Travel fails and mishaps are part of every journey. Some are minor annoyances like the cab driver you know is overcharging you.  But some are epic like forgetting to renew your visa.  Here is a collection of travel fails that can serve as a cautionary tale and help us to prepare better for a trip.

travel fails and mishaps


We were traveling the world long-term. While Europe was a whirlwind four months and 10 countries, when we got to Asia we knew we wanted to stay longer in each location and slow our pace down a bit. Our first stop was Mongolia. As US citizens we had a free 30-day visa. “Perfect!” We thought.

So we booked our tickets in from Poland and out to Vietnam. Arriving August 15th and leaving September 15th. That’s a month, right?
WRONG! August has 31 days and when you are looking at arrival and departure dates, you always have to count the days that you arrive and depart. (duh!)

So our little oversight cost us half a day registering for an extension with Mongolian immigration as well as about US$100.
And we almost repeated our error when applying for our extension in Thailand, where they are way more strict about overstaying your visa! Luckily we worked it all out.
Big lesson learned and epic travel fail!

missing a visa is a travel fail

Danielle Isbell blogs at Snaps, Scribbles and Suitcases


Stay on top of visas

In Spring of 2015, we were in Japan for a two-week vacation. On our last night, knowing that our flight won’t be until 1:30 PM the following day, we went to the nearest Don Quijote outlet in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture to have our last minute shopping. The shop closes very late so we did our shopping to our hearts’ content until almost midnight.

Upon arriving home, I opened my email and was shocked to find out that our flight would be leaving in an hour. Apparently, the flight was at 1:30 AM instead of 1:30 PM.

I told my companions about the bad news and everyone started panicking. We had to leave Japan as scheduled or pay the fine for overstaying. Our visa was only for fifteen days and it coincided with our departure.

I remained calm, thinking about our next move.

A few moments later, I asked for the phone and called Philippine Airlines’ ticketing hotline. Luckily, I was able to rebook our flight on the afternoon of the same day but we had to pay additional charges. For the five of us! Only after that did all the weight of our mistakes came upon me. I was drained of all energy and laid myself helpless on the floor.

The biggest lesson from this is to never be too complacent. Always check your booking schedule days ahead, check your email for notifications, and provide a working phone number during flight booking so you will be alerted via text message of your upcoming flight

Noel Cabacungan blogs Ten Thousand Strangers


What to do if denied entrance to a country

I was denied entrance to Ukraine and was escorted on the flight back to Europe.

I traveled with my Russian passport and when I arrived in Ukraine, I was asked for an interview. They asked if I have ever been to conflict zones (Crimea and Donbass), which I had never been. Eventually, they told me that I did not provide enough evidence that I came as a tourist, and escorted me back to the plane.

Russia and Ukraine have been friends for many years. There are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and vise-versa. There are friendships, mixed families, and business relations. Probably, that is why I couldn’t even imagine they would send me back. While I was escorted to the plane I was laughing in exasperation. My friends said this is kind of situation when you say WTF and then just laugh.

Lessons learned:

1. If there are tensions between countries – check carefully what happens on the border. Even if your passport doesn’t belong to either of the sides – there can be problems with the crossing.

2. Check your insurance carefully. General travel insurance may not cover cases like denied entrance. Insurance for tickets from the airline company would work.

3. Try not to look athletic and strong – like you’re potentially coming to join the military.

Alexander Popkov blogs at Engineer on Tour


Know dangerous areas to avoid

Back in 2013 my boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to take off on a year-long travel adventure and picked Buenos Aires, Argentina as our first stop. We landed around noon, found a hostel, dropped off our bags, and decided to walk over to the tourist area of Caminito since it was a nice, sunny afternoon.

What we didn’t realize was that while Caminito is pretty safe, it’s right smack in the middle of La Boca, one of the roughest neighborhoods in all of Argentina. Needless to say, we took a wrong turn en route and before we knew it we had two guys with knives shoving us into the street and motioning for us to hand over our money. We complied, they took off running, and without thinking, we started running after them! The police saw and (thank god) ended up catching them but unfortunately, the armed robbers got little more than a slap on the wrist.

know where you go to avoid travel fails and mishaps

We learned a few lessons the hard way… first of all if we’re unsure, we always ask our hotel/hostel reception desk about any dangerous areas to avoid. And in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea to chase after the criminals. Things can be replaced and it’s better to let it go than to put yourself in danger. And we try to do a better job of trusting our instincts!

Val blogs at WanderingWheatleys


Lost backpack in Patagonia

Losing your whole backpack is any long-term traveler’s worst nightmare! This happened to me in the worst place possible, in the beginning of our 40-day trip through remote areas in the South of Patagonia. We were hitchhiking along the Carretera Austral in the rain for hours and got a ride with a pick-up truck. After 3 hours of smiling and laughing, we arrived at Coyhaique, the main town of the region. We looked in the back of the truck and saw only one backpack in there. For the first 5 minutes, we all were trying to find my backpack. We looked everywhere including under the car like if it was hiding from us! It took some time to realize it must have hopped off on the extremely bumpy road! Luckily I had my tablet, camera, and passport with me in my small backpack and basically, I just lost all my clothes, shoes, toiletries and awesome down sleeping bag (the main loss). For the next month, we camped and slept 2 people in one sleeping bag!
I got really upset a few months later when we got to Brazilian beaches and I realized that all my favorite bikinis were gone!

