One of my favorite parts about traveling to any country are the litany of "danger" stories my parents send me after I tell them where I'm going. There's constant reminders about registering with the State Department, making sure I don't discuss politics, and never, ever, ever leaving my wife and kids out of sight — or going anywhere without a relative from the overseas country chaperoning me.
For the most part I find their caution adorable and I totally understand it — I'm a dad, too. But I also believe that a lot of issues are avoidable as long as you steer clear of tourist traps and don't wear anything that'll attract attention: like cargo shorts, crocs, or fanny packs.
However, there's a reason why "tourist torture" films exist, and that's because there are plenty of stories of naive travelers getting one pulled over them by someone looking to make a quick buck. A recent AskReddit post had people share some of the scariest scams and encounters they experienced while traveling abroad. If there's one lesson to learn about all of this: don't carry too much cash with you, and always make sure the cab you're getting into is legit.
1. Chased by wild dogs.
I had a pack of wild dogs chase me from my bus stop to my hotel at 3 am in Kosovo. I also had a old woman yell at me in Russian about not making my bed right on the train and then watched over my shoulder til it was to her satisfaction when I was on my way back to Bucharest from Moldova.
2. Screwdriver attack.
1992 — I was walking up the stairs to the ticket booths in the Warsaw, Poland central train station. All of a sudden this dude is falling down the stairs coming to rest a few stairs above where I was standing. Dude had a long screw driver sticking out of his abdomen.
3. Pickpocket revenge.
Got pickpocketed by a group of 3 on a Paris metro. I'm paranoid of losing my wallet, so I'm always checking myself. When I realized it was missing, I made a bigger scene than the pickpockets were making (they shoved me into their friend and were trying to convince people I knocked him down). I stopped the train from leaving the station. One of the other passengers left to go get the conductor and security. I guess that didn't sit well with the pickpockets, so they gave me back my wallet and took off running.
This event still freaks my wife out.
4. Nicaraguan taxi.
I was traveling in Nicaragua several years ago when I got lost and ended up having to take a taxi at 9:30pm back to my hostel. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, the taxi driver locked the taxi doors and told me that I had misunderstood the fare. He claimed I owed him $100 USD which was several times more than we had agreed upon. I tried to pry the doors open from the inside but was completely trapped. Thankfully, he let me out of the taxi after taking all the money I had on me.
The hostel workers told me I was incredibly lucky. A few days earlier, a taxi driver had kidnapped another young female, assaulted her, then dumped her barely conscious body in a field outside town thinking that she was dead. A few local schoolchildren found her on their way to school in the morning.
5. Dollars, not Rupees.
I was in the Seychelles and was warned prior about the taxi drivers quoting one price then demanding another. Of course, I got super drunk the first night there and had to take a taxi even though I rented a car. Taxi driver and I agree on a price to go to my hotel. When we pull up he says I owe him 150$ dollars not rupees.
I tell him f--k no and he says he is calling his boss to make me pay and, what do you know, his boss just happened to be there and walks up as were arguing. I threw what I owed him in the front seat turned my body and booted the locked door open. I'm over 6 foot, about 215 lbs. and when I get out the two 5'5'' men try to grab my arm. I gently pushed them out of the way and walked to my hotel while they threatened to call the police. Cops never came of course and the doorman to the hotel was laughing and talking sh-t to the taxi drivers. Good times.
6. A whole lotta terror.
I had a cousin that was taken as a hostage in Nicaragua and they took everything she had on her. They threatened to kill her and her friends with machetes. She managed to make it out alive but still so scary.
When I was there I think the scariest thing that happened was when I was walking with some friends. I was in front of my friends by like 10 feet. A guy walked out of a building and apparently tried to burn me with a cigarette from behind. I didn't even see him do it but my friend ran up from behind and it must have scared him as he just gave me a dirty look when he cut in front of me.
I guess the other scariest thing that happened to me was when I was in Paris. My brother and I were there only a few months after the Charlie Hebdo attack. We were up the Eiffel Tower for a couple hours. When we came down we were walking towards where we were meeting a friend. Suddenly what felt like 100 people were running and yelling. I started running too out of instinct. My brother grabbed the hood of my jacket. It was the police scaring away the gypsies. Pretty scary though.
7. A Nicaraguan taxi story, but with a better ending.
I have another taxi story in Nicaragua. While leaving the Managua airport, my family had to get in two taxis, (6 ppl) with the same destination. The drivers peeled out different directions and our driver only knew "don't worry" in English. We finally got to the hotel and as it turned out, they were brothers racing to see who had the faster route. Scariest sh-t I have ever been in. Especially Managua at night.
8. Bangkok Tuk Tuk.
Same thing happened with me and my wife, instead it was Bangkok and it was a tuk tuk driver who demanded like 10x the fare. He dropped us in a dark alley(it was late at night) and said this is the place. Then he threatened to fight if we didn't give him the money. I was sure he had a knife in his pocket as he kept one of his hand in pocket. We ended up giving all the money we had luckily it was like 100$. It was our first trip abroad and took some time to settle emotionally. Highly not recommended experience.
9. Ho Chi Minh Taxi Freakout.
I made a mistake of getting in one of the wrong cabs in Ho Chi Minh City and had a similar experience. I started kicking at the window and showed the dude I could do some damage and ended up not paying anything. Crazy sh-t...I’ve now moved on to hiring drivers that my network of fellow travelers recommends....even at $60-80 a day in some places where taxis are $10, the ease of movement and lack of worry is worth it.
10. NYC Gypsy Cab tourist rip off.
Something like this happened to me in NYC when I was working there but still quite new to the city. I had hailed a taxi to bring me to a Colbert Report taping that I got tickets to last-minute, but when I got there the guy got really aggressive and was demanding way more than what the fare should have been. I didn't have the cash to pay that much and he demanded I go to an ATM. I said okay and when he opened the doors I just straight up left. Luckily I didn't tell him exactly where I was going, just the general area.
I learned later that I had not hailed a taxi per se, but instead a black car? Don't really remember the details, but it was different than an actual licensed taxi.
Learned my lesson to always call a reputable service that my workplace recommended. Lucky the guy was dumb enough to let me just walk away...
11. The Bali window climber.
My sister just came back from a trip to Bali. A man followed her home from a club, broke into her hostel room and climbed through the window while she was sleeping; thankfully, he was scared off when my sister and her roommate screamed at the tops of their lungs, but it was a really unsettling story to hear when she came home.
12. Canada-Michigan hold up.
My brother was held by a taxi driver at gunpoint after crossing over to Canada from Michigan.
13. The ATM scare.
I had a similar experience in Hong Kong. Taxi stopped a block from my hotel and said I had to pay him a huge rate that I didn't have. He marched me to an ATM and made me withdraw everything, saying he would ring the police and say I ran on my fare if I didn't, then he left. I'm an experienced traveler and was so embarrassed the next day that I let him intimidate me but I had had a panic attack about 30 mins before and wasn't thinking clearly.
14. Praying to God.
Ahh my sister lived in Nica for years and one time that happened to her!!! He locked the doors, asked for more money, threatened her...I think he figured out that she wasn't from Nica — she looks like a local but her Spanish isn't flawless. You know what she did? She told the driver that she was a child of God and that if he touched her, he would have to answer to God for it. (She is a smart girl and she knew the people — most are Catholic and superstitious) She started praying and calling on Gods protection — and it worked! The guy freaked out, begged forgiveness and let her out. She was very lucky.
15. Bulls and blindsides.
Nicaragua is where I saw a dude get trampled by a bull. One stomp to the head knocked him right out (I thought for sure he was dead). Luckily, he woke up, and I don’t know what happened to him after that.
It’s also the only place I’ve traveled where I’ve been physically assaulted. Some guy on the street walked up to me, and randomly punched me right in the jaw. Then he said, “Get out of my f--king country.” I’ve been mugged in a few places, but this guy wanted nothing more than to hurt me.
It’s beautiful though. I’ll be back soon.
16. Paseo Millionario.
In Colombia a common crime is the "paseo millonario" when a taxi driver will pull over and let other dudes in, who'll beat the sh-t out of you and drop you off at various ATMs and make you withdraw the max amount each time until all your money is theirs.
17. POLICIA! POLICIA!
Went to the South of France for a few days and at a train station in Nice saw a man grab a young girl by the back of the neck and start yelling. We thought it was some f--ked up trafficking/abuse stuff, then he started yelling "Policia Policia" and we realized she was a pickpocket and had targeted a group of young girls in front of us. Really made us rethink about who we were profiling.
18. Catching them in the act.
I had someone try to pickpocket me on the Rome metro. I got lucky and felt the hand, so I just stuck my hand in the same pocket and bent back two fingers.
The teenage girl, maybe 13 or so, next to me got a really troubled expression on her face.
19. The family that tackles together, stays together.
Dad got pickpocketed as well. He noticed it, held the doors of the train open, then started yelling in French (had no idea he spoke French).
A guy started running away down the platform, so without thinking, I sprinted after him, caught up and tackled him from behind.
Supposedly he dropped the wallet so I looked back while he got up and ran. Right then, my older brother sprints past me and tackles the guy again.
Little brother didn't know what was going on and rode the train to the next station.
Eventually a whole bunch of locals come help us out.
Jacked up on adrenaline for the rest of the day.
20. The Dutch travel massacre.
Saw a guy trying to pickpocket one of the guys in my group.
Suckerpunched the living sh-t out of the pickpocket.... His mate tried to drag him out of the mayhem also to fell victim to our group of 8 angry Dutch guys...
Locals were cheering us on. Fun experience.
21. The train-phone grab-and-go.
Here in Budapest the method is similar: Stand by the door casually and wait for someone to sit in one of the seats nearby and start playing with their phone. When the doors start closing, grab the phone and jump through the closing doors.
Here it is actually happening (The police got him later)
Travel safely and be aware of your surroundings at all time, people.