Staying in shit accommodation has a huge effect on your enjoyment of a place. We’ve been fairly lucky (well planned) that most of the hostels we have stayed in so far have been very good, and haven’t had a major impact on our impression of a place. That was, until our recent trip to Seminyak in Bali. We had done our usual pre-flight checks of reviews and prices, and booked to stay at Bedplus Backpackers.
We arrived after a three-hour drive from Amed and walked into an airy reception with a table to sit at and drink the free coffee. We checked in and paid the agreed rate. First impressions were fine, that was until we got into the bedroom. It smelled like death mixed with mothballs and the bathroom is what I would imagine a public men’s room to smell like if it hadn’t been cleaned in 30 years. I don’t know why we didn’t just leave. Actually, I do, we had already paid, and both me and Alex are stubborn bastards. We ended up feeling really ill for the two days we were there and we were sure it was the air con because our health greatly improved upon leaving. This is the first hostel we’ve stayed in that I believe needs to be burnt to the ground and started again.
Mind you, even though the accommodation was shit, Seminyak didn’t do itself any favours anyway. The beach was covered in plastic rubbish; it looked like a landfill. I was disgusted – especially after coming from a dive resort where we learned about the importance of preserving our marine life. Apparently, we had turned the wrong way and headed towards Kuta but, even so, as a first impression it was miserable. The next day we walked the other way, towards Potato Head beach club, which looked better but still not what I would call a nice beach. It was full of Aussie tourists, not the good kind, the kind that go to a place to fuck it up on a cheap, drinking holiday.
In this case, the shit accommodation was the icing on the cake because it meant that we couldn’t just go and relax in our room for fear of contracting some kind of airborne disease. However, there are a few things that even good hostels do that annoy the hell out of me.
After staying in 81 hostels in eight months across 16 countries I’ve compiled my top eleven tiny things that hostels get utterly wrong and should change immediately.
1. Being hidden in plain sight
Chances are, I’ve just arrived in this new place with no idea where I’m going and I probably don’t speak the language. I’ve looked up a map on my phone or I’m trying to find the hostel on maps.me. All goes well until I get to the point where every map and person I ask says the hostel should be and I just can’t find it. Put a sign outside, give us a break.
2. Signs about how your mother is not here to wash up after you
I am not 12. And even if I was, I am being brought up in a time where we should be fighting sexism not enforcing gender stereotypes. It’s these kind of patronising signs that really grind my gears. There are so many of them in hostels.
3. Wet rooms with nowhere for your towel
This would work if it were my shower at home. I could get out, grab a towel off a nearby shelf and not have to worry about strangers seeing me naked. I know space is limited but just give me a couple of hooks so I can hang a bag my with clothes in on the back of the door. It’s a really simple fix that will make the morning routine so much better.
4. Fake bars and forced party vibes
Just fuck off. If you run a bar, run an actual bar, with stock and real opening times and backpacker-friendly prices. Don’t tell me that I’m not allowed to bring in my own bottle of wine because you’re attempting to sell yourself as a party hostel because you made a ‘bar’ from a crate and organise one ‘pub crawl’ a week. There have been a few hostels like this, specifically in South America, that build your expectations and then slap you in the face when you arrive. Apart from Loki in La Paz, that was actually great.
5. Not letting you hang out in the hostel once you’ve checked out
We’re waiting for a flight, or a boat, or a bus and we just want some chill time. We want to use the wifi, write some blogs and upload some stuff. Don’t just kick us out onto the street or charge us more to stay here. It’s not what hostels are about.
6. One room with a combined toilet/shower for 50 people
Toilet and shower combo rooms are usually fine (apart from the toilet getting all wet after someone has showered) but you need to have more than one if you’re expecting about 50 people to use it. I don’t mind waiting for a shower, but making it impossible to pee between 7am – 11am because the showers are in constant use is just not fair.
7. Unmanaged long-term stay people
Again, just fuck off. Or if you’re going to stay in a hostel long-term at least tidy up after yourself and make actual backpackers feel welcome. In Melbourne and Brisbane we felt like we had walked, uninvited, into someone else’s house party and we shouldn’t be made to feel like that. Also, you don’t own the entire dorm so tidy your shit up.
8. Too many beds, too many many beds
Stop being greedy! You know that I am travelling with a backpack. You’re a hostel. Don’t just stuff in as many bunks as physically possible into a tiny dorm room. Give me space to put said backpack. You will get much higher ratings and, in turn, many more guests, if you keep your hostel comfortable. Also, if there is a key to the door but they only give us one because we are a couple, I will find you, and I will kill you.
9. Charging extra for basic human rights
Haven’t they seen the new hierarchy of needs? Wifi underpins everything. At least just add another pound onto the price so that it will pay for the cost overall. We expected this in far flung places like Patagonia (where the wifi was included and actually pretty good) but Australia? New Zealand? Come on. Mind you, places that provide shit free wifi are equally as bad. I’d rather they just provided no wifi and we’re upfront about it.
10. Untimely and costly breakfasts
Just know your customer a little. There is going to be a rhythm to the place you are staying in, people might leave early to trek or go on tours, or it might be a lazy place with late night fun and late mornings. Time your breakfast accordingly. Don’t make me get up before 9am for the free toast if you know people are likely to be out until 6am. And don’t tell me that you do breakfast but that we have to pay for it. If I knew I had to get my own stuff sorted, that’s fine, just tell me in advance. Don’t mess with a hangry Lisa in the morning.
11. Shit/badly managed volunteer staff
There have been people who don’t know the local area or just generally don’t know what’s going on, but they try their best to help. They are the good staff who have been badly trained and managed. Then you just get utter shitfucks who are using the free work/free accommodation model to avoid running home to mummy and daddy because they’ve drunk all their gap yah money. They are the kind who don’t reply to emails, don’t give a shit about customer service, and who make you feel uncomfortable because they are using the hostel as their free home with their other volunteer mates rather than actually running it for other backpackers. Nothing in this life is free, darling.