Hostels are a lesson in patience and at some point, you learn to let things go and not get too riled.It took me a while to realize that getting so pissed off that I couldn’t get back to sleep when people woke me up at 4am was only affecting me. Over the course of the past year or two, I’ve been forced to adjust my attitude towards the norms of hostel life dramatically. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t still irritate me: just that I’ve become more adept at letting things go.
As my time in Latin American is coming to an end, I thought I would indulge myself and compile a list of those things I found most annoying in hostels. We all love a bit of a moan sometimes, don’t we? I hope you enjoy!
1. The Unwelcoming Staff
Occasionally hostel staff are just really, damn grumpy. I remember arriving at a hostel in Granada after a stressful border crossing (and a very long bus journey), only to be greeted by the surliest receptionist the world has seen. I almost had to beg the man to give me a bed. The buyer having to beg from the seller? Where else?!
Sometimes, particularly if the hostel is small and family-run, you can feel like an intruder. The common room at a hostel I stayed at in Baños was always so full of the owner’s family members – eating, drinking and smoking – that I felt like I had accidentally ended up in their house on someone’s birthday. Very awkward.
However, I have admittedly filled the ‘unwelcoming staff’ role too. In a Workaway environment, when there are occasionally as many as 15 volunteers, I imagine it must be very overwhelming for a hostel guest. You tend to get so carried away with inside jokes and animated conversations that you forget that guests might be feeling like outsiders.
2. The Inconsiderate People
When I was in Cozumel, I almost went off female dorms for good. There were three Israeli girls who completely ignored me (which is quite a feat in a 6-bed dorm) and spent their days watching Hebrew TV series on their phones, WITHOUT HEADPHONES. Like, what is that? Bear in mind I was studying for my scuba license, so having to listen to the sounds of three different Hebrew dramas was extremely distracting.
You also often get (drunk) people charging into the dorm at all hours and turning on the lights, regardless of whether anyone is already sleeping or not. Before I discovered the saving grace that is a sleep mask, this used to drive me to distraction. However, sleep masks are a major game changer and had I managed to find a pair of earplugs that don’t self-eject after an hour or two, I’m sure I would have clocked many more hours of sleep over the past year.
3. The Bathroom Noises
Okay, I know I need to loosen up, but something inside of me curls into a tiny ball and starts to weep whenever I am forced to hear other people in the bathroom. Therefore, dorms with en-suite bathrooms are my nightmare. The worst is early in the morning or late at night when the rest of the dorm is quiet, but probably awake, and you hear someone doing their business. Am I the only one who has a problem with this?
4. The Sex offenders
Aside from my fear of being stripped of my valuables as I slept, my greatest concern about hostels was the sexual deviants who might take it upon themselves to have sex in a dorm while I was trying to sleep. Honestly, I’m fine with people having sex in the same room as me, I just don’t want to be woken up by any sounds or (heaven forbid) from my bed shaking.
Fortunately, apart from one giggling couple in a bunk above me ( mid-40s, and therefore old enough to know better?), I didn’t have any unfortunate sex-related dorm incidents.
I made a point of largely avoiding party hostels, so that probably helped.
Top Tip: If you are thinking of getting it on in a hostel, consider booking a dorm with extremely sturdy wooden bunk beds (or expect some dirty looks the next morning).
5. The Snorers
Drunk men are terrible snorers and I should have foreseen this problem when I stayed at a party hostel in Playa del Carmen during Spring Break. The human occupying the bunk above me came to bed around 3am – waking us all up of course – then proceeded to snore with such vigor and ferocity that even playing loud Enya through my earphones didn’t mask the racket. I ended up kicking him from below (with no effect), before myself and his (very embarrassed) friend resorted to violently shaking him awake. The problem with drunk people is that they give no f*cks, so he just rolled over and started snoring again.
After that night, I was firmly a female dorm convert.
6. The Morning Noise-makers
I have this extreme aversion to waking my dorm up in the morning when I have to get going early. (I think it’s an introvert thing?)
However, I must confess I have been guilty of this once or twice.
(Generally, only if the other people had woken me up the night before and I was feeling particularly vengeful, but mostly by accident).
Imagine my horror when I slept in a dorm full of air mattresses (a necessity at this hostel, after a spate of bedbug incidents) and had to wake up at 6am the following morning to go paddle-boarding. If you’ve ever slept on an air mattress in a steel bunk-bed frame, you will understand the noise involved. Suffice to say, everyone woke up at 6am that day.
My pet peeve is the people who clearly don’t give a damn and will start talking and packing at the crack of dawn. I think knowing that you will probably never see any of your dorm-mates again can result in people being deeply inconsiderate, hence the morning talkers. We all have early starts sometimes, but please try pack the night before and please DON’T TALK.
7. The Plastic Mattresses
As mentioned above, one way hostels cope with bed bug outbreaks is by using air mattresses. Another common method to limit both bedbugs and the issue of people wetting themselves, is to have cover mattress in plastic. This makes for very slippery sleeping, and generally the sheets slide off so you end up sleeping directly on the plastic. It is not pleasant, especially when – like my hostel in Nicaragua – the plastic is cello-taped black garbage bags.
8. The Bad Smells
Often dorm rooms have this lingering smell of sweat and dirty socks. It is deeply unfortunate but I suppose – given the number of dirty clothes backpackers tend to be lugging about – not entirely surprising.
My worst is those people who have a fear of fresh air and keep closing the window, so you can’t eradicate this stink. I frequently used to have window wars with people – each of us each opening and closing the window whenever the other person wasn’t looking. The joys of communal living.
9. The Unattended Valuables
As I mentioned in a previous blog post about hostels, I was (and still am) very paranoid about my belongings in hostels. However, this attitude does not seem to be a common one. What is it with backpackers and leaving their things unattended? Do they not realize that there are dodgy people around, and leaving your Ipad charging in plain sight is not necessarily the best call?
However, truth be told – apart from one girl who had her passport stolen after she left it in the hostel kitchen – I heard of very little theft in hostels.
I should mention that there are many wonderful aspects to hostel life too. However, they are not nearly as fun to write about, so I will leave them to some other happy camper.