Staying in a hostel can be a great way of traveling. It’s cheap, it allows you to meet other travelers, and they often have travel booking facilities so you can arrange tours with your newly made hostel buddies. However, staying in a hostel can have its downsides too, especially for travel newbies and visitors who may have grown accustomed to the comforts of staying in a hotel.
While there aren’t many hostel horror stories akin to those found in the movie Hostel, there are definitely more than a few very “bad experiences”.
Hostel Horror Stories
Getting to Know Each Other a Little Too Closely
Getting to know other travelers is awesome, but that new bond of friendship can be stretched too far. While there are often smaller dorm rooms, made up of four, six and eight beds, there are also much larger dorms that sleep twenty, thirty, and in one famous Fiji hostel, as many as one hundred people!
Sound like the best slumber party ever? Perhaps, but when you think about sharing a room with 20 or so other people. Any of whom are likely to be drunk, snoring, having sex, talking in their sleep and who knows what else. It might mean a less than restful night.
One of the worst hostel room mates we’ve had was a homeless and clearly ill woman who snuck into the room at midnight, sat down on one of the beds and started laying out all her possessions and then packing them up again into her many (noisy) plastic bags.
She repeated the process throughout the whole night, despite everyone complaining. We thought she was one of the guests until she finally turned off the lights and left at 5 am.
Lowered Hygiene Standards
Unlike most hotels, hostels are not always known for their cleanliness. There are endless stories of dirty bathrooms, toilets that don’t flush, bed sheets that are sprayed with air freshener instead of cleaned, unhygienic kitchens, bodily fluids where there shouldn’t be bodily fluid.
The worst hostel we ever stayed in had green and black mold everywhere in the bathroom. It was so disgusting we had to take a photo (see photo above!!). (Don’t worry, it’s “just” mold!)
There is the story of a few backpackers who happened to be sharing a room with a very large, very drunk man. The man spent most of the night alternating between yelling incoherently in his sleep, and waking up and telling the silent room to be quiet or he would kill them all in their sleep.
There is another story of a guy who went to sleep on his first night in a hostel, only to wake up and find a row of M&Ms at two-inch intervals all the way round his bed. He was about to accuse his roommate, but saw he was just as freaked out as he was.
Learning About the Birds & the Bees
While most people would cringe at the thought of getting busy in a room full of other people, there is a surprising number of travelers who don’t have a problem with it. It’s safe to say that the drink probably doesn’t help with the decision-making process there.
No doubt, there are many lovely stories about many lovely hostels in the world, however, there are enough horror stories to make most travelers want to pay a little extra and stay in a hotel! Think about clean, fresh sheets, your own bathroom, no one snoring next to you or turning the lights on at 3 am.
Basic Hostel Manners Are Important
When staying at a hostel and sharing room with a bunch of other travelers you don’t know, you can’t just act like you would in your own home. You may feel ‘at home’ – but you’re not.
Plus, half the purpose of sleeping in dorms is to meet some new cool people, and you don’t want to be remembered as the dude who made people tear their hair out of frustration by your obsessive noise with your plastic bags in the middle of the night, do you?
Some hostels have written rules which you have to agree with (some even make you sign a contract!), but aside from that there are some unwritten rules but just as important hostel manner rules which every guest should stick to and be aware of.
Travel Etiquette Tips for Travel Hostel Newbies
A hostel is a great choice for the budget-conscious traveler or for those who want a sense of camaraderie with their lodging choice. Most hostels are conveniently located and are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable locals. However, hostels can have a few drawbacks.
For instance, a hostel is not a good choice for the person who prefers to travel in splendid isolation. Privacy is at a premium, and shared bathrooms are the rule rather than the exception. Travelers should be prepared to share sleeping space, which is a major consideration for the traveling companion who snores.
A hostel stay is a communal experience, but that doesn’t mean that we all don’t want to have a little space or even some quiet time.
Be aware when your fellow travelers don’t want to engage in conversation or are focused on a task. If they are reading, working, attempting to sleep or just chilling, don’t interrupt.
Also, don’t hog spaces such as the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen or even a table or a computer. You probably hated it when your kid brother borrowed your MP3 player without asking right?
No matter how friendly you’ve gotten with your hostel roommates, resist the urge to borrow their stuff without asking.
We are all aware if we snore or not… or should be by now! If you know you snore, deal with it. Buy sleeping aids, pay for a separate room or at least be upfront with your mates. Don’t ever expect others to switch rooms because of your snoring and be sympathetic if you’re making them spend a sleepless night.
As hard as it is to be organized when traveling, it’s important to do your best to be clean and tidy in a hostel. Don’t allow your personal belongings to spill off your bed or outside your locker.
Common areas can sometimes be cramped, don’t lay your stuff out when working and keep your personal space organized. Do your best not to leave shoes, clothing, food, books or other items laying around, it’s rude to others and your belongings can easily disappear. Common sense must prevail in these types of situations.
Most hostel “rules” are common sense, treat others the way you would treat family. Use the space as if it were your own, make your bed, keep the bathroom clean, pick up after yourself – be helpful, courteous and friendly.
There are many reasons to travel often and backpacking and staying in hostels is one way to do it. Travel is about exploring, learning, making new friends and memories, staying in a hostel can give you all of this and more, make sure it’s a pleasurable experience for you and your fellow travelers. Be sure to stay safe when traveling by using common sense and following your intuition.