Travel Nightmare Stories – MY COMPILATION

15th August 2017

In my three years of travel and 30+ countries visited, I have exceptionally not collected any travel nightmare stories. I guess I’ve been lucky. Sure, there were a few scares of impending cavity searches on my way to Israel, or cases of bribery and fake “mandatory” medical examinations (seriously, do the all the visa tell tales have to pertain to body violation?) on my way to Cambodia. But amongst all the uncertainties – and the “don’t mention you’re a blogger” on the way to the Indian embassy – I have been one of the few lucky ducks to not have any of my travels go awry because of a visa SNAFU. Sure, I have had my share of travel nightmare stories but they haven’t been as bad as my fellow travelers.

Some of my fellow travel bloggers haven’t been so lucky, however. And when Canadian visa service company Sherpa contacted me asking to share some travel nightmare stories, I first did a little smug shimmy and thought we could all have a chuckle at others’ misfortune. Sorry, folks!


Iran visa

Visiting Iran had been my dream for a long time. When I was planning my annual visit to Armenia, I figured since I would be so close, why not go to Iran too. The problem was that I had to get a visa in advance, as you can get a visa-on-arrival in Iran only at the airports and the journey from Yerevan to Tehran is overland. I hadn’t heard about anyone having problems with Iranian visas so, all optimistic, I went to the embassy in Warsaw to get mine. To my huge surprise, the nice lady who was dealing with applications didn’t take mine; instead, she called the consul to ask what to do. As it turned out, he didn’t really trust solo travelers going to Iran as – according to him – it’s not safe, I’d only have problems and he would be just too worried about me. The secretary tried to talk him into giving me a visa, but with no luck. Time was running out. I was leaving for Caucasus soon with only a one-way ticket and I didn’t know what to do. Fortunately the lady from the embassy came up with an idea. She called me and told me to go anyway, and if they asked me why I didn’t get a visa at the border, I should just say that I was sick when I should have done the paperwork and then it was too late to issue me with the papers. I booked my flight to Tehran right away! After landing in Iran, I anxiously approached the visa point. I was pretty shocked when I was asked only few routine questions and let straight through. Catastrophe averted!

– Kami from Kami and the rest of the world


Pakistan visa

I often travel to places that few people go, like Pakistan, which I wanted to visit independently, on a long weekend trip. But I needed a visa. There is an embassy in Singapore, and I filled the forms online and then went to submit them. The staff were quite surprised that I was going alone, as a tourist, to Pakistan. One of them was excited and happy, because they don’t get many (if any) tourists there, but he had a bit of a poker face. The paperwork was not enough and he asked me for additional documents, including a no-objection letter from my employer and a sponsor letter from someone in Pakistan who would care for my safety and wellbeing. My employer had no issues and I got the wife of a colleague to write me the endorsement letter stating that she would be responsible for my safety while in the country. I had to go to the embassy several times and finally managed to get the visa. What was perhaps funniest was the flight to Lahore, where, again, people were curious why I was going there. I spotted many passengers looking at me and commenting in Urdu. Eventually, a guy in the row in front gathered the courage to ask if I was going to Pakistan. I couldn’t imagine where else I would go, transiting via Lahore. He then continued to inquire if I was working for an NGO or the UN. When I said I was going as a tourist, they all laughed in disbelief. I can only guess they thought I was a secret agent on a mission.

– Mar from Once in a Lifestyle Journey


Costa Rica visa

Our trip started in Panama and was supposed to end in San Jose. We knew we could visit both countries freely as the Ukrainian government had recently agreed on a visa-free arrangement with Costa Rica, as long as you have a European Schengen visa. We did, so we weren’t at all worried – until our passports spent a suspiciously long time in the hands of border control. They asked to see our return tickets and a proof of sufficient funds. I had around $200 cash on me, which was not enough. My proposal to show online bank account statements were met by invitations to come inside the office. Here we were, sharing a bench with others who I could only assume were illegal trespassers. After waiting for a long time in confusion, an officer finally volunteered to see my online bank statements. Although he let me believe he would escort us to an ATM so I could withdraw cash to prove I had funds for travel, we were unknowingly walking back to Panama’s border with a “refusal to enter Costa Rica” stamped in our passports. The Costa Rican guards didn’t bother explaining anything, while Panama’s officers only shrugged their shoulders and advised us to try again tomorrow. After spending a night in the middle of nowhere, we went back to the border – this time with lots of cash. Our passports spent another hour with Costa Rican border patrol, but we were finally allowed to enter – strangely without any questions about our funds.

– Lena from Travel Monkey


china visa

I went to the Chinese embassy eight days before departure to China and I was told I needed an appointment to get a visa. The closest appointment was in three weeks. At that point, I started to panic because I needed to get my visa to travel the following Saturday. They mentioned there were agencies that could get the visa done quicker. I went home and I googled for an hour. I called a couple of these agencies. The prices of the visa varied significantly between them. In the end, I decided to go with one near my house. I arrived at a building. A Chinese guy came downstairs, took my passport and then disappeared. I was suspicious as it was clearly not a legitimate office or a travel agency; but this was my only chance and a risk I had to take. A week later, I went back and to my great surprise, I received my passport with a visa, albeit at a higher cost than at the embassy. I guess I was lucky.

