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Ruins in Vietnam What do flying celebrities, a speeding cruise ship and a misbehaving monk have in common? Well, other than a collective disregard for authority, they’re all featured in The Most Bizarre Travel Stories of 2011, our collection of stranger-than-fiction happenings that took place this year.

While these tales were crazy enough to make the news in 2011, there are undoubtedly untold weird and wild adventures lurking in the memory banks of most travelers. And now that the year is coming to an end, it’s time to purge. We want to hear your battiest travel tales! What happened to you during your travels that was unexpected, unexplained or unbelievable?

We’ll go first. You may have heard about the Airbnb debacle that took place earlier this year when a savage renter ransacked the San Francisco home of an Airbnb host. Well, Sarah Schlichter, Editor of IndependentTraveler.com, had her own bizarre — albeit somewhat less newsworthy — experience with Airbnb.

When visiting Vancouver, Schlichter stayed in the spare room of a West End condo along with her host and another guest. On the second night of Schlichter’s stay, an argument erupted over toilet paper — and let’s just say the stay didn’t end well for all parties involved. Read the whole wacky story here.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us about the most bizarre thing that happened to you while traveling this year and you could win a prize. Post your comment by 11:59 Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 3. We’ll pick one commenter to receive a set of packing cubes and a pair of SuperSmartTag luggage tags.

— written by Caroline Costello

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7 Responses to “Share Your Most Bizarre Travel Tales, Win a Prize!”

  1. Teresa Brecht says:

    I recently visited the Holy Land with a church group. We were accompanied by 2 priests who celebrated Mass for us each day. On several occasions we crossed paths with other pilgrims including several groups of Nigerians in their native garb. About the fourth day in the middle of Mass in one of the churches much noise began in the balcony area encircling the sanctuary. Talking and singing accelerated into dancing, speaking in strange tongues, rolling on the floor and
    shouting by a group of Nigerian travelers. We were initially surprised and puzzled by the behavior. Their tour guide eventually shooed them all out of the area and our liturgy continued. Before leaving home I had wondered if I would meet any “holy rollers” on the trip. Little did I expect to witness the real thing.

  2. Arturo says:

    Unfortunately this entry will not qualify for the prize draw because it didn’t happen to me. I believe however that it’s worth publishing it as one of the most bizarre travel tales of 2011.

    On the morning of last Sep. 10th an Egyptian citizen quoted by the press as Mr. Helal S. A. went to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport with the intention to board the Alitalia AZ896 flight to Cairo, leaving at 11:55, which he had previously booked. After checking in and following directions to the gate, he boarded the plane and, after takeoff, fell into a slumber.

    After about four hours Mr. Helal woke up and was quite surprised to see a very unfamiliar landscape from the plane window, and his worst suspicions were confirmed when he discovered that instead of being on the flight he had booked, he was on board of the AZ548 flight for Moscow.

    That was only the start of his troubles, because not only he had to endure the discomfort of not wearing suitable clothing for the chilling Russian weather, but he was also detained by Russian border police for not having an entry visa. After frantic consultations between Alitalia representatives in Moscow and in Italy, Mr. Helal gets released from custody (not before being formally expelled from Russian territory and banned from re-entry for “attempted illegal immigration”) just in time to board the AZ549 flight to Rome and, upon his arrival, be quickly whisked to the AZ894 flight to Cairo departing at 21:50.

    How Mr. Helal ended up on the wrong flight, despite all the anti-terrorism security measures in place, having his boarding card checked at the right gate, and going through the most harrowing travel experience of his life, is still an unsolved mystery to this day.

  3. Christina S. says:

    I have flown a lot over my 29 years. Long flights & short flights. Domestic & international. Big planes & really dinky planes. Flying is pretty routine these days & usually happens with such little excitement. But the first weekend in April 2011, we finally got the excitement we were looking for.

    My husband & I decided, rather last minute, to take a quick long weekend trip to Chicago. It’s a city we love, the flight was reasonably priced & the nice hotel downtown was dirt cheap. Being a glutton for punishment, I booked us on a 6am direct flight, giving us the entire day to paint the town red.

