backpacking horror stories

Woman standing near big tropical river

We all like to dream about getting out of the rat race, leaving the world behind us and going to explore the world with just a backpack for company.

But is the backpacker’s life really all it’s cracked up to be? Well, the short answer is... yes. Of course it is. You don’t have the 9-5 or morning traffic to wake up to everyday, you’ve left the stress of society in your rear-view mirror and you’ve found yourself in places around the globe that you couldn’t have even dreamt up.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the backpacking life always goes to plan. It is still life, after all – and if you’re staying in hostels or camping every night, we can almost guarantee you’re going to see some weird stuff from time to time.

We’re not talking ‘Hostel’ scale – that movie was bullshit and actually had a hugely negative impact on backpacking tourism to Bratislava in Slovakia, which is a genuinely lovely city – we’re more talking slapstick comedy moments from the road, and there are some rather peculiar stories out there.

We asked for some horror stories from a community of people who have been out and about when the worst has happened, from tales comical and farcical to pretty damn terrifying. Don’t let them put you off travelling of course – we know you won’t – but let us know if you encounter any madness when you’re out on the trail!

  1. The Morning Shower
morning-shower-backpacking-hostel-horror-stories

“I was staying on the bottom bunk in a mixed dorm in Thailand and had entered the room pretty late and gone straight to sleep. When I woke up I noticed the roof was leaking, and my bed was getting kind of wet.

“I thought about it for a minute though and then realised how odd that was for the roof to be leaking so much that it would come through the bunk on top of me and get my bed. And I couldn’t hear rain.

“Long story short, I grabbed my phone torch and worked out from the colour... and unfortunately the smell that it wasn’t a leaking roof, the stranger on top of me had just pissed his bed."

– Steve, Manchester

  1. The Night Bus
Mien Dong bus station

Mien Dong bus station

“We were backpacking through Southeast Asia and were on a sleeper bus in Vietnam. Anyway I eventually managed to get to sleep despite the lack of legroom and... general... lack of comfort, but after a while I woke up and there seemed to be a sort of recurring nudge on the back of my seat.

“It transpired that the girl and guy in the seat behind me, who I’m not sure knew one another before the bus journey, had got along quite well and had decided to get more than a bit handy. Needless to say I struggled to get back to sleep for the rest of the trip."

- Dale, London

  1. The Terrifying Close Call
 backpacking horror stories

Australia New South Wales Katoomba Three Sisters

“Bushwalking in New South Wales in Australia in the 90s me and my friend came across this weird platform thing made out of rocks. Later that year the cops arrested some bloke on suspicion of the murders of a series of backpackers who had gone missing over the course of a few years, and at the sites of several of the murders slightly off in the bush were these 'altars'. Current affairs show runs footage of one (the trial and run up to it were all over the news) and yeah it's that thing we found. The 'altars' were typically no more than 300 yards from the victim's shallow graves. The guy who was arrested and subsequently convicted for the murders is Ivan Milat, Australia's worst serial killer."

- Libby, Reddit

  1. The Night Owls
 backpacking horror stories

teenager girl looks outside into the window

“I arrived in London after a flight that was like 12 hours long or something and just wanted to get to my hostel and go to sleep. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have booked a dorm where I’d be sharing with 23 other people, but I’m poor, right?

“So anyway I get there and everyone seems nice enough but it’s pretty empty I notice. It’s just past midnight and I want to go to bed. So I do, right, and then at something like 4am these five or six Aussie guys all come in and start having a pillowfight, which in my absolute state was bad enough, but they were also naked.

“No, I don’t book mixed dorms anymore!"

Leah, California

  1. The Illegitimate British Royal
gothenburg-hostel-backpacking-horror-stories

“We were going through Gothenburg and the three of us had this hostel for a couple nights which had actually been pretty decent. Better than we expected. It was on Midsummer so it had already been a weird visit as it was, but it got a lot, lot stranger when we went to leave the hostel.

“We had our bags with us and this woman came up to us and started claiming that she was the secret daughter of Princess Diana and that she had been forced to leave the UK but wanted us to smuggle her back in. She got super, super aggressive about it as well, shouting and actually screaming at us and basically breaking down in tears.

“To be honest even if we’d agreed to help her out we’re not sure how we would have managed to smuggle her back to the UK. We only had hand luggage."

– Stuart, Edinburgh

  1. The Broken Taxi Meter
costa-rica-backpacking-horror-stories

“Me and my girlfriend were getting a taxi in Costa Rica and we said to the taxi driver before we left that we just needed to get some money out and we’d be back in a minute. He helped us with our bags and actually seemed quite cool but mentioned in passing that the meter was broken on his taxi which stupidly we didn’t really take note of.

“When we arrived after what was about a 20 minute ride the guy asked for what must have been the equivalent of about 400 dollars. We argued with him for an age but could only get him down a few hundred dollars and ended up paying a huge whack of money. We actually had another driver try and pull the same stunt a few days later but we called him out as soon as he mentioned the meter. That one still irks me though."

– Kelly, America                                                   

  1. A Monkey Stole My Passport
costa-rica-backpacking-horror-stories

Angry Baboom Closeup

“I shit you not I was in a National Park in Costa Rica and this monkey just came out of nowhere and took my passport. Only my passport. I had it in my pocket because I'm an idiot. I guess it was super shiny and the monkey thought it was food or something.

“Obviously I panicked immediately because Costa Rica was lovely but I didn’t want to stay there forever and we were leaving in a couple days and what do you say in that scenario – “I’m sorry a monkey stole my passport?" – but thankfully it must have realised it wasn’t food and it just dropped it after a couple hundred metres."

