When it comes to making travel plans, the word ‘hostel’ is greeted with much less suspicion and dread today than it may have done in the past. Staying in a hostel has gone from seeming like the last resort option that sacrificed comfort for a saving to becoming places that are more or less equal to a 3-star hotel (and with character and quirky décor to boot!). But as with most things in life, you’re only hearing half the story of these fabulous modern hostels because for every clean and cozy place, there are those that make it seem appealing to sleep on the curb in the winter.
First off, don't be alarmed. Despite what the title suggests, we’re not here to chronicle hostels where actual bad incidences have gone down! But for any first-time backpacker hoping to enjoy their first-ever Europe trip on the cheap and have the time of their lives, things certainly went the way of a film in lots of ways. These shoddy hostels don't deserve to be filed under ‘accommodations’ since most of them seem to take pride in doing anything but accommodate their guests—the only hostel extra provided here was nightmares...by the barrel-full. Here are 20 examples of the kinds of murky conditions and less-than-welcoming guests you can occasionally find in hostels.
20 Paper-thin Walls - Hostel Angelina, Croatia
Anyone who's ever stayed in college dorm rooms will be all too familiar with the horrors of cheap paper-thin walls. (My uni dorm was right next to the kitchen and the corridor, so believe, I heard everything, and I mean everything.) Still, I count myself luckier than backpackers hoping to sleep in hostels with thin walls because at least I got to have the luxury of my own private room. Unfortunately, while staying at the Hostel Angelina in Dubrovnik, Croatia, travel bloggers Pepe and his girlfriend, Liza, got next to no sleep, thanks to walls so thin in their supposedly “private room” that the experience felt more like a shared dorm.
When their loud neighbors returned to the building after 4 am, they began taking a shower, which Pepe describes as “sounding like they were taking a shower in OUR room.” Yikes. Most backpackers are usually a little weary from their nonstop bus hopping and sightseeing in their destination before hitting the hay, but Pepe and Liza had an added bit of trekking to do, thanks to climbing some 100 steps to retrieve their private room key from the hostel ‘headquarters’ in the center of Dubrovnik (all while carrying heavy bags too!).
19 No Shower Curtain In Shared Hostel - Armenia
Whether you’re staying in a private room or a shared dorm, most hostels have a shared bathroom like they do a shared common room space, so the majority of hostel bookers know this far in advance. Unlike hotel bathroom facilities, even the priciest of hostel accommodations will not always guarantee a private shower facility. Many hostels do not even have separate bathroom areas for men and women—this we know. But the very least you should be entitled to be some privacy within your own shower cubicle. Tell that to this ridiculous Armenian hostel that denied its guests the basic decency of a shower curtain to protect their modesty!
When Polish travel blogger Piotr and his friends were on a backpacking trip through Armenia, they were looking forward to making new friends and getting to know the other hostel guests in their shared room. Little did Piotr know just how intimately his fellow hostel guests would be getting to know him! While trying to make the best of it and take the most exposed public shower of his life, things got even more awkward. “One guy from India comes into the room with no intention of taking a shower. He then starts talking to me about how handsome my friend, Dominik was. I had no idea how to behave in this highly uncomfortable situation. I’m sure I would have never remembered that conversation if it hadn't taken place under that shower,” he recalled.
18 Showers Covered In Hair And No Hot Water - Flamenka Hostel, Spain
We’ve all been guilty of clogging up shower drains with our own hair (especially troublesome if you have long curly tresses too!), but most of us do the decent and courteous thing of cleaning up after ourselves. This is basic bathroom hygiene and decorum 101. You learned it at a pretty early age either at home or in gym showers at school. Not hard to keep in check, right? Hmm, not so much in low-grade hostels. Safe in the knowledge that some poor cleaning staff will sort out the mess left by lazy backpackers, the worst kind of hostel bathrooms resemble something closer to a cave (and at least Neanderthals used proper tools to create their wall ‘art’).
On what was supposed to be an amazing 16-day euro trip with her bestie, one travel blogger instantly regretted booking a long stay at the super gross Flamenka Hostel in Seville, and in the end, she could only stomach 2 nights of it. Added to the fact that there was no hot water during their stay, the bathroom conditions don't make you want to hang around for a freezing one either. “The shower room clearly hadn't been cleaned for ages – you could see long black EVERYWHERE on the walls and on the floor of the shower. The hostel staff were no help either,” she wrote.
