I am annoyed. I am annoyed at the fact that, every now and then I pay to stay in hostels that do not deserve my money. Hostels that run like cold businesses without understanding that travelers, the people that go there to stay, deserve better.
It’s 2013! And no matter where in the world your hostel might be located, it’s time for you to take some of your profits and make sure you provide your guests with decent conditions.
If your hostel incurs in more than one of the below sins, then I’m sorry to say but… YOUR HOSTEL SUCKS
Check out earlier than 12pm
If I wanted to wake up early, I’d stay in a convent. I come across early check out timings most commonly in small hostels, where they tend to keep cleaning personal on a part-time basis. As the staff leaves before lunch time, they obviously have to be finished by then. This means you have to wake up with the rooster, so that they have enough time to clean and the hostel owners have enough time to make some more profit too.
If you charge to store luggage
Oh c’mon! Seriously? All you have to do is place my backpack in some back room and tag it with my name… and you want a few dollars for this? I find less and less hostels doing this now-a-days, and that’s why when I come across one that does it, I feel like making the top of the head of whoever made up this stupid rule my very own storage space!
If your charge for internet (or disconnect it at night!)
At this day and age, if you have an internet connection, this should be made available, included in the room rate. Sometimes hostels charge for WIFI per minute and sill dare to provide a terribly slow connection (even in areas with good connectivity otherwise). I find this so shameful!
And if you are indeed providing internet inclusive, please don’t pull the ridiculous move of disconnecting it at night as if the internet needs to get some beauty sleep.
Also, if your connection sucks, do not make lame excuses like “today the weather is not good, that’s why the WIFI is down“. Spare some bucks and upgrade your connection already!
If you provide 1 ply toilet paper
If you are so cheap as to provide toilet paper with 1 ply only, kindly train your staff to place the roll in the correct position, with the rolling part away from the wall. In bathrooms with poor ventilation (which is something fairly common in hostels) the toilet paper absorbs the moist from the walls, resulting in a rather poor cleaning device.
Also, more than 1 roll per toilet would be nice. You never know when you’re going to need extra material!…
If you do not have hooks in the bathroom
Sometimes I get the feeling that people that own and build hostels have never stayed in one, and that’s why they don’t have a clue about what people might need when staying there. Well, let me shed some light with you then: hooks in the bathroom are a must. You need to place your clothes in a place where they’ll stay dry while you shower. Sounds pretty basic, right?
If you use the “help us save our environment” excuse to make money
I am a social and environmentally conscious travel, yes I am. I like having as less impact on the environment as possible, but I also like my comforts. I have found that, in recent years, hostels have started exploiting the environmental consciousness of travelers beyond proportion. Specially when it comes to water. You’ll find boards both in bathrooms and kitchen sinks asking you to “Use less water. Nature will thank you!”. Those are not a problem per se, what bothers me is to understand that some businesses are doing it mostly for them to save money, not to spare the environment as such. If you care so much about the environment stop serving breakfast in disposable plates and cups and start offering drinking water (free or at cost) for guests to refill their bottles. And then, maybe then, I can take your environmental bullshit a tad some seriously.
Also, make sure you offer hot water 24/7. One should be able to shower at whatever time is convenient, not as per your saving preferences.
If your toilet flushes don’t go with the flow
I once stayed in a hostel where the toilet flush didn’t work properly. This would have been bad enough if I had the bathroom all by myself, but we all know that when you use shared facilities, you can find some nasty surprises in there. When I was checking out the lady at reception asked for my feedback, so I told her there was a flush that wasn’t powerful enough to take down the stuff. Her answer to this was, and I quote literally: “maybe you do not know how to flush properly!“. Yeah, customer service was ace at this place!
If you take pride in offering a kitchen, do it right!
This means: you should have more than 2 pans and these should not have been around since WWI. The kitchen should be open during extended hours and not be invaded by hostel staff taking over all the utensils and stove during meal times. Someone should clean the kitchen more than once a day and, overall, make it look like an appetizing space.
Please don’t put a “contributions tin” near the spices. You come across as damn stingy if you expect people to pay for salt and pepper. Specially because you and I know that you didn’t purchase those spices yourself and they used to belong to previous guests who left them behind.
If you do not serve milk with breakfast
I have stayed at hostels that pride themselves in offering cereal for breakfast, yet do not make milk available. I am not one to eat my cornflakes with a disgusting mix of water and coffee creamer. But I guess if you only provide Coffee-mate that’s what you’re expecting me to do, right? Nice try selling milk in the hostel’s vending machines. I guess what people pay for their room is not enough, so you need to extort some milk money out of as well, right? That’s called knowing how to milk the cow! Damn straight!
