21 Scary Travel Stories (You Don’t Want To Read)

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We’ve had great luck in our last 4 years of travel. Scrap that. In my last 17 years of travel. Nothing too big, nothing too scary… At least not as scary as my other travelling friends. 

But before we do get to those scary travel stories, I have a few close calls to share. 

The Lost Child

This is the most terrifying thing that can happen to any parent. And even more frustrating is when you’re in an unfamiliar place and your child is under 5!

My daughter was a pretty easy child, while my son didn’t understand the concept of “slowing down”. We lost him twice in Israel – once at the beach in Tel Aviv and then again in a shopping mall.

Then there was the time he went missing for 15 minutes at Santa Park in Finland. Terrifying!

Thankfully the older they get the less likely they are to wander off and we haven’t had any similar incidences since 2014. 

Tip: Pick up a business card at your holiday accommodation and slip it into your kid’s pocket when heading out in case they get lost.

Broken Bones

Next to losing your child the most terrifying thing that can happen during travels is someone gets really hurt.

And of course you can guess this also happened to my wild three-year-old son the day before we were about to explore Petra, one of the world’s most amazing wonders. He fell off a bunk bed and fractured his wrist in Israel. No one spoke any English at the hospital emergency room, and as a three-year-old he did not understand why he couldn’t remove his cast.

Tip: Thank God for travel insurance! An incident like this can really set you back in a foreign country. We always travel with comprehensive travel insurance. Remember, some travel credit cards come with travel insurance, so check your credit card to see if you have any coverage.

Prepare To Be Afraid

As a family we haven’t come across too many scary situations. We tend to travel to more family friendly destinations and we are rarely walking down dark alleys at night. But some of these travel bloggers have not been so lucky.

So flick on the lights and grip firmly onto an arm of a loved one while you read some of the scariest travel stories you’ve ever heard…

A Broken Back In The Amazon

Dave & Deb – ThePlanetD

The scariest travel experience we've ever had was deep in the heart of the Amazon when my husband Dave slipped on a set of steel stairs and broke his back. After a 10-hour ordeal to get him out of the Amazon by skiff boat, floatplane, moto taxi and finally a make shift ambulance, we made it to a small hospital in the town of Iquitos.

There was no way in or out of this town expect by boat or plane. Dave spent 8 days in the hospital undergoing CT scans, MRIs where they found that he fractured two vertebrates. The worst part was waiting for an air ambulance home. The hospital in Iquitos couldn’t do anything for Dave expect try to control his pain. So he spent the week on high doses of narcotic painkillers.

Finally after several days of phone calls, gathering up paperwork and organizing insurance, we secured an air ambulance back to Canada where Dave spent another nine days in hospital and another four months of recovery and physiotherapy. It was an ordeal, but also an eye opener and reminder that life can change in an instant. Be grateful for everything that you have.

Dave's broken back

Robbed At Gun Point

Stacie – Divine Lifestyle

The scariest moment of my life was being robbed by two guys with two guns each. I questioned everything about my life during those 30 minutes lying face down in the dirt in Nassau, Bahamas.

I got back to the cruise ship after 8 hours but I was alone because this was a press trip. I just wanted to be with my family. I wanted to see my kids and husband. 

I was emptying my purse (my passport, money and camera were all taken) and out fell this photo charm of my three children that I had lost the year before. It was stuck in the lining. It was so calming that I finally cried happy tears.

Bloody & Alone In The Jungle

Will - The Broke Backpacker 

When I was nineteen, I hit the road in search of adventure and found myself hiking through the Costa Rican jungle on a twenty-one-day trek; the plan was to start at the Pacific Ocean and end at the Atlantic Ocean. Three days in and I awoke in the night to find that something had found its way past my mosquito net and punctured my leg full of holes. Being nineteen and indestructible, I chose to ignore it - the bites were shallow and didn’t even really hurt. Twenty-four hours later and I was stumbling hopelessly through the jungle, rain lashing through the trees, hallucinations rushing at me from all sides. My leg was angry and red, swollen beyond recognition and it hurt to put pressure on it. I crawled up an endless muddy slope, half a foot of water soaking my clothes and pack as the path turned to a river. My map was sodden and useless but somehow I made it to a Ranger Station where I stumbled through the front door like some kind of jungle demon and instantly passed out.

I awoke to find myself being evacuated to a hospital where I was informed that my leg would be amputated. Fear writhed through me at the thought of losing my leg and losing my chance to join the Royal Marines.

Two weeks passed in a hazy blur until finally I graduated from my bed, into a wheelchair and back to England. I spent a year recovering from my physical injuries, had a good old-fashioned mental break down upon learning that the marines were no longer an option and booked a one-way flight to India where I began my wandering hobo travels.

