Tell Us Dammit: Travel Nightmares

Early this week Gizmodo Australia's Luke Hopewell spent 33 hours completely grounded on an aeroplane thanks to a storm and an especially stubborn Chinese government. You can read the whole account here. It is insane. But it got me wondering: what are some of your worst travel stories?

I have a couple: there was the time I sat a seat up from a weird man on a bus en route to Miami in the US, who was casually flicking through a porno magazine in front of the rest of the passengers. Weird guy, I thought. I had no idea how weird.

We made an unscheduled stop for some reason. I went into a convenience store. Before I knew it four cop cars hurtled round the corner to arrest this guy.

"I don't know if I should tell you this," the bus driver drawled over the bus tannoy, when everyone reboarded, " but he was a murderer."

Well there you go.

How about you guys — what are some of your worst travelling stories?


    Kids/babies in general, flight from Brisbane to Auckland had a brat kicking and screaming for about 4hrs in the seat in front.

    I flew Tiger Airlines. That's enough of a horror story in itself. From being an hour early and forced to wait 40 minutes, only just scraping in 5 minutes before I would've been deemed 'too late' due to their incompetence, to severely rude staff who told me to 'shut up please' because 'she'd had enough of people today'. Possibly the single worst airline I've ever used.

    Last edited 03/04/14 11:25 am

      Well the fact that you actually got to FLY Tiger Airlines (as opposed to buying a ticket but not actually getting to go anywhere) puts you well ahead of most people I know who have tried them.

        Bahahahaha too true. I still could not believe it. The amount of people BEHIND me (I'm talking over 30) who got shut out of their flight because Tiger themselves dicked around and were late opening their check in, was unbelievable. I'm positive that company was set up as a tax fraud scam or something. Oh and seriously, flying on that plane I never once felt safe. I always feel safe on Virgin or Jetstar, but never the Tiger one. I dunno why.

          Or qantus?

            Can't say I've flown Qantas, usually the lower priced airlines, as I don't need all the trimmings, just to get from point A to point B. However Tiger insists on being incapable of supplying any sort of competent service in even allowing you to leave point A FOR B.

              I havn't taken Qantus in a long time, Jetstar is just fine. I think that is a domestic/international choice.

                Indeed. Any time I've gone Jetstar they've been great. The ladies and gentlemen serving us have been nice, prompt and very hospitable.

      Must just be Tiger in Australia as I've flown with them dozens of times in Asia and they're always on time, polite, extremely clean and never had to wait for anything

    I had to catch a bus once
    worst experience of my life

      How's the arms?

        Boom tish... But seriously it's lucky he didn't try and blow up the bus. He would have burnt his lips on the exhaust.

    Keeping people in a plane for 33 hours is a massive breach of international treaties regarding air travel. That's completely ridiculous.

      To be fair the plane landed at a domestic airport at an abandoned terminal with no international customs officers available. Letting them off is a massive potential breach of customs/border control.

        Nevertheless, I'm fairly certain that the upper limit is 3 hours under the relevant treaty, which has existed since air travel became a thing.

          Since China never joined, I don't think it applies to them.

          Also, airports are not held accountable under the stipulations of the current three-hour tarmac rule. International flights are also held to a different standard due to customs requirements.

          Last edited 03/04/14 11:41 am

          The only reference to a rule I can find applies only to domestic flights in the US. Do you have a reference to an equivalent international agreement?

          Last edited 03/04/14 1:19 pm

    If you have ever had to bus it to Perth you deserve some recognition. I did it as a 14 year old and although the Nullarbor is spectacular it gets very old when you are still in the middle of nowhere after driving through the night.

      Once took a greyhound bus from Townsville to Melbourne with a changeover in Sydney. I feel your pain...

        I did the McCafferty's Charleville to Brisbane/Brisbane to Charlleville a couple of times. 12 hours each way. Very comfortable Coach's. Comfortable seat's (that fully lay down), toilet at the back of the bus (built into the design & better than you think) and movies on the CRT. Talkin 1990's here!

        One of the craziest rules I learnt (but the safest), is that long distance drivers essentially have take no notice of any animal that jumps into the road. It's a surreal experience being awake at midnight, massive floodlights lighting the road, doing 100KM/H in the middle of nowhere, along bumpy Australian Outback roads, and seeing a kangaroo jump in from the left and just disappearing with a sound like a fly hitting the windshield...

        Also the fact that an excellently designed coach, with fully independent suspension, just floats over the roads like butter. Only the wheels react to the road.

