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!
READ MORE: Hostel Etiquette – How to Stay in Hostels & not be a Dick
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 travellers 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 girlfriends 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.
By Hannah from GettingStamped:
My husband and I have been travelling 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 has “working girls” available.
We were awakened by 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 woken 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 remodelled 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 an old dark hallway and was not remodelled at all. There was no one else in our hall and everyone else seemed to be staying in the remodelled 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!
READ MORE: Why I will always love hostels (despite some nightmares!)
Hostel Nightmares: Some Places are Downright Nasty
By Justine from Lost in the Midlands:
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 the 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!
By Cory from You Could Travel:
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?
Have you had any hostel nightmares? Share the gory details in the comments, I’d love to hear your stories!
Want More Hostel Posts?Check out these blog posts to learn more about staying in a hostel, and some tips for working in a hostel as a volunteer or click here to read all of my accommodation posts.
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25 thoughts on “Hostel Nightmares: When Hostel Stays Go Bad”
I just stayed at a hostel in Southern California for almost a week up until New Year’s Day. Part of it was saving money, but I’ve had good experiences before. I am a bit older than most guests I’ve seen, but never have I been the oldest. I’ve definitely seen guests in their 70s or even 80s, and some are traveling with their adult children.
I stayed three hostels. The first only had a single roommate who was helpful but otherwise we barely talked. The second I ended up chatting with some of the roommates and we seemed to get along and had some common interests that we could discuss. The third was my first experience with a mixed dorm for two nights (the second being New Year’s Eve). One guy checked out after my first night, but otherwise there were three women. I brought shorts to wear to bed, just in case – and it seemed appropriate. I didn’t do anything inappropriate and I don’t think I ever talked to any of them until the “incident”.
I just got back from New Year’s Eve festivities and got back before 1 AM where I tried to be as quiet as possible since some of my roommates were already in bed. All is well until all of a sudden I’m awoken by the new guy who must have checked in around 3-4 AM. He started pulling out my blanket, and I respond with “What the hell are you doing?” He then denies that he’d taking my blanket. He looks intoxicated or otherwise there’s something extremely off about this guy. He finally has my blanket, but also his original curled up in a ball on his bed. He doesn’t otherwise get near me so I call the front desk and they send security. This is a woman, and when I explain what happened, her only response was that there are no more beds available and that either we get along or one of us has to leave. He’s saying all sorts of weird stuff like being somewhere for NYE activities but they started telling people to leave around 2:30 AM. He denies taking my blanket even though he clearly has two blankets on his bed and I have none. The security guard then brings me a blanket when I mention I don’t have one (which this guy took)
He then leaves the room but I’m not sure what’s going on. I started packing up because I don’t feel safe any more, and I’m out and looking for the front desk clerk to turn in my key. When I mentioned the incident he said the guy left and said he might sleep in his car or something. So I head back into the room thinking he’s gone.
I’m still left wondering what would have happened had he tried to do the same to one of the women in the room. I probably should have called 911 immediately instead of the front desk.
These are classic! Despite these stories I love hostels as a way to meet other people while traveling. Don’t let these stories scare you..
It’s true, hostels aren’t for everyone. It’s a shame that you feel this way – but after trying 3 times maybe it’s just not for you! A lot of women feel more comfortable in female only dorms, perhaps a private room in a hostel is better for you so you can have some privacy but still meet people when you are ready.
All of my hostel experiences have been terrible… because they’re hostels. I can’t ever sleep and having random people come in and out of the room makes my skin crawl with anxiety. I’ve tried it three times, each hostel has been fine, but the problem is me: I give up.
Hi John, I would contact their customer care department https://www.yha.org.uk/about-yha/customer-care-charter and talk to them directly. Good luck!
the YHA kept 10% of my refund amount!
How can I contest return mu monies?
I enjoyed reading your post. I always wondered if there was a dark side of hostels and now I know. I’ve never stayed in one because I’ve always stayed in hotels when I travel but I’ve thought about looking I to them for future travel.
These stories are not even bad at all! I wish I could’ve been asked. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ve had my door kicked in Perú. We had a private room in Santa Cruz Bolivia and between leaving for the night and coming back the owner unlocked it, went trough all our stuff and then left a giant shit in the toilet. We had a room in Chiclayo, Perú that when the owner opened the door to show us the space there was a USED CONDEM stuck to the headboard. He grabbed it with his bare hand and threw it into the pedestrian sidewalk below, then ran out to the hall, came back with Lysol, sprayed it in the air and looked at us and said “todo bien.” In Loja, Ecuador we listened to someone rattling the gate all night long until we left for an early bus to find a young man and full blown tranny drag queen who were promptly escorted to the room we just left with no cleaning in between. Snoring and annoying roommates doesn’t even come close to rattling me. My stories aren’t even that bad compared to people I know who really travel.
Well, it’s a long time ago but yes, I recall some horrific hostel experiences. In Rome, people were constantly complaining of missing things – cameras in particular. Tired after sightseeing one afternoon, I was having a rest on my lower bunk bed when the wife of the hostel manager came in and began going through coat pockets and backpacks. After warning everyone, I left quick smart the next morning. I recall a YH in Fougeres (France) which did not appear to have a loo. We had to piddle in a soup can. Then there was another in Fuengirola (Spain) where everyone except my friend and me was on drugs (LSD was the drug of choice at the time).
