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This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.

TWOTAA, AADACN

EBCLANOAR,SNIAP

PLAAZ, IILOVBA

STCAMU, MOAN


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, July 4, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Kathy Litz, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

OTTAWA, CANADA

BARCELONA, SPAIN

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA

MUSCAT, OMAN


— created by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s travel puzzle is part of our ongoing Flag Friday series of challenges. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 20, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Alec, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Greenland. Alec has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

I arrived in Granada, Spain, during the height of tourist season and without a room reservation. After lugging my bag from hostel to hostel for four hours, I finally found a place with availability.

The only room left was a converted closet with a micro-bed. A single lightbulb dangled from the ceiling. To provide air, the proprietor had cut a “window” in the wall, which was covered in a shredded, rusty mesh screen. The window was opposite the shared bathroom, and it seemed like everyone who walked by poked their strange faces through my window, like Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” scene in “The Shining.” I was up all night staring at that nightmarish hole.

creepy hotel


If you travel independently, you have to expect a few worst-night sleeps like that. Frequent travelers shared with us some of the scariest, filthiest, coldest, loudest and weirdest nights they’ve ever had on the road.

A Fungus Among Us
During his first around-the-world trip, travel blogger Marek Bron of Indie Traveller found himself in Chiang Rai, Thailand, without a place to stay. “Everywhere was booked out. So I ended up in this obscure hostel that, to this day, remains the worst place I ever stayed,” he said. “It had the ambience of a World War II bunker. Concrete walls, metal lockers, no windows.”

The grimy shower hadn’t been cleaned in months (at least). Not only were there dozens of empty shampoo bottles in it in it, but an apple-sized mushroom was also growing in the corner.

“If you can’t be bothered to at least get rid of the giant mushroom in the shower, you truly don’t care,” Bron said.

Not a Lot of Sleep Happening Here
Writer Ethan Gelber of The Travel Word and his wife arrived by bus in town along the Zambia-Malawi border well after dark. Having little electricity, the unfamiliar town was pitch black. “We didn’t know how far we were from anywhere, so we went to the only place with lights and begged for a room,” Gelber said.

Turns out, it was a brothel.

A Tumble-Dry Night
Emily Harley-Reid of International Expeditions was on a primitive camping trip in the Australian Outback. One night it was so cold that she and her fellow campers relocated in the middle of the night to the campsite’s laundry room. They cuddled up together on the floor around dryers with the doors open.

“We pooled our change, feeding the dryers every hour to stay warm,” she said.

The story had a happy ending. “One guy actually married his sleeping bag buddy from that night. They have two kids now and live in Iowa.”

Creature Comforts
Adventurist Johnny Ward of One Step 4Ward was exhausted after traveling two straight days from Ethiopia to Khartoum, Sudan. He took a room in the first guesthouse he could find. Bad idea.

“It was FILTHY,” Ward wrote in an email. “We flipped the mattresses to see maggots crawling under the bed. Disgusting, but at 1 a.m. in Sudan, you’re happy to have a roof.”

The squirmy insects weren’t the only roommates Ward and his friend had that night. An hour later, they discovered a full-occupancy rats’ nest under the bed. “We managed to switch rooms, [had] the worst night’s sleep imaginable and checked out at 6 a.m,” Ward said.

Strange Noises in the Jungle
Travel blogger Caz Makepeace of Y Travel trekked all day through the Sumatran jungle to see orangutans. Nighttime was memorable, too, but for the wrong reasons: freezing temperatures despite being on the Equator and a tarp that dropped rain on her all night.

“To top it off, our guide told us stories of tiger encounters before we went to sleep,” Makepeace recalled. “During the night, we heard a gigantic crashing [sound] in the jungle, and our guide stayed up for the remainder of the night holding a big knife.”

Don’t Rock the Boat
Dutch blogger Maaike van Kuijk of Travellous World thought it would be an exceptional experience to sleep aboard a riverboat-based hotel in Maastricht, Netherlands. It was anything but, with partiers boarding at 3 a.m. and whooping it up until sunrise, not to mention the tiny bedrooms with dirty sheets, an unclean bathroom and a lousy breakfast.

