Staying in a hotel is often one of the perks of travelling. You don’t have to do anything but check in (and pay). Towels and toiletries are provided, as well as a comfy bed with ten pillows (who sleeps with that many pillows?). If you are lucky, you may even get free newspapers and a good breakfast.
Well, that’s the theory anyway. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go as planned…
So, today, I would like to ask you, dear readers, to share your best and worst hotel experiences.
Allow me to start!
I have a great memory of a Sokos Hotel in Finland. In 2008, after attending the Olympic Games in Beijing, we had a one-night stopover in Helsinki on our way back to Canada. We thought Finnair was providing accommodation—it did not. We tried the local YHA but it was full. We considered sleeping at the airport but we were both exhausted and really needed a shower after the 12-hour-long flight. Eventually, we gave in and paid €200 for a hotel room. The Sokos Hotel felt very fancy, especially after the bare-bone hostel room in Beijing. The bed was soft and comfy, the shower had hot water (once again, we were coming from China…), there was a sauna and a free breakfast buffet. It remains one of my best memories.
We scored great hotel room on the cheap in Mérida (Mexico), Bangkok (Thailand), Gold Coast (Australia) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Panajachel (Guatemala) Toronto and New York City, sometime by luck, sometime when booking with a third-party website. In big cities or in chaotic places, having a clean hotel room with a good shower is like stepping into heaven!
In Nelson City, New Zealand, in 2003, we stayed at a hostel named “Alan’s Place.” It was recommended in the BBH Guide we had but it came with a mysterious caveat and was described as “unique.” We understood why when we got there. The hostel was managed by “Alan,” a sixty-something Japanese-Kiwi who was a former marine. There were passive-aggressive notes pinned just about everywhere, from the kitchen to the dorms, from the backyard to the bathrooms, all starting with “Don’t…”. Basically, you couldn’t do anything. And the free breakfast the next morning consisted of Alan throwing—yes, literally throwing—pancakes to backpackers while ranting about the state of the world. We got the hell out of here pretty fast.
In Beijing, in 2008, we booked a double room at the Golden Pineapple Hotel. The hotel looked new and it was reasonably priced, considering the Olympic Games. Upon checking in, everything looked great. Location was good, it was indeed very new and the room was as described… minus one detail we noticed five minutes after stepping into the room. The bathroom (shower, toilets and sink) was in the corner, enclosed in a glass room—not frosted glass, just glass. Which means that you had zero privacy. We laughed it off and spent the following ten days stepping out for a minute when one of us had to use the bathroom.
We had two bad experiences with bugs, one in Paris and one with bedbugs at the Travelodge Hotel by Montreal Airport. In Paris, the manager moved us to another hotel, right by the Eiffel Tower. In Montreal, my complaint to Travelodge fell on deaf ears.
We had very few affordable accommodation options in Australia in 2010, as the cost of living had gone up dramatically since our last visit Down Under in 2003. We stayed in a trailer park in Bateman’s Bay, in a Formula 1 Hotel in King’s Cross that could have been a halfway house and the infamous “Maze Hostel” downtown Sydney. Maze was one of the dirtiest hostels I have ever seen—cockroaches in the kitchen, showers and toilets that hadn’t been cleaned in months and broken bunk beds.
The “Butterfly Hostel” I stayed in in Samara (Costa Rica) was run by… well, really, I’m not sure. I kind of met the owner—I think it was the topless American chick with the baby—but it was one of these “free for all” kind of place. The place was cleaned and run by resident backpackers in exchange for a free bed. People would pass out in hammocks, under tables and wherever they could and backpacks were scattered all over the place. A few days after I left, I received an email saying I hadn’t paid for my three-day stay. It was a misunderstanding, I apologized, I had booked my dorm through a third-party website and I thought they had charged my credit card (apparently they hadn’t) but that I would send payment through PayPal immediately. The person who had emailed replied: “nah… don’t worry about it.” Uh… okay?
Your turn… share your stories in the comments!