10 mins

Wanderlust readers' tales: Holiday mishaps

From police encounters to runaway caravans and flash floods, Wanderlust readers have been through it all while travelling... and survived to tell the tale

An alligator in Florida (Shutterstock)

At the airport

Departures sign at Heathrow Airport (Shutterstock)

Departures sign at Heathrow Airport (Shutterstock)

We were delayed at the airport because a young mother was arrested as she’d purchased a revolver in Turkey. As she was ushered away she pointed at her son, who was about eight, and said to the authorities, “He made me buy it!”

Paul Ross, Kirkby Underwood, Lincolnshire

We bought funky new luggage for a fortnight in Sri Lanka, picked it off the carousel and began our four-hour journey to a remote rainforest. It was late and we were tired, but when we tried to unlock our bag we couldn’t – we had someone else's bag. We called lost and found at the airport, and the next day repeated the four-hour journey to meet the person that had our bag. We also had to endure two hours of paperwork. A lesson learned!

Darren Bast, Royston, Hertfordshire

We were travelling to South America and then by ship to Antarctica. We flew from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, then to Rio de Janeiro. When we arrived we realised we’d left our luggage in Johannesburg! We had two nights in Rio before boarding the ship for the voyage. All we had were the clothes we were standing in – T shirts – not exactly suited for cooler climes! We decided to walk along Copacabana Beachfront; as it was only about 8am we felt safe. But we were accosted by men who promptly relieved my husband of his wallet and cash. We spent a long period giving statements at the police station. After we boarded the ship ready for our Antarctic adventure we were alerted by shouting and saw our tour representative running towards the ship followed by a laden trolley of our luggage.

Jacqueline Ebdy, Horley, Surrey

At the hotel

A hotel room (Shutterstock)

A hotel room (Shutterstock)

We stayed in a hotel Fuerteventura. The next day after breakfast I went for a walk, returned to the hotel and asked for my room keys at reception. The receptionist gave them to me but when I went to my room everything was different. I went back to reception and said it is not my room. Then the receptionist said you don't have a booking. I realised I was in the hotel next door!

Firoz Jariya, Southwell, Nottinghamshire

While on holiday with my boyfriend in Turkey we got talking about bodily functions and rude smells. I had recently read that during the First World War soldiers had used their own rude smells to ignite weapons such as cannons. I decided in my inebriated state to see if I could light a match… I caused a mini fire, set my bush on fire, the sofa and burnt a hole through the plastic sofa in the hotel room. I had burns on my arse and private parts. Fortunately I was OK and not too hurt, but I had burnt away my hair down below. We placed a cushion over the sofa hole and hoped no one would contact us about the damage. We never heard back from the hotel. I learnt a valuable lesson… never light your farts as you may set fire to yourself!

Michelle Nears, Southampton, Hampshire

Wildlife encounters

An alligator in Florida, USA (Shutterstock)

An alligator in Florida, USA (Shutterstock)

I was snorkelling in Menorca when all of a sudden I put my foot down on an octopus! It looked at me with its big eye and wrapped its tentacle around my leg. I screamed and it scurried off into the depths of the sea.

Libby Swan, Chichester, West Sussex

I spotted some baby seals under a rock in New Zealand, but realised I was between them and their mummy. Suddenly the mummy seal started bellowing, and I made a quick exit. I fell over a rock, smashed my new phone and skinned my knees, but I still managed to move before mummy seal arrived!

Angela Platts, Lairg, Sutherland

A seagull tried to land on the top of our static caravan in Berwick upon Tweed but skidded and fell off the end onto my head. My children fell about laughing. I’ve been wary of seagulls ever since!

Gill Dixon, Consett, County Durham

One day we were in a jeep in a national park in India. We realised that something had been tracking us. When we stopped this fully grown male tiger was no more than six feet away from us.... and staring! We were assured that one of the tiger’s favourite meats is venison, and that as we humans don’t taste anywhere near as good, we were safe!

Graham Brace, Braintree, Essex

My husband and I went on an airboat tour in the Everglades in Florida. Unfortunately the airboat broke down as we were surrounded by alligators. The guide knew what he was doing, but an American lady panicked and demanded to be rescued. The rescue airboat eventually turned up and we all jumped into it. We let the lady who was having a panic attack go first except she would not jump across to the rescue boat. In the end someone had to carry her across. One passenger said in my ear "We should have left her there for alligator fodder.”

Lynne Gilham, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Run ins with locals

An angry local (Shutterstock)

An angry local (Shutterstock)

While in Morocco with a friend, a menacing looking man started following us, yelling then chasing us down an alleyway into a dead end. Panicked and scared, I whirled around and pulled a mock martial arts pose and shouted “Leave us alone.” He immediately put his hands up, said “Whoa, chill chill, OK” and left. The moment he was gone, my friend locked eyes with me and just burst out laughing. I looked ridiculous! It probably only worked because I’m East Asian.

