Culture

People Share Their Scariest International Travel Incidents

A view of the Victoria Falls Bridge from the Zambezi River, Zambia (Getty Images)

There are more incredible things to see and do on Earth than we can take in throughout our entire lifetimes. But that won’t stop the most passionate globetrotters among us from trying anyway! I’m not saying that you should opt for a lame-sounding “stay-cation,” but some avid travelers at Quora have collected a few particularly chilling stories about how they barely survived a death-defying situation while exploring a foreign land:

“One of the smoothest landings I’ve experienced”

Shem Elliyahu Yifrach wrote: “While flying from Miami to San Juan on our landing approach, the captain informed us that due to a hydraulic failure, the flaps were not able to deploy. Due to the subsequent lack of lift, a crucial element of flight, the aircraft could not slow to the proper speed allowing to it remain airborne while traveling slow enough to come to a stop on the runway at the airport we were about to land in.”

“We circled around for a while in order to dump fuel and reduce the weight of the aircraft in hopes of increasing the possibility that the breaks would have a chance of slowing us enough to be able to come to a stop on the runway, and to reduce the explosive flames that might result in the event that we did not come to a stop at the end of the runway,” he explained.

“My crew quickly informed and prepared the passengers for a possible crash landing. The captain, despite being obviously extremely busy flying the airplane, made a regal effort to ease our passengers’ concerns. It didn’t help.”

“I recall sitting in the jump-seat facing some rows of passengers that could not conceal the horrors they were feeling. This made it very difficult for me to concentrate on the emergency evacuation procedures that we trained for,” he said. “Something about looking another human in the eye while in the face of possible imminent death; I couldn’t endure it anymore, and I closed my eyes.”

“I tried to drown out the cries of some of the passengers, and focused as best as I could on the procedures I would need to follow in the event that we crashed. I don’t think me closing my eyes made the passengers feel any better, but it was what I had to do at the time in order to preserve myself from freaking out.”

“It was one of the smoothest landings I’ve experienced, and we came to a complete stop nearly at the end of the runway. One of my colleagues quit his job on the spot. Our Captain bought us drinks that night, which actually was not uncommon as we would often ‘debrief’ after our flights, but considering what we all went through that evening, it was a memorable occasion.”

Drive faster than the guy who carries a big stick.

“When I was 13, my parents took me and my 3 younger siblings on a tour of Mexico,” Marilyn Gee said. “We were driving in a rental car one night on a highway through the state of Guanajuato, when I noticed a large Chevy van was following us.”

“I begged my dad to let him pass, because I became frightened,” he said. “My father pulled over to let the van pass us, but the van also pulled to the shoulder behind us, and the driver turned on the high-beams and got out of the van, and began walking toward us while carrying a ‘stick.’”

“My father told us to duck down into the seats as he peeled out and drove like a madman toward the nearest town, which was 5 miles down the road. The van quickly caught up to us, but without any headlights on this time. The poor Buick we were in gave us its all, and we made it to a hotel. My father began honking the car horn up the driveway, and the van backed off and drove away.”

“Explaining our ordeal to the hotel clerks, my parents were told of local area kidnappings, in which a vehicle would turn off the headlights, run a car off the road, and kidnap the occupants at gunpoint. My dad later told me the man’s ‘stick’ was a rifle.”

Wait… This isn’t a taxi, is it?

Samar Sundoja recalls the time that he traveled from Toulouse, France, to Rome, Italy, via a late-night flight: “I was really bummed out as my flight was delayed too. When I was picking up my luggage, a tall guy asked me if I was looking for a cab. For the FIRST time in my life, I decided to take a cab without going to the taxi stand.”

“Well, he carried my luggage and told me to follow him. Soon I realized that we were on the back side of the airport and in middle of nowhere, and then he asked me to get into the private car.”

“I said ‘This is not a taxi, and there’s no way I am getting into that car.’”

“The driver took out a screwdriver and said, ‘Dude- Do you think you have a choice?’”

“Then he drove me into the middle of a forest near Lazio, Rome. During the drive he kept shouting ‘I am not a bad man but I have 5 children!’ as if it is my mistake.”

“I gave him all my money (about 300 Euros), he dropped me off, and left. I spent the night in the forest/nature reserve, and the next morning I was lucky to find some guys staying in the nearby camp, who called a cab for me.”

“I won’t say it was my last trip to Italy, as this can happen anywhere in world, and the nation is definitely worth visiting.”

And you thought your local traffic cops were trouble!

Mechanical engineer Steve Blumenkranz wrote: “I was traveling through Guatemala in February 2003 with 8 other people in a tiny Toyota minibus. We were on a tour of Mayan archeological sites, and we were far out on an isolated road in the countryside on the way from Tikal to the Usumacinta River.”

“We came around a bend to encounter a roadblock with a half-dozen men dressed as soldiers holding automatic rifles. They gestured us over, out of the van and had us stand by the side of the road, few words, no smiles, no frowns, just serious. I think we all thought we were going to end up in the ditch.“

He continued: “The men then emptied our bags onto the side of the road and proceeded to go through each one carefully. After about 15 or 20 minutes, they concluded their search and motioned us back in with our bags and away. We all breathed in relief, and that evening we found that not one item had been stolen. Evidently, they were under orders to search vans or whoever came along and they did it professionally and nothing more, but the experience left us feeling pretty vulnerable.”

Worst. Waterpark. Ever.

Alvaro Valverde shared an especially scary story where he attempted to tame some extreme rapids: “I had a work trip to Zimbabwe and Kenya, and I took the weekend off to visit Victoria Falls. The rains had arrived 4 weeks before that, and the river was at its highest level. I had been rafting before in Costa Rica, and it had been such a wonderful experience that I decided to try it in the Zambezi River.”

“After 40 minutes in the raft, we started approaching level 5 rapids. By that time our guide had already confessed that he had been a taxi driver until recently, and had just started doing rafting tours (no kidding). At that time of the year, the biggest risk was not bumping into a rock, but drowning in one of the many unpredictable whirlpools along the river.”

“Well, we fell over in one of the rapids, and I barely had time to take one last breath before finding myself drowning into one of the whirlpools. I spend 20 long seconds drowning before I made it back to the surface. I didn’t see my life passing before my eyes, but I certainly asked myself: ‘How much longer can you hold your breath? Should I give up?’”

“I was shaking when I got out. The guide was holding to the raft; it was still overturned, and he shouted: ‘Quickly, come back to the raft- there are crocodiles right there!’ And they were there! So, some of us managed to get back to the raft, and others went swimming to the shore. We finally turned the raft over and got back onboard just in time…”

“I can assure you, by the time I booked this activity, nobody told me anything about the crocodiles, whirlpools, and inexperienced guides! Otherwise, I would have paid extra for the additional adrenaline!!!”

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If those dreadful stories of vile vacations didn’t make you want to bury your passport in the darkest regions of your junk drawer and glue yourself to the couch for a video streaming marathon, I don’t know what will. If you’ve got some insane stories about how you barely survived an international incident, I hope you share them in the comments below!