Hostels are wonderful places to stay. Cheap, sociable, and perfect for backpackers, I have stayed in some amazing hostels all over the world. However, sometimes hostel stays don’t work out quite as we’d hoped! After a couple of terrible experiences in hostels, including having all my stuff stolen from a hostel locker, I asked fellow female travellers to share their hostel nightmares. Read on, if you dare!
Hostel Nightmares: Horrible Roommates
By Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
In Stockholm I stayed in a large new hostel which was actually really nice. I got to my dorm & met my roommates, we exchanged pleasantries and the first night went by without a hitch. The second night I went to bed around midnight, and my roommates were still all out. At 2am I was woken up when the guy in the bunk above me came back, nothing unusual there. I fell back asleep, then an hour later he got up again, presumably to go to the bathroom. I heard a strange noise, rather like running water. But not from the bathroom, from inside the room. I turned the light on to find him pissing on my stuff! He was so drunk he had no idea what was going on, and despite me shouting at him he just lumbered back into bed. “Luckily” it wasn’t my whole backpack that got wet, just a bag of clothes. The next morning, I wrapped my pee-soaked clothes in a bag to wash at the next hotel. When I was leaving, the drunk guy was still asleep so I woke him up and demanded money for the dry cleaning. He denied what happened at first, but finally relented and gave me £50 to cover cleaning costs!
By Laura from Willful & Wildhearted:
I’ve stayed in some pretty odd situations over the years. I’ve fallen victim to bed bugs, been subjected to incessant political banter from those I don’t agree with and was even stuck sharing a room with someone who snored so loudly she caused the bed to vibrate. However, the one hostel horror story that sticks out in my mind was actually my first-ever hostel experience. In 2014 I was on a two-week holiday in Vietnam with one of my girlfriends, and we’d booked one of the most well-known party hostels in Hanoi. However, our first night in the hostel was pretty relaxed and we decided not to head out and party, but rather save our energy for a walking tour the following morning. I was woken up around 4 AM by a bunch of people in the dorm blasting music from their iPhones and drinking on the floor in the room. I couldn’t even be bothered to say anything, so I put earplugs in and turned the other way. I was woken up again an hour or two later by a phone flash; I opened my eyes and saw a guy taking a Snapchat of his penis right next to my bed. Yep. I cannot even make this stuff up. My first experience was certainly an interesting one, but it didn’t put me off hostel living. Now I’m fortunate to be traveling long-term with my partner and we prefer private rooms. Needless to say, we avoided this particular hostel when we were in Vietnam last year!
By Becky from Becky the Traveller:
I had booked a hostel in Buenos Aires based on recommendations. Normally, a fail safe way of booking but not this time. I arrived at the hostel in the morning, great they were letting me check in straight away. I walked into my dorm room. The floor was a mess, clothes, food and drinks everywhere. But the main thing that struck me was the half-naked guy in the middle of the floor. Passed out from the night before, not a pretty sight. Climbing over him, which was the only way around him, I dumped my bags and popped into the en suite bathroom. It was a similar theme, basically mess everywhere and you certainly wouldn’t want to go in there to get clean! Since I was only booked for one night I couldn’t be bothered to change rooms but needless to say I didn’t bother going back to that hostel. It hasn’t put me off hostels but I do read reviews myself beforehand. And I tend to avoid the party hostels. I’m a bit old for that now ha ha!
Hostel Nightmares: Expect the Unexpected
By Lauren from The Down Lo:
I’ve found hostels to be hit or miss, sometimes they’re an amazing way to meet travelers and other times, you want to go running for the hills. One of my most memorable experiences was in Vienna. It was my first trip abroad with just my girl friends and we were on a high from traipsing around Europe on our own. We were on the last leg of our journey, having already hit London, Lisbon, Paris, and Rome with no issues. Staying just a few blocks from major cultural icons like the Opera House we expected the experience to be highbrow and refined. But alas. The first clue something was amiss was the welcome sign said something to the effect of, “Don’t leave the door open or you’ll have bad sex for 7 years.” We laughed it off as quirky. Then, we were greeted by a vending machine in the lobby that offered not snacks, but condoms and sex toys. When we reached our room, the shower mat also said, “To a happy ending.” Umm did we pay for a hostel or a brothel? Everything was clean and we had a private room, but the décor was a little more risqué than I would’ve liked… I still stay at hostels because it’ll always end up being a good story.
