2. Worst Drivers Definitely the Belgians, who also aspire to the worst roads in Europe. But
then everything in Belgium looks like it’s falling apart, which is part of the country’s charm.
3. Worst Menu Translation A restaurant in Greece offered “vagina” as one of the chef’s specialities. I declined to try it.
4. Worst Tourist Attraction This has to be the London Eye. Incredibly expensive, and not even a building but a fairground attraction. Other cities have more class. And better views.
5. Worst Hotel I have fond memories of the hotel in Hong Kong where I ended up locked in my own bathroom when the door handle came off in my hand. Or the hotel in Cairo where the beers our group ordered were served to us by prostitutes who fed us crisps – well, the guys anyway; they ignored the girls.
6. Worst Airline The service on most American Airlines makes Ryanair look like Concorde.
7. Worst Airport Well, it used to be JFK but that seems to have improved a bit so I guess I’d have to say Heathrow.
Name Johnny Jet (a.k.a John E. DiScala)
Who? He travels roughly 150,000 miles and visits about 20 countries each year. He and his website www.JohnnyJet.com have been featured over 1,500 times in major publications including Outside Magazine, which listed him as having one of the world’s best “dream jobs.”
Countries Visited 60, plus or minus 5
1. Worst Place I’ve Been Tijuana. This was even before all the violence. Place is dirty, depressing and full of scam artists.
2. Worst Flight Sun Air in Fiji before they got their newer, larger planes. Everything was smooth on my puddle jump ride to Savusavu until we went over the mountain range. We hit turbulence, an alarm went off, the plane dropped and I had to pound my heart a couple of times to start that sucker back up once we flattened out. When we landed I not only kissed the ground, I made out with it.
3. Worst Touristy Thing I Did A Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi. Sat in the very back seat (where kids are supposed to sit) and got so car sick bashing the sand dunes that I begged and tried to bribe the driver to let me out. I get nauseous writing about it.
4. Worst Taxi Ride Nagpur, India to Madhya Pradesh. Craziest 90-kilometer, two-and-a-half-hour drive you will ever do. Everyone is passing, even on blind turns. Huge overloaded trucks, packed buses, tuk-tuks, scooters with entire families, cyclists, free-roaming livestock, dogs, monkeys, street hawkers, beggars and pedestrians. Technically, there are lanes, but no one seems to stay in them. It’s a free for all.
5. Worst Beach Condado Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico. While I was there, a 13-year-old boy drowned. As the rescue team searched for his body well into the next day, another man swimming there also drowned, right next to the searchers.
The Freddie Awards (actual name) is an annual event to award the best frequent flyer awards programs. If the Freddie Awards (now in its 21st year) can accurately name the best, then their judging must also be able to discern the worst. Looking at the very bottom of their list for “Best Award Redemption” — this is all public information found on their website – here are the Freddie losers:
Worst North American Airline Awards Redemption: Aeroplan
Worst North American Hotel Awards Redemption: Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Worst European, Middle East, African Airline Awards Redemption: Air France/KLM – Flying Blue
Worst European, Middle East, African Hotel Awards Redemption: Accor Hotels – A|Club
Worst Japanese, Pacific, Asian, Australian Airline Awards Redemption: ANA Mileage Club
Worst Japanese, Pacific, Asian, Australian Hotel Awards Redemption: Accor Hotels – A|Club
And for CUSTOMER SERVICE:
Worst North American Airline Awards Customer Service: Aeroplan
Worst North American Hotel Awards Customer Service: InterContinental Hotels Group – Priority Club Rewards
Worst European, Middle East, African Airline Awards Customer Service: Air France/KLM – Flying Blue
Worst European, Middle East, African Hotel Awards Customer Service: Accor Hotels – A|Club
Worst Japanese, Pacific, Asian, Australian Airline Awards Customer Service: Cathay Pacific – Asia Miles
Worst Japanese, Pacific, Asian, Australian Hotel Awards Customer Service: Accor Hotels – A|Club
Name Richard Quest
Who? Host of CNN’s Business Traveller and Quest Means Business. Richard may have a law degree, but he has worked in broadcasting for more than 20 years covering business, major world events and travel. If you own a TV, chances are you already know Richard’s work. To check out his show online, visit www.cnn.com/businesstraveller.
