Hostels: The Good, The Bad, and The Never Again

The Good:

Often when planning a trip, one of the first things you might look into is accommodations. (At least, that’s what I do)

Maybe right now you’re looking into hostels. Maybe even for the same reason I had been looking into it.

To save some money.

Let’s be honest, that’s usually the highlight that attracts people to these types of accommodations. They are ridiculously cheap!

They seem to be perfect for a solo and budget conscious traveler. Both of which I am.

For my trip to Scotland, I had planned a few excursions and a car rental. So I was really trying to save a few bucks anywhere else I could.

So I began searching for the “best hostels in Scotland.” After weeks of researching and eliminating, I narrowed the list down to two hostels:

  • The Royal Mile Backpackers
  • Fort William Backpackers

Now, I’m a person who relies heavily on reviews. (I check them for just about everything) So when I saw that those two locations had such high ratings and reviews, I felt compelled to book it, and fast!

Although I never thought I would stay at a hostel. (Hello, have you seen the movie?) How could you beat a $16 – $20 accommodation, in a central location, with raving reviews? I’ll give you a hint: you can’t

The Bad:

Then, I arrived at my first hostel in Edinburgh. Wedged into the lovely Royal Mile, the outside seemed, nice? (A glimmer of hope)

Then I stepped inside, and the first waft of a most horrible smell hit me hard. (Glimmer of hope, quickly gone.)

I fought the dizziness that threatened to knock me off my feet, and almost turned around and ran. (Literally)

I was stopped mid-escape when a voice called to welcome me. A sweet woman at the front desk began to ask me a bit about myself, telling me about the hostel, etc.

After speaking awhile with her, I felt I could try staying there at least one night, just to see how it went. (Honestly, I was dreading having to deal with finding new accommodations for 4 nights.)

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I was definetly haveing a Scarlett O’hara: “ I just can’t think about that today. I’ll think about it tomorrow” moment. 😩

She led me through some doors, to show me where the room and bathrooms were. If I thought the smell couldn’t get worse, I was wrong. The deeper I went into the hostel, the stronger it got.

I had arrived earlier than check-in time. So when I saw the vacuums’ and cleaning supplies out in the halls, I thought, maybe it only smelled so bad, because it was still being cleaned. 

The communal bathrooms were another horror by themselves. Small, cramped, moldy, and of course, the smell was just as pungent. 😒

I left for the rest of the day to explore the city, and prayed for a magical change when I got back.

Although slightly better, not much had improved when I arrived. The smell was not as strong, but definitely still there

I probably should have mentioned in the beginning, that I am a psycho, when it comes to cleanliness. So you can probably imagine I was not a happy camper.

However, my first night wasn’t so bad. The window in the room had been left opened, so it smelled a bit better. The beds also seemed clean, which was a relief. although I was dead tired from having been awake for 30+ hours, and the lights were off. (So it’s not like I did a thorough inspection)

The Never Again:
During the night, one of the geniuses sleeping in the room, decided it would be a great idea to close the window while everyone slept. So when I woke up in the morning, it was to a steaming hot room with unimaginable smells! (I still shudder as I write this.)

The floor was littered with what I can only assume, were dirty clothes and socks. Another genius, decided to leave there smelly boots right by my head. I was horrified! 😖

There was no way I was going to deal with that for three days. I quickly gathered my things, and couldn’t run out the door fast enough.

I ended up booking a B&B for those days, which turned out to be the best decision.  I also got lucky, because since my 3-day reservation at the hostel wasn’t until the next week, I was able to cancel with a refund.

Then I headed to Fort William, apprehensive, but hoping for the best.

I would love to say it was a different experience. Regrettably, it wasn’t. The only difference was that the bathrooms were now unisex! (Which it did not specify online) Alas, It was much too late for me to book something else. So I ended up having to deal with it. It was not great, but thankfully I lived to tell the tale!

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Here are 6 reasons why I would never stay at a hostel again:

1. If you’re an early riser, like me. You will have to deal with doing most things in the dark. (In my case, there were no power sockets in the bathrooms. So I had to do my hair, packing, & changing in the dark.) 

  1. You’ll always be tiptoeing like a mouse. So as not to wake anyone, or step on anything anyone left on the ground.

  2. You can’t control the cleanliness of the room. (Major red flag, for anyone who is psycho about cleanliness)

4. You can’t control who’s in the room (In Fort William, both nights I saw guys coming into my “only female” dorm room. You could go tell management, but who wants to get up at 2 a.m. to go looking?)

  1. You will have no peace of mind that your belongings are safe. (As some hostels don’t have lockers)

  2. Using the bathroom/shower will be a nightmare. (Trying not to bump into any of the moldy walls, which were literally inches away from me. Whilst also trying to balance my cloth, towel, etc. with an outstretched arm.) Nightmare! 

Verdict:

So, you may be thinking I expected too much from an $18 room. However, from the beginning, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a luxury hotel. I just expected the high reviews and claims to have some accuracy.

I can understand the appeal hostels have for many people. Many solo travelers can’t afford to be shelling out $50-$100 every night on accommodations. Also, they’re very popular with young students, because it’s a great way to meet new people.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about what kind of traveler you are, and what you’re comfortable with.

I applaud anyone who has the courage to stay at these places. (Your wallet applauds you too!) However, with the sampling I had, I know I could never stay at one again. I’d much rather pay a bit more, in exchange for a peaceful place to lay my head after a long day.

Thanks for reading!

Au revoir for now – Suzie

Why do you stay at hostels? Have you ever had a bad experience, or just good ones?

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