International travel can be a lot of fun, especially if you have experience in the customs and area you’re visiting. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into a fiasco or two while on your next adventure. Sometimes, those misadventures can be your most incredible memories when you leave. To that end, here are some of our favorite travel mishaps worldwide.
1. Purpose of Your Visit?
As one commenter reminded us, gaining entry to another country can sometimes be challenging. He was asked by a female immigration officer if he was traveling alone. He said he was.
She then informed him that her department doesn’t issue travel permits to people traveling alone in Bhutan. The Indian man says he remembers reading about that policy when making plans to travel, but knew a Bhutanese citizen could help introduce him. Unfortunately, he’d just allowed his only acquaintance from the country to board the late bus moments before.
Playing dumb, the traveler asked by individual tourists wasn’t allowed to travel solo in Bhutan and was made aware that two Indians had recently died in the country in a tragic accident. The woman wanted to know who would keep him safe if he traveled alone.
After pleading with the woman to let him enter the country after his long travel, she noticed his occupation was listed as ‘engineer’ on his application. He said that was correct.
She informed him that lots of Indians enter Bhutan to work on the Hydell plants within the country. And after a few moments, our hopeful tourist realized the immigration officer was trying to give him another route to enter the country. He readily agreed that he was indeed there to work on the Hydell plants.
And in a moment, our travel felt very much like that from The Terminal starring Tom Hanks; the woman asked him which specific Hydell plant he planned to work on and completely dashed his hopes of entering Bhutan to enjoy his travels.
For anyone who’s purchased insurance through their most recent job in the USA, COBRA insurance is usually the route most preferred. However, in other countries, it can mean something completely different, as one poster shared. To remind herself that she needed to look over her COBRA insurance, the poster put a note on her kitchen cupboard about eye level so she would see if when she got home from work.
During her time away, her cleaning lady was scheduled to come and “make her apartment look amazing.” When she got home, however, she noticed that her apartment was unusually messy after the cleaning lady’s visit. Her next-door neighbor mentioned that the poor woman had gone running down the stairs, screaming that she had a snake in her kitchen cupboard.
When the woman told her neighbor that COBRA meant insurance and not a snake, the two women had a good laugh about it.
3. Anything Else?
Sometimes, even when you think you know, you don’t know. One visitor to Germany quickly figured out that rules of language rarely apply across the board. While trying to order lunch one afternoon, a man came across an ad in a joint KFC and Pizza Hut that showed a small pizza and two pieces of chicken.
The man, who had picked up a few important words like “Guten Tag” or Good Day, asked for one portion of “Mittwoch.” The cashier immediately shook his head and when the man tried again to say what he wanted, the casheir again said, “No, no.”
Directly the cashier came back with the janitor who happened to be a British guy. When the traveler tried to explain what he wanted the janitor offered this explanation.
He told the businessman that “Mittwoch” is the word for Wednesday and that the advertisement he referred to was only available on Wednesday. The visitor ordered a two-piece chicken meal and left “red-faced.”
4. Hot and Spicy
Understanding food culture in a foreign country is essential if you want food of a specific variety. One user living in Uraguay said that food in the country is meat, pizza, or pasta. Their concept of spicey food is little to none, and the word jalapeños doesn’t exist in the Uraguan language. They shared the following story.
The user was elated to find a jar of jalapeño peppers in the supermarket, adding them to their food repertoire. One day, after their cleaning lady had come to make their apartment ‘nice and spiffy,’ the lady said, “My sandwich was a bit dry, so I used some of your pickles.”
The user had no doubt everyone in the building heard screaming when she took the first bite! Those ‘pickles’ were, of course, jalapeños.
5. Ride Out Back
If you’ve ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck, you’ll understand how interesting this next story is. “Driving in rural Thailand, we saw a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with pineapples in the back in a cage stacked so high that the height could well serve as the content of the story… at least 20′ probably closer to 30′ (6–10 meters).
But no, that was not what was so shocking; a guy was standing on top of all the pineapples as they drove down the road doing about 50MPH. He had a rope tied to the load and was holding on to that, leaning back a bit, looking like he was riding those pineapples.
As we passed laughing in hysterics, it became apparent why he was on top of the pineapples. There was no more room in the pickup cabin for more people, so he had to “ride out back.”
6. Monopoly Money
Being a tourist can be an exciting and unusual experience. Sometimes, our reactions bubble up to the surface. One individual shared an instance about their excitement during a vacation in the North country. A woman we’ll call Shelly was taking her first trip to Canada when she encountered a scenario that made her extremely happy.
She says that when they stopped for refreshments, their U.S. dollars were converted to Canadian currency, and as the cashier placed a crisp, light purple bill in her hand, she couldn’t contain her joy and said to her husband, “It looks like Monopoly Money!”
Her husband quickly reprimanded her for her outburst and said it was rude. After that, Shelly was careful about how she showed her excitement but was delighted to take the purple note home to her mother, who had a knack for collecting different countries’ currencies.
7. False Advertising
Even when visiting a country with a similar exchange rate, paying close attention to the fine print is always good advice. Here is one tourist’s story. A person we’ll call Emery was staying at a hotel in Grenada that had advertised a pool and a gift when booking directly with the hotel. Unfortunately, the pool had no water, and the rooms rarely had water. The TV didn’t function, and to Emery, the air conditioner was also “anemic.”
Emery expected a little problem as the exchange rate wasn’t much different between East Caribbean dollars and U.S. dollars, but the hotel had a hitch. According to Emery, they advertised U.S. dollars but charged in E.C. dollars and made up an exchange rate instead of the official one. “I was staying in a hotel in Grenada. They advertised their price in US dollars and promised a gift when booking directly with the hotel. Fool me, I believed them. By the time Emery was charged for the room and got charged to reconvert the E.C. dollars to U.S. dollars, they ended up paying about 15% more than advertised for their stay.
They also lament that the promised gift never existed, and while the owner said she’d “look into it,” the gift never materialized.
8. Stranger Friends
A stranger could become a fast friend when meeting people abroad, as one woman discovered while traveling in the Czech Republic. A woman we’ll refer to as “Amy” was dying to see the city at night but didn’t want to tour it alone. Thankfully, two days before she was scheduled to leave, she met a fascinating person who agreed to show her around.
They visited Charles Bridge and sat along the Vltava River, enjoying a bottle of wine the stranger-friend had brought. The fast friends walked along the river and enjoyed the silence of the night before the man walked Amy to her hotel. She still counts it as one of her most treasured memories and hopes she’ll see him again someday.
Traveling abroad is not for the faint of heart. As one traveler pointed out, practical jokes aren’t specific to one country over another. Two friends took a summer trip to Germany in 1967, hitchhiking through the country and playing traditional Irish music to fund their travels. When they heard about a music festival in Munich, they wanted to attend but were warned not to play their instruments there. After writing down their street name, “Einbahnstrasse,” they headed out. When they got ready to head back to their hotel, they asked a bystander where they might find their street and were laughingly told that “Einbahnstrasse” means “One Way Street” in German. Thankfully, Germans, much like the Irish, when a visitor gets lost. They asked questions, and eventually, the two were able to find their lodging. Years later, they’d still yell out, “Ein Bahn Strasse!,” whenever they saw each other.
10. McDonald’s Is Not Created Equal
Despite seeing a familiar restaurant, it pays to remember that you’re no longer in your own country, and things can be radically different, as one participant learned the hard way. “This happened when I went to Singapore last year. On the second day, at around 10 PM, I felt famished, so my brother and I ate something. I found a McDonald’s and thought I could buy a burger and head back. So we went and asked for two McVeggies. The guy at the counter said he didn’t have McVeggies and smiled. I thought, OK…they are about to close … so I asked them, what else you have? And he started giving names that I couldn’t relate to. So I just told him to give me a veg burger. When he told me that they don’t serve Veg Burgers, I genuinely couldn’t understand. After about 5 minutes of talking, I realized that McD’s serves Veg burgers only in India!!!”
11. Lost in Translation
Sometimes, having a translator is overrated. Someone figured this out the hard way when trying to order a drink. During a trip to Italy, a traveler ordered a lemonade, just lemon juice and water. When they asked for sugar, the waiter tried to give them salt. But when the translator asked for sugar, the waiter looked disgusted. When the visitor asked what the translator had said, she himhawed around before stating, “I told him you were American and just to give you sugar.”
12. Excuse Me?
Gallantry is lovely until you don’t speak the language and don’t understand that words in other cultures can have many different meanings. One poor fellow learned this the hard way. One man found it shocking that life in Sydney is very much like how he lives in Spain, with a love of beaches, beer or wine lunch, and great food before a late trip to bed. Finding the city charming, the man and his wife went to Kings Cross and stopped at a pub for drinks.
His wife ordered a Coke; knowing her well, he knew she’d want a straw. Being gentlemanly, he went and asked the barmaid for one. Except this Spaniard asked for a screw instead of a straw.
The barmaid was taken aback by his request.
When he explained, the barmaid replied, “Oh My God. You want a straw, not a screw!” The man apologized and said that he was Spanish and the barmaid might have noticed his misinterpretation. When he told his wife why the barmaid had looked so confused, she laughed and told him other meanings for the word ‘screw.’
Life, Lessons, and Laughter
Traveling can be an immensely wonderful experience. It can also be stressful and overwhelming. But I once heard some great advice, so I’ll share it with you. Life is for the living, and that’s what I will do. Also, when I was 16, I went on a trip to Reynosa, Mexico, and on our way home, several men who proposed marriage assaulted our van when we stopped at a red light; such is their desire to come to the US At such a young age, it was embarrassing.
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