17 Blocked Outdoor Shower And Mosquito-filled Dorm - Bali
As you probably gathered by this point, hostel bathrooms and shower facilities are far from the best. But when showering indoors suddenly seems like a luxury, you know you’ve got a pretty bad deal. When travel blogger Emilia and her boyfriend were traveling through Indonesia, they wound up staying in a Bali hostel with, let's say, less than conventional bathing facilities. On the last day of their Bali trip, the couple got caught in a thunderstorm. Unluckily for them, it was also getting too dark to be picky about certain hostels and had no choice but to choose a super cheap option just to get some shut-eye. If only that were the case.
You get what you pay for, but whatever Emilia and her partner paid the hostel can’t have been anywhere near enough, because it didn't even have any bathroom to speak of. Unless you count a heavily-clogged outdoor shower? Nasty. To make matters worse, there was another reason an al fresco hairy shower didn't sound all that appealing. “Taking showers under a starry night has its charm, but not when you notice there is a building in front of you whose windows overlook the shower,” she wrote. On top of everything, the room was completely filled with mosquitoes, and the pair came away with plenty of red itchy souvenirs. Nice!
16 Day Long Power Cuts And Cold Showers In The Dark - Istanbul
From gross drain-clogged showers under the night’s sky to bathing oneself in sudden, total darkness. Some of the world’s worst hostels really have it covered when it comes to disappointing bathroom facilities. I can see a game of hostel bathroom bingo being played about this in the common room or maybe some kind of game for every missing amenity—it might possibly be the only way to survive a night in one of these places! On to a superb Turkish hostel now where Alannah of the travel blog In Foreign Lands stayed during her trip around Istanbul.
Upon booking at the hostel, Alannah noticed that the place had plenty of hit and miss reviews and decided to chance it and hope for the best. In this case, things definitely headed to fail town and set up camp. Of the five nights she stayed there, the hostel suffered two power shortages (each lasting a whole day), and unluckily for Alannah, both power cuts happened the minute she hopped into the shower. Ouch. “At first, I thought my friend was playing a joke, but soon after the lights went out, the water turned freezing.” The hostel staff’s ‘solution’ to the temporary power cuts weren’t so bright either, “Reception only provided a few half-used tealight candles.” Winning.
15 Multiple Bed Bug Bites, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Remember when your Mom would tuck you in at night and repeat that strange little saying “Don’t let the bedbugs bite?” You probably thought nothing of it then and put it out of your head for most of your childhood, safe in the knowledge that they weren't real since it never happened. Skip ahead to adulthood, however, and you’re in need of a cheap place to stay while you travel the world, and there you have it, bed bugs are a reality. And in the worst hostels around the world, these nasty critters seem to be as much of a guarantee as loud dorm-mates and dirty floors.
Blogger Steph from Traveling Miss Lazy woke up to a scary sight after staying in a particularly dirty Malaysian hostel in Kuala Lumpur. The state of the beds should always be your first clue as to poor hostel conditions which Steph described as seeming like “the fans could blow them apart.” But as with booking certain hostels, the decent ratings and reasonable pictures told a different story. Most of the time, hostels will charge a fee for bedding, and even then, some will not have been cleaned in months. Case in point, Steph woke up to find her arms covered in red and itchy bed bug bites. Eww! This is exactly why it's a good idea to bring your own travel sleeping bag with you to give your skin a chance against these bed nasties!
14 Kings Cross Party Hostel, Sydney
Because it’s not always backpackers who are made to suffer the traumas of a gross and filthy hostel, we found a staff member's perspective on working in (and cleaning) a certain Aussie hostel that has one of the worst reputations in the travel community. If the Kings Cross hostel in Sydney rings a bell to you, you likely came across some story on the Internet (or else, someone traveling with you once told you about their experience by campfire). This particular place is a party hostel, and that should tell you straight away what this poor woman was in for.
The Irish travel writer and woman behind the blog Journalist On The Run, Janet Newenham, landed what she hoped would be an amazing new opportunity for her shortly after moving to Australia. She got a job at Syndey’s Kings Cross party hostel, and at first, she got a buzz out of working on reception and showing new guests around. But before long, her job description narrowed down to cleaner. As well as having to deal with puke hurled onto the staircase, on the walls, and in dorm rooms (on a nightly basis!).
