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My 5 Worst Travel Experiences Ever!

by Marina Utami

Now don’t be fooled with what everyone always posts on their social media. I always believe that what you see is not what it seems to be. And that’s why I want to let you know that even though I had amazing experiences travelling by myself, I also had bad moments that I did not post about it. And every time I looked back at my travel photos, I often say to myself that “Gee, did I really do that?”. Being a solo female traveller never seems easy even though when you say it, it sound so cool. Well, I am doing something that most of the travellers or even normal people would never do; post about my worst travel experiences ever. And yes, I keep a post and pictures about it, so maybe someday other can learn about it. Here you go.

The Scary Host in Fez

My first town that I landed back in Morocco, was in Fez. I was super excited as I got myself a Couchsurfing host named Sa’ad that was eager to see me. He kept sending me messages about when I will come (even though I already put the dates there) and then talked about he want to make itinerary for me. Being a good couchsurfer I replied all of his messages and said that I want to travel by myself with my own schedule. I was a bit suspicious at that time but thought that maybe it’s a Moroccan thing to greet guests.

Even though he was nice to wait for my arrival midnight by the taxi at his place, I felt something was off. First, his family did not have any passion for interacting with me (cos most of couchsurfer host would really like to get to know the guests), they looked at me like I was some customer that are ready buy something for them. They changed their attitude when I told them that I am from Indonesia and that I am a Muslim. Then, they began to feel happy and see me as one of their family. Nonetheless, I knew that something went wrong.

Welcome to Fez! The Medina Gate.

Welcome to Fez! The Medina Gate.

I finally understood the next day when Saad took me to Medina and forced me nicely to use his friend’s tour to circle the Medina. When he said “friend’s tour”, it turned out that the guy was not an official tour guide. Being the largest Medina in the world, Fez tourist government asked the tour company to apply as an official tour guide for the tourists. You can see that from the sticker they have on the vest. But the guy that Saad was introduced, did not have one. I was already suspicious about it but could not resist. The guy was smiling friendly when he saw me but then dramatically changed when I bargain the tour price. In the end, he took the price that I had and being friendly again. And yes, this is one of the things that made me learn that fake smile does exist. You can definitely distinguish that after you have my experience.

The tour guide Fez Medina

The tour guide Fez Medina

I remember that I cried that night. Being scared that all of the Moroccan people are like Saad and his friends, I think I could never finish the journey. Geez, I was trapped in his house. The day after that Saad come again and forced me to changed my itinerary. He tried to pursue me not to go to Chefchaouen as what he said “A small village and nothing to see”. Boy, he was so wrong. I insisted and left. It was the best decision I have ever have cos I finally realised that Saad gave me a wrong impression of Moroccan. Chefchaouen was the best city I have ever been, the people were not a pushover, relax and genuinely smile at you (REALLY!). I had a blast and changed the way I feel about Moroccan.

The day after that, I hate that I had to go back again to Fez where Saad (again) forcefully asked me to use his Sahara tour. Hey, I was already being fed good food, he gave me a rooftop to sleep in, and introduced me to his friends and family. I could not say no again, right? So, even though I had an amazing time in the Sahara, I just hated that I did not have any choice to pick up the tour by myself.

Personally, I think Fez people’s personality are sly and cunning. Mostly the men. Maybe because the place was filled with tourists and so they tried to trick you and use the opportunity like the Couchsurfing experience for their own benefit. All my life, I always try to find the good heart in people no matter what people said. But this time, I really have to say that I do not like Fez at all. Especially the people.

What I have learned from this:

  • Not all people have good intention. Trust your womanย instinct (ABSOLUTELY)
  • Get backup hostel ready and leave when things are uncomfortable.
  • Never ever being told by someone, especially stranger that you just met
  • Do not ever try the sketchy tour guide
  • Always try to bargain when you are about to pull out your money. Take it or leave it.

The Overcrowded Karimun Jawa New Year’s Eve

I went to Karimun Jawa twice in my life. The first time was my first backpacking trip with my sister and I had such a blast! The trip was simple, get the bus from Bandung to Jepara, meet the tour guide and then cross the ferry. The journey was simple, comfortable and fun. And when we got there, boy, I was stunned. The sea was beautiful, the people on my tour were cool, and I got to swim with the sharks! Wohooo!