If you clear the breakfast buffet on the clock and throw away the food
Almost as annoying as early check-out timings is the fact that breakfast tends to end rather early in most hostels. That would be fine, if you didn’t have the hostel staff clearing away the food the moment the clock reaches a given time, right in front of your nose, while they can clearly see you are trying to help yourself.
Worst than denying you food (and I have literally been denied of a piece of bread once because “it’s already 10AM!!!!“) is to see those lovely buns end up in a huge trash can right in front of your eyes. This makes me SICK!
If you charge for book exchange
This is, quite possible, the most cheap-ass thing I’ve seen some hostels do. It’s call book exchange, not book purchase. If we wanted money to be involved in this transaction, we’d just head to a regular book store that offers more variety. You really want to make $1 for the book exchange and come across as the cheapest people on earth? Up to you then…
What do you think makes a good hostel?
And what makes a really bad one?
I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head there! Another annoyance of mine is overpriced bars in hostels. I totally understand due to licensing laws etc that hostels with bars don’t allow you to bring your own alcohol in, but when their own bar charges about 50% on top of what you’d pay elsewhere I can’t help but feel I’m being a little exploited!
Oh my gosh, out of everything, charging for a book exchange is what infuriates me the absolute most! It’s a bookshelf, why do I need to pay?!
I’ve never came across to hostels where they charge you for a book exchange, not yet at least, what’s the point. One more thing I disliked in the past is when they offer the laundry service for free (which is great) but there isn’t any room for hanging your wet clothes and the bed headboard isn’t big enough :(
Coffee creamer? GMO (corn) flakes? Won’t fill bottle with tap water?
As a hostelowner, I would like to add my side of the story.
Backpackers accommodation is the cheapest out there, and although I try to keep my rates as low as possible, electricity, water, food and Wi-Fi costs continue to escalate, definitely minimising profits.
Check-out times – usually a problem. You may want to sleep until midday, and I do not want to wake you up to explain to other backpackers who arrive at 8am, after a long flight, and become very stroppy, when the beds they have booked are not available.
They would also like a clean room with clean bins, clean linen and towels. Time is needed to provide this. Hence check-in/check-out times.
A few hours of free luggage storage is fine, but a month, while you continue your travels, and then ring the bell at 5am to collect this is not fine. Check first if the hostel has 24 hour service.
An internet charge becomes applicable, if you would like to SKYPE for six hours, talking to everyone, including the family dogs. Free for you, but not for the hostel. SKYPE is expensive. If there are 20 or more guests using the Wi-Fi, obviously, this will slow things down.
Sufficient toilet paper is a must. But, it is difficult to replace rolls every 20 minutes, if one person uses an entire roll. clogging the loo, and then couldn’t be bothered to flush. This is not the fault of the hostelowner.
Yes, please use less water. Is it necessary to shower for 40 minutes and use all the hot water? Leave some for the others.
I once filled two sinks in the kitchen with hot water and detergent. The first of a group of 12, emptied this, and they lined up to wash a mug, bowl and spoons under the running taps, using a 2 litre bottle of detergent.
I do provide bathroom hooks. Please use them and do not leave soggy towels on the floor. If you blow your nose in the basin or leave a black ring around the bath please clean this with the materials provided. This is not your mother’s house.
If you use the kitchen, please do not spray pasta sauce over the walls and drip oil on the floor, so that other guests can write on TripAdvisor, about how filthy the kitchen was, or how they could not cook, as the staff were cleaning the kitchen all the time, to make it easier for you. Most people do not like a dirty kitchen, others do not care.
If the breakfast buffet is at 10am, please respect this, and get off the Wi-Fi. Also, please do not sit with your tablet or mobile at the table for an hour. Others would also like to eat.
If you would like to exchange a book, please do not offer me a tatty, food encrusted, dog-eared novel printed 10 years ago, for a pristine one printed less than a year ago. I buy these books from my meagre profits.
As you have booked a very cheap dorm bed, please do not complain to me in the morning that you could not sleep, as other backpackers, farted, snored, spoke to the voices in their heads, and screamed on SKYPE all night.
I have no control over this.
Please consider others and me, to have a pleasant and comfortable stay.
You´re clearly not happy with what you do or with your guests. So I suggest you find another occupation.
I don’t think that’s how the hostel owner feels at all. It is a business that they run and their list was valid. A hostel is not a hotel, it’s somewhere that travelers have the opportunity to have an affordable night of rest so it would be hoped that as guests, they are respectful of the space and of other travelers.
