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Tequila, Tuk Tuks and Toilet Paper – my top travel fails revealed

I’m sure,  looking at my blog posts and social media accounts, many people think I lead a charmed life where everything always runs smoothly and travelling is completely hassle free. Wrong ! On a recent road trip we started talking about some of the most frustrating, funny and downright embarrassing things that have happened when travelling and so, for something a little different, I thought I would share a few of my best travel fails so far!

Mexico – drink spiking

26 years old and my friend and I were visiting my father in Los Angeles. He organised to show us a bit of the Baja coast of Mexico with a fun weekend in Rosarita Beach. Yeah, heaps of fun !

After a nice family meal my friend and I popped next door to the Rock and Roll Taco for a couple of quiet Long Island Iced teas. First mistake. Said drinks were bought for us by a few visiting Marines. Second mistake. Lets hop in a car with them and go to another club in a neighbouring town – complete lunatics! By the time we got to this next club something was seriously wrong with my ability to string a sentence together, walk or really function at all. Friend ( who I best mention is just on 5’0 and I am 5’11) managed to half carry me out to the road where we were picked up by the passing Polizia. EEK ! This was the 90’s and it was not unusual for young western girls to disappear under the care of the Mexican authorities but luckily my friends quick thinking and tall tales of our ‘wealthy American father’  ( in hindight this should of made it worse!) saw us dropped back to our hotel quite promptly.

I threw up in a tissue box the next day all the way back to LA and Dad thought it was the funniest thing ever. Highly NOT recommended. 0/5.

travel fails

Wylderice / Pixabay

Bangkok – Tuk Tuk scam

We’d been to Bangkok before, a couple of times. We knew all about the famous Tuk Tuk scams and other well-known ploys to prey on unsuspecting tourists. Of course that would never be us !

And yet somehow we believed our charming Tuk Tuk driver and his conveniently located friend when they told us the Wat Arun temple was closed that day for a ‘special religious ceremony’ and somehow allowed ourselves to be taken instead to a very lovely, albeit suspiciously newly painted ‘hidden’ temple instead. And then to the wholesale gem store. And then to the artefacts shop we just happened to be passing. By the time he suggested his uncles amazing tailor shop of course the penny dropped. Scammed ! We simple got out of the tuk-tuk, thrust some Baht at him and walked off. 

The thing is with these types of things the drivers can be so charming and convincing with their big happy smiles. It’s sad to think you have to keep your cynics goggles on in many parts of the world but Bangkok is certainly one of them and it pays to be on your guard the whole time.

Believe nothing – Google is your friend !

Still had a bit of fun and Bangkok is a great city. 2/5

travel fails

cancelvfr / Pixabay

Greece – border crossing

Before visiting Greece for the very first time we drove around parts of Turkey for 2 weeks on a fabulous holiday. We had planned  to end our stay at Kusadasi which was close to Cemse, where we could catch the ferry to the Greek Island of Chios where my husband’s father is from.

Our ferry was booked for 9am and a quick google the night before told me we needed to allow an hour to drive from our hotel, take the hire car back and get on our Ferry. So you can imagine our surprise upon checkout at 7:55 am when the Receptionist informs us, oh no, its at least 90 minutes, maybe more !

Queue throw the kids and the bags in the car and race off in a squeal of burning rubber up the driveway and drive like complete maniacs for the next 40 minutes, screaming at each other, the kids, pedestrians, other cars and anything in our way. Not so dangerous or illegal as everyone in Turkey drives that way normally but still probably not ideal. Once in Cesme we literally threw the keys at the hire car guy, jumped in a taxi and frantically burst into the Ferry ticket office only to be told I had booked tickets for the wrong day!

In typical Turkish style however the ticketing woman said quietly ‘no problem’ and simply printed off some new tickets and pointed out to the sea saying ‘your boat is just on the other side of that one”, which was a massive modern ocean liner. We ran madly down the steps, around the ship and down the gangplank only to find a leaky, rusty vessel resembling the asylum seeker boats we see on the news. Oh well, its only a 40 minute ride, in fact we can see Chios already!

Finally we arrive in Greece. A place we have talked about for so many years, and as much as we had a lovely time in Turkey we were keen to meet family, see our heritage and, as my husband puts it, eat some REAL Yiros ( not Kebabs). However the Greek immigration officer take one look at John and got straight into interrogation mode. As a swarthy kinda guy he was constantly taken for a local in Turkey and this guy was going to give him some local grief – something the two countries have been doing to each other for centuries. We could not believe we now had to go through a new drama after the morning we had!

