Celebs’ worst travel fails (and how you can avoid them)

Arm yourself with these celeb tips to prevent a vacation meltdown

Celebs’ worst travel fails (and how you can avoid them)
Celebs’ worst travel fails (and how you can avoid them)
23 May 2017

Celebs’ worst travel fails (and how you can avoid them)

Regardless of how seasoned you are as a traveller, things don’t always go as planned when you are on the road. While some mishaps are beyond your control, more often than not, it is the screw-ups that result from your ignorance or folly that make for the most memorable travel anecdotes. From a visa disaster to being scammed and tailed, here are celebs’ most epic travel fails and what you can learn from them.

Shane Pow
Shane Pow
23 May 2017

Shane Pow

“There was once I miscalculated my finances because of the exchange rate so I overspent. I pretty much spent most of the money I brought to Thailand on the first day. Back then my friends and I didn’t have credit cards because we were still studying but we had extra Singapore dollars. We had to change more money on the second day.”

Lesson learnt: Find out the exchange rate and how to convert it so you know exactly how much you are spending. And also budget carefully. Have a rough idea of how much you’ll need each day and set aside money for necessities. Whatever you do, don’t dip into that fund, advised Shane.

“After that trip, whenever I travel, I will put away some money for transport and food and I will try to set a budget for myself, for example I can only spend $100 a day so that I don’t overspend on shopping.”

Photo: Shane Pow's Facebook

Kym Ng
Kym Ng
23 May 2017

Kym Ng

“[About ten years ago] I was in Shanghai after a shoot in Hengdian and had two huge luggage with me. When I reached Shanghai, a handsome man offered to help me carry my luggage. But I declined and got on a cab.

"During the journey, the driver asked if I had asked a friend to follow me. I said no and that I was alone. He said there was a guy tailing us so he got off and told him to stop. The cabbie told me to be very careful because there have been many cases where people were being followed to their hotel room. I was supposed to spend four days in Shanghai but I was so terrified I didn’t dare leave my room.”

Lesson learnt: Don’t let your guard down. Always be careful and alert because disaster can strike in the most unexpected ways. “I was totally ignorant then and I had no idea that such things could happen to me. Now when travel, I will [be more aware of my surroundings], I make sure I stay in a good hotel with good security and I will get the hotel to get me a cab and take note of the license plate because you never know what will happen,” said Kym. “Singapore is so safe, we take it for granted.”

Photos: Instagram/@kym_ng

Nat Ho
Nat Ho
23 May 2017

Nat Ho

“I was my first time in New York and I really wanted to like it. There were a lot of people hustling at the airport and I thought I’d just book an Uber and get to my hotel. While booking, this guy comes up to me and asked if I was looking for an Uber. He said he was an Uber driver and showed me an Uber-looking app. The thing is Uber works a little differently in each country… so I thought maybe they have direct pick-ups here. He said I could pay through the app later, so I went with him to his car.

“But [during the ride] I got a bit worried because I didn’t know where I was as I could not track the travel. When I got off at the hotel, he told me the fare was US$180. I was like this is not right because when I checked on Uber, the fare was about US$50. But he told me there were tolls and New Year’s Day surcharges. I knew I was being fleeced but my luggage was in the trunk and he was this tall guy, so I made a decision to just pay him. I could have paid through credit card but you never know what he would do with my credit card details.”

Lesson learnt: Do not to be so gullible and always make bookings through the official apps and websites. And also do not follow strange men into cars, said Nat. “If anyone who approaches you on the street, do not engage them. Ever. You really need to be very careful and that explains why New Yorkers have a ‘New Yorker face’ - they seem to be very rude, curt and abrupt but it is because they are protecting themselves because there are all kinds of crazies out there.”

Photo: Instagram/@iamnatho

Carrie Wong
Carrie Wong
23 May 2017

Carrie Wong

“I think my most memorable travel fail was my recent trip to Shanghai [during Chinese New Year] with Hayley Woo, because we both lost our mobile phones at the same time. I have no idea how it happened. We were busy picking and choosing stuff and we left our phones at the side, and the next moment they were gone. It happened on the third day of our trip and we still had another two days there.

“There’s no Instagram and Facebook access in China and I only remember my home phone number because my parents had just changed their mobile phone numbers. So I got the hotel to make an international call to my mum and tell her we’ve lost our phones and not to worry if she can’t reach us. Those two days were really epic. We were just people-watching the whole time because we didn’t have phones to take pictures.”

