Holiday horror stories

Posted Date: 01 February 2017
Claims horror stories

Rattlesnake bites, ruptured spleens, theft by monkey and Pilates calamities - we’ve heard it all when it comes to overseas travel mishaps. From the light-hearted (like pet pee on a laptop screen) to the more serious (like emergency air repatriation), we receive all kinds of claims from unfortunate travellers who've had some bad luck.

But some claim stories stand out from the rest. Below are some of the bizarre and beastly travel stories that make you glad you’re insured.

Eating accidents

When you sit down to a seafood buffet, you don’t plan on dessert being served in the emergency room. One of our stranger medical claims came from a man who wound up in a US emergency room after choking on an unpeeled prawn. Stranger still, it happened twice! 

But unpeeled prawns pale in comparison to a dodgy Peruvian meal. One traveller was diagnosed with severe gastroenteritis after ingesting spoiled food. We’ve also had claims from people who required a hotel room change after severe vomiting and diarrhoea made the room uninhabitable.

Food poisoning is the second most common cause of sickness for travellers. Want to avoid eating accidents at all costs? Remember to avoid ice cubes, uncooked or undercooked foods, unpeeled fruit and use your best judgement when buying from food stalls.

Technology trip ups

Laptops and cat urine don’t mix well, as one of our brave adventurers discovered. They had left their hotel with their laptop charging on the bench, but returned to a room full of smoke and a pungent smell. A cat had wandered through the open window to mark their territory on the device - causing it to smoke and malfunction.

Bandit terror

Some countries have an unfortunate reputation for danger and crime. Central America’s El Salvador and Guatemala are considered some of the most dangerous places to visit in the world - as this traveller discovered. 

They were travelling in a shuttle bus between El Salvador and Guatemala when their vehicle was shunted off the road by a truck. Several bandits poured onto the shuttle bus and held passengers at gunpoint, while driving them deep down a jungle road. They came to a stop, tied the passengers up and robbed them of their possessions. After the terrified passengers were left alone in the jungle, they untied themselves, pushed the now-broken-down shuttle bus to the nearest road and hailed a passer-by who called the police.

Remember to always check that your destination is safe to travel to by checking Safetravel before you book your flights and ahead of your trip.

Romantic robbery

Some robberies are a little less terrifying than the awful scenario described above, (but still not very pleasant!). This unfortunate traveller was enjoying a drink with a lady who he invited back to his hotel room. The next morning, he not only woke up to the woman gone, but also his phone, charger and cash from his wallet.

The same traveller (after replacing his stolen items) later had his entire wallet stolen in a nightclub.

Unfortunately, if you invite an unknown person into your room, or you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may not be covered under the TravelCare policy.  

Monkey mischief

Mischievous monkeys are a popular sight in South-East Asia, and we quite often receive claims from monkey’s taking off with our customer’s items, especially glasses and sunglasses!

This traveller got a better look than they’d hoped for when their glasses were snatched from their face at a Balinese temple. The monkey raced away dragging the glasses on the ground, hopped over a wall and then started to eat them!

But encounters like these can be more serious than a pair of eaten glasses. In February 2016, an Australian traveller contracted the Zika virus after being bitten by a monkey in Bali. Keep your wits about you when observing wild monkeys overseas, because the risk of theft and infectious disease (including rabies) is a real threat.

In-tents camping chaos

What better way to get back to nature than bunking out beneath the stars in a cosy tent? Well, this outdoor adventurer got a little too close to nature when they awoke to their camping buddy “unconsciously urinating” all over them. Their brand-new goose-down sleeping bag was soaked in urine, as well as their clothes.

We’ve seen a few camping-related claims over the years, including one customer who was bitten by a rattlesnake during a camping trip in Wyoming, USA. They required immediate hospitalisation and were given vials of anti-venom (each of which costs around $20,000). 

For more information on how you can enjoy a camping trip that is memorable for all the right reasons, check out our blog post on glamping overseas here.  

Watch your step

Alongside food poisoning and sickness, slips and trips account for some of the most frequent claims we receive. Whether you’re hiking, biking or just relaxing in a hammock, fall the wrong way and your holiday can take a turn for the worse. Just take this traveller who fractured her ankle and her arm after tripping in a pothole in New Orleans.

But fall at speed and the consequences can be far worse. Our survey revealed that motorbikes and mopeds caused over one-in-five overseas injuries, which are particularly common in Thailand and Bali. Remember that some travel insurers don’t cover you for being on a moped or motorbike (even if you’re riding as a passenger). Or you may need to add optional cover to your policy, so check your terms and conditions before you rent one.   


If you have a story about something unfortunate happening to you while on holiday, we’d love to hear about it. Send us an email at and tell us more.

We won’t identify you unless you say we can, and we won’t use this information for any purpose other than marketing. If you want to access a copy of the personal information we hold about you, please contact us at  

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