My husband and I have been traveling the world nonstop for over 3.5 years and we both remember the hostel night from hell in Manila. Our hostel was located next to a KTV bar which often have “working girls” available. We were awaken to the very loud sex noises, and the girl was a very bad actress if you know what I mean! So after a few minutes it stops, and she goes to take a shower. Thirty minutes later we are awoken AGAIN, and at this point we bang on the wall and shout a few select words. Eventually they finish and she takes another shower. I went down to the front desk to ask them to say something to the guest, but they wouldn’t. No joke then we hear them move the bed to the other wall, because apparently they thought if the bed would hit the other wall we wouldn’t hear them. Let’s just say the sex went on throughout the night, and then when we woke up at 8am they were already gone. We actually checked out a day early and headed to El Nido, we just wanted some peace and quiet on the beach.
Hostel Nightmares: Cleanliness is not always a priority!
By Laura of No Shoes Today:
Penang is one of my all-time favourite places. I arrived there on a whim when I was travelling with my friend and it turned out it was the fantastic George Town festival on at the time. This was such a bonus but also a massive issue as finding places to stay was a nightmare. Pretty desperate, we trawled hostels until we found one that had space and didn’t cost a bomb. Excited to see the festival, and as we had struggled to find somewhere to stay, we booked in for a few nights. Well, after just one night we’d had enough. The walls were mouldy and barely thicker than soggy cardboard, the bunk bed looked like it was going to collapse, it would have been cleaner to not shower at all and we endured a creepy man snoring his head off on a camp bed right outside our door. Not being able to sleep (unsurprisingly) we spent the night on hostel world trying to find somewhere else to stay and packed up our stuff as soon as it was light! I love hostels but the moral of the story is always check the room before you commit and always check what’s going on in the places you’re heading to!
By Daniela from The Lost Romanian:
The hostel in Koh Phi Phi was right next to a bar, a very loud bar. So no chances to fall asleep until 2-3 am, or when you are already too tired and no longer bothered by any noise. But this happens, and Phi Phi is a party island. What really bothered me was another thing. In S-E Asia is very common to take off your shoes when inside the house/hostel. In this one as well, you were not allowed to keep your shoes on. But the only bathroom was at ground floor, used by hostel people and the ones who were just arriving. It was constantly dirty and flooded and you had to step with your bare feet in it each time. It was so disgusting, every time I needed the toilet or take a shower. But I like hostels, with their good and bad, it’s more a matter of luck I think.
By Meg from Meander with Meg:
It was my first day on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia and I had just arrived at my hostel accommodation. It was just one large room with individual cubicles separated by curtains hanging from poles. The room was dark, swelteringly hot and the walls were painted a dull green. It reminded me of stalls in a barn. No locker. Bare bulb above the bed. I ran my hand over the bedsheets and felt that tacky feeling of sand and salt from unwashed bodies. I checked out the bathroom: filthy, leaking, no toilet paper. Now, over the years I’ve stayed in some pretty basic accommodation as a backpacker. Standards do vary and I find I can put up with a lot. But I knew that there was no way I could stay here. I did something I have never done before in five years of travelling. I grabbed my backpack and slunk out as fast as I could. The experience won’t stop me from using hostels in future, but it has confirmed one thing to me. If I know I won’t be happy in a place, I will have the confidence to walk away. My time travelling – and life in general – is too precious to waste not being happy.
Hostel Nightmares: Service isn’t always a priority either!
By Genie from Gallivanting Bean:
Last summer my friends and I stayed at a hostel in Barcelona. The property was recently remodeled and all the online reviews and photos looked good. Everything seemed great until we got to the property. First, our room was at the end of a old dark hallway and was not remodeled at all. There was no one else in our hall and everyone else seemed to be staying in the remodeled areas. Then in the evening the guy at the front desk yelled at us for not having paid for the room, even though he still had our passports hostage and told us earlier that he was fine with us paying later because all the banks were closed and we couldn’t get cash that day. He then continued screaming at us, made my friend cry, chased us down the stairs into the street, and told us not to come back until we had the cash. We were terrified that he was going to harm us but we just ended up staying since it was only 2 more nights. However, we’re definitely never going back there again.
