Home / Travel Tips / How To Avoid suffering These Four Travel Horror Stories

How To Avoid suffering These Four Travel Horror Stories

Yes, travel isn’t always unicorns and fairytales, whimsical scenes and adventure filled days. Inevitably things go wrong, destinations you’ve longed to visit fail to live up to expectations and travel plans go array. To soften the horror of your return to work, I’m sharing four of my travel horror stories from 2017. As a bonus, I am also throwing in tips to help you avoid them.

Four Travel Horror Stories


We spent New Year 2016 in Shannon, courtesy of cheap flights with Ryanair. I booked them only a few weeks in advance, and they weren’t ridiculously priced. Perhaps that should have been a hint that Shannon is not worthy of a visit. Not even for a day. I am sorry Ireland, I love you dearly, but Shannon is only worthy of being featured in a  travel horror stories blog.

contender for worst european airline
Source; Pixabay

If you blink, you might be fortunate enough to miss Shannon. We spent over an hour searching for the the town centre on our arrival day. We eventually discovered that the dreary shopping centre, in the underbelly of bleak council flats, was the town centre.

For those accustomed to visiting Ireland and being bowled over by jovial music, stunning scenery and endless options to pickle your organs, Shannon is a dismal let down. Avoid it at all cost!

How to avoid making the same mistake

If you want to avoid towns that are not tourist worthy, do your research. If the budget airline price is rock bottom two weeks before departure, it is a strong indication that the destination is not bucket list worthy.

Albanian mountain horror

As if the general level of driving prowess in Albania wasn’t enough to terrify you, driving up a narrow, rocky mountain road, diligently following the sat nav, was a  reminder of my mortality. As stones scurry beneath protesting tyres, and we struggle valiantly to avoid the umpteenth pot hole, I’m wondering how this road can possibly be passable without a four wheel drive.

The sat nav really did take ‘fastest route’ as gospel. It failed to tell us that our ‘Betsy’ might be a little unprepared for mountain off roading, especially with four adults and luggage in the back. Needless to say, by the time we arrived at our destination in Berat, we we were ready for an appetising Albanian beer.

How to avoid making the same mistake

Map out your route on Google Maps beforehand using motorways only. It may be an adventure trying to drive a tiny car over a mountain, but there is a good chance you may disappear without trace.

driving in Albania
Our Betsy in Berat

Middle East conflict

I was so excited when I redeemed a bunch of airmiles for First Class flights to Abu Dhabi with British Airways. Not only was this an opportunity to visit the impressive mosque I’d viewed through bleary eyes on our last short visit, but a short hop away some quality time with my MBA buddy James’s beckoned. We were planning a mini celebration of the culmination of our studies in Qatar where James was working as manager of a large chain hotel.

Sadly, tensions in the Middle East conspired against us and an embargo was placed on flights between Abu Dhabi and Qatar. After weeks of stalemate, we reluctantly concluded that we were more interested in our Qatar reunion than a short visit to Abu Dhabi. We thus cancelled our flights (the benefits of a reward flight) and booked direct to Qatar.

British Airways drama

Alas, this trip was doomed. I received a text from British Airways kindly advising that our flights had been cancelled. Just two weeks before our planned trip, the replacement flights were unappealing, so cancellation was our only option. It wasn’t all bad though – we booked last minute flights to Croatia and had a fantastic week visiting the Balkans.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Old town of Dubrovnik

How to avoid making the same mistake

Check the situation in the Middle East before booking maybe? Honestly, I’m not sure there is anything I could have done to prevent this. Shit happens!

Zanzibar rebound

Our vsiit to Zanzibar was the thing of dreams. After luxuriating at the heavenly Residence, we were woefully unprepared for the horror of the Zanzibar airport experience. Lazy and corrupt employees resulted in us almost missing our flight and brought us back to earth with a bump.

Residence Zanzibar beach area
Residence Zanzibar beach

This was one experience that was to come back and haunt me however. Shortly after writing about our experience, I was deluged by negative comments. Many of these bordered on the ridiculous with suggestions that I was a money launderer, conspiracist, and outright liar.

It later came to my attention that many of these comments were from those related to the government in Zanzibar. That, of course explains why they were so determined to critisicise me, instead of acknowledging any shortcomings with their airport.

I maintained from the outset that the shocking airport would not prevent me from returning. Sadly, I have since become concerned about the treatment of the ‘free press’ in Zanzibar and have now decided not to return. How locals can defend an airport that is beyond defensible, seemingly worried about how my post might impact on tourism to the island, has definitely put off one person from returning. Yes, me!

We have had to change our plans to climb Kilimanjaro in 2019 too. We are now instead heading to Nepal to attempt Everest Base Camp.

The roof of Africa
Not to be for me….

Whilst l find the whole backlash semi-entertaining, I am not prepared to be arrested on some trumped up charges should I return.

How to avoid making the same mistake

If you want to return to a place that has debatable ‘free press,’ don’t write anything negative online. That said, even knowing the potential response, I would not change that I wrote about our experience. I live in a country where free press exists, so wasn’t worried about sharing our experience. I caution others, who wish to return to a country, to think twice however.

What travel horror stories can you share?

What horror stories do you have to share from 2017? We would love to hear your tales.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. Too many travel annoyances when you spend the year travelling around! That sucks about your Abu Dhabi trip – did you get your miles back?! Sorry to hear about Shannon too 🙁 Heres to a great 2018!

