A fed-up American travel writer has launched a website where scarred tourists and jaded travel writers can tell the awful truth.
Doug Lansky's www.titanicawards.com invites visitors to fill in a survey, send in pictures and videos, and vote for the absolute worst the world of tourism has to offer.
Travellers are asked to name the world's worst beer, the dirtiest beach, the most filthy toilet, the world's worst cruise ship and most nauseating food among other horrors.
Worst food nominations include the raw shrimp cocktail of Kathmandu (the travel writer was sick for three weeks and lost 8kg); fried tarantulas (somewhere in Asia), stir-fried grasshoppers in Indonesia and boiled fermented cow's nose in Bali.
Lanksy is a syndicated columnist in the US. He's annoyed by travel stories that read more like brochures.
"You see critical reviews of books, movies and plays in the media, but when was the last time you saw someone say a destination was awful? Or that they disliked a fancy new resort?" he asks on the site.
"The Titanic Awards seeks to take a different approach to these often spectacular underachievements in the travel industry by celebrating them.
"Sometimes travel writers who try to convey less flattering information find that the editors aren't interested or that it takes so many words to cleverly craft the issue to keep it from coming across as whiny that it no longer fits into the allotted space."
The "website is not attempting to fulfil the accountability gap in the travel industry; it's more like a shot across the bow", Lanksy says.
"Besides, some of the strange and unflattering aspects of travel can be the most interesting and entertaining."
Lanksy has drummed up heavyweight support.
Contributors include British-born Australian Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet publications.
Wheeler lists the Saudis as the worst drivers in the world, India as the place with the longest visa queue but Russia has the most absurd, Kafkaesque "mind bogglingly stupid bureaucracy".
He also writes that the worst pizza he ever tasted was at a pub in Nimbin on the NSW north coast.
"How could the Australian centre for dope smoking, hippy free living produce something so bloody awful?"
American Pauline Frommer, creator of the guidebooks bearing her name, says the worst airline is Air Pakistan "with duct tape holding together seats, cockroaches in the aisles".
Travel writer Johnny Jet - well known for his www.JohnnyJet.com site - lists a flight to Fiji on Sun Air as the worst flight he's ever taken.
"Everything was smooth on my puddle jump ride to Savusavu until we went over the mountain range," Jet says.
"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."
The worst place he's ever visited is Tijuana: "Dirty, depressing and full of scam artists."
Tijuana also cops a serve from another travel writer, for a donkey painted to look like a zebra. The poor beast was lined up to be snapped by tourists drunk on tequila.
Filthy toilets are a popular grievance.
Veteran travel writer Larry Habegger gives "a tower of filth" in Jogjakarta, Java, his vote, while American award-winning travel photographer Catherine Watson gives her vote to "The dank, filthy, unlighted ruin of a public ladies room in central Bucharest, before Ceaucescu's horrid government fell. No toilet paper, no soap, no feminine hygiene products in the whole country, no nothing".
Tony Wheeler gives his vote to Darchen, Tibet: "Australians talk of long drop outhouses. This was the opposite, a vertical mountain of shit, a long climb to the top."
Daredevil traveller Robert Young Pelton, author of the The World's Most Dangerous Places and Come Back Alive, says the least civilised militants he's ever met were in Liberia.
"The Small Boys Unit I was with in Liberia was run by a 15-year-old who had three or four girlfriends and always smoked a huge spliff. These guys (mostly 10 - 12 year olds) like to cut the enemy to pieces after they were dead. Not very sporting chaps," he writes.
Tourism is one of the world's biggest businesses.
The World Tourism Organisation says in 2008, international tourist arrivals grew by two per cent, to reach 924 million, which is up 16 million from 2007.
International tourism generated $US856 billion ($A1.04 trillion) in 2007, or 30 per cent of the world's exports of services.
The WTO forecasts 1.6 billion travellers a year by the year 2020.