By Cris from LooknWalk:
I was planning to meet a fellow blogger for lunch in Budapest, and although the city is just 5 h by train from me I figured we (hubby & myself) could stay the night. So, I hop onto my former preferred hostel search engine and find a place right smack in the center offering private room and ensuite bathroom, which I prefer now I’m married (or old haha!). We made our way to Budapest and go to check in. First thing: couldn’t find the ringer and I had to call the hostel. Got a rude reply. Ok, red flag nr.1. We make it to the reception, he tells us to stay put as he’s busy. I tell him that I have a lunch date so he begrudgingly checks us in, takes our money, and the cleaning lady takes us to the room. In a different building and in a very dodgy place. Tiny room, with a bunk bed – really?! – and the bathroom was…in the kitchen. How is that ensuite? So I fumed and marched back to the reception to demand my money back. The guy is totally fine with giving my money back and didn’t even try to offer a proper room. I’m done with hostels. For life. What irked me was his “I don’t care” attitude. A nicer approach would have made me not write the bad review. And I definitely opt for rentals now!
Hostel Nightmares: Some Places are Downright Nasty
I’ve stayed in hostels in over 20 countries, and the worst experience I’ve had by a long shot was in my own capital city – London. As soon as we stepped in we knew it was going to be bad. The seats were slashed up, the police were there questioning a man about threatening someone with a knife. A few minutes later I noticed a butcher’s knife sitting on top of the lockers. Eek! Now to the dorm: there were condoms on the floor and, yep, another knife. One bed was surrounded with piles upon piles of dirty books – someone was living here. A guy was passed out on another bed. We later discovered he was an alcoholic Australian who kept calling me Rosie Lee (whoever that is). He woke me up at 6 in the morning, just an hour after getting to sleep, to ask if I could call his manager to tell him that he was too sick to go to work. I did it, I got his name wrong, no one noticed. Before going to sleep there had been a party in our room. Not able to change rooms, we had decided that it was easier to join in than kick up a fuss. I called it a day when one of the guys kept slapping me “playfully” in order to “prevent me from getting skin cancer”. It’s never put me off hostelling, though – it was one bad experience out of loads of great ones. What I did learn, however, was the value of research!
by Karen from Wanderlustingk:
My grossest hostel story is from a hostel in Portugal. When I decided to go to this region for its stunning landscapes in peak summer season, I booked the only place I could afford: a party hotel with an infamous reputation. I’m not a party person, but I figured I could deal with a party hostel for a few days. As soon as I checked in, I was led to my room on the first floor next to the entrance with no locks, no doors, and an explanation that the door to the hostel was open 24/7. The staff member told me that he had just cleaned the bed and I decided I was ready for a power nap. I climbed into the bed only to find the bed full of crumbs, black things, and sand. I got the bed changed, however it was an ominous start. My bunk mates were kind and invited me out although being woken up at 6am to three girls bringing home “guests”, including the girl in the bunk underneath mine. As the bunk bed shook and I was completely unable to sleep despite asking everyone to go somewhere else, I just grabbed my stuff and decided it was the final thread. I complained to a staff member who gave me a full refund and I immediately left with my bags ready to explore the rest of the city (albeit with my carry-on bag). I left on a bus to Lisbon after discovering the fish market ready for a change. I still occasionally stay at hostels, but read the reviews carefully and avoid party hostels like the plague.
And if you thought it was just hostel nightmares, it can happen in hotels too!
My worst nightmare hotel was something I booked for my first anniversary with my now husband. We went to Edinburgh and decided to stay a night in a hotel. What seemed like a nice idea at the time, turned out to be a horror story. Firstly, we were shoved in a box. The room was once a cupboard, linked to another room. There was just a tiny door separating us from our neighbours and we could clearly hear every sound, every movement. The room itself was dirty and full of spider webs everywhere. The carpet was old and smelled like old beer and vomit. The private bathroom which came with the room was located two stories down and was locked with a key…the toilet, unfortunately, didn’t flush. As you can imagine we didn’t spend our anniversary there. We found an amazing alternative down the road and stayed at a great B&B run by an old Scottish lady. We fought hard to get our money back, and after a lot of threats, we finally got a refund. My skin still crawls when I think of this awful place.
Should I avoid hostels then?