  2. This is such an informative post, we all go through some or the other hassles while traveling and its amazing to learn from other peoples experiences

  3. Megan Jerrard

    Good tip on researching a town before visiting – I actually haven’t heard of Shannon lol but that’s probably why! I definitely agree with research but I think sometimes this can be hit or miss – sometimes there’s literally no reason why tourism hasn’t taken off in a town, and it can be quite the underrated gem. Noted on Shannon specially though!

    On the note about doing your research – I did learn this the hard way on a trip to Dubai in 2007 – I had inadvertently chosen to travel during Ramadam – all restaurants and much of the city was closed!!

    • Oh cripes, I’m sure I’ve probably made that mistake. We were in Milan for new year and were surprised to find most restaurants and even bars closed on new year. We ended up eating dominoes pizza for dinner. I’m not sure that information would be any guide but I now know NY in Milan is not the place to be

  4. That’s really shocking about Zanzibar, and I don’t blame you at all for not wanting to go there. Noted about not writing anything negative online; such a shame, especially as it looks so beautiful. Shame also about Shannon too! I love Ireland, but haven’t been to Shannon. Will give it a miss!

    • To be fair, there are some beautiful things to see in the area around Shannon so it may be still a good jumping off point but the town itself is definitely not noteworthy. Zanzibar is amazing but I don’t want to risk going back when they seem to be less tolerant of free press and when clearly I have upset some pretty important people. The airport is totally pants however and so I stand by what I said, even if they don’t like it.

  5. I have a saying about the proliferation of navigation apps – You’ve been Googled. You can use that royalty free for the time being. Anytime Google pulls me off of the main route to save 1 minute or tries to make me turn across three lanes of traffic I say – You’ve been googled. One time it routed me through South Central LA and the homeless camp was three tents deep spilling into the street. There really should be an avoid DMZ option.

    When I lived in Tucson, Google would routinely try and route me on a mountain bike trail to cross the Tucson Mountains. Starr Pass is pretty rough on a bike and impossible (if even allowed) in a car. Glad Betsy held up for you. 4 wheeling is always more fun in a rental car with full insuranc.e

  6. Wow what stories but luckily they are not serious! What I mean is it could have been worse like accidents or getting badly sick…
    The Shannon story is quite funny when I imagine the scenario haha. So excited, taking the flight and then to realise that the centre is not bigger than your local mall! I hope you made the best out of it! We had some stories like traffic accidents in India and Mexico, our backpacks were wrongly take on a boat so we had to hire another boat to chase the other boat, 3 month of bad stomach flu ect. But we all survived and are looking for more new travels adventures in 2018!
    Happy new year!

    • Yes those stories definitely sound more serious, and James Bond like (well, apart from the sickness that is!). I’ve definitely experienced some real,horror over the years including broken bones and torn liagements so on that basis, these were tame

  7. You know, I would have made the same assumption as you about Shannon being jovial like the rest of Ireland – I’m so sorry that it wasn’t! Ryanair cheap flights have so much to answer for! It’s incredible sad what is happening in Zanzibar and I’m sorry you’ve been mixed up in that, but good for you on speaking out and not backing down!

  8. Wow, you’ve certainly had your fair share of horror stories! I would be so sad if I wasn’t allowed to return someplace like Zanzibar due to “free press” issues. I haven’t had any super crazy stories from 2017, but I can share one that was a nail-biter. My friend and I were driving the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada, checking out Area 51. It’s one of the most loneliest roads in the US and gas stations are few and far between. We passed signs that said things like “next gas 150 miles,” which is really unheard of in the States. So we reached the end of the ET Highway and realized that we had passed the point of no return: we weren’t going to make it back to the other side of the highway before running out of gas. With very little cell service, we bit our nails and finally stumbled upon an almost-ghost town where we were able to fill up the gas tank at an astronomical price. Lesson learned!

  9. Well, your Albanian mountain road horror could have been avoided by using a proper navigation app instead of Google maps. We are driving by MapFactor Navigator, a free app, for a mere $5 or 6 you get an upgrade to “3 proposed routes”. It works off-line, thus needs no data connection and has served us well for over 40,000 kilometres. But your alternative suggestion, to use motorways, is one we never follow. I find multi-lane highways simply boring to drive!

    • My friend actually also had an app she was using which was sending us all over the mountain. Not sure what that one was but might check out yours. You won’t find many multi line highways in Albania though so you are pretty safe there.

  10. I agree that some travel you just have to make the best of, (El Paso for work in a surprisingly frigid January comes to mind) but I have a tough time sympathizing about Shannon, which perhaps isn’t the best example. Shannon town may be dismal, but it’s basically there to serve the needs of the airport itself. Only 20 miles away on a highway is Limerick, with a large historic core including a 13th-century castle. It’s a bit like getting a cheap weekend flight to JFK and complaining there’s nothing to do in Queens. Maybe the lesson is to look farther afield (in geography or concept) for what might be interesting to see/do.

    • Yep I agree more research would have worked in our favour. We would have hired a car from the outset but instead were reliant on public transport which made some places inaccessible. We did hire a car one day and went out to the Cliffs of Moher which were lovely so it wasn’t a wasted trip but is certainly not somewhere I would recommend to others, other than as a jumping off point as you say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Sharing is caring

Maybe your friends would love to know about this too!

%d bloggers like this: