We’re Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly: Travel Horror Stories


Today I’m slipping through the eye of the hurricane between the Catalan protests and the General Strike planned for Friday. The road to the airport has been unblocked and I’m outta here. Oddly, despite my bad experiences in seven years of owning a flat in Barcelona (mugged, robbed, insulted, caught up in terrorist attack etc) I love the place and its people more than ever.

Now that not-so-Priti Patel helping to turn away the 500 million potential customers on our doorstep and forcing the end of free movement upon us, thus killing opportunities for an entire younger generation, I must decide if I am prepared to leave London – not a choice I ever imagined having to make.

So, after the collapse of the venerable but hopelessly-run Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel agency, your travel horror stories are welcome.

I’ve wrote about one disastrous trip in the short story ‘We’re Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly’ (95% of which was absolutely true) but here’s one I could not have anticipated.

A few years ago I was on a flight to Malaysia on New Year’s Eve, connecting on to Langkowi. The flight was due in at 11:45pm but ran a touch late, landing at 00:05am.

As we disembarked it was discovered that the travel company’s insurance certificate ran out at midnight, so we were prevented from entering the airport. Technically we were now stateless, between two registered destinations, unable to enter either.

It was incredibly hot. My luggage was taken off and I was left on the tarmac in a state of limbo, like Tom Hanks in ‘The Terminal’. I missed my connection but Malaysian customs were surprisingly helpful and sorted out the problem. The travel company failed to respond, and only apologised weeks later after much prompting.

Discovering you have suddenly ceased to exist is quite an eye-opener but worse things have happened; let’s hear yours.

7 comments on “We’re Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly: Travel Horror Stories”

  1. Christine says:

    Hm, as if your “fun” in the Arctic wasn’t enough.

    What has to happen to you never to return to a country again?

  2. admin says:

    No-Deal Brexit.
    Nigel Farage becoming anything remotely important.
    Food poisoning (not true; I’ll go back to India).
    Homophobic violence.
    Rochester, Kent.

  3. John Griffin says:

    Travelling to India in the mid 70s (as you did). Magic Bus to Istanbul, via several circuits of Munich, as neither driver had a clue where they were. Volkswagen to Tehran with Uli and Manfred, two stoned German draft-dodgers, and Francois, a mosquito-magnet. Into the weird atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Tehran, just beginning to come to the boil. En-route, randomly stopped at a small village café, to be greeted by a guy I knew from Nottingham University whose dad owned the gaff. Stopped for a few days in Tehran, where the beautiful marble telephone exchange was marred by the corpses in the drains nearby (apparently beggars). Caught amoebic dysentery, and with the world dropping out of my backside, was given a lift back to Blighty by a truckdriver from Hull who stole all my money and travel cheques (the police were too late to stop him legging it from Hull with his wife – he’d sold and stolen the whole truckload). Arrived in London by train 3 stones lighter, and needing all my clothes burnt (I stank) by an old girlfriend who nursed me for a couple of days, A year of health monitoring followed.

  4. Martin Tolley says:

    You don’t need exotic for travelling hell. Try Euston to Milton Keynes.

  5. Roger says:

    What have you got against Rochester, Kent, apart from getting there by train? I rather like it – an enormous second-hand bookshop, some good pubs, Edwin Drood’s cathedral and the Medway. Mind you, it’s a long time since I last went.

    We’re the dance band on the Titanic.
    Sing “Nearer, my God, to Thee”.
    The iceberg’s on the starboard bow.
    Won’t you dance with me.
    runs endlassly through my head – and I never even liked the song!

  6. Helen Martin says:

    A White Corridor experience driving home up the Fraser Canyon. Road was plowed clear but snow walls above truck height and the snow was falling with a wind behind it so that we couldn’t see the nose of our Morris Oxford Traveller. The fuel pump was located next to the rear wheel so that the snow packing around it froze it and the engine just stopped leaving us with no lights in the middle of the traffic lane. I got a ride with a pair of fellows driving to Fort St. John where they were to start work the next morning. They left me at the garage which was also the bus stop where I had a discussion with the owner, also the tow truck driver and another exchange with a Mounted Police officer (in full winter gear – you’ve no idea how big that makes them). I was just beginning to lose it when my husband arrived, the pump having thawed. That entertained the bus passengers no end. We got further up the Canyon when the pump stopped again. This time I got a ride standing in the bus’ step well. I was let off at the next garage where the owner drove me back to the car in his Land Rover. His passenger seat had been removed to give extra room for things, at that moment a pile of tow chains. I do not recommend frozen chains as a comfortable seat.They towed the car to the next garage, located just below our house and I walked up the mountain in a pair of Jeans I borrowed from the owner (he was married to a fellow teacher).
    Oh, and did I mention I was five months pregnant?

  7. John Howard says:

    OK Helen, I was with you all the way there. (Apart from the pregnancy bit). Yours and John’s definitely live up to the title. Although I share Martin’s pain having done that journey quite a few time although I was lucky in as much as I was able to get off at Watford.

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