    Friday morning, we boarded American Airlines flight 547 in a relatively orderly fashion. Our flight pushed back from the gate a few minutes early, but then we stopped and sat on the tarmac for a few minutes before the pilot came on the intercom system & said “I love working for American Airlines, I do. I love flying. Except on days like this. We’re getting a message from the control center that there’s an issue with our air conditioning unit, which also controls the cabin pressurization system. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to pull back into the gate to let maintenance take a look at it.”

    They put the entertainment system on, because apparently some people want to watch 30 Rock at 6am, & flight attendants even came through the aisles to hand out water while we were waiting. Who knows how long we sat there – it always seems like the ability to gauge time goes away planes. A little while later, maintenance had finished up their fixing & we were on our way. Before taking off, the captain said that we would be flying at a lower altitude – only 28,000 feet – as is required when maintenance is done on the cabin pressurization system. My husband commented to me that he hated to fly on planes that had maintenance issues worked on, to which I responded “Well, if you’re going to have an in-flight emergency, having the oxygen masks drop is probably the best one to have since it’s not that big of a deal & it’s not like the plane is crashing.”



    Soon, our flight was on its way, cruising over to Chicago at 28,000 feet. The flight attendants were about half way done with drink service & I was snoozing on my husband’s shoulder. Some yelling & loud voices woke me up. A woman across the aisle, one row behind us, was having a medical emergency. The flight attendants hopped to it in a control, professional, quick moving manner. Emergency bags were fetched. Giant oxygen tanks appeared out of nowhere. A doctor was summoned (a young man in a hoody responded). After the woman had come-to from being out cold with the supplemental oxygen, the woman next to her fainted. Then someone else complained about not feeling well. Meanwhile, my husband & I were half watching the situation/half trying not to be nosy. I said to him “I bet we divert, this seems like a big medical issue.” Almost simultaneously as the words came out of my mouth, the flight attendant came on the intercom & said, “There’s a problem with the cabin pressurization. We’re going to drop the masks.”

    The panel above our heads, right behind the lights & call buttons, dropped open. We reached up & pull them out of the holder in the ceiling. There were four masks up there – an extra one, apparently, for a lap child or a FA who can’t get to their supplemental tanks. When I pulled my mask down, the one next to it also fell down. The man on the aisle reached for it & put it on. I honestly have no idea what my husband did, as I was focused on getting my own mask on (hey, they say do your own mask before assisting others!). Once our masks were on, rather ill-fitting I might add, I looked at my husband & we both laughed. What kind of adventure had we gotten ourselves into? Here’s the Twitpic seen round the world of the masks down: http://twitpic.com/4fniw7 (it was even picked up by a UK newspaper!)

    By the time the flight attendants got around to make sure everyone had their masks on & to check to see that everyone was okay, we were below 13,000 feet, the level where supplemental oxygen isn’t necessary. I took my mask off (I couldn’t really get it to stay on anyway – the elastic wouldn’t tighten enough) & could breathe normally. The pilot announced that we were diverting to the airport in Dayton, Ohio & that EMS would be meeting our plane for those who needed medical attention. At this point, we had no idea that one of the people who had felt ill-effects of the cabin depressurization was a flight attendant; the other flight attendants went on with their job, despite their stricken colleague.

    We flew at a low altitude for a while & landed normally. As we taxied to the gate, we saw a firetruck & ambulance speeding across the tarmac toward our plane. I commented that it was surely the most exciting thing that had ever happened to these emergency responders. They boarded the plane (the firefighters in metallic, fire resistant suits) & attended to those who needed medical attention. Once those folks were off the plane, the rest of us got off like normal.

    Once we got off the plane, in an empty terminal, we all stood around & waited. Ground crew announced that another plane was being flown in from Dallas to fly us on to Chicago & that we had at least three hours until it arrived. Luckily our end of the terminal had a Starbucks, so we grabbed a table, a coffee waited it out. The MD-80 finally did arrive to take us & after some confusion & the filling out of “Walking Wounded” American Airlines forms, we were back on the plane, with a new flight crew, for the short 45 minute trip on to Chicago. We deplaned as normal once we got there, walked past a lot of men in suits, & were on our way.

    It was definitely the weirdest, craziest travel experience of 2011 – and probably one of the craziest travel experiences I’ve ever had!

