Name Chris Christensen
Who? He’s the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast and a twice monthly video podcast. Check it out.
Countries Visited 24
1. Worst Beer I actually hate the taste of beer, so the fact that I do occasionally drink Tekate in Mexico on hot days on volunteer trips does not speak well for the brand.
2. Worst Airport Charles de Gualle is the top of my list right now after flying into there in winter and deplaning on the runway onto a sheet of ice. The whole airport looks like it has not been renovated since the 1950s.
3. Worst Hotel While my first thought went to rooms that smelled so badly of smoke that you thought they might have caught fire, the worst night I ever spent in a hotel was near Hanover Germany in a hotel that we only belatedly realized was over a beer hall on the night of Pinksterfest.
4. Worst Train Ride As a child my family missed a train in Denver and took the “milk train” instead. The whole train stank of sour milk.
5. Worst City for Driving Without question Rome is the worst. Not only is navigation a challenge (all roads may lead to Rome but few seem to lead out) but you are being passed on the left and right by a family of four on a Vespa.
Name Carl Hoffman
Who? Author of the new book The Lunatic Express. He is also a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler, Wired and Popular Mechanics. In two decades of reporting he has flown with missionaries in New Guinea and bush pilots in the Sudan and Congo, driven the Baja 1,000 and once sailed an open dinghy 250 miles over eleven days. His three teenage children, he claims, find him boring. You can find him online at thelunaticexpress.com.
Countries Visited 65
1. Worst Bus Greyhound LA to DC, the last leg of Lunatic. Clean, on time, but like traveling through a nation of lost souls and ‘Greyhound Steak Houses (McDonald’s) – the standard luggage was plastic garbage bags. Need I say more?
2. Worst City for Driving Dhaka, Bangladesh. Traffic is so thick and choking you could walk across the cars faster than driving. But then you’d have to climb over horse carts and bicycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws…
3. Worst Toilet In steerage on the Bukit Siguntang across Indonesia; two holes for every thousand people, roaches the size of half dollars scuttling past, an inch of liquid on the floor, darkness.
4. Worst Souvenir The sheepskin coat in China that was, um, not well cured. The coroner who arrived at my door two weeks after returning home wasn’t amused.
5. Worst Ride on the Back of an Animal The reindeer on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East with the Oroki people. He refused to move a muscle, so we ate him. The raw femur marrow was pink and slippery, just like snot.
Agree or disagree with him? Take the new 2010 worst travel survey >>
Name Richard Bangs
Who? A legendary adventurer. He got his start as a river guide (think Mountain Sobek Travel, which he co-founded) and became an award-winning author with 19 books, hundreds of published magazine articles and numerous documentaries. If you haven’t seen him on TV, you may have heard him speak at the Smithsonian, National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club or other venues. He recently returned from filming a documentary about the Gods of Greece with an appearance by Arianna Huffington and featuring her sister Agapi Stassinopoulos. His next film, premiering July on PBS, is “Hong Kong: Quest for the Dragon” Find him online at richardbangs.com
Countries Visited About 140, give or take a territory, protectorate, department or two
1.Worst Toilet I was in Japan. They had just come out with those heated toilet seats, but I didn’t know about it and I wasn’t expecting one when I sat down. The worst part was that it was so hot I got 2nd degree burns.
2. Worst Fight I was on a book tour for my first book (back when they sent people on book tours). I was on a 12-seater from Seattle to Vancouver. The pilot started cursing. “Wouldn’t you know it, my last day on the job and the wheels won’t come down.” He had the airport foam the runway and told us to assume the crash position. The only consolation, I remember thinking, was this might help sell some books. Just before we touched down in the foam, he tried to blow out the wheels with a small explosion. It worked.
3. Worst Airport Mui Airport in Ethiopia. After a month traversing a river in Ethiopia, we ran out of food and couldn’t find the trail to Mui Airport, where they supposed had a few flights a week. We finally found it after three days of looking. We reached the airport, or the place where the airport was supposed to be. There was nothing there. We had to trek another two days to reach a real airport.