– Lewis, Liverpool

  1. The Night Bus 2
on-the-bus-backpacking-horror-stories

“We paid for a “VIP" sleeper bus in Vietnam and ended up getting a bus which looked more like a heavy duty truck with a roof loosely strapped on to the back.

“It was absolutely roasting, there was water dripping from the roof and all the seats were already taken so we ended up having to sleep on the floor."

Jess, London

  1. Daylight Robbery
Santiago International Airport, Chile

Santiago International Airport, Chile

“So I had literally just arrived in Santiago in Chile from Melbourne, totally stoked to get going. I picked up my sack and headed outside where some old dude asked me for directions and brought out a map. I was waiting for a lift at that point so my backpack was down on the floor and it was my own fault really but someone just came along and took it and it was gone when I looked back. Right at the start of my trip."

– Harry, Melbourne

  1. Burned Down in India
mumbai-india-backpacking-horror-stories

“I once arrived in India and jumped in a taxi to my hotel only to be told by the driver that the hotel I was meant to be staying in had burned down. He had seemed alright up until then so I didn’t even consider that he wasn’t telling the truth, especially because what a thing to make up.

“He dropped me on at another hotel where I ended up staying and after telling the story later on and being told by a load of people that the driver was almost definitely just getting commission from the place he dropped me, I decided to check out my original hotel. Sure enough, it was burn free."

– Pete, London

  1. Canadian Delight
Young Bull Moose backpacking horror stories

Young Bull Moose

“We were hiking through British Columbia and it was a pretty shitty day – like super misty, it was October or something, getting dark, and we got a bit lost. We weren’t able to make it to the campsite we had planned so just decided to pitch our tent where we found ourselves.

“Halfway through the night we hear this deep breathing coming from outside and leaves rustling and it sounds like something is coming towards us. We slightly unzip the tent – my mate had his camping knife out – and we find it’s a moose there just staring at us. He went away after a while. We had been ready for a fight!"

– Doug, Aberdeen

  1. Monkeying About
Angry wild monkey (long-tailed macaque) portrait backpacking horror stories

Angry wild monkey (long-tailed macaque) portrait

“We arrived in Nepal and grabbed a hostel for the night, which had pretty decent reviews online, and to be fair it seemed nice enough when we arrived; the bed was fine and the other travellers in the room seemed cool.

“The only beds left though were the ones closest to the window, which we didn’t think anything about until about 2am in the morning when there were four or five monkeys all slamming against the glass trying to get inside. I still don’t really know what was going on then but I didn’t get to sleep."

– Cas, Sheffield  

  1. The Short Story
backpacking horror stories hostel

Clean and Comfortable Hotel Bed

“I’m almost certain a guy once had a wank in the bunk beneath me in Argentina."

Sam, Newcastle, scarred for life.

  1. The Thailand Foot Massage
backpacking horror stories

backpacking horror stories

“I was staying in a hostel in Phuket, Thailand in a mixed dorm because it was the cheapest option. I chose the bed in the corner.

“I had drifted off and was sleeping very well. I slowly started waking up pleasantly surprised that my boyfriend was giving me a foot massage… And that’s when the terror gripped me. MY BOYFRIEND WAS NOT WITH ME."

– Rhea Eyre, from Buzzfeed Facebook

  1. The Panama Creep
Hostel inscription backpacking horror stories hostel

Hostel inscription

“I was travelling on my own and arrived in Panama at what had looked like a nice enough hostel online but when I got there it was genuinely just some guy’s house with like two or three spare rooms, all of which were full, and he just asked if I wanted to stay on the sofa.

“I might have actually agreed but he was being super creepy, lots of hand action and getting a bit touchy and yeah it wasn’t a good vibe. I went to leave but then he actually turned aggressive and started shouting all sorts of profanities and calling me names and to be honest I was just glad to get out of there with all my stuff. I hate to think what the others already staying there thought."

Laura, Detroit

  1. Caught Red-Handed
poor hostel room backpacking horror stories

poor hostel room

“We arrived in London and were staying at a hostel in Camden which we got the underground to fine. The place seemed nice enough – not amazing, it looked a bit like a submarine but like it’d do the job – and we were told we’d be sharing a dorm with two others which was completely fine.

“We go upstairs three or four floors and get to our dorm and can hear some like weird breathing or creaking or something from inside and of course when we open the door the two we’re sharing with are right in the middle of it having sex and there was a scream and lots of rolling... it... it wasn’t good.

“We went downstairs and asked if we could sleep somewhere else just to avoid the awkwardness of ever having to make eye-contact with either of them again."

Lucy, Sydney

  1. Lying Bare
Franco Swiss TGV Lyria high speed train on stone bridge

Franco Swiss TGV Lyria high speed train on stone bridge

“We had been travelling around Europe for about two weeks when we got on one train from Bratislava to Prague. Everything so far had been fine and good and we’d actually met some sound people on the trains along the way too.

“We were sharing a carriage sitting opposite one girl and a guy in his 40s on this one though and I had gone to sleep when my boyfriend woke me up prodding me and looked absolutely confused and a bit disorientated. It turns out the 40-something guy had decided to take his socks and shoes off and button his shirt way down and had fallen asleep and put his legs up so his bare feet were in my boyfriend’s lap. The other girl in the carriage looked like she was holding back tears of laughter."

Kate, Belfast

Have you ever had a hilarious or horrible experience when out on the road? If so let us know in the comments!

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