Traveling abroad can be pure magic or a living nightmare. You can hear a million good things about a place, but that doesn't mean your experience will be as great as other people's experience was.
Safety can be a concern anywhere, but especially in a foreign country, where you're surrounded by foreign people, foreign languages, and foreign cultures.
Reddit users shared the story from abroad they've never said aloud, out of fear they'll taint the country for other people. These people chose to stay silent over speaking their truth.
All content was edited for clarity.
"I was scammed at a night club in Istanbul.
I met some other travelers and I joined their private table for most of the night. At the end, I was left with a 4000 USD bill. In reality, the cost should have been in the 400 USD range... and I was prepared to contribute to the bill.
The whole club was full of people in on the scam. So when the bill came, the place cleared out and I was taken to the ATM machine. My life threatened along the way. The ATM denied me so I was forced to call my credit card company...they denied raising my credit limit to pay the club.
At the end of the day, I convinced them I had another credit card at my hotel. They took me to the hotel, I told the front desk what was up and they locked the doors and called the cops.
Turns out the group that had me was recently busted with large amounts of money, illicit substances and weapons."
"My last night in Barcelona, I got back to the apartment, which was locked, and every valuable was gone, but they left our passports and USD. They even took my suitcase.
I still think it was a set up from the people renting us the apartment, even though it was in a decent neighborhood. Police could do nothing.
Funny thing was, whoever stole our stuff resold it because a picture of two Spanish people showed up on our cloud storage from the the tablet. Also my mom had her wedding ring stolen. The one day in her life she decided to wear a different ring.
My mom took it the hardest, sister was crying, Dad was consoling and I was ready to fight.
I still enjoyed my time in Spain, but it's a weird feeling to be violated like that."
"I got hit by a car in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.
I broke both legs and had a cast on both and was confined to a wheelchair. Took a bus to San Ysidro, California (southernmost city in California, across the border from Tijuana, Mexico) in order to rent cheap lodging as I had limited money and would not be able to work while confined to a wheelchair with two casts on my broken legs. End up getting to Avenida Revolucion by nightfall in Tijuana, and get out of the wheelchair momentarily because wheelchairs are very confining and I was tired, and sat on a bench.
So tired in fact, that I ended up falling asleep for a few moments. I wake up soon thereafter, and my wheelchair has been stolen. Crawled for three days on my hands and knees back to the border of the United States and not one person bothered to help me.
I was even robbed of my last $5 when some guy promised to get my wheelchair back and demanded $5 and then never showed back up!"
"I was in Bangkok in February of 2003. After working 12 hours for 5 days I took a tuk tuk—similar to a taxi—to the center of the city. The driver understood little English so he brought me to another driver who spoke it better.
The dialogue with the other guy went like this.
Him: 'Little girls?'
Me: 'No thank you, I want to tour the city for an hour or two.'
Him: 'Little girls?'
Me: 'No thanks, I'm not interested, but I would like to stop by a silk shop.'
Him, with an encouraging tone: 'Little girls!'
Me: 'I said NO, I have a girlfriend.'
At this point the man paused, evidently thinking about the problem.
After a few seconds he looked at me and with a knowing smile, he said, 'VERY little girls!'
I changed drivers."
"I was physically violated by my taxi driver in Peru who knew I was solely in that country to volunteer in the hospitals. Cops treated me like garbage and told me the bruises on my neck were 'love marks,' that if I tested positive for any illicit substances I would be charged because surely I put the substances in my system knowingly, and that I was just a stupid American who was embarrassed by her 'fling.'
I just tell people that there was a mix-up at the airport is why I came back early. And just talk about the poverty and stuff.
My actions immediately afterwards didn't make sense as I was in an incredible amount of shock waking up in a hotel alone, terrified, and violated everywhere. I couldn't even speak English to the others in my group. Or complete sentences for that matter... I just kept starting the thought but collapsing into hysterics.