4. Worst Hotel Ghat Hotel in Libya. It’s probably called “The Ghat Hotel and Resort” or something. When I got to my room, there were so many creatures on my bed, in my sheets, it looked like the universal flea circus. Every imaginable category of competition: crawling, creeping, bouncing. The bed appeared to be moving. On a five star scale, I’d give it a negative 80.
5. Worst Border Crossing I was rafting the Euphrates river in Turkey and we didn’t know exactly where border to Syria was. We found out when we came to a bridge and saw Syrian soldiers standing on it aiming their guns down at us, saying they’d shoot if we came any closer. Fortunately, it was a fairly calm part of the river and we were able to paddle back up stream.
Name Chuck Thompson
Who? Author of Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer and To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies and the Art of Extreme Tourism (plus a few WWII guides) and has contributed to The Atlantic, Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, Playboy, Maxim, Spy, Escape, WWE Magazine, Outside, Men’s Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. More at ChuckThompson.com
Countries Visited 60+
1. Worst Cliche Found in Travel Writing Any iteration of combination of ancient/modern or old/new. You know, “the city maintained its ancient elegance, yet embraced the modern” or some crap like that. Every place is a blend of the old and new, including my fucking back yard. .
2. Worst Flight It was a NWA flight. I was sitting right across from the bathroom on this old Boeing 737 that seemed like it was made out of cardboard and Lego. We hit some turbulence and the door of the bathroom popped off and landed on my head — literally. I helped the stewardess reattach it. I got a sorry but no upgrade.
3. Worst Airport For domestic, I’d go with the gloomy and outdated JFK. Outside the US: Kinshasa’s N’Djili Int’l airport. To get out of that airport took about five or six bribes. The place is a complete bribe factory.
4. Worst City for Driving Rome. It almost ended my relationship. My girlfriend and I could see our hotel but couldn’t reach it for over an hour. We were trapped going around the same block.
5 Worst WWII Museum I did these two books on WWII sites and traveled around to visit them. There’s one in L’Aigle, Normandy called “June 44 Museum.” Out of the hundreds I visited (there are 500 – 700 WWII points of interest in the book) it was the only one that merited zero stars. There were talking wax figures and they didn’t look anything like the actual people. Stalin looked like Mark Twain. FDR looked like he was about to run a marathon. Not surprisingly, they didn’t sound like them either. All their voices were narrated by the same voice — an inarticulate English boy.
Name Chris Guillebeau
Writes for The Oregonian, The Huffington Post
, and Anderson Cooper’s 360 site. His book, The Art of Non-Conformity
, will be published by Perigee in September 2010. Check out his popular blog here.
Countries Visited 129
1. Worst Cliché Found in Travel Writing “I was tired/unhappy/miserable but then I found x and it was all worth it” — and I have to admit I use this one too.
2. Worst Airport Lagos is pretty bad. When I was there I ran into dozens of touts in the arrivals area who hassled incoming passengers in a fairly intimidating manner. The next day I was with a Nigerian friend, and he said “Yeah, the airport used to be bad until they cleared out most of the touts.”
3. Worst City for Driving Probably Dubai. I kept getting lost, backtracking, double-parking, etc. On the other hand, I actually enjoy driving in much of Africa because there are no traffic rules, only traffic guidelines.
4. Worst Car Rental The same one in Dubai. It had an annoying, constant beep that played whenever you went over 50kph. I was driving throughout the whole Emirates, which includes a lot of wide open spaces. I listened that that beep for six hours a day.
5. Most Overrated Museum I tend to think most museums are overrated. But I do remember one particular tour that stands out: on Dominica, the guide spend most of his time talking about the new KFC and the two competing island cell phone carriers.
Name Seth Stevenson
Who? Author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World and a contributing writer for Slate. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, New York, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and other publications. Seth is a multiple Lowell Thomas Award winner and was excerpted three times in the Best American Travel Writing series. He currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Countries Visited 31
Titanic Award Nominations
1. Worst Drink Some sort of strange Russian moonshine served at a bar in Vladivostok. “You know how improperly distilled alcohol can make you go blind?” my girlfriend said, after taking a sip and grimacing. “This tastes like blind.”