  4. Lisa C says:

    After walking the Camino Frances (100km) on a five-day pilgrimage route, we veered off to Cape Finisterre (Galician Cabo Fisterra) or “Finisterre”, also known as “Land’s End” and one of the westernmost of the Iberian peninsulas. This tiny fishing town on the Atlantic Ocean is surrounded by steep cliffs and a stellar lighthouse which tops the highest peak at 238 meters above sea level. This sleepy fishing town was a place out of time (not that our entire Galician adventure didn’t feel likewise..) and although we did see an internet cafe in a back alley, it was as if time had stood still here since pre-1900’s. Progress is slow to climb those steep cliffs, but pilgrims by the 1,000’s continually pass through this village. We stayed in an excellent small inn, O’Semifaro, just behind the lovely lighthouse, enjoying just one quiet and uneventful night’s stay before leaving town again to return to Santiago on our bus. It was foggy and slightly raining as our bus loaded up w/pilgrims and other travelers and oddly enough we pulled into the narrow cobbly street just behind a funeral procession, one that filled the narrow streets with what looked like something out of a movie; an elaborate casket was carried by 8 men slowly as a huge statue of the Madonna was teetering atop it, surrounded by the most pink roses I’ve ever seen falling off the coffin into the streets as literally throngs of people in raincoats and with umbrellas followed it. A dozen or so huge band instruments were carried and played softly by black-suited musicians also in the wake as the crowds became larger, keeping our bus slowly following the melee for over 30 minutes. Everyone on the bus was rushing to the front to photograph this bizzare scene as we proceeded slowly through town at the tail end of the procession – I will email you the rainy, grainy otherwise otherworldly picture, but it was actually quite magnificent and engrossing to watch, only so bizzare to follow such an archaic funeral procession in a bus-full of present-time pilgrims IMHO;) Lisa C.

  5. Colette Bert says:

    Paradise in Costa Rica turned into a nightmare upon check-in to our hill-top view property; reserved on VRBO. The smell, what is that smell? Under the bed was dried dog-or child poop, easy to clean up, but we wait; we paid for cleaning. That should have been an indication of our days to come, and the amenities promised would turn our vacation into a nightmare. From non-internet connections, to one channel cable….the open air ceiling would dump dirt on our beds as we slept, not to mention the bugs. Oh, the bugs. If my husband had not put a parameter of bug-spray around our outside building, we would have been bitten by an army of ants, scorpians, giant biting beetles, and more. The stove wouldn’t turn on until we flushed the toilet, and the water stopped working because of an iguana in our water tank…dead! We paid for one month in advance and had to suck it up and stay in this hell-hole for 30 days. I still have nightmares!

  6. Kathleen Kapes says:

    We, and four friends, stayed overnight in Rome before heading to Civitavecchia to board NCL Jade for a 10-day cruise to Turkey, Greece and Egypt. We’d booked a private shuttle van to transport all of us from hotel to port. It was a very chilly, rainy, foggy morning in October 2011. Not far from the Civitavecchia exit on the six-lane highway, our van got a flat tire. The shuttle driver, who spoke no English, got out and tried to change the tire on the side of the road. He was unsuccessful, and hurt his hand. He kept pacing the berm and calling people on his cell phone. Finally, he must have gotten a towing company because a rollback truck showed up, pulled in front of our van, attached a cable and pulled the van – with us and all our luggage in it – up onto the back of the truck!! We rode like this, which is illegal in the USA) several miles to a nearby junkyard where our tire was changed and the spare put on. Then, our van ride continued onto the port. What a way to start our cruise……..and, we thought our most dangerous day of our travels would be in Cairo, not Civitavecchia, Italy!!

  7. Vi says:

    It happened awhile ago in Tonga – one of South Pacific countries. It was nice sunny morning and I was on my way to main island of this country. At check-in to my flight I asked for window seat as I wanted to enjoy scenery before leaving these islands. The girl said – “No problem” and I got my seat. The plane was very small. I don’t remember model, but it has only two seats in one row. That means every seat is window seat. So I shouldn’t even worry about asking for it. I checked seat number. It should be last row. I reached that row and…I am checking my boarding pass again and can’t believe I got only seat without window!
    You need to see picture :)

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