However when John explained where we were from and why we were there the expression on the mans face completely changed. Not only did he know our family but turned out his sister lives in the Brisbane suburb of Holland Park ! Problem over – go straight through family. Yassas and welcome to Greece !

Google is NOT always your friend.

Hey its the Greek Islands ! 4/5

travel fails

Macau – border crossing

Girl’s trips to Hong Kong are always great fun and a day trip to Macau seemed like a good idea. I’d been there before and loved the Portugal meets China blend of food, architecture and culture and was keen to share with the others.

It’s only a quick 60 minute trip on the Hydrofoil from HK island and so easy to do as a day trip. Unless the Macau GRAND PRIX happens to be on !

We turn the corner of the usually empty immigration haul in Macau and are faced with a sea of people. Not one square inch of the hall was empty and the lines were moving at a glacial pace. After an hour of waiting we ask if we can just go straight back to Hong Kong. No, must go through to go back. 

My usually very clever friend notices that the Senior line has few people and makes friends with a group of elderly Canadian gents and decides we can pass as their companions. After 20 minutes or so of small talk and laughs we finally get to the desk and the officer wont hear any of it. The Canadians are straight through and we have to walk to the very back of the queues, in front of about 1000 bored annoyed people all watching us. You know that Soup Nazi episode – no Soup for you !

We still had fun. 3/5

travel fails

 Budapest – flight drama

Last year my plans to travel to Poland, Hungary and Vietnam were somewhere thwarted when my friend broke her foot in a motorbike accident on Mykonos. We were determined to continue however, at least for the European content and had a couple of great but challenging weeks navigating trains, planes, cobblestone streets and tram tracks with a wheel chair. Still very worth while and don’t regret any of it.

However I pulled the plug on Vietnam. Asia is tricky enough at times let alone with crutches and a wheelchair and my friend’s doctor in Athens and her insurance company were both happier if we headed home to Australia.

Which would have been fine but it was July and flights were full. So after a lot of research I thought it was a miracle that we had managed to find a flight from Bangkok to Australia that easily connected with our flight from Budapest. Except it didn’t ! It was one of those flight that was stopping to refuel and shift a few passengers but those booked through to Vietnam could not get off with their bags. Many hours of tears and begging and eventually the lovely guys at Qatar in Budapest found us a flight only a few hours later that had the itinerary we needed – BUT only 2 seats left and we need our passports which were back in the apartment !

I pushed that wheelchair like we were trialing for the Winter Paralympics. Hook turns, backward lunges, sidewalk shuffles, ramp rage – I was on fire ! But, sadly by the time we got the necessary documentation the seats were gone. The only thing for it was to head to airport and commence more begging, crying and praying to false idols.

Well, long story short we got on with seconds to spare. We were so grateful I kissed the check-in staff, did the wheelchair happy dance and cartwheels all the way to the check in gate where, OH NO, our boarding passes were taken off us !

And replaced with Business Class ones !  Talk about from the sh*t house to the penthouse. What a day that was ( and we got home safe and sound and are now very big fans of Qatar).

travel fail

Hong Kong – Train hijinx

AndyLeungHK / Pixabay

You know that Mister Bean movie where he gets off the train in France momentarily and the doors slam in his face ?

The train trip from Hong Kong over the border to Shenzhen is fairly straight forward especially for an old hand like me right ? Trouble is the first class carriages are at one end of the train and that often happens to be the further-est when you are boarding.

But that’s ok, just get off when it stops at different stations and make your way to the front. I’ve done it heaps of times, what could possibly go wrong !?

Yeah, 3 of us make it to the next carriage but the 4th one, on her first trip to Shenzhen, has the doors shut in her face and is left on a platform in a distant province with no phone signal and no idea where our hotel is.

It all worked out in the end of course but I will never forget the look on her face on the wrong side of the door nor the look on all our faces when we realised what had happened. And we had made jokes about Mr Bean only minutes earlier ! It’s really not that funny :-/

We still shopped up a storm. 4/5

Always, ALWAYS carry toilet paper with you

Lets keep this one brief shall we. 

Lets just say that if you hire one of the Sleep Cubes at Bangkok Airport, where the toilets are next door at the Train Station, be aware that they keep the loo paper at the SINK not down the hall and in the actual toilet cubicles where it logically should be kept.