2. Worst Tourist Trap Those tiny towns on the Mexican coast that exist solely as cruise ship ports. (Yes, I was on a cruise ship, which I acknowledge was my first mistake. I plead extenuating circumstances.) You are almost literally trapped amid the jewelry stores and t-shirt shops if you can’t find a bicycle or a bus and escape down the road to the next village.
3. Worst Train Ride An overnight train in India. There were swarms of cockroaches scaling the wall next to my head as I attempted to sleep. It took a decent amount of scotch guzzled from a flask before I could pretend they weren’t there.
4. Worst Toilet Leaving aside the countless spider-infested outhouses all over the globe, I’d have to go with Moscow’s Leningradsky Railway Terminal. There were plumbing tools scattered in the sinks because the guy’d given up on fixing the leaks. The squat toilets were freckled with horrifying human matter of every variety. Adding insult to repulsion: They charge a fee to use these!
5. Worst Hotel I understand the utility of Tokyo’s capsule hotels. But staying the night in one was a miserably claustrophobic experience. Also, I’m fairly certain the dude in the pod across the way was masturbating.
Name Simon Reeve
Who? An award-winning BBC TV presenter and bestselling author. Simon has traveled the world making BBC TV programs that mix travel with current affairs. His books include The New York Times bestseller The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism, which warned of a new age of apocalyptic terrorism (back in 1998!). Find him on YouTube at shootandscribble. His website is simonreeve.co.uk
Countries Visited +100
1. Worst Meal Zebu penis soup at a roadside stall in Madagascar while travelling around the Equator. A zebu is a type of tropical cattle. The dish is as awful as it sounds.
2. Worst Toilet A basic outhouse on a remote island in western Indonesia. It wasn’t much more than a stick platform extending off a low ridge, designed to dump business straight into the sea. But I had to go during low tide, and hungry village pigs were waiting eagerly below, fighting their way up through the toilet hatch from underneath, trying to eat more than just my arse.
3. Worst Airport Mogadishu, Somalia. As a UN flight landed briefly in Mogadishu, quickly dropping off just two colleagues and me, a gun-battle broke-out at the airfield. The only other planes were bringing in bundles of qat, or khat, the local narcotic of choice, which we had to buy in bunches for the team of heavily-armed local mercenaries who protected us. I went to the local market and bought a Somali diplomatic passport in my own name from a man called Mr Big Beard.
4. Worst Hotel I’ve visited dozens of places untroubled by even medieval hygiene standards, but a dark, dank, mouldy hotel room in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, was particularly memorable. I was standing at a sink, vainly waiting for brown water to turn clear and watching two huge cockroaches mating or wrestling, when I trod on a sharp rat-trap the size of a house-brick.
5. Worst City for Driving Bangkok is still terrible for driving. Endless hold-ups with cars and trucks belching out toxic crap. I’ve been stuck in jams for hours there, retching from the fumes. And nobody switches-off their engine. It would be healthier to suck on a hosepipe running from the exhaust.
Name A.J. Jacobs (pictured here having his “worst night of sleep” at sleep study he tried last week)
Who? A.J. Jacobs is the Editor-at-Large at Esquire magazine, and the bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically, The Know-It-All and The Guinea Pig Diaries.
1. Most Overrated Tourist Attraction The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. Needs more flowers, less statues and gravel.
2. Worst In-Flight Made-Up Rule A mean flight attendant decided not to let me pass. “It’s a galley, not an alley!”
3. Worst Hotel Wake-Up Service A B&B in Martha’s Vineyard where the owner’s Labrador barged into my room at 5 am and started barking maniacally.
4. Worst Train Ride The Long Island Railroad in New York, where I was forced to sit on the floor with my family, in the stream of refuse coming from the broken toilets.
