Hostels are a blast and I’m never going back to hotels. Especially that weird one that looked like a huge industrial hall and whose rooms were so austere there was literally nothing there but a bed, a closet and a plant. (And the closet was more nicely decorated than the room itself – it even had wallpaper!) I’m looking at you, Helsinki.
Anyway. During the past three years I’ve stayed in probably 30+ hostels and cheap hotels and more’s to come, so obviously the experience can’t always be Disneyland. I’ve noticed a lot of travel bloggers seem to recommend booking accommodation based on rating of 80% or higher on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers, but I don’t believe in that. I always rate the results by price (can I make myself sound any more cheap?) and pick the one with free wifi and positive-ish reviews. The thing is, sometimes a hostel somebody else loved is going to be your purgatory, and sometimes a hostel they hated is going to keep you dreaming about the time you had there for years afterwards. (I’m not kidding, I still dream about the free pastries the kitchen sent up every Saturday; the Halloween party that left the bathroom looking like somebody murdered Papa Smurf there; Power Hour with shots of goon the Irish dared me to play at The Corkman in Melbourne. Those latter ones are mostly nightmares, though,)
Let’s face it – some hostels are turds. I’m using nice language here people, appreciate that! In that case, if you’ve had a bad experience you are welcome to blame all&everything on that particular hostel. However, as it often is, sometimes you just don’t click with a place or the people, and it has nothing (or, mostly nothing) to do with the hostel itself. That is one reason I don’t want to give any names here. I mean not out of respect for those pigstalls, but just so that you guys will have to go through the same pain that I did, and then we can commiserate.
Ps. Hostels are very rad and some time in the future I promise to write a post about the most awesome experiences I’ve had in hostels.
|The picture I snapped before I noped back to a city hostel. Dirty dishes not included in Sydney, Australia|
My experience here might’ve been strongly affected by the fact that it was only the second hostel I’ve ever stayed at and the first one had been so much 5/5 that I had sky-high expectations. I stayed in a 12-bed-dorm, and after this stay I swore I would never ever ever be getting back to a dorm that big. (Ever since I have also slept in 40-bed-dorms and been quite comfy, thank you for asking.)
The dorm was tiny and crammed and as I was trying to make my way in after dark, I kept tripping over the mess of cords and chargers that was bundled up in the middle of the floor. There were no ladder for top bunks, so I monkey’d my way up to my bed and fell asleep. The next day I started my job hunt for realz because eating only rice and beans sucks (but not as bad as only eating noodles and tuna – cold – as I later discovered). I was sitting in the hallway next to a pile of somebody else’s dirty dishes because wifi didn’t reach the dorm, checking out the rather inspired graffiti on the walls. The guy who painted all that must’ve been higher than Empire State. (I am dropping so many song lyrics today it is shameful.) Suddenly a guy bust out of the male toilets yelling: ‘Someone’s shit all over the toilets – again!’
As I finally decided after two nights that I had had enough and needed to nope outta there, they were really friendly about me not extending my stay. They told me that if I gave them a 100% rating, I would get a free night when I came back. Uhm. no. Besides it is shameless trying to affect backpackers’ ratings that way because those ratings are what other visitors base their choice on.
However, they did try. I loved the movie night with popcorn in their cozy movie room, and I met a lot of people there who said they’d stayed there for weeks and were loving it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, umm, comfortableness in a hostel is in the soul of the hostel goer?
This one though. I did not have a blast in the cheapest hostel in Adelaide (which still, if memory serves, cost me a good 30 AUD per night) and I am blaming the hostel itself. The kitchen was filthy and had about one frying pan and two spoons in it, the bathroom door didn’t lock and the architect had apparently decided to save on AC since the corridors to the rooms were literally outside. I mean, there was a roof, but other than that you could have as well been hanging out on the porch. Which you wouldn’t have wanted to do because Adelaide was freezing that April.
The reception closed at random hours of the day and even when there was someone there, they seemed to not know anything about the city. However, there were people around the reception all day; At all times there was a bunch of Asian kids hanging around at the entrance, and I’m not talking about your regular kawaii-field-trip-gone-amok Asian kids that you see everywhere. No, these were like Yakuza Asian kids. Like Battle Royale Asian kids. They freaked me out.
Not as bad as the long-termers, though. According to other people’s reviews, they had been there before, and I would not be surprised to know they are still there. There was this older homeless-looking guy, who kept staring at the telly in the common room with fixed eyes. (The TV only played one channel which was Russian news, by the way.) His best pal was a woman, equally homeless-looking and twice crazier, for she kept staring at people in the common area (where no one hung out besides me – I wonder why) and muttering something to herself. Like, out loud. That’s when I noped the hell out and locked myself in my dorm.