“I learned my lesson back then: Always read the reviews before you decide on staying somewhere,” van Kuijk said.

Shower Surprise
Writer Dan Miller of Points with a Crew relayed this ominous tale from a trip to Mobile, Alabama: “The front desk agent behind a barred window told us he had no rooms left, despite our reservation. He told us that he could sell us, and I quote, ‘a room with something wrong with it.'”

Miller bravely took the room and found out that the tub “was completely covered in purple goo.” Needless to say, he skipped his morning shower.

The Worst Can Also Be the Best
Sustainable tourism expert Warren Green’s worst night of sleep was also one of his favorite travel experiences. While trying to cross a river in a remote region on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, his vehicle got lodged in mud up to the axles. A storm was coming, “and the roar of a lion reminded us that a walk … would be foolish,” Green said. He and his guide had no choice but to spend the night.

They gathered wood, siphoned a splash of fuel from the gas tank to start a fire and slept on the floor mats from the van. Lightning flashed in the sky.

“I lay awake drinking in this most uncomfortable night,” Green reminisced. “It was beautiful.”

When the Hotel Guest Next Door Won’t Shut Up
33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel

What was your worst night’s sleep while traveling?

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.

SOOL, AYWORN

AMRULUPUALK, ALSYMAIA

CCIAHOG, EDSTEATIUNST

VAANHA, UABC


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 13, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Maria Beatriz, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

OSLO, NORWAY

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

CHICAGO, UNITED STATES

HAVANA, CUBA


— created by Sarah Schlichter

This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!

world destination


Hint: This castle is located in the same alpine town as a more famous royal residence.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 6, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com prize. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Jeff McDowell, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Germany’s Hohenschwangau Castle. Jeff has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s travel puzzle is part of our ongoing Flag Friday series of challenges. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 30, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Nathan Lorenz, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Barbados. Nathan has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

We’ve all been there: You take the time to carefully plot out your transportation during a perfect trip. You get everything lined up and it seems like nothing could go wrong.

Or so you think.

lost tourist with map on side of road


As the following travelers prove, despite the best possible planning, something can always go wrong when you’re far from home and trying to find your way.

Train Track Trek
During a Europe trip, Nicky Sundt of Washington D.C., kept all his important documents together in a plastic pencil case to ensure they were protected from wear and tear. While on a train in Grecce, however, a friend accidentally tipped his bag over, and the pencil case slipped between the baggage rack slats and fell out an open window.

The conductor and engineer stopped the train to let him and his friend out. They retraced the route and found his travel documents. It was perilous, however, because it was a single track route, and he had to cross a narrow bridge.

“Let’s just say,” Sundt explained, “that sprinting on railroad ties across a trestle bridge with a train bearing down on me was one of my greatest athletic achievements.”

An Uphill Battle
On the first day of a meticulously planned, two-month, 2,300-mile bike trip last summer, Paige Metzman of Ithaca, New York, cycled 30 miles up a rather steep hill in Washington state, believing it would lead to a mountain pass.

“We got nearly to the top before a kind stranger informed us that in fact there was no ‘down’ side. At the top of the mountain was just a ski resort and a U-turn,” Metzman said. Apparently, she missed an important turn just five miles into her epic ride.

Seeing how dejected she looked, the stranger crammed Metzman and her friend, plus their gear and bikes, into his car and drove them to the starting point.

Ditched
Colin Birge of Vancouver remembered seeing a warning in his guidebook: “Eventually, if you are driving in Provence, you will end up in a ditch.” Near the village of Lacoste, that very thing almost happened.

He and his wife drove up a hill to catch the view, and the narrow lane simply stopped with no warning. “I tried a three-point turn,” he explained. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the road clearly, and the back wheels slipped off the road bed.” The rear-wheel-drive vehicle ended up with the rear wheels dangling off the ground.

Who came to his rescue? Oddly enough, a group of American muscle car owners, who heard the commotion from their gathering in a nearby park. “Of course we stopped by the show afterwards to thank them,” Birge said. “My favorite was the guy with the ’60s Mustang who had reupholstered seats wrapped with the American flag.”