5. Worst Souvenir The Elvis “Love Me Tender” Milk Bath at Graceland (that I purchased).
Agree or disagree? Take the 2010 survey >>
Name Daisann McLane
Who? Writer, photographer, and (as yet undiscovered) calypso singer. Daisann writes the Real Travel column for National Geographic Traveler and just won the North American Travel Journalist’s Association’s first prize for best magazine travel column. Her book, Cheap Hotels (Taschen) won the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for best travel book of 2003, for what the New Yorker describes as “glimpes of urban excitement and exotic tranquility tinged with the inevitable sadness of transience.” She has worked as a staff writer for Rolling Stone and penned The Frugal Traveler column for The New York Times. She now splits her time between Brooklyn, New York and Hong Kong — where she recently started a private food tour company to help travelers avoid the Titanic pitfalls of badly translated Chinese menus. Check out her Real Travel blog here.
Countries Visited 56
1. Worst Toilet Shanghai’s Fuyou Antiques market. A vendor pointed me to a corner by the stairwell. It had no cubicles, toilets or even water–you had to squat over a communal concrete sluice of shit that angled down to a hole in the concrete wall. Occasionally an attendant would come and slosh a bucket of water to keep all the stuff moving through. Later, traveling around China, I discovered that this was a common public toilet setup, dating from the pre-economic boom days. Now in China you’re more likely to find high-tech sensor-powered flush toilets. But there’s one thing you can always count on: hi or low tech, you won’t find any toilet paper in your mainland Chinese stall.
2. Worst Plane Ride Air Tonga, from Va’vaau to Tongatapu on a nine-seater twin prop. Some big chief’s funeral was going on, and I was waitlisted, standing on line behind what looked to be the entire Tongan rugby team. Their carry-on consisted of bundles of taro roots and whole roast pigs. The flight manager made each bereaved Tongan stand with his luggage on a old-fashioned metal scale, then wrote a figure down on a clipboard. He added everything up, scratched his head, added the column again, then looked up at me and shrugged as if to say: You want to try?
3. Most Annoying Tourist Attraction The Pyramids, hands down. I think I took a wrong turn at the McDonalds, and had to baksheesh my way through four rings of attendants before I even got close. It’s an ancient wonder, indeed: the world’s oldest and most authentic tourist trap.
4. Worst Hotel Bedspread Barnacle Bed and Breakfast, Big Pine Key, Florida. (see photo below) My book, Cheap Hotels, had a whole chapter devoted to the worst bedspreads I slept on during my six years as The New York Times‘ Frugal Traveler. This one was at least clean (while researching, I discovered that the average US hotel chain usually washes its spreads only once every 60 days!) but aesthetically, it was like coming home every night to a velvet cat painting.
Agree or disagree? Take the 2010 worst travel survey
Name Kim Mance
Who? Host of Galavanting.tv and editor of the online travel magazine GoGalavanting.com. She also writes a bunch of travel stuff around the internet (eg The Huffington Post) and is host of TBEX ‘10, a gathering of travel bloggers and new media writers.
Countries Visited 33
1. Worst Cliché Found in Travel Writing “I’ll definitely be back soon.” Yes, we’ve all wanted to return to a place. We get it.
2. Worst Airline Air Tran. When the flight attendant began screaming in my face, the first thought that came to mind was, “Hmmm, I wonder if she’s bi-polar or just really hates her job.” Either way, it didn’t bode well that for the next few moments of flight prep as I tried to turn off my cell phone as quickly as possible while she continued to scream. And though the other passengers were all looking at me as if to say, “Don’t worry, we know it’s not okay: But the tickets were cheap — and they lost our baggage too”, I couldn’t help but look at my friend and giggle and while thinking to myself that shouting at passengers is inappropriate, whether or not I turned off my cell phone within a split second of notifying my husband the flight was ridiculously delayed. But that giggle did not please her in the slightest and she threatened to throw me off the plane. Wow. It was then I decided that I would never again fly Air Tran. Ever, ever.