Mingyu Lin, Camden, London

During a camel safari in Gujarat India, our camel driver, my male friend and I had lunch  under a tree. While the others were napping, I went for a walk and spotted two women in traditional dress chopping firewood. I said hello, but we could not communicate. I pointed at my small analogue camera and asked if I could take a photo. They invited me closer inside a circle of thorny bushes and I took a photo. Then they blocked the exit and requested money, big money! The few coins and banknotes I came up with were knocked out of my hands on the floor. When they produced their sharp axes to put extra pressure on me, I got really scared. They also tried to grab my camera and the moneybelt hidden on my waist. Fortunately I managed to lure them into believing that the big money was with my male companion. They followed me with their axes at the ready in case I tried to run. Miraculously the look of him (he was a big, tall guy) must have scared them off, since when I looked back, they had disappeared.

Helga Boom, Asse, Belgium

My mate Russ missed his flight, arrived 16 hours late. I booked events for us both in Barcelona, but missed out as they were non refundable. On the second night he got so drunk and flirted with two girls on Las Ramblas. When I caught up the girls came on to me. We realised we'd been pickpocketed – both wallets and passports gone. Russ chased the girls and we were confronted by a gang. We flagged a cab but realised we had no cash to pay the cabbie. The cabbie asked our hotel manager to call the Garda, who showed us police badges and requested they take something as collateral until we can pay the cabbie. Russ suggested my Sony Camera. The next day we went to a police station to report events and they told us the Garda at the hotel had been fake police with fake badges, so my expensive camera was gone. The holiday was totally ruined, we'd lost our euros and had no cash for our final four days. We cancelled our cards as the gangs had them. We spent the last four days on hotel scraps and had to arrange emergency help from family, our embassy, bank and insurer to get home. Russ caused all the fuss!

Alex Naher, Smethwick, West Midlands

We went to Moscow, St Petersburg and Odessa, Ukraine in 1993. We went on a day trip and were surprised to find a border post at the town entrance; someone explained it was because the Russian Naval Fleet was stationed in the harbour as there was a dispute over whether the city was owned by Russia or Ukraine. Loads of police and the Army came into our restaurant. We were taken under armed guard to a police station where our passports were confiscated. We were locked in a windowless room with an armed police officer and someone asked us questions in Russian. After an hour we walked to military headquarters where we were locked in another windowless room. We asked to go to the toilet which was a seat over a hole where the contents dropped 15 meters to the courtyard below. We were escorted along a corridor with full height, metal studded leather doors with no names or numbers – the kind you see on films where they pull out your fingernails to get you to confess. After another couple of hours an officer arrived who spoke English. He told us we were being fined 3,000 Ukrainian coupons. We didn’t know why but paid up, the equivalent to three US dollars. Our taxi got an Army escort to the town border, where an officer jumped. The stern face disappeared, guns were put down and he handed our passports back explaining, “Tourists are only allowed on Wednesdays. Today is Tuesday, please come back to our beautiful town next Wednesday”.  We declined the invite.

Maureen Abson, Hesketh Bank, Lancashire

Accidents and emergencies

Floods in Jammu, India (Shutterstock)

Floods in Jammu, India (Shutterstock)

Our caravan came unhooked in the Alps and overtook our car, crashing into a railway embankment on the side of the road! Luckily no one was hurt.

Sue O’Brien, Enfield, London

On a visit to a bull ring in southern Spain, I tripped and broke my wrist. The hospital half cast my arm and the airport thought it was a full cast so at the end of the trip wouldn’t let me get on the plane.

Tammy Tudor, Wigan, Greater Manchester

While travelling through India, my husband got dehydrated and had to go to hospital to be put on a drip. That evening, while I was in a towel in the hotel bathroom, the doctor arrived to check that Marven was OK and give him some rehydration powder. A few moments later, our landlord and two soldiers burst in, picked up the powder and sniffed it, then began shouting at the doctor in Hindi. All turned out well after the doctor explained.

Anne Rothwell, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

My husband, son and I went to Torremolinos for a week. First they put us in a room above the disco for two nights, then we were moved to a new room on the 8th floor. It was 40°, but the balcony door was jammed shut. The air conditioning stopped working. The hotel staff asked us via the phone to unscrew the big fuse from the wall as a maid would bring a new one. I put my hand and fingers around it to pull it out then BOOM! I had been electrocuted. My arm was tingling and numb and the maid was screaming. I also got robbed by gypsies, stung by wasps and my autistic son pushed a little girl in the pool at the deep end. It was the holiday from hell!

