3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember

We’ve all spent at least one nightmare night in a hostel during our backpacking years, haven’t we? Well, I can count at least 3 hostel nightmares in my traveling experience. That’s at least 3 hostels that have been less than memorable in terms of getting proper rest, but which somehow managed to stick to my memory for the hilarity and absurdity of what happened.

Continue reading to discover my worst hostel nightmares.

3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember 

Fighting the drunk hordes in The Terrace, Antigua (Guatemala)

I had only been in Guatemala for four days. This was meant to be the beginning of my 6 months adventure across Latin America. I was sure I had everything under control and I would be able to face any bad experience that may occur along the way. After the first three nights in Antigua, I decided to spend an extra night before making my way to Lake Atitlan.

Unfortunately, the lovely hostel where I had been sleeping was all booked up, so I decided to make online reservations for another one. Back then I had a tight budget, so I was looking for something cheap. The Terrace, at $ 8 per night, breakfast included, in a 4 beds dorm, looked good on the pictures and it had good reviews. One of the most popular hostels in Antigua, indeed: there must be a reason for this, I thought!

Another church - as many others, destroyed by an earthquake
Another church in Antigua – as many others, it has been destroyed by an earthquake

I made my way there in the morning, wanting to drop my backpack and have time to browse around town more. I missed the front door a couple of times before actually finding the place – it was hardly visible. When I finally found it, I walked in to be welcomed by a 20-something American receptionist (and her lovely dog). She seemed nice enough.

The hostel seemed a bit old and in need of refurbishment but I did not think too much of it. I would only be staying here for one night after all. When I was shown to my dorm, I realized it would be worse than I had expected. A dressed guy was sleeping in his bunk – considering it was around 12 pm, it was a bit odd to me. The dorm was tiny, to say the least.

The only window faced an internal covered patio and hardly any natural light or fresh air would come in. You can imagine the stench. The toilet and bathroom in front of the dorm had the moldiest rug and shower curtain I had ever seen. The wooden door was so rotten that I thought it would fall apart if I pulled it too hard. The electric shower had wires coming out – I thought I might get electrocuted if I did not pay attention (or even if I did).

But alas, it would only be for one night.

After a day of walking around and a lovely dinner, still a bit jet legged, I wanted to have an early night and went back to the hostel. I then realized I had accidentally booked a night stay at a party hostel, were all the other backpackers except me were in their early twenties.

Noise travelled easily in the badly organized place: young backpackers were all getting ready to spend a night out and party. I thought that, as soon as they would leave, I could finally fall asleep. Wanting to be extra safe I even wore earplugs. I jumped on the bed to find out that I could feel the wires – this was by far one of the least comfortable beds I had ever slept on.

I thought of sleeping on the floor, but there was not enough room to do that. The synthetic sheets on my bed were so old that they would come off the mattress, revealing stains. I kept my clothes on, in an attempt not to catch bed bugs (luckily, it worked).

Worried but exhausted I fell asleep but my rest only lasted two hours: that’s when the other guests started making their way back to the hostel. Completely drunk, they kept laughing loudly, screaming, opening doors (which I kept on closing). To top this off, despite my earplugs I could hear them gagging and vomiting (and then laughing about it).

The entire affair must have lasted about one hour, without anybody from the reception intervening to stop the noise. When the drunken crew finally collapsed, I sighted and thought I could finally rest a bit more.

Or not. Or it wouldn’t be one of my worst hostel nightmares!

One hour later, somebody entered the room, pointing a flashlight at my face, calling for a girl named Myra. I told him off, and said there was no Myra in that room: I was the only girl there and I definitely wasn’t Myra. He then asked if I knew where she was, as he had to wake her up for her bus. I told him to go away, I did not know who this Myra was and I had no idea where she may be.

That was the end of my attempts to rest – I decided to get up, shower, and wait for my ride to Lake Atitlan – where I found a super cool hostel and finally rested my sore bones. However, the cherry on the cake was finding out that The Terrace was actually meant to be the hostel where I was supposed to volunteer in Antigua – I had talked to the owner several times over Skype, but I had forgotten the name and despite being offered the position I decided I did not want to work on my first week of traveling.

The lesson I have learned? Always always always check TripAdvisor reviews, and also check the age of the reviewer. Always read the bad comments – they are usually the most honest ones. And, more than anything else, stay away from The Terrace, in Antigua. It is one of the worst hostel nightmares that can ever happen to you.

where to stay in Cartagena

Dancing the night away in Cartagena (Colombia)

I was happy to find Mama Waldy when checking for places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia. Conveniently located in the heart of Getsemani, a cool area undergoing constant restoration, popular among backpackers and with a lovely relaxed feel to it. I soon discovered that the location was just about the only positive thing about this hostel. Little did I know that this would be one of my worst hostel nightmares.