13 Flooded Showers - Nomads Mad Camel, New Zealand
Peter Jackson has a lot to answer for here because, thanks to the Lord of the Rings franchise, it’s fooled many of us into thinking that even New Zealand’s hostels are a thing of beauty. Erm, nope! In fact, one veteran backpacker classed an ill-fated trip to this hostel in Auckland as one of his worst ever experiences while traveling. Oh boy. (A trek to Mordor sounds like bags more fun than an extended stay at this particular place!) Backpacker Ed Rex of the travel blog Rexy Adventures began his much-anticipated trip to New Zealand with a 2-night stay at the Nomads Mad Camel hostel in Auckland and instantly regretted it.
Gorgeous mountain scenery and the gentle tones of Enya on loop isn’t enough to distract from what a dive this place is. In his potently-disappointed blog post, Ed describes the experience as he walked into a dorm room covered in “week old food stains,” a carpet of beer cans, and to top it all off, discovering hair in his bed sheets. Not very Tolkien-esque is it? The bathroom facilities were reportedly no better either. The showers were flooded and appeared to have been neglected by cleaning staff for some time. We still love you, NZ, but sort your hostel game out!
12 The Shower Being Used For Other Things - Rotterdam
When you think about the conditions of some of the hostel bathrooms on this list, it perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise that some guests might sometimes mistake it for something other than a wash facility—like say the kind of dirty urinal you might find in a burnt out building that’s been abandoned for decades. A shower this dirty would possibly give some desperate backpackers a cue to answer the call of nature. But in this particular Rotterdam hostel, the conditions weren't as dire as all that to suggest this to anyone—not that this stopped some nearby locals around the hostel!
A backpacker revealed the time that he and a friend were sticking to a strict budget while traveling through Holland and spent just 30 Euros on a 3-night stay. With such low funds, neither of them were expecting the lap of luxury comforts. But the fact that the hostel stood above a nightclub made everything about their stay even worse. Music thumped until all hours, windows were broken in their dorm, but worst of all was the discovery that the shower was being used by clubbers as an unofficial urinal! So so gross!
11 When ‘Luxury Dorm’ Means One With Running Water - Kazakhstan
Backpackers could write an encyclopedia on the evils of hostel bathrooms from filthy walls and blocked drains to ice-cold showers and power cuts. But for all the stuff that can go wrong with hostel bathroom facilities, guests can at least count their lucky stars that even the worst hostels actually have a washroom facility at all. Hmm. Hold that thought... because a certain guesthouse in Kazakhstan has just squashed that hope.
When travel writer and photographer Agnieszka booked what appeared to call itself a ‘standard room’ on the guesthouse hostel website, she assumed that the bare minimum would be waiting for her—a bed, a toilet, and a place to wash. Stunningly, she was only two thirds right, since the sight she was greeted within the common ‘bathroom’ was an overgrown sink masquerading as a bathtub with the instruction “take (water) bottle shower.” Still, at least the guesthouse actually offered the chance to pay a little more to experience their “luxurious bathroom” facility. And by luxurious, they meant a room actually containing a bathroom with running water. Yikes. Since she was sharing a dorm and common toilet/sink with 3 other guests, Agnieszka decided to pay the extra amount. We wonder how they even manage to get guests booking in this place at all.
10 No Door Locks And Generally Poor Conditions - Hans Brinker Hostel, Amsterdam/Lisbon
Unlike most of the hostels in this list, this one in particular has more respect from us, simply because it at least owns how bad its conditions have been in the past. If you've never stayed in the Amsterdam or Lisbon branches of the Hans Brinker hostels personally, then you may have heard about them through social media memes and travel blogs, because this is one bad hostel that has self-deprecation down to an art (quite literally, as it uses actual customer complaints and grievances in its promo campaigns!).
After being inundated with scathing online reviews and repeatedly being crowned the world’s worst hostel on Trip Advisor, Hans Brinker (eventually) stepped up to the plate, and now, backpackers are flocking to visit it “ironically”. A funny example of Hans Brinker at its classic worst is one Trip advisor’s account of a 2013 stay in Amsterdam. In it, she recalled the appalling and seemingly casual lack of security, the guests lying bare on the floor to greet her, and a guy who was let loose to firehose the entire floor. Gotta hand it to them, Hans Brinker hostels know how to give guests an adventure!