Me and my sister on our first trip to Karimun Jawa

Me and my sister on our first trip to Karimun Jawa

Now, the second visit was during the New Year’s Eve moments. I went there with a couple of my friends, my good friend, Ipoy were the one who booked the tour by his choice. The bad part that I had, start with the traffic from Bandung to Jepara. I remember that all of us dropped ourselves off the bus and ran hastily to the ferry. The ferry was almost close and we were the last passengers! The bad luck did not stop there. The ferry was too crowded, that people had to sit and sleep on the floor of the car park. Even they did not allow any car inside and just filled them up with the human. Gosh! It was 6 hours ferry ride with throw ups, snoring and smelly feets. Trust me, I felt like I was one of the immigrants floating on the boat to another country..

New Year's Eve be like... OVERCROWDED and CRAZY!

New Year’s Eve is like… OVERCROWDED and CRAZY!

The time we had in Karimun Jawa was nice whatsoever, it was as beautiful as I remember even though there were too crowded. We had good times experiencing New Year’s Eve on the beach with drinks and fireworks.

But damn.. we had to do it all over again to get back home.

What I have learned from this:

  • Do not go to touristy place during big events such as New Year, Christmas Day or any other big holiday. Crowded, overprice and totally did not feel like relaxing!
  • Be adaptable in every situation. Do not be a baby!
  • Open minded and learn to appreciate everything that happens in your life. Even though the road to get there were sucks, I had good times having New Years with good friends! ๐Ÿ™‚
Me and my Karimun Jawa gang!

Me and my Karimun Jawa gang!

The Halong Bay Scam

I was already warned by lots of people from travel blog about tourists could not go to Halong Bay by themselves. They had to go on the tour to get in. And so I found a cheap tour that was fitted in with my budget. I did not want to have a sleepover tour, and so I chose the one day tour instead, the A tour per se. The tour leader then promised me to upgraded it to the B one. He said that I will have more time to explore in Halong Bay and have own buffet food. I thought yeah why not. Would be great to see more of Halong Bay and have the buffet instead. So I paid for the B tour fully and was ready to embrace the next day!

The Halong Bay tour was not as I expected. The A tour was also buffet. And I had the same time with the A one. So what did I get from the B tour upgrade? One scallop of oyster during my lunch. That’s it.

I was so angry that I went back to the tour office and asked them to get my money back. The guy was shocked and upset but he knew he was wrong, and so I told him to check the tour before selling it to the tourists. Truthfully, it was my first scam experience that I got upset of.

What I have learned from this:

  • Find reliable tour guide. Make a good research about it first on the internet
  • Make sure what are the services and what are they offering on the package. Write it down on both sides to make sure.
  • Do not be afraid to ask what they have the offer you. Ask them nicely and if they still did not get it, protest and show how upset you are. Speak your own mind.
  • Again, I always try to enjoy every little thing that happens to me despite many factors that made me upset. Halong Bay was stunningly beautiful landscape and I am eager to go there again one day!

The Hostel Fight in Brussels

When it comes to the hostel, I always try to find a good reasonable hostel whenever I travel. But that hostel in Brussels was one of my bad experience ever. I already booked the hostel a long time ago for the sake of my visa approval. So I presume they already save a spot for me. When I got there, The hotel has normal services like any other hostel I have ever been. I got myself a corner room with one bunk bed and a large window. I was a bit happy thinking that I can share this nice corner with just another people rather than the other room filled with 8 people. I looked at my key and it said my number is 10, which is the lower bed bunk. Perfect. I threw all of my stuff in that bed and left the hostel to explore the city.

I went back home around 6 pm and realised that all of my stuff were thrown to the upper bed. Of course, I was a little bit upset, so I put my stuff back in the lower one and laid down browsing my phone. Then suddenly this old lady opened the door and screamed, “You! You don’t sleep there. That is my bed! You sleep upstairs”. Being yelled suddenly of course I got intense. We fight for sometimes and I clearly told her that I have the number 10th key and she has the 11th. She finally went downstairs and fetch the receptionist. The receptionist guy then asked me kindly to give up that spot and just sleep on the upper bed.

Being tired of travelling around and thinking that I will only have one night here in Brussels, I gave up. I got myself up on the bed with anger and even the old lady did the same thing. Oh man, I hate that night. I could not even sleep because she was snoring loudly and I had to rock my bed just to make her awake and stop. I left super early morning the next day and gave the worst review ever on that hostel.

What I have learned from this:

  • Quality equal Price. That’s no doubt about it.
  • Trust the review of the hostel.
  • Always have another hostel backup when you do not feel comfortable at the current one.

The Crappy 23 hours Sleeper Busย fromย Laos to Vietnam

The craziest ride I have ever been was the bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam by the bus. And it took 23 hours! Yes, people. 23 hours on the sleeper bus, non-stop and guess what? I had to sleep with a Vietnamese stranger beside me. Gossssh!!