I have never been as scared as I was within that jungle, or that hospital and yet this turned out to be one of the most important moments in my life; it changed my direction, put me on an ultimately more rewarding path and forced me to reevaluate who I was and just what the heck I wanted to do. Sometimes, the greatest challenges offer the greatest opportunities.

At Knife Point On A Beach

Rachael - Nothing If Not Intentional

My husband, my parents, our girls (ages 1 and 3), and I were on the beach in Puerto Rico a few years ago when a man came out of the shadows and held a knife to my mom's neck. I grabbed the girls and tried to run but the attacker's partner pulled me back. Eventually I got away (not before peeing my pants) and ran for help. My mom fought her attacker (and bit him hard enough to draw blood) while the accomplice robbed the men. Eventually, my mom sank to the ground (she was starting to pass out due to lack of oxygen--the man had her in a choke hold), and the man ran away.

When Snakes Cross Your Path

Victoria - GlobeTotting

One of the scariest moments we’ve had as a family was when we were exploring a network of caves in Panama with friends and got separated from some of the children in our group by an extremely venomous snake. Two children had walked ahead and stepped directly over an ‘equis’. Also known as the Fer-de-lance, a bite from this snake is usually fatal. As the snake occupied a narrow spot in the gorge there wasn’t enough room to by-pass it safely. Our guide hurled a handful of rocks at it and luckily for everyone, was an excellent marksman! The memory of that moment however, and what could have been, still sends chills down my spine.

When Snakes Bite

Paul – Global Help Swap

Most travellers to Thailand injure themselves on motorbikes. You know how it is, you rent a bike on some gorgeous island, have a few too many Chang's and next thing you know you are skidding on your ass. 

I, on the other hand, ended up in hospital because of a snake bite. Now, I would love to tell you that I was trekking in some remote corner of the country with some ancient hill tribe when it happened but alas, what really happened is a bit more mundane. 

I was slowly walking along at our resort when I felt a sharp pain. My foot instinctively lifted up, hurling my flip-flop in the air narrowly missing a girl who was sunbathing nearby. I looked down to see a huge brown snake slither by and blood on my toe. I quickly went to reception to describe what had happened. The lady nonchalantly said I would be okay and left it at that. 

Karen, my partner, was not having any of that and insisted that they call an ambulance. As I waited for my very first ambulance ride, I noticed I was sweating a lot and that my heart was beating fast. Was this the venom kicking in or just my paranoia? 

Eventually, the ambulance came and took us to the hospital. The driving on the way felt way more dangerous than any snake. Thankfully, all turned out okay (otherwise I would have been writing this from beyond the grave!) and I was given a generous dose of drugs. 

Now the drugs were truly scary. Possible side-effects: hallucinations, paranoia, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and sweating. Needless to say, I chucked them in the bin. Give me venom any day.

Burning Man Wounds

Vicki - The Vicki Winters Show

Riding around on my gas-powered skateboard at Burning Man, I felt radically cool as pretty much everyone was smiling and waving at me. While hamming it up, somehow, I fell to the ground. Still holding onto the remote control, I was then dragged along the playa for 10 feet. 

My shins and ribs took the hardest blows. I was so scared that I was really injured, but I was able to dust myself off (literally), skate off with just a bruised rib, shin bleeding and a big tear in my favorite Burning Man costume. 3 weeks later, the ribs still hurt but hopefully they’ll heal soon.

Camels & Scorpions Make For A Fun Day Out

Bret & Mary - Green Global Travel 

We should've known our day hiking through Jordan's Dana Biosphere Reserve was going to be difficult when our experienced guide slipped and fell on his butt within 5 minutes of setting off down the rock-strewn path through the desert. The brain-frazzling 105°F temperature didn't help matters either. Nor did the fact that our guide was stung by a Deathstalker (the most venomous Scorpion species in the world!) during our stop for afternoon tea, more than 7km from the nearest sign of civilization. Fortunately, he survived, thanks to the fact that Bedouin moms put the ashes of the deadly scorpions in their kids' milk to build up their tolerance to the toxins.

But the capper of the day was being chased by a random camel in the middle of the desert near the end of the 14-km hike, running as fast as I could while my boots literally fell apart from wear and tear. I don't think I've ever slept harder than I did that night on the roof of our hotel, looking up at the desert sky. 