9 The 16-bed Dorm Dubbed The “Refugee Camp” - Kings Cross, Sydney
Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross Hostel makes another appearance here as one of the less inviting places to come for a budget layover in Oz. Keen travel blogger Zosia shared a post about one such stay in the Aussie hostel. And as a well-seasoned backpacker, she believed she had seen everything. As a solo traveler and in pairs with her partner, Zosia claimed to have more than her fair share of bad hostel experiences: “bug infested beds in Thailand and dirty toilets guarded by aggressive geckos in Cambodia.” But nothing had quite prepared her enough for the dorms at Kings Cross.
Despite various warnings from friends not to book at the infamous hostel, one night of her Syndey travels with friends left her with no option (and very little money left), so she booked two beds in what she imagined would be a 4 or 6-bed shared dorm. The reality was a cramped dorm room of 16 beds! Their dorm came to be nicknamed the “refugee camp,” owing to the fact that guests would come and go, leaving their food and dirty underwear all over the place like they were camping (minus the much-needed fresh air, of course). The cherry on top was the night Zosia and her friends nearly had their belongings ravaged when a crow flew in through the broken window and attacked the backpacks. Never again.
8 Windowless With Giant Roaches - City Rooms, NYC
From bugs sharing a hostel bed with you to giant ones crawling along the floor, low-rated hostels never seem to be in short supply of creepy crawlies, as this super gross account of a New York hostel will testify. While staying overnight in the Big Apple, travel blogging couple Liza and Pepe over at tripsget.com recounted the time they shared their room with an unexpected ‘guest,’ a giant cockroach. Yuck. Needing to take a break between their flights from Mexico to Russia, it was more convenient to stop over in an NYC hostel in Chelsea for the night (but in hindsight, perhaps a nap in the airport would have been the better option!).
The couple had picked the City Rooms hostels in the city based on decent ratings and a decent low-season price of $60-70 per night. But for the price they paid, a cell might have afforded them a better night’s sleep! No elevators meant carrying heavy luggage to the third floor. And once they got there, Pepe and his partner, Liza, were greeted by a stuffy windowless room with a dust-covered fan and no locks on the door. The final straw was watching a big roach scuttle across the floor. Luckily, a quick complaint got them moved to the next available room, with a window and no creepy crawlies. Luxury!
7 The Hostel Above The Heavy Metal Bar - London
Some backpackers stay in hostels with the express intention of partying 24/7 rather than actually seeing the sights they flew hundreds–maybe thousands–of miles to see. If this is what you look for in a hostel, then great. Maybe this London accommodation could be the place for you, but you’d be in the minority. Weary travelers need sleep at the end of the day, so whoever thought to set up a hostel right above a heavy metal bar is surely some kind of comedian, no?
Poor travel blogger Steph at Traveling Miss Lazy wasn’t laughing so much when she finally got to her deceptively-decent hostel. “When I finally found the hostel according to the address I found online, I was shocked as I stumbled on to a bar with live rock bands instead. The lady at the door kept asking for a 35 entry fee and couldn't hear me when I asked where the hostel was. I eventually realized that the hostel entrance was at the back of the bar. I could only hear two things that night – the live band playing as much metal songs ever made in the universe and a lady shouting for £5.” Unbelievable.
6 No Sleep Due To Teenagers - McCraig’s Return Hostel, Scotland
Anyone who’s been to college or indeed anyone who’s lived in a central city apartment will have surely experienced being rudely awoken by loud teenagers, whether it’s people pouring out of city bars and clubs at the weekend or your less-than-considerate college roommates coming back at 5 am while singing a Katy Perry hit at the top of their lungs. But it becomes a very different kind of problem when you’re faced with this same situation while staying in a hostel. You wouldn’t expect hotel staff to stand for loud, disruptive people, but staying in certain hostels, it seems that insomnia is just something that guests have to put up with.
Liza and Pepe over on tripsget recalled the time when their weekend trip to Scotland was ruined by a relentless group of teens outside their window. The couple booked a hostel in the tiny and seemingly quiet town of Oban in western Scotland, but this proved to be anything but. It wasn't until 5 am that the couple managed to get any shut-eye, and by then, Pepe had understandably lost patience with the teens, “I couldn't resist pouring some water on their heads from our window. I also threw a pepper to them! After lots of swearing, they left after 5 minutes.” Man alive.