I was super excited to meet Nghia in Hanoi and decided to end my Laos trip faster. The plane ticket to Hanoi was super expensive and so I had to use the bus instead. I was shocked to know that it will take 23 hours! But then the guy said that it will be a sleeper bus, so no need to worry. I thought, yeah what could go wrong? I can just sketch, read books and edit my photos on the bus while sleeping.

Man, I was so wrong! I was with my travel buddy, Alie back then, and decided to use the back seats instead. It has a long bed on the back and thought that it will be available. Then suddenly after few stops, there were Vietnamese farmers swoop in and sit next to us. Correct it. Sleep next to us. Geez! I never really complain about whoever I have to sleep next to me. I had my time where I slept on the boat to Koh Tao with strangers, but hey, they were not that smelly and pushed me over to the window. Geez! And all of these people even sleep on the hallways together with all of the tourists that sit next to them.ย That was one of my worst 23 hours experience in my life. I could not even get out from the bus; they just stop 2 times and one of them is on the border of Laos and Vietnam. What the heck?

Sleeper bus to Hanoi Vietnam

What I have learned from this:

  • Research deeply on what the hell is “sleeper bus from Laos to Hanoi” is ๐Ÿ™
  • Be patient and adaptable in every situation (oh deep breath for 23 hours everyone..)
  • For a long journey, you have to be prepared for the food and drinks. BUT… do not drink that often, otherwise, you will want to go pee all the time. Be wise.
  • The ultimate thing I have learned: try not to go all the way in one trip. I should have stopped by in the small city on the way and just immerse with the culture first instead of torturing myself for 23 hours ๐Ÿ™
  • Always prepare for eyemask, earplug, and probably something to redeem smell for your nose

Fiuh… this show you guys that my journey was not always flowers and the sunshine. I had some worst experiences and bad timing that made me upset. Did I ever regret of not staying at home instead of travelling solo out there in the crazy wild world? Never!! I am super grateful that I have met many amazing people and moments, bad or good, and that has built up who I really am. These experiences make me learned something new that enable me to survive. I got to adapt to every hard situation that is unimaginable, I learned how to deal with people and trust my woman instinct every step of the way. So, all these bad experiences that I had was actually a bliss for me, to be someone better, a grown up woman and an open minded person.

Now, what is your worst travel experience?

ยฉ 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.


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Firdaus Ysf April 4, 2017 - 4:17 pm

Nice posts!I agree about morocco. You have to be extra careful since you are a woman.Some of the people there will take advantages but there are some nice people in Morocco too. The bus ride to Hanoi seems cool!I would love to experience it although it is going to be an unpleasant one.

Marina Utami April 4, 2017 - 4:22 pm

Thanks!! Indeed about Morocco. You can try the bus to Hanoi, once will be enough though! ๐Ÿ™‚

NowThatsAHoneymoon April 4, 2017 - 4:59 pm

That’s crazy especially the first experience in Morocco! It’s hard when it’s your safety that’s in the line. I suppose one hasn’t traveled enough until experiencing such things and living to tell the tale!

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 12:38 am

Yep! That one is a scary experience ever! But it taught me something good in the end ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading!

Valen April 5, 2017 - 12:49 am

Yeah, I had terrible experiences in Morocco, too. It’s sad that a handful of people make so many afraid to travel.

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 12:55 am

Yes that is a sad fact, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™

Punita Malhotra April 5, 2017 - 4:04 am

Bad travel experiences have one good thing about them…they make the best after-stories! Try recounting the best and worst travel experiences to your friends..guess which one they will love more? That apart…you have listed fantastic learnings here. Better safe than sorry.

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 4:12 am

That is so true! I did learn so many things and good travel stories! Thanks for reading

Rob Taylor April 5, 2017 - 6:12 am

You know, it’s the mistakes that make our next trips better. I completely agree about traveling over major holidays or events. It can be a disaster, you don’t get the genuine vibe of the place, prices are higher, and the surge of people make it a pain. And yet we travel on and still love it!

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 7:56 am

Thats so true!

Hra April 5, 2017 - 7:23 am

What a bad experience!! The good is that you learn a lot of things from these… keep travelling ๐Ÿ™‚

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 7:56 am

Still surviving tho!

Stella the Travelerette April 5, 2017 - 12:34 pm

My worst travel experience was this summer during Munich. There was a mass shooting in the city (not a terrorist, just a disturbed young man) and the whole city was on lockdown. It was truly frightening. I am sorry for your experience in Fez! This is why I will not do couchsurfing and only book with places that have positive reviews. The risk just isn’t worth it.

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 4:16 pm

Ouch. That sucks too! I know that Fez experiences sucks so much- the weird thing is he got so many positive references and i did not know if it were genuine or not! We shall be more careful next time tho!

Joanna April 5, 2017 - 2:16 pm

I have traveled with those sleeper buses too, in Vietnam, from North to South. The journeys were also very long, 24 hours maybe. I was lucky every time though and had a bed of my own, next to the window, with no other space next to me than the aisle. It was really funny though that we tourists were always picked up last so when the bus would arrive it would be already full with Vietnamese people who already chose their seats. So we always ended up in the back, in the upper beds, close to the toilet.

Marina Utami April 5, 2017 - 4:15 pm

Ah ya.. that sucks too right!

Sarj | 31andOver April 6, 2017 - 6:39 am

Oh dear, that’s what we mean when we say travelling is not all roses, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ But all these experiences definitely teach us something!

Marina Utami April 6, 2017 - 10:05 am

True! It definitely makes me someone who deals with any situation better during travel!

Marina Utami April 6, 2017 - 1:49 pm

So true!!

Aneesha Rai April 6, 2017 - 8:23 am

I think bad experiences definitely are learning lessons for us. I personally wouldn’t ever couchsurf in Morocco because of where it is and how men are in the Middle Eastern culture. The key is really research. Thank you for this story, it’s fair warning to the rest of us!

Marina Utami April 6, 2017 - 10:05 am

Indeed! Thank you for reading. Hope it helps!

Marina Utami April 6, 2017 - 1:50 pm

Indeed! Hooe it can inspire you and give you some lights on your next travel. Thanks for reading!

Marineira April 6, 2017 - 1:53 pm

Quite an interesting article and very cool pictures! Well done girl!

Marina Utami April 6, 2017 - 4:03 pm


Clive April 7, 2017 - 7:43 am

Yes its true, amidst many of those wonderful experiences, there tend to be few that we had never expected of. But defintiely this experiences bring out the best in us. Cheers and happy traveling.

Marina Utami April 7, 2017 - 1:45 pm

Indeed it was! Thanks for reading!

Akashdeep Singh April 7, 2017 - 1:40 pm

Holy shit. 23 hour long ride and too in a bus. Man i cannot even think of this, but you did it and thats amazing. Everyone has always had some of the other bad experience.

Marina Utami April 7, 2017 - 1:46 pm

I know. Didnt know why I chose that! Survive still now thi!

Fanny f nila April 14, 2017 - 2:37 am

Setujuuuuu :D. Pengalaman2 buruk selama traveling ga akan membuatku kapok juga. Beberapa kali aku jg ngalamin kejadian ga enak, tp kalo dipikir ga semengerikan dirimu mba :D. Pernah pas di clark kita dtg k counter airasia hanya utk menemukan pesawatnya batal terbang dan ga ada pemberitahuan APAPUN ke aku. Sementara aku hrs balik jkt saat itu krn besoknya ada meeting. Tp dua jempollah utk airasia krn mereka msh mau mencarikan solusi, supaya kita ttp bisa pulang.

Trus pernah jg udh booki g hotel di manila dan pas sampe hotelnya lg di renovasi sampe setahun wkwkwkwkwkkw… Direfund sih uang kita, tp kan butuh wkt lama.. Jdnya kita terpaksa cari hotel lain yg lbh murah..

Tp pengalaman di scam pas di HCMC, ama kakek2 tua sialan yg pd awalnya bikin aku kasian dan udh niat mau nambahin biaya becaknya pas ntr byr, malah dikenain scam yg jd lbh mahal. Makanya kalo ke vietnam aku kapok kalo ga bnr2 detil nego hrg ke mereka. Utk halong bay, aku prefer pilih cruise yg walo mahal tp udh punya reputasi lah…

Pengalaman jelek di eropa aku malah belum pernah ngalamin.. Rata2 kena pengalaman g enak pasti di negara2 yg sbnrnya msh blm terlalu maju ๐Ÿ˜€

Marina Utami April 14, 2017 - 1:00 pm

Waaaa.. seru juga pengalamannyaa.. memang sih banyak kejadian ga terduga kalau jalan sendiri. Kalau scam sih di asia paling sering. Luckily we still survive and keep thriving kaan!

Bad experience really makes us learn more and more!

the Fashion Matters April 14, 2017 - 11:06 am

really enjoyed reading this!

The Fashion Matters– Travel & Fashion Blog

Marina Utami April 14, 2017 - 1:00 pm


irhamfaridh April 18, 2017 - 2:23 pm

Hahaha setiap traveler pasti punya saat saat bad times kaya gini :)) apalagi backpackr hehehe btw, salam kenal ya marina


Marina Utami April 18, 2017 - 2:40 pm

Hahaha iyaaa.. salam kenal juga yaa!

Randy April 19, 2017 - 3:31 pm

Hey Marina,
Thanks for these accounts. I was particularly interesting in the one about Fez as my wife and I are going there in a month or so. I just keep hearing stories about how cunning the people there are. Did you find any other good Couchsurfers out there? Or did you stop Couchsurfing after that? Travel can bring out the worst of this world but fortunately it usually brings out the best. Thank for sharing and safe travels ahead.

Marina Utami April 19, 2017 - 3:47 pm

Hi Mark. Particularly Fez is the one city you should be careful. I dont really recommend you to try couchsurfing in Fez as people use that platform to sell their tours and stuff. I did couchsurfing again in Marrakech, the guy and the family was nice. Then again he asked for money to enter the tourist place and gas for his motorbike, so it was not all genuine. My advice, better not to do any couchsurfing in Morocco. If you wanted to connect with the locals, meet up is the safest way. All in all, I am glad that I was safe and nothing worst come out of that..

Good luck for your travel and let me know how it goes! ๐Ÿ™‚

Safe travel and thanks for reading! Glad I can help!

Interview With RunwayMarina | Digital Travel Guru April 22, 2017 - 9:45 pm

[…] Have you experienced any downsides to solo travel?ย  You couldn’t see any rainbow if you haven’t experienced the rain. I had my times when I got down and experiences scary events, but that never stop me from travelling. You can read my worst travel experiences story from here: https://runwaymarina.com/confessions/my-5-worst-travel-experiences/ […]

Sam April 25, 2017 - 5:29 am

Sorry to hear you had bad experiences like those. I was once surprised to have my things moved from my bed by some strange guy, but in the end, I just took another bed and moved on. I wouldn’t call that my worst experience. I’m not sure what would be my worst experience. This happened only once, and I’m often using hostels.
I wasn’t a fan of New Year in Parangtritis (which meant a lot of garbage), but it wasn’t that bad either. I went there knowing there will be lots of people there. I prefere to spend my time alone or in small groups, so that was fascinating for me.
My worst experience was probably having to look in Oslo for an ATM that would work with my card AND a hysterical friend by my side.
Probably my worst experiences would be always wary of the scam in Indonesia because I’m bule. :/ Always.

Marina Utami April 25, 2017 - 1:37 pm

Hi Sam! Sorry to hear that. When you go to touristy places in Indonesia especially full with locals, dont expect it will be a clean beautiful beaches. And yes I am embarrased for that. Scam also can scary anywhere especially in Asia. Once again, sorry to hear you got bad experience in Indo. But I assure you, not all Indonesian are bad ๐Ÿ™‚

Worst experiences can be a good study for the future though!

Sam April 27, 2017 - 6:21 pm

Ya, saya tahu. ๐Ÿ˜€ Dulu saya tinggal di Jawa Tengah (Solo). Mungkin pada tahun depan saya lagi ke Indo. ๐Ÿ˜›

Marina Utami April 28, 2017 - 1:44 am

Waaah bisa bahasa indonesia! Let me know if you are going to come to Bandung!

Misha Johanna July 11, 2017 - 7:53 am

Sumpah, gw ikutan gemes dan kesel loh bacanya wkwkwkwk! Soalnya ada beberapa experience yang mirip.
I met a guy in Copenhagen through Couchsurfing who was totally not respectful: kept asking me if I was ladyboy or not and invited me to ‘do something to prove that I am really a girl’. WTF?! I had the full story on my post “copenhagen: i hate u, i love u”.
Trus pernah juga ke Karimun Jawa dan gak bisa pulang seminggu karena ombak pasang (padahal cuma berencana stay 2 malem di sana). Mpe duit udah abis2an dan udah kayak berantem2 sama temen2 segrup wkwkwk sanking bosennya di sana. Trus pas akhirnya ada ferry, OMG, another drama deh. Next time aku ceritain kalo pas kita ketemu. Kepanjangan kalo di sini ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

Marina Utami July 11, 2017 - 7:55 am

Hahahaha! I know right?!? I love the idea of CS but people always (sometimes) use it for weird things.. nanti aku baca postnya kamu deh! We’ll meet soon! Would love to talk about your journey as well! ๐Ÿ˜Š


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