          Greyhound bus-lines on the other-hand, were a pack of Psychopaths and if you have a good memory you may remember many incidents they were a part of. Their buses were deathtraps.

          Their rear drivetrain, for a start, was a 4x4 solid platform!!! And they were driving full loads of people, at very high speed, over outback roads with fake bullbars - I also saw a fair few with no bullbars at all!

            They used to also purposfully kill our native animals. And remember there is a difference between a real coach not swerving when a poor kangaroo enters the road, and a "bus-line" that had a reputation for going over the speed limit whenever it suited their means...

            I once counted about 400 dead Kangaroos from Charlleville to Cunnamulla on one day alone! No joke. And my school busstop was only half-way along the highway...

        Your lucky to be alive Weresmurf! Forreal!

          lol You're not wrong. I was around 19 at the time. Saving my money, it cost me around 110 dollars all up for the trip from memory (this was 17 years ago now).

          On the trip I got to sit next to this INCREDIBLY gorgeous young woman who was a complete cow to me the whole time for no other reason that I was male and sitting next to her on a bus. I didn't say 'boo' to her, was always polite and well mannered, even gave her the window seat to be polite. I wasn't fat so I wasn't cramping her in, so who knows eh.

          Then, later in the trip there was the couple, from memory behind me who obviously *needed* to join the Five Meter High club. Yep. Heard them all goddamn night. Even worse? On a bus? SMELT it all goddamn friggin night.

          You're not wrong about animals though, I saw that happen through the night, usually kangaroos or wallabies and I swear I saw him actually swerve *to* hit one at one point. It was pretty gross getting to Mackay for a brief stop and seeing the driver hose the blood off the front of the bus O_o

          The worst part, the absolute worst part, was the toilet. My god. Oh my god. Who the fuck on a bus shits ON the toilet seat. It's not like we're not gonna find out? People will KNOW who went last! We all smelt the smell... we all knew it was coming from there. Then the door opens and yep, someones managed to dump a steamer half on the freakin toilet seat. Sickening.

          Everyone off the bus while the driver cleans THAT mess up!!!

          Back then, it was around 30 hours on the road from memory? Possibly a bit shorter? Maybe a bit longer, I dunno, I fly these days. But I do not miss Greyhound busses.

          I can't say I've ever had a bad incident on a McCafferteys though, you're definitely right. All the freaks seem to travel by Greyhound.

            Gad damn! And I must say my school-bus was a school bus, and not a demon bus :P

            One day on the way to school one of the high-schoolers had to actually get off the bus and "finish off" a broken kangaroo that was somehow still alive. Even though it was a ball of meat and broken bones. On the way to school!

            I also noticed one afternoon, a Joey unscathed in the pouch of a dead kangaroo. My mumsy had to drive over half-way back to town before she realised I wasn't seeing things.

            So we ended up with a pet Kangaroo which was the good-news.

    6ft 7inches.
    Catch flight to UK.
    Not in aisle, not in emergency exit seat.
    Cramped up within 1 hour of the 23 hour flight.
    Could not literally walk by myself for 5 minutes at landing, the hostesses had to gingerly help me off the plane.

    6ft 7inches.
    Catch flight back from UK.
    Explain what happened last time.
    Get me emergency exit seat.
    They put me next to toilet. Have to keep folding my legs up to let people line up for the toilet.
    Did not sleep. Drank free alcohol to pass time.
    Could not literally walk by myself for 30 minutes at landing, the federal police had to gingerly help me off the plane.
    Dried out in customs.

      Fuck that man, I have a mate that tall and boy the stories he's told me about the disadvantages of being that tall just sound horrible.

      I'm 6"5 and know how tough it can be. I'm from the UK and have done the trip a lot. However, I imagine those extra couple of inches you have on me would make it exponentially worst!

      I flew for the first time in my life last month, as a 6ft person with legs that go on forever I was cramping up on the 90 minute flight so i can't imagine what an international flight would do to me. Would probably have to chop my legs off and store them overhead.

    2004, on holiday in the USA, was on a 9 day tour up through the northeast states, and a bit of Canada.

    In Montreal I had some chinese food that turned out to be not the best. The next day I was sick. Monumentally, cataclysmically, apocalyptically sick. Everything inside me that wasn't securely nailed down was blasting out of one end of me or the other at extremely high velocities. I have never felt so sick in my life. The worst part is that when you're that sick, you just want to curl up in bed and not move. But being on a group tour means you can't really do that - you have to get on the bus. And it just so happens that that was also the longest day of the entire tour. We did over 900kms on the bus that day, with me bolting to the bathroom every time we stopped.

    It was unpleasant.