Missing the Boat, Part I
During a trip to Italy, John Rega of Brussels planned to meet several cousins. His ancestors had emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, and this was the first time that any family members were meeting in person.

Rega and his wife spent the night in a hotel less than an hour away from a port, where they’d catch a boat to his cousin’s village. They woke early, packed and proceeded to the lobby to check out and get a cab, with ample time to spare.

Yet the hotel desk remained unattended all morning, and they couldn’t find a taxi. They ended up missing their boat and showing up four hours late. “Lesson learned: Pre-arrange any tight logistics, especially if someone is waiting on the other end,” Rega advised.

Directionally Challenged
Agie Yatsko of Alexandria, Virginia, dutifully packed her GPS unit to prepare for a driving trip across Costa Rica. After picking up her rental car and heading out of San Jose, she and her friend realized the GPS wouldn’t work. After a few days, they returned to San Jose and tried to find the car rental agency. They got so lost that they had to pay a taxi driver $20 to lead them to the agency — which was less than a mile away.

Missing the Boat, Part II
Usually conscientious when it comes to small details, Robyn Porter of Rockville, Maryland, admitted that she misjudged her cruise’s departure time from Puerto Rico. “We ran up to the ship screaming as they were pulling in the gangplanks. Luckily they allowed us to board as they were pulling in the last gangplank.”

Beached on the Wrong Beach
Marsea Nelson of Falls Church, Virginia researched in advance New Zealand’s best beaches before she and her friend settled on the one they wanted to visit. They purchased bus tickets, packed a bag and embarked on their trip.

“Except there were TWO beaches with that name, which we learned because we got dropped off at the wrong one,” Nelson said. “They weren’t close enough to each other to correct our mistake. We were bitterly disappointed.”

But they decided to make the best of it. Following a hike to a waterfall, some great meals and a night in a spectacular hostel, Nelson said the unexpected detour led to “one of the best and most memorable experiences” of their New Zealand trip.

“That’s one of the things I love most about traveling,” she said.” Mishaps can turn into the greatest adventures.”

4 Common Travel Disasters and How to Prevent Them
10 Simple Tips for a Smoother Trip

See? You’re not alone. So admit it: Despite your best-laid plans, what mistakes have you made while traveling?

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.

RIIANBO, YAENK

LEASLRIEM, FCRAEN

TIQOU, OCRDAUE

OKBAKGN, NAAIHDTL


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 23, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Shoba, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

NAIROBI, KENYA

MARSEILLES, FRANCE

QUITO, ECUADOR

BANGKOK, THAILAND


— created by Sarah Schlichter

What do you typically ask for when staying at a hotel — a few extra pillows? A toothbrush or phone charger if you left yours at home?

One traveler goes well beyond such reasonable requests on his business trips, asking for things like “a picture of a dog dressed as a boat captain” or “a fort [built] out of pillows,” reports the Daily Mail. He even asked the hotel staff to draw a picture of what they thought he looked like. The requests were all granted, and a friend of the businessman posted photos of the results in a thread on Imgur.

hotel request


My first reaction was the same as that of several commenters on Imgur: Let’s hope this guy tips well! Because while many people seem to find the businessman’s behavior hilarious, I’m not sure I agree.

Sure, the requests are essentially harmless and might bring a smile to the face of a hotel staffer on a slow or tedious day. But do you feel comfortable imagining an underpaid, overworked housekeeper who only has 15 to 20 minutes to clean each room having to waste time building a pillow fort for a grown man for no reason other than the fact that he’s bored on a business trip? And don’t most concierges have better things to do than troll the Internet for pictures of the grandma from “Family Matters” or a dog in a boating costume?

While it seems to be meant in fun, it feels a little mean-spirited to make more work for other people just because you can.

15 Things Your Hotel Won’t Tell You
“You Want What?” Bizarre Requests from Hotel Guests

What’s your take — are this business traveler’s requests hilarious or a disrespectful use of the hotel staff’s time?

— written by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s travel puzzle is part of our ongoing Flag Friday series of challenges. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 9, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Lauren Kahn, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Cyprus. Lauren has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

— written by Sarah Schlichter