1. Worst Airport Miami International if I am coming off an international flight. I have missed more internal connections there than anywhere, simply because of the sheer number of people going through immigration. If you arrive when a Caribbean, Latin American, Central American or Mexican flight has arrived, you have time to get married and divorced in the line.
2. Worst Flight Any flight involving a European low cost carrier that has little respect for passengers will do, but the most notable was the now defunct Maxjet from London to New York. The cockpit windshield broke and we diverted to Iceland, where there were no plans and no preparations for us.
3. Worst Airport Lounge Among the worst is Cairo – it’s a miserable lounge with poor facilities.
4. Worst Toilet Any time when I have to use “natural conveniences” while filming in the desert, forest or outdoors. I cannot stand the “bush toilet.” My insides just decide not to co-operate. Obviously something deeply Freudian going on.
5. Worst Meal I HATE, LOATHE, DETEST the breakfast buffet in hotels. Fine for the cold stuff, but seeing eggs and meats just sitting there – Ugh! And I am up and down like a yo yo as I remember the milk, oh, forgot the butter. Damn, now need the jam. Oh no, now the toast is ready. Just give me a good old fashioned US-style diner where I can sit and enjoy my breakfast with the morning paper.
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Name Thomas Kohnstamm
Who? Has written over a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks before he went on to write the funny, truthful, behind-the-scenes-of-guidebook-writing bestseller: Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism. He has also contributed to Travel + Leisure, Time Out New York, Forbes and numerous other publications. He is at work on a new book about the first Amazonian to attend Oxford.
Countries Visited 50+
1. Worst Hostel I’ll never forget the smell of the hostel in Costa Rica (back in ’98) with the decomposing rat under the bed.
2. Worst Bus Ride Nighttime Greyhound from Port Authority to DC. Hands down. Another one that wasn’t terrible – but was rather funny – happened on a bus in Venezuela: a Dutch friend (who couldn’t read Spanish) overlooked the “urination only” sign on the bathroom door. After taking care of business, he was accosted by the bus stewardess. She promptly checked the stall, upbraided him in front of the other passengers and fined him the equivalent of $12. He tried to deny it, but she publicly refuted him with all sorts of graphic evidence. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.
3. Worst Street Food Random pig organs reheated atop a sheet of corrugated metal. No idea which organs they were. Protein is hard to come by in some parts of the Andes.
4. Worst TV Travel Personality I have a fair amount of respect for anyone who can pull off a travel show. I will say that if I were truly lost in the middle of nowhere that I’d rather run into Survivorman Les Stroud than the relatively more famous Bear Grylls. Giada de Laurentiis (or her writers) would fail Travel Writing 101 with the incessant commentary on “gorgeous sunsets” and “yummy dinners.” But with a famous family and other obvious assets, viewers probably give you a bit more leeway to suck.
5. Worst Guidebook Series People expect me to say Lonely Planet, but I actually think that LP is one of the best. I really don’t dig Fodor’s or Frommer’s – I am not their intended audience. That said, I’d argue that all guidebooks have weaknesses and they are best used as a simple tool for trip organization rather than a paint-by-the-numbers approach to travel.
Name Jason Cochran
Who? He was awarded Guide Book of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association for Pauline Frommer’s London. He is a regular writer for the New York Post, AOL’s WalletPop.com, and Travel + Leisure.com. He has also written for Budget Travel (as senior editor), New York Daily News, New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Newsweek, Frommers.com, Arena (U.K.), Who (Australia), and Scanorama (Sweden). As a commentator, he has appeared on CNN, Australia.com, WOR, Outdoor Life Network, MSNBC.com, and many radio programs. He spent nearly two years backpacking solo around the world and now lives in NYC.
Countries Visited 55
Worst Metro Glasgow Underground. Tiny as a dollhouse, loud as a jet, and it only goes around in a circle.
Worst Airline Policy Charging for water. You can’t take your own through security, yet SAS, Ryanair, and countless others charge €3 for it. Pure trap-and-gouge.
Worlst Flies Australia’s Northern Territory. They’ll literally drink the water off your eyeballs.
Worst Maps Tokyo. You need an engineer’s degree to find the washroom in some malls. Out on the street, addresses are nonexistent.
Worst Street Crime Johannesburg. At the hostels, they don’t gather at night to talk about what they saw that day. They discuss who got mugged.