That small pic looks like possibly the worst hostel ever – Check out at 12am?! Good luck with that one haha :D
(Obviously guessing it was a typo/bad English though)
You might be then thinking “don’t be such cheappos and go to places with better beds !” Well, to visit some remote places the truth is that you have to adapt to whatever is available, because there isn’t always good accommodations around. In fact, in some towns in Latin America , we have come across hostels that don’t even have beds but alternatively offer hammocks for you to spend the night in. I am not one to spend USD 10 (USD 5 if you bring your own hammock and only need to rent the space where to hook it) to sleep in a fetal pose in a hammock for 8 hours! You’ll faster find me laying on the floor with the bugs!
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The staff are usually the big difference in any hostel. If they’re grumpy and look at you like they want to kill you then it usually bums out the vibe. The best times i’ve had are when the staff treated me as friends and even took me out for a beer. If you’re grumpy working at a hostel it’s not the job for you, try starbucks.
I live in China and I’ve traveled all over and it’s very interesting to see how the quality of hostels change as you get away from the major tourist cities. You’d think you would pay much more in cities like Beijing and Shanghai but there’s so much competition it keeps prices down. The problem is when you go to cities with only a couple hostels, or ONE (looking at you Xining) and they can do whatever they want. I went to a hostel in Harbin where the walls were COATED in thick fuzzy mold and you had to buy toilet paper to use in the public squat toilet bathrooms. The hostel literally SOLD toilet paper. Then I go to Shanghai and for the same price I had a nice clean room with towels provided.
Overall it’s the horrible showers that get to me the most. I stayed at a hostel that literally never had water above lukewarm and the water pressure was nonexistent. Not to mention the showers were filthy and didn’t drain properly. After the first shower I just decided to be stinky for a few days. I also once stayed at a guesthouse that shut the power off at 10pm (Tibet). I was pretty upset about that only because A) the guest house was SUPER expensive for the room we got and B) I REALLY needed to charge my camera and they didn’t even turn the power back on in the morning! Thankfully there was an outlet in their kitchen they let me use while we had breakfast. No camera for a day in Tibet would have literally killed me.
As some one who has used hostels as a guest, plus worked in a busy Melbourne Hostel and run a small back packers hostel along the Great Ocean Road (as well as a past owner/operator of a backpacker tour bus business) – I can see all angles. Your article is absolutely on the mark! All my pet peeves have been addressed here, apart from just one…Another thing many hostels do is receive a LOT of money from tour booking commissions. This is absolutely fine, but when I was working in a Melbourne Hostel I saw so many other hostels who would push the tours that they got the most commission from, regardless of the the suitability for the customers. A hostel can be old and bit ordinary, but as long as it provides a clean place to rest and friendly service that aims to do the best by travellers, that is the best thing.
I feel totally like I am missing out! I am 46 and stayed in my first hostel ever in Ecuador. The ‘folks’ here in Georgia thought we were going to be murdered in our sleep. In reality it was a wonderful place in Banos. I almost wish we had stayed in a rotten place so I could commiserate. Instead I was just entertained. Happy travels!
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I have a problem in my hostel about its maintanance facilities. it has so dirty washbasin in a toilet I found a leech there and it smells like hell all the time . And the hostel doesnot even have a boundary nor has a proper sound insulation. It is directly in contact with road and yhe window gets dusty all the time. What should I do I cannot even sleep properly but I m so tired :( .
Amazing post about the hostel. Your work is great. Thanks for sharing your interesting post.
Re: Book swaps at hostels
There was a hostel where you could leave a book and take one.
Or else you could pay a fee and have a book.
I had a Lonely Planet book I didn’t need anymore so wanted to swap it for a book I would read. The hostel made me pay half of the fee you pay if you have no book to swap because my Lonely Planet book was published 2 years ago.
I gave the money, but roll eyes.
At another hostel they wanted to charge me 4 euros for a second hand book with 50 cents sticker the charity shop put on it, to sell to probably the one who left it in the book swap. I didn’t buy it. When I pointed out the price sticker and said another backpacker probably left that here anyway as a free gift for other backpackers. Discussion was clearly not welcome and the book was slammed back on the shelf by hostel lady.
And, there was the place that kept the books behind a locked grid and made you leave a book as well as pay if you wanted one.
I really don’t understand the book swap complications. I am one of the very few backpackers I see reading books. Seems like they should be happy to tidy the place up by letting me take the books.
how to take care of hotel checkin/out nicely written