Share Your Story: Your Best and Worst Hotel Experiences

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Be Aware! Toronto, 2014

Be Aware! Toronto, 2014

Staying in a hotel is often one of the perks of traveling. 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. Sometime, 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!

The Best Experiences

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 an 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!

The Weird Owner

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.

The WTF Hotel

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.

The Grossest Hotels

We had two bad experiences with bugs, one in Paris and one with bedbugs at the Trav­elodge Hotel by Mon­tréal 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 Hippie Hostel

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 (apparetly 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!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Quite a variety of experiences! I think one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at was the Corinthia in London. Seriously – if I had the money, I would move in there full-time. You can easily get used to their bright lit rooms, incredible food, excellent service around the clock…

    Of course there are times that this isn’t an option. I think my quirkiest stay so far was in Tulum, Mexico. We were a big group of friends and, while some of them camped on the beach, me and another 2 rented a beach cabin which literally consisted of a room without light or any other kind of electricity. You had to pay extra for a bed, so I rebelled and chose to spend 5 nights sleeping in a hammock.

    I perfectly remember asking the owner “So… do you sleep well in a hammock?” and him answering “me? yes. you?… I don’t think so” (he wasn’t quite right though – with a mojito here and a caipirinha there each night, I managed to get the best night sleep!)

    • Oh yes, we camped in Tulum twice… no, three times actually. Back then cabanas were dirt cheap. Now they are fancy and expensive, it’s all resorts… I still love the beach though. I have never spent the night in a hammock, mosquitoes love me too much for that! But I don’t mind roughing it and having no power. I need water though, even cold.

  2. Oh boy… I could probably write a book about that, but I’ll try to keep it short.

    the weird experience: that was the “Runway Inn” in Miami. While the name suggests some noise from arriving and departing planes, there was no noise from outside at all. However, since there was no carpet in the hallway and people kept pulling their bags over the tiles, there was no way anyone could possible sleep there. What was weird is that my room had no windows. Which was probably a good thing considering the neighborhood.

    the disgusting experience: and the winner is: Hipotel Paris Hippodrome. I have never seen so much mold in a bathroom. The staff was rude, there was no AC and the window couldn’t be opened. Never again, I’d rather sleep under one of the many bridges Paris has to offer.

    the good experience: that was not too long ago when I was in Singapore. Initially there were some maintenance and cleanliness issues (I really don’t want to see anyone’s forehead sweat on the bathroom mirror), but it took only a few hours after published my review when they fixed every single issue I listed. And, to apologize for the inconvenience, they even brought me a fruit platter. Yes, it would be nice if everything were in good order, but at least they cared and made it right.

    the WTF experience: when I checked in at a hotel in Finland, there was a magazine on the table with three huge letters on it: “WTF”. This also happened to be exactly what I was thinking at first until I found out that it was supposed to stand for “Welcome To Finland”. Makes me wonder what kind of abbreviation they would use for a directory of “Finlands Universities” or “Sports & More” 😀

    • Thank you for sharing! I think Paris has some of the worst hotels. I’ve seen some truly awful rooms. May as well sleep at Montparnasse or under a bridge!

      I respect hotels that fix issues that may arise and read complaints. I’m not surprise though, customer service was great in Singapore.

      I don’t like rooms without windows, it feels weird… even though sometime it’s darker and quieter so I guess there are pros and cons.

  3. Worst: A motel on route 66 in a rather small town, rooms were 20$ and it was rather dirty. Lots of odd people screaming all night in their paper-thin walled rooms!

    All expensive hotels have been nice so far, like Radisson Blu and such.

  4. Well, since you asked…

    I spent 8 months living in a “hotel” in London with my ex-boyfriend. Everyone living there was foreign and working in London. There were a lot of people on working holiday visas, but there were also a lot of East Europeans. Our attic room was three metres by three metres which included the bathroom. So basically there was enough room to open the door and take a few steps to the bed.

    Actually there was no bed. We slept on mattresses on the floor. So the mattresses took up half of the living space. We had a wardrobe, a small fridge, a desk and that’s it. I used to cook our meals in there as well, chopping up food on top of the fridge and cooking it in an electric wok while sitting on the floor. We ate perched at the edge of our mattresses.

    When we moved in we realised that there was a mouse problem. We could hear the mice scurrying around our feet at night while we were trying to sleep. I had no idea that mice even like chocolate. When you turned on the light they were gone in a flash, but when the light was off it was like we weren’t even there for them.

    I know that this is really mean, but we discovered where they were coming in from and we broke a few bottles and stuck the glass shards in the hole. That was the end of the mice, thank goodness.

    It was pretty clean because we didn’t have to share the bathroom with anybody and we were in charge of cleaning. The entire time I lived in London, though, I lived in these backpacker style hostels/hotels and sometimes there was only one shower for 40 people (mostly guys). You can imagine…

    This is a great post; I’m enjoying reading other people’s responses!

    • Oh yes, I’m familiar with these hostels/flats. In Australia as well, many Brits used to come on working holiday visa and just live at hostels. It was kind of weird actually when as a “genuine backpacker” you’d step into dorms where people had been living for months.

      I didn’t know mice liked chocolate either! Mmm… who doesn’t like chocolate?

  5. Oh yeah, I’ve stayed in quite a few hostels where couples would have sex in the dorm rooms (with all the other travellers in the room sleeping in their bunks). I would be almost asleep and then the noise would start. I wasn’t really annoyed, but that really, really surprised me (I was 18 at the time).

  6. So many. My best: La barjaquiere in Saint Pierre de Vassols. Oil painted walls, baths with clawed feet and the most romantic partially indoor partially outdoor pool. My worst : the same hotel! The wife who usually ran it was away and her husband (no people skills) was running it instead. He shouted at me one morning because I had not drank the San Pellegrino he had left by my door the night before (?!?!) totally weird

  7. Le pire : ma première nuit à dakar, un hotel de passe où les prostituées venaient frapper à notre porte pour voir si on avait besoin d’elles. On n’avaient pas le temps de leur répondre on essayait d’éviter les 500 capotes jetées sous le lit et les cafards de 10 cm qui circulaient au milieu tout en accrochant avec nos ceintures et nos foulards notre moustiquaire une torche dans la bouche car il y avait 1 coupure de courant…on a passé la nuit dans la rue autour d’un feu de bois à refaire le monde avec des gardiens de nuit ! Hôtel pourri mais nuit magique !
    au fur et à mesure que j’écris j’ai mille idées qui fusent, faut trop que j’en fasse un article !!!!

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