Traveling around the world and being able to experience other cultures is amazing, but sometimes things go wrong, especially for women traveling alone. Whether it's travel issues or incidents with the locals, there are many things that can go wrong on a trip. Here are real stories from women that had some intense and scary experiences while abroad.
Some stories have been edited for clarification purposes.
The Incident In Indonesia
“When I was in Indonesia, I was walking from my guesthouse to grab some dinner one night, and a group of four men started catcalling and yelling what were probably inappropriate things at me. I just ignored them and walked very quickly into the nearest building, which was a department store. They followed me in, and I was trying to just ignore them, hoping they’d leave. I figured I was safer in a public well lit place.
They grabbed me and I spun around and started screaming at them (in English, so they probably didn’t understand, but I reckon they got the feeling). They laughed, but eventually left. The worst part was all the people in the department store, including other women who were working there, just giggled when they saw this happening.
These men probably could be dragged me out of the store and no one would’ve done anything… I left Indonesia the next morning.”
When In Rome
“I was in Rome with a group of friends, we knew that pick pocketing was a problem, so not a big deal. Except when we’re standing at this cross walk area, and we notice this guy literally reaching into someones coat and pulling out their wallet etc. The man it was happening to was across the street by then.
A woman, probably trying to do the right thing, steps out into the street to stop the thief and within 30 seconds she is hit by an incoming vehicle. This woman is thrown into the air literally two feet in front of us, over the hood of the car and back onto the ground.
I’ve never heard anything like a skull cracking, it is blood-curdling. When she landed, she smacked the back of her head on the road, blood rushed out. I’m not sure what ended up happening to her, if she lived or died but the thief on the other side of the street got away.
So yeah, don’t mess with traffic in Rome. You do not have the right of way unless you are driving something motorized.”
“When I was studying abroad in Paris, I decided to take a long weekend and visit a friend of mine in Cork, Ireland. Being a student, I booked the cheapest flight I could find: Ryanair, 7:30am departure. The plan was that I’d fly from Paris to Dublin and then take a bus to Cork, and my friend would meet me at the bus station in the early evening when I arrived. I told my host family that I’d be gone for a few days and not to worry.
The morning of my flight, I left the apartment at 5:30 am, so I’d be certain to catch the first metro that day to the airport. It was still pitch-dark outside, and there were no pedestrians out at this time of the night. Until suddenly, there were. As I was walking down the street, a group of five men in their late teens passed me heading in the opposite direction. Then they turned around as a group and started following me, talking to me, trying to get my phone number, whatever. Did I mention that I’m a 5-foot-3, 100-pound female?
I have never been more terrified than I was that morning. I knew that if it came to violence, there was no way I’d make it away unscathed. These guys all looked reasonably athletic. The street was completely deserted so if I did cry out for help no one would be around to hear me, and if I didn’t get on my plane, my friend wouldn’t even know until 12 hours in the future when I didn’t arrive in Cork. I walked on, trying not to engage the group too much but terrified that if I completely ignored them they’d escalate the situation. The only thing I focused on was getting to the metro station, where there would hopefully be more people.
Luckily, the guys didn’t turn out to be murders, and they left me alone as soon as I got to the station. I’m sure they didn’t mean to scare the crap out of me, but they certainly did.”
Road Rage In Malaysia
“This happened when visiting relatives in Malaysia. My aunt was taking us (me, my mom, my younger brother) for a drive around the city at night (it was around New Year’s so all these lights and decorations were up). When we were at a junction where we were to merge into the main road, she did so and crashed into an Indian guy (relevant) on a motorbike that came out of nowhere.
Seriously, he had been going extremely fast when the crash happened. We got out of the car to see if he was okay, and he was lying on the ground groaning, but there was no blood, and he didn’t seem badly injured. We called an ambulance anyway, in case, and while we were waiting, lots of bystanders came up to see what had happened.
Some of these were other Indian guys who seriously looked like Tamil movie villains (bulky, pot-bellied, mustachioed, facial scars). They started heckling us, blaming us for the incident, yelling, and swearing. For three females and a 12-year-old boy, this was terrifying.
They ended by telling us that if we weren’t Indian, they would have killed us.”
“The Detroit Of Europe”
“I traveled to Paris when I was 17 with a group of students from my high school. We were told to keep our money packed away safe and to never talk to the street vendors, especially those who were making bracelets on tourists’ wrists. (These men make bracelets and then charge exorbitant fees, and if you don’t pay them what they ask they will threaten you or physically stop you from leaving the area).
I was paired with another young girl when we were traveling to the Sacre Coeur and a man approached us wanting to make a bracelet for us. We declined, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept bothering us and following us up the hill while we were still saying no. At one point, he grabbed my wrist and started trying to work. I grabbed onto my friend, and he was pulling me in the other direction. He started screaming at me and pulling me harder, and I was not sure what to do at that point.
My friend starts screaming for the police, and he took off. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to one of the other students who didn’t understand that the man was not going to let him leave without paying 20 Euros. The student tried to leave but the man was threatening to follow him and kill him, kill his family, and do all sorts of terrible things. The student took a picture of the man and the man snatched his camera and took off.