Lesson learnt: Be aware of your valuables and always keep your hands on your belongings. If you can’t, keep them on your body so they can’t be grabbed. And always back up your phone and install a “find my phone app”. You may not be able to get your device back but at least you know your data is secure.

Photos: Instagram/@carriewst

Desmond Tan
Desmond Tan
23 May 2017

Desmond Tan

“When I was in Primary 6, I went to Taiwan and Hong Kong with a friend, followed by another trip with my family to Korea and China. We were supposed to fly to China, then Korea, and then back to China again. Back then, we needed visas to visit China so I made two visas before I left.

"When I was in Hong Kong, my friend suddenly suggested visiting his uncle in Shenzhen. I didn’t think much about it and went along. It didn’t occur to me that Shenzhen was in China and that I needed a visa because I had no problems clearing customs. After that I came back to Singapore and went on my family trip. But when we were returning to China after visiting Korea, I could not enter the country [because I had used one of the visas when I went to Shenzhen]. I was only 12 then and had to fly back to Singapore on my own and was alone at home for a few days. To me that was a very unexpected travel fail.”

Lesson learnt: Always check for visa requirements. Singaporeans may enjoy visa-free travel to 156 countries but there is no harm in doing a quick check when booking your trip. If a visa is required, be sure to check its validity and restrictions, especially if you are making multiple entries or plan to extend your stay. The last thing you want is to be fined for overstaying.

Photos: Instagram/@thedesmondtan

Kayly Loh
Kayly Loh
23 May 2017

Kayly Loh

“I went to Kota Tinggi with my family several years ago. From the photos, the place looked really nice - there was a waterfall and you could park your car in front of the villa. But when we got there, it was like a haunted place. There was nobody and the chalet was very rundown. The moment we opened the door, there were lizards jumping on the walls everywhere.

"I remember I shared the room with my sister and it was so creepy. There were lizards everywhere and we had to pull our beds to the middle of the room so they didn't lean against any wall. We forced ourselves to stay for one night because we got there late but we didn’t shower because their towels had blood stains and burnt holes. We checked out first thing in the morning even though we paid for two nights.”

Lesson learnt: Always check for reviews and never believe everything you see on the website, warned Kayly. “That was a few years back so we just booked [the chalet] based on photos on their website. I don’t think I was savvy enough to check for reviews. But now, I learnt to be smarter.”

Photo: Kayly Loh's Facebook

Chen Hanwei
Chen Hanwei
23 May 2017

Chen Hanwei

“Many years ago, I went to Vietnam [to film a travelogue] - it was part work, part play. We went to the mountain and everything there was so dirty - we stayed in a kampong-like house with no bed and we had to sleep on the floor. When I came back, I had pneumonia. This was my worst trip ever.

"We were not informed of the itinerary so we didn’t prepare anything. The guide just brought us around and they told us we would be having good meals but we ended up eating in people’s homes. The food was so greasy and I fell ill after eating it. I vomited and had a high fever, the doctor even had to give me a jab but it didn’t help. After I returned to Singapore, I was hospitalised and it was then that I realised I had pneumonia. After that experience, I vowed never go to Vietnam. It’s not because of the country or people but the bad experience.”

Lesson #1: A little planning goes a long way. Some people like to be spontaneous and wing it but you should at least plan a little and do your homework when you travel because things don’t always go your way, said Hanwei. “Once my friends and I planned to take a day tour but when we got there, it was fully booked and we were stuck in a small town with nothing to do. My friends are always like that and I hate it. I must plan everything properly and have it in black and white so if anything screws up, you can show it to them and they will have no choice but to give in to you.”

Lesson #2: Be careful of what you eat. While we don’t expect you to swear off the street food like Hanwei, it pays to be savvy when you are on the road. Go to places where a lot of locals eat and check the cleanliness of the stall and how vendors prepare food before ordering. Raw food, fruits and iced drinks or desserts are no-nos as they could be made with unfiltered water.

Photo: Instagram/@chenhanwei1969

Paige Chua
Paige Chua
23 May 2017

Paige Chua

“Before I entered showbiz, I went backpacking in China. I was super friendly on one account and I got myself into a little bit of trouble with this guy. He was very friendly, a local, and he volunteered to show me the sights and sounds of the place. And being new to travelling, I thought just open my mind and my heart. Getting to know the locals is a fun thing to do as well.

"But he got overboard and volunteered to travel with me for the rest of my journey and brought me to visit his company, his colleagues and all that. I thought he was just being overzealous but subsequently he got a bit possessive and tried to introduce me as an intimate friend of his, which I thought was wrong.”