3. Worst City for Driving Tirana, Albania. Driving in Albania was both one of the worst and most exhilarating experiences of my life. I was driving, but on parade. It’s one of the places on earth where women are quite expected to stay in the passenger seat. And when they don’t it’s a downright public exhibition. But I was legally allowed to drive — so I did. Traffic police at various intersections neglected their duties to gawk at me, pedestrians stopped to stare. Male drivers glared as though I might as well have been a mass murderer. For I dared to drive. And in the meantime, I seamlessly negotiated traffic that was similar to what I would imagine to be Parisians on crack.
4. Worst Ride on an Animal Jerusalem, Israel. Soon after being lifted into the air atop the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, the camel seemed sad and I seemed clichéd. Then after mere moments, the camel — defeated — bent down and I paid its owner some Shekels. I quickly wished I were back in the Arab Quarter eating greasy falafels marveling at citizens carrying weapons and learning to play a lute. Followed, of course, by a very chewy cup of coffee served by the charming shopkeeper.
5. Worst Beer Brussels, Belgium (surprisingly) Before I really liked beer much, a friend convinced me to taste raspberry fruit beer in Belgium. It made me want to vomit. It turns out, I was more of a Guinness girl. Sorry, Belgium. I love thee otherwise, and have since realized many of your beers are delicious and nuanced; but that was some seriously icky stuff.
Name Edward Hasbrouck
Who? Author of The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World, blogger at www.hasbrouck.org and travel agent guru.
Countries Visited 54 (and hoping to keep that number higher than my age!)
1. Worst Airline Emirates. Consistently incompetent and unhelpful staff at ticket counters
and sales offices on 4 continents.
2. Worst Toilet A hole in the ground behind our “hotel” in Tashkurgan, Chinese-occupied
East Turkestan, only partially screened from public view and blowing dust,
and surrounded by an ankle-breaking mound of rubble and refuse.
3. Worst Airport Dubai. I was predisposed to dislike DXB (see my choice for Worst Airline), but it was worst than I imagined. Changing planes in the middle of the night, I want a place I can rest — not the cacophony of a shopping mall where I have to fight my way through crowds buying raffle tickets for luxury cars, or trip over rows of transit passengers sleeping on the floor for want of chairs.
4. Worst Inflight Meal (Domestic) Aeroflot: Bread and water. (International) PIA. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
5. Worst City for Driving Sana’a, Yemen. Deadly recklessness and unpredictability. Underpowered, ill-maintained vehicles with bad brakes and bald tires, and not enough pedestrians, bicycles, or animals to slow them down to a safer speed. (Runner-up: Townships in South Africa, where there are urban areas with more than a million people with few street signs and no maps, and where a wrong turn can put you at risk of robbery or carjacking. Map Studio, the Rand McNally of South Africa, just published its first map to Soweto in time for the World Cup, and has none for any other township.)
6. Worst Car Rental Fox Rent-A-Car, LAX. Tried to charge me US$200 in damages because my car got a flat tire (while with the valet parkers at my hotel!), and referred their claim to a collection agency when I didn’t pay.
Name Will Hide
Who? London-based freelance travel writer with a weekly column in The Times. Find him on the web at willhide.com and willhidetravels.blogspot.com
Countries Visited 50ish
1. Worst Flight Scariest was flying Belgrade-London on JAT in November 2009 when we passed too close to the jetstream of a 747 somewhere over Austria. It’s the only time I’ve really thought “this is it”.
2. Worst In-Flight Meal I hate it on short, overnight flights from the US east cost to London when they wake you two hours before landing for “breakfast” and then just give you a muffin that has a sell-by date of June 2019 and a cup of luke-warm dirty water that they laughingly call coffee.
3. Worst City for Driving Cape Town. You expect it to be bad in somewhere like Tehran or Dhaka, but Cape Town in theory has more of an air of civility – so why are their drivers so selfish, never letting you in at junctions and cutting you up all over the place?
4. Worst Ride on an Animal On an elephant in Assam, India. Never, ever ride an elephant in shorts. Their skin is like industrial sand paper. The hair on the inside of my legs still hasn’t grown back.