Robbed On A Bus In The Amazon

DanieLike Riding A Bicycle

On my very first backpacking trip, I took a bus through the Amazon in Peru. In the middle of the night the bus was stopped; I woke up to see a man with a big black gun pointed at us all, yelling in Spanish. The men were marched off the bus, as the women awaited what would happen next. It was the only moment in my life where I actually thought to myself, “I might be about to die.” After robbing us all blind, and fortunately harming no one, the total of six men with masks and guns left the bus, leaving us to carry on into the dark Amazonian night. 

Robbed By Children

Natasha – A Global Stroll

On our honeymoon in Athens, Greece, my husband and I were eating when gypsy children started yelling and waving papers in our face. As this was our first trip abroad, we failed to notice that this was one of the oldest distraction techniques in the book. After a few moments, they quickly left and we were dumbfounded at what just happened. We then quickly realized my husband’s cell phone was missing, and we were just robbed. Thankfully nothing else got taken and no one was hurt! 

When Buffalo Attack

Lauren - Justin Plus Lauren

One day while volunteering in Kenya at a wildlife conservancy, we worked to clear the path to one of the hides (building to observe wildlife). Suddenly, one of our guides started screaming at the top of his lungs. I didn't know why, but I knew that I should run. I sprinted back to our vehicle. As I opened the back door, I looked up to see an angry buffalo stampeding towards us. The buffalo rammed the vehicle several times as I watched from inside. Eventually, she wandered back into the bush. If we didn't react as quickly as we did, any one of us could have been killed. The guide who came face to face with the buffalo jumped into a giant cactus to escape it.

Sliding Into An Abyss

Patricia - Our Whole Village

My scariest travel moment took place in Bariloche, Argentina when I was just 8.

It was our family's first trip abroad and my first time seeing snow. My brothers and I were so excited we ditched the adults as soon as we got to the top of the mountain. We wanted to explore.

We saw this shed at the edge of the mountain and decided to walk down to check it out. I slipped and started sliding towards the abyss. Luckily, there was a rock and I was able to hold on to it. We were all screaming. Next thing I remember; I see grampons. A man had come to rescue me. He brought me to safety and lectured us in Spanish.

It took twenty years for my brothers and I to share that story with my parents...

Beaten For Money

Stefania - Every Steph

I had a scary experience in Mui Ne, Vietnam, while out at night with a friend. We friended two locals who later insisted in giving us a free ride to a club. Later that night, we found these guys outside demanding money. We argued and left, but they started chasing us. My friend and I parted ways: I ran to the beach (dumb move!) and hid behind a cabin. When I got out I found my friend who had been beaten by the men. Some locals told us those guys were the local mafia and we were lucky nothing very serious happened!

Falling Down Waterfalls

Jason An Epic Education

Have I told you about the time I nearly killed my son on a waterfall? The boy and I were scaling the slick rocks of Malaysia’s Seven Wells Waterfall looking for a viewpoint. Bad idea — I know that now. He slipped, skidding to a stop on a dry patch of stone. I was not so lucky. I slid past him, went airborne and fell hard on my tailbone. Had the boy not moved in time, I would have taken him with me… and landed on him. The hospital said we were lucky. We certainly were. Few people learn humility so effectively.

When Dogs Bite

Emily - See Her Travel

Four days after arriving in Jamaica I was staying at a colleague’s house. Early in the morning, I went outside to find my colleague. The two dogs of the property came around the house and set upon me barking and snapping, jumping at me and biting at my feet.  After backing up and falling into some bushes, I was on the ground flailing and screaming, trying to fend off the dogs as they clamped down on my ankles and my arms. One was getting seriously close to my face and neck. A flash went through my mind that this may be when I die, or at minimum get seriously maimed. I escaped when the dog’s owner heard my screams, though my wounds did take a couple of weeks to heal.

Smashed On The Rocks Of Hawaii

Shara - SKJ Travel

The second time I almost died I was vacationing in Maui, Hawaii, standing on a finger of razor-sharp lava rock jutting into a heaving ocean. After a huge wave came up over my head, smashed me flat and pushed me across the rock like a train, I spent hours in the hospital emergency room having lava rock scrubbed out of my body with wire brushes. But it wasn't bad luck; I had very good luck: I later learned that in the previous 5 years, 5 people had fully died in that exact same place, in the exact same situation. 

Passenger Of A High Speed Car Chase

Cacinda – Points and Travel

Picture this: 4 am, pitch black outside, and cab ride to the Barcelona airport from Palamos (due to a rookie travel move). I needed time to make my early morning flight. The guy shows up, I get in his cab... a minute later, another guy shows up. The two of them get into a verbal argument in Spanish, which leads to the cars swerving, screams, and us speeding off with the guy chasing us for about a mile. Driver looks back at me after it is all over and says: "You know nothing." Longest hour and a half trip to the airport I ever had!