Lesson learnt: Don’t be too trusting of strangers. While the best way to get to know a place is through the locals, you should be wary not to get too close, especially if you are a woman travelling alone. And if something doesn’t feel right, don’t just roll with it.

Photo: Instagram/@paigechua_tpc

Julie Tan
Julie Tan
23 May 2017

Julie Tan

“I had two big luggage when I went to New York [to study last year] but the apartment that I rented was on the 6th floor and the building didn’t have a lift so I had to lug the luggage all the way up. But how I got help was totally amazing. My housemate wasn’t home but she left the door to the apartment open. She told me I could ring the [buzzer to any apartment] and someone will open the door for me but no one did. Thankfully, a delivery man came and he opened the door for me and helped me carry my luggage to the apartment.

“After putting my first bag in, I went out to get the other. Just as I walked out of the door, it closed behind me. I was locked out. My housemate was at work and she couldn’t come back to pass me the keys, so I called for a locksmith and I waited two hours for him to come and open the door. After I went in, I realised the bed had no sheets and the room was dirty. But the amazing thing is within half a day, I managed to clean my room, bought sheets and settle everything. I would say it was quite a fail for the first day.”

Lesson learnt: Book your hotel or apartment from a reliable source and check for amenities like lifts, air conditioning, heating and even wifi before you commit. You would assume that these are basic but many bed and breakfasts do not have elevators and some hotels still charge for wifi.

Photos: Instagram/@julietan_cxq

Andie Chen
Andie Chen
23 May 2017

Andie Chen

“I went backpacking with my two brothers in Europe in 2013 and my parents joined us for the first half of the trip. I am quite a seasoned traveller but my parents are not, so I was very worried and had to keep looking after them. That trip was horrible.

“My brand new backpack, which had a lot of money inside, was stolen on the train ride to Switzerland. I had no clothes and had to borrow from my brothers. After that, we went to Rome and there, we got pickpocketed on the train. I lost my wallet with my identity card inside - this was after losing my bag. My brother also lost his passport. After my parents left, the three of us were supposed to go backpacking without our wallets and passport. We had to rearrange our plans and in the end, my brother couldn’t travel to some of the places we wanted to go. It was a mess and a very painful experience.”

Lesson learnt: Adjust your expectations. A group vacation is fun but it can also be challenging, especially when there are kids and elderly around. Everyone has different interests, thresholds and physical abilities, and not everyone can keep up with your pace. Don’t be overambitious and pack so much into the trip and stay flexible. That way, you won’t be disappointed when you are not able to cover as much as you intended. 

“I should have planned the trip a little looser because my parents can’t travel like us,” noted Andie. “The three of us travel really fast and really light. We already tried to make it slower but it wasn’t slow enough.”

Photo: Andie Chen's Facebook

Sheila Sim
Sheila Sim
23 May 2017

Sheila Sim

"I recently went to Mount Rinjani in Indonesia with my fiancé. When we were preparing to scale the mountain, he told me it’s not that cold but when I went up, I froze to death [and even had to borrow a jacket from a guide]! It was 3,727 metres above ground level, and at the peak, there was no place to hide, there were only rocks and sand.

"He told me that there was no need to bring a jacket and that a windbreaker would do, but I did my research and I saw that people were wearing fur jackets up there! Maybe it’s because he runs marathons around the world, so he’s fine in a T-shirt but I wanted to die [up there], it was so cold! I felt like I was Rose in Titanic."

Lesson learnt: Always check the weather forecast and follow your instincts - you know your body better than anyone. If you don’t handle the cold well, it is always better to overpack than be underprepared.

Photo: Sheila Sim's Facebook

Chua Enlai
Chua Enlai
23 May 2017

Chua Enlai

“I’ve missed a couple of flights. There was one time when this guy was driving us to the Muscat airport as a friend. He was late, we got to the airport late and I missed the flight from Oman to Dubai, so I suggested we drive four hours to Dubai. We had to pass through immigration four times because you pass through UAE (United Arab Emirates), then leave UAE and go back into UAE and when we got to the Dubai airport, I missed my flight by FIVE MINUTES. The check-in counter was closed but the plane was still there. I had to buy a one-way ticket home and wait another five hours for the flight.”

Lesson learnt: Always arrange reliable airport transfers in advance and stick to them, especially when you are in less well-connected places. Hotel staff will be able to advise on the best options depending on your departure time and traffic conditions.

Photos: Instagram/@chuaenlai

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