Since 2014 I have been reviewing every hostel I’ve stayed in on TripAdvisor. Since then, at least, I have stayed in 23 different hostels across Europe, so I hope that that figure gives an impression that I (to some extent) have an idea of what I am talking about, and this list is intended to be humorous. No doubt, however, there is much worse out there…
1. The Mosquitoes
It was 2015 and I had just finished a contract at a summer school in the Basque country. I had just travelled to San Sebastian with a colleague and was staying in a hostel in Bilbao before catching a flight back to London.
The hostel I stayed in in Bilbao was clean (very clean), but like most places in that part of Spain there was no A/C. Unfortunately, there were also mosquitoes. The dorm was faced with a choice of keeping the windows open (and getting eaten alive), or shutting them and getting hot. Very hot. This was during the 2015 summer heatwave. It was around 35 degrees outside during the daytime, and unfortunately didn’t get much cooler at night. In the end we opted for open windows. I had never thought that I would need a mosquito net for a holiday in Spain, but obviously I was wrong. For whatever reason, I was extremely attractive to them.
I got less than an hour’s sleep, and the next day was covered in angry red bite marks which itched like hell. Did I mention that I had to catch a flight that day? Well, yeah – I had to catch a flight that day.
2. The Bed
This happened at a hostel in Glasgow a few weeks ago. I went to bed early enough, around 10pm and lay down, hoping for some rest. Then I can suddenly feel something sticking into my back. I toss and turn and try to manoeuvre so it isn’t stabbing me. I realize that a spring is loose in the mattress. No matter how much I toss and turn I cannot get comfortable and my back is starting to get very sore. I go to reception to find it is closed. There was only one option left. I picked up my duvet and slept on a sofa in the common room.
3. The Sales Pitch
This happened at a hostel in Romania in July 2014. I will avoid naming the city, or it will become obvious which hostel I am talking about. I arrived in the afternoon with a large group and we were immediately met with a lengthy (maybe one hour) sales pitch for a number of tours and excursions. I knew from my previous research that the prices being quote were disproportionate to the actual cost, though the Americans I was with all went for it. Any attempt I made to ask the staff for information was met with lies or exaggerations (“The train station is really far away, you should use our taxi service”, etc). I asked for a key to the dorm and was asked for a 50 lei deposit, and getting that back was an interesting experience to say the least…
4. Others’ Indiscretions…
I was staying at a hostel in London in September 2014, for one night only. I had chosen the hostel because it was easily accessible from Heathrow airport: I had flown in from Milan and was flying out to Belfast the next day.
When I went to the dorm I was met by a friendly Australian guy in his late 20s, who was sleeping in the bunk below mine. Although he was quite keen to encourage me to come and drink with others in the hostel despite my protestations, he seemed alright. That is, until 3am, when I was woken up by the bunk shaking back and forth violently. I heard a woman moaning, and I realized immediately what was happening. This did not stop even when I got up and climbed out of the bunk, nor did it stop when I pulled my bag out of the locker beneath them. It continued even as I started packing up my belongings. As I left I noticed that he had left his wallet on the floor and his locker was unsecured. I hope that poor sucker chose his partner wisely.
5. The Fistfight
It was spring 2015 and I had just participated in an Angloville programme just outside of Wroclaw, and was staying at a hostel in the city for a few days afterwards to get a taste of the place. I had just finished my first set of university exams and was feeling optimistic about life.
It started normally, with some obnoxious idiots turning on the light at 4.30am after a night drinking and making a nuisance of themselves. I groaned at the thought of having to confront them, but before I could get up, a man sleeping in the bed opposite me had other ideas. He marched over to the group of guys and immediately headbutted one of them in the face. A loud argument in Polish followed and punches were thrown. I pulled the duvet over my head and waited for it to be over.
Eventually the man who had got violent was asked to leave (with threats of calling the police). Despite all this, it still took two complaints to reception to get the others to shut up and let the rest of the dorm sleep.