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7 of Our Readers’ Biggest Travel Fails

Since our staff members had some scary, hilarious, and outright shocking travel fails, we figured our readers would have some pretty epic tales of their own travel woes. We were right, of course. Here are the best we heard on Facebook and Twitter.

1. Don’t Wear Flashy Jewelry While Snorkeling
“I was almost ripped apart by giant barracudas while snorkeling off the coast of the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda, off Antigua. I met this Peace Corps worker, Jonathan, flying around the caribbean on a LIAT air pass and he invited me to come stay on Barbuda.

We rented a jeep and drove out to a deserted pink-sand beach on rough roads. We were the only people there, with a nice reef offshore to explore. We got our gear ready, and for some odd reason, I decided to leave my very reflective diving watch on the hood of the jeep. The snorkeling was fantastic, and soon the two of us were quite far apart from each other. I began to see seven-to-eight-foot barracudas, which was exciting. But soon, there were twelve of these giants and they were circling me like prey. Jonathan is way too far away to help, so I try to remain calm. They keep getting closer. I finally slowly inch my way back towards shore, and in the shallower water they finally abate.

When we get back to Jonathan’s house, we share the story with a local islander. He told us of a woman being attacked and killed by barracudas—all because she was wearing flashy jewelry while swimming. Thank God I had left my super-flashy new diving watch on the hood of the jeep! I seriously believe that had it not been for this, I would have fed the barracudas of Barbuda that day.” —Bott Scabott, Facebook

2. Don’t Try to Camp in the Bahamas
“I was camping on Paradise Island in the Bahamas with a friend and my dog. One day, while sitting on the beach, Immigration asked to see our passports. We didn’t have them on us; they were back at our camp, where we had rolled everything up in a tarp and stashed it under thick brush. I was so worried they would impound my dog. I said that he was not ours, just a stray. A woman I had befriended on the beach took him home with her and kept him tied up in her front yard.

“When the officers saw we had been camping, they took us to the police station to find out if camping by foreigners was legal or not. They decided that it was not, and then whisked us to a deportation camp where we were tossed in with a bunch of Haitian and Jamaican men, women, and children. There were a couple Canadians there, too, but I didn’t find out the reason.

“When I was able to get a plane ticket, I contacted my friend from the beach and she met me at the airport with my dog. I was escorted onto the plane by an officer who gave me $5 and told me I could return anytime, but I had to stay in a hotel—no camping! My friend was also able to get a ticket back to where she was from, in England. So remember, kids—only locals are allowed to camp in the Bahamas!” —Rajam Roose, Facebook

3. Don’t Rely on Google Maps
“A Google Maps journey in Bosnia took us through a border crossing we weren’t allowed to go through. Those bad directions cost us over $100 in data fees. The road was small and treacherous and locals were giving us looks like, what are you doing here? Signs were crossed-off, missing, or handmade.” —Jessica Gladney, Facebook

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4. Don’t Assume Your Ride is a Sure Thing
“In Tanzania, we booked a last-minute safari with a driver/guide to Mikumi National Park. Having someone else drive was a great opportunity to relax after a hectic week of touring—or so we thought. Halfway there, our driver abruptly pulled to the side of the road at the outskirts of a small village. He took a look at one of the rear tires and told us that the bolts holding it on had burst off. He walked away to find help in the village and eventually returned with a mechanic.

“While they worked on a temporary fix, we spent several hours kicking dust while watching large trucks pass by. A group of children at a nearby house watched with curiosity and giggled wildly each time I waved hello to them. We were never going to get to our lodge before dark unless we switched to Plan B: the dala dala. These shared minibus taxis are known for carrying more passengers than they can hold while traveling at unsafe speeds, and are certainly not the typical choice for transportation to an unfenced camp bordering a national park.

“We were traveling beyond their normal route, so after a few wrong turns on narrow dirt roads, we arrived at our destination. That night, we enjoyed a good laugh with the very kind and accommodating owner of the camp as we explained the whole situation over dinner (and a much-needed beer). Though the day went really wrong, it finished just right.” —Marie Frei, Facebook

5. Don’t Assume Your Flight Will Work Out
“I was trapped in Yichang China’s airport with no food, water, or electricity for 36 hours. The airport was under construction during a flooding of the Yangtze, then our plane malfunctioned, then we were socked in by weather. Housed in soldier barracks. Woke up alone.” — @_its_about_time, Twitter

6. Don’t Trust Kids with Rusty Knives
“I was robbed at dusk by four kids with a rusty knife in Cape Town.” —Healther Jameson, Facebook

7. Seriously, Don’t Trust Them.
“Same! Except it was two kids and they didn’t actually get to rob us because we stupidly ran away (thankfully they didn’t chase us). The next morning we told the innkeeper we’d had some trouble on the walk home from dinner. His response: “Oh, did you get mugged?” —Katie Hammel, Facebook

Want more?
Check out AFAR staffers’ biggest travel fails!

First photo by Lebawit Lily Girma; second by Andrea Rip