Tourist destinations are crazy. Honestly, if it weren’t for the history and beautiful architecture, Paris basically just seemed like the Detroit of Europe.”
The Belfast Blunder
“When I was 18, I traveled to Ireland with two of my girlfriends and one of their younger sisters (we are from Canada). My one friend, both of her parents are from Ireland, and so we were staying with her grandparents, cousins, and other family members.
One day, we were dropped off in Belfast and told where to meet a family member (don’t remember who) at a specific time and place, so we could sight-see on our own and do a little shopping. We were in a very busy shopping/tourist area-tons of people around.
As we are walking around, this young guy (early 20s) walked up to us with a clip board and asked if we would like to participate in a survey. Being young girls, a cute Irish guy talking to us turned us into a bunch of idiots. As he was asking questions about what we thought about the shopping district, what we liked to spend our money on, I was watching the guy write down the answers. First of all, his clip board had only a blank piece of paper with no listed questions, and secondly I watched him sloppily kinda write down my friends answers.
I’ve always had amazing intuition and something didn’t feel quite right to me. I thought, we are in a busy place with lots of people, a cute guy is talking to us-I’m just going to see where this goes. I was also the less-sheltered one of the group and was definitely suspicious. He tells us that we were randomly picked to come back to the office, that we’ve won a prize. So he wants us to come with him.
He walked very quickly through the crowd and keeps trying to get us to move faster. I quickly said to the other girls that something felt odd-and be careful. He led us to a run down building where there was a huge stair case. It was dirty and there was garbage all over the floor.
This was in the middle of the day and there were a ton of people around, but now we were out of sight from the public area. He waited for us and told us to go ahead of him. The three other girls started giggling and walking up the stairs, he was behind them and then me. I just said, ‘Stop! Don’t go up. We are leaving now,’ and this guy freaked out on me and was trying to block the girls from coming down the stairs. I pushed him and yelled ‘RUN!’ They all realized how stupid we were being and rushed down the stairs. We ran in a panic with this guy running after us yelling, ‘No, no don’t run away! I was going to give you a prize, don’t wreck this for me!’
I couldn’t believe how dumb we were and I told the girls as much. We swore we wouldn’t tell any of the family what we had done. I have no clue what ‘prize’ was waiting for us at the top of those dirty stairs…and personally I don’t really give care. I realize how naïve I was and now I try to listen to my intuition, which has protected me many, many times throughout my life.”
An Expensive Ride
“My older sister and I were traveling together all through South East Asia last year. We were in Laos and wanted to find the fastest way to meet up with a couple of friends who were in Vietnam. We decided to hire a private driver to take us there. The driver explained that he could only drop us off at the Laos/Vietnam border and that there would be tourist buses at the border that could take us into the city.
When we arrived at the border, we got out of the car and the driver drove off. My sister and I walked up to the window of the only person working, got our visas, and walked across. Immediately we noticed there were no buses, no hotels/shops, and no people around. It was around 5:30 am, and the sun was about to go down. All of a sudden we saw a group of men approaching us on motor bikes.
They surrounded us in a circle and one of them said in broken English, ‘Where you going? Need ride?’ My sister and I looked at each other and realized we had no other way of getting into the city. We told the man where we wanted to go, and he told us the city was only 15 minutes away and that it would only cost us $12 to take us there. This all sounded great except when he mentioned that my sister and I would have to get on separate bikes. We declined his offer, unsure of how else we would get to the city.
We started trying to walk away but the bikers tried grabbing our arms and follow us. They tried to haggle and convince us to get on their bikes. We saw a garage door open a few yards away, and we headed towards it. An older couple was watching television inside, and we ask them for help. The bikers had followed us there and started shouting at them in Vietnamese.
The couple looked at us in confusion and my sister and I realized they were probably trying to somehow persuade them not to help us. My sister then looked at the couple and said, ‘$70. Drive to city,’ and pointed at the car sitting in the garage. The older lady nodded her head in agreement and then looked at the bikers and shouted something to them in Vietnamese. The bikers tried to convince us one more time to get on their bikes and started laughing. They finally realized there was no convincing us, and they left. We got in the car with the older couple, and they started driving to the city. The scariest part is that it took over an hour and a half to get there when the bikers said only 15 minutes. Just thinking what could’ve happened to us if we got on those bikes gives me the chills!”
Talk About A Case Of Mistaken Identity
“During university, I went on an education-sponsored trip to Singapore. Everything was amazing until the last night we were there. We went to a club that was a bit of a trek from the hotel. I ended up being way too sober to continue partying, so I hightailed it back to the hotel with my boyfriend. Everyone else stayed behind but eventually split up at last call to catch cabs and such.
A guy and a girl from our group decided in their inhibited stupor to walk back from the hotel. They somehow, in some weird way ended up wandering into the Singapore port. Keep in mind, the port is the livelihood of Singapore. They didn’t even realize it until a port authority car pulled up and told them they’d give them a ride to their hotel. They were friendly about it so they hopped in. What happened next was insane.
