14 Annoying First World Travel Problems

This is a big update to a post I wrote all the way back in 2014. Travel isn’t all fun and games — first world travel problems are a big thing! Keep reading for a look at some of the (minor) things that can go wrong on the road. 

You should feel sorry for us. You, sitting in your comfortable home reading this because of your healthy Wi-Fi signal. Bills, deadlines, jobs – these aren’t real problems, try thinking about what travellers have to put up with while out on the road. There are many first world travel problems — these are just the tip of the iceberg.

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People steal jandals (flip-flops)

I think I might have walked into a jandal black hole. I was just leaving the guesthouse to catch my bus to Kuala Lumpur when I realised my jandals were missing. I’m guessing someone took them thinking they were theirs, but it could be a chain reaction of jandal stealing that has been going on since the dawn of Cameron Highlands tourism. I had no option but to take someone else’s, which they’ll also do when presented with the same situation, and so on into oblivion (please don’t judge me for stealing! I’m pretty sure I took the jandals of the person who took mine, thus closing the black hole forever).

Clothes get wrinkly

My clothes spend a lot of time cooped up in a backpack. Like dogs that have been in cages too long, as soon as they get out of the bag they go a bit crazy and hard to control. If you are spending a few days somewhere you can give them a bit of discipline and straighten them out, but if you are on the move then you’ll just have to accept a lack of obedience from your clothes.

Weak Wi-Fi

This gets quite annoying when you are trying to download the newest episode of Game of Thrones (old reference here!). A lot of guesthouses have only one Wi-Fi router, which is located at the reception area. It’s like the capital city of a developing country; the further you get from it the worse things become, until you reach the badlands where it’s chaos (if not having internet at all can be seen as chaos).

Sometimes guesthouses don’t provide towels

I carry a towel, but it annoys me when guesthouses don’t provide them because it means that when I pack my bag to go to the next destination, chances are my towel will be wet. Bills, deadlines, money – these problems are nothing compared to a towel making the rest of your bag wet.

It’s hard to take good photos when the light is poor

If it’s not on Facebook then it didn’t really happen. That would make a great premise for a science fiction movie, but many people think that getting that perfect photo and making everyone jealous of your awesome life is the whole point of travel. How can we make people jealous when the overhead conditions make our photos look bad?


Losing clothes to laundry thieves

I’ve lost (they were probably stolen) two of my favourite t-shirts during routine laundry operations. The seemingly sweet old women obviously saw something they liked, and now there will be two snappily dressed men (or maybe women) in rural Lao and Cambodian villages wearing my clothes. It’s hard to find a good t-shirt these days, especially in Asia where everything is either too big or too small or too weird or too colourful.

Fans often make really loud noises

I had a fan the other day that sounded like a wailing women giving birth. Fans in guesthouses are often really old. Some make annoying clicking sounds while some are just loud for no apparent reason. You could always turn it off but then you’d be too hot.

Water doesn’t stay cold in hot countries

Picture this: You buy a 1.5 litre bottle of water (or better yet you fill it up at a water station), drink some of it before going to bed (it tastes good, it’s cold) and then you’re stuck with about a litre of warm water when you wake up in the morning. Warm water never tastes good, but even though water is extremely cheap in Asia (and many hot, humid areas of the world) I can never bring myself to waste it.

It’s hard to find good syrup

Pancakes are the classic traveller’s breakfast – the “Banana Pancake Trail” says it all really, but the pancakes being sold to hungry travellers often come up short, and it’s all down to the syrup. Sometimes you won’t even get syrup (I’ve ordered quite a few pineapple pancakes only to find out I had to pay extra to make them eatable). The syrup really does make the pancake – I’ve even heard of some people carrying their own from town to town and I’m starting to think it’s not a bad idea.

Mangoes aren’t always in season

Mangoes are the perfect fruit, although their sole weakness is a big one – they aren’t always in season. I was recently in Nepal, and even though mango shakes and lassies were advertised at most restaurants, my enquires about whether I could have one were always denied. It’s a bit of a tease having them on the menu; from now on if a fruit isn’t in season they should erase/cover any trace of it on the menus and advertisements.