Travel fails and mishaps in Argentina

Alya Akhmetgareeva blogs at Stingy Nomads. See the post, hitchhiking along the Carretera Austral


Wrong Taxi in Irkutsk

We had just arrived in Irkutsk after 2 nights on a train during our Transiberian railway trip in the early morning, a little bit jetlagged and tired.

We avoided the random strangers pointing at us and saying “taxi” and we ended up saying yes to the guy who said “taximeter”.

Once in the car, we realised that the taxi was not an official one but we were not fast enough to stop the ride. All our stuff was already in the trunk.

We arrived at the destination and the scam started first by asking us 3 times the price of the standard fare showing a fake taximeter while the doors were locked and we could not get off. After my answer that we did not have that money, the guy restarted the car stating that he was bringing us to his manager. I managed to stop him and he asked us double the price (6 times the fare).

I managed to attract the attention from an old lady passing by, knocking at the window of the cab and then getting out from the front door of the car, passenger side, bringing my wife with me.

All our bags were still in the trunk and the lady was having a conversation in Russian with the thug. I pointed at the trunk, I gave her the money to give to the taxi driver only when he opened the trunk and pointed to the baseball bat that the guy had in the passenger side.

The man finally opened the trunk threatening us verbally, we got our stuff and the lady gave him the money. Just a bad memory out of all the good ones we had on a fantastic trip to Russia.

Now I am much more careful before boarding a cab, I tend to use apps if possible (there is a local Uber almost everywhere!) and I always ask if they accept a card.

That is giving me a few additional seconds to assess if I want to ride with them or not and if they can not accept a card, the perfect excuse to walk away.

Sara and Ale blog at FoodMadics


Island hopping via an unregistered fisher’s boat in Leyte, Philippines

My boyfriend and I went to Leyte province during off-peak season.  It was rainy and we found no other tourists in the official registration area for boats going to the Cuatros Islas.  That meant we had to shoulder the whole boat rent and fees. These were expensive and meant for sharing among a large group of people. Instead, we found a local fisherman who took us in his boat to the islands.

The boat was small, and there were no life vests. The boat ride to where we would be staying overnight was quiet, gray and rainy. The travel back the next day was worse – the waves were big and treacherous, our boat was literally tilting sideways and hopping in between waves. It took us twice as long to get back, and thankfully all of us were safe.

Although we were happy that we were able to help the fisherman with a little money, I would probably not repeat this experience. We were not only self-conscious that we didn’t get on a properly registered boat, it was also dangerous with the lack of life vests and other safety measures. We did save a few hundred bucks and we enjoyed the beach stay, but this highlights the lesson that safety and peace of mind comes first before money.

Catherine blogs at Tara Lets Anywhere


Cabin stay troubles

When the opportunity arises, I plan weekend getaways, for my sons and grandchildren. Not long ago, they were excited to stay in a primitive cabin in a US National Park. I made the online reservations, two months in advance.

cabin travel fails and mishaps
On the day of the trip, I went ahead of time to check in, so the children could go straight to the cabins after dinner. At check-in, I was informed that the reservation did not start until the next day. We did not have cabins for that night! Even worse, they had no rooms available. Epic Grandma fail!
I sped to the nearest town, frantically. The grandchildren would be hungry and tired after a long day of driving. Sleeping in the car was not an option. It took multiple hotels to find room, and they were not so nice. Still, I whispered a thankful prayer, as I messaged my sons.
My big lesson: double check the dates, when reserving rooms. Email to verify the reservation, a couple weeks out. Check the dates on the emails as well, so any mistakes or confusion can be corrected, ahead of time.

Roxanna Keyes blogs at Gypsy with a Day Job


Missing a Flight and Sleeping at an Airport

It was the second leg of our three-week backpacking journey with my best friend. We had fallen in love with the city of Budapest in our short visit. We made some awesome new friends that my friend couldn’t stop chatting with as we were packing our things to go to the airport. Before we knew it, we only had two hours before our flight. So we rushed to the metro, presumably on our way. About 20 minutes later, I realized that I had sent us in the wrong direction. By the time we got to the airport, they were already boarding the plane and didn’t allow us to pass. We didn’t have extra money to book a hostel, as the next flight out was the following morning, so we slept at the airport and booked the flight for the next day.

missed flight travel fails and mishaps

The biggest lesson that we learned was that we shouldn’t play the blame game as we had both screwed up. Other lessons we learned: leave way ahead of time for a flight, especially in a country with another language, and budget extra money just in case!

Katherine Weiss blogs at Worldwide Honeymoon 

To learn about more great travel fails and how they were overcome, click here.

Travel fails and mishaps are avoidable with advance planning.  What was your biggest travel fail?


1 Comment

  1. Crazy stuff happens, but we can’t let that deter us!! And in the end, the trips turn out great. It IS nice to know that I am not the only one though!!

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