I get a call to my room at 4 am and someone in very broken English is asking if I knew these two people (I was sharing a room with the girl). First I thought it was a prank by a friend but then I freaked out when I started asking if they’re okay and this really eerie laughing was heard on the other end. They wouldn’t give me their name or location. That gut-dropping feeling when you realize it’s not a joke and something is seriously up.
Turns out the port authority arrested them, turned them over to their version of the state police and were accusing them of being spies who had scaled the walls of the port to gain intelligence on trade. Both of them were separated, interrogated, weapons were drawn on them in order to get them to fess up. They were taken to the walls of the port and forced to explain how they scaled them. One cop told one friend that the other friend had already confessed, so they might as well turn themselves in too. These people were totally plastered when I left them a few hours before. I could only imagine the sobering fear…
It took the rest of the group and the hotel front desk staff hours of calling to finally locate where they were in the city. Luckily, we had met a super successful businessman/lawyer living in Singapore, but from our hometown, a few days before. We called him up and asked if he could help us. He went to work on it. Twelve hours later with the threat of our government getting involved in the mess, they finally turned our friends over to us. We got out of there pronto.
We think someone messed up their job at the port that day, left a gate opened and rather than admit fault, they would get these young students to take the fall. Thankfully, neither of them gave up because God knows how insane their punishments are over there.
Moral of the story? Take a dang cab.”
It Was The Scariest Experience Of Our Lives, Especially For Karen”
“Me and my two sisters, Karen and Jo, went to Veradero, Cuba, for what was supposed to be a week.
We lasted an hour before wanting to leave.
We arrived during a tropical storm, and the resort was littered with ceramic tiles. We decided to go to the bar anyway and each have just one drink. Karen said, ‘I know there’s a storm but let’s check out the resort!’ To which Jo and I agreed. We reached a wheelchair ramp (and didn’t think to check for stairs). Karen attempted the wet tile ramp first.
She slipped, got her flip-flop stuck between two tiles which whipped her leg back, and she landed on it. Broke her leg and foot simultaneously, while also dislocating her ankle.
The closest hospital is in Matanzas, about 45 minutes away, in the storm.
The ambulance is just a van with a chair. Her stretcher was broken. And the driver was the doctor.
We get to the hospital, and it’s flooded. Bloodstains on the floors and walls, and sick/dying patients with no insurance laying in the flooded streets. At this point Karen is screaming in pain as they try to get the broken stretcher out of the van. Jo and I are in bikini tops and shorts. We haven’t even converted our money yet.
They wheel Karen to the x-ray room, and the machine is so rusted it looks like it could fall on her any minute. There’s also no lights in the hallways, just the rooms. Jo and I were left in the dark with a bunch of people who were eyeing us like candy. We had money on us, and very little clothing.
This is when Karen is then brought upstairs, and we finally find a doctor who speaks better English than my Spanish. They refuse to give her anesthetic, and try to push her dislocated ankle back into place. I cannot begin to describe the screams I heard. Jo and I are then asked by a security guard to sit outside. The only seat is next to a man who is not breathing, has his head cocked back, and smells foul. I am 99% sure he was dead.
Finally, they give Karen something that knocks her out. The doctors explain they do not have the tools to perform the surgery she needed to reattach her leg. We needed to get home, and fast.
We get back to the resort and Karen struggles to get comfortable in bed. The next flight back wasn’t until 8pm the next day. And the only wheelchair on the resort was broken, and too small. Her leg was still detached. We waited almost 48 hours after this terrible break to have her fixed up.
The flight back was not very pleasant either, as they couldn’t take the airport’s wheelchair on board.
She’s better now, has a permanent rod in her leg and was advised to have surgery to reduce the weight on her leg. It’s been two years since this happened. We all thought we were going to either get robbed or kidnapped at that hospital. It literally looked like silent hill. There were no windows either, only holes where windows should have been. We could have easily fallen out of one since there were no lights. We could only hear the rain to let us know how close we were.
It was the scariest experience of our lives, especially for Karen.”
“I was living abroad in a fairly large Russian city because I was in university studying Russian. I had been there for probably two months, so I spoke the language decent, but I was still learning. My roommate and I had just moved to a new apartment further from the city center. Our main form of transportation was by bus. Russian buses are kind of scary. Most of the ones for this city were just small vans that could fit about 10 in there, max.
No one spoke English and none of the signs were in English. One night, I went into town to visit a friend alone because my roommate was sick. I was still confused by the bus system, and on my way back to my apartment, I got on the bus going the opposite direction. I ended up going 30 minutes out of the city into a bad area. It was close to midnight and the buses stop running as often. I was terrified. I didn’t know how to get back to my apartment, so I ended up waiting twenty minutes for another bus and had to ride an hour back to my apartment. It was terrifying.
I was a 21-year-old girl lost in a foreign country in a dangerous neighbor with no idea of how to get back to my apartment. My parents love that story.
My parents were a bit freaked out by that. It was a study abroad program. It was a private company that I went through. It is a difficult place to travel to. You have to have the right visa.”