Angela Todd, Dundee, Angus

We hired a boat in Florida to go to Shell Island but got lost in the waterways and came to a dead stop. We had beached in shallow water. Passing boats came to help, but one person shouted at my husband, “You must be at least 300lbs!” As I went to get off our boat, I lost my footing. My leg slipped through the rungs of the ladder, I fell backwards into a bed of oysters. I had a huge gash in my arm, other cuts on my back, arms, hands and feet. My leg was gashed up the shin. I was taken to hospital. Apparently oysters are full of bacteria so my wounds were washed, stitched and dressed, I was given a tetanus shot and crutches. We lost our boat deposit and had to pay for damages. I still have all the scars to this day.

Janice Dalton, Dundee, Angus

My son and I went trekking in Ladakh in Kashmir, camping at 4,150m. I began to suffer from altitude sickness and central cyanosis due to a lack of oxygen. Heavy rain flooded one tent. The following night there was a storm, mudslide and flash flood that swept part of a village away. We evacuated our tent at 3am and spent the next few days trying to keep a supply of sterilised water and treating injured people. One of the villages had a radio. A news broadcast said that flooding and landslides were widespread – 150 people had been killed and 800 were missing. Many lines were down and we couldn’t call internationally. Jammu and Kashmir state had declared a state of emergency. Pakistan had over 10,000 dead. We had enough for seven days and started rationing. A Romanian died but we could not bury the body as one day was inauspicious according to the locals and there was not enough soil to dig a grave. Air burials are the norm in Ladakh: a Muslim cuts the body up and places it on a stone altar in the mountains for the birds. This was not acceptable to the person’s companions. At 5am we were woken by an Indian Air Force helicopter which took three of us at a time; we could only take a small rucksack. We got to a safe town, caught a plane to Srinagar, then to Delhi, then a flight home. We sent some money back to the area via Save the Children to help the community who had supported us.

Carol Henshaw, North Berwick, East Lothian

Getting lost, losing things and forgetting things

A couple lost while travelling (Shutterstock)

A couple lost while travelling (Shutterstock)

My partner and I decided to go camping one summer. We arrived at the campsite late at night to find that we hadn’t packed the tent. Both of us thought the other had!

Melanie Waszkiel, Milnthorpe, Cumbria

My husband and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary in Turkey. We’d been on a fitness jag before the trip and lost some weight. When going to the bar I was telling a story and gesticulating wildly when my wedding ring flung off, over the balcony and into the flower beds below! Someone was obviously looking over me though as when we went down to look for it, there it was!

Michelle Trivett, Marlborough, Wiltshire

I went to the Cotswolds on what was supposed to be a gentle walking holiday. My mobile battery was running low so I decided to navigate without Google maps. I ended up on a farm with sheep that lined up defensively, bleated ominously. I beat a hasty retreat and got stuck in mud. I plodded on, only to face barbed wire. I was caught on a steep slope, the scary sheep below and barbed fence above. My hair caught in branches and nettles stung my toes and ankles. I finally returned to Kings Stanley sticky, drenched in sweat with muddy sandals, twigs in my hair and feet stinging from nettles.

Nandini Chakraborty, Leicester, Leicestershire

We hired a white car while on holiday in Alcudia, Majorca. We drove to Palma but knew there were parking restrictions in the city so hit on the brilliant idea of parking the car on the outskirts and getting a bus into the centre. We took the same number bus for the outward journey but little did we know it followed a different route! We ended up hopelessly lost looking for a white hire car, long before hire cars were fitted with tracking devices. We had a toddler in a pushchair, our accommodation was miles away and we traipsed the streets for hours. We eventually found the car at night time.

Karen Kirby, Liverpool, Merseyside

A few years ago I signed up for Le Tour du Mont Blanc, which involves a two-week traverse through three countries surrounding the aforementioned mountain. At the end of it my sunburnt, parched and sore body was so keyed up for the delight of a cold dip in a hotel pool but I hadn't packed a swimsuit. A kind lady offered to loan me her swimsuit bottom half. I slipped into the garment and plunged into the pool, only to realise halfway across that my ankles were unable to move apart. I frantically scrambled around to retrieve decency and emerged from the water heralded by cheering, clapping and laughter.

Don Jacklin, Derbyshire

We visited Montenegro with our teenage daughter and her friend. My husband has a terrible habit of hiding my purse and passports. At the end of the holiday we drove to Tivat airport and waited in the queue to return our car hire keys. The woman behind the counter asked for the original card that I had used to book the hire car, but when I looked in my bag, I found no purse. My husband’s face was white! He had left my purse on top of the unit in the kitchen! We flew outside of the airport and by sheer luck our holiday rep was there. She called the hotel; my purse was still there, so my husband drove the hire car back to collect it. We boarded the plane last, two minutes before they closed the doors. Closest call ever.

Amanda Cockfield, Hartlepool, Teeside

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