Not a hostel experience, but close. What’s important about this story is that it was a long time ago, before cell phones, and in the infancy of the internet. My husband (then-boyfriend) and I made reservations (by telephone, based on a guide book) at a very inexpensive Pensione in Trastavere in Rome. Private room, shared bathroom, on the second floor of an old building. When we got there after flying all night, grungy and jet-lagged, the room was awful and the bathroom was worse. Really disgusting. Wet floor, soggy bath mats, mold and mildew everywhere, smelled awful. You really wouldn’t want to step on that floor. We decided to spend one night, and find a new place the next day, and we went out to do a little sight-seeing without showering. We were out later than we planned, and when we got back to the pensione, the door was locked. They’d given us a key, but we could not get the door open no matter how hard we tried. We banged on the door, no one answered. We called from a pay phone, no one answered. We were sooooo tired, and it was raining, and we couldn’t just hop on the internet and find another place to stay, so we started walking, going from hotel to hotel. They were all full. One nice man at one hotel called a bunch of places for us, all full. My husband remembered a place near the Pantheon that he’d stayed in as a kid, so we walked over there. It was a fancy, 4 star hotel, we were dirty, smelly and had no luggage, but we had credit cards and they had a room. They were very gracious, and didn’t ask any questions, and we stayed in that lovely, expensive room for the night. The soak I took in the luxurious bathtub when we checked into our room was the best soak I’d ever had. When we went back to the pensione the next day, the proprietor showed us how you had to jiggle the key this way while pulling the door that way and then kinda hit it with your hip and then it opens right up, Would have been good to know the night before.
Never stayed in a hostel and this solidifies my choice to not. Even though there are great ones out there, besides the stories here I’ve heard more bad than good ones. I don’t want to have adventures while I’m sleeping.
You could publish a post like this every day and still have more stories to share! Fortunately, for one bad moment in a hostel there are 100 brilliant ones to make up for it. Although I’ve had my fair share of hostel traumas, I still prefer to stay in them for the budget friendly, sociable aspect they provide. Great post – some downright cringe-worthy stories!
OMG, such varied experiences in hostels! Some sound funny although they are not, and a few others disgusting to say the least. I’m a through & through hostel person, and I must say I have been lucky so far after reading this! Glad to know that most of you didn’t give up on hostels after these bad experiences 🙂 Travel is fun!
Really cool post. I have stayed in quite a lot of hostels over the years and I haven’t had any major problems. I do find them quite hit and miss though in terms of how clean they are and also who may be in your room. Ie a group of party goers etc.
I also think reviews are quite unreliable, as I think a lot of younger people are nice and will just rate the hostel highly even if it’s not that great.
Like someone said above even a bad experience makes a story and hey this post wouldn’t have been possible if people didn’t have bad experiences worth talking about! 🙂
Fortunately, I haven’t had any hostel nightmares…a few inconsiderate people, but nothing like some of the experiences in this post. Typically when I stay in hostels these days I try to get a private room to hopefully avoid any nightmare-ish experiences. However, these were certainly fun to read about
I always stay in hostels, and while I didn’t have any of these experiences, I’ve had some interesting ones that I share on my personal profile on Facebook (#HostelLife). Love the stories!
Yikes! Especially on the pee story. I know what I got into the 3 times I stayed at a hostel; namely, tons of cheap travelers and yes, a few of which have that special bush league style guaranteed to disgust you. My hostel stays were A-OK. Most folks are fine staying in these spots for a bit but if you only stay in hostels for months or years you will come across some ummm….low rent activity LOL.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Good for you for still recommending hostel stays! There are good bad and ugly. I have always avoided party hostels because of some of the reasons listed above. I feel very fortunate that the worst thing to happen to me is have the lights turn on in the middle of the night to have someone slowly pack their bag for their flight in the wee small hours of the morning. I think the peeing on the bag and the dick pic Snapchat are by far the WORST! Both so gross and disrespectful. Good for you for demanding money.
Oh, your post made me laugh, even though it’s not really a laughing material. It was more out of the confusion of not knowing how to react. 😀 Stayed in hostels only couple of times and they were in Europe, really nice and clean, so I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be in a dorm room with bunch of noisy, drunk guys. But I have to say, now, when all’s well, you do have one great story to tell, right! And it was interesting to read it all, great post! 😀
Can fully understand. Although I have myself not stayed in a hostel yet but I can see at times how it can turn different from what you expected. Others will get cautious and draw learnings from your experience.
Wow these stories are horrendous. That one about that guy taking a selfie of his penis. That’s just disgusting. I’ve only had good hostel stories. Thank goodness!
Thanks so much for including me in this post! It was certainly a terrifying moment but funny the following day. I was glad he left the next day!
I can’t even begin to understand some people! These stories are terrible, hilarious and so much more. I don’t think I will be staying in a hostel!
I mean, I am all for a fun hostel experience and yes, sometimes, you have to accept it is not all roses, but getting your stuff peed on? I mean come on!!! That’s too much!
Almost certanly too old to stay in hostels. Can;t say this is something I actually regret having read this!