However, on my last night there a couple of really sweet Asian girls were placed in my dorm, and after they heard I was travelling through the South coast next they gave me tips on where to visit and showed me their pictures of Esperance. So all in all not a completely wasted experience.
|Why to travel with friends, reason #1: friends take pictures of everything. Friends also dare you to eat a piece of bread with half of the contents of a Philadelphia jar just because in London, UK|
Before I knew Ben, I took an almost-spontaneous trip to London with my best friend, and because we were both on the thrifty side we decided to get a hostel. Of course. The thing is, I had real trouble finding a hostel in London that would’ve been both cheap and good. I know, I know – good and cheap don’t go hand in hand and I should not expect them to, but I have encountered that rare combo before so I know it is virtually possible.
Our flight landed after midnight and we had sent the hostel an e-mail beforehand asking if it was OK to make an appearance in the middle of the night and how we should make the booking in that case. They replied that we should book for four nights but they’d keep our reservation for the night we’d arrive and we’d pay for five. Well, what do you know – after a disoriented stroll along the Hyde Park fence we finally found the hostel at around 3 a.m. just to hear that there was no room for us but we could wait in the common room until people started checking out at ELEVEN THE NEXT MORNING. So we’re like nah bro, not cool. Katri had even printed out the emails and was showing them to the guy. What made the matter more difficult was that the guy at the reception didn’t seem to understand English. And I mean this was freaking London.
After a bit of back-and-forth they told they had one bed available and we could share it for the night. Cool as we are, we accepted this offer especially after he told us we wouldn’t need to pay for the night. So we climb up to the highest bunk on a three-story bunk bed construction and giggle about the absurdity of the situation a bit. We catch three, four hours of sleep and dress up in out best tourist gear.
That was not the end of it, though. The breakfast was the first shocker, They did tell us that the breakfast would end at ten, but what they failed to mention was that the breakfast would not only be collected at ten but everybody had to piss the hell out of the breakfast room exactly at ten. OK; well we wolf down the stuff we had got and went out for the day. In the evening we needed to cook up dinner, but surprise surprise, getting food is harder than you’d expect. The closet with kitchen utensils was locked, so we went up the narrow staircase to ask the reception for the key. So they came down to open the door – only thing is, the door doesn’t open. We waited there for maybe about twenty minutes smiling politely like people do when they want to punch somebody, until after two, three guys had wiggled the key in the lock the closet finally opened. When we were having dinner we realised we could’ve used a fork or something, but we let it slide. For some reason.
My favourite moment though was when we wanted to go out for the night but had no clue if Bayswater area was even alive. I went up to the reception and asked about a nice pub nearby where we could have a few pints. Guess where the guy told me to go? Primark. Yeah. To the place where you can get lost for hours shopping for one-pound t-shirts and two-pound shoes. (With those prices, if Primark ever did do beers, I would never drink anywhere else.) I just stared at him very confused and thought that maybe I had said it unclearly, so I repeated that we wanted to get beer somewhere, and the guy started giving me instructions how to find Primark. What made it all the more absurd was that it was about eight o’clock in the evening so all shops were already closed or closing soon.
The story doesn’t end here. Earlier this year Ben and I met some Finnish girls he had got to know last summer on his trip, and as they were complaining about their weird hostel, I casually asked which one it was. It was the same one.
However, as I was on a holiday with my best friend, nothing could go wrong, not really. We had a blast and just laughed about the weird stuff that was going on around us. We also met a really nice Aussie girl there who was starting her job as a receptionist, so maybe, at least for a bit, there was hope for the future guests to be understood.
|Lifehacks. Dealing with no mirror in a hostel room as you’re heading out still in London, UK|
There are some other weird happenings that you sometimes get in a hostel but which aren’t really worth long sentences; like that old man in a Nuremberg hostel whose bedtime story every night was to watch porn on his phone – which is gross, but what makes it ultimately weird is he was just watching it. Like you know, instead of doing other stuff that you usually do when watching porn. Then there was an older lady in a hostel in Melbourne that seemed to change her name every week, who nicked a mattress out of an empty bed and refused to give it back even when the dorm was fully booked and who liked telling people sob stories about her life which, just as her name, changed every once in a while. Or the showers in Munich that were separated by glass windows, because that is what privacy is like.
I admit though that I have got off easily. At some point karma is bound to strike back and send me living on a literal dump. Until that day comes, I will keep sharing barely-bad hostel stories.
Have you got any weird hostel experiences?