS-13 [a notorious gang] decide to rob our bus. Being the only American on the bus and having just gone to the bank, I took all the money I had hidden in my bra and put it in my pocket ready to be robbed. People would get shot if they tried to run, so I prepared to give everything and pulled my passport out of its hiding spot in my bag so I made sure they knew they were getting it.

Then some dude decided to John Wayne and open fire on these robbers, which resulted in a firefight on a very crowded bus. I had actually been the next passenger to be robbed, so the perp standing next to me was actively shooting. I dove under the seat and stayed there until literally everyone else had gotten off the bus.

Bonus trip: I got a lightly armored security escort back to the embassy.

This reader’s experience is much more relatable:

I travel for work, so I have A LOT of these stories. I have two that beat out all of the other minor upsets though: