7 Cautionary Travel Tales of Tourists in Foreign Countries

7 Real-Life Violations of Travellers in Foreign Countries

As well as what you can learn from these!

Travelling is fun, travelling is great — this is something that we can all agree on. But sometimes, in the midst of all the fuss, excitement, and other travel-induced emotions, there’s the danger of simply throwing caution to the wind. This could then lead to serious consequences that may or may not ruin your overall experience. 

As we look forward to future travels, we also look back on these stories of real-life violations of travellers, as well as what we could learn from them! Ranging from the mildly hilarious to the most ‘what the heck’ moments, here are seven cautionary travel tales that you ought to know about. Hey, you never know when you might encounter a similar experience! (Knock on wood, though.) 

1. A rooftop photoshoot gone wrong

Cathy, a travel blogger from the Philippines, along with her foreigner friend Andreas (who happens to be a photographer), got into some serious trouble after they were caught having an unauthorised photoshoot on private property. And not just any private property, mind you — but the rooftop of one of Manila’s tallest skyscrapers! 

They ended up being detained for a weekend, but were fortunately released soon enough, thanks to a lawyer friend. They were also assured that this incident wouldn’t translate to them having criminal records. (Meaning, they could still travel without any hindrances!) And while she’s not ashamed of this experience, Cathy admits that it was indeed reckless of them, since they didn’t consider the possible outcomes. For her, it wasn’t exactly the best way to be an adventure seeker. 

cautionary travel tale

“At the back of my mind, I realised that it would’ve been better if no one would get hurt. When we got busted, my first concern was the security personnel might get fired,” she recapped in one of her TripZilla articles. “Fortunately, they weren’t, but they did get reprimanded by the general manager.”

Granted, Andreas has been doing rooftop photography for six years now and had never encountered anything like it until then. But for Cathy, there’s a first time for everything… and that’s not always a good thing! Her key takeaway from this cautionary travel tale? “It’s a memory to keep for the rest of our lives, but also something we never want to venture into again,” she shared. “To top everything off, if we survived being jailed, then we can conquer other challenges in life!”

2. Not every hour is happy hour

cautionary travel tale

For those planning to explore Singapore, it’s good to note that it’s quite the fine city… in more ways than one! As much as it is an idyllic place to settle in, it’s also notorious for outrageous fines if you’ve been proven guilty of an offence. This is something that nearly happened to one of our editors, Alyosha, whose cautionary travel tale happened during a business trip:  

“My colleagues and I were enjoying a nightcap in Geylang district after a full work week of filming. We were laughing about something stupid when the police approached our table. Panic tumbled and twirled deep in my gut when I heard what they said: ‘May we see some identification, please? Do you know that you’re not allowed to drink at this hour?’ My. Heart. Stopped.

Apparently, they were conducting some sort of raid in the neighbourhood. And apparently, we did not know that in certain areas called Liquor Control Zones, people are not allowed to consume alcohol in public places during certain hours! Thankfully, though, the police (bless you, kind sirs and madams) let us off with a warning. We were to finish our beers and go home.

So the next time you go out for drinks in Singapore (or any other country, for that matter) — make sure you know their basic liquor laws.”

Also read: Tourists Be Warned: 13 Things You Just Can’t Do in Singapore

3. Tourists who take hitchhiking to a whole new level

cautionary travel tale

I have a handful of friends from university who spent a semester in Europe. Upon asking about violations of travellers in foreign countries, one that particularly stuck to them were those who ride the trains… without paying! Here’s how it apparently goes:

“Oftentimes during festivals, there are people who don’t really check in upon boarding trains. Sometimes it’s accidental (i.e., they’re too drunk) but other times, it’s on purpose… and they do it literally every single time! 

I’ve also witnessed other travellers use a marker to wipe off dates so that they can use their train pass more often. Of course, there are those who get caught and have to pay a fine of around €200. So, moral of the story: Just don’t do it.” 

4. This is what could happen when you miss a flight

FYI to those who tend to arrive in airports merely an hour before a flight — several airlines charge a no-show fee when you show up late. In some cases, airlines refuse to allow passengers to board a return flight because they have missed the outbound flight. (Yes, even if you’ve paid for the tickets already!) 

cautionary travel tale

So, better keep an eye out for a ‘no-show’ clause in your flight booking — such as the case of travelling artist, Rence*, during his flight back from the United Kingdom:

“I was on a Eurostar train bound for London, since my return flight was in Heathrow Airport. I was coming from France, and this was in the middle of Brexit; so, all of a sudden, UK immigration tightened protocols for those coming from other EU countries — even amongst UK nationals. Anyway, this caused a huge delay that led to me missing my flight back to Asia and nearly paying a fine of £300!

Granted, I could have also called the airline ahead to notify that I won’t make it in time for departure. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even get a proper signal while aboard the train! So, I had to rebook my flight, but on the bright side, at least I didn’t need to pay that immense fine.” 

5. That awkward moment when you misread some parts of your visa…

What happens when you accidentally overstay in a foreign country? Read on for this cautionary travel tale from Tanya*, one of our readers from the Philippines:

“Basically, my dad and I were about to fly home from Germany. As we were checking in, the immigration officer told us we overstayed, based on the dates on our visa. The Schengen Visa can look tricky, you see. It wasn’t our first time in Europe but by a stroke of bad luck, we read our visa wrong! Our visa was valid for two months but the duration of stay indicated was only for approximately two weeks.

Given that overstaying is a criminal offence for them, we had to sign some papers in the airport’s police station. We just had to wait for a long while outside the station, and then eventually, a police officer met us outside with the papers we needed to sign. It was mostly to acknowledge the overstaying that took place. Fortunately, the police were nice about it all, and they even escorted us to our gate right after!

That was pretty much it. My aunt even joked that at least now I get to say I experienced being detained in an airport (never mind that it wasn’t even an overnight thing).” 

6. … Or worse, basically all the important parts of your visa

This might go without saying, but we think it still merits a reminder: Not all popular European countries are part of the Schengen visa. And when in doubt, Google is your BFF. Such is the case with travel blogger, Kevin:

“I was interrogated by the Bulgarian authorities at Sofia Airport for about 15 minutes. It all began when I overlooked a tiny detail on my trip. While leaving Athens immigration, I only then found out that Bulgaria was not a Schengen state — oops! Then it all kind of went downhill from there. I was almost denied boarding and almost missed my flight, but in the end, I managed to clarify things with the immigration officer and got to board.” 

P.S. — You can read the full details of his cautionary travel tales here and here

7. And then there are these people who aren’t afraid to make their ‘presence’ known

“Not sure if this counts under violations of travellers — but it was definitely violating,” said another one of our editors, Joser. So, for context, he’s talking about instances of foreign travellers who shamelessly do the deed. Sure, this would’ve been acceptable if it were in a private room, right? Well, some of these occurred even in communal accommodations like hostels. (Cover your eyes and ears, kiddos.) 

“I experienced these during my travels in Siargao and Nepal. Unfortunately, let’s just say both couples were that noisy to the point of waking up and/or disturbing other guests. The one in Siargao was when I was staying in a hostel and these two foreigners [whom I was roommates with] were going right at it. I felt so awkward that I just left the room myself!

Meanwhile, the one in Nepal was in an actual hotel. There was this couple who basically woke up the entire building with their commotion! It caused such a disturbance that another guest actually confronted them and the hotel staff had to mediate this fight. Anyway, I just took it upon myself to leave the hotel, so I never found out if this couple got fined. Though, from what I know, hotels usually do have policies against this kind of ‘risky behaviour.’” 

Yep, looks like some travel experiences tend to make you wish that you just stayed at home.

Also read: 8 Types of Couples That You Do NOT Want to Travel With

Apart from these cautionary travel tales, it’s also worth re-examining your habits that might be deemed as bad behaviour in other countries. After all, shouldn’t we all strive to be better and more responsible travellers? (Or, at the very least, to not be that kind of traveller…)

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.


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