As soon as I checked in, I knew I had made a mistake. This is possibly one of the worst hostels I found in my entire life. It used to be an old colonial house. By the look of it, it had never been restored – let alone cleaned. I arrived there at night, after a day of traveling – only to find there was a party going on.

My dorm was just on the main lobby, and since there were no keys to the dorms, people could walk in and out as they liked – and by people I mean people, not just guests. In fact, while I was there, somebody who was at the party just did.

All the guests belongings were left around for people to grab them if they liked. The room was so dirty (paper, food, clothes, shoes and what not on the floor, under the bed, etc; no bins to place garbage), the bathroom so cramped, small and filthy, that I did not even consider using the toilet. I just locked my stuff away and ran out to eat and breathe.

As I got back past midnight, it was finally quiet. But the dorm was so hot and suffocating (there were no windows in any of the room, just a door to the lobby) that I soon realized I would be unable to sleep there. I walked out and I must have looked so disheartened that one of the owners saw me and asked what was wrong, and I plainly said that my dorm was filthy, hot, and I could not sleep there. That one one of my hostel nightmares there and then.

He eagerly explained that they cleaned the rooms regularly but there was little they could do against messy backpackers. Possibly, what would help would be putting less beds in a dorm and maybe a hanger and a basket to throw away stuff? Anyways, he thankfully offered to put me in a private room, which was only slightly better – yet, no shower curtain, tiny bathroom, and covered in an inch of dust.

Breakfast was supposedly included, and surely paid for, but consisted of 2 slices of toasted bread (with, I guess, cream cheese or butter), and coffee. Not even served on plates. After all, the kitchen hardly seemed equipped.

There was a laundry service. That’s if you fancy your clothes being hung to dry on the roof of the hostel. By which I do not mean hanging lines in the roof, but being placed on actual tiles.

Yet, what really bothered me the most about Mama Waldy was the music and noise. It only stopped past midnight and was so loud that, if you were up for an early night and felt tired, you wouldn’t be able to sleep. It felt like being in a disco, really. And since noise travelled really easily and by 6 am people would start waking up, my sleep would be cut short every day. Definitely one of my worst hostel nightmares.

For better places to stay in Cartagena, check out this post.

hostel nightmares
Suchitoto, home of one of my worst hostel nightmares

Running water in Suchitoto (El Salvador)

I arrived in Suchitoto after a very long day of travelling from Leon, Nicaragua, during which I took a bus to the village of Potosi, where I did my immigration formalities; waited on the beach for 3 hours without having the possibility to go back to the village in search of shade, water or food (by then I was legally already out of Nicaragua!), as the Nicaraguan marina would not allow the boat to leave due to the rough sea conditions; eventually, 2 hours on the speed boat along the challenging Gulf of Fonseca during which I got completely soaked due to the bumping and the waves, and various more hours on a bus from La Union to Suchitoto.

By the time I reached my final destination, I was grateful that my hostel room at El Gringo had not been given away, since it was so late. The owner drove me to the hostel, on the other side of town from where he lived. His wife showed me to my room and explained how the keys worked. They immediately left and there was no staff on site. And I was in for one of my worst hostel nightmares.

The reality of the hostel was not hard to spot. My room was below a restaurant, the only window was on a living room which faced an internal living room (mind you, that is a big word).

The bathroom, which was shared with another room, was no more than a sink in the patio, a wall to separate a toilet and a cold water only shower. And for as hot as it is in Suchitoto, I was not ready to have a cold shower that late at night, and went to bed with my hair full of salt from the Gulf.

The room was so humid that it was covered in mould stains and paint was coming off the walls.

The sheets so small and so acrylic that they would slide off the bed, so that despite all my efforts to arrange them, I ended up sleeping on the mattress. The floor below the bed was so dirty and full of dust, hair, and garbage, that I wondered if it had ever been cleaned. I was so tired anyhow, that I could hardly be bothered with any of this.

A refreshing shower the morning after and a lovely day in Suchitoto almost made me forget about the terrible hostel. That was, until the new Canadian guest came in. Hard to avoid him since my window gave into the living room where he was relaxing on a rocking chair. So, we chatted along for a few moments, until eventually he decided it was bed time and he’d brush his teeth, and I laid on my bed to do some emailing.

That’t when I heard a crushing noise, like that of porcelain plates being broken, and the poor Canadian kid screaming “what the heck!” I ran out to check what had happened. Water was splashing all over and he was completely wet.