Chased In Belgium

Natasha – The World Pursuit

I lost track of time on my solo trip in Brussels. I had been exploring the city while enjoying the delicious Belgian brews all day when I realized I had no idea how to get back to my Couchsurfing host's home. I thought I could retrace my steps by memory even though it had been at least a half hour walk.

About 20 minutes into my walk back I realized I was definitely in the wrong part of Brussels. Every man was staring at me, cat calling, and giving me the up down. It was well into the night time when a group of three not-so-nice-looking men started to approach me. I made a run for it into the parking lot where a woman stopped her car, asked me what in the world I was doing there and told me to jump in immediately. She informed me I should have never been where I was and drove me where I needed to go. I'll never know what could have happened, but I am very thankful she was there.

Kidnapping At A Theme Park

Sally – our3kidsvtheworld

When the kids were a little younger we visited Hong Kong and went to Ocean Park. Keira who was 7 at the time was walking along a stone wall garden bed. Her and I were walking behind my husband and the other 2 kids and a man ran up beside her and picked her up. I thought he was an employee and wasn’t happy about her walking on the wall. I was about to apologise when he turned around and ran away with her. I nearly died, I screamed to my husband who didn’t hear me so all that was left to do was to chase him alone. I followed him back about 80m, the longest 80m of my life and he stopped at a tour group, they then passed her between themselves taking photos. It was the scariest moment of my life. Once I realised what they were doing, I was so relieved I couldn’t get mad but my husband sure made up for it! (see photo, Keira is wearing the Minnie hat)

When Your Cruise Threatens To Leave Without You

Victoria – Follow Me Away

During our cruise to the Bahamas, we partnered with a Dive Shop. Things were already slow to get started, so we arrived back at their dock after the last shuttle took guests to the cruise port. The manager told us not to worry and that her friend Cliff would take us to our ship. We hopped in the vehicle and not more than 5 minutes later he asked how we were paying.

We were in shock since nothing about payment was discussed and everyone at the shop kept calling this a shuttle. We asked him the fare and he said it was $70 because he had to wait 30 minutes (not our fault!) We told him we only had $40 between us and he grew more irritated.

We called the dive shop manager back and she told us to tell him she would take care of it. We thought everything was solved so we told him the manager would take care of it and it turns out he was recently fired from there so he was even more upset and he didn't trust them!

He was purposely driving way under the speed limit and our departure time was quickly approaching. A car flashes its lights and our taxi driver stops IN THE MIDDLE OF OF THE ROAD during rush hour, exchanges a few words, hands over a tiny package, and successfully completes a drug deal (it wasn't pot either!)

He mutters that that's what they do in the Bahamas and then continues to curse and be upset about the fact that he isn't getting paid and that isn't how he operates his business. He drove as slow as possible and we were now within 10 minutes of the ship closing its doors. He finally (takes forever) to park and we give him a $20 and hop out as fast as we can and run back to the ship with less than 5 minutes to spare!

Dislocated Shoulder At The Airport

Jurga – Full Suitcase

Our South African adventure almost got extended as our 2-year-old dislocated his shoulder at the airport, just minutes before boarding. Paramedics were called and our suitcases were unloaded from the aircraft. It was 10PM, the kids were exhausted and we were getting anxious over having to look for a hospital in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar city in Africa with three toddlers, luggage and no car or accommodation! 

Our boy has had a dislocated shoulder before and we knew that it was easy to ‘fix’, but paramedics wouldn’t do it. Luckily we had some painkillers, he soon felt better and at the very last minute we were allowed to board. Next morning, we went to the hospital and it turned out that the shoulder had relocated by itself.

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

So many scary things!!!! I think the important takeaway is that these kinds of things happen, but we can't let them scare us off of travel, adventure or living life to the fullest! And I might have gotten some dog bites, but I still pet stray puppies on the street!

Emily Kydd Oct 12th, 2016

Some of those stories were SO scary! Although these things do happen, they're all part of the adventure!

Lauren Oct 12th, 2016

Love reading this scary stories. thanks for sharing!!

Daniel Oct 13th, 2016

Hmm, I was gripped but simultaneously wishing I hadn't started this article. I'm off to Venice tomorrow - I shall be conscientiously looking for kidnappers, scorpions and water buffaloes. Cheers.

Alex Oct 13th, 2016

the stories are very sad, feel afraid to read through to the end. But however we can take a lesson from them.

Hajar Rinjani Jan 25th, 2017

Hello, your post is awesome, interesting as well as creative. I really like your post and it is very useful for me. I never read this much helpful and understandable post. Thanks for sharing and keep it up.

linneawade Dec 23rd, 2019

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