I tried to seek counseling back in the states at a reputable facility but they seemed more interested in making me feel worse, so I only went to one session. I was berated by family who just told me that I was stupid and I set myself up, which of course didn't help. So I really just shut down. That was my worst semester in college, but I moved forward and became a dean's list student and am now in grad school. I got seriously involved in running and have completed many road races since then. It's my outlet.
Thankfully I've only had to take a taxi a couple of times after. I always call someone and have a conversation as my protection. No matter what country, a taxi driver is someone we blindly trust."
"Haiti was the worst country I'd ever seen.
I was on a cruise (can't remember the company) but they had their own little area of Haiti fenced off. The ship docked, we got out and had a great time in the beaches under the sun. Nothing out of the ordinary until lunch time.
It was an all you could eat buffet served by the ship's crew. We were told not to throw any food over the fences to the children, or else we'd have to go back to the ship. And that was when I noticed them.
Scattered in the woods everywhere were little Haitian children crouched down trying to get anyone's attention and have them throw food to them. That was the first and last time I saw true poverty, and it made it so much worse that the whole time I was basically flaunting my wealth with my fancy cruise ship and all you can eat buffet.
I felt horrible."
"A man approached me and a friend on a secluded stretch in a park (daytime) asking for 5 euros for gas and even offered to drive us to an ATM if we didn't have any cash. Needless to say we opted for the 'I don't have any money, sorry' and respectfully declined his otherwise generous offer about driving us to an ATM.
He's making small talk (in retrospect, buying time) and a guy bikes past us and gives an obvious hand signal to our guy who immediately looked at the passing biker. My friend concurrently decides the best way to make him stop asking for 5 euros was to pull out his wallet and show him how empty it was, except he spotted a 5 euro bill and promptly snatched the wallet angrily as tons of small coins and pennies fell out.
He takes the 5 euro bill and throws the wallet on the ground walking away, going on about how he's from Queens, New York and people get 'got' for lying there.
Things take an unsurprising turn when he, after having paced off about 4-5 meters, decided to come back and pick up the coins whilst angrily and aggressively lecturing us on on moral and ethical implications of lying, after having just stolen from my friend.
On the way back, we coincidently passed a police station, reported it, saw him get picked up by the cops from the exact spot he approached us. Saw him again, at the same spot a day later.... He knew."
"In Amsterdam, the hostel I was at had co-ed dorms. So it wasn't uncommon for people to be hooking up or whatever. New guy moves in next to me on third day. Third night he CARRIES in a totally unconscious girl and proceeds to undress her, it was definitely going in a bad direction.
I went and got the hostel supervisor, because my German is bad and I was in the rare mood at 19 where I didn't want to get into a fist fight.
By the time we're back in the room (about 45 seconds) he's getting her pants off and her shirt is off. The hostel guy starts questioning him. He says it's his girlfriend, but when we ask him her name he doesn't know it. He's livid, starts throwing things all over the place, and gets ejected.
We moved her into a private room, the only one in the hostel, and I slept by the door that night. When she woke up in the morning I told her what happened and she broke down. It was awful.
I've never told anyone that story because Amsterdam was amazing otherwise."
"I was in Rome, Italy with my girlfriend.
One morning at the hotel breakfast, the receptionist (mind you, completely uninvited) decided to sit next to her and try it on.
He used primo-grade Italian charm. He told her she should come spend the day with him, go to a club he knew, dance, drink, watch sunrise at the Forum then make love. She declined and said she was with me and pointed to me sitting aghast (and mildly amused).
He took a sneering look at me and said something like, 'What?! You're with this English pig?! You should be with me... Valentino!'
He flounced back to his desk and gave me daggers until we left. Kind of ruined the expectations of the place but whatever."
"Our first night in Iceland, a bartender in Reykjavik slipped something into our drink.
We started feeling woozy and quickly left the bar.
Next thing I knew it was a few hours later, I'm somewhere in downtown Reykjavik at 11 PM, with no idea where my friends were. After wandering around for two hours looking for them, I remembered that iMessages could send over wifi, so I found a bar to sit in and tried to text my friends.
