You ever cringe when thinking about past mistakes?
I sure do.
For instance, when I started traveling the world I did tons of mistakes. Mistakes that were very cringeworthy or distressing at the time.
On the other hand, we all make mistakes. That’s part of life. But we should try to learn from them.
Today, when I look back at my crazy travel stories, three of them stand out. And I believe those three are worthy of their own article.
Welcome to my top 3 crazy travel stories!
#1 Naive And Scammed In India
First and foremost, let me tell you about my first trip to India.
It has been a long time. 15 years to be exact. But I still cringe when I think about it.
Me and my mate arrived at New Delhi airport totally unprepared. Regrettably, without a hotel reservation. Our brilliant plan was to find accommodations after we arrived.
Boy what a rookie mistake.
It all started in the arrival hall. We were greeted by an army of Indian men trying to get us into a taxi. They shouted and pulled our luggage. It was the greatest culture shock I’ve ever experienced!
As it happened we ended up in a taxi. Which did looked like an official taxi by the way. Regrettably, as we found out later, it was not.
We asked to be taken to Connaught Circle, which we heard was the place to stay in Delhi. The driver acknowledged and started driving. On the way we passed many poor neighborhoods and I remember thinking maybe it was a mistake going to India. Thus far it was the dirtiest and poorest place I had ever seen.
Eventually the driver pulled up to a hotel. “Connaught Circle, sir.” he said. “And this is the best hotel here, sir”.
Me and my mate looked at each other. We were both tired after the long flight and needed sleep. So we accepted.
However, the next day we realized we were nowhere near Connaught Circle. And later on we also realized that we severely overpaid for this hotel.
At this point we were fuming and demanded to be taken to Connaught Circle. After we got dropped off we found another hotel. Which was a total dump by the way.
#1.5 Next F*ckup: Taj Mahal
Next project was to buy train tickets to visit Taj Mahal. And since we were pissed off at the taxis we decided to walk it.
As we got closer, an Indian man came up and started chatting. He seemed friendly and asked where we’re from and where we’re going. When we said we’re going to the train station he burst out:
“I am sorry but the train station is closed. Today is a public holiday.”
Damn. I was looking at my mate. He looked disappointed. We really wanted to get the hell out of Delhi and see Taj Mahal!
The friendly man continued: “Don’t worry sir. I know a tourist agent that can get you there”.
Wow. I remember thinking we’re so lucky to meet this friendly man. He saved us from a disappointing trip to the train station.
He waved down a taxi and we all drove to the travel agent, where we bought our trip. We got the complete package: one guide, one car with private driver plus hotel.
All things considered, the trip to Taj Mahal turned out to be great and memorable.
But looking back now it’s obvious that this guy got a commission from the travel agent. No doubt he was walking around all day trying to find naive tourists. And the train station was likely not closed.
After this India debacle I always book my accommodation before arriving. In addition I research about the best transportation from the airport, which nowadays is usually Uber.
Sadly I also became more suspicious of strangers that approach me with perfect English. Of course I try not to be rude. But if my gut tells me something is wrong, it usually is.
Next let’s move on to the next item on my crazy travel stories list. This one takes place in Indonesia.
#2 Paranoid And Robbed in Bali
During my 20 years of traveling I’ve had very few incidents. I’ve never been robbed and only lost a few belongings along the way. However, one of the more serious incidents happened on a bus to Bali.
It all started at the bus station in Surabaya, Indonesia. Me and my mate had just bought our bus tickets to Bali – a destination I was very excited to visit.
At the time I was very paranoid. I thought everyone and their grandmother wanted to steal my belongings. To ease my worries I’d bought a sturdy cover bag for my backpack. And a padlock to lock everything.
At the time it seemed like a good idea.
Regrettably, I failed to realize it made my backpack look like it had valuables inside it. Which made it a prime target for the many thieves roaming the Java-Bali buses.
To make matters worse, the baggage attendant didn’t place our backpacks in the locked storage compartment. He put it in the back of the bus.
“Sorry sir, it’s full below”, he said.
Of course, when I arrived in Bali I found my backpack with a big hole in it. And all my belongings spread out in the back of the bus.
In retrospect it’s pretty clear the baggage attendant was in on it. He identified the bags which may have valuables in them and put them in the back, where an accomplice undisturbed could go through them.
The number one advice is to try to blend in. Nowadays I always keep my valuables close to me. In addition my suitcase looks pretty basic. It doesn’t stick out and few people would think about going through it.
#3 Arrogant And Broke In Romania
Let’s wrap up my 3 crazy travel stories with one that’s about 10 years old.
At the time I was living in Germany. As it happened I took many weekend trips using the many cheap low cost airlines. And one weekend I decided to go to Bucharest, Romania.
Up to that point I never had any issues with my ATM cards. Everything had worked flawlessly. Even in places like Russia and South America.
I guess that made be a bit arrogant. Because I boarded the plane with no cash. Just my ATM card and credit card. What was I thinking!?
As I usual, the first thing do after arriving is take out some cash.
First I tried the ATM card. Blocked.
Then I tried getting cash from the credit card. Blocked.
You ever felt that cold feeling down your spine? That’s exactly what I felt at that very moment. No cash and stranded at a foreign airport.
I probably was sweating for an hour until I met a friendly family that let me share their taxi to the city center. Thank god!
After this incident I always carry US dollars with me that I could exchange to local currency in case of emergencies. In addition I always carry several credit cards with me.
For a more comprehensive article about banking and traveling please check out this article.
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