– Barbara from Jet-Settera


india visa

One of our biggest travel nightmare stories had to be during our travels through Nepal while trying to get an Indian tourist visa (btw here are some hints on what to do if you overstay a tourist visa). It started innocently enough, when we queued all day at the Indian visa office, only to be told we could only have two months’ access (when we were supposed to have six). We argued with the bureaucrat, and he told us to come back in two weeks’ time. Two weeks! The trekking season had long finished in Nepal at that time, and all but the hardcore had left the city. Two weeks finally passed and we went back to the visa office, where we were told by the same gentleman that he could give us an extra month, which still wasn’t good enough for us. He told us to come back in another two weeks! Winter was kicking in big-time at this point, and what we didn’t realize was that Kathmandu has 16-hour power cuts in the wintertime — no hot showers, and long, dark, miserable nights. When we went back, and he must have taken pity on us (or he just wanted a bribe) — because we eventually got our six months!

– Stu from Am I Nearly There Yet

Have you got any travel nightmare stories to share? I want to hear them! For everyone else, whatever whacky destinations you’re dreaming up for your next big solo or group adventure, make sure to check out Sherpa so you don’t have to be another number on this page and avoid a disaster.

travel visa

That’s not all! Read more visa mishaps from my friends Maria, Jub, Nina and Melanie over on Sherpa’s blog!

Happy travel,

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

14 thoughts on “Travel Nightmare Stories – MY COMPILATION

  1. Melanie

    It’s comforting to know that others had struggles as well 🙂 Hahaha and the Indian embassy story I liked it a lot. It’s strange to me that Indians give you sometimes a hard time to enter their country. I needed so many documents to prove that I have money and that I am leaving the country again. I find it strange that your employer needs to sign stuff. Great round-up post!

  2. Tom

    Thankfully we never had any problems with Visas so far. Boarder crossing problems on the other hand are something that happens every now and then again. It’s such a shame that there is still so much bribery in this world 🙁

  3. Karla

    It’s good to know that I am not the only one struggling with visas. Having a third world passport— visas can be daunting but then again we learn something from it.

  4. Shibani

    Being from India, I thought we are the only ones having visa issues even with such heavy paperwork. Honestly, even I’m appalled by reading your Pakistan story, because it’s not considered safe and you went there solo was great. That Indian embassy issue was also bad involving you to go back so many times. Hope your India stay was good enough after all that trouble.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Linda de Beer

    Visas are such a pain. I can so relate with the stories of Stu, Barbara and Lena. As South Africans living in Austria, we have to travel all the way from Innsbruck to Vienna every time we need a UK Visa. It costs more just to get the visa than to actually travel to the UK.

  6. Sumti Bhadani

    Visa sometimes becomes a really a nightmare for travellers. Thankfully, I never had any issues in Visa so far. But in Swiss, we faced one issue my friend lost her passport in a bus and next day we had to leave to Germany. We were so worried and were not aware what to do. Thankfully after some few hrs of searching and enquiring few buses, we found her passport and it was a great relief 🙂

  7. RaW | Ramble and Wander

    Ah-ha! I’ve heard so many stories about visa problems too but luckily I’ve had none myself. Mostly though it’s probably because I tend to go to countries where I can get visa on arrival, well, apart from India, and Saudi Arabia. My problem usually happens at flight check-in counter in a 3rd country when they’re surprised to find out that I, an Asian passport holder, don’t need any visa (in advance) to go to my destinations, they usually have to double check with their managers.

  8. Susan R

    It’s interesting to hear that solo travel is looked on with such suspicion in some places. I’m lucky as I haven’t had any big visa issues yet though a few times it’s been close to the wire in terms of deadlines!

  9. Paige W

    These are crazy! I would be so upset if I was Stu! That sounds insane! I hate that they didn’t get what was agreed upon. However, it could always be worse! At least they got a visa! Thanks for sharing these stories!

  10. Christopher

    Knock on wood I don’t have any Visa Horror Stories, plenty of travel horror stories but none involving Visa. These stories almost make me scared to visit theses places. The closes I came was the nearly 100 euros I needed to pay to get into Istanbul.

    1. Amélie Post author

      Yup, I had that in Istanbul as well! Definitely check out Sherpa if you’re nervous about things going wrong visiting these countries, they’re really great!

  11. Trisha Velarmino

    For people who have third world passport, getting a visa, especially to well-known countries, is really a challenge to us. I can definitely relate to these horror stories!

  12. Megan Jerrard

    I’ve also been fortunate to have not run into any visa issues – so it’s really interesting to read everyone’s stories here – crazy that Kami got through into Iran with no problems!! And that people were so shocked that a tourist would want to visit Pakistan! My husband is from the US, and I from Australia, so we’re going through the red tape and hassle of immigration visas, but as a tourist we’ve been fortunate to have been fine 🙂


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