Mosquito nets are hard to set up

I’ve had some really annoying mosquito nets over the years – the worst was in a small town in Flores, Indonesia (Moni). I tried for about 15 minutes, but I was either really bad at figuring out nets or it was just too small for the bed. I’ve had nets that have taken me a while to set up, and as soon as I was comfortable in bed I realised I needed some water or something, meaning I had to undo all my good work. A lot of Mosquito nets have holes in them as well, meaning they can’t even do their core job properly.

Lurking (or absent) waiters

If you’re the only westerner in a small town then chances are your presence will be of interest to the general public. It’s OK, but waiters really should be more professional. I’ve had some just stand there and stare at me for the entire duration of my meal (I tried to talk to them but they spoke no English). I had two waiters do it to me in Singapore – I don’t even think they blinked. Absent waiters can be just as bad – it’s almost impossible to order food or get the bill sometimes. I’ll give you a tip… try and sit reasonably close to the action, because if you sit on the outskirts of the restaurant waiters will often forget about you (and all of that food you ordered).

Scarce power outlets

Like it or not, electronic gadgets have become indispensable for most travellers. A large number of cheap guesthouses haven’t moved with the times and only offer a single power outlet, or worse yet, none at all. Some people travel with multi plug adapters, which is a good idea if you can afford the space in your bag.

Bus stations and airports are often well out of town

This is a great way to make that seemingly cheap airfare or bus ticket a lot more expensive. Airports I can understand – planes are pretty big and seem to need a lot of room, but having a bus station out of town makes no sense. It happens a lot in Asia; I’m guessing the bus companies have some dodgy deals going with the taxi/tuk tuk drivers to drop unsuspecting tourists miles from their intended destination, and desperately in need of a ride.

Travel insurance probably won’t help in any of these situations, but if you’re buying it anyway you may as well click my link and give me a commission.

What are some of your first world travel problems? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

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  1. May 13, 2014 at 1:38 am — Reply

    Grrr laundry thieves! When I only pack 4-5 shirts to begin with, it’s a huge problem when someone steals two of them!

    • May 13, 2014 at 10:22 pm — Reply

      Haha, at least if someone is stealing your clothes it means you have good taste, gotta look at the positives!

  2. May 13, 2014 at 5:10 am — Reply

    I often resort to turning the fans off and attempt to sleep dying in the heat because the noise is just unbearable. This often results in me spending hours awake only to fall asleep for only a few bleak hours and then waking up with a sore throat due to there being no air left in the tiny room I have been booked into. As for crumpled clothes we have given up trying to worry about creases in clothes hoping that everyone else will be in the same boat and no one will pay much attention to us – especially when we are camping! 🙂

    • May 13, 2014 at 10:23 pm — Reply

      I’ve learnt to sleep through the noise, some places are just way too hot without the fan, and obviously I’m too cheap to pay a few extra dollars for aircon!

  3. May 13, 2014 at 8:35 am — Reply

    Bad WIFI has got to be the BIGGEST problem of all the above. Certainly the most irritating for me, even in places where I should actually feel lucky that there is internet at all! 😛

    • May 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm — Reply

      It’s worse if they have it but it doesn’t work properly, it’s far easier to accept it if they just don’t have it!

  4. May 13, 2014 at 9:09 pm — Reply

    Haha loved this and so true! Damn sandal thieves! Curse you all!

    • May 13, 2014 at 10:25 pm — Reply

      This last time really annoyed me, I searched far and wide in Singapore to find my favourite jandals and then they were stolen within a week!

  5. Jessi
    May 14, 2014 at 11:39 am — Reply

    Oh, the wrinkly clothes and the wet towel, for sure! I’m at my hotel accommodations in Singapore at the moment, then I’ll be so,where else for a week before I can move into my apartment, so I’m currently wearing whatever isn’t wrinkled all to hell bc there’s no iron. Also …. Washing clothes in SE Asia is a huge must bc of the humidity, which can take planning to make sure the clothes are dry before you pack them again, especially in the rainy season 🙂

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm — Reply

      The only thing worse than wrinkly clothes are wet clothes!