5. Worst Museum There’s a Jesse James exhibition in Stanton Missouri, USA, which is basically a posh shed next to a highway. It’s devoted to the notion that JJ never died young in the 1890s but went into hiding, grew old and passed away peacefully in Texas in the 1950s, supported by a few pictures of an old guy with a similar nose and ears – except they’re not similar at all. It’s just so bad, it’s good. You’ve got to admire the belief of the people who run it.
Name Clare Currie
Who? Publishing Director of Rough Guides
Countries Visited 30+
Worst Airport Experience I was trying to go to Edinburgh for one day for a funeral of someone I didn’t know very well. Got snowed in at Luton airport — no one was allowed to leave the boarding area so we spent the night there with an Irish/Scottish/Polish cocktail of tired and emotional travelers. I missed the funeral, so I didn’t want to get on the flight when it finally left. The kicker was that EasyJet didn’t want to reimburse me for the return ticket because they said I could have figured out another way to get to Edinburgh by bus or train, despite quite clearly being trapped in Luton
Worst Kind of Hotel Not fond of B&Bs. It’s harsh but I don’t think a single sane person runs a B&B. And who could possibly enjoy being forced to exchange pleasantries with strangers over a fried egg?
Worst Flight Sri Lankan Airlines. We were on our honeymoon. One man was behaving suspiciously and it transpired he was shooting video of some cockroaches he’d found, so he could post it online. The apparent death of another passenger – heralded by a great, rattling last gasp for breath – served to distract our attention from the infestation issue, but didn’t improve our general enjoyment of the flight.
Worst Airport Frankfurt is pretty bad… mostly because there are no seats. And they have the most aggressive security guards I’ve encountered. I had to redo the whole long security queue because I touched my bag too soon after it was scanned. Who knew there was a time restriction?
Worst Visitor Experience The Red Fort in Delhi – not in itself a bad place to visit – but the body search at the gate was more than a little hair-raising. Not sure what they thought I may have been hiding in the region of my bra, but they were thorough in their investigations.
Name Steve Keenan
Who? Online Travel Editor of The Sunday Times
Countries Visited 44
1. Worst Airline Delta – did it ever have any frills?
2. Worst Flight Cuzco – Lima: had to wait to offload passenger and a goat.
3. Worst Airport Luton. It charges to drop passengers off. It even charges for clear plastic bags. And it charges to fast track immigration. Morally bankrupt.
4. Worst Hotel Mendip Lodge, Frome, Somerset, UK – don’t think the sausage touched the pan. The egg bounced. Terrible decor. Sadly, it burnt down three years ago.
5. Worst Souvenir Fake five-foot palm tree from a restaurant in Miami. (It was a bet.) Customs at Heathrow were so astonished they never checked the suspicious coconuts.
Name James Ellis
Who? Journalist, photographer and former travel editor for the UK Metro newspaper. Currently writes two blogs: 1095miles.com about his daily running challenge and worldofjames.com
Countries Visited 80 plus
1. Worst Flight Returning from Bangkok to London on Eva Air, a Taiwanese airline. I’ve had some scares in the past on flights, but this was the strangest. Mid-flight, the oxygen masks suddenly dropped down, the lights dimmed and exit lights lit up. Instinctively, I put the mask on and gave it a tug to get the oxygen going. No oxygen. People are panicking. The woman behind me is whaling. The cabin crew has their masks on. It goes on for ages — or so it seemed. It may have only been five minutes. Then the pilot comes out and is clearly astonished that people are wearing masks . He goes back into the cockpit and tells us that the electric system had been refitted and it was a glitch. They had no idea the masks had even dropped.
2. Worst Guides I was in Kenya in 2004 on the Laikipia Reserve taking a camel safari. There was a guide from the hotel and we had two Samburu Warriors (dressed a bit like the Maasai) to protect us. We were walking, leading the camel up a hill when we came into a clearing and saw a bull elephant just 10 feet away. The guide pulled his gun, I froze, the Elephant mock-charged a few steps and our fearless warriors — the ones meant to be protecting us — had made a run for it and were 300 meters away within seconds.