Steve came to at 1 AM, and found himself running through a residential neighborhood, bleeding from his forehead, with no idea what had happened. He found a hotel (he couldn't remember where our AirBnB was) and got a room. The hotel had wifi, so he got my messages. Sent me a picture of his busted face, told me the name of the hotel and his room number. Neither of us had heard from Bob.
I took a screenshot of the directions from Google Maps, then started walking. But now I was convinced Iceland was super dangerous—we'd been here less than 24 hours, already were slipped something and mugged—and my semi-incapacitated self decided the best way to avoid danger was to look scary. So for the next hour as I walked the 4 km to the nearest Icelander Hotel, I growled loudly. It did work though. The few people who saw me crossed the street to the other sidewalk. It's a wonder no one called the police on the crazy American.
Finally saw the hotel sign, walked inside, and asked the front desk how to get to room 318. He starts laughing and says they only have two stories, I'm at the wrong place. Jesus Christ. He kindly called around to other Icelander Hotels, asking if they had a guest named Steve. Turns out his hotel was 6 km away. It's now 2:30 AM and my phone is at 3%, no way I'll make it on foot, so he called a cab for me.
I've never been happier to see Steve than when he opened his hotel room door. We talk briefly, decided to sleep for the night and look for Bob in the morning. Right as I'm drifting off, my phone lights up with a message from him asking where the heck we are. He's at the apartment and insists we come back. Fine. We take a cab back.
Bob tells us that he'd woken up three hours earlier, from sleeping under some stairs in a random building, with a man screaming at him in Icelandic. The guy picked him up by his shirt and threw him outside. He wandered hazily through the city for an hour, trying to get his bearings. Whatever substance was in his system must've still been affecting his brain, because he thought that he was in Germany (where he grew up). He didn't know how he'd gotten there, but he wanted to get back home to America.
A bunch of cabs were parked outside of a bar, so he got in one and asked to go to the airport. The cabbie gave him a weird look, and said it was almost two hours away, but he'd go if Bob really wanted. Bob said yes. Ten minutes into the ride, he realized this wasn't Germany, panics. He took out his phone and found his itinerary, complete with address of the apartment. The cabbie re-routed, and Bob was safe inside. An hour later he remembered that he wasn't in Iceland alone.
The next day I looked through my phone searching for evidence of what happened while I'd been blacked out. I'd been all over Reykjavik, as evidence by my blurry photos. There were several photos of me holding a large orange cat, in different parts of the city, so apparently I'd abducted it temporarily. No idea why.
Later we discovered that the bar had charged Steve's credit card $300 for his two drinks before we passed out.
This is the first time I've told this story."
"I recently took a trip to Dubai. I wasn't sure what to expect—it was a business trip, not a vacation—but for the most part I had a great time.
It was clean, the people were all very friendly, and the city has an astoundingly well-fitted mix of ancient and brand new. Not the coolest place I've ever travelled to, but probably the most interestingly unique.
Except the slavery. I had never seen slaves before. But I did in Dubai.
I was in my room at a six-star luxury hotel and realize that for some reason I hadn't packed any socks.
So I got to my concierge (we have a couple of locals hired to help us with stuff like this) and ask him where the nearest mall is. It's not far and he offers to drive me.
On the way we pass some construction and I see this large group of workers in protective gear eating lunch in the shade of a sign. They were the first people I saw that weren't dressed impeccably. I pointed them out to my helper.
'Servants,' he says. 'I think they are Sri Lankan.'
I'd heard that the UAE had some questionable labor standards, so I asked how much they get paid.
'They don't. They have to work two, three years then they are free to go and get a good job.'
'What do you mean by free to go?'
'They come here and have to work off the trip, usually two years. Until then they belong to the company that brought them from Sri Lanka.'
'So they're like slaves?'
'We don't say slaves! They are servants, they volunteered. Your country had slaves!'
I told him that, yeah, we did, but that 150 years ago we figured out that it was a terrible thing. He didn't seem bothered by it at all. It was weird.
I'm 39 years old and I thought I'd live my whole life never seeing slavery, but unfortunately I was wrong."