  6. May 15, 2014 at 1:50 am — Reply

    Curse those wet towels! Poor lighting is the sworn enemy of every traveler, grrr.

    • May 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm — Reply

      Early morning is best apparently, I hate getting up early though!

  7. May 18, 2014 at 9:20 pm — Reply

    Ha! Yes, first world problems indeed. I remember being really annoyed by some of them at various points, too. Helps to keep perspective 🙂 .

    • May 18, 2014 at 10:33 pm — Reply

      Yeah, I think we have it pretty good!

  8. May 19, 2014 at 2:46 am — Reply

    You’ve forgotten yogurt thieves! It doesn’t matter how many plastic bags I use to wrap my yogurt, how many times I label it with my name, or where I hide it in the communal fridge, someone ALWAYS steals it! The WORST feeling is when you’ve got a super-early, super-long bus or train ride, so you quietly sneak out of your dorm room at 5:00 am without waking a soul, creep into the kitchen to grab the breakfast yogurt you bought the night before… and discover it missing! I wish all seven of your first world problems upon said yogurt thieves!

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:24 am — Reply

      Haha, never heard of that before, but it is understandable, yogurt is an easy breakfast for poor travellers.

  9. May 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm — Reply

    I’ve come to feel SO entitled when it comes to having wifi that a bad connection drives me insane! How dare a hostel I’m paying €5 a night for only have mediocre wifi?

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:25 am — Reply

      It’s not too much to ask! In NZ it’s hard to get free wifi, even at proper hotels – not sure if this has changed or not but it’s prety bad.

  10. May 22, 2014 at 4:18 am — Reply

    These are hilarious! When you come from a first world country, some things we consider basics are luxuries in other places. like the luxury of good wifi! But it’s all what makes the adventure fun!

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:26 am — Reply

      That’s true, it’s all part of the lifestyle – and any lifestyle has problems.

  11. May 24, 2014 at 10:51 am — Reply

    My first world problem is how the rest of the world, or at least the parts I have traveled to, doesn’t use shower curtains. Everything ends up getting soaked!

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:27 am — Reply

      Come to think of it I haven’t seen many shower curtains since I’ve been travelling!

    • Shane
      December 21, 2014 at 6:37 am — Reply

      This is true! My most recent shower in Dubai ended with water puddled up on the floor an inch deep and everything soaked.

  12. May 28, 2014 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    Nothing is ever out of my sight for more than a second, and I guess the bonus part for Franca and myself is that there’s always the other partner to watch over whilst the other is gone.

    • May 29, 2014 at 1:36 am — Reply

      Haha, I can imagine you guys taking turns guarding the shoes!

  13. July 21, 2014 at 10:48 am — Reply

    Hilarious and so so accurate! The wet towel and poor wi-fi I run into in most places, unfortunately.

    • July 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm — Reply

      Thanks Tiana, I’ve been travelling in China and Indonesia since I wrote this – wifi has become so much worse!

  14. September 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm — Reply

    Really enjoying the refreshing travel blog.
    Yes, complete relate to many of those things.

    Not enough plugs to charge gadgets and Weak Wi-fi signal for me has to be my worst bugbear. But that can happen in many places, doesnt even have to be remote.

    Keep up the great blog!

    • September 16, 2014 at 1:22 pm — Reply

      Thanks Molly, I agree with the plus – there never seems to be enough!

  15. September 13, 2014 at 11:37 pm — Reply

    I’ve never come across a flip flop thief!! I always stick a tiny microfibre towel in my bag, they come in so handy when there are no towels provided.

    • September 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm — Reply

      I had one of those for a while but it was so small!

  16. November 20, 2015 at 9:02 pm — Reply

    Losing clothes to laundry thieves! So true, we just spent five months on an overland adventure with a group of 12 people. We have not lost clothing in two years of travel until joining this overland! We lost all kinds of things or should i say we had lots of thieves that liked our style?

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