Lonely Planet Writer

Hostel horror stories

I’m in transit on my way home from Lviv, Ukraine. In this lovely and still good value city I was able to afford a hotel room, and jolly nice it was too. But like all hotels it was missing a few things that you only find in hostels, those friends of budget travellers everywhere. Any good hostel has three things no hotel, even the most expensive, can offer: the perfect atmosphere to make friends, communal areas to hang out in and the possibility of sharing your sleeping space with eccentric fellow travellers from all over the world.

You didn't use the sleep sheet provided!

Over the years I’ve had some weird and wonderful moments in hostels and thought most of you have too. So, here are a few of my hostel horror stories. Why not add yours below?

Rotorua, New Zealand. It is the small hours of the morning. The patio-style sliding door of my ten-person dorm opens. Male and female whispering voices enter what is officially a male dorm, and climb into the same bunk. The bunk is directly above me. After the noise of trousers being removed, the bunk begins to rock. It continues to for the next hour or so. The next morning a room-mate questions one of the occupants of the bunk about his behaviour. ‘Cool it man, we are lovers, we are travellers, we are not sleepers!’ is the amorous backpacker’s unforgettable response.

Warsaw, Poland. The HI Hostel is oddly located on the top floors of what seems to be an office block, but it is cheap and full of friendly wanderers from all over the world. My trusty portable radio is blasting out cheesy Polish pop while new friends have a nightcap and play some cards. As Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ comes over the airwaves, a group of (possibly Russian) students who’ve had too much vodka storm into the lounge, chanting ‘Kylie! Kylie!’ One of them continues his march into the kitchen, where he collapses among a hail of crashing pots and pans, cuts his head and passes out. An ambulance arrives shortly after.

Queenstown: hike up the Remarkables to avoid smelly towel

Queenstown, New Zealand (what is it about New Zealand?). An odd smell appears to be permeating my room, shared with five other men. Driven to distraction by the funk, a search party comprising of me and two horrified Australians reveals a towel owned by a man named Victor who we had met earlier. This damp, fetid garment smelt like a bear. It may have been white once but is now dark grey. We place it in quarantine in a plastic bag while we seek Victor’s removal from the room. It turns out he is booked in for a month in this hostel. The owner refuses to order his eviction. We move ourselves to another room, only to be woken at 4am by the (seemingly compulsory) drunk chap who turns all the lights on and passes out in his bunk, snoring loudly.

Adelaide, Australia. High summer and the temperature well into the forties. The hostel has a large garden with communal tables that are great for socialising. As the warm evening drags on, the cold beer flows and for one man, enough is too much. His long explanations of the political situation in the Basque Country, where he is from, have fallen on bored ears. ‘You don’t understand!’ he rages at the Korean and Australian sitting with him and, making to stomp off, stands up a little too quickly, in the process sending the table and fifteen people’s drinks flying. Rather shame-faced, he is to return to the garden with a mop and bucket.

Knoydart, Scotland. This happened in a mountain bothy, a rough stone hut, usually with a few sleeping platforms and not much else. It is a hostel boiled down to base elements. My brother and I arrive at dusk – which in the Highlands in June was around 11pm – to find only a few spots left on the floor. We grab them, tired and wet after a long walk in from where we’d parked the car. Later still, another group of hikers arrive and, finding the hut full, slightly bad-temperedly pitch their tent outside by the shores of Loch Hourn. Despite the wonderful setting they obviously hadn’t enjoyed the night under the stars as they left early the following morning. Before going they dropped the latch on the door of the bothy, locking us in. It took an hour of eyeing each other up as possible meals to figure a way out, which involved smashing the only window in the hut and climbing out of a tiny hole scraping knees and elbows. If you’re reading this, thanks, guys.

Tom Hall