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The 7 WEIRDEST Travel Stories of 2023

From unruly passengers to tourists acting stupid, it’s been a year.

2023 was a good travel year. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism is predicted to reach 80-95% of pre-pandemic levels this year. With demand climbing again, the stories of strange travel experiences have been pouring in, too. We’re doing a quick rewind of the year to see how travelers inspired shock, awe, and surprise globally.

Related: The 6 Worst Tourists of 2023

1 OF 7

Man Flies Internationally Without Passport or Ticket

A 46-year-old man flew from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Los Angeles without a passport or plane ticket. Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava boarded a Scandinavian Airlines flight on November 4 and spent the plane ride wandering, chatting people up, and switching seats. 

When he landed, he told customs that he had forgotten his passport on the plane, but the officials found no record of him on the flight manifest and it was discovered that he had occupied a seat that was supposed to be vacant. He also told the authorities that he didn’t know how he cleared security at the airport without a boarding pass or how he got on the plane. He had no visa, but the officers found Russian and Israeli identification on him.

He has been charged with a federal crime and if convicted of being a stowaway passenger, he will face up to five years in prison.

2 OF 7

Woman Paints Nails on Flight

It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last time that a passenger painted nails on a flight. An X (formerly Twitter) user shared on November 16, “Nail polish users: PLEASE don’t wait until you’re in an enclosed space with hundreds of strangers all breathing recycled air to apply nail polish.” 

In 2012, a similar incident caused a stir and a detainment. A passenger was painting her nails when a flight attendant asked her to stop because of the smell. It escalated when the passenger went into the lavatory to finish her nails and got into an argument with the flight attendant. She was detained after the flight landed and released after 10 hours.

Nail polish fumes can be toxic, and in an enclosed space, they can make it hard to breathe for people. Airlines may not have an explicit policy banning nail paint application on flights, but they discourage usage.

3 OF 7

Woman Climbs Onto Little Mermaid Statue

The 110-year-old Little Mermaid statue is one of the main attractions in Copenhagen. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, it was unveiled in 1913 and it’s an icon in the city. But its popularity also solicits impropriety. It is often subjected to vandalism: it has been beheaded twice, an arm has been cut off, and it has also been blown up. This year, it was also painted with the colors of the Russian flag.

It’s no stranger to such acts, but this September, people were again left outraged when a tourist climbed onto the statue, cuddled with it, and pretended to kiss. Onlookers booed her, and the Danes were particularly miffed due to the disrespect. Signs everywhere tell tourists to stay away. But the woman laughed it off and came down to high-five and kiss the woman she was with.

4 OF 7

Airport Worker Tells Stranded Passengers “Be Grateful You Didn’t Crash”

Planes are diverted for various reasons, including weather, onboard emergencies, and technical issues. In September, a Delta flight from Ghana to JFK had to land on the remote Portuguese island of Terceira. The reason was said to be low oxygen levels in the cockpit. It landed safely, but the long ordeal began after landing. 

Passengers complained that there was no Delta staff on the airport and they weren’t allowed free access. With no food and water, they were asked to drink from the bathroom faucet. A passenger also wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that a representative told them they should be grateful the plane landed safely and didn’t crash in the sea.

The passengers were stranded for 12 hours. Delta told The Independent, “An alternate aircraft was dispatched from Lisbon to help our customers more quickly get to their final destinations while the original aircraft was repaired by maintenance technicians. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their travels.”

5 OF 7

'Europeans Don't Drink Water' Claim Sparks Debate

It was a hot summer in Europe with record-breaking temperatures. Locals spent sleepless nights in their sweltering homes and tourists were feeling dizzy or fainting due to the heat. Amidst all this, a debate started on social media when a TikTok user posted that “Europeans don’t believe in water.”

The user received a lot of backlash, but also some support. While many tourists agreed with the assessment, others pointed out that there are water fountains everywhere and tap water is potable too. Another TikTok user posted a video of small glasses at restaurants and the thirst conversation went on full swing this summer.

Related: It’s Too Hot for Americans to Try to ‘Blend In’ in Europe

6 OF 7

Woman Brings 22 Snakes in Baggage

At Chennai airport, customs officials seized the bags of a woman traveling from Kuala Lumpur to India with 22 snakes and a chameleon. The customs X account shared a video of the species packed into transparent plastic containers and sealed with duct tape.

Another incident of snakes on the plane was uncovered at the same airport in January when two unattended bags were found to have been housing pythons, tortoises, and corn snakes. They were deported to Bangkok.

7 OF 7

Couple Abandons Baby at Airport

In January this year, Israeli airport staff faced an unprecedented situation when a couple flying from Tel Aviv left their baby at the counter. According to news reports, the couple with Belgian passports had arrived late for their flight to Brussels. They were informed by RyanAir staff that they had to buy a ticket for their infant, but according to the Israel Airports Authority, they wanted to get through security with or without their baby. So, they went on to passport control, leaving their baby in the stroller at the check-in counter. They were later intercepted and asked to get their baby. Meanwhile, airport security and the local police took them in for questioning. An employee told local news K12, “We haven’t seen anything like this.”

The matter was resolved and the police spokesperson told CNN, “The baby was with the parents and there’s no further investigation.”