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Name Charles Veley
Who? This former software executive has become known as the World’s Most Traveled Person. It’s a definition and title he himself has helped create, but there’s no denying that he has likely been to more corners of the globe than anyone else. If one were to chop up the world into finer geographical slices than just countries, as the MTP group does, you’d have 757 pieces: countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, major states and provinces. Charles has been to a whopping 709 of them, including the extremely remote Bouvet Island, Chechnya, and Rockall. More at MostTraveledPeople.com and charlesveley.com
Countries Visited All of them
1. Worst Hotel Welcome Drink At check-in for an eco-lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, a tree frog hopped onto my forehead, and promptly urinated down my face.
2. Worst Atmosphere Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China. Most Chinese cities are already too polluted to see or breathe. As the capital of China’s largest coal-mining region, however, Taiyuan raises the stakes. The entire landscape here is coated in coal-dust, creating a colorless, post-apocalyptic feel.
3. Worst Island to Inhabit Clipperton Island. Surrounded by sharks, and covered with eerily squawking boobies and beady-eyed red crabs which swarm at night, devouring anything organic in their path, Clipperton has a long history of repelling human life. Nearly all who have tried to inhabit this Pacific Island (and many have tried) have either died, gone insane, or both. The US Navy planned to establish an airstrip here during WWII, but lost several ships trying to establish a beachhead and gave up.
4. Worst Place to be Stranded Peter I Island. While removing expedition gear from this solitary and otherwise inaccessible island 400 miles off the coast of Antarctica, our inexperienced helicopter pilot decided to abandon his four-man crew (including me) due to visibility issues with only five loads remaining. The weather closed in, and we realized the nearest possible assistance was at least five days sailing away. Long story short: 24 hours later, our pilot overcame his fear of landing in less-than-perfect conditions and returned to retrieve us.
5. Worst Toilet Amur Highway, Siberia. Most of hinterland Russia is a de facto toilet for car travelers; with vast wilderness available, why place effort into concentrating such unpleasantries? However, the very few petrol stations along the only East-West road in Russia (thousands of mostly unpaved, ungraded, and treacherous miles) have wooden outhouses which have never in history been cleaned. In the Siberian summer, when the mosquitoes and flies grow to be as big as birds, anyone who enters one of these dilapidated shacks exits quickly, often screaming, with arms waving about the head.
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Name Tim Moore
Who? In 1998 Tim accidentally embarked on the therapeutic Arctic voyage that was to spawn Frost on My Moustache, a critically-acclaimed comic travelogue that regrettably took its name from the punchline to an offensive joke. This was followed by Continental Drifter, a retracing of the foolhardy round-trip to Venice made by Britain’s first Grand Tourist; French Revolutions, the best-selling and prize-winning account of his farcical yet strangely inspiring attempt to cycle all 3,630km of the 2000 Tour de France; and Do Not Pass Go, a history of his native London seen through the 22 streets on the Monopoly board. Spanish Steps patiently detailed how not to tackle the Camino de Santiago by donkey, and Nul Points was an account of Tim’s ill-advised attempt to meet those performers who have failed to trouble the scorers at the Eurovision Song Contest. Tim’s most recent book, I Believe in Yesterday, relates his globetrotting, time-traveling adventures in historical reenactment. This would at least partially explain his photo.
Countries Visited I gave up keeping tabs when Europe fragmented into 12 billion sovereign territories. Anyway, a trawl through the Wikipedia list suggests I’m currently on 62.
1. Worst Aspect of Being an Unfit Englishman Cycling Long Distances in France The number of signs that yell ‘PAIN’ down every high street.
2. Worst Thing About Traveling through Spain with a Donkey The stupid and useless holiday vocabulary you pick up – ‘My animal requires barley’ hasn’t established itself as the phrasebook gift that keeps on giving. Though I still hope to get some use out of ‘I will clear up his night-mess in the morning.’
3. Worst Words to Hear when You’re in a Camp full of Kindly, Earnest Widows at a Civil War Reenactment ‘Sir, would you do us the honor of reading a little William Shakespeare?’
4. Worst Long-Term Car Park The cheapest one in Mestre, on the mainland outside Venice. It’s run by children: the sort of children who will put 47 miles on the clock during your absence, then summon large dogs when you point this out.
5. Worst Place in the Entire World Dubai is a gigantic expo of wrongness: everything that’s bad about modern life brought together in one place. The only way to cross the street that goes right through the central business district is to take a taxi. I spent five days feeling like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes. ‘We finally really did it! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!’
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