3. Worst Alcohol / Food Combo I typically try whatever. In this case it was Icelandic hákarl. They catch a shark, buried it for a year, dig it up, and pickle what’s left of the rotting meat, then serve it up with brennivin. After choking it down, I managed to say it was good. So they served up some more.
4. Worst Food Poisoning Chicken feet for breakfast in Hong Kong. (They had asked if we wanted a typical local breakfast and we had said yes.) When it started to go bad, my guide treated me with warm sprite and salt (her favorite remedy). I then turned the color of the exorcist girl and sand blasted the wall with my vomit.
5. Worst Statue In Wellington, New Zealand, halfway up the main shopping street. is a statue/fountain known as the bucket fountain. It has buckets on hinges that are meant to gracefully tip into the next and cascade water down to the lower ones, but it doesn’t work as it’s meant to. The top bucket violently tips and splashes everyone with water.
Name Carmen Roberts
Who? A reporter and producer for the BBC’s Fast Track travel programme, broadcast on BBC World TV. Carmen has most recently written for Singapore Airlines in-flight magazine SilverKris, Time Out Perfect Places and BA High Life. Watch Fast Track online right here or follow Carmen on twitter @carmenlroberts
Countries Visited 69
1. Worst Toilet Our driver assured us this particular public toilet in Mumbai would be ‘nice and clean’ as he handed over rupees for me to enter. I was subsequently squatting in a sewer with 100 Indian women. It’s all about managing expectations.
2. Worst City for Driving It’s got to be Bangkok. Who in their right mind would tackle that kind of dense traffic with tuk-tuks and motor cycle taxis to boot?! Forget about it.
3. Worst Beer In a small village near Arusha,Tanzania, the local brew had chunky bits in it and was served in a bucket.
4. Worst Flight Aerolineas Argentinas from London to Buenos Aires – no inflight entertainment (on all legs of the journey), no amenities kit and 7 hour delay in Madrid on the way home. Never again.
5. Worst Museum Koryo Museum, Kaesong, North Korea – probably less than 20 artifacts in total.
Name David Wickers
Who? David is co-founder and one of the two editors of 101 Holidays and 101 Short Breaks. He’s also the travel editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and co-founder of Bridge & Wickers.
Countries Visited 100 +
1. Worst Toilet At a monastery in Mount Athos, Greece. Pilgrims may do all the righteous things in religious matters but their loo behavior on this particular saint’s day was disgusting.
2. Worst City for Driving There are lots of obvious candidates, topped perhaps by Indian cities, but the one city I would have expected to be civilized was among the most anarchic – Buenos Aires.
3. Worst Camping Spot In the middle of Dartmoor, in January, bathed in a blizzard. It was my choice – I was walking the Two Moors Way – but the memory still makes me shiver.
4. Worst Ride on an Animal I’m never happy on anything with four legs but would have preferred a bucking rodeo bronco to that stroppy camel at the Giza pyramids.
5. Worst Beer The fermented hooch in Peru’s Andean villages.
Name Catherine Leech
Who? Catherine is co-founder and director of 101 Holidays and 101 Short Breaks and has worked in the travel industry for 27 years.
Countries Visited 60
1. Worst Flight A jolly jaunt from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman which switched in a heartbeat to a nerve jangling “is this the end?” half hour as the pilot asked us to check the manual to find out why lights were flashing and buzzers buzzing while he grappled with the controls. Yikes.
2. Worst Inflight Meal Air Malta in the 1980s. During some 50 flights in 2 years, the meal choice never changed regardless of the time of day. It was luke-warm chicken with gloopy white stuff or ham with gloopy red stuff.
3. Worst Train Ride an overnight train and ferry journey from Sicily to Naples in August. No available seats, thick heat, screaming bambini, unintelligible Italian bullies (most of them the mamas of the bambini), stinky loos, a miserably hungry boyfriend and smart pickpockets.