If you are a ‘regular’ kind of girl like me, one who may have had a few wines the night before and, even worse, a touch of Bangkok Belly, this could be a highly embarrassing and awkward situation.

Always carry toilet paper – especially at 5 am !! 0/5

These are just a few of my most cringe worth travel moments over the years. I’ve left out the story about Motley Crue or Prince Albert, the serial killer in LA or my most recent proud moment when I forgot my passport. The fact is those stories are epic and are some of my favourite travel moments ever !

What was your biggest travel fail ? Would love to hear about it in comment x


Want to find out more about how to do that Shopping trip to Shenzhen from Hong Kong ? CLICK HERE

Or which Greek Island to visit ?  Check out these ones !


  1. Ha ha ha! You’ve got some of the best travel fail stories I’ve ever heard. I’ve had a ew epic fails myself. I’m not sure which one is the worst, but I think the handle breaking on my over-sized suitcase when I was attempting to drag it up a hundred stairs in the Paris subway was one of my worst moments. It almost killed about twenty people as it bounced down the stairs and my husband and daughter stood at the top of the stairs laughing their heads off. Fortunately a lovely Frenchman helped me retrieve my suitcase and he even carried it back up the stairs for me. It taught me a very valuable lesson and that was to travel a lot lighter!

  2. budgettraveltalk

    A great read Sandy. Yep the well-dressed man standing out the front of the Palace in Bangkok scammed us too. I even knew about the scam but didn’t recognize it because he was so damn good. We got stuck in the red shirt protests in Bangkok. It was very scary. Tear Gas, menacing helicopters flying low overhead with Thai instructions coming from the loudspeakers, bombed out army vehicles, 14 dead and pools of blood on the footpaths right near our hotel. Even though we stayed inside the tear gas infiltrated the hotel. I didn’t realize how horrible tear gas is until then. We did however have a good time afterwards, although it didn’t seem right somehow. We were saved by some Thai teenagers who took us and our luggage under their wing, got us on a boat to avoid the fighting and showed us the back route to our hotel.

  3. Let’s just leave it at birdshit in Barcelona because that is the title of a future blog post from me. Just the thought of it makes me gag, blergh. It always seems to be the challenging experiences that are most memorable and make the best stories 😉

  4. Sue W.

    Some pretty good fails here that’s for sure !
    I’ve got soooooo many. Perhaps my bag coming out completely opened and the contents strewn all over the luggage belt including bras, undies and certain other personal items that I still cringe thinking about

  5. Jenny Peel

    I loved this article. There seemed to be a common theme with border crossings (something I will keep in mind!). I REALLY want to know how you got the first class upgrade – should I get a plaster cast on my leg?
    Well our last trip to Spain/Portugal my hubby got mugged and attacked on a very first morning. This is what happens when you ignore your wife’s advice on security in this city!! His worst injury was a cracked sternum which is still on the mend. We didn’t let it stop us enjoying Barcelona or the rest of our holiday though. Forever will be known as ‘the Incident’!

  6. emihokumen

    OMG, laughing so hard! I think my worst was traveling to Mardi Gras and putting all my cards in my pants pocket. They were gone the first night, and my friend was the brokest person ever so we had to survive off of other people buying us stuff. (Long time ago.) So basically we lived off of pizza and hurricanes for the rest of our trip. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I ha e had a few too, arriving in Thailand just as their is a military coup with four kids in tow. Having children vomit on me, minutes into a 14 hour flight…. the list goes on. But I don’t regret any of my travelling stories as they are better than staying home.

  8. Oh my gosh, AMAZING!! I love these types of adventures (or misadventures, depending how you look at them) 😀 to me, they always make the best travel stories. If we didn’t get scammed by Tuk Tuk drivers, or find ourselves on the wrong side of the train doors, what stories would we tell at dinner parties for years to come? Comedy is just tragedy plus time, after all 😉 The exception would be the drink spiking in Mexico, that sounds absolutely terrifying!! So glad you came through that unscathed. x

  9. debjani0401

    Ha ha this was such funny yet true awkward travel moments .. I could relate to every bit of it .. thanks for writing !

  10. Not so much of a fail but we were watching The Sixth Sense in a very dodgy/filthy cinema in Kuala Lumpur ie sitting on dirty concrete benches when, just at a scary bit something big and furry ran over our feet. Holy schomolie! And the loos? Gawd, one tiny square of loo paper was not going to do the job.

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