"I went to jail in Zambia for 3 days over Easter weekend.
I was on a bus to Victoria Falls and at 5 AM, our bus was stopped at a checkpoint by the police. I didn't have my paperwork because I was always afraid of getting it stolen. They didn't accept the copies I made of it. My Zambian friends were horrified as I was loaded up on a truck and sent to the local police station. I thought they were just going to take me to immigration, but they put me in a cell instead.
I was in there for 3 days and had 3 visits a day from my friends and colleagues. They provided food and water for me. The jail did not feed its prisoners. Some had been in there for weeks and hadn't eaten. I saw beatings nearly every 3 hours and the police would bring in their friends to beat other prisoners. They would make up charges and demand bribes. There were cockroaches in our cell and I could feel bugs crawling on me at night. A lot of guys were messed up and in some cases violent.
I learned that my friends paid off the police so that they wouldn't beat me and allow me to use the bathroom. The US embassy in Lusaka was notified, and I received a call from a consular officer after it was done.
I got out after my friends, who are Zambian, negotiated a $50 bribe to get me out and remove my arrest from their records.
I partied like a rock star that night, but after a long shower and a tuberculosis test.
No one in my family knows and it has been 3 years."
"I was detained for several hours at the Edinburgh airport because they were suspicious that I (a white 22-year-old female American) was trying to illegally immigrate.
This was after I watched them let in a heavily sloshed woman though in mere moments before. They took me to a small room where there was a table that was attached to the wall and hounded me for answers about why I was there (to see a band), why I didn't bring very much money (because I was 22) and why I brought my guitar.
They kept repeating over and over that I better not be planning on busking! The made fun of the way I pronounced my Scottish friends' last names and even insisted that I give them phone numbers of people I knew. It was only when I had been there for two hours and broke down into tears that they stopped and started being nice to me.
It was like they had realized their little game of interrogation had gone too far and they even carried my bags to the train station for me. Most of my Scottish friends said that they were probably just bored and a woman traveling alone made me an easy target."
"When my father came back from a business trip in China, he had a broken leg. He told us that he had slipped on some stairs.
It was only many years later that I found out the Chinese military police had thrown him off a bridge and left him.
He was part of an arbitration team that had been brought in on a legal case against the government for negligence. I don't know why he kept it secret from us for so long, but it certainly changed the way I saw China."
"I was on a train in Romania, we rushed to the train station to catch a train about to depart, bought tickets (if you have been to Romania you'd probably know most of the ticket office ladies don't speak English) so this woman helped us buy our tickets, turns out she was getting on the same train.
We rushed with her to the train, and when we got on I asked if we'd have any service on board because we had no water or snacks for the 4hour ride. She told us there wouldn't be any, but she would see if her friends meeting her could drop some off when they meet her at the train station.
Fast forward to when we get to her stop, she told me that her friends were here with stuff for us, I go to the door and sure enough her friends are there with 3 liters of water, and loads of snacks that they just bought from the shop. I tried to give them money but they wouldn't accept. It made me realize how great Romania is, especially the people.
About an hour later, our train hit someone in a rural area... The doors opened when the train had stopped and people were looking out. My friends and I looked out too and saw a man under the train. The ambulance came and took him away and in about 20 minutes, the train just carried on moving.
No police, no closure, it just carried on like nothing had happened.
Nothing can make me forget that."
"I went on a holiday with a friend to Amsterdam and experienced no trouble at all until the last night.
When walking back to our hostel, my friend and I got surrounded by a group of 6 guys that demanded we buy illicit off them. I've never touched the stuff and neither of us had any cash on us anyway.
One of the guys looked no older than 16 and was much, much smaller than me. I picked a moment and grabbed my friend and shouldered past the young guy and sprinted with the gang chasing us to one of the busy streets where many other tourists were still out enjoying themselves. Once we got mixed in with the crowd, we lost the gang and quickly made our way to our hostel. We decided to call it an early night.
Amsterdam is a great city and I loved the culture and the bustling nights along the canals and in the bars. But I'll admit I came close to wetting myself with fear that night.