As someone who has been aboard the Travel Train for well over a year now its safe to say that I’ve stayed at my fair share of hostels. Just in case anybody reading is uninitiated; a hostel is a type of board accommodation. They are very rarely on par with a hotel but are usually better than sleeping outside…Usually. Shared dorms, kitchens and bathrooms are the order of the day and these places are frequently frequented by travellers of all shapes, sizes and ages.
The reason that I am writing this post, aside from currently being based in Berri aka The Arse-End of Nowhere knee deep into my riveting new occupation that involves pulling weeds out of the ground in 30 plus degree heat for 9 hours a day and having a ridiculously large amount of free time in-between (I mean come on, its only been about a fortnight since the last post!) is because my current hostel is particularly cliché. By this I mean that it possesses just about every positive and negative hostel trait that I have seen, heard or smelt in the last 14 months. So in light of the brashness of my new temporary home I have decided to compile a list of, what I believe, are the most common features of hostels that you can expect to encounter when your on your jollies.
Understocked Bathroom Facilities – Where diving in deep here people as this, despite being a fairly essential thing to get right, is very much wrong an astonishingly frequent amount of the time.
It is not at all uncommon to finish up a big, weight-shedding, triumphant *insert personal favourite noun* and find that the bathroom has no soap for afterwards. In fact before the issue of the soap arises its also not a rarity to turn to your left then your right and find that there’s not even toilet paper to deal with the first issue! Couple this with the embarrassment of not being able to flush away the evidence (broken flush) and the wet floor that you insist is from the shower but your just not sure and all of a sudden those train station toilets back home don’t seem so bad.
Ridiculously nice or ridiculously prick-ish staff – Its true that first impressions are golden. So for this reason you’d think that hostel owners would be keen to make a good one. Sometimes they do; I’ve stayed at places where the staff have been ultra-helpful, sweet and funny greeting me with a smile, when I wasn’t even staying at the place! Yet for every friendly Nomad there’s also a gangly, long-haired, shruggy, broody little s*it who’s still suffering from the night before, looks like his clothes have been slept in and huffs and puffs more than the Big Bad Wolf and Phil Mitchell combined whenever you ask him/her the simplest of questions.
Don’t get me wrong know body needs perfection but when the person can barely speak English, hurls your bedding at you like stale confetti, leaves 5 foot nothing Indian girls to carry 2 suitcases that they could (and probably should) sleep in alone up 4 stories and is so stone faced that, as far as you know, he/she doesn’t have any teeth then there could be a problem.
Then there’s when you try to check-in and there’s know body at the desk at all and nobody knows where he/she has gone or when they’ll be back. Not like your paying to stay or anything is it?…
Crap Wifi – One router/modem, hostel slap-bang in the middle of Nowhere Avenue just left of East Bum-Ville and around 75 90’s babies all packing Smartphones and Netflix subscriptions; ‘nuff said.
Bed Bugs – Moving onto one of the more sinister features to look out for during your time away from home this one is actually far less common than the others but when you do inevitably encounter it its a f*cking nightmare! Bed Bugs, like Mosquito bites, are torturously itchy, make you look like an overused dartboard and have a nasty habit of appearing on your face.
What’s most scary about these little wankers is that they are actually very capable of thriving in clean environments, making them tough to pre-empt, and unless faced with extremely hot water, intense sun and humidity they’re tougher than Asian Steaks and can contaminate a whole backpack of clothing in hours. Be careful.
‘Spirituals’ and Guitars – Okay look; before we start I have no problem with people with long hair, who suck at playing guitar but love to do it in public, don’t wash, don’t shave, wear sandals when its zero degrees outside and dress how people who’ve never been to Asia imagine that Asian people dress. In fact I have actually made several friends who fit this description but MOST hostels have at least one of these stereotypes who posses a few more frustrating habits. Examples include hitting on girls that your seeing in front of you, judging people for using plastic bags and dropping cans in the wrong bin when he/she drives his car to the corner shop and insists on taking 25 minute showers and has to turn the slightest mention of Brexit, the Middle-East or America into a one-way pseudo-intellectual debate where he/she has no idea about the subject but hides this fact by using big words. A bit like Russell Brand.
On a good day there’s just one and you can exist harmoniously around each other. On a bad day its 80% of the hostel, you feel like even the walls are judging you and even a mere mention of Football, Lost or WWE will earn you a lecture about corruption, the deeper meanings of life and how its “All faaaaaake anywaaaaaaay.”; no s*it Sherlock.
Insane Heat or Cold – Now don’t get me wrong I don’t expect hostel owners to be able to manipulate weather conditions. That’s not work for non-Jedi folk. However checking into a hostel in SA where its 38 in the shade and your sharing a room with 7 other guys only to find that the fan is broken and the air con was doomed from the get-go, mainly because it never existed, is quite distressing.
Similarly; wafer thin blankets that are basically just second bed sheets, windows that don’t close properly and heating systems that sound like planes when they start taking off in zero and below are about as welcome as sandwich making jokes at feminist rallies.
Crowded Fridges and Walking food – Inevitably during peak periods hostels will become crowded. What’s not as inevitable however is a lack of storage space for food, luggage and other basic amenities. The solution to such a problem; create enough storage space for the amount of people you intend to be billing at the end of every week. Sadly this solution is not as obvious to every hostel owner on the circuit.
Due to this it is not uncommon to rock up to a hostel and find that every refrigerator and cupboard is at bursting point and when you do finally finish your game of Cooling Bag Tetris in order to negotiate yourself a tiny space you’ll likely return hours later to find your bag on the unit with your Mince Meat rotting into something that looks like Dog Food. This will be due to one of the ‘Long-Termers’ deciding that its actually his/her space leaving you back where you started. Yeah; ‘Long-Termers’ can occasionally forget that they don’t actually own every inch of the hostel, don’t pay anymore or carry anymore rights than anybody else and cant dictate the lives of ‘newcomers’ to them. Just be warned.
Your New Best Friend(s) – Seriously despite the sometimes cramped, awkward, dirty and confusing conditions you will make some awesome friends at these places. The brightest of the many bright sides of hostel living is that its almost impossible not to make friends. Just simply rock up and say ‘Hello’ to the first person you encounter. If he/she is worth knowing then they’ll talk back and more often than not you’ll end up drunk in some bar 4 hours later with them and several others talking about how your all going to go to the temples together tomorrow, how Die Hard is one of the greatest movies ever made and how Grime music isn’t a patch on how it used to be.
If they don’t then they’re probably p*icks and you can just move onto the next one.
No Sleep – S*it tonnes of travellers, bars as close as downstairs and across the hall, thin walls, thinner mattresses, creaky bedframes and more body heat than 6 Tony Soprano lookalikes in a steam room. You do the maths.
The Smelly Guy – You know how every class in school had the smelly kid? Well it turns out most hostels do as well.
Feet like a Cheese Factory, armpits carrying more perspiration than a Fish Tank, breathe that could mould a wall and give the room Asbestos or just all of the above. Unfortunately during your time in one of the many hostels that you will likely frequent you will more than likely be gifted a roommate that possesses at least one of these traits.
Even more unfortunate is that they probably aren’t aware of it, probably do clean themselves thoroughly and regularly to no avail, probably snore in their sleep as well and are probably a really nice guy/girl to boot. Awkward. Maybe his/her Father was a Skunk or something…
So there you have it. Hostels are convenient, cheaper than alternative accommodation, are a great way of making friends and if the one you check into sucks you can always just leave and go somewhere else. The pitfalls are very real but don’t be put off by them and have fun!
I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.