4. Worst Travel Gadget The mini hand-held fan. What a great idea – that is until one of the blades flies off and hits the unsuspecting stranger standing next to you in the face. Not a pretty site and not a happy bloke.
5. Worst Beer I love Belgian fruit beers and head straight for the Kriek or Frambosen when I’m in Belgium. Belgian banana beer, however, is quite another matter – truly vile wherever and whenever.
Name Jill Starley-Grainger
Who? Journalist, editor, web editor and travel presenter. Has written about travel for Conde Nast Traveller, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, The Guardian, The Independent, Food and Travel, British Airways High Life, Ryanair Magazine, Time Out Travel Guides, Footprint Guides and numerous other travel magazines and websites, previously travel editor for Harper’s Bazaar Dubai and web editor for bahighlife.com. Read her blog at uktraveleditor.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @uktraveleditor
Countries Visited 29
1. Worst Airline Ryanair based itself on low-cost Southwest Air in the US, but unlike much-loved Southwest, everybody hates Ryanair – rip-off fees added almost daily, no customer service and clear disdain for passengers from the top down.
2. Worst Airport Abu Dhabi Airport is always packed and chaotic, and the few shops and cafes are tiny and rubbish. Expect to sit on the floor as there are only about 50 chairs for thousands of passengers.
3. Worst Train Meal On the overnight TrenHotel from Madrid to Paris, vegetarians should pack their own. Our ‘five-star’ breakfast? Cold, undercooked aubergines soaked in manky sunflower oil. When we asked for the croissants, toast and cereals our neighbours were being served, we were scowled at and told that since we’d ordered the vegetarian breakfast (must be booked weeks ahead), they couldn’t give us the normal one.
4. Worst Hotel The Travelodge in Battersea, London. It’s looks and feels like a prison – but with worse lighting and surlier staff. Rooms might start at £19, but they aren’t worth £1.90.
5. Worst City for Driving Istanbul – traffic doesn’t move – no matter what time of day. As we were sitting in a cab at 1am, a man with no legs scooted past us using just his hands for walking. Truly.
6. Worst Travel Gadget The microfiber travel towel. After the first use, it’s rock hard and only soaks up three drops of water. Plus, unless you’re hostelling or camping, you don’t need to bring your own towel. Waste of money.
7. Worst Museum The 007 Museum on the island of Naoshima, Japan, is so bad, it’s good. The island is a justifiable mecca of modern art and architecture, but this museum is an anomaly of awfulness. Based on a Bond novel, ‘The Man with the Red Tattoo”, that was partly set on Naoshima but that wasn’t even written by Ian Fleming and was never made into film, this “museum” features handmade models of some of the book’s villains, along with various bits of worthless Bond memorabilia, and a comedy cut-out where you can poke your head through to have your picture taken as Bond and Bond girl being rescued. Actually, it’s brilliant, in an OMG would-you-believe-this-place kind of way.
Name Mark Frary
Who? Business travel editor (and ski editor) of Times Online and the author of several popular science books including The Origins of the Universe for Dummies and Freaky Science. Check out his site at markfrary.com
Countries Visited 56
1. Worst Airline Garuda Indonesia. The week before I was due to fly with them on a particular service, part of the wing fell off. Also had oxygen masks fall down in flight.
2. Worst Flight BA flight from Heathrow to Geneva in the early 1990s. As I looked outside, the engine burst into flame after being struck by lightning. Even the cabin crew looked scared.
3. Worst Camping Spot The Leeds Festival, on a busy walkway just opposite the toilets and a 24hr burger bar – the only space left.
4. Worst Hotel Hotel Ibis, Luton Airport. The room smelled of vomit, the walls were speckled with something disgusting and the toilet seat was on the floor. Even the kids turned their noses up at the dinner buffet.
5. Worst City for Driving Athens. I thought I was so clever printing off directions from Google Maps before I arrived. Sadly the difference between Greek upper and lower case letters stumped me and there really is only space for one car (less wing mirrors) on many of the city roads.