      I went to India, New Delhi. Then we went to the northern areas, the lower-Himalayas where no tourists ever go.

      I arrived as a 192cm male, weighing 73kg. I arrived in Australia weighing 64kg. My father lost a decent amount of weight too, and was maybe 12 hrs from being dead (eventually). He literally got blood poisoning lol.

      Shit was intense.

    Never had any extremely horrible travel stories. I have a few, but nothing horrible that left me stranded or pissed off to the point of snapped.

    Though first time on a plane going from Gold Coast to Melbourne, I got to sit next to a young father & his 18 month old boy they'd just gotten off a plane from Singapore that morning, most pleasant child to sit next to I must say, barely made any noise and just slept, the father was a nice dude to chat with too, made the flight far less boring I have to say.

    There was also the time went to Brisbane with a mate and his radiator had a blockage, so that was fun literally limping back down the pacific highway, stopping every 20 minutes to let it cool down and add more water.

    Then there was having the front passenger tyre blow out on our truck (light commercial Isuzu) at 100km/h near Nerang one day, that was not fun. What made it more annoying/worse was, the wheel brace had an extremely weak handle to use as a lever so it just bent and couldn't undo the nut & it was a Saturday around midday, we were just lucky the local tyre joint was open until late afternoon that day and they did callouts. Wasn't a cheap experience, especially since tyres for the damn thing start at $300..

    12 hour flight on an old quantas plane sitting literally right next to the galley. The smell was almost vomit inducing.
    Not to mention the seat recliner was also broken. Put me off quantas completely...

    Also boats I just can't handle. Sailing over the cook strait (6-9 hours) with high swells in the middle of the night. I was vomiting every hour >.>

    Last edited 03/04/14 11:37 am

    My most recent trip involved catching a bus from Geelong to Canberra. GOD IT WAS BORING. As someone who's travelled around Aus a lot I have very little to complain about aside from the odd smell and issues with comfort.

    Earlier this year in Beijing, I accepted a rode on a little tricycle thing because I figured "what's the worst that could happen?"

    At the end of it I'm shepherded into an alley, where these two guys start yelling at me, demanding I past them way more than the agreed amount. So I figured I don't want trouble, so I hand over 300 Yuans, at which point they demand more. Thankfully at this point the logic part of my brain kicked in, so I just manhandled my way out of the alley, since I doubted two weedy Chinese his would be able to do much to stop me (particularly when they already had way more money than deserved).

    Taking off during monsoonal storms in Bangkok. The sound of the engines was terrifying and the most intense turbulence I have ever felt like the plane was being drop-kicked by God. Longest 15 minutes of my life

    Last edited 03/04/14 11:40 am

      Oh yeah. Been there done that. Well actually landing in Bangkok during a massive monsoonal storm. With a mother who is a afraid of flying. They had to get a nurse to come up and give her Valium when they landed to get her off the plane. I found the thing a blast though. :)

    I don't have any nightmare travel stories in the same vein as the others, but pretty much any time there's a large number of people on the train (Which is pretty much any time there's an event at the Suncorp Stadium) it's a nightmare for me. I really don't handle crowds very well.

    Motherfucking Heathrow. That place is lovely.

    All international flights go through the one security checkpoint (you know, how Brisbane has MULTIPLE for each airport wing?) with only two x-rays and scanners. We were there 6 hrs early, but it took us 1.5hrs+ just to get through this first checkpoint. Typical entitled asshole workers: "u wot m8? U cannae hav dat there camera box gov'na, wot wot". We flew through 5 countries on the way, no one had a problem with anything, apart from Heathrow. So we spent another 20 mins throwing away clothes and possessions.

    12 hours after we left the last time, the airport was completely shut down for 1-3 days because of a little snow on the ground and/or a massive computer system error. Lulz.

    Seriously, fuck that place. No not fly to Heathrow if you value the lives of others'.

    Last edited 03/04/14 11:48 am

    Flying back to Europe with Korean Air (Mistake #1), 20 hour lay over in Seoul (stupid budget flights) Korean air had promised us a hotel near the airport where we could rest during the wait... got to Seoul, man at the counter goes (in very broken english) "What hotel?"
    Yelled a bit, and then crashed in the Travellers lounge for 20 hours... they had a TV... it only played the Starcraft Channels (no kidding)... Got on the plane finally... it was one of the older planes with one communal screen in the middle of the plane... They decided to play a Korean movie called "A Sad Story" (I think)... it was 6 hours and 45 minutes long...
    Okay first world problems, BUT IT SUCKED

      Haha sounds more like An Upsetting Story.