The remains of the sink were scattered on the floor: apparently, he had leaned on the sink with his hand while brushing his teeth, but despite being a fit guy the sink did not hold his weight and collapsed! You can imagine the hilarity of such a scene.

We took pictures, we laughed and eventually we decided that if we did not want to flood the entire place, we had to close all the pipes. It worked, but it meant that we were not even able to flush the toilet.

Suchitoto, El Salvador
Los Tercios waterfalls look a bit like the Giant Causeway

The morning after I was glad to have an early start and having to leave at 6:00 am, leaving the other guest alone to explain to the owner what had happened, and that perhaps restoration and refurbishing was much needed in the hostel! This was one of my worst hostel nightmares proper!

What are your worst hostel nightmares experiences to date?

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Discover the worst hostel nightmares - via @clautavani

15 thoughts on “3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember”

  1. Oh no, they all sound pretty bad! My worst hostel experience was in a hostel I stayed in in Cork, Ireland. The hostel itself was rundown and the lock on the door didn’t work so anyone could wander in. Unfortunately a local pervert did. I woke up sometime in the early hours of the morning with a light from a phone on me. I thought the guy was checking in late and looking for a spare bed. But he just kept staring down on me. He then moved on to another girl who also woke up but he stayed staring at her then when she said something to him, he knelt down and started kissing her hand. Another girl yelled at him to leave her alone and he went to sleep on a spare bed. In the morning one of the girls reported him and it turns out he wasn’t even staying at the hostel, he was just a local weirdo. Creepy!

  2. It’s funny that your worst three hostel experiences happened in South America because so did mine. The worst being the night of the persistent rat who loved sitting on my chest when I fell asleep and then would stare at me till I woke and freaked out. Can’t stand rates to this day!

  3. Oh wow, those hostels sound bad! We have stayed in our fair share of hostels but have been quite lucky overall, most have ended up better than we imagined for the price we paid! There have been many that needed a good clean and we ended up recently in a party hostel by accident in Poland which as you suggested is not exactly good when you need some sleep! One of our worst was in New York, after having some good experiences before with NY hostels. This was made worse by the fact we were in NYC to get married and had been staying in the 5* Hilton whilst my parents were in the city, once they left we had to resort back to our usual haunts, only this time we had left it a little late and ended up in an almost derelict hostel on metal bunk beds and an air conditioning unit teetering out of the window held on only by gaffer tape only 3 days after getting married!! All part of the experience of travelling though, we laugh about it now! We paid way too much for what we got!

  4. I’d add my own from Egypt, but I gotta say that the bad apples get quickly reviewed-out. Reviews are key.

  5. So sad that my first long comment wasn’t published! Any way thanks for the heads up! We’re heading to Central America from Peru soon, aside from not so good hostel.. do you have any highly recommended places? Yay!

  6. Those party hostel are the worst, I’ve been there. While you can, somehow, survive the filth how could you possibly sleep surrounded by loud, drunk people? That’s impossible. But then while you are finally in a comfortable bed, in silence – you can appreciate it more 🙂

  7. Ha I think all the worse hostels we’ve stayed in have been in Central/South America. The party hostels are usually the nightmare ones for me!
    Coincidently, we also stayed in one of the hostels you mention, earlier this year. Clue: the sink just about managed to stay plumbed in whilst we were there! 😉

  8. My worst hostel experiences… are the ones when you’re not there. It’s horrible

  9. I am so sorry, for some reason I am only reading all the comments now. I have plenty of posts on Peru on this blog, with recommendations on hostels too!

  10. Oh! I never stayed at a hostel in my life. And now i know why!
    Then again I guess a lot of people would love to have a party with the locals so it probably really boilts down to your personal perspective.
    My family owns a villa with a private beach at lake balaton we share during summer. There used to be a discotheke three properties away. Especially on saturday nights (when the music used to go on till 3-4am) things really got horrible! Luckily (at least for us :P) they ran out of business and closed some 3 years ago.

  11. Oh my! That says a lot about the safety of that hostel! I hope you wrote a review for that!

  12. I actually love hostels – these 3 just happened to be terrible, but in general the experience is a good one.

  13. Reading about your experiences made me think how courageous you are and reminded me of the time I stayed in a hostel in Naples. I can’t say it was as bad as yours but I did ask to change rooms because it smelled like something had died in that room. The guy at reception was a bit surprised as though I had discovered a dark secret and immediately gave me another room. It wasn’t any better though even if it didn’t smell as bad. I was just afraid to fall asleep is all. But my friend and I laughed about it for the rest of our travels.

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