5 Hard Beds And ‘Sewer-smelling’ Rooms - Jaques Brel Youth Hostel, Brussels
No hostel dweller–veteran or newbie–is under any delusion about the fact that hostel beds don't provide the best night's sleep in the world. No one is expecting a memory foam mattress and silk pillows with a chocolate mint on top. The very least that hostel guests can hope to find, though, is a bed with a little more comfort value than a shelf. One traveler’s trip to the Jaques Brel Youth Hostel in Brussels meant a night spent on a bare plastic bed...with no sheets. And because he had arrived at said hostel dorm after 11 pm, there was no clerk or staff member on hand to hire bed sheets from. Sleep tight! (I think even a bed made out of Lego bricks would be more comfortable at that point.)
On top of rock solid beds that made good night's sleep impossible, the unwelcoming aroma in this particular Brussels hostel made it equally hard for this guy and fellow guests to get some shut-eye. The attached bathroom to the dorm room had clearly not been cleaned in quite some time because, as described in his 1-star Trip Advisor review, the resulting stench wafting into their room resembled “an unbearable sewer-like smell.” Just what you need to refresh you for the long day of sightseeing ahead!
4 No Air Flow And An ‘Almost Visible’ Stench - Smart Camden Hostel, London
Finding a great hostel for a reasonable price in any city center is always going to be a little problematic, especially during summer and the high tourists seasons. But combine all this with a massive global event happening down the street from, like say, The Olympics and the chances of finding a great hostel at short notice is pretty much zero. This is what Auston and David of the travel blog Two Bad Tourists discovered when they realized that they happened to arrive at their central London hostel during the opening weekend of the 2012 London Olympic Games!
Some could argue that Auston and David are at fault for picking a bad time to stay in a London hostel (and to be fair, they kind of won this in their blog name!), but bad timing or not, the most anyone should be entitled to is a comfortable place to rest for the night. A lack of research might have bitten them in the butt with this one, but at the same time, a 3-star hostel at the rate of $35 per night shouldn’t have to put up with cramped conditions, no floor space for belongings, and a faulty sink. Please, people, do your research!
3 Bed Sheets Soaked And No 24/7 Reception - The Holyhead, Dublin
A disgruntled guest quite rightly vented his anger and disgust out on Trip Advisor, and as much as we feel sorry for him, it makes for quite a funny review (sorry, pal). The Holyhead hostel in Dublin has had some surprisingly favorable reviews from some guests, but by the looks of things, this Irish hostel is definitely more miss than hit, and considering it charges the extortionate rate of 80 Euros per night on average (around $94!), this poor traveler definitely got the fuzzy end of the lollipop (and the wet end of the bed). First impressions in the lobby didn’t signal a good start: “It’s a grubby disaster of a building with a 1980’s horror movie feel. The little couches outside the rooms look like they’ve been dragged in off the street after a recent shower from a sewage pipe.” And things only got worse from there.
2 Unusual Talks With The Owner - Bosnia
A lot of the time in many of the lower-rated hostels, the managers are rarely present. In fact, a common theme throughout this list appears to be that hostel staff members–even those on the front desk–are never around. In times of crisis like an urgent cleanup job, inattentive hostel staff can be a frightening thing. However, there are times when the opposite can be just as questionable—like a hostel manager that won’t stop talking (and in a not-so-friendly manner either).
High-class hotels and even boutique shops often hire staff specifically to greet customers and develop a warm and welcoming rapport. Knowing they don't need to try all that hard, the vast majority of hostels don’t have the same service, but some chatty owners take it upon themselves to make conversations, and then there are those that skip the formalities with strange stories.
1 Room The Size Of “A Telephone Box” - Apache Hostel, Ireland
Veteran backpackers and hostel dwellers might argue that dorm conditions, including size, is something you simply have to pay to get more of and that hostels are just your base while traveling, so why does it really matter? Well, when cramped conditions can raise the aroma of cheesy feet and body odor up a notch, then yeah, size really does matter when it comes to staying in hostels. No traveler expects luxurious open-plan dorms when they opt for hostel sleeping, but if you happen to have less legroom and breathing space in a room full of strangers than you did when having a sleepover with 5 friends in your childhood bedroom, then you know standards have fallen way below the norm.
While staying in the Apache Hostel in Ireland one night, a Trip Advisor review said it all when he described the dorm as a “twin room the size of a telephone box.” Eww. I honestly can’t (nor want to) imagine the stuffy stench in there. Luckily, the unfortunate guest saw the humor in it all...