      Ba dum tss.

      Jeez 6 hours. Omg. I don't think I would be able to handle that lol

    Booked a houseboat for our honeymoon. Rocked up and found out that there was 40km/h winds all week, with mid-high 30 degrees, causing the river to be very choppy and inhospitable. Wife was violently puking 20 mins after setting foot on the boat, had to cancel before we even cast off. Boat company was very nice and offered us a partial refund though they had no obligation to.

    I was caught up in the earthquake in Japan a few years back.
    Slept on the floor for days while it was snowing and only had clothes i'd brought from Australia which was really not sufficient to keep me warm. Hardly anyone could speak English so didn't know what was going on, no transport working for a day then only partial services (had to transfer over 8 times just to get to the airport), most shops ran out of food within 12 hours. Slept on the floor of the airport for another couple days before finally being able to get on a flight out.

      About to upvote the comment.

      Why am I upvoting a comment like this? I don't know.

      Wow it already has been upvoted once lol.

      That's weird.

      Your experience must've been rough, but quite an experience. lol

        Yeah its was quite an experience. In the first few days most people caught outside when it happened were given by the authorities either garbage bags to wear or tarpaulins to sit under to try and keep us warm.

    17 hour train ride in Vietnam. 40+ degrees, 80% humidity, no air con, no toilet paper, the drinking water had run out before we got on the train so if you didn't bring any you were screwed.

    We opted for beer.

    333, the Vietnam equalivalent of Emu Export or Hammer and Tonges. We got the drink cart guy's mobile number and had him on call for the duration of the trip. Man did we paid that guy well in tips? lol

      Doesn't sound too bad. Actually sounded like quiet a good experience.

        Looking back now its ok. But at the time we were fucking furious.

        My wife still doesn't want to talk about it.

    Flight to bangalore , India. 12 hour flight, as we prepare to descend a different plane has an accident on the runway below. We are stuck in a holding pattern for an hour, then diverted in the opposite direction. Finally land at a different airport in a different part of India. At this piont I'm totally lost, no idea where to go or what to do but as all planes were diverted to this airport no one can get off the plane. 3 hours later we find out that we can now fly back to bangalore but we have to wait for refueling. That takes another 2 hours and then the waiting to take off is a killer. When we got back to bangalore and we couldnt land because too many planes are trying to land. We are in a holding pattern for another hour. FINALLY land bangalore about 9 hours after our original a arival time. All of those 9 hours spent sitting in the same plane... and why they don't serve food or drinks in that time is beyond me. I wanted to die. 12 hours turns into 21

    I guess it's India. .. what can you expect

      They probably only had enough food the for flight, not all the extra. Why would you haul around extra? It would not be used 99% of the time and also make the plane heavier.

    Kinda similar to Lukes experience, but not as bad. Flying from Bali to Makassar (another Indonesian city) to see family, but the pilot wasnt able to land due to bad weather, tried landing but couldnt, circled for a few hours still no luck, so had to fly all the way back to Bali, refuel and then go back to Makassar. So a flight that shouldve taken 3 hours, became 12. The scariest part was the attempted landing in Makassar. but yeh nothing on what happened to Luke.

    My partner and I had tickets from NY-LA-SYD with Virgin. There was a 4 hour delay at New York. We knew we couldn't make our connecting flight, but we were told that food and accommodation had been organised at LAX.

    We get into LAX at 3am. There was nothing. No staff, and we had nowhere to go. A baggage handler was nice enough to let us (and about a dozen other stranded Aussies) find a nearby hotel. The next day, they tried to argue that Virgin wasn't liable for our costs because it was a weather delay (this was debatable - there was a thirty minute weather delay, but the plane ran out of fuel and had to divert). Our ticket, which was a connecting flight, begged to differ. They were pretty clearly liable. Seriously terrible service from Virgin America.

    To Virgin Australia's credit, they reimbursed our expenses after I complained, and gave us about $500 in flight vouchers after I complained. I still prefer to fly with them domestically.

    I'll tell you a travel nightmare... how 'bout long distance house-move where the final trip involves packing the car with all the random objects that didn't get packed + five cats and a dog, not in cat-cages, just in the car moving around freely. Then imagine what happens at necessary service station stops :P We made it though, hahaha

    Flew from Hobart to Charlotte with a kid. I think he was about 1 at the time. Took about 36 hours and he slept for maybe 4 in that time. Nightmare. At least he was crying or anything but he did not want to sit still.

    Doing it again in 6 weeks. He is just under 2